“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” said former US President Harry Truman.
The sentiment says much about loyalty and friendship in politics. It has been borrowed and reworked in political circles the world over.
But George Vest probably said it first, exactly 144 years ago today.
Vest is remembered for his closing arguments in an 1870 trial over the shooting of a hunting dog called Old Drum. Vest’s statement was inserted in the Congressional Record as part of a speech delivered by Senator Robert Byrd on April 23, 1990.
George Graham Vest (1830-1904) was a lawyer and a politician who served as a Missouri Congressman, a Confederate Congressman during the Civil War, and finally a US Senator.
Partial transcript of the Address to the Jury by George Vest, in the Johnson County Circuit Court in Wattensburg, Missouri.
Gentlemen of the jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.