next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?
He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water
— e. e. cummings
“A few figs from thistles…”
by Howard A. Tabor
Edmund FitzGerald Flynn, Agincourt’s half-term mayor
When Ed Flynn announced his candidacy for mayor of Agincourt in late summer 1894, the country was deep in the Panic of the year before, a depression born of too much silver and too few markets for American crops. Urban unemployment was growing but the situation in rural areas (where unemployment figures are unreliable) was just as dire. Ed’s campaign took a protectionist spin — “America First” his banners proclaimed — claiming his business acumen could reverse these trends and regain Agincourt’s greatness — though as a relatively recent arrival he would have known little about us. Ed must have found the Cliff’s Notes of Agincourt History, dropping a few strategic names into the conversation and thereby gaining the trust of the business community’s Whiggish constituents.
Flynn’s opponent was incumbent mayor Gordon Thursby, whose “day job” managing the Home Loan Association connected him with banking and insurance, contractors and material suppliers. Thursby’s wife Nadine taught school at Charles Darwin Elementary and the family attended Asbury Methodist Episcopal church. Gordon’s bases were covered — he thought.
Flynn’s arrival less that a year before ought to have disadvantaged his quest for public service, but he was a Mason, attended St Joe’s, and took rooms at the Hazzard House, where he and his young wife Amity Burroughs Flynn entertained in high style. Cassius Miller had to import expensive Nicaraguan cigars (which Ed passed around like business cards) and his tab at the Hazzard’s Tap Room seemed endless. Rumor hinted that a monthly check from an unknown source kept his account full.
But it was the realm of ideas that differentiated them, not so much wheat from chaff as fat from lean. Thursby saw first hand the stress and outright suffering that economic panics can bring: choices between delinquent payments or missed meals; school tuition or a second job. He proposed belt-tightening strategies, fiscal responsibility. At Asbury, Pastor Quinn impressed on him the Social Gospel of Gladden and Rauschenbusch.
Flynn, on the other hand, appealed to the protectionists in the community by preaching trickle-down economics of a sort: we’ll all benefit, he claimed, when those nearer the top of the food chain have feasted. Ed’s schemes were painted with a wide brush (in the firm grasp of another), leaving the details, the actual implementation to Leona Helmsley’s “little people.”
The Saturday before Election Day, Flynn held a rally out at Gnostic Grove, an affair “for the whole family” with fried chicken, potato salad, and “pink wobbly jellies that seem to excite all the men” (a line, I think, from Beatrice Lillie). “If Ed Flynn is evidence for the efficacy of his policies,” his guests reasoned, “then he’s got my vote!” And it worked: Thursby’s belt-tightening versus Flynn’s dreamscape was no contest: Edmund FitzGerald Flynn became Agincourt’s thirteenth mayor by a margin of forty-two votes.
POSTSCRIPT: Mayor Flynn’s administration began to unravel within six months of the election, about the time his “remittence” checks arrived from an Eastern bank with less regularity. Then one evening as he held forth at the monthly meeting of the Commercial Club* — among his most fervent supporters — the good mayor rose to offer a toast, clutched his chest and died, face forward in a plate of sauerbraten.
*The Commercial Club met in the banquet room on the fourth floor at Hansa House. One wonders how two dozen portly plutocrats managed all those stairs.