Learned that President Zachary Taylor was not...


July 01, 1991

BEFORE WE learned that President Zachary Taylor was not assassinated by means of arsenic in 1850 but died of what his contemporaries called "cholera morbus" (in those unsanitary days a catchall for all kinds of illnesses), we decided to check the files to see how The Sun covered the story.

Although "Old Rough and Ready" was believed for decades to have been done in by chilled buttermilk and cherries he ate while attending Fourth of July celebrations at the Washington Monument, our dispatches said he looked well and cheerful despite the intense heat.

The first suggestion of something amiss appeared July 9: "We regret to learn that the indisposition of President Taylor. . . yesterday assumed an alarming character." The same edition reported that he was "violently attacked with vomiting" and "without favorable change he cannot possibly survive until morning."

On July 10, The Sun announced the death of President Taylor, saying "the family of nations will mourn the departure of a hero and a patriot." It quoted the old general's last words: "I die. I am expecting the summons. I am ready to meet death. I have endeavored faithfully to discharge my duty. I am sorry to leave my friends."

Three days later, follow-up reports contained the beginnings of a conspiracy theory -- namely, that Southern foes of Taylor's attempt to slow the spread of slavery did him in. "There were other causes besides merely eating and drinking that operated fatally upon his system," said one dispatch. It quoted the president as saying "My motives have been misconstrued and my feelings most grossly outraged."

It was reported that two "Southern ultrists" invaded Taylor's sick chamber to warn that he if did not protect the South they would vote for his censure. The intruders were Georgia Congressmen Robert Toombs and Alexander Hamilton Stephens, who were to become, respectively, secretary of state and vice president of the Confederacy.

Not a word was dropped that Millard Fillmore, who succeeded Taylor in the White House, was a potential suspect in the assassination plot. Instead, The Sun dutifully reassured its readers that "Mr. Fillmore brings to the chair of office a wealth of experience, judgment and consummate prudence," an evaluation unconfirmed by the passage of time.

* * * LOOK INTO my eyes." No this isn't a come-on. It's the motto of beer vendors at the Toronto Skydome. Blue Jays' fans are at the mercy of these alcohol hawkers. If the game-goer's eyes suggest too much tipsiness, he or she is denied another drink.

This isn't unusual policy for the Skydome. When it opened in 1989, it imposed alcohol restrictions. Bars closing at the top of the eighth inning and a two-beer per purchase limit are standard fare. One might say fans take an eighth-inning stretch so they can avoid a strike-out and make it home safely.

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