Thursday, April 10, 2014

the last book I ever read (Gore Vidal's Burr, excerpt eighteen)

from Burr: A Novel by Gore Vidal:

In August 1839, Samuel Swartwout, collector of the port of New York, sailed for England. A few weeks later it was discovered that he had stolen from public funds one and a quarter million dollars: the most money ever stolen by an American official if not, very simply, the most money ever stolen by an American. Sam Swartwout will no doubt become a folk hero once the first wave of indignation ceases. Meanwhile, he has damaged the reputation of former President Jackson who was responsible for putting Sam in the way of being a thief on the largest scale. Worse, the scandal of his theft helped the Whig candidate William Henry Harrison defeat President Van Buren in the election last month. The poignant result of all this history is that there will be a new American consul at Amalfi next spring. As much as I am impressed by the extravagance of Sam’s crime, I cannot say that I like losing my job because of it.

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