Distress of Columbia

The Brown HouseSo far as Slavery is concerned, we of the south must throw ourselves on the constitution & defend our rights under [it] to the last, & when arguments will no longer suffice, we will appeal to the sword, if necessary to do so. I will be the last to yield one inch. –Zachary Taylor (1847)

There’s some rough justice in three antebellum-era presidents getting killed drinking the water at the slave-built White House.

For decades the water was drawn just seven blocks downstream from where the White House dumped its shit.

James Polk and Zachary Taylor, both of whom owned slaves during their presidencies, suffered severe gastroenteritis, Taylor dying in office and Polk three months following his term.

According to Jane McHugh and Philip Mackowiak, the ill-advised enemas William Henry Harrison’s doctor prescribed–now there’s a vision–likely burst intestinal ulcers produced by typhus and paratyphus, leaching bacteria into the bloodstream for a painful death by septic shock.

No grindhouse moral, nor art house redemption, but perhaps still an epiphenomenon of empire. On what was a glorified plantation, growing not crops but imperial designs alienated from people and place alike, enslaved men and women were obligated to kill their masters bucket by bucket.


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