hell in a handbasket

To hell in a handbasket simply means going to seed without effort, a handbasket being easy to carry. The phrase appears as early as 1865 in I. Winslow Ayer’s The Great North-Western Conspiracy In All Its Startling Details:

All who were thus incarcerated should be set at liberty; that thousands of our best men were prisoners in Camp Douglas, and if once at liberty would “send abolitionists to hell in a hand basket;” he said the meanest of those prisoners was purity itself compared to “Lincoln’s hirelings.”

A less common variant, go to heaven in a handbasket, dates to 1880, when it appears in the Washington Post on 16 November:

He feels that but for the almost superhuman efforts the Stalwarts, like Grant, Conkling, Cameron and Logan, made after the disaster in Maine, he would have had no more chance of election than of going to heaven in a hand-basket, and he will not quarrel with them.

(Source: ADS-L; Making of America (Michigan); Proquest Historical Newspapers)

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