The Founders: The American Revolutionary Experience

The Unfinished Revolution

Essays on the Revolutionary American Experience

by Matthew Paris

1. The Unfinished Revolution
2. The Miracle Of Healing
3. The Uses Of History
4. The Protean Character of our Founders
5. John Adams
6. Hamilton Versus Jefferson
7. Jefferson’s Thought As A Handle On Our Current Laws
8 The Living George Washington
9. The Revolutionary Generation
10. The Home Of The Brave
11. The Singularity Of the American Revolution
12. Unwritten Books Of the Founders I would Like to Read
13. On George Washington
14. George Washington in Valley Forge
15. Atomization As a Direction in History
16. The American Revolution as Biological History
17. Free Republics and History
18. Benjamin Franklin
19. The Founders as American Icons
20. The Utility for the Present of the Founders as Models
21. The Politics of Honor
23. Jefferson versus Hamilton- 1790
24. Hanging Out With Jefferson and Madison
25. The Two Visions of America
26. Republic Versus Empire
27. What Can Be Done?
28. Notes for An American Republican Education
29. Trying To Perpetuate A Perpetual Revolution
30. The Future Of A Perpetual Revolution
31. Biological Implications of Jeffersonian Thinking
32. The Varieties of Dependent Experience
33. Disciplines of Freedom
34. Republic or Empire?
35. Ten Visions Of America
36. The Uses of the Past
37. A Few Principles of Freedom
38. A Short History Of Freedom

The Unfinished Revolution

Several years ago I read an intriguing book by Henry Kissinger, Detente, a volume in which he said that American political principles are unlike the European ones, sometimes based on an idealism he attributed to Woodrow Wilson. Wilson apparently has had such a good media image even the cynical Henry Kissinger couldn’t see behind it. Whatever one thinks of Henry Kissinger, he certainly can’t be accused of lack of intellectual industry.
Yet in fact in a world in which even earnest students of realpolitik like Henry Kissinger doesn’t know that the once radical idea of running foreign policy with honor and justice instead of from pure interest comes not from a roguish but talented demagogue like Woodrow Wilson but George Washington, maybe it is time for writing a book that accents even somebody at the cognitive level of a Henry Kissinger with the existence of the various but idealistic republican founders of America. If he doesn’t know, who among us knows?
The purpose of this rather reflective book is to give its readers back their past. When I was a young man the founders and purposes of the this country were buried behind the nations that our country was founded by icons. If of their nature icons are easily dispensed with like toasters, though they seem quasi-religious saintly figures, we can easily bear they loss; they were not human beings. Besides it is false to honesty and Nature to present anybody who has indeed been alive as a icon.
As Kissinger often pointed out rightly most politics in the world is based on pure interest. Charles de Gaulle put it another way when he said that nations to not have friends.
One has to falsify one’s observation to leave out all data about them the founders that is short of stony iconics. If one doesn’t bury them twice there are plenty of wags around who would do it in their way. Then we are presented with ambiguous of men from the past who were perhaps savants, maybe scoundrels but never human beings.
The founders were never iconic. They weren’t even prudes. All of them were against restrictions on private life beyond the rule of one’s personal honor. It’s fairly remarkable that all of them were Abolitionists, even the Virginians like Washington and Laurens. All of them would have thought that laws like Prohibition or the anti-marijuana edicts were hilariously inept. We all know from our lives that the best of us have dry days and come up empty; they worst of us are sometimes good to their children or their dogs. None of us escape flaws, limitations and even occasional seasons of perversity. Nothing clouds the judgment in an ordinary way like passing carnal affection.
However one of the qualities that distinguished our founders from us is their desire to improve themselves. We think of Abraham Lincoln as the President who freedom the slaves. Actually George Washington freed the slaves: his slaves. Since he was the father of his country he expected most people to follow him in this honorable act. Lincoln freed the slaves by force. Yet even Lincoln as one can read in his famous Peoria speech felt that slavery had no popular support in the South; it was a policy only kept alive by a few powerful and rich men who were making money from slavery.
The difference between Washington and Lincoln is that Lincoln didn’t feel slavery could be abolished by an honorable personal example.
Our own society tends to be as all times are very uncritical of itself and accepting of its own faults. I’ve lived long enough to remember Jim Crow in the South and its close cousin aptitudes about slavery. When I traveled in the South in the 50s I never met one Southerner who was for Jim Crow. I never met one either who felt they could do anything about it.
Even private improvement of the spirit is something we generally reject as too earnest, concerned with sin and somehow in its irritability with one’s present situation in its earnestness is a little ungraceful. As a conscience we aren’t going to resonated much to a prior generation who among other things was disposed out of honor, not interest, to change the rules and laws of their country to make them better if not perfect.
We on the other hand assume our rulers are scoundrels, dolts and maniacs and do what we can as one dodos in autocracies to avoid their baleful influences. It’s easier. It makes the actions and motivations of our founders different from ours if not necessarily better. Unfortunate the overwhelming lessons of history are that in almost all cases in the past it has bane necessary one day if not another if one wants some degree of freedom to leave the rule and the rulers, to be a rogue, or to conduct with fewer means to usurp or baffle the rulers and their means of force.
In a sense our founders did all these things like us but in different degree. They also took up the revolution from a base thousands of miles away, a situation in which the autocrats were relatively weak and not avid for a long war. As John Adams said, Americans were revolutionaries long before the actual military fracas; still the reason they ran the rebellion was that they could not avoid taking up revolution because in some degree it would have compromised their honor.
We are trained to compromise our honor by our school system, and our heinous work situations. At first we learn things in school we need to know to survive as adults, than eventually are told to embrace a series of ideas and way of life that are conspicuously not to our interest if we have to be free and nature. Any autocratic system is going to try to train us to be weaned from our natural sense of humanistic charity.
We can start with lack of charity to cattle, work our way through slaves, and then apply the weary assessment of the value of anyone to anyone. This of cause happened to the founders too. Yet we are as human beings capable of recovery. The leaders of the American revolt wee generally middle aged or even old men who had made that recovery. Alexander Hamilton was the only young man who was a major founder. Since he had such a terrible childhood his recovery from it were it going to have it at al began very early for him.
It isn’t an experience that should be all that alien to us to lock into ourselves and ask ourself what is bearable even now that an autocracy asks of us that we can tolerate. Sometimes we need to pass through a season of accommodation to realize that lines we have to draw in our lives to remain on civil terms with ourselves.
My own watershed period was in my later 20s and early 30s. Earlier than that I was generally cynical and accommodating a much as I could be, and conducted my alienated private life with as much circumspection as I could bring to an interpose not all that had to do at bottom because nobody was interested in getting from me before more than a very cursory bowing of the knee to a communal juggernaut that in the end had no physical means of checking me or anybody else as long as our freedom wasn’t organized, vocal and conspicuous.
In the end it wasn’t merely the loss of lives in a long was that sunk the Brits imperial cause but the intervention of the French navy under the Bourbons, enemies of England, might defined the English at Yorktown and elsewhere. As much as the long war was unpopular in Britain the decisive defeat of Cornwallis and Burgoyne happened partially out of the luck that the French were as much enemies of England as the American were.
That doesn’t mitigate the fact that the American revolution was done out of honor and what a human being could bear in the way of definition of himself, not about starvation as the French and Russian revolutions were. A odious as the British empire was in America it never started its locals and acted as the Russians and French Bourbons did, as an occupying army running a virtual slave pen for all people, even White people.
Still it’s not usually well known even among intellectuals that a quarter of General Washington army was of freed slaves and Washington himself was a fervent abolitionist who himself fared his slaves, not that the moderate and reserved Washington was not surrounded by much more radical social observers like Laurens, Hamilton, Lafayette and Franklin.
Clearly Washington’s private argument to them was that once he freed his own slaves, what would they do and where would they go? He addressed that issue in his will. It does make the America reevaluation a motley effort of people who felt they could not bear a certainly kind of lie and definition of themselves lawfully and people who like the French peasantry and the Russian people general had nothing to lose by revolution.
It’s much easer to live with compromised honor in one way than it is to stand for it. We can claim as I’ve heard many people do that quietly we are being honorable and charitable to others. Of course in our society we tend to think sometimes that not only that we can take any compromise to our honor and sense of ourselves but that it is right and pious to do so if some inept boss in an enterprise replaces competent one as our ledge. It’s easy for us to baffle such a prevailed idiot. We even have a grudging admiration for people who are seemingly able to be soldiers in such a despotism even if the aim of the tyranny is to sell defective vacuum cleaners.
The effect of such a direction in politics is to send all the people who are tolerable honorable to the margins of any enterprise and leave the actions of the society to fanatics, inept unstable rogues with secret agendas, and certified vegetables. They get what such a group of people commonly produce and can only produce.
We would be in any organized activity impervious to the kind of speeches Washington made to his troops to exhorted them to stay in the organization or make uncomfortable efforts that set a standard that would be unthinkable in a despotism. Then in all areas of our society we get what we get.
I hope that anyone reading this book will think to himself that it doesn’t have to be that way. Despotism lawful and formal or circumspect and even illicit aren’t the only way to run common human action nor to set our expectations after a while of what we can garner from communal politics.
It really undermines any sense that we re capable of such another direction if we think that our founder or the generation that produced the American revolution were vicious or perhaps cunning rogues. We have to find in ourself plenty of reptilian cunning to survive in our society. There never has been a living icon. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin aspired to being optimally virtuous if hardly saintly but they pend Dakotas getting wherever they got in that intent.
Both men were not originally abolitionists much less revolutionaries ready to risk their lives for lawful human equality. Both kept slaves for a long while. Both only turned away from what Washington called with circumspection “act against my principles” after a lot of reflection and in middle age. Recovery in lie is often slow and not without backsliding and pain.
If we don’t asses our founders as people who had a lot of loss and desperation in their lives and plenty of flaws even when they did better at a time in their mortality we are not going to be abe to connect with their lives or their temperaments because the will seem to different than our accommodating own habits. Yet we are different from theme only in that we haven reached the level of private personal desperation about their honor and character and acting on an sense of charity that they in fact did.
We are surrounded by foes after all that are doing everything they can to keep him from that assessment. We have unlike them power over light and darkness, electronic amusements that are tireless, dependence for food and shelter that these people who could live anywhere and were one step from the wilderness at all times never had.
Actually these various instruments are a neutrality. They can adorn our lives or they can corrupt us. The choice isn’t inherent in the external means but in our own character. One can’t imagine any of the founders renouncing comforts and amusement as temptations in the hands of the devil. We shouldn’t see a republic as needing to choose between a relatively rustic life and freedom, and a very comfortable existence and dependence to whomever gives us such esse for nothing back in our lives.
The founders didn’t see the people who were upset their acts of honor as diabolic or evil. They were Haran beings sincerely embracing a false stem that was based on allegiance to a liege instead of making the common people or humanity itself their ultimate source of authority and power. Nobody in the America revolution celluloid the colonial barons and aristocrats as if they were Satanist as did the French and the Russians.
There was never a world of disapprobation or suspicion of aristocrats like Lafayette who had joined the popular revolution nor of Washington himself, a rich man who had led it. Washington himself at the night of his military power was always careful never to exceed the clout he had asked for from Congress. He was always courteous to the British when they themselves were often far from civil to his own forces.
If anything the founders tended to have prejudices they inherited. Both Adams and Jefferson calumnied Hamilton as a bastard and a foreigner. They should have, given their principles, been all for bastardly and looked for patriots who embraced freedom irrespective of their origins or where they were from.
It would be ridiculous to look at the past and American history in particularly as a tale of honorable and even saintly men who unlike ourselves were on the side of active and aggressive franchise for all, and took up our more inclusive dies of charity and freedom. Hamilton was really not honest with John Adams in Adams’ Presidency. Jefferson was secretly thorough intermediaries trying to undermine George Washington in his eight years of leading America.
The people who succeeded them had plenty of leader who on their dry days weren’t any better than the founders; they were often far worse. What can one say for all those Americans who between 1776 and 1864 who were ready to not only make slavery in America lawful but wanted to expand it? A century later what could we say about the people who brought us the Vietnam war? What abaft the pious folk who want to tell people what to drink, smoke, or athirst take up as private tastes? What else were they but waft Jefferson would call monarchists? One deceased have to have a king to be in a kingdom.
It’s up to us in every generating to either try to improve ourselves and turn loss and recovery to instruments on a path to achieve whatever mortal things we can achieve in the way of honor and charity. Wet take up such an effort to accommodate ourselves however grudgingly to some tyranny. If we tend to overestimate the power of despotism in our age it’s merely a perception. We have as many people as the founders did who are honorable among us. They simply aren’t publicly vocal or at all organized.
In the end whether we are judged by a deity or not we are going to judge ourselves severely enough by standards that are never going to go away unless our species becomes extinct. Even then under many names and among meany animals including some reptiles in this prodigal Creation we are going to have honor and charity. If we can never rid ourselves of the foolish and the wicked we can equally never be free of the qualities in us that are sometimes is stronger in us than interest.
As human as they were, as flawed as they were, the founders of America were a generation that so far has been unique in all history. They were a set of people whose lives and definition of themselves were received from them from England; yet the American revolution was one of the most popular wars in its history.
It say something bout the adaptive power of human beings that nearly all the Americans in colonies that weren’t starving and had pretty good material lives by the standards of the day had decided that independence from England a and a free republic with limited government was preferable to the monarchy they had been formed by to the point of risking their lives to make it happen. If we doubt the recovery power of our species now we only have to remember that America in 1776 was an instance of a whole nascent nation making changes in itself that at bottom were foaled by motivations that were unorganized and private. It had the initial structure at most of passing conversation in taverns or in homes
It probably was the harvest of innumerable slights each of the colonists have endured from the British. Yet had they felt they were natural servants of the empire they probably never would have found such patronizing attitudes insulting.
John Adams lamented in his 91st year in 1826 the demise of his peers at least partially became subsequent generations of Americans could never understand what he and his generation had been through. The young people in America in John Adams’ old age had no memory of English rule, no recall of the inner convulsions that must have occurred in most people in the United States to effect the exhaustion of patience with England in the revolution they had. Yet in a much less romantic way every generation of humanity has had in their adolescence something brewing in them in the way of a private rebellion.
I think this revolt is the hub of our culture in America, not different really than similar ones all over the world but central to us as Americans in way in it never could be in places where the entire population hasn’t picked up and gone thousands of miles to escape some remembered or even unremembered tyranny. The hunger of a young generation to make their own laws that Jefferson meditated upon is built into our adaptive biology; in America ;it’s also a feature of our natural law, honored or ignored.
We have in America a population that shares one common experience no matter where they are from originally; they all have made a private choice to conduct their adult life in a place where it is possible; they also have had the recovery power to walk off from an old place with nothing and emerge elsewhere ready to build from virtually nothing.
Gore Vidal once said that “America is not and never can be a culture in decline; it never existed in the first place.” like most epigrams this clever riposte says much more than it asserts directly as it simplifies what is intractably complicated with a certain amusing elegance. We in fact have the most dominant culture in the world. Vidal was wrong.
It’s more accurate to say that American high culture of the kind Vidal associates with England, Fence, and Germany doesn’t exist or is very sick much as Vidal says because it has always remained a provincial enterprise under the aegis of a long ago regimens American expelled from its shores militarily and politically by 1781.
It can’t be otherwise because such a high culture can never tell its faithful who, what and where they are. That limitation must be lethal in any culture. We re no provincials of England, France or Germany. We aren’t descendants of the Greek or Romans either. Since we are a nation that has crossed water at our peril to populate another world we are closest as a nation to the Hebrews who did the same thing 3400 years ago when they crossed over water into the Land of Milk and honey from Egypt.
The radical pull in America to reinvent oneself is something that Vidal had to deny in himself as his otalgia when he chose to be an aristo, tough obviously Vidal did plenty of reinventing of himself in his life. In a curious way his lack of acknowledgment of his own creative power to remake himself hampered him intellectually. Aristos like Vidal are usually a class that claims implicitly they are trying to avoid revolution in human history. A revolution doesn’t need such models in the past. It can even claim as many revolutions have to be like nothing that has ever happened before.
In fact as Jefferson says the world is constantly, our science to the contrary, evolving in precisely that way. Every hundred years we have a new population on this planet that can embrace choices in action and thought that have never happen before.
This does happen occasionally in history. There is no model for the flight of the Jews from Egypt in any history book. Vidal has pointed out the high culture in America such as it has always been anti-Semitic to the point where it would even admit such a vulgar strain in its origins. Of course Moses is a Jewish prince but the revolt of the Jews 3400 years ago was like our own rebellion a virtual slave revolt.
The American revolution was called a War of Independence by the British, even by Jefferson; it was in a deep sense a slave revolt with all the potential to turn the values of nobility upside down, to expend its grunt realities beyond purging England from its geography, at least outside our Anglophilia colleges. The provincial high culture can only tell us, mendaciously that we are still colonists of some place: England, France, Germany, lately even Asia.
This sort of culture at Vidal aptly put it “never existed in the first place” because the utility of culture is to describe to those in it who and where they are. A high culture in America apparently cannot do this. They can only point to some Byzantium thousands of miles away and say we are barefoot hinterlands exiles from the one old world citadel if not another one.
Their struggle for dominance are only about identifying where that holy center of Creation is, London, Paris or Vienna, lately even Tibet. Such culture if embraced by anyone needs to a natural vitiation of one’s own energies, after a while an inability to identify one’s very existence and geography enough to think and do anything. As a consequence our colleges and intellectual centers have ails been the weakest part of what high culture we have. Vidal of course is sensibly not part of any such group.
I don’t mean to disparage or at all diminish Gore Vidal’s very respectable claim to be an American airiest or even early Southern royalty while maintaining that our institutions in becoming more like those of an empire have undermined our natural direction as a republic. I don’t even feel critical of his excoriation of American writers as generally a bunch of phony macho heros who outside of some low porcine hungers have no sense of cognition, morals or philosophy. In my view a free republic should have and have had improbable people like Vidal.
Yet I think if one takes Vidal’s epigram seriously that Vidal has been looking in the worn places for American culture. It isn’t a view of life or a definition of human beings that is rooted in the life of courts, temples or even the grottos of republican aristocrats. Among the founders very few of them were aristos. The top in American culture even then was populated by colonial merchants, businessmen, not nobles savoring the arts of leisure.
Nearly all our founders were ferociously driven workaholics. The people who won the American revolution were the soldiers from the bottom culture led by those merchants, the top of which had a fanatical desire to do hard work that would weary nearly all of us.
Moreover nearly every one of these founders and later people like Thoreau or Abraham Lincoln after them had a passion for existence in the wideness. This is as much true of George Washington as Hamilton and Jefferson. They were all big walkers and travelers in strange places.
They were very much adaptable in the places they traveled to. George Washington, one who is usually written off by our time as a parochial Virginian, said in his old age he might decided to settle in the north if Abolition split the Union. Since he had spent a good deal of his adult life in the north it wasn’t just talk.
The various writers Vidal dislikes as fake swinish macho hero had the same passion for the wilderness. Its a curious limitations in Vidal’s thought because of all American nobody took off into the known with more bravery as he did. In fact he is most interesting when he wallows farewell in his intrepidity in books such as Myra Breckenbridge and Two Sisters, always under wraps when he tries to be less wild and more augustan.
One can see the strain of a similar taking off into the wilderness in Melville, the Antarctic travels in his imagination of Poe, a Virginian who had settled in New York, and of course in Thoreau.
These are attitudes at a polarity from a Conrad preaching the just dread of the unknown in Heart of Darkness. It isn’t so much an objective direction for all of us to take up either route into the future. It simply is at the other end of the exhilaration and freedom Melville talked about in Typee. It is Poe’s fear in various stories that finally this journey leads one to the inexplicable. Nevertheless Poe and Melville were on the same deep pilgrimage.
This journey into the wilderness isn’t singular to American culture. One can find it in the Torah, the Odyssey, much English Gothic literature, and pulp science fiction as well as the annals of Hemingway. It has particular significance for American couture because the whole of the country came to its territory one way or nether from another place. It’s the central experience all Americans share.
The historian Prescott mounted a modern version of this way of analysis in his theory of the frontier. In his view the re history of America was the individual and largely quiet if grumbling movement of Americas westward as the eastern part of the country became more organized. There was according to Prescott a continuing low key emigration west by people who didn’t want to live in tightly structured worlds and had a lot of the skills it took to set up a farm or ranch anywhere and live from Nature.
If we follow out Prescott’s intriguing idea we can view the people living in the Midwest as more of this sort of adaptable folk because they made at least two emigrations westward, the first across the Atlantic ocean. The far west, known as the wild west in American culture is of course the place where this drifting populace made its last sand before it hit the Pacific Ocean.
I think there is a good del of substance to this theory #hen I traveled thorough America in the 50s and 60s I did see much more concrete skills of survival and neighborliness in spirit in the Midwest and far west than I did in the East. One also didn’t hear a lot of European or Asiatic ideas in the people who had emigrated twice. Life to them was about how to acquire survival skills and seem affable enough on the surface to be part of a world they needed to be very alert about were they to wake up in it the next morning.
Then there is the adaptability that comes to us all as time passes. The generation that remembers another country which they had left feels different about America than the one that has no memory of it. Yet that second generation at least has access to the stories as well as intimate domestic knowledge of the character of the emigrants. The generation utterly divorced from any memory of an emigration or any recall at all of the past are going to be different from the earlier generations before them. If we were to define who we are as Americans, where we are, we are the self evidently the descendants not too far removed of some primal exile who came from elsewhere; we retain in us a notion of the value of observation and adaptability that only comes to most people when they are experiencing the dread and exhilaration of the new and unknown.
We also might say that the reason we are not at all a culture that has never existed but a new culture that illuminates every egalitarian and republican movement in the world because we are the first nation not only to make a successful rebellion from provinciality and loyalty to an old faraway monarchy but we in our very revolt had many philosophers among our leaders who were able in very lively and accurate longing to define what we were in fact doing.
We haven’t influenced the whole world thorough our novels, stories, verse or belle letters, places where Vidal as an American aristo sensibly worked, but in our vulgar culture often done in illicit halls like ragtime, jazz, rock music and the blues. We have as a culture exported republicanism in our music more centrally because outside of a few geniuses among us mostly educated in Germany or Paris we haven’t had much of a thriving high musical Art. Whatever capacities we have for a vulgar culture to be elevated or at least urbane in a late Raman empire way has never been our American genius.
Perhaps it’s unnecessary. After all 99% of human beings aren’t other than common people. In the other hand one should never pooh-pooh Vidal for showing a career of high American culture can be mounted.
When I was a young man I used to think a Jefferson and Madison did that it would be a good idea of American universities taught American culture instead of English or European culture. A little later it seemed to me that it might be much to their interest if American Bohemia aimed for some idiosyncratic national qualities instead of imitating french culture. I think that the same thing of American Hellenes, Tibetans, Communists, and German Olympians.
This isn’t to say I don’t love London, Paris and Vienna, at least what is left of them. Yet it seemed to me America could reform their own native institutions at least to the tolerable point here theine engines were not actively trying to cheat us lawfully of our lives by distracting all of us from ourselves.
Now I think the lack of appreciation of American culture by all our high folk, even including somebody as discerning and clever as Vidal is probably the only way our American genius ever could have developed. As long as we are looking for the citadel of ultimate civilization as a faraway place we orbit around weather we like it or not, we aren’t very likely to look for the same wisdom in our own backyard much less the wilderness and the unknown.
It doesn’t take a profound study of what is good for the United States as a land of freedom appertained and lifted government and what is not cellarets for it to fathom plainly if we have a school system that imports European systems whether it’s Marxism or monarchy, any Asiatic system that is uninterested in freedom, we are going to educate our children to have all the political stifling class notions that European and Asiatics have had, the very dilemmas that have sent our emigrants coming here. I’m hardly saying anything unthinkable when I make such distinctions. It was in fact a central concern of Jefferson and Madison in the 1790s when the designed and produced a curriculum for the University of Virginia. The issue isn’t any different now.
We can’t run a justice system that calls small private businesses and contractual relations between adults of any kind felines or even misdemeanors and run a criminal codes that is going to help the United States thrive. If people can outlaw private tastes of any kind they can outlaw privacy itself.
We can’t promote any vertical class system or two or more tiered system of franchise either formally or informally and get anything but one more country with a majority out of power, not protected by the law, and having nothing to lose by reforming or bringing down the state. We can’t close our borders to any large or small group of people who have ample reason to join us and not expect that the most excellent people of those groups are either going to figure out a way to join us illicitly or are, scorned, going to be our enemies one day.
We can’t elect pious Cromwellians like Woodrow Wilson, a demagogue who talked very well in his speeches about populism and freedom but allied us with the very enemies we had fought a revolution to escape, involved us in a war nobody understands to this day, closed down brothels, gambling, and honest liquor drinking, made Jim Crow a government policy and shut the doors on any but English emigration. We are going to be weaker as a country every time we have as a leader any synthetic empty suit like John Kennedy or any mendacious racist and fascist American style.
Besides that I think to put it politely it’s rather a hard advocacy to claim that any kind of Christianity or any institutional religion whatsoever is a champion of freedom, equality and diversity. It might be uncomfortable for some Americans to think so but it’s better than being cleft in spirit and maintaining a politics championing freedom and a religion promoting imperialism and tyranny. It would be better for them f the monarchistic and theocrats were honest in their faith in despotism.
Obviously at least to me slavery of any kind is not going to strengthen the United States. We can say that now and feel very much confirmed in this opinion by our fashions; not too long ago this seemingly self evident opinion wasn’t as obvious to many American.
Yet once we plumb below the superficial stratagems of the day which are good or unhealthy for us, we can note that America still functions pretty much as George Washington saw it: a second chance for people harassed by diverse autocrats in the world to live adult lives they were born to hunger to live out if they have had to take them up in a different place.
The parade of humanity that have populated this country are still coming this way, as much from Asia as Europe, because they come again and again to want to live with limited government and freedom over any blandishments and coercions of any truant anywhere. As soon as the open discussion about what freedom and limited government means practically to our citizens shuts down, we are going to live by the same principles inarticulately or even unconsciously; we aren’t going to give them up. America is at its best a place where the natural hungers in our spaces have a legitimacy. In other places humanity has to take its freedom illicitly but it doesn’t have any less desire for it.
What moral disciplines one might or might not take up in a country in which freedom is lawful is really the crux of whether or not any country including our own can maintain freedom at all.
As Hamilton said aptly the quickest way to bring autocracy to America is to promote an amoral anarchy. As Hamilton also said, as the French reevaluation showed, people will eventually tire of such a dangerous world and look to put into power anyone who can protect them from it. We can’t at once by a free country and promote pure interest and moral relativism.
To remain free a country that values liberty has to recognize and enforce some distinctions between honor and interest, charity and ordinary wickedness. If we listen to our own grey priests we might think we are insects and not even competent at being arthropods.
If we never discuss such issues we are still going one way or another to live by our private or whispered ruminations on these matters. Honorable people for thee worst of reasons would rather be with other honorable people.
At its most profound level, that of the Jeffersonian “perpetual revolution” the contention between the elites and the populace comes down to the war between the organized and the unorganized. We tend to underestimate the power of action of the unorganized because our sciences are all about norms, mediocrity, ordinary mechanics or even more ordinary phenomena, when the world is filled with the harvests of extraordinary people as well a the personal disasters of its equally monstrous imbeciles. We are a species probably mostly improved by its monsters. It means we haven’t got a science of human behavior or politics, only a false faith that if we would ever make a design of the doggedly mediocre a mirror of Creation we would have a science. in fact the evidence is never in about the capacities of humanity because we have not seen the last extraordinary man that will influence it.
We really can’t lump the founders of America into any science because they were all diversely extraordinary men. We also can’t imagine the existence of the United States itself without its extraordinary men. Would we have had this country at all in war and peace without George Washington? It seems doubtful.
George Washington for a military man and politicians spent a lot of his early life living among the unorganized and being one of the unorganized himself. It probably formed many of his later notions of what it took to produce freedom for anybody. The unorganized man is almost invisible to a world that is only perceptible to others as a collection of large and small organizations. He is often alone. He is affable but doesn’t trust many people with his inner thoughts.
Washington was a warrior but in peacetime he didn’t confront people much. He did a lot of intense listening to other people. He was uninterested in any orthodoxy. Even when he was President he kept acting according to the qualities he had developed over long years as a man in the wilderness beyond any help of any organization.
In many ways Washington was very similar to the kind of personality we ascot with the Midwest or Far West. He wasn’t burdened with a lot of presumptive ideas. He was a close observer of nature. He was very methodical man who wanted to know what worked to accomplish substantive things for which he had an intent. He has a lot of the qualities of self-educated man. He was interested in everything but had very independent ideas about everything.
Though I was brought up in New York and very much immersed as a young man in the ideal values of the aristo, I think the battle lines in America might not be the ones between the cabals with different directions they would like to take this country, but these very groups and the unorganized people who are beyond their power to bring into their nets as solders, monks or clerks. When we look at history as a tale of contending organizations we might only be looking at half of the story. It might be about not only who and what leads some fashion in drafting or seducing people into an organization, but who and what has escaped them.
The ancient peoples of this world always recognized the wilderness and one’s exploration of it as the very theater in which children become adults. We should never understand the recovery power of a country whose very genius has been in making use of the alchemy of radical exile.
The wilderness is not a comfortable place. It might be argued that if a society values comfort more than the rescouses that appear in the spirit of some if not all of us when one is distressingly uncomfortable it is going to have to endure the excesses of comfort much as its predecessors had to live with the undeniable sanguine harvests of discomfort.
We are inundated in this time with a plethora of priests who are constantly preaching the values of escaping threats to one’s comfort and survival in a faith system that finds nothing worthwhile in danger, contention even inner wrestling with what the past had once called sin. One can understand the attractiveness of such a belief system aisle enough. Yet the kind of deep torpor that a system that successfully uprooted people from any danger whatsoever for a lifetime is slavery because the natural doom of desperate mortality itself isn’t negligible one.
Our founders were people who were not only uncomfortable most of their lives but were often shot at by diverse people. George Washington might have been shot at by more people than any American prescient. The only one who might be in his league was Andrew Jackson.
Though both were warriors, since Washington was as civil as Jackson was bellicose it says something about him that even he couldn’t avoid in a life of honor making the various enemies he did in war he had very few in peace. We are a country founded by people that had they lost the American revolution, something of a long shot, all would have been the principal feature of a public London execution.
Yet the last half of the 20th century in American politics has been an etude in avoiding any kind of danger among us. We trundle our populace off to the suburbs if we can, then hope that our institutions will gad them peculia and uneventfully from birth to death. After Vietnam we put our army under military discipline to do things that perhaps are sometimes less than legal, moral or otherwise legitimate only if the soldiers voluntarily contract with the government to accept the Faustian terms of their employment.
If we feel depressed even a good reason to feel lousy with can take a pill to waft the blues away from us. We have foods that may make many of us terminally obese; on the way to such portliness one can enjoy in a simple way the sugars, oils and artificial flavors that make such fare on the way to the hospital and the grave, tasty as they are.
It’s a minority opinion; I would suggest that perhaps in our avoidance of the wilderness ourselves and our hope that our children never have to endure its dreads for good reasons we have cheated ourselves and everybody who will embrace such a direction in life out of some basis cogs of sanity. When somebody is in danger they can’t help asking themselves why they have chosen to be in such peril. When they contend against enemies they have to organized themselves and their resources to make the optimal stand against their antagonists. When they are hungry or thirsty they look with great alertness for ways to be received of such pain.
If much of the country is out of work it is unavailable to ask who is doing the labor or helping any of us survive? How did they get the job that have made us dependent on them? If we live in the suburbs and have no independent food supply or other means to provide ourselves with shelter, what set of values inspired us to choose to embrace or endure such dependence on others?
Do we really need to be organized to the point where we lack the means to survive if we aren’t part of some common social enterprise like an anthill? If we hire a class of priests and warriors to protect us from one set of Vandals or another, who will protect us from them?

The Miracle Of Healing

One of the many qualities that distinguishes us from machines and minerals is our biological healing power. Many of us in the most ordinary way when we have a cut of any kind or pulled muscle simply wait for the wound or other painful ailment to heal by themselves. We don’t ask them Tao do so or tell ourselves consciously they will or should heal. The body doesn’t recover from everything, eventually in fact it is destroyed by some injury or imperfecti in itself, but it has some mysterious mechanism in it for acting to heal itself by default.
It’s equally true that some if not all societies have the capacity to heal themselves after some disaster. In politics the power doesn’t always come from an imposed force and a cabal purging supposed corruptions of a country but as often from the unorganized populace who can embrace a reform in a democracy or take up a revolution when all lawful manner of righting the follies and vices of a nation have failed.
One of the virtues of a small and limited government is that when the regime failed the organization of the common people doesn’t go down into the ashes with it. Democracy and limited government are in this way two sides of a means of using the natural churning of practical means of power by anybody to be able to replace the regime easily enough. When a completely socially engineered government falls the whole society down the celestial garage disposal and even the dog pounds goes kerplunk.
Of course history is reported to us as the usurpations of power by such cabals or by external foreign invaders. It’s an easier but false way of thinking about how change happens in politics. As long as a regime doesn’t have corruptions there is no need by anybody to change it.
Yet as Aristotle says each government heads toward its excesses with the certainty of lemmings swimming one by one into the open sea. If it is not the first generation of people in power in a regime that make the mistakes does the second or third generation will do that job. One waggish and sagacious medieval Arab historian has remarked waggishly that as a result no regimes lasts longer than three generations.
Of course there are regimes that have lasted longer than three generations. Egypt lasted for millennia. If often they do so like Egypt because their losses and mistakes which would have brought down a smaller or less powerful government become a chronic painful condition enervation but still not destroying the untouched hub of some vast empire. Still some regimes which do the same thing lethal to itself take a long time to die. Others are ready enough to die but nobody rises up to knock them off. Both factors can make for a long and expensive death vigil that outlasts the lifetime of all who are sepulchrally waiting for the end.
The United States has demonstrated over centuries lot of recovery power partial because learning and adapting after nearly total loss is its genius. The other part of our resources is the healing power in all human beings in all times and places. The in inhabitants of America all had arrived in the country after losing everything they had left behind them, good or bad.
Many of the first generation of emigrants never gave up their old ways. Many of the second and third generation of those same people were forced by the vertical racist attitudes of people who ran the country to never forget their origins and make what use of them they could. All one could do under such frail circumstances was to make one’s presumptive social culpabilities among the genteel a virtue.
American politics was never free of English colonialism in some form, both in the lifetime of the founders and in my own existence. The oscillation between English and French provincialism or admiration for one of two European powers was as real in my run of mortality as it was for Hamilton and Jefferson. The shift of the shifty Woodrow Wilson from neutrality to Anglophilia was never presented to the American people as a departure from the advice of Washington as much as an inevitable return to a bogus kinship with a country whose institutions and army had in fact opposed the United States militarily and otherwise for most of its history. The connection some post World War Two intellectuals claimed to Asiatic cultures was as much Japanese cultural penetration as the domination of the school system was a cunning stratagem of England.
Knowing who and where we are has to be the place of departure for all of us wherever and whoever we are, but these various claims that we were something or somebody else has never helped us in knowing ourselves. It’s sad to say but the decease of provincialism has been more prevalent among our educated intellectuals. One might think that an education or some claim to having a mastery of reflective cognition would help one realize who and where one is. Their education did the opposite.
There doesn’t seem to be any lack of false analytical ways of understanding of wo and where we are among us. If we aren’t ready to be baffled by one kind of provinciality, another is ready to do the job. In the last decades of the 20th century the parity line in the colleges was Marxism.
Maybe all the fans of Anthony Trolloppe had died. It would be to our interest if we value our children to send them to schools that reflected America values, whatever they might be. As I say, In case one is a little blurry on such concerns Jefferson and Madison did take them up in the 1790s aiming for a republican Virginia college. If we disagree with them it’s not a bad point of departure for us now.
Yet it is amazing how many of the problems of United States history have removed themselves in ways that have astonished the survivors of the worlds that had no clue to how to heal themselves from their dilemmas.
Take the vertical racist structure, one that at its most severe legitimizes a covert slavery but even in its mild form among the genteel was still all for tiers of unequal descendants of ancient tribes deemed not quite worthy of toleration but good enough to be servants or fodder for battle, or the road to the grave of the youth of rural local communities that hadn’t the sense to take up the vices of the urbane.
The solution to such a quandary was to define reality as concrete, without the capacity for elevation, the whole of the country ,world and perhaps the unweaves as trivial and vulgar. It’s been hard on those of us who are not so easily leveled into such a faith system; it certainly has eliminated the kind of pain people went through in my youth because they were the wrong color, ethnic origin or sex. It certainly has been a loss for America general. Our greatest men have always been, to put it simply, utterly improbable.
It would have been nice if everybody in America had followed George Washington’s personal example and freed the slaves without force or war. It would have been as good for the United States if they had followed Washington’s charity and acceptance for all and had some not created out of a country that really didn’t have class system a kind of racist vertical structure of ascending or descending franchise reminiscent of Europe at its worst.
Yet we have after a long while survived all the evils slavery and the vertical class structure has done us.
Whether or not we can outlast departing from George Washington’s advice to conduct foreign policy with justice and avoid foreign wars is not yet known to us. It would be nice if this country remembered the various directions this great man had after much reflecting laid out for a country he personally founded. Since many of us including myself would have been dead if we had trusted Europe and its wonderful civilization to protect us, and have been trash and desperately hungry from birth to death if they hadn’t killed us, we at least owe him that small level of passing attention.
In 1895 the American historian Brooks Adams wrote The Law of Civilization and Decay, in 1900 America’s Economic Supremacy, two wonderful speculative books on the large patterns of ascent and decay of civilizations. Adams was not quite sitting on a mountain when he wrote these volumes.
His father had a particular distaste for bankers, speculators and any businessmen that were involved in anything at all but manufactory. These veils show up in Brooks Adams’ analysis in a central way. Yet Adams himself is the sterling epitome of the advantages of having any kind of aristocracy t all. He is an independent heavyweight thinker who was never worried that his opinions might lose him approval or money.
Among the many intriguing things that Adams says in thee elegant and pity volumes is that when a society locoes its manufacture and takes up speculation, values bankers more than workers, is no longer interested in spiritual or cultural matters but becomes greedy and debased in its ambitions, the general distrust of all and sundry by everyone in a moral atmosphere of reptilian interest gradually dissolves the cicada into a rampaging pack of isolated egoistical wolves either in lupine refugees or devouring each other.
I think he is right about the way banking and speculation sets into motion a dissolution of a culture out of a mistrust of people who are simply wolves in power. Yet as lupine as America is at its worst, given that other worlds not ruled by these moderately lupine folk are worse, it might by overstating his case to say that their influence will bring down the entire republic.
Adams stresses that what brings down regimes in the long run is lack of lateral bonding and trust among its citizens. I think this is true. Yet if the corruption is limited to a limited government that is hardly lethal to the republic itself.
One of the ways general theories about anything have gotten wafted among the public in the past few centuries has been their attractiveness as presenting reality as more simple than we at heart know it is. To do that they have to overlook a lot of details.
That can be lethal to any science. As Colin Wilson says, the proof that there are ghosts isn’t based on some norm of visitation by spirits but by the mere presence of one ghost. I think Brooks Adams would have done better to talk of his insights as some of the elements in political reality rather than presumptively lay out what he thought were the dominant factors in that same reality.
As persuasive as Adams is in his thought, I think the evidence is simply not in on patterns of rise and decay in republican governments. As long as the government stays limited and the amount of personal freedom is large in a society the power of recovery is not hard to invoke when in one day if not another some deal or cabal of leaders make the mistakes that leaders commonly make.
The society can rise from the ashes because there isn’t much of a major conflagration when its elite keels over. We have had in our history many versions of America, each emerging like the phoenix from such a nacral pyre.
It seems paradoxical but in a free republic as long as nearly everybody in the society is out of power politically it doesn’t matter much to the populace what follies and vices the people in power have. They aren’t responsible for them.
Beyond that Adams is looking at a past of a decay and demise of autocratic regimes, not free republics. He is assuming on very partial evidence around 1785 to 1900 that the destiny of the United States is to be one more world empire. Adams was right about that.
He leaves out that the United States is also the evangel of free egalitarian and republican politics with a tilt to the virtues of the bottom, perhaps not from its leaders of his or our day but from the American populace and its culture, one very attractive and persuasive to a world beside by inequality and autocracy. It’s hard to say which will turn out to be more important the American empire or American populist culture as a point of denature for social action of the populace of the whole world.

The Uses Of History

Anyone looking at the past including historians have an advantage over their subjects that at once elevates and separates them from their materials: they know what is going to happen as a consequence of the actions as the characters in their own mortal explorations never do.
It’s an assessment that one day will be applied to anyone in the current present including myself. I can say as a witness to me age that I never hard anyone in my era discuss or even notice that we as a nation were morally direct in imposing the enlistment of the entire population of China as a slave stage to feed us, even amuse us with various machines they have built for us while most Americans accepted that we were a class never found in Nature; consumers, that going into lifelong debt to be these white collar devourers was the American Dream.
It’s as perverse an idea as slavery or some people being a class of slave owners. there was good deal less dissent in America to the notions that we were consumers than the canard once among us that we might me legitimate and pious slave owners.
The idea of a consumer class is itself a slight variant of the cult of Welfare clients. It asserts as a faith that life should be cherished to the point where everyone who is alive whistled be living lives of material felicity and leisure to be happy. That leisure is actually doing nothing or almost nothing. It is the aim of white collar work, the purpose of dressing up in suits and shuffling those papers, the intent of an existence of security and perceptual amusement, the goal of any earnest and focused epicurean.
Yet who we are and where we are has to be the basis of our philosophical inquiries even if I think in the 21st century we are finally if tardily all agreed that soldiers for lawful slavery or for that matter being cattle for some factory or devourers of goods residing in a comfortable and anonymous suburb is not at all who we are.
The discovery of our own nature and what we do about it is the perpetually unfinished revision that like Creation itself drafts us into its battles whether or not we know the nature and real purposes of the assorted battalions in these celestial wars. We also re going to see our enemies for the first time very clearly once we perceive what it is in thought or action we have to do to embrace even bare sanity much less to realize ourselves more elegantly.
We aren’t English or French provincials. We aren’t Tibetans or Japanese either. We are an aberration in fact from almost anything that has ever happened elsewhere. this isn’t to scorn a cosmopolitan life. We can admire many kinds of people and cultures without thinking in a kind of fashionable lunacy that we the sometimes excellent folk we appreciate.
We are largely a nation of very poor emigrants whose ancestors or ourselves had arrived on a day in the territory we cabal the United States without much more among our portable resources than our wits, cunning, observational skill and if we are lucky at least one change of sweaty and raggedy clothes. Whether we realism it or not we are going to live and die as those kind of people.
We are as well going to held up to some future judgment for thinking we could all be speculators and make 15% interest on money we loaned and never had in the first place. that idea has been abroad among us since the palmy days of popular speculation even at the bottom in the 1920s. Some like Thomas Jefferson might say it began when Alexander Hamilton founded the Bank of America in the 1790s.
Nature and time is always going to find a way to correct any vertiginous and insane direction in life though we are free among other things to be daft. Yet sometimes an age is loathe to recognize its own follies and absurdities.
When it does it doesn’t make these vices any less real. Whether or not we believe we are one sort of person or another or pretend in our terror of ourselves that we are one sort of messiah, bum or toff we are not is as irrelevant to us in one sense as whether or not we believe in God, whatever that might mean. We are still going to live under God or otherwise the same life, intertwine the same fortune good or bad no matter how we perceive it, or how much we choose to ignore it or pretend our nature and fortune is otherwise.
One can go through this experience from many angles. Most Americans are loathe to think that the place in the hinterlands they come from is other than an empty or inchoate dump. When one realizes that the great parade of humanity has always been tarde America rather than away from America, one begins to be able to discern who or what has told one such mendacities about one’s origins and situation, perhaps why they have done so, as importantly how one can separate unself from them or contend against their private or general influence.
It might be daunting to realize that the whole of our school system is geared to persuade our children they are not Americans but churlish English provincials, or that many of the presumptions of their foes, the rogues and Bohemians, are as much French provincials who look to Paris for their models, or that some of the savants from Asia that have come here looking to make pecuniary fortunes as cult leaders are a set of con artists who also did no good to the places they came from.
After a half hour of feeling lousy while assessing such enemies, one can preached with ones’ life effectively enough knowing at least who is for one and who is against one.
I’ve had this experience myself in several ways. It struck me as a child in a society that tried to position Jews as inferiors or marginal and myself as a kind of exotic or fossil that it was not the proper place in human history for a group who in one way or another has had most of the world base their morals and gnostical insights on the cognitive labors of this improbably small group of people. Christianity and Islam are in some sense such adaptions by other people to being Jews; even Communism, any humanism with its presumptive faith in the inherent value of human life are other such systems. Who, one may ask, was telling me as a kid that Jews were somehow presumptively inferior and deserved to be treated with at most a bare tolerance as platypuses pr much as many treat Gypsies?
Whoever such priestly guides to the world were, they were not only not my friends, not merely betrayers who pretended to be my alleys but were out to diminish me and make me in deep ways insane, but were also palpably wrong about the nature of the world in front of them and its history. If anything one might criticize Jews for not having more influence for virtue than they did give their mysterious power to inspire a good deal of the world to imitate them.
This set of assessments are equally applicable to being an American, which luckily I also am. We Americans are on the evidence and with the acclimation of most of the world the greatest country in the world. Our philosophers are the equal of any savants anywhere. We have a mysterious and magnetic genius for politics that the whole planet either admires or imitates. Who is telling us we are vulgarians, poltroons, and barefoot louts who would do better to be imaginary Sycthian exiles from the great citadels of London or Paris? Debs anyone want to think about how many of the citizens of London and Paris were desperately and cruelly poor living hopeless lives in the center of these supposed paradises?
Outside of the general ignorance of the populace of the founders or their own country, there is a general feeling about them among some that they never did enough to advance equality and freedom. I don’t think it’s arguable that they were as limited in the very vision of what they wanted to do in their time as we are in our own. they were good on perceiving silvery as an evil but not as clever in seeing accolade for women as the same sort of clear call for them to right such palpable injustice and purge our society of any two tiered system whatever.
Still it’s hard to think of any group in history that did as much as they did with so few models for designing it, risking their lives, making new kinds of laws, changing their inner character, all in the service of freedom.
After the Boston Tea Party we have had so many populist revolutions against one kind of autocracy or another in the world that the subject for us is nearly a banality. Yet I think to look at the first of them and the plain model for all of them that still generates hope in the world is not a waste of one’s mortal attention.
Revolutions are led after a while at the top but always made initially at the bottom; they aren’t ever started by leaders. A ladder is a man who stands one step froward from the populace on the same path. One can see in history all the reasons why a populace should riveted from an authority but hadn’t because it lacked any or effective leaders. Any revolutions we know anything about has been for a long while a situation at the bottom of its society that has waited for the proper leaders or any leaders at all to arranges it.
Every revolution is in some sense an evolving or unfinished revolution. the makers of the rebellion and the success of the revolt are rarely able to put into place the codicils of a new system that seems obvious enough to the generations that either were too young to be part of the revolt or even have no memory of it. We can see that Abolition, Women’s Suffrage, the Black Civil Rights moment and the many aspects of the New Deal were expansions of the rights of the populace that seem obvious enough to our age but in fact weren’t put into law until after the generation of founders had died.
Revolutions tend to move to short term remedies for the current ones of the revolutionaries. If one has a king who is inept, a thief or a scoundrel, rid oneself of him. If one has a class that lawful rubs the poor to support the rich in flamboyant style, or steals from the workers to nurture with the same excess the lives of the bosses, if the priests of the day are in league with these sources of their income as they usually are, get rid of the kings, the class system, bosses and priests.
Afterwards the revolution may discover, sometimes to its rue, what covert function any of these people had that was tolerably healthy even in the odorous maw of such an injurious cloaca.
Usually revolutions are taken up by the young if led by the middle aged because the old can’t figure out what the young are dissenting about. I certainly sw this in the 60s. The odder peel whose lives were formed by the Great Depressing and the arduous war against Fascism found the 60s youth not so much odious as inexplicable. Was the regime they thought as insufferable in America all that bad because it kept some people of populist persuasions out of college and government jobs? Did they shoot anybody? Did they kill anybody even when they ad committed treason besides the Rosenbergs? Didn’t treason respectably invite tee prosecutors to send the felons to their death?
To the old it was ridiculous to compare such a mild government to any fascism. To the young it was preciously this moderate and subtle character to the rule of the American power-elite that made them dangerous as European and Japanese fascism. N any event as soon as a generation came up that couldn’t remember the Great Depression or the Second World War this internal cleavage and disjunct occurred in our society.
Nailer all the so-called revolutionaries I’ve known from those days are were and are parlor dissenters who were content to fulminate against the powerful from sylvan refugees protected by the very Right wing people they regarded as their enemies. They would show up at a march; they will never invented a reason to have one. They rarely invented their own revolutions; they inherit them. The right of public assembly and freedom of speech like all rights is neutral. Without people who are ready to take action, talk just leads to more talk.
The power elite in my days understood that. Some freedoms worked for their outwork. It was better for them if dissenters to their power had a place to excoriate them. They could be identified. If one wanted to take action to grab some power the same government penetrated their organizations and jailed them. That was as much true with the Mafia or Unions as it was for 60s rebels. Double agents working among such active spirits was at least as old as the spies among the Mollie McGuires in the 1880s.
It’s more intriguing to think that sometimes these battles around about issues of privacy or manners that had nothing to do with power. The government and the Mafia battled for half a century over whether or not adults had a private right to gamble, hire prostitutes, imbibe a glass of beer, smoke or jab into their arm certain stimulants, or peruse other private arcane tastes that supposedly threatened the republic.
Among the more active of these groups aspiring over wine and cheese to revolution if never taking it up I have one friend who would rather champion the rights of chickens than Mexicans because nobody he regards as political moral is advocating anything like the right of Mexicans to secede from a or otherwise penetrate a country they never elected to be part of in the first place. He hears some of these Mexicans skulking past his sylvan estates in the San Diego mountains on their way to getting bottom jobs as servants to the American nouveau toffs, or garnering some dollars by picking berries.
Another one told me when mugged by some Black kids in the streets that at least he was robbed by the right people.
Both of these friends are professors. As long as we have this level of cognition in our colleges we can’t expect a revolution or even a small dissent about anything that is going to be more than a parlor tiff from our schools. They are if anything the Khartoums of European thought.
These two friends have one set of standards for themselves, another for America’s founders. They might at most admit that none of the founders created slavery, nearly all of them were Abolitionists, some of them like Garage Washington remade his plantation into a kind of operation somewhere between a family and a business, was their nurse when they were sick, finally freed them and paid them all handsomely, but if they relay don’t know why, our current dissenters don’t have any love for these people.
They might wonder what the future is going to think of their own acceptance of our social follies or their lake warm and vague pique along with no actions at all about their own odious political inheritances; they don’t.
With such intellectuals and educators, a revolution that invokes freedom and the models of our founders ca only come from the hinterlands far away from colleges.
It’s reasonable to ask ourselves in this spirit of revolution what elements of the same rebellion that will seem as self evidently a goal of it to the future if they have not yet had their advent.
This evolution is hard to measure in its beginnings as well as its ends. Where does one say the American revolution started? the revolt of the Jews 3400 years ago in Egypt? the rise and rebellion of Spartacus? the 1300s in Italy and its return of science and Hellenic skepticism that heralded the Renaissance? the rebellion of the Northern European Protestants in the 1600s? None of the people we call the founders of the American revolution started that rebellion. If any one man began the revolt it was Samuel Adams, hardly an important figure in it. the founders were for various reason the people to turn to afterwards, not anyone that incited the populace to any action to begin it. Great men without causes that any churl mewling in the gutter or any clerk hovering at a water cooler can understand why the bottom or middle remain isolated in their greatness.
It’s usually not associated with the American revolution that many people rather than organize to rebel from England simply moved West into Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and parts westward. From that unorganized emigration Prescott derived his famous frontier theory of how such itinerant folk influenced cicada generally.
If Jefferson is right, if autocracy is an unnatural politics among our species, It might be worth our while to look at what produces as much tyranny as we have almost ubiquitously in the world in the first place. Obviously some of it comes from common military formations within a society to survive by combating the intents to loot and kill one of one’s presumptively bellicose neighbors.
One might think that to paraphrase Voltaire if one didn’t have such neighbors one would have to invent them. Beyond that some if hardly all human actions like building a huge temple or pyramid are really done more efficiently with a military type group to execute them.
As plainly private life, reflection, love or the natural adaptions and explorations common to us are at their weakest when they are ruled from the top. Jefferson by the way does not quite say that all life should be private if possible. He tread as one might expect after one has read his essay, the Anglo Saxons, to relegate some actions optimally not to individuals but to local communities. Its a strong central state such as Hamilton advocated that Jefferson regards as unnatural, not any group action of some sort of state itself.
In evolution one has assorted evidence of various variants of creatures that might or might not be intermediary forms as well as life that has no intermediary forms anyone has found at all. the jury is so far out on Lamarckian, or Platonic paradigms generating any of these variants or their models at a hub; my on view is that one of the elements of adaption is a kind of radial variant from an earthly model in which something like the duck, the dog, the frog, the human being all has the capacity to execute explosive variations on itself.
Plainly the overwhelming evidence that parallel evolutions produce similar to identical results in Nature at least superficially cannot be doubted. the heat-based evolution in the depots of the South seas hash produced parallel life forms up to worms and the clam.
I suspect this is as much true of human political revolutions. Whether or not reevaluations resemble each other or come from some external or internal source is interesting to think about but really immaterial. Any dissidence in a society is going to meet with the same institutions in these states to prevent rebellion: the army, the teachers, the priests, the elite and their near relatives in all times and places. States oriental good at reforming themselves; these stifling engines may put down rebellions but don’t change the reasons whey they were manifest in the first place.
It’s not unreasonable to think that if the same means of a situation are in place after it is resolved for the moment by force, negotiation or some other superficial stratagems, the same harvests of discontent will occur again in the future. Moreover they often will happen when the unorganized populace is far more wary and antagonistic to the enemies of any revolt.
When I was a small kid in public school I was constantly told that the best thing that could have happened to 10th century France was Charlemagne, that the greatest empire and center of civilized lie in the world was Rome in the ancient past and recently the British empire and so on. Even though I was eight I found this argument specious.
It seemed to me the loose regimes of the Moorish princes of Iberia were a much better way to govern humanity than the more centralized notions and force of Charlemagne. I was never in Rome or France at eight but it seemed to me even in Brooklyn that a large empire couldn’t help being something of a clumsy leviathan that wasn’t sensitive to the diversity of its sundry citizens.
My teachers, mostly formidable graduates of Catholic parochial schools, daunting and very good at basics in education, never offered me the thoughts of the savants who would have resonated to these puerile intuitions of mine, men who happened to be the folders of my own country and theirs. these sages were stone monuments, icons, moral and decent if adamantine dead who were long perished, not thinkers whose attempt to produce limited government, personal freedom, various rights guaranteed by law and general variety of behaviors within a single nation could supposedly mean anything to me.
In fact I was being taught that the virtues of the British empire in the very country that had not so long ago rebelled successfully from it and was founded by people who had the opposite values. It’s was as ordinary at the time to be told that Europe w the hub of the world which it came to civilization. At the same time the Europeans were killing one hundred and twenty five million human beings among themselves in World War Two while trying to colonize and enslave the rest of the planet as far away as China and Argentina. Were they really all so civilized?
This wasn’t merely a narrow folly of the Right in my youth. the Left was always talking as much as the Right about worldwide revolutions that would lead to a final glorious transformation of all scurvy diverse folk into one pudding-like earthly paradise. they did it without any accompanying music of local metaphysics.
It must have jogged the minds of a lot of people in the American callowness in the 18th century even more than it did me that they could at least think of the possibility of living under limited government and popular democracy. they had a few partial models for it in Greek and Roman republics thousands of years before them, but they would have had to have looked hard around them to find such regimes in their own world.
Recently I heard a former colleague on my job who had retired, one who had been the head of a Communist cell in the 1930s say to me: “Why should there be two of anything in the world in the way of institutions. It’s a waste of duplicated effort. One efficient system can do the job better.”
Thiouracil if one were living on an asteroid his argument made sense. the difficulty with his opinions was in real life on Earth monopolies, tyrannies, autocratic regimes of any kind always end up very inefficient, immortal and downright sinister and murderous in a short while. It takes a kind of genius to think of external checks such as our American government has to limit the power of all three branches. that was not the idea of Julius Caesar or Charlemagne but Alexander Hamilton.
One can say Hamilton based his idea on the model of the Roman republic or the bicameral English legislature, but it really doesn’t resemble either one except somewhat in form. Roman senators were arrests and men of leisure; Hamilton wanted republican savants. None of the Greek, Roman or English leaders ever had a Supreme Court to cut their power down when they got autocratic; Hamilton called it aptly “judicial review”.
These really are very innovative and ingenious ways to run human politics in a way much more likely to gain the energies and loyalties of its citizens than anything Charlemagne had to offer his populace. the various revolutions in Europe which wore fomented by the Reformation, industrial revolution and so on all came from the very bottom, not for any fiat law.
When Ataturk tried to impose Western vales and ways in his country he couldn’t do it. It was muscle coming from the autocratic chief of Turkey, not from the populace. the clever and disarming ability of a populace without guns to resist their supposed leaders without confronting them should d one day be a very long study in the arts of effective politics without legal franchise.
Jefferson argued over and over again through his long life that it is the Charlemagne and Julius Ceasars of the world that may have genius for organization do so at a cost of neglecting or even stifling the natural diversity inherent in the species. Eventually they inherit the anger of these possibilities for human variety scorned. He criticized Hamilton because Holden had told him Julius Caesar was his favorite politicians and the English were a fair model for a point of departure for the government of the United States.
I think it’s clear that Hamilton may have said these things in passing but was as much devoted to the same kind of freedom as Jefferson was. At another point Hamilton said that it’s radicalize to try to amps any behavior on anyone by force; they won’t do it at all or will avoid it indirectly; those who think they have done it have a very weak regime of slackers, vegetables, secret rebels and looters.
I’ve probably never heard these essential political matters discussed seriously even by autocrats because the people in power who rule us clandestinely behind the facades of elections aren’t going to set up a theater for such discourse and subsequent arguments; the people out of power learn very quickly to be very discreet about their opinions. the amazing thing about our founders was their lack of circumspection. they would have found it an act lacking honor to dissemble a set of opinions and feign loyalties they didn’t have. they certainly didn’t want to be muscled by imperiums into acquiescence. that’s one of the reasons George Washington said that he couldn’t imagine a free country without everyone in it owning a set of pistols.
It is striking to me that more than half a century after I
was uncomfortably savoring at eight my silent dissent from my teacher laud of Charlemagne’s centralization and assessing the general raptus expansive hungers of Europe back in 1944 many Americana are beginning to have the same opinion about the so-called cradle of civilization; they say so openly. they can find such notions easily in our founders if they are lucky enough to know where to look for them.

The Protean Character of our Founders

I’ve thought often that history is what happens when men tire of or have been offended by their wives and families and look for other amusements. they have to do something else or maunder in their habitual woes. People who make history have the power to change their lives when things are not going well for them.
Most of us can recognize easily enough that this adaptability is double edged. We value people who are reliable, who can be counted on to act as they did yesterday and be what they were last week. We all recognize that animals generally aware, mobile and able to change their lives as plants who are rooted to the ground cannot. If those who are stalwart and enduring contribute to our existence, so do restless people like Sir Richard Burton, men who are infinitely adaptable, audacious ready to change their environments easily and grow from the alertness that comes to them when they experience some new place or group of people as an infant does the entire world.
Nothing nurtures such a life better than America in the 18th century. It was a place where anything could happen. the Indians might invade one’s home or village; the British as one can tell from the Bill of Rights might very well do the same. As Jefferson says the rare and rude nature of most existence in early America gave it its strength but also limited the amount of adornments to it that Europeans called civilization. In any case all the founders we are looking at were masters of adaption if they went about their changes differently.
We don’t have any record of George Washington’s observations as he wandered through the wilderness but we can easily deduce that he had them. We can take a walk in the more centerfold parts of the eastern United States where Washington had traveled on horseback and can feel for ourselves an alertness and a readiness to change as the unknown in Nature makes itself manifest before our eyes.
Will a cougar, a bear or a wolf come out of the underbrush and threaten us? Will we find a field of wild asparagus, berries or onions over the next hill? Is that wisp of smoke on can see on the horizon a sign that there is some village there, Indian or European? On the evidence of the abrupt and different politics of Americans in the 19th century we can at least postulate that the proximity to Nature they had may have had something to do with their independence of thought and action.
Of course if one wants to limit, stifle or even mostly destroys our capacity for adaptability one erects in the same country a world in which machines offer us ultimate predictability, towns are interchangeable with other villages, produce shipped by our trucks and ships are the same everywhere, people watch the same amusements eight hours a day on magic boxes and ingest the same media reality, our very science aims in all its facets for imposing a presumptive procrustean set of normal on human action and thought.
One could also say that history is a set of cures of those same men for casual streets and even severe depression that would otherwise make them much more unhappy, disparate and non-functional than they are when they take up lives seemingly of less peril. When one feels miserable and is sunk in habit at the same time one becomes angry at oneself that one lacks any remedy at all for one’s woes. Revolutions are classical dangerous affairs but they do conjure hope in all of us that things will be either better or deafened.
Most human beings are afraid of oblivion; few outside of an opera house seek it. It’s very striking that our founders seem always to be aware even as adolescents that they would be wise to save all their letters and other people’s epistles as important documents that one day would place them in history in their own words. Perhaps they have intuitions that they weren’t destined instantly for landfill. If they were geniuses they might have felt the sense of calling that many people of those startling abilities have when they realize with a Cortez-like surmise that they are not like other people.
Whatever the explanation we do have, if we can only repair to one formal autobiography, Franklin’s, hundreds of thousands of pages of passing letters, speeches, pairs and all manner of documents from the founders of the American revolution that are really extraordinary stuff in any time are available to us. Jefferson even invented a dual writing machine to make sure his letters and papers would have an extant copy in his possession. We would have even more from Jefferson if the house where he had kept his early letters and papers hint burnt down.
Washington spent his last years not only collecting but rewriting his early letters and papers hen he thought them stylistically not worthy of his talents for language in his maturity. Hamilton had such a collection of letters and papers on all subjects that their sheer size was daunting to any biographer who looks at the cantoned of material he had to read to make sense of his subject. Like Isaac Newton, Hamilton thought his mind was of such a quality that anything he had to say on any subject was worth the attention of others.
It seems as if up to the middle of the 20th century there weren’t systematic libraries dedicated to preserving the papers of the famous men of America. there were no vast Alexandrian marble temples to which tonsured scholars make their monkish pilgrimages . In the 19th century these papers had to be put somewhere, kept in a safe corner or box, collated, organized, and perhaps put into print thanks to the patronage of rich patriots in successive volumes.
This sacred work has only happened to the records of our founders in the late 20th century with the aid of the Indignant and computers. For two hundred years for various reasons nobody had access to the first hand materials of the people easily or at all. Many papers in spite of the aims of the founders themselves were in private collections backs they might be worth many shekels at an auction. they become something like bric-a-brac currency.
As much as one can do nothing with nothing, it’s very hard to mount a biographical sense of anyone if one has only scanty materials. these letters and papers are drawn up in the middle of the lives of their subjects. they aren’t written on a mountain. they are accounts or testimonies made in passing by authors who has no idea of the consequences of their thoughts or acts of the time. they are usually done in haste. Often they are written to influence or charm someone, not to wrestle with truth. Do we say the character of a personage is what he thought at fourteen or what he mendacities upon at 70?
Isn’t in a way the adolescent letters and poetry of George Washington not really more authentic than the rewrites that leave out the clichés and soddenness of style of his puerility done by the mature Washington? Do journals written quickly and on the fly really have more of a claim to even passing truth that someone adding to those accounts who has a good to photographic memory? Beyond that, do we want the flashes of pique that are not worthy of us that we sometimes ventilate on paper and the momentary tiffs we’ve had with people that were forgotten by us in a week to stand as our assessment in stone of our friends and our world? Many of our founders had very strong fits of rage. Washington was apparently the only one among them who general had a check on his ire. He was physically such a huge man that when he got mad, people usually listened very carefully to him.
On the other hand we don’t want to seem prescient when we weren’t. Washington changes his phrases but he never changes his opinions in his re-writes. It really is an act of honesty and courtesy from Washington. Why should any of his readers have to endure any of his puerile literary mistakes?
Beyond that as one can tell from his style this was one man who wrote so to speak his thoughts and phrases in the middle of every sentence. He had an acute lateral mind that criticized everything he said he did as if he were detached from himself. He had the kind of subtle mind that immediately saw exceptions or variations to anything he said, George Washington was always rewriting even hen he wasn’t doing it.
All the letters and most of the papers of our founders were first drafts but they wrote much more slowly than I am putting down these words on a computer. they had time to think and have second opinions every moment they dipped their quills into the inkwell.
Once we get past these caveats we might ask whether any genius or even any monster or banality understands himself. If he does, can he put it into words? Language isn’t made for expressing singularities. Beyond that since all of these people were leaders the last thing they wanted to put on any page was how different and how removed in character they were from other people. Yet obviously these men they were all of that. It dodos make for a certain reticence in their parlay.
When we look at the evidence for the existence of anyone who has written anything or about whom there are witness to their actions we are still confined in our evidence to what the subject of our focus has under his control. We can assume only by deduction that Hamilton, Washington and Jefferson had many moments in which they were totally at a loess about how to continue their lives, briefly contemplated suicide, or were in stated of paralyzing disappear. We can in fact do that particularly with these people because what we have before us is their recoveries from the stresses of their lives, not their initial crumpling responses to the stress itself. We can’t doubt that this trio didn’t have such stress. People they loved and cherished were dying in all directions around them. For a year Jefferson’s wife’s demise kept him even unable to write a single letter.
The difference between these achieving and revolutionary folk and others like them such as Beethoven, and people who haven’t achieved what they did nor tried is partially their power to recover from common terrible blows to their mortality. Many of these losses are built in to an age where disease killed off people rather easily. We in their future are spared accounts of their suffering. We shouldn’t as a result think it didn’t happen. Any man of remarkable achievement has in his inner umbra the painful goals that have propelled him indirectly to take up a cure for his divesting private miseries, some of them once rather banal. We still all have them.
Among the three founders I’ve focused on in this essay, for understandable reason we know the least about the horrors of the early life of Alexander Hamilton. It was so dreadful one can be very appreciative that he didn’t want to talk or write about it. even among the other founders, many of whom last one or both parents early on and were constantly living in a world of dead children, Indian massacres, general poverty or other common woes, Hamilton possibly had one of the worst childhoods of anyone one might imagine.
Think it was with all its deaths, divorces, community of slavers and plagues even worse than Ron Chernow, his biographer of the 21st century says. Hamilton’s mother was not somebody out to give him or his two brothers a stable home. She was a very feisty and wild personality who probably was unfaithful to both her husbands, legal and illicit.
However beyond that there is good reason to believe Hamilton was the love child not of James Hamilton but Edward Stevens. As much as history trashes James Hamilton for abandoning his family, his supposed children might not have been his, either one of them. In fact it could be that Alexander Hamilton’s mother was either very promiscuous libertine or a mythomaniac.
For somebody who was on one level very father-oriented Hamilton was primal attached to his mother for the first fourteen years of his life. His intemperate character and sometimes ruling interest in sensuality probably came from her. To our age a woman who has a thousand affairs and has a variety of interesting men coming in and out of her bedroom is hardly one we in our age view with odium. In the right goat cheese urbane circles we might even feel envy or praise her feisty bravery. To Hamilton’s time his mother’s life was shameful.
I wouldn’t want to repeat Chernov’s intriguing researches into this horror story Hamilton clearly and perhaps very sensibly wanted to forget or at least bury as much as possible. I can only recommend this excellent book. However I think it is interesting to reflect how Hamilton made use of his childhood. His mother Rachel’s husband, John Lavien, had almost certainly had been a Jew; hardly a conventional choice for a supposedly French Huguenot woman or for a Jewish man. As a small child Alexander certainly heard enough about business speculation and credit from both Rachel Lavien and James Hamilton if neither man was anything but a failure in these speculative financial strategies. Such commercial schemes were the survival mode of the toffs of these islands.
One might speculate that at some point very early in his childhood Alexander decided he was going to be master of capitalism, not a bit of flotsam in it as his mothers two mates demonstrably were. One might also speculate that he felt more at home with the successful mercantile world of the Thomas Stevens family where he was a ward in the family after fourteen. It certainly didn’t escape Alexander that his probable biological father, Thomas Stevens was himself an adulterer. Thomas Steven’ wife must have known about the affair if she accepted Alexander as ward in her home. Alexander was the product of two morally reprehensible characters. It’s plain that Alexander became such an adept with these models in view, whatever the source for Alexander may have been.
One can’t explain why Alexander had such a reaction to a situation his brothers or half-brothers James and Peter at least partially shared. Alexander almost took up medicine like another half brother, one who looked like his double: Edward Stevens.
One can’t fathom either why Alexander took up business, a craft stated on his own as he did everything subsequently in an immersion school of desperation and hard knocks was as a clerk in a West Indian mercantile baseness while his two brothers or half brothers never had that reaction to similar circumstances. Chernow suggests Alexander’s brother James might have been notably unintelligent. He was apprenticed to a carpenter. We do such things today for people who are mentally retarded.
I think it’s very likely that Alexander must have told this horrific tale honestly to George and Martha Washington, two more of his family members whom he bonded with later. It’s also plain that George Washington regarded Hamilton as virtually his son.
It says something about the egalitarian views of George and Martha Washington that they found Alexander acceptable as their virtual son.
As Bergson says, mechanisms is like a performance of an orchestra without a conductor. In the end even if we have the facts there are elements of Hamilton’s life that will elude our analysis. Mechanism as a biographical tool assumes that all human beings are the same or almost the same; the will react to the same circumstances in the same way as a two stones do to an equal source of heart. even if we are not talking about geniuses, we know that is a modern faith that is simply not true. Out of circumstances that affected thousands of people almost the same way superficially there is only one Alexander Hamilton.
My guess is that the tardy rise of competent historians in the 1860s and beyond about American history after two hundred years of polemics occurred because the founders we’re no longer political viable to anyone in the times as models for any side. “They had become not only monumental and unapproachable but inexplicable. During the 80s and 90s most biographers were writing muckraking epics trashing all the heros of America from JFK to Elvis. the idea they might take up the founders was comical. Some did note of course that Jefferson kept slaves and probably after his wife died slept with at least one of them.
Why that was all that terrible, since it wasn’t rape but at worst office politics, was never explained to my age; whether he had a good side was not examined. Washington was beyond them utterly. Hamilton one would think was on his dark side worthy of them but I even heard anybody remember he might have existed.
As remarkable as the American revolution was, one might have expected the second American revolution of the populace against the industrial weld which as well began in America if it become global, to look to its predecessor two hundred years before it for comparisons if only to trash it. I have listened to a lot of people in the 60s during my long youth but I nobody had anything to say about the past of humanity generally, much less the American revolution.
Consider what Freud, Darwin and Marx had to say about the past though they weren’t there as witnesses to make the claims they did, and one can appreciate why it didn’t look all that appetizing.
It’s not that the 60s wasn’t political., It is that when it thought about politics it often left its own native roots alone and was either New Left and Marxist populist or New Right populist. In practice they were the same animal since they had the same institutional enemy.
It left the historian of the 60s and beyond alone to do their work undistracted by the politics of the time. It’s very ironic to paradoxical because the causes were very similar. In the 60s instead of the British empire the common enemy was the war-like and Welfare-oozing American federal government.
Rather interestingly two of the main centers for rebellion in the 1770s were Princeton, a hotbed of low Predeceased Presbyterian revolt and the crucible for Madison, Freneau, Burr and countless other founders. they had a little less of the same element at the Anglican Columbia where Alexander Hamilton went to college.
Hamilton’s life even by 20 was very much a harvest of a strange and improbable fortune rather than anything he had willed and executed. Nobody if they can help it has the kind of terrible lack that Hamilton had in his family life. Some of this early existence of Hamilton’s is so bizarre in its horror it is almost unbearable, much worse than any of the horror stores of Marx, Freud and Darwin.
Nobody would not to remember lying in a bed next to one’s mother dying in a sense of dedication, flatulence and sweat. We all would like to have tolerably stable families; being the son of a lover of one’s rather feisty and promiscuous mother while she was at least formally living with James Hamilton would not be the choice of any of us for stability in our childhood. One can appreciate why Hamilton never wrote his memoirs.
I think it isn’t unreasonable to infer that Alexander always knew very well who his father really was and probably had some affable social relations with him long before his mother died. Otherwise he wouldn’t have fit in with the Stevens family as easily and well as he did immediately after his mother perished. He would have had to have heard about this lineage from his mother. It’s intriguing to speculate how she broke it all to him.
Most critics attribute Hamilton’s bilingual abilities in french to his French Huguenot mother. He even introduced French phrases into his poetry because he smoke them habitually. We don’t really know any more about her than Hamilton tells us; it’s possible she wasn’t what he says she was. In any case there would be no reason why Hamilton would be conversing with his mother in French on an Island filled with Englishmen, Scots and Danes unless he was unusually close with her.
My own speculation, one which I didn’t find in Chernow, one about Hamilton’s intellectual growth, is that Hamilton probably early on had a great deal of sexual congress with prostitutes in the West Indies. they were always Black and natural advocates of equality. Many have qualms about saying good things about whoredom and whores, perhaps because they feel marriage needs to be defended by any means whatever, not merely law but sentimental moral praise. In fact people do much more damage to each other in marriage then they ever do in a brothel. Bordellos are commerce never favored by the law nor honored as fashionable by most people; beyond that they rarely advertise. Yet they thrive. Nobody ever ventured to assert that whorehouses and prostitution is a bankrupt and sick industry and needs our help.
I suspect prostitution attracts a more enterprising and independent thinking in its social company if not necessarily a more nascently intelligent run of employees. As George Bernard Shaw points out in Mrs. Warren’s Profession, in the large industrial world one can make a good deal more money very quickly in brothels and streetwalking than one can at a job or as a wife. Hamilton who was a very social and friendly person almost certainly talked at length and listened to the whores he slept with.
The only inductive evidence I have for such a supposition is very indirect. I heard from many men in the South that they were for equality for Black folk and an end to Separate But Equal and Jim Crow policies berceuse in that world White males with a little money were commonly very initiate and equal with Black whores. It seems at least possible to me that Alexander Hamilton heard the same thing in the West Indies in the 1760s and was affected the same way by such nocturnal discourses.
We tend to think of Hamilton as father-oriented since he was virtually adopted by George and Martha Washington and he himself had a family with several children; in fact it’s likely that some of Hamilton’s qualities, particularly his sensual prodigality, come from his mother. She was after all until he was fourteen as much consistency in patenting as he had in his life. Unlike his mother Hamilton take some care to protect his family from his erotic tastes.
Yet when he was exposed as an adulterer he published all manner of details about his escapades that would have amused Lord Byron and probably did but were not likely to be as entertaining to the more discrete provincial mercantile crowd in New York or in Washington. Obviously since there has always been a large brothel and whore population in both cities not to mention the amount of prostitution in the West Indies they must have all had a plentitude of customers. this is either comment on marriage or male restlessness. Yet one didn’t publish accounts of such an adventure in newspapers.
My own guess is that Hamilton must have thought of Julius Caesar, one of his heros, when he acted as he did. Caesar was notorious for his profligate private life; he was also not prone to be circumspect about it either. One can read about Caesar’s libertine tastes in Catullus and Martial. the Romans might have liked Julius Caesar, a senator and general, for having low tastes they could resonate to.
As terrible as Alexander Hamilton’s fortune was in his first decade and half of life he certainly made the most of his scant resources. He learnt all about business from observing it as a clerk. He had a small library accessible to him in the West Indies but read it thoroughly. It’s possible that if he were acquainted with the Stevens family’s connections in New York he had more available social models and books than we know about. the Steven clan were wealthy businessmen with roots in New York as well as the West Indies.
The turn of luck that brought Alexander to New York was totally out of his hands. It might have been much more complex than Hamilton ever let on. His biological father might have paid for his passage to new York and given him letters of recommendation to social connections there, possibly doing it under the guise of a set of cover patrons taking up the same actions. In either scenario Alexander himself did not as far as we know initiate his emigration to New York.
It certainly would have solved some domestic problems in the Stevens family. It also wasn’t all that terrible for Alexander to be in a place where nobody knew his wildly difficult past. One might speculate that since the Stevens clan had relations in New York Alexander might have expressed some desire to get out of the West Indies and into a place where nobody knew his origins and that was apparently more cosmopolitan and civilized.
One can see early on many of Hamilton’s qualities already formed when he was nineteen. He was brave if perhaps some of his bravery came from what we might call existential desperation. He had strong articulate opinions, was argumentative and wasn’t overly concerned with subtle and involutions that blurred a Ciceronian discourse with exceptions and inconsistences.
He had a lawyer’s mentality long before he became a lawyer. He had originally wanted to be a doctor like Edward Stevens; anatomy was a subject that particularly appealed to him. Clair he loved to analyze systems and offer solutions to their follies whether it was the economics of the world or the private insides of a human being.
Although they all expressed in very differently Hamilton, Franklin, Washington and Jefferson were intense devotees of science. Hamilton’s focus as an adult was on running governments, businesses and the kind of detailed planning that goes into success at managing complicated organizations. Yet he might have become a doctor like his apparent half brother Edward Stevens and nearly did take up medicine. the compelling events in front of him when he got to New York took him up into a revolution rather than the study of healing.
As one reads about the world Hamilton did inherit in New York it’s clear how these fault lines were presented to him as he settled into a life downtown not far from the current City hall. the intellectual life of New York and its surroundings was a ferment of low Protestant thinking that the more high minded folk in America had brought with them from their English ancestor. What might be more important for history is that the populace, largely a population who had left England and other places under shadowy circumstances were not at all loyal to the crown. Perhaps there wasn’t that sort of slavish bonding to the monarchy in England itself either. After all they had killed a king and had lived under a republic in the previous century.
Hamilton didn’t find too many people at the bottom in New York who were English patriots. the same large Reformation divisions that produced the Cromwell republic in Eland were alive and well in New York over a hundred years later.
This massive lack of mandate in their colonies meant that England couldn’t in any rebellion call upon ordinary people to man an army to defend their legitimacy as the proper ruler of the colonies. By way of comparison the situation was quite different in Scotland where many of the English legions were Scotsmen who had “taken the king’s farthing”. Scotland, Wales and Ireland had many such servants of the crown. they also had a massive emigration to America among Scots and Irishmen who found such alternatives onerous. When they came to America they weren’t likely to be adherents of British supremacy. there were also local groups of some size of Dutch and French folk. then there were the Indians, not an estate in Europe. It meant that in a revolt the English had to import any troops to quell it from their own base three thousand miles away.
It also led even if one were not a collector of ideas or political notions to a surmise that with such a varied and often maverick population, many of whom were escapees from autocracy of the Old World, an open Western frontier nobody could control, and the presence of the Indians to rule at all one would do well to govern as loosely as possible. It could be that the very notion of limited government evolved out of that observable reality rather than then minds of sage thinkers in a sylvan refuge.
We tend to think of Hamilton as part of a Northern set of abolitionists who unlike the Southern ones were against slavery beaches they had seen so little of it. In fact Hamilton’s experience of slavery was probably much more atrocious than the feeling of extended lordly families one gets from Southern abolitionists like Washington and Jefferson.
Hamilton reacted to slavery as he did because unlike many of the rest of the founders he saw it in the West Indies at its most savage; he deemed it not a necessary evil as Calhoun put it later, but as Washington and Lincoln said a moral odium not to be born. One should also say that we think of Hamilton as a champion of business, Washington and Jefferson as agrarian patricians. even that isn’t quite tree. Jefferson and Washington ran businesses. Washington made a fortune in a whiskey and fruit brandy commercial operation which sold its goods successfully to the Old World, making Washington’s fortune.
Jefferson had the Naillery; he apparently manufactured nails. As a result Washington, who was a very observant man, was very much open to Hamilton’s ideas about the future of the United States competing globally in worldwide commerce. Washington had done such pecuniary deeds himself with succus before the revolution. the more reclusive Jefferson was less of a businessman.
I think its very likely that Hamilton’s own first sexual experiences were with the very large amount of whores that crowded into these seafaring West Indian towns.
Hamilton must have felt when he arrived in New York a sense of freedom that he was finally away from the small town island culture where everybody had known who he was. It’s probable that his mother and her amorous connections legal and illicit were the scandal of these small mercantile communities. Ovariotomy he met somebody even casually in the West Indies they probably had been informed about the notoriety of his mother and his family. In New York nobody know anything about him.
He was finally on a level field where only his qualities good or bad counted for other people. Hamilton could have said at this point in his life that as a bastard and child of adultery he was just as good as anybody. this could have been especially resonant and perhaps even popular in a country often settled by people whose families were not notable, some of whom were often criminals.
Hamilton never took up this stratagem. He did say along the way rather elliptically that if the truth were out he was of as good family as anybody. this probably meant to him that he was the love child of the Stevens mercantile clan if to the public he was the bastard son of the fourth whelp of a Scottish lord.
Hamilton like many people born into illicit or bizarre circumstances and somewhat uncomfortable with it was rather conventional at least on the surface in matters of family life. I suspect the truth is that he discretely made it known over his adult existence that he was available for casual amours. As Chernow says it’s difficult to believe he neglects the brothel district next to his college in New York. there are veiled comments of the same sort about Hamilton’s amours as colonel during the revolutionary war.
Yet one can’t call Hamilton’s actions in publishing as many details as he could of his amours in a newspaper a circumspect deed. I think he was being honest as well as accurate wane he said his private life didn’t interfere with his public duty. It is intriguing to think of what might have happened in America had Hamilton taken his tastes a step further and said that on the evidence his adulteries, relieving him of some stress, might have even help him in his service to the nation. I’m sure people said such things privately then as they probably well do now. Hamilton perhaps felt he had enough trouble as a bastard without making such a stand about his tastes.
Hamilton’s early life was such an etude in server challenges to his adaptability. It’s worth our while to give some attention to adaptability itself as a common human virtue. Very few of us have to deal as children with natural families that don’t support us, parents and neighbors too busy with their lives to have any charity or attention to give to us, a general atmosphere in our communities of the cruelty of slavery to fill us with dread at the capacities for evil in humanity that stands before us in an ordinary way like a basilisk, a government that is openly contemptuous of us as we are ourselves of the agendas and interests of our general theories and our supposed human cattle wo exemplify them. Many people I would imagine would crumple under such daunting circumstances. It certainly is an argument for benign autocracy that such rule and rulers at least aim to create institutions that protect us from such other institutions.
We would be very foolish if we didn’t guess that Hamilton spent a good deal of his early life feeling abandoned, depressed and simply primally terrified. We might find a good deal more baffling that he as clearly found refuges from this terror in a capacity for had work, reading of books and learning the business of survival both from failed speculators such as Johan Lavien and James Hamilton and relatively successful ones like Thomas Stevens and the owners of the mercantile companies where he was a clerk. We really have no science that can explain to us why Hamilton instead of turning into the Alexander Hamilton we know and value, didn’t become a sloth, whoremaster and drunkard until he keeled over and expired. If he didn’t do that, and he didn’t we might be wise to look at the uses of adversity and the adaptability it invokes in some of us if not all of us to make a few guesses about how Hamilton was able to turn his bad luck into the very tools of utility that nurtured his spirit.
Some people like Ernest Hemingway make a conscious use of adaptability by traveling and going off to find in strange places situations of supreme vulnerability like wars or having rhinos charging at one during safaris. Even Hemingway wasn’t as intrepid in calling up such faraway resources as Sir Richard Burton. Both men are extreme cases of men using the available mechanics that are as well taken up more mildly by painters like Delacroix or Van Gogh or Gaugin when they go to Algeria, Arles or Tahiti to rethink their ideas about how they want to execute their work.
When Hamilton went to New York he had to adjust to his first big city, the New York accent and way of talking, a society that had no model for him in the West Indies, a city with a general lack of slaves, Africans and goats and so on. It must have been bracing.
I think we can assume that his gift for rhetoric and argument was something he picked up early on when he was suffering all these blows in his external life. Somebody had to have some sense of logic, certainty and stability in Alexander Hamilton’s life if it was only Alexander Hamilton who had it to bring to his own vertiginous existence. We do know if indirectly that something very good happened to the psyche of Alexander Hamilton when he emigrated to new York and at twenty or so found himself in the middle of a revolution.
We can see some of the live or die qualities we associate now with Sartre or Camus in Hamilton because they scuffled under the same mix of yokes and failures of their collapsing institutions. they too were living in a country occupied by powerful and privileged strangers and enemas. the law itself was administered by colonial tyrants who looked upon them as cattle. they had no legal franchise but whatever could accrue to them from their swift feet, cunning and their capacity for roguishness and violence.
Evidently the sense of not being other than strangers and enemies to their own rulers and laws went as high as the patricians and rich in America, not merely its bottom. Once hash to be struck by how much the institutions for generating a stable colonial class in the North and South were actually producing armies of fairly affluent rebels. Whatever forces were doing this, a mix of being close to Nature, low Protestant libertarianism and Judaic philosophy in their books, these motives were so powerful that the English government seemed to have no means to combat them. It’s a powerful goad that inspires human beings to risk death to set aside known evils for unknown perils. Yet much of Europe, not merely America and England felt that it was worth taken up that emigration, either in place of in manner of living under rulers. One third of some countries come to America, some of them not even knowing the Roman alphabet, but having artisan skills or abilities to farm they had learned in their old country. they kept on coming right until the time Woodrow Wilson stopped their legal entry into America in 1920. A comparable army of emigrants were coming from Asia until Congress passed the Anti-Asian emigration laws in the 1880s. Even after those edicts became law many Chinese folk found a way to get here through subterfuge. None of them had any astuteness it would be easy for them in the United States.
In the 19th century people didn’t feel any differently about the arduous life they faced if they lived in the Americas. In Fence and England emigrating to America was deemed a punishment. there were ships who specialized in transporting criminals to the French and English colonies in America as well as depositing them in Australia. It’s interesting to vow these emigrations from the top as well as the bottom. Both sides were happy to be rid of each other.
This is an assessment somewhat at a dissent from the notion most American were laster inculcated with in their schools; that Europe was not the graveyard but “the cradle of civilization”. Maybe it was for the elites in a society that was very close to a world of a few slavers and many slaves. One can to this day go to Europe and admire the work of its architects, musicians, painters and wine and cheese makers. Whether one wants to give the same accolades to its politicians is another matter.
Europe may not have invented slavery or colonization. I suspect the huger to control others is hardly confined to that bloody continent. It did however from Rome to the modern states of England,. France, Spain, Holland and Belgium hone and refine those old vertical systems of indenture to the point where they in the 17th century were ruling most of the human life on the planet. they had the most ferociously evangelical and imperial religion in the world, Christianity, to help them do it too.
In taking up such pious and imperial actions they made the enemies of everybody who wanted to be adults and free on the same globe. Some of these natural adversaries crumpled and died, others were suitably craven and accommodating. Hover there was always a third group, a legion of nobles and exiles who could not be reeducated, whose embrace of their natural rights were as Jefferson says, inalienable. It doesn’t mean that the toadies and shruggers of these same empires were any less Hungary to be free adults; it’s rather that they weren’t brave or direct enough to find the means to take up their proclivities built into their nature in their own actions. they were quelled not by a desire to be loyal slaves to lieges but by force and terror.
When I went Tao school the notion that America was a cultural province which should have been a political province of Europe, England especially, was taught to us as if the American revolution had never happened. In fact the history of America and Europe, even America and Asia, is the story of hundreds of millions of human beings fleeing the very worlds and institutions that my schools were teaching were our august betters, superior in the civilized means to live life, armed with a wisdom and elegant urbanity that made them logical souls for the vulgar look up to.
In fact while I was being taught such notions if I always thought them absurd, the Europeans and the Asians were busily trying to be as much like Americans as possible.
England currently is remaking its once feudal House of Lords into a congress very much in the manner of what Alexander Hamilton thought the American Senate should have been. I have visited this current amended House of Lords; I can testify personally as a witness it has such savants in their chambers instead of the old feudal gang leaders. the West as well as Europe has oscillated between American style popular democracy and a brand of monarchism which was called more generally in our modern era fascism or Communism. the ataractic systems didn’t last long. History has really vindicated American founders in a way they probably never thought was possible.
I must say the effect of such wonderful schooling inspired Americans in my day to look to other places for their notions of history, culture and their true interests. Pop culture, the 60s, Western moves and so on weren’t agitprop from wine and cheese mannerist on the Upper West Side. the cultural center of America if it ever had one at all wasn’t the Vivian Beaumont theater but the Grand Old Pry.
None of the various low calls on our adaptability nor the siren songs of our institutions telling us we are better off in the service of the Fatherland or the Motherland or even some avuncular set of priests, lisping bishops and a shuffle of ancient revelations, are phenomena that are possible without human adaptability and the way it invokes people whose agendas are organizing all to a common purpose, sometimes mass murder, to come up with reasons to stifle that mercurial and intuitive quality in us.
I’m currently living in a country in which one is told one can be paid better than those who can do something to help us all survive if one is willing to talk a lot of malarkey and do nothing. I am personally living in a walking city in an interesting neighborhood and have all of the means of urbanity I could ask for. I have this guerdons because I have been an outward rogue all my life; I continue to be one in a quest way be one.
I can’t do anything about the slavery all over the West and I am not trying to save them all either. I do understand why it is not satisfying to anybody, master and slave, as Abraham Lincoln says.
I can say that between the slaves who can do something but are in chains and the slaves who can do nothing and are physically free, the ones more dependent, therefore more apt to bow the knee to any number of lieges with a sword are the souls who have no talent for survival either by themselves or as one of a group of adults with specialized skills they can barter for diverse other such crafts in their peers.
All one needs to free one group is a competent chain cutter. the others set of slaves no matter what their comforts or material wealth would have to go through total breakdowns of their valuers and character even to think of being a free adult in the world. Yet the second group as Jefferson implies has to have a haunting sense they are born to lead a life they are not executing. they are going to be miserable without knowing why they feel vaguely lousy.
In a way I’ve taken up some of the means of Hemingway and Sir Richard Burton to keep me alive. I’ve been an explorer. I’ve done a lot of traveling. I’ve tried diverse esoteric pleasures and stimulants, some not legal. I live in a legendary delta city. I’ve known a lot of interesting people who have made similar personal decoction as well. I’ve made some of Alexander Hamilton’s decisions too. I have read books every chance I’ve had to read them. I read about six languages and speak two or three of them, some of them not so well but good enough to communicate like a native with them. As Hamilton knew, reading and speaking another leaning is all by itself an adventure into a different world. I was as abandoned and neglected if not on the levee of Hamilton’s appearance of being virtually left out on a hill to be eaten by wolves.
Hamilton was a hero; certainly early on as one can see from a letter he wrote to his half-brother when he was fourteen. Had aspired to be one. He even says in this epistle he would welcome a war. He got the very one that could elevate him.
All heros from kings going back to the ancient slightly fictional literature about them. might even have some of Hamilton’s flaws. Being Jewish as I am of course isn’t quite like being a bastard and a love child who should have had another name, but in America in my youth it wasn’t begin quite White either. When I made my own hitchhiking travels and later global journeys I was always happy to be anonymous and the power to be invisible rather than identifiably. It’s hardly a singularity in me. It’s why the mysterious Jay Gatsby is without appearing very much at all in Fitzgerald’s novel, has become an America legend. Perhaps beaches we only see Gatsby in a couple of scenes in that whole novel, he has become ionic in his heroism if he is the America hero from the hinterlands not appreciated much by the eastern European establishment except as a reliable bootlegger.
Myself, I feel the equal of almost anybody; I am happy to acknowledge when anybody is better at something than I am, yet I know from my own self wrestling there is a rigidity and brittleness that settles into a spirit who can be cut by his inferiors as somebody less than first class by birth. It certainly occurred to me early on that I was more acceptable in a society of rogues, Bahamians and urbane sybarites than sitting among genteel professors or corporate steel executives. I never liked such company when I met them nor ever tried to be part of their world. Hamilton also didn’t feel such restraints. He was ready to lead those people into the future. He did it too.
He learned early on when he was a clerk in the West Indies the mode by which later he led a popular American republic without a model into a candidate for dominance and competition with the then current monarchial empires of the world. Hamilton must have realized at a very early age, even before he worked as a clerk in a merchant’s emporium, that the lords and prelates of the old feudal states of Europe were not often made for success at business. Since commerce was ruling the West Indies and presumably much of the profitable enterprises of that same world, not the old system of peasants working lands and stewards and villains managing them for these lords and bishops, it was worth looking at how the new autocrats were doing things rather than examining the presumptions and actions of the old ones. Hamilton didn’t have to look further in his study of failure than Johan Levein or James Hamilton. the latter was the fourth son of a lord. It’s plain he had no head for business. He could look at as model for commerce the actions of the family of Thomas Stevens, one whom he was probably the illegitimate child of and the ward of the man as well.
Hamilton couldn’t have helped but notice that the arrogance and greed of the lords and prelates were lethal to any understanding of business. Commerce in its pure form has no privilege or class system. It is the ultimate levee playing field obtuse it has no ideology. It is a ruthless and merciless but not necessarily avaricious or otherwise an arrogant system of produce, markets, delivery systems and profits in a world aiming inherently for a world in which not family ties, roots in a past of prior rule and rulers means anything; only money or lack of it in pure commerce defines one’s social station. Such a realm was certainly from his very birth to the interest of Alexander Hamilton.
One should say that it is very unfair to look at Hamilton or George Washington as bringers to the world among other things of a republican Capitalist and banking system that proved to be in the 19th and 20th century somewhat lacking in charity and even philosophy for the common man. Hamilton and Washington were looking at two choices in politics: monarchy or republics, stifling class systems or countries armed with the energy of the entire populace, known backward regimes or a future that had many knowns but at least had a chance at doing better for humanity than systems that lived by stifling the common people. Neither Washington or Hamilton ever thought that Capitalism itself might be in time as inefficient and unstable as the old monarchies because the rulers of the future had picked up on the monarchial ways of management.
Whether or not we resonate to the call of unions, some of which have demanded to manage the systems, others which are content to have a fair piece of the pie, we can’t help noticing unless we are ostriches that even with the checks and balances of capitalists and unions, we have plenty of suicidal greed in both camps if the leaders and followers are not personally honorable and are not devoured by greed. this is pretty much the internal contention Hamilton wrote about in his letter to his half brother when he was fourteen years old. It’s also what he eventually died for. He felt, knowing Aaron Burr very well, that Burr was desirable. As much as he disliked Jefferson, as much as the two tried to destroy each other politically, he knew that Jefferson was honorable; he used his political skills to make Jefferson president. they all felt being colonists was dishonorable even if the commerce of the callas had made them relatively rich. We simply can’t understand Hamilton or any of the founders if we call honor an illusion or a phantom. If it is all of that, it is still the real or unreal faith these men lived, risked their lives and died for.
As much as we in our time easily fall into thinking that system, not people, are the cause of political good and evil among us, it is the free choice of anyone at any levee of society to be a toff, a slave, a rogue, an ethical plain dealer or any other variety of human action he chooses. Even a murderer or serial killer assesses he can either get away with his injuries to others with impunity or that he is willing to accept the worst that can happen to him because he is zealously devoted to his crimes.
The real fulcrum of whether or not one has a healthy politics or life isn’t the nature of a political system but personal honor. When one has honor and people know that one is honorable one doesn’t have to sign any contracts or have lawyers in the vicinity to try to enforce them. there is nothing more powerful and efficient in action than the word of an honorable man. there is nothing weaker and less efficient in practice than a man whom nobody trusts or a society in which nobody is trustworthy.
At least one could say about the old monarchists and bishops that in their greedy evangelical grandeur they were openly contemptuous of everyone who was not one of the boys. One could argue against their presumptive ideas as Jefferson did. It’s another matter to contend against people who claim that on a level playing field they have become the proper autocrats of a regime; they deserve their position as masters and despots not from the apparently whimsical decisions of God but from Nature itself. It’s even harder to have civil negotiations with autocrats who claim to be drones and butlers in a socially engineered system, claiming to be merely our sacrificing and impersonal servants working only for us.
Actually all our founders lived to savor the mechanics of various syndicalist and proto-Communist systems that were put forward by the savants of the French revolution, sometimes by thinkers like Proudhon. If they didn’t stay alive long enough to take in the bloody Russian or Chinese revolutions, they were given models enough for failed levelling regimes. I’ve never explored much of their commentary of the founders in such engines; I would guess that they would have seen any Socialism as another version of checks and balances from the popular estate which had some parallels to their own system.
It does follow logically that if executive power is the fulcrum of a force to be limited by a healthy government, that a similar fiat should limit the actions of industrial oligarchs in a world run by them. Any realm managed by bankers is going to be inherently excessive and injurious to the populace much as the monarchs and priestess of the old regimes had been. It also follows that if any system, even if it is founded by the populace, takes power it is likely one day if not another to take up despotism with the same zeal as the old organizations founded by lords and priests. As the Torah says, there is always going to be some pharaoh or generation of autocrats among us who don’t remember the value of Joseph.
In any case Hamilton as a young boy must have seen from a variety of angles that his main chance as an adult for a just life lay in a popular republic motivated by the watery and egalitarian policies of business. We can see that resonance of such ruminations he must have had as a clerk in a tropical export firm in his adult actions and writings. Hamilton was one to apply the busies principles of whether something works or not to everything he approached. He organized the government of the United States to be a sort of business in which the aim of the enterprise was at once material profits for anyone who had the pluck to make them and adult freedom for everybody.
Perhaps it’s not so easy for us in our time to see how much Hamilton’s thinking excluded ethics of the noble or Christian sort that stands between oneself and one’s interest; thus, since few of us are martyrs, makes of one’s character and interest where it rules, a secret enterprise.
As much as such analysis is probably very accurate abort Hamilton’s early thinking, one shouldn’t think that such notions were inevitable given his circumstances. there were many millions of people in Hamilton’s time living under the same bottom situation who might in passing have had such thoughts but did nothing about them. there were others in the same time who had decided to jail or execute the apparent winners in the natural struggle for survival and out of misplaced charity become soldiers of the church or the crown. If we leave out the genius, whatever that word might mean, of Hamilton or for that matter the genius of any of the founders, we can’t underestimate them or their history. At least we can deduce from these facts that genius does involve some midnight independent thought. Nobody was lawfully preaching any of the ideas these men had. If anyone were to voice them too publicly under England they would have been jailed, transported into a further exile or acted.
One should be too surprised that the one who saw this opportunity was a young man who had no intent in defending class, Christianity or even family legitimacy. In fact, the amazing thing is how cowed by terror or stupidity others in the New World institutions who were not too dissimilar from Hamilton were. Perhaps it is at least partially characterological and not a matter of pure interest who takes up arms or subterfuge against a regime which denies them equality. With our prevailing faith in pure interest we think we can understand Hamilton better than Washington or Jefferson, two men who had nothing to gain but honor from leading a revolution.
It might not be true. Hamilton was a man of honor. So were nearly all the founders. We might regard aristocrats like the Marquis de Lafayette who traveled thousands of miles to be a leader in a revolution of people to whom he owed nothing and who owed him nothing as palpably insane. Once we set up such faith-based assumptions we might include such later aristos championing the populace like Kropotkin, Turgenev and Tolstoy.
On the other hand we might be more scientific and say that in any given situation there are assorted responses to it some of which can’t be explained by short term interest, deferred interest or any kind of interest.
Even Alexander Hamilton had a lot to lose if a revolution had failed in the then thirteen colonies. He was at the advent of it a young man in college who was looking ahead to a prestigious professional career as a doctor or lawyer servicing the affluent spirits residing around New York. He had largely found his level playing ground before the revolution. He didn’t need a rebellion to enhance his chances for a tolerable adult life.
Yet there does seem to have been in Hamilton as there was I Washington a gradual ethical adaption to circumstances in which one’s later opinions after much reflection were quite different from one’s earlier ones. One should recall that initially George Washington was conventionally if hardly enthusiastically against the American Revolution. It’s only when he thought it over he came to different conclusions and acted on them. Some personalities like Hamilton’s seemed formed and ready for action during childhood; external circumstances simply have to prod their engines one day if not another into motion. Others like George Washington never stop wrestling with his own ideas and adapting right to their demise.
One can apply this to being a provincial or a colonist or a slaves in all times and places with the same equivocal results. One is going to get the least independent people in such a community kowtowing to the masters. One is also going to face as an enemy the most independent, most resourceful and righteous members of that same community, sometimes in the shadows, sometimes on the battlefield.
I know this is true from my own experience. When I went to school in the 50s one was never going to find a more complacent and accommodating set of college students generally than one did in that era of moderate industrial fascism. Yet at the same time there were plenty of rebels in the same schools. they in a few year erected into leading the 60s to the extent that anybody led it. Does one measure that time or any time by the many or the few? the people who ran things in the 50s never had to worry about the cattle they drove in and out of their schools; they would have embraced any set of ideas or actions merely to survive another day. the mandarins of the 50s should have given much more attention to those who weren’t going to go for their external definition of themselves as cattle.
Since they didn’t, much of the contention of the 60s eventually was won at the bottom by the rebels: the end of a draft army to fight colonial wars, a tolerance of pleasure seekers, various sops given to the populace, an acceptance of street Americanese and so on, all become legitimate and the less invasive but still imperial state prospered because of their new legitimacy. the real danger to the state was never its rebels but its penchant to have a whole society infected by addictive greed. It is indeed a parlous set of autocrats who don’t know who their enemy is much less how to oppose him.

John Adams

One of the striking responses one must have to looking at the life of John Adams is how different his ordinary values were than the ones of the present day. Adams grew up in a society where the major entertainment was talk. People from infancy learned how to talk as well as they could. They admired preachers and visiting lecturers because they could talk well. They even over an evening talked to each other rather than repair to some media machine to be emceed in solitary even if there were many people in a chamber.
As a result if one lived through the plagues and the general discomfort of 18th century America life one certainly had an intellectually superior life to most people who are extant currently. They were as good at communication as my age is at avoiding it.
It was a good time for John Adams. He wasn’t a saint and never claimed to be one. He was never a candidate to be a monument. In fact if anything nobody after the medieval era recorded his equivocal struggles to be tolerably virtuous more than John Adams. He was very smart, knowledgeable, had the ability to size up large designs in any situation at a glance. He was as well talented with the lateral imagination of a poet. Colorful and apt similes fell from his pen with casual ease that had a wit and idiosyncratic anyone might admire. He could also be envious, spiteful and foolish in a way that must have been very distressing to him because unlike our time he had an active sense of the power of natural evil and never wanted to have those vices.
Yet in a peculiar way his wife Abigail is at least as interesting as her brilliant husband. She had a much more integrated personality and a hard edged clarity of thought that the complex John Adams lacked. This couple must have had one of the most rich and intimate marriages in the history of the world. Of the two John Adams was easily the more temperamental one. Abigail though no less passionate had a measure he lacked.
History has not been especial kind to John Adams because he was not superficially as heroic as his peers. He wasn’t a general, never led a battle, and was not a great clarion theoretical thinker like Jefferson if he certainly had Jefferson’s weight. He was too complicated and subtle in his thinking to be as certain of anything as Jefferson was.
He wondered about sin and natural inequality. He wasn’t an optimist who never thought the world was more or less likes himself and would listen to reason if he or others offered such sugared fare. His very tantrums had a kind of artistic lateral poetry to them that took Adams himself even at hi worst out of the simple world of problem solving.
If Adams was not on the battlefield nor had never managed a government before he became our second President, he was the stalwart in Philadelphia who was the institutional conscience in Congress while other founders were more obviously heros.
Nothing about him was heroic. He couldn’t tower over his peers like Washington or Jefferson. He was short, bald and toothless. He wasn’t even a mischievous wag who never drew blood; he had wonderful sense of humor but he wasn’t Benjamin Franklin. As a consequence he isn’t the first founder one would think of as an icon for posterity. Since there was nothing iconic about his querulous and scrambling nature, he still escapes elevation to such monumentality and the American imagination. His picture though he was President isn’t even on the money.
Yet because he was a deep philosopher as well as beset by somewhat of a disagreeable strain of vanity he can be surprising in his insights in a way and about things the more larger than life characters among our founders were more discreet. Adams advised his children to acquire some means of keeping financially independent, whatever it was, so that if they were to be called to public service they would never be tempted to do anything that compromised their honor. It’s an interesting direction as a standard for leadership though its obvious flaw is that it tends to aggregate power among an aristocracy or the wealthy. Yet as Adams points out, one may not have a choice; as he says when honest men avoid public service there are plenty of dishonest or lethally accommodating ones ready to take their place in the same positions. Whatever one thinks of Adams’ ideas they are always based on what will nurture personal honor in human beings in w that is different from the way Washington, Hamilton and Jefferson thought about the matter. Honor to Adams, one who had a dark view of human nature, is hard won privately and personally from the temptation of living a life of interest. If he could have it Adams wanted a government and national economy that nurtured honor, not made war on it.
One might ask how many of our current legislators or prophets even recognize personal honor or lack of it in its citizenry as an issue at all in running American politics. It’s really the central way we are separate currently from our founders.

Hamilton Versus Jefferson

I want in this chapter among other things to examine the seeming polarities of Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian ways of defining America one could really do such an analysis without looking too far into the past of the United States much less imagining the ways of thinking of the founders.
We all are trapped in the middle of our lives even if we are running a revolution to change their externals. We might have to stretch our minds given the citation of pure power and access to force the United States has now in the world to imagine how it fell to be living as the founders in the 1700s in America, even to look upon the world as Jefferson and Adams saw it in 1826. the United States was a popular republic in a world of vast and powerful autocratic empires of that time. It faced on its astern brooder a French settlement in the middle of the continent that stretched from Louisiana to Michigan. It had on its southern brother Florida and many of our now Western states controlled by Spain. It had a large population of Indians who had different ideas about how the continent should be run if it should be managed at all.
In the 1770 it had a war with England in the 1790s it almost had a war with France. It had strength of force not in a professional mobile army that could invade faraway places like England and France and destroy their base and capacity to make war. but in local militias that were better at defending the territory of the United States than attacking the bases of anyone who were the enemies of the republic. It had strangling debts to Belgian banks, markers which had to be paid off quickly given the loan rates, sometimes up to 40%. It’s not hard to figure out why Washington not withstanding his Farewell Address was a Hamiltonian in his veils of how America should proceed in the world. We can infer from the way Hamilton frequently wrote Washington’s speeches and directives from sketches and oral talk with Washington that Washington was very satisfied with Hamilton’s more Euclidean expression of his own views. We should really call them Washingtonian, not merely Hamiltonian.
The Farewell address is often read as an invitation to take up isolationism. Certainly that was the point of view of many group in the United States including America First of the 30s and the much less organized but no less influential politics of the general public in America, a group who escapes normative aggressive, evangelical and invasive politics in Europe. the Farewell Address was prepared by Washington in language he felt wasn’t literary enough, written by Hamilton, and then edited by Washington again. T’s intriguing that it left out of its final draft along because it might offend the South; there is a similar exclusion in the Constitution of Washington’s warning against America legitimizing silvery. We commonly and laughably are throughout to associate Washington’s political ideas with Woodrow Wilson. they are in fact views that were held and acted on by Washington and Hamilton. Wilson talked the talk but postured and never walked the walk.
One should say in passing that the Farewell Address emphasizes that any military action or in fact any action at all of the United States should be taken up at with justice and honor, not short term interest. the point of the Farewell Address was that American policy should in peace and war be a function of honor and principles, not of intent. Since the European empires only thought of predatory interest and competed against each other for looting it would be wise to stay out to their “scurvy wars”. they were dishonorable and not worthy of American involvement not beaches they used force or were bloody theaters of military contention but from their concern only with profit and colonization.
Washington certainly did mean that the United Stats should concentrate on defensive wars. As long as the issue was defending their right to exist in their diverse way as they freely choose Washington was if all else failed and one ad to choose between war and slavery, all for war. So were Jefferson and Hamilton. Jefferson even said if one were alone and opposed by armies at least one could attack them and die with honor. Hamilton wanted to raise an army and free South America.
The speech is very much in line with Washington’s character not to mention similar things he had to say in other state speeches about Indians, various diverse religious groups and, of course, racism and slavery. this Washingtonian view of politics has usually been attributed, perhaps with some notion of comedy, to the ruthless and stifling Woodrow Wilson, perhaps the president who operated with less justice and honor and more disregard for private lie than any of them. Wilson couldn’t stand Afro-Americans and did more to Jim Crow them out of jobs than any other president.
George Washington was never loathe to value force and military action one he was convinced it was just. He was in negotiation with John Adams to lead the war against France in the 1790s after he himself had retired, a few years after he made the Farewell Address. He valued his pistols and couldn’t imagine a republic in which each man wasn’t armed with similar weaponry. George Washington was not Mahatma Gandhi.
I think that both the Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian directions away from autocracy are set not only in politics today in America but all over the world. the difference between the two paths is usually exaggerated. Both Jefferson and Hamilton believed in a free populist republic, Abolition, the Bill of Rights and a thousand other political polices that are similar or identical to other. Personally they were both lawyers and contentions squabblers as revolutionaries often are. the central difference between them is that Hamilton emphasized a strong centralized if still very limited government which could direct a competitive republic in a harsh and predatory world; Jefferson emphasis was on perceived rights and a set of unchanging laws that were not going to be frittered away by mortal circumstances. Yet when Jefferson became president as Harry Truman says, he was the first big champion of centralized government, competitiveness and expansion to the Pacific Ocean. He executed the Louisiana Purchase and set up the Lewis and Clark expedition through the Oregon territories.
It’s much more to our purpose not to analyze these involutions and subtleties that distinguish Jefferson and Hamilton but to see both routes as parallel paths from a totally centralized autocracy resting at bottom in loyalty to one man, the king, to very similar journeys different superficial features and excesses. Of course both Jefferson and Hamilton were aware from their reading of Aristotle’s politics that governments rush to excess no matter what their system is.
My thesis is that the American revolution and the subsequent global versions and variants of these rebellions from autocracy have led to worldwide excesses and follies as well as some boons, all of which can be analyzed in a rough way as a common direction in human history which began in the United States.
Certainly without thinking of how rare in history we are we all live in a country in the 21st century in which it is taken for granted that one would at once want to be on top of the food chain as a republican lord of a global commerce much as Hamilton advanced, yet we as well seek out a Jeffersonian autonomy in America lives that suffer from atomization and detachment from the crowd because we as Americans try to separate ourselves from any centralized politics altogether.
The idea that one might have every means of laving well in one’s home or have such guerdons delivered impersonally to our hearths, perhaps by machines, is a kind of taking of the principals of the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights to its ultimate radical end in our private lives.
Plainly there are contradictions in these two directions; they don’t seem to bother most people nowadays who embrace both of them. One really can’t be a master of such material wealth without somewhere having a slave class of people or robots even if we don’t call them slaves to as Jefferson put it “who labor for our happiness”. the slaves can be Mexicans delivering the pizza or mowing our lawns; they can be Chinese workers thousands of miles away where we cannot see them producing our magic machines. they can be the non-living machines themselves, tireless and soulless, offering us a continual stream of amusements, simulated friends and nutrition.
As Jefferson himself said in 1801 in his letter to the Indians the idea that we can live in America and not be influenced or at the worst wiped out by the industrial revolution is absurd though as he says there is no moral reason why one way of life is better than another one.
I’d like as quickly as possible to move from the time of the founders to the present of my lifetime in which the United States is a super power and we have the technology to impose our will as much as will itself can be conjured by the willful to influence and muscle other people. Yet before I do that I have to acknowledge that many of the thoughts of the founders were acted on later in American history with some blur of intent if we try apply to them what George Washington cabled “his principles”..
The South positioned itself as a bastion of freedom and decentralist local and States Rights against a Hamiltonian strong federal power; they really didn’t have much of a case considering they not only took up and embraced slavery but tried to expand it to territories like Kansas and Missouri. One can’t at once be for freedom and not see slavery and colonialism of any kind as a moral evil. Slavery in China, Mexico, the Philippines, Cuba or even any covert economic colonic of the United States is still slavery.
Moreover as Abraham Lincoln pointed out in his Peoria speech. echoing Jefferson, we are programmed to regard slavery as evil. Nobody really makes a case for slavery but lawyers, scoundrels, Cecal Darwinists and those claiming to be scientists who believe humanity is run wholly by interest, not honor. Beyond that, few of us chose slavery. Plainly it would be to one’s interest to have slaves if one could control them whit impunity; we do that with our machines.
Nobody talks about leading a rebellion of toasters. Yet even whit happy slaves we would according to Jefferson or Lincoln feel an terrible primal unease because we are programmed to regard slavery as wrong.
The South in my lifetime in my observation as I traveled through it as a young man was still a slave society. It ran it as all slave states by force and seduction but mostly control over means of survival such as property laws and access to jobs. In my old age I have levee at the top of a slave society that has Mexicans and faraway Chinese contributing to our happiness in the classical manner of legal chattels defined by our poobahs as legitimate cattle without any political franchise or mastery over their lives. Ironically sometimes this happens under Communism. Oscar Wilde in his the Soul Of Mann Under Socialism somewhat felicities suggests that the future of humanity is to be Artists in a plastic world in which machines will be our slaves. It’s worth or while to look beyond Wilde’s irreverent and humorous speculations to wonder what indeed each of us would do with ourselves and our mortality if we didn’t have a slave class somewhere working for us under one name or another. We can assume that in the course of time all human actions that can be done by free adults will be taken up by our species. the prospect might be daunting.
It’s plain that Brooks Adams who around 1900 wrote his famous the American Century, the prophetic elegant volume which predicts the ascent of the United States as a super power with the decline of England, was thinking of how the principles of George Washington bight put his country while in that world of power in a position to manage the world with justice and honor. Adams was thinking tactically of the rise of an American naval fleet and other means in imitation of the British that America would replace the hoary British Empire and run the world as the Brits were beached on a shore. there isn’t a sentence in this book that speculates on why the British empire was going into decline.
One could have made make a good case in Brooks Adams’ time that the British Empire was perhaps foundering because though it could organize the even less efficient despotic realms of the world well enough it could not command the energies and loyalties of much of its home base. During much of the 19th century most of England was working at starvation wages and couldn’t even vote. Most of the far Left radicals like Marx and Kropotkin had settled in England because given the general social climate hey were most comfortable there.
Were one to take that premise as a point of departure one might have asked as Brooks Adams did not whether the United States could indeed replace England as a relatively stable world empire. the United States unlike England is not founded on a land base, on a king and lords and an Established Church. America is rather a country that really doesn’t have to be anywhere. It is a state of mind, at bottom rooted in a direction in life, an da, the notion that everybody on Earth and wherever life is, possibly on other planets, has a hunger for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One doesn’t have to live within one border and be a citizens of one regime to have those hungers.
Jefferson might have said more precisely that all men have such diverse private motivations along with sensibly embracing some survival actions that are indeed done better in groups. the American revolution after all was a military actions lead by a general. It’s not that Jefferson was claiming these natural motivations were all there was in the human spirit. It’s that he was claiming they existed, were inalienable and had to be honored as much as the other ones.
In fact all of the founders could say they were brought up in places that honored none of those ideas and found them all illicit and odious. Jefferson certainly equates these motivations with deep and central desires generic to the life force itself, much as Shaw did later about sex. A country founded on such a premise is not going to set up chillness or tacit slavery with the intellectual justifications of an England. At the hub England always has to claim it is bringing civilization to the Hottentot. America is bringing the diverse notions of Hottentots into the legitimate circle of light within a limited umbrella of civilization.
It has to be striking that from the lifetime of the founders to the present the world has in its meandering and erratic way like the periginations of a drunk been moving toward a rejection of European-style centralized aggressive slave states with the vast size of empires; it has been moving or lurching toward a set of limited government republics with no vertical class system and no established credos of belief to manage the governed. Our planet certainly hasn’t eliminated slavery or colonial life; there is much less of it now that there was in 1776.
This might be a hiatus after the brutal imperial regimes of Germany and Japan ran their bloody vaudeville and the British, French, Dutch and Spanish empress had managed their somewhat less lethal tiered autocratic leviathans; yet it seems to have entered the slow minds of whomever might have power in the world at least somewhat that they themselves would do better if the world were free and tolerably broadly affluent than if the Earth were populated by slaves. Of course one might with the same observational power conclude that rich slaves and clerks might be easier to manage than poor ones with personal survival skills. the rich and the clerks always have more to lose by dissenting from control by others than the poor.
There is a general view in America that is held by the ignorant that Washington and Hamilton’s ideas were applicable for a rude republic in the 18th century and the supposedly bewigged toffs who ran things in Washington’s time; they no longer have any significance for ourselves in a different world.
One might ask ho different politics might be then and now. In Washington time the United States was opposed economically and colonially by two great empires, one English, one French. they were not merely military fortresses for an imperium but vast centers of manufacture. the cotton trade for example was an English enterprise that took the raw materials from America but processed them in Cottswold and Glascow. \the English government and its attendant oligarchs backed slavery and aided the Confederacy in America because it was part of their source of income. the English weren’t worried as Washington was about principles. One has to have them to invoke them. these others only wanted profit by any means.
As I write this in 2011 it’s still true that whatever income is available to Europeans comes from their Roman-based colonial system. Europe hasn’t got standing armies to protect it anymore only because since World War Two nearly bled it to death, it can’t raise such forces among its own citizens. It still operates however by the system set up by Julius Caesar two thousand years ago of putting local colonials in seeming power as much as possible with a comparable low key but relatively affluent managerial colonial class to work under them as a way the governments of their de facto colonies siphons raw material into Europe and imperial profits into European coffers.
The bastions of American manufacture have been vitiated by competitive Asian incursions, underselling American products by virtual slavery systems such as one has in China so that in many ways the American machines of manufacture aren’t economically able to go head to head with them . In Japan, Korea and Taiwan the juggernauts of those countries, in Korea and Taiwan such firms are often run by nepotistic certified Presbyterians of the old colonial classes. they are even protected by the United States army. they don’t even have to siphon off some of their profits to protect themselves against invasions and other mens of sacking by force.
The European union and its Euro has done as much as they can with an older design of systemic profitable enterprise to compete against the Americans and the Asians. the Europeans certainly have run the world banking system pretty much as they did in the 1780s. there are of course many American and Asian banks now. Yet the IMF is always run by a European. they don’t even bother to disassemble about how they run Africa or even the most poor parts of Europe like Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland.
Washington and Hamilton made it a cornerstone of their policy to set up an American national bank. It meant that the way banks fueled the possibilities of business by their loans to commerce could be in America hands, not European ones. Of course the loans by any bank are always a quid quo pro of some loss of independence and sovereignty for quick cash to do some deed which hopefully will make more profits than the money that will be due at bank interest rates. Like it or not that is how the world has been doing business in empires for a long time. Columbus couldn’t run his voyage to America without banks. Banking goes back at least to Sumer and its commodities markets of several thousand years go.
Jefferson’s commentary that any bank, American or European was as much a tool of oppression as a standing army has some weight. He knew what he was taking about; he himself was in debt and died a virtual bankrupt. Like any genius he was not much of a businessman. On the other hand if the world does its commerce with banking, and it is the only system in town, one might wonder what Jefferson had in mind in the large world of commerce as an alternative. Certainly if we would have had an America of small farms as he suggested we would still be in one way or another a colony of Europe.
Those products from the farms would be shipped to Europe and brought at their own set prices much as the Chicago commodities market was able to indenture America small farmers America style though the 19th and early 20th century. Jefferson’s critique doesn’t suggest what might be a better system that would inspire more freedom than the tethers of banking. At least an American national bank or some group of American banks theoretically could be put under the check of the government elected by the populace.
Of course in practice it is the banks and bankers who have directly or indirectly bribed government officials to be their punks and lackeys. Hoover an American bank is vulnerable to its local populations in the way that Belgian, English or French banks are not worried about what America might think if they took up some policy to take up a profit for themselves by impoverishing everyone in America. Plainly one of the advantages of world colonialism European style has been that whatever the Europeans did to their colonies, the colonies were too far away physically from the managers running them to do anything about it short of revolution.
Since the colonials outside of the United States have often lacked organization and arms that wasn’t much of a threat to the old European empires. It did mean they had to have standing armies in their colonies, some of whom had to be ready to die for their pay. As it has turned out the merely economic rule of a country though not as clear cut in its rule has some advantages one can’t get with a viable control of a place and visible legions to enforce it. A minority who want the material wealth of a colonial class in a more Julius Caesar type colony get it. Everybody else has no means of organizing to attain anything but poverty. It’s a strong argument for colonists to become soldiers of their various European lieges if of course such a class is terminal corrupt; by nature it never can net any of the ineradicable honorable people in the area.
The American revolution was successful largely because everybody in America, a place where the enemy seemed to be Indians rather than Britain, was relatively economically independent and had a gun.
Jefferson’s critiques were all made when he was out of power. In power he expanded the United States as much as he could with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and hiring Lewis and Clark to take up the exploration of Oregon. He noted the United States could take any of the Spanish colonies like Florida anytime it chose; there was no need to do it immediately. In practice Jefferson was all the things others accused Hamilton of being. Nobody ever vetoed in Louisiana or the West about whether they wanted to be part of the United States. One day they were part of this country because America had bought their territory from other colonial empires. the harvest of that has been that large parts of the United States are inhabited by peoples whose allegiance to this country is on the frail side.
Nobody, even Jefferson, suggested to the people in the Louisiana territories that they run a referendum to determine whether they wanted to be part of the United States. We still don’t offer that option to the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.
It is true that any Afro-American or Hispanic American living in the United states is doing materially better than if he were in the same place under Spanish, French, British or any other rule but the American one. the quid pro quo is the basis of their franchise in America, not any freely adopted allegiance voted on or any say or influence they might have in designing the laws of this country.
Most overlooked in Washington’s Farewell Address is his central idea that politics should be ruled by principles of justice. We live in a time in which most political analysts on all sides claim either that our politics inspires evil and injury because it is the wrong system to rule anybody, or that given human hunger for evil and the way those who lust for power tend to form a ruling class to get it, since our leaders are always going to be the worst among us and fundamentally dishonest, a system that is at home and allied with evil is the best way to rule anyone.
In 1780 or for that matter in 1880 or 1980 it might be argued that a change of systems about from Capitalism might change human life for most people in some aegis for the better. Of course people still do argue for such alternatives by saying the in each case some other system failed, the officials were corrupt, inane, inept, were envenomed by all of these qualities or whatever.
The evidence seems to point in the 21st century toward at least the first half of the second view I have stated here. No matter what the system, the same sort of people are going to do the same sort of things to others who are not only not in power; some are. given their relative disinterest in having power, are not likely to compete with those slavering for power, in any effective way. As a consequence the philosophers and men of measure of any time and place will always be out of power epee by choice, leaving the field of leadership to be accept by those run by obsessions for power.
Still whether some system is the best system or couldn’t be checked by some set of competing systems is not a moot point. the notion of checks and balances along with limiting the duration in power of the lawful lists of solders of executives was the answer of the founders a to these dilemmas. Washington and his age were always for what we now call a mixed economy. Monopolies and one way of doing anything meant monarchy to them. they assumed it would be filled with internal competitions. they weren’t wrong on the evidence to make such presumptions. the first ladler to propose that government itself should be an estate contending with business wasn’t FDR or Eugene Victor Debs but John Quincy Adams.
John Quincy Adams in the 1830s saw clearly that the sort of people who were running commerce in the early 19th century and realest that only external checks could prevent them from making America an industrial tyranny. One wasn’t going to arguing with them and convince them that treating people like cattle was immoral. Of course the oligarchs did everything they could to brine the government leaders to be in their camp. As one said about theodore Roosevelt, “we bribed the on of a bitch but he wouldn’t stay bought”. Many officials in the American government were much more dutiful to their patrons than theodore Roosevelt.
When one reads of politicians who wave the banners of free enterprise one has to wonder what world they are living in. Free enterprise almost inevitably gave us greedy oligarchical fiefdoms of businessmen who all by themselves give the populace every means one might need is one is sane to look for some way not to be under their rule. It’s not an exaggeration to say as Marx did more or less in the 1930s that capitalism created its enemies: socialism and syndicalism. If sometimes those enemies turned out to be as oppressive as the people they were pledged to destroy, can only really compare the levee of compassion of Unions or the government to the charity of the brutal and injurious corporate world when it had no checks?
How much different are the corporations or slave plantains of Washington’s time which nakedly treated human beings like cattle and the corporate world which in the late 20th and early 21st century called the American dream spending more money than one had, going into continual lifelong debt, being addicted to material comfort and joining the advent of a class its porcine monks called consumers? If one has a pig farm one does better to fatten the swine than to have them sleek and ready for the wilderness as boars or razorbacks.
If that weren’t enough to baffle any political thinker few of us would argue now that government rule with its Welfare programs, professional classes, Family Courts, and Justice systems that locks up people for engaging in contractual commerce is as much a tyranny as corporate rule.
As much as these matters are never discussed among us, the founders certainly addressed them often. Benjamin Franklin said that a country without morals was ungovernable and a nightmare; he produced lists of good deeds to be done ins a systematic way as discipline for instilling an ethical mode of action in our citizenry as habitual. Franklin’s methodical remedies rather conceals his view of human action in that it bypassed what one’s character had a presumptive hunger to do sometimes for no reason. Franklin’s answer to the Puritan view, a notion also found in the Bible, is men were naturally prone to evil and disposed to take up injury even without any interest in doing so. His aim was to train the spirit in the ordinary execution of a formally laid out parade of good works.
Washington and Hamilton, not brought up as Puritans as Franklin was, had a more patrician answer to these dilemmas: they always spoke about honor rather than schooling unself in spite of oneself to be righteous. By honor Washington and Hamilton meant different things. Washington meant in his more optimistic and Platonic way that in a diverse, good and beautiful world one did best to embrace the glories of the universe with charity, observational understanding and respect for others. Hamilton wouldn’t have disagreed with Washington but would have added that the moral anarchy of humanity at its worst wasn’t good or beautiful; it was a resident evil to be opposed by honorable men. Hamilton with his West Indian background had more access to the cruelty and excesses of both libidinousness and slavery than Washington did in a more genteel Virginia.
Jefferson saw honor a little differently, one might say scientifically . He thought all men had a natural programmed desire to be free, adult and independent that could to be stifled by any law or government. He also believed in resident evil, calling such characters scoundrels.
Jefferson’s views have been so distorted by others that it is almost bracing to think over what he really said and presumably thought. If early on in the 1770s he viewed Black people as often cognitively inferior to Whites he still was fro severe quality for Black folk. As he put it, one doesn’t have to be a Newton to have political equality with a Newton. He also said in letters that many Black people where the equal of Whites.
Would we want to limit the best of any group because of the limitations of the worst of the same set of people? Of all people Jefferson was very aware of how much honor in his own terms would inspire anyone treated badly as Blacks were to take revenge against his appraisers. Jefferson’s argument against slavery as destructive to the master as it was for the slave was taken up and elaborated upon by Abraham Lincoln. Rather ironically the greatest Jeffersonian of the 19th century was Lincoln: the man who led the Civil war against the South.
By the way both Jefferson and Lincoln toyed with the idea of sending Afro-Americans “back to Africa”. Both pointed out that was an unthinkable idea; they would be probably killed there. they reacted the notion. Since I’ve heard all these view expressed in my lifetime, especially the biological inferiority of Afro-Americans one should not be to shocked to find them among our leaders and followers in the past. As horrible as it is to say I think it is obvious that in the long run the best thing that could have happens to nearly all Afro-Americans was to get to America under any circumstances. If they could survive the slave ships and slavery they were still doing better materially and had more freedom under the worst Jim Crow and lynching than the locals in Africa who weren’t netted by the slavers. As uncomfortable as this might make us, it can’t be denied. It should also be noted that anyone who could survive such external crimes against them must be a pretty tough bunch of survivors.
My own view of this matter or supposed racial inferiority like Washington’s and Hamilton’s is that it is all once fashionable racist nonsense. I say this out of my own observation. One isn’t going to meet a more intelligent people as a large group than the West Indians uncles they are Jews or Armenians: other veteran survivors. One might argue on observation that for some mysterious reason West Indian Blacks are superior to most of humanity including Whites.
Moreover if we aren’t about to raise armies to free Africa, Latin America or the whole world to be more like the United States and its flawed democracy as Hamilton thought about instead of what these people all over the Earth have endured, it certainly has been the vacuum in which native movements to do the same thing in my lifetime have thrived over the planet.
One should say that both Hamilton and Washington weren’t a bunch of toffish patricians with no contact with Black people. Hamilton grew up with them. Washington lived and fought with them as his one quarter of his army. Both of them were men of great observational skill and very intelligent. If they say Blacks are equal it might have more clout for some of us than if I say it. Currently American greatest thinker is Thomas Sowell. He is in a league of his own for heavyweight intellect, save style, thinking the unthinkable and independent cognition. He is a very dark skinned black man probably of pure African ancestry who grew up in the Carolinas in America. I rest my case.
Rather similar ideas were expressed in the late 19th and early 20th century about Chinese and White people who had emigrated to the United States to escape their ordinary life of indenture in Europe and Asia. they were also called aliens and people unfit to be in America. the 1880s racial exclusion acts stopped legal Chinese emigration to this country. the policy of Woodrow Wilson and A. Mitchell Palmer in 1920 summed up that racist direction of defining who was an American.
George Washington of course would have been on the same evidence for more Chinese emigration. this tribal thinking of Wilson and his ilk ignored that America is a republic generated not by nations or tribes as Woodrow Wilson thought but by an idea of lawful limited government applicable for everyone.
If Hamilton in the 1790s was thinking of rasing an army to free everyone in Latin America its plain that he didn’t think that Latin Americans were inferior in some way and couldn’t handle American democracy.
What was the excuse for virtual enslavement of many White factory workers during this same American history. Whatever it was, such treatment of White as well as Black people inevitably produced the Union and Socialist movements and our current fluidly pragmatic socialism. It’s horrible to think so but perhaps slavery might be the necessary prelude to a better life for us all.
I think we can all agree with Montesquieu’s amusing epigram in his Spirit of the Laws that any tyranny is a government in which only one man is free. Plainly that isn’t ever going to be good enough for everyone else. Can one really find some middle ground between the colonial style of government with its bottom classes treated as cattle and any notion of limited government or democracy? It’s an interesting question even superficially if we look at how Europe cunningly and secretly runs Africa. Can we find even one government in the whole of Africa that is really a democracy and not some cosmetic draping over a battlefield of tribes, cults, colonies and planation mentalities such as the rubber slave pens run by the late Belgian King Lapeled I that killed eleven million Congolese sensibly not all that happy with how and by whom their native land was being ruled?
Moreover can we call any European country we care to name a democracy or limited government when in England, Fence and Germany a real history of any of these nations would be more wise to describe it as a clandestine contention between oligarchy and syndicalism that had led after more than a century of tacit wage slavery, integral war and mutual very impolite acrimony to a marriage or two improbable candidiases for such nuptials?
It’s arguable that England and France do have limited governments and democracy along with this fabulous economic concoction. Yet to leave out the way the locals have organized around oligarchy or syndicalism to contend against each other in that system would be false to the facts.
If one spends any time in Europe would have to be blind not to notice the way that monarch, colonialism and class still influences the way people think about themselves and others. the economic as sell as moral bankruptcy of the royal classes do tend to provoke them to imitate the polloi in their dancing but they have not lost the sense that they are an elite if a debased one.
Since we don’t have a royal class in America at least we are outside of our sentimental Arthurian college system free from that evil. Outside these universities we rightly don’t put our faith in any liege. We old ourselves responsible for our views about life and death and are willing to accept that whatever we do with them is our choice and culpability, not the mistakes of anybody else. In a way that is for all of us usually sometimes in adolescence or some passing stupidity or the first if often tentative step in embracing adult freedom. To be an adult is to be held accountable by man and God.
Washington and Jefferson were not distracted from these racist notions we commonly apply to people of color or of other than Western European ancestry when they considered how their country was going to have two populations, Airiness and Indians, who had cultures utterly at odds wit each other. Jefferson even compiled an Indian dictionary which was loot in one of his boat trips across the Potomac. It’s probably still lying in the mud somewhere.
He always knew the Indians were equal to Whites, even in some ways superior, he said, spiritually and philosophically. Washington went out of his way to preach equity to the Indians; it’s in one of his artful state of the union addresses. the mercurial and elusive Jefferson did however transport some Indians westward and even wrote about its eventual necessity if they didn’t assimilate into the American culture. He certainly never thought they should be killed. Yet some can quote selectively these remarks in the Indian matter by Jefferson and view him if one had no other information about him as a precursor of Hitler. It’s really a terrible slander to do so.
In fact the comparison is palpably false in many ways. Hitler wanted to get rid of Jews because they were inferior and not worthy of human life. Jefferson felt that one way or another if the Indians and Europeans couldn’t make peace with each other rather than have them massacre each other as they were doing, the remedy to all the real bloodshed both shies were enduring might be to put the Indians somewhere else. Since he was the leader of the Europeans he wasn’t about to propose to them the Europeans do the traveling to the west, not the Indians. He had no desire to make that proposal, but even had he said that, nobody would have listened to him. Injury to others is always more popular as a political remedy than suicide.
I;’m not claiming that Jefferson though a great genius was always saintly or didn’t make many mistakes. He certainly didn’t appreciate Washington. As President his rejection of the Jay Treaty with England which Hamilton had engineered and which the American public had lived with certainly precipitated the disastrous if inconclusive 1812 war with England later. Of course one could argue that England was from 1776 though the American Civil War always was set on getting back its former colony and reasserting its imperial control over the world with one less competitor and one more ally to take over that global rule. As Brooks Adams pointed out in the American Century of 1903 or so the British were a declining naval power ready to be superseded by the Americans as candidates for running a world empire. Perhaps these imperial matters, hardly about anything else but force and coercion as well as economics, were about an empire that could have only been created by war; it doesn’t have much to do with Washington’s notion of forego policies run by notions of justice..
If so America with the help of Germany has won that war. America has since the Second World War put cultural basses in England rather than the other way around as it was in the 1770s. Even the populist culture of England after 1950 becomes a colony of the United States. In the 21st century the greatest philosopher of English government down to the new makeup of the house of Roods was not an Englishman but Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton can be said not merely to have organized the United States but some of the political mechanisms of its one time enemies.
I want in this chapter to get back to the various ways all these founders tried to put a hedge between themselves and a natural human politics which advances the power and interests of the greedy, evil, obsessed and uncharitable among us. Of all of them only Jefferson wile out of power advocated a racial and total independence from any liege whatsoever and a politics that only revolved around independent action, perhaps some community of common causes such as he thought the Anglo Saxons in the past had once embraced.
When in power Jefferson was very much the power broker who acquired millions of citizens though his purchases of territories an army of citizen who had never elected him. He was in an extremity one who advocated resettling Indians in the West whether they liked it or not. We should as a result take some of Jefferson’s commentary while out of power as understandable grousing about the dangers of tyranny in the lack of total limited government and strict rather than implied constitutional division of powers.
Jefferson certainly had no right intoner any strict or even implead interpretation of the Constitution to buy the territory of Louisiana. By doing so he took on the rule of a huge area and people who had no experience whatever with any of the values he had of limited government or democracy. Given his Lewis and Calk assignments it’s probable he would have been for the Mexican-America war too. One can still travel through that area of America and visit whole towns that are hardly away they are part of the United States or any country at all. I’ve done it.

Jefferson’s Thought As A Handle On Our Current Laws

Sometimes criticism of Jefferson call him mystogogic in his politics about reserving ultimate power to the people. It’s true that Jefferson was sometimes vague about this side of his thinking but I don’t think one should miss what “the people” or “the common people” mean to politicize even if one has no sympathy with them, calls them the mob or otherwise retards common people as the last judges of what might be good for the country or even themselves.
The people are by their very nature a whole lot of people. If they are levellers they can never be quite as tyrannical as any other organization of authority. The people can’t agree on much if for no other reason because they are a lot of them and we are a naturally diverse species. If we are to have any arbiters we would find it hard to do better than authorities that are by their very naturae very limited in what they can ever agree upon.
The people will probably agree on not starving to death, not committing mass suicide, not depriving themselves of a some measured pleasures they can survive. Even those principles as we know or should now are not ever going to be embraced by the people by acclamation.
Since I wrote two whole books on Jefferson in 2006, the first an immense novel, the second a non-fiction long essay. I don’t want to repeat either of the hopefully amusing angles with which I approached Jefferson in those volumes. I’d rather look in this tome on the value of the founders as thinkers for our time the way that Jefferson’s politics resonates with some of the more bizarre educates we live by in my own lifetime.
At the nut of Jefferson beliefs was the then radical axiom that it is optimal for all including governments to leave as much of life as possible to private and free choices. Actually Hamilton and Washington said the same thing in different ways. the idea must have been very popular in the colonies. Hamilton said it’s ridiculous to think of making lawns to force people to acto or believe anything against their will because even if the edicts are not entirely disagreeable no law has any means to enforce such controls over humanity. Washington phased the master in living by one’s principles and making sure one could enforce ones franchise to do so with pistols.
These three angles are typical of their personalities. Jefferson presents external biological principles for advocating freedom as a mirror of Natura. Hamilton, one who is always thinking of how to organize things, says that the means aren’t available even if one wanted them to be to limit freedom; thus the issue of being invasive or despotic even if the edicts are just, right or plainly in the interests of the governed. It isn’t even worthy of being discussed at a stratagem. Washington says: I have my principles and there are things I wouldst do because they are contrary to them. Washington sees personal honesty charitable morals as a function of honor. that sums up all three men neatly.
I’m sure if we went through many more founders they would all agree on these axioms and the limited government and prediction of privacy which follows as a harvest to such points of departure. None of these people objected even once to the beating of arms of all citizens, obvious in their time and ours a resource that can provide some personal dangers in the street. they realized that in a tradeoff of boons and evils at bottom anyone with weapons had the optimal means to produce their freedom. the historians have chosen to faces these opinions on Jefferson, not because he was the only one who held them but become he articulated them very elegantly.
Let us examine politics in America in my lifetime and see whether or not such notions and limited government has dominated our politics. Obviously the worst invasion of one’s life is slavery. All the founders were abolitionists. the Southern abolitionist whom many record as shuffling hypocrites never initiated slavery in the South nor did they contribute to it. Born into slave states, Jefferson and Washington both tread vainly to make it illegal in the Bill of Rights and earlier in the state legislature: the House of Burgesses in Virginia. Abolition failed as an amendment to the Constitution in the late 18th century because the Northern and Southern abolitionists were afraid the South would secede from the Union and start a civil war if it passed.
With the kind of enemies the United States faced in the late 18th century the last thing their leaders wanted was a Civil War. Of course that doesn’t mean they were right in their time not to push for the end of slavery harder than they did. After all, colonial life was a kind of slavery.
All the founders were for limited government. All of them were for the Constitutional system we still have that legally checks at least titularly any attempt to expand that limited government. Jefferson was their most severe and vocal in this opposition to Hamilton and John Marshall’ idea of a changing and developing interpretation of the law. Hamilton says that as times changer, laws have to bend with them. Jefferson says that the bending and accommodation can lead to creeping despotism. Obviously two centuries later we are still argument this matter on all sides.
Of the three men I am writing about centrally in this book, Washington has the most intriguing way of looking at the batter. He says that politics should be conducted according to justice and equality, not by interests. that’s exactly the opposite of Metternichs view of the matter and the thoughts of our current disciple of Metternich: Henry Kissinger.
Finally it took a Civil War to rid us legally of slavery in 1864, a series of internal revolts in the 50s up through 1964 before the Federal force the states to comply with equal chances for jobs, voting and property rights. One never hears what the other side was in Virginia, a cause that defeated even the efforts of Washington and Jefferson. Sometimes causes benefit by such discretion. We probably would do better reading the defenders of slavery like Calhoun to understand this conflict all sides would nowadays like to bury. We can’t come across today anybody for legal slavery anymore than we can find politicians or priests who remember they were gung-ho for the Vietnam War.
Can one imagine any of our founders shrugging and going along with a war to promote heroin and Christianity? The only one of them who called himself a Christian at all was Hamilton near the end of his life. Can one write a scenario in which George Washington after evaluating the reasons of Lyndon Johnson’s advisors why we should make war on Vietnam, agreed to do so?
These founders were often people who to defend their liberty killed other people. If they were generals or colonels they ordered their soldiers to kill people. Sadly, that’s what revolutions among the ones in the service of freedom do. people who are revolutionists aren’t good at shrugging.
Among the thoughts of Jefferson that are less known and papillar than the ones he was famous for one should remember that he opposed a national bank. In fact he claimed it was worse sometimes than a standing army. If we are accustomed to ordinary rule of our economy by banks, our nation or otherwise, sometimes European or even occasionally Pakistani, we might find that idea of Jefferson preposterous. In fact if we have any kind of monopoly on who can find a job and come control over what industries can be favored by banks, punished by them as well. One as might have some uncomfortable idea of what Jefferson meant by his wariness of such financial juggernauts. As Calhoun pointed out Northern wage slavery produced as many evils and venoms to the human spirit as Southern chattel slavery.
Move the slavery out of the country or pass it on to magical machines and we can feel we have at least spared ourselves the lives of slaves in one way. the privilege of a two tiered system of jobs that mysteriously needed college degrees in their employees for work that didn’t require anything one learnt in college or couldn’t pick up as easily away from college, and we come across a mechanism of two tiered living that nobody cables slavery nor even tragically on the evil side.
Yet we do have a different kind of independence of thought that comes from takes up adult life at eighteen instead of getting a PhD at thirty and continuing some life of refuge. We certainly have muddied the waters of racism so that anybody can get around the vertical racism and Old Boy system that ran things when I was a kid if they have a little luck and moxie. Yet left us not think to quickly that slavery is dead.
There are many ways to make a slave. One is to tether him with chains. Another is to give him an education so lacking in offering adult skills that he becomes totally dependent on whoever is in control of his food and comfort supply. Tell him that hard work he mighty not like at first and does not value until the day when he realizes his labor and skills make him powerful and free, is inherently dangerous. He is better off doing nothing with only the capacity to do nothing. tell him that desperation and endurance are clear baggage he can do without rather than natural external furniture that can as well lead his to discover his resources, take his knowledge of how to grow food and provide shelter for himself by informing him such labor is for Hottentots and louts. Take family and its bonds away from him so that he can count on nobody and regard all as stranger or enemas, make the very place he lives a realm of pure utility, interchangeable with a thousand other places.
Put the two slaves out in the wilderness or any situation where they both were free and see who survives, who covered and begged to be slaves again, wanted only to be relatively comfortable in their indenture.
Our slave who had been chained externally to the walls since has a lot of catching up to do if he want to acquire the skills to be free and stay free, yet his task is in front of him. He does have to purge himself of any values that are within him to embrace liberty. the slave who values doing nothing and comfit about all things is going to have to undergo a change much more drastic in his interior than any escaped prison or slave. He is going to we the whole of cation as a slavery in which he can only work to try to make his indenture Monroe comfortable. He is not going to value the hard work and endurance that are part of being and staying free. He is probably more partial to accommodation with masters than carrying a set of pistols to defend his honor and principles by which he chooses to live. One would have with a nation of slaves with such internal burdens a country of people without racial franchise to live that might be far more controllable than the southern plantation system.
If one were running an education system to nurture a free republic one would have the schools train their young in apodal adult skills and then see who does what. If one wanted to run a slave system that eclipsed the Southern planters in autocracy, one would set up a nation in which one couldn’t go anything but by car, one couldn’t earn a living that was tolerable in one’s own perception unless one had certificates and some public enthusiasm about one’s firm and labor and one couldn’t grow or shepherd food, build one’s own house to keep out the rain, and have to rights to raise one’s own children one’s own way, one would be promoted a despotism openly if one were transparent about the connecting of one’s schools system to one’s agendas. Perhaps it is better to say nothing and keep the decline all quietly going.
Perhaps one cans see that Jefferson’s objection to a national bank and the inherent excesses of a centralized government along with the several years he spent on providing curriculum for young citizens of a free republic aren’t all that inexplicable. Jefferson himself was privately tutored; he never really went to school as we know the institution these days. Like Hamilton and Washington he was a besides a quick study a formidable autodidact. Jefferson wasn’t arguing against banking; he is fact was the American agent who negotiated the debt with Belgian bankers. He was dissenting against the monopoly of one bank.
Two hundred years ago many of the banks printed money. In fact they still do if they call them stocks, bonds, or certificates of deposit of any kind. The current banking system remains a kind of loose agglomeration of nations and banks, many of which print money and are essentially able to reward some and dismiss others in a two tiered system by whom they give income to and whom they do not.
If we really were on a level plain in public life we wouldn’t have the odd strains of royalism that creep through American politics. Nobody would vote for these local family dynasties.
There are many ways for tyrants to control people, some employing cheap access to pleasure and amusement, others threatens the same populace with incarceration or death. If we were not at war with a lot of the private agendas of our population we would have millions of people in prison for their private tastes. I wonder if we had a referendum about many of these masters how people would feel about making drugs, the premise of why 70% of the people currently locked up or in some phase of the penal system like parole or probation, a crime.
Do we really want to be taxed to pay the bills for a system that invades private lives, at bottom solves nothing since it puts its supposed criminals in and out of jail and on and off the street, and creates whole industries that aren’t entirely unhappy about being illicit because they are non taxable. The street vendors and the smugglers are in danger of incarceration but the ones who run the businesses about the bottom level operate with impunity. They might even be the principle source of income for the people who are supposed to persecute them. Since the payoffs are illicit as well the ones bribe don’t have to pay taxes on their wag either.
Right now every America is paying what amounts to a tax of a few thousand dollars a year at the last for the maintenance of penal system in which most of the so-called criminals in it are small businessmen, not malefactors. Beyond that, we should all know from our own personal experiences that if somebody really wants to destroy themselves they are going to do it. We can make the mechanics of their self-destruction illegal but given the adaptability of commerce the business world will find a way to get his poison to him, whatever it is.
Some people knock themselves off legally; it doesn’t mean they are therefore a legitimate source for government to build agencies around them. Others support their leech-like character and potential for bilking others in the name of private charity, certainly never illegal in America; they often develop qualities of secrecy and manipulation such as we associate with alcoholics because nobody could stand them were they transparent about their nature. Does anybody think when at bottom we all choose between the book of life and the book of death freely as the Torah says, that any local government or even close intimate can change the number of people who choose death?
Meanwhile, what can we say about the attractiveness of a product that doesn’t advertise, involves some peril to purchase or use, yet is a thriving billion dollar business? Plainly drugs from opiates and liquor that allay psychological stress and pain have a real value to a lot of people. My own theory is that some ways of stopping one’s actions good or bad for a bit are legal, such as the Sabbath; others are deemed crimes. One could imagine a society in which drugs were legal but observing the Sabbath was crime. We are adaptable animals but we need to think things over.
Eventually any innovative government is going to hit upon taking up an assault that they cannot succeed in Then they will set into motion the system of incarcerations, payoffs and accommodations with which we are all familiar. Wouldn’t it be better if we followed the leadership of our founders and left private life even if some tastes are destructive to some contracting to take them up, alone?
Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton were all imbibers of liquor. Washington was known for his convivial glass at home on Sundays and the plentiful supplies in his home of Madeira wine. He made his fortune in two kinds of liquor. Jefferson is never loathe to check his praise of Madeira. Beyond that as one can tell from its early laws America was a place where outside of the big cities many people including the neighbors of the founders had whiskey stills.
The big cities in America tend to have beer factories, often run by ethnic Germans. I hope it doesn’t come as a surprise to the reader that on the evidence the United States has always been hard drinking country. In the main it hasn’t interfered with its ability to thrive or its competitive dominance in the world. Of course many people become drunkards and crumple in a country that has a common private taste for booze. Almost any taste for anything will do that to somebody. It’s not enough of a perceptions of the people to interfere with the general delight most drinkers have in raising a glass.
We don’t even have a science that can identify why people become addicts of one kind or another, and others can use the same drug or taste as a recreational amusement without peril. Plainly it isn’t legal acceptance of the taste that is at fault. As Hamilton says, if people want to live a certain way they will do it. Our founders even could say that they run a revolution to give themselves that franchise. We don’t even know why people are good or evil. We have a huge priesthood of millions of psychologists who claim they have a handle on these things but they are merely blind executioners who officiate for money like robed prelates at the diverse agendas of other people.
It’s very probable that our science with its aim and hope of practicality and standardization is more a bedfellow of autocracy than we are willing to admit. We as a result of their persuasions are commonly locked into the paradox that we admire and promote mendacity while living off the achievements of people who have escaped these established church seductions to take up banality. If we’ve had such success with limited government in matters of a taste for liquor, perhaps the only time in constitutional government so catastrophic that another amendment was passed to rid America of a previous amendment, do we really want to have the government be a force determining what tastes we have in elevation or even in opiates that leave us nearly comatose?
The worst President we’ve had, Woodrow Wilson, was all by himself a one man juggernaut for despotism in the United States. He closed down the liquor business, purged us of our red light areas, entered a war nobody can say to this day what explained as a human action even by those in Europe who were immersed in it, Jim Crowed Black people and blurred the lines between America and England as much as he could.
Personally he had a mixture of piety and sociopathy that was singularly odious. Of course one could say about Wilson that he was intelligent, made a good speech about ideals if his actions went the other way, and if one were White, wasn’t a complete racist. Beyond that the man was a public disaster. People passed laws and even Constitutional amendments to turn back the polices of Woodrow Wilson for many decades after his demise.
It’s hard to say what the frontiers of limited government should be optimally as a common scheme for all of us because as many times as the United States has run invasive operations from Prohibiting to the Vietnam War draft, other countries all over the world have been more autocratic. We are still at the borders of the possible in freedom in America because we have no competitors.
Although Jefferson left no systematic analysis of politics as did Hobbes it’s plain that he had one, and that its not hard to derive what that system might be is from his hundreds of thousands of letters, speeches and other papers. At the chore of Jefferson’s thinking was the primacy of private life over public life. It’s at an ultimate polarity from the notion that one is only alive while in power or on stage. Jefferson didn’t detail the inherently crepuscular mysteries of private life because if one were one’s own master one as liable to have an existence as diverse as possible for other people on the surface much like oneself.
This concept developed in Jefferson over decades. In his 1770s essay in his 40s, The Anglo Saxons Jefferson attributes such capacities to tribal existence. It’s plain that by the time he became President in 1800 in his 60s he had jettisoned that idea for a large nation in which those potentialities were protected by the Bill of Rights. Since he was a very audacious and fearless thinker he had a weakness for making intuitive global statements.
I find the anecdote that he had said to Madison that every generation should make its own laws very interesting. Madison pointed out that for our five generations live in the same physical place on the same physical time; it seemed mechanically impossible to have four or five countries in one place distinguished by their age. One presumes Jefferson backed off his seeming insight into how to protect freedom.
Yet it’s a curious idea in the first place. Each generation is liable to have as many reason within it to have different laws as any other generation. the result might be a tyranny of the majority of a certain age group even to themselves.
I think some of this fuzziness which annoyed many cortices of Jefferson comes not from his intellectual deficiencies but a lack of observable information about what the common people ware, would do and would think if they were free to do so. One of their general habits common to his time and ours is a taste for coarse amusement. Sobriety is not one of the qualities one associated with the common people either. Yet I think it’s as much true in our time and his and observable that the common people think better than the middle classes or the top of any society. They are better problem solvers. They don’t have a lot of illusions; they cannot afford to have them. It might be the sign of affluence and power among some that they do have them.
A nation based on valuing the common people is always going to have more practical intelligence going for it than one that is ruled by top or middle classes.
One of the chief abysses between us and Jefferson and his age is how close anyone in America was to the wilderness. Jefferson as much of a modern workaholic as he was, was also a big walker who spent a few hocus each morning wandering for miles through forests and rude hamlets, usually accompanied by two or three slaves. Since he was usually singing a tune he must have been quite a well known feature of the rural Virginia landscape. Walking for him was as much a spiritual exitus as it was for Abraham Lincoln, Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Henry James later. All of these men did as much walking for many miles as they did daily because it was the theater of their observation. Jefferson’s thought was almost certainly based on the observations he made on these walks one might make some concordance between walking and thinking that perhaps has one out of our culture in a world where people use cars as much as they do. Alexander Hamilton confined his walking to pacing up and down a room but he was still walking. Obviously George Washington when he wasn’t on a horse did a lot of walking.
I find it meaningful that Jefferson was the first President to walk to his Inauguration. It did make a point. Andrew Jackson might have been the second one to do it. In both men one can see two very bright souls who valued their talent for observation. We have lost something by becoming a car culture.

The Living George Washington

Those of us who are bringing up our children in protected and sequestered areas to make sure they re never accountant with stress may hope to produce from such nurturing adults from such progeny like George Washington; the odds are this is precisely the least likely way to raise children that are going to have anything notable about them. George Washington didn’t have the worst childhood of the founders; that was the legacy of Alexander Hamilton.
Yet from the beginning of his life Washington had a level of desperation in his existence that might seem overwhelming to many of us. His father died at nine; his mother apparently couldn’t stand him and during her long life even publicly embarrassed him by her criticism of him. His one close kin, his brother Lawrence, died when Washington was in his late 20s.
He married a widower who was probably rendered sterile by her difficult chid births. He not only didn’t have loving parents but he had no children. If that weren’t bad enough all of his wife Martha’s children he had treated as his own died early on; he survived them all.
His life as a soldier and general was uncomfortable, difficult and perilous. He enjoyed many things but he had a particular abhorrence of slavery and was vocal in his desire to get Clair of a system he never quite figured out how to rid from his life. He felt betrayed many times, in his adult life by Benedict Arnold and then by Thomas Jefferson.
Yet we must acknowledge that for morals and charity as well as a talent for military archon when appropriate and honorable and peaceful government without a model on the planet Washington was as good a man as we’ve had on this Earth. If we honor the ideas of causality and mechanism at al we would be wise to try to relate his upbringing and experiences to his personal and plical achievements.
It could be that worst of the worst of fates, death itself, there is a neutrality in actions most of us would deem boons or burdens that can be acted upon by people of character to make their apparent lack of luck sometimes the very catalyst of their virtues.
Almost ever one of Washington’s opining about how to live life well seem to have a personal passion to them that suggest he had learned what he know out of adversity and adaption to rectify his mistakes and ensure he never made them again.
I’m all for reading many of the European philosophers that are worth my attention. There are many of them and I am grateful to have looked at their insights. It seems to me the founders of this country are equal to many or all of them in philosophy and in some ways might even be superior. They after all unlike any philosopher I can think of besides Moses and Plato actually worked to change the laws of the whole world.
George Washington may seem to us daunting and remote because he was a big guy, he came from a generation of founders and law givers and makers that we have not had among us since around the 1850s when they last of them died off. He himself had esprit in 1799. Today we can never in our time meet anybody in the street who even made a minor difference in the laws of his own country.
Nevertheless George Washington was really to witnesses in his age who knew him the opposite of being monumental and daunting. It’s true he was silent rather than convivial sometimes. He nevertheless didn’t make enemies. He is still the only Precedent ever elected by acclimation. A President when he had no models or laws to deter him from defining a thousand things in the republic he still didn’t make enemies. The bill of Rights though a product of Jefferson was also the personal way George Washington lived. He took a lot of criticism as President but he almost never gave any out. It says something about a man that he is revolutionary but he doesn’t make enemies.
Washington was against womanizing because it coarsened the character but he was hardly a prude; as a young man he plainly had his share of intimacies with women. He was along with Franklin, Hamilton and Jefferson a notable flirt with the ladies all thorough his life. Yet his friend new it was never going to go any further with him than flirtation.
Washington was quick to tell people that excess drinking of liquor runs men but he himself was no teetotaler. He drink at least three large glasses of wine a day and presumably some f his own native brandy. He was known to get more convivial over an evening of drinks; nobody ever saw him drunk. He never would have been for Prohibition anymore than he was for slavery. He tried to set right action by personal example. We can see in his principles from his actions what he felt was good morals and politics for almost everybody.
Above all Washington was a charitable man. It’s almost his central principle. Love your neighbor animates his whole life even when giving some neighbors even small respect was not fashionable. It certainly wasn’t a polite opinion to call Afro-Americans equal to White people but Washington and Franklin both made point of saying so and acting on that assessment. Catholics and the Pope weren’t so popular in his time or among his army about he personally stopped any assaults against people of this faith. Washington dealt as equals with Jews in business and among his various explorations spent a shabbos at Rhode Island synagogue.
Though we think of him as silent as many monuments in our cemeteries, George Washington was never parsimonious about offering his philosophical ideas he called his principles to anyone. For somebody who claimed he wasn’t a master of literary style he left behind him a hundred thousand pages of his papers. They were in his own estimate valuable enough to have them coped and put in a trove in Mount Vernon somewhere to be a kind of legacy to posterity.
Some of them rather go against the grain of fashion we might come across today. Washington believed it was best to be silent and not debate ideas with people. He was however all for others running those debates and himself judging their arguments. He himself didn’t feel any ruling desire to resolve any differences he might have with anybody else with argument. This habit went back at least to his daily conference with his generals and led to his formation of the Cabinet, an instrument of the executive power that has no constitutional basis.
One can’t imagine Washington spending time with any of our therapoids who glory in chewing other everything and consider themselves remiss when they haven’t ruminated over a small detail of any difference they might have with anybody.
George Washington didn’t think much of pleasure as a ruling value. He felt that the passions wax and wane quickly enough if their surface intense might persuade the jejune that they are likely to be persuasive to the soul forever. One if one is intelligent and a master of observation like Washington can’t help noticing that after a few weeks almost any passion becomes faint or even stale. It’s true that Plato said the same thing and probably from a similar run of focuses for awhile in youth on the passions and itches. Yet hearing this assessment from Washington, one of the worlds great adaptive genius is as good as hearing it from Plato.
Washington shared also with Plato a deep skepticism that must have been a result in both men of fining some of their earlier opinions to be foolish laster on.
Washington often counseled other to be very careful and slow about whom they let into their confidence. I’m probably not the only one who reading these words of Washington has thought ruefully that had I taken his advice I would have been spared a betrayal or two.
We could as easily offer a course in ethics with George Washington as the principal philosopher on the subject as we might Plato, Aristotle, or John Stuart Mill. If we compare Washington to let us say Plato or Aristotle the thought of Washington has more emphasis on action on one’s principles than on merely reflecting on them.
If we move over to the other founders we will find a similar active depth of philosophy in Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton. They differ from European philosophers in that they ran a revolution based on their ideas and the ideas of their allies. It makes them more like Moses than Aristotle.
Certainly were the Romans around to assess Washington and his generation they would have seen them correctly like Moses and Solon as some of humanity’s greatest law givers.
The inner life of any of us might be more available from deduction upon known events that happened to our subjects than the fragments of their meditations alone they put to paper. George Washington documented pithily what he did every day over decades in a journal; perhaps the absence of commentary in it on some days is as meaningful as any of its presence.
When he visited his mother he noted that he had been there and mentioned his material offerings to aid her comfort, no more. One can assume that his mother, who was always unhappy with him, said many acrimonious things to him, Washington very credible left them out and his reaction to them of his accounts of his visit with her. Yet we don’t have to doubt what he had to feel during these colloquies. Washington would say that he learned all his morals from his mother. He might have meant that as a small child he turned her criticism of him into his conscience.
One can equally assume that when Washington had told the British Colonel Braddock that Indians had figured out the optimal way to fight in New World battles and Braddock had rejected Washington’s advice to emulate them, Washington must have ad some very unpleasant thoughts about Braddock and his lack of adaptability as he carried Braddock’s dead body away from the battlefield after a debacle that could possibly have gone another way had Braddock been less arrogant and more astute.
George Washington was a polite man who wasn’t about to say or do things that might offend other people if he could help it. When he left church services before any of the magical ceremonies started he always departed discreetly. Yet had he really been bent on disguising his opinions he wouldn’t have left at all. Jefferson commented on how good Washington was at evading questions about his spiritual beliefs. By saying nothing Washington managed to avoid all the contentions Jefferson had from the orthodox in his time by being rather transparent about his own spiritual opinions.
Ron Chernow in his biography of Alexander Hamilton remarks that Washington and Hamilton had many more qualities in common than was apparent from their appearance. Washington was huge, six foot and massive. Patrician and reserved most of the time though he didn’t lack social skills, one who seemed monumental from his first physical presence in any room.
It’s interesting to think of what it must have been like to be George Washington. He never hid his inner life from anyone of some were able to read him better than others. He must have felt a fortress within himself since he knew the virtues of silence and was an intense listener. He was nearly always polite and yet very warm; without saying much he had the ability to make people feel as though he liked them. the truth has that he was sincerely charitable and usually did like people.
Chernow points out that almost everything George Washington said about himself came not from some set of iron preemies he had as child as Parson Weems suggested, but from his own recovery from his mistakes. This isn’t to diminish his virtues. Most of us made the same mistakes and continue to make them. As Washington said to one upper New York State politician who tread to bilk him:’ “You can fool me once.”
When Washington writes as he does often about the error of looking to the passions for support for one’s felicity or mature life we know even from the evidence if we had doubted it that Washington was as a young man one who had ferocious passions, was a very romantic lover of women, then had learnt the hard way that friendship and honor is more reliable in intimacy than any passion. Washington’s opinions read like an implead set of meditations on prior stratagems that had once given him hope and had come to ashes for him.
His many comments about not trusting people too quickly, making friends with others only after awhile, certainly come fm doing the opposite once and getting stung when he did. One can pretty much write about the inner life of George Washington fairly easily from his writings backs he had that central adaptive quality. One assumes he went through an intermediary season of rage and despair. He was in his way as Ron Chernow ways rather formal but nevertheless a very transparent man.
Whether we want to listen to him or agree with his conclusions about life is another matter. Many of us when young might find his view of measure and his distrust of any enthusiasm to be very chilling. It was a very 18th century opinion.
They might have another response as they rails that all of his very once radical and revolutionary opinions that are ordinary enough among us come to him slowly over many decades of change from wresting with his demons. Washington was a cosmic survey, a kin of mechanist. By the time he left any place he knew how everything worked.
He had been from a very young man someone who had learnt to be content with his own company. Traveling through the wilderness with no roads and mapping lands nobody had ever explored before can do that to a man. Even in his alter years He spent during a day a lot of time alone. Sometimes he was riding on a horse; sometimes he was reading critically in his library. His habit of salience and focused listening to other reinforced his sense of his own celerity.
Many of Washington’s opinions show the sort of crucible that existed inside him. He wasn’t one to argue about magical religion; he went his own way about it as he did everything else. He had a sense of calling about himself and his life as well as an opinion based on observation that an unseen deity was manipulating people and history in a compel way that often eluded the simple and the problem solvers. It was a view he mostly referred to only indirectly. He believed in a life afar death and the immortality of the soul; he described dyeing as “a return to the world of the spirits”. One might assume give his general skepticism about all received ideas that he had some evidence for this opinions that he seemingly never talked about. It’s very possible that he was a mystic. I would wager on it. Washington wasn’t the sort of man to act as he did without some palpable and detailed observations that would encourage such activities.
Washington must have stood in front of his troops and never got a scratch because he thought he was working in the service of a Providence that would never betray him by killing him.
It’s hard to imagine Washington being otherwise. He was a very thorough and systematic mechanist as a thinker that dismissed all unproven notions and looked for design in how to do everything. Whether it was running a revolution, a plantation a factory, or designing his home, he wanted to master all the details. Jefferson commented on the complexity of his stratagems in a military battle. If Washington had concluded that there was a world of the spirits, a God and a patient but providential direction to history, he was the sort of person who had to have based it on personal evidence he had long chewed upon in private.
He was as Chernov implies also very adept at being very circumspect about how much like Hamilton he was a self invented man. He had not been educated formally; he was an autodidact who like Hamilton had tremendous drive; he read everything he could acquire except sermons. In this neither Washington nor Hamilton were all that singular. 18th century America was not exactly field with self taught polymaths; yet quantitatively it’s astonishing how many of the crop up in any narrative of that time. Many of the generals and others around Washington and Hamilton were as much autodidacts as they were.
When Washington was freeing his slaves he made sure they had money schools to learn to read and write and learn a trade; nobody gave it to him. Perhaps it’s worth noting that Washington himself didn’t have much more than a benison to be left alone in the way of a formal education. It’s not as if Washington were sending these freed slaves into the world with any less advantages than he had himself.
This schooling in the wilderness didn’t stop with the 19th century. Abraham Lincoln, another self taught genius, had about the same about of schooling as most people did in America. It’s rather amazing considering how nearly none of the founders had a formal education in our sense and were self taught personalities how if we value their contribution to our lives that we don’t have a school system that encourages a nation of self-taught citizens.
Then as, now formal education in America obedience and taught Toryism. The founders certainly at their best on the evidence comes out better and more independently thinking than our current gradate of our autocratic educational system. These founders and Abraham Lincoln after them all have lots of time in their adolescence to learn from observation wash they had to know to survive in the world.
Since we supposedly have a system based on the virtues of freedom and independence one might think we had a special reason to devise a school system that would give our citizens enough basic skills to make their way in the world and then let their own drive or lack of them do the rest of the job. One can say that the idiosyncratic stylistic variants in the founders is very conscious, None of them sound like anybody else.
Hamilton tends not to notice the clichés and stale phrases in his prose; his poetry was much better. Washington was very scrupulously as a writer in honing his phrases for optimal effect even if he were scribbling a note. As a consequence in many ways Washington’s writings are some of the most gifted in some literary skills of any of the founders. He didn’t have the brilliant clarity of Jefferson nor the colorful poetic talent of Adams; he wasn’t masterfully ironical like the natural chemotic and epigrammatic Benjamin Franklin. Washington did waft out a kind inner wrestling which really echoes his inner life as nobody else did it.
George Washington made as much of a recovery in his way as fulfilling who he was if his ascents didn’t quite have any of the gaudy desperation of Hamilton’s. He didn’t inherit any of the estate of his family until his half brother Lawrence did when George was in his twenties. Yet we can see even in the adolescent George Washington a rather passionate and hot tampered fellow who was writing poetry and plainly doing a lot of reading to be able to command the leaning he had even then. Since Washington saved all of his jejune letters and verse there seems to be no doubt that even as a very young man like Hamilton he felt his life was going to be significant to other people than himself.
Both men were poets. There might be in somebody’s attic a whole thick sheaf of Hamilton’s poetry; he was still writing reams of verse during the American revolution. It’s not an exaggeration to say that many American revolutionaries were as nimble and talented with the pen as they were with a gun. Almost all the writing they did, each of them hundreds of thousands of pages, were a special literature of observation in passing rather than memoirs in which one after much refection makes assertions about the past. Only Franklin wrote his memoirs. Franklin’s break off after his young manhood. Washington had the time to do it after 1792 but never seems to have thought of it.
One can see how Washington by incremental degrees fought the revolution after some meditation as a process of learning how to make a war without model out of the ashes of his initial disasters. One might also note that before the revolution Washington wasn’t freeing his slaves; he was trying to live with the system, buying them until he had a few hundred of them to work at his various businesses including a flour mill. His initial policy wasn’t to depart from the slave system but to make it work for him and thrive in it. It came to him as it did to Franklin only after owning slaves that slavery was morally an odious and therefore against “his principles” only after a while. His source of this truth was pure observation.
When he was finally for equality and abolition he really went at it with the same ferocity and zeal. At one point during the revolution he threw a tantrum when one of his Black solders wouldn’t sleep on the same bed of straw with him. Slavery and the slave mentality was one of the things than really angered him. Washington had a sense of manhood that went against the directions of slavery, class and colonialism, any two tiered system, but it didn’t come to him as an inheritance.
Washington freed his own slaves but couldn’t figure out how to free all the slaves in America and avoid a civil war between the South and North. It’s clear that if he thought he could avoid a Civil War tact would have given England a fine chance to recapture the Unified States he would have issued the Emancipation Proclamation seventy years before Abraham Lincoln. His correspondence with Henry Laurens, the Marquis de Lafayette and Alexander Hamilton can lead to no other conclusion.
He felt with ample evidential proof to himself that if he were on a level playing field he could compete with anybody. He would work harder than anyone, learn what he deadened know systematically as well as anyone, take up anything once he decided to do it as well as anyone. When Washington said he wasn’t going to learn French because he was too old to do it, he might have meant that he didn’t have time given the duties of his middle age to take it up properly. He had so much to do in his life had to become adept at delegating power.
Nobody had more long term drive and ferocity of purpose than George Washington. Had he decided it was necessary for him to learn French he would have done it better than anybody out of sheer live-or-die concentration and sense of purpose. If other people in other cultures did things better he was quick to imitate them. Sometimes in the wilderness he dressed as an Indian would. He certainly learned the Indian way of using firepower in loose rather spread out acting rather than in close knit groups as the British deemed a preferable tactic in their colonial fracases.
Jefferson made a telexing remark about Washington: he felt Washington was a great maker of elaborate schemers to achieve things but lacking in an improvisatory quality when things when wrong with his plans. It’s a way of describing a man who saw the universe as one of these complex and detailed schemers in the first place. Some of us after all go thorough life winging it with no initial plans. Others are content to execute the illness and ideas of others. Washington had the ultimate mentality of what we call nowadays a business head.
He could come up with focused reflection on a scheme of acetin that would lead to a desired object. Andrew Carnegie lacer called it an ability to organize. It’s hardly strange given that talent and his habit of writing down very denial in his life daily that he was drawn to military life. Military thinking is quintessential about details and precise cocos in a machine to achieve a clear and known objective.
Among the many elements of slavery that drove Washington to some rage and frustration it must have irks him that in the later part of his life half of his slaves were simply living on his plantations and didn’t work. There was no need for them to labor. Mount Vernon was doing very well and didn’t need any effort from them. When it seemed appropriate to their whim these slaves went off and visited people elsewhere. Some in Philadelphia went to the theater. Washington was running a sort of hole for half his slaves in which they didn’t even pay him wages for their residence.
Of course centrally Washington found slavery immoral, a politics that preempts immorality and contempt for others, and furthermore didn’t even work as a source of labor. We teed to diminish various Virginia abolitionists of the 18th century because in our time the notion that silvery might ever be acceptable to us or ever could work is an absurdity. We inherit that wisdom.
It wasn’t as easy for Washington and his abolitionist cadre from Henry Laurens to Hamilton to apse slavery. Washington supported Laurens’ idea of running a plantation of freed Africans Laurens he would set up somewhere in the Caribbean to show the planters that for the worst of reasons they would do better with abolition. One should note that all of these founders were talking about peacefully ridding themselves of slavery. Nobody was for Civil war.
Washington’s freeing of his slaves is a kind of implied manual for what he did figure out after much inner wrestling to end slavery. He made sure every slave had a good deal of money to learn some skill that would make them competitive in adult life. Though it was Booker T. Washington’s opinion as well much later, one might find none of this thinking in Reconstruction after the Civil War nor any of it in my lifetime. During my mortality as soon as a school become filled with Black kids the teachers stopped asking and demanding their students to learn anything. Horrible as it is to way, in my day Black kids did better in the segregated and then frailly unsegregated South.
Washington didn’t set up an agency to give this people the means to compete in the world. He gave them the money directly and let them apportion how they were going to use it. there were no administrative fees and middle men in Washington’s plan. If somebody spent the money on booze or threw it away they made their choices on a level playing field.
We might ask ourselves in our time or in any time what institutions we have among us that are in the league of slavery which we have inherited from the past but which we find really and mechanically odious to the point that we would like to “get clear” of them to use Washington’s apt phrase. We might be very disturbed by our survey.
Washington command the first integrated army in history. He was always seen with his personal factotum William Lee, a Black man, whom some called a mailed. Pictures of Lee suggest he was not half White. Since it was the British that brought slavery to the Americas his Black solders it had to occur to Washington that his Black solders had a lot to fight for.
George Washington was a Mason. There wasn’t anything enigmatic about his religious beliefs. He stated them clearly and often enough. they are Masonic. this country is a Masonic designed counter. It’s limited government and freedom of religion is all standard Masonic thinking. America isn’t a Christian country though it has a lot of Christians in it. If it were it wouldn’t have freedom of religion. Christians don’t believe in freedom of or accolade for religion.
Many of the founders of American were Masons. Benjamin Franklin was one. If some weren’t Masons they certainly were very sympathetic to Masonic ideas. As far as I know nobody has written a book detailing the way Masonic thought was a central intellectual force that motivated our founders. The Masons have because of their very humanistic virtues acarid a lot of enemies among the more zealous then and now, some of who regard them as a source of conspiracy. If it’s a conspiracy to honor the freedom of people and not a conspiracy to try to crush it, one can appreciate the noting of their foes that the Masons were secret Satanist or worse.
The lack of privilege written into its laws gives America its strength. It means that legally America is an idea, not a nation run by bonded families or insiders; it one isn’t confined to an elite faith or tribe as the masters of a nation and everybody else doing what dissenters, rogues and the ungovernable do while the caderas of one kind or another run things on the surface. The American vision has become a worldwide exportable idea because it is not about what it is as much as about what it isn’t as a government system.
This doesn’t mean that the armies of despotism by a few or by some inner circle no matter how relatively broad haven’t decorated American history with every manner of privilege one might imagine. What else is any defense of slaver, lack of equality for women, their talk of “the best interests” of children as if someone knew what they were, and inferentially not the interests of adults who seaport champion them against their parents and teachers, the disinclination of the legislatures to limit income given to candidates by the rich and so on? It only means that for what it is worth the law says one can’t do any of these things. To an autocrat the people who stand for privilege are right to bring the law and army of the country to enforce doing it.
If some of us would like to see more of a hedge against tyranny than that, and we get a cosmetic bow to freedom from our supposed representatives, some think it’s better than nothing. It might be worse. It’s harder to contend against wily people who will throw one a sugared sop perhaps one should be citified with if one were a bit more accommodating.
Many historians have credited Alexander Hamilton with organizing the foundation of the American government. I think this is certainly partially true. Hamilton had laid out all the general architecture but it was the product of an acrimonious and prolonged Constitutional Convention, some of it probably done after a draft and many discussions with the final and effective manager of that convention: George Washington. There certainly was nothing in the Constitution since Washington presided over its management that Washington didn’t approve of or at least accept, probably after much discussion. He certainly embraced it as his own model for active federal politics.
When Hamilton was appointed Secretary of the Treasury one of the cabin members asked Washington whether or not Hamilton know anything about finance. Washington said: “I never discussed money matters or fiance with him but I’m sure he is the master of it.” It is an intriguing comment that implies they discussed nearly everything else. It was Washington’s way to run such discussions and them after a while make his decision about them. It’s unthinkable deductively that he didn’t have such conferees with Hamilton as well as others.
Some of this precatory came from Washington’s realization at the beginning of the revolution that he couldn’t personally hade every directive of what to him was a comparatively huge army. As much as passable he conducted his battles personally, always appearing in front of them in sight of the enemy. Washington’s style was to make everything personal. Yet he couldn’t be everywhere and think about everything during a day. Even locally there was quantitatively too much to do. His greatest compliment to Hamilton was that Hamilton was about to think like Washington and do what he would have done.
One can see that as a team Hamilton and Washington were a formidable duo. On his own Hamilton was much less effective. He was headstrong, direct, confrontational, prickly and lacked Washington measure as well s his political skills. Ha Washington lived longer Hamilton probably never would have fought Aaron Burr. Washington though no stranger to pistols and violence was an opponent of dueling. Washington would have advised Hamilton to avoid dueling and consider that his cervices to America were more important than any contention he had with Burr even if Hamilton were in the right.
Some of Washington’s other views might make is a bit uncomfortable in this time when that all is accidental is an article of faith, whether we like or approve of it or not. Washington believed that there was a hidden entity working in a clandestine way to create the United States of America. He also believed that he had been singled out as the ladler of this audacious popular republic populated mainly by Old World trash, that nothing could happen to him until he had succeeded in living out his service to this entity.
We shouldn’t dismiss these assessments of Washington too quickly. The United States in 1776 like the Jewish flight from Egypt 3400 years ago earlier total improbability without a model.
Washington of course would have found such models in the Torah and also First Samuel and First Kings. There is an ignoramus amount of speculating in those volumes about how at once God could have a Creation of freedom whose actions those in it were responsible for and yet be an omnipotent force in manipulating history.
These insights or lack of them are in a way like clues in detective sorties. God tells Abraham he wall give him at ninety a child and wail multiply his progeny like the sands of the desert. Since Sarah and Abraham laugh at this bizarre promise much as we would we know that the argyria seems as absurd to them as it would be were God to say the same thing to us. By the way Abraham never asks this boon from God. He may not even want it. He never seeks out God either.
Later Moses points out to God that he would do better than the smooth talking Aaron, his brother; Moses is slow of speech. God says: I’ve chosen you.
Samuel goes to look for a new king to anoint as the head of Israel in the house of Jesse. He examines each of Jesse’s sons and finds none of them are the anointed one. He asks Jesse as he is about to leave whether he has any other sons. Jesse says,
only David, but he is a child out tended the sheep. David of course is the anointed one. This is the source in the past for George Washington’s perception that God’s work in manipulating history in involute and hidden.
At another time Ahab asks God why God has punished this king for charity toward a fallen foe. God for once explains the matter to Ahab.
Most notably in this tradition George Washington was brought up in God says to Job that Job is capable of understanding God’s methods and purposes. George Washington heard sermons on these stories once a week during most of his long life.
This sort of thinking is also in Greek legends. Oedipus faces an inexplicable famine and plague in the environs of Thebes. In any case the ideas of a clandestine deity operating as an agent in history was not a strange idea to Washington. In fact one might speculate that Washington himself decides to be a little inexplicable in his own countenance as a resonance of reading such passages. even his last words, “tis well” is a kind of echo of God’s approval of Creation in the first chapters of Genesis.
The idea of being an improbable character in history singled out by a series of accidents including the death of many of his relatives is in fact the surface story of George Washington. The man who seemed impervious to danger and death until he had fulfilled his mission on Earth is something Washington lived by as an assumption of his existence. We can make of that what we will.
One realizes how much the reality of George Washington’s life tends to slip out of the myth. He spent much of his life in the North, not the South. As an abolitionist who freed his slaves he was one in the minority in Virginia. He was very much for the Industrial Revolution and manufacture. In fact he was a kind of technocrat who would had he lived much longer been a businessman in manufacture always on the frontier of very innovation in technology. When George Washington inspected a factory he learned as much about that industry as he could almost as if he were ready to go into the business when he left the place.
Though on the surface he had some of the style of an aristocrat he was a ferocious workaholic. His day which between at five in the morning was devoted to focused work at all times, even the two hours he spent reading in his library. He was like the other founders one who devoured armies of books. His reading lists don’t seem to have any focus because his interests were as broad as they were. There was nothing on Earth George Washington wasn’t interested in.
Perhaps what stands out about him and certainly awed people of his own time was Washington’s gravity and steadfastness under any adversity. He was totally fearless and active courageous too. It wasn’t a pose. He never seemed without resources or in despair.
On another level its rather uncanny who in a world that had no republics and no theory or practice about how to fashion a free popular republic he always knew what to do and did it. Criticism like to compare his reluctance to take up a public life as modelled after Cincinatus or Cato but in fact Washington was probably one of the most innovative and original political minds in history. He knew how to listen to people and absorb their ideas.
Nobody knew how to run a successful revolution from England until he did it. Nobody had a clue about being President until he became one. Though he was great at innovation he never liked to improvise or do anything in haste. even things he never took up were always subjected if he had time to do it to a long process of reflection after hearing all the opinions on the subject of men he valued.
At the core of Washington’s command over a whole country among his other virtues was his honest disinterestedness. Nobody could doubt that he had risked a hanging and giving up an easy colonial life to create in war and peace a free republic in America. This was equally true of many of the founders. Their impeccable honor worked for them all the time in situations where somebody had to be in authority. Most people accepted George Washington’s choices when they disagreed with them because it was unthinkable that in any of them he had any personal agendas he was running clandestinely at his constituency.
It’s a standard that one might apply to more modern American leaders perhaps with some disturbing results. One wouldn’t think that John Kennedy for example had that virtue.
George Washington is hard to read at times because he mistrusted people, trying to protect himself against his natural warmth and charity. One is suddenly in very close contact with he real George Washington every time he acts almost in passing with his natural qualities.
For example one comes across almost casually a remark Washington made in 1796 in conversation that he had vowed never to buy a slave again. We don’t know when or the mechanics of why he made that promise to himself at a certain time. It comes up when his chef Hercules has escaped from him while the Washingtons lived in Philadelphia and Washington is looking for a new cook.
Of course slavery under George Washington was not like slavery as we think of it mythical. Washington had inherited slaves but had ready wanted to “get clear” of slavery and run a business based on wages. Sometimes the Washington treated slaves like family. Washington even send his slaves to the theater. When he punished them it was in giving them lack of the best clothing he bestowed on his close servants; being associated somewhat as a sloth or even as a pariah was the worst that could happen under his mastery.
When George Washington died he said like a Cherokee he was traveling “to the land of spirits”. At other times quoting Hamlet, he called it “the undiscovered country”. He was living in a world that had been discovered several times. He had no priest present at his demise. He showed no fear of death. He had a certain a an Indian that he was going to be elevated into another world, one of “spirits”. One might ask how and on what evidence this very methodical and scientific man was sure a sure as he was that he would take up such an elevation.
It’s very plain he was certain he was put on Earth to accomplish certain actions. In his view no bullet or local impediments could stop him in his purpose decreed by Providence. It’s an infeasible view of life but in fact rather improbably nothing ever did stop him. It has a lot of evidential reasons to suggest it might be true.
Perhaps its worth saying that none of the founders including George Washington were helped in their lives by being protected by the government or anybody at all from peril, depression, dread, or comfort.
I don’t know whether as a generation they lived the most uncomfortable and dangerous lives in history but I am sure that my own generation has easily live in a time of security, peace and order that has no model. Given which group we might admire more we might ask whether it is a good idea to promote a life in America that lacks discomfort, distress, loss and peril. George Washington had plenty of such troubles. He loot nearly everyone he loved; so did Hamilton and Jefferson.
One might ask sensibly, what is so good about peril and loss that on the evidence seems to have formed the character and then calls upon the resources of men like Washington? Those who have spent some times in the wilderness know the answer. Once one has strived it one is afraid of nothing.
When one is living beyond the barrier of dread that haunts in the minds and choices of action of many people one is a different sort of person than one who is very aware in a primal way that to say or do certain things might be lethal to them. George Washington was one who learned about himself that he could survive anywhere. One should say this is resonant with the experience of a nation of emigrants. The further we are from this experience, the more remote we are from both genius and the men who founded the United States.
This value in a long turn through the wilderness is currently an unfashionable direction in life; not so long ago it was understood very well. It was the basis for many of the novels of Joseph Conrad and Ernest Hemingway, a concern of William James, and at the root of some of the more subtle speculations of Pericles on politics. Of course it might be argued very persuasively that the real history of the American revolution not to mention of all times and places is not merely the people like George Washington who thrived in continual adversity but all the people around him who were destroyed by it.
I think that’s probably a fair assessment. One should say about William James’ meditations on the matter that probably peril and wilderness can’t be effectively faked. We do have in our current palette of amusements many devices that fake it though. Anything from action movies to video game provides if perhaps not a moral equivalent to war as William James put it, but electronic perils one can escape easily enough.
The converse seems to be that the history of times in which there is no wilderness to forage in nor any real perils to dread is not one never gets as a bloody harvest the best of human character; one is in fact often in the vicinity and even ruled by people who have the worst of human qualities in an ordinary and fashionable way.
Both George Washington and Hamilton had qualities that separate them from anyone who has felt primal dread that is either real or unreal. They seem on the surface absolutely fearless. WE can only deduce their terror by saying nobody but a lunatic lacks sensible fear in their character. Both men had reason not to feel the dreads that venom many people. They had been cut as colonials by people they knew where their inferiors; they knew how it felt to be on the bottom. They could and did subsist in the wilderness on nothing, an important quality in a world in which the wilderness was never more than a few miles away. As for loss, they had lost nearly everything on one day if not another but their lives and had survived it. Washington would have found complete baffling the spectre of people committing suicide between they had lost money and were broke or bankrupt. Both believed, particularly Washington, in a Providence that in a hidden way was working for the felicity of mankind, that their generation were major players in the service of this involute and ineluctable deity. If they would have said this to the psychologists we have in power as our priests today they would both be locked up for delusions of grander. Since they were on the evidence such players one might ask who is crazy, Washington and Hamilton, or today’s psychologists?
I don’t want to claim as some have that George Washington was some kind of superhuman paradigm of ultimate virtue nor would I assert as our Left does that he was a cunning landowning slaver who was always looking out for his own interest. Those are both not merely silly but unreal notions about any of these people. I think Washington is an example like the real Alexander Hamilton and the fictional Jay Gatsby or Frank Cowperwood of a direction in life of embracing the wilderness and its attendant invitations to courage or despair. For them it offered after awhile a subsequent recovery. As Poe says, characters are not people. It takes time to take up illusion and even more time to rid oneself of one’s false ideas and directions.
If we look to young people like Elvis as icons we usually aren’t going to get leaders that even if they have the character have had the time to make that recovery. Washington would have told Elvis that he would in a month’s time get over any unpleasant moment he felt all shook up. He would have advised Jerry Lee Lewis to have the patience to wait till all the shaking going on ended and the former shakers took up a just slumber.
Yet one is struck about the detailed focus George Washington had in everything he did. Nobody was more methodical or practical.
“That as it has always been a source of serious regret with me, to see the youth of these United States sent to foreign Countries for the purpose of Education, often before their minds were formed, or they had imbibed any adequate ideas of the happiness of their own; contracting, too frequently, not only habits of dissipation & extravagance, but principles unfriendly to Republican Government and to the true & genuine liberties of Mankind; which, thereafter are rarely overcome. For these reasons, it has been my ardent wish to see a plan devised on a liberal scale, which would have a tendency to spread systematic ideas through all parts of this rising Empire, thereby to do away local attachments and State prejudices, as far as the nature of things would, or indeed ought to admit, from our National Councils. Looking anxiously forward to the accomplishment of so desirable an object as this is (in my estimation) my mind has not been able to contemplate any plan more likely to effect the measure than the establishment of a UNIVERSITY in a central part of the United States, to which the youth of fortune and talents from all parts thereof might be sent for the completion of their Education in all the branches of polite literature; in arts and Sciences, in acquiring knowledge in the principles of Politics & good Government; and (as a matter of infinite Importance in my judgment) by associating with each other, and forming friendships in Juvenile years, be enabled to free themselves in a proper degree from those local prejudices & habitual jealousies which have just been mentioned; and which, when carried to excess, are never failing sources of disquietude to the Public mind, and pregnant of mischievous consequences to this Country: Under these impressions, so fully dilated,
Item I give and bequeath in perpetuity the fifty shares which I hold in the Potomac Company (under the aforesaid Acts of the Legislature of Virginia) towards the endowment of a UNIVERSITY to be established within the limits of the District of Columbia, under the auspices of the General Government, if that government should incline to extend a fostering hand towards it; and until such Seminary is established, and the funds arising on these shares shall be required for its support, my further Will & desire is that the profit accruing therefrom shall, whenever the dividends are made, be laid out in purchasing Stock in the Bank of Columbia, or some other Bank, at the discretion of my Executors; or by the Treasurer of the United States for the time being under the direction of Congress; provided that Honourable body should Patronize the measure, and the Dividends proceeding from the purchase of such Stock is to be vested in more stock, and so on, until a sum adequate to the accomplishment of the object is obtained, of which I have not the smallest doubt, before many years passes away; even if no aid or encouraged is given by Legislative authority, or from any other source. [6]
Item The hundred shares which I held in the James River Company, I have given, and now confirm in perpetuity to, and for the use & benefit of Liberty-Hall Academy, in the County of Rockbridge, in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Where is this university training us all in republican values?
George Washington believed that if he set an impeccable personal example in his life of charity and equity, the politics of his defense of his principles would follow. That certainly was the motive behind his acts of Abolition of slavery at Mount Vernon. It was also the root of his stances for personal freedoms all put into law in the Bill of Rights before that set of edicts was law. He thought he had the clout as father of his country to make that direction work. Sometimes it worked better than other times.
It’s not a kind of politics we would think of as effective now. How much of a superior instrument of braining justice is passing a law? We really only had Abolition in 1964, not 1864. Can one imagine anyone taking up marijuana smoking openly for example if John Kennedy or President Obama, neither a stranger to the leaf or other drugs, did it on television? I really don’t know what would happen. I am sure that President Obama would not do it in the first place. People don’t think of their leaders as personal models in that way anymore.
One of the most touching moments in his will was his bequest to found a large university “in the center” of America to train young citizens in republican values before they were corrupted in foreign countries by monarchial ones. I’m not sure what happened to this codicil of his will. I certainly never have heard of such a college. I didn’t go to one.

The Revolutionary Generation

When John Adams noted in 1826 in his early 90s that if nearly all his comrades in the American revolution had expired, “Jefferson still exists” he might have been thinking as very old people do of how they have outlived a world that understood them and was still alive in another realm that no idea of what had formed and motivated him.
In 1826 anyone who was under fifty had not even a childhood memory of the revolution. They had no idea of what they or others would do or had done in a situation where they could rupture themselves from laws and burdens created for them along with ways to define them that were the imposed reality of strangers. The new generations could not fathom what it was like to dare to throw over the old laws and notions of who was what in America and then to do it.
We all if we live to an age such as Adams or Jefferson did have had that experience. even George Washington who survived till 67 might have had trouble explaining to young people in Mount Vernon in his last years who he was and what he had done. Hamilton probably had the same experience in his 40s. Principally Adams and his fellow revolutionaries had been all folk who had grown up in the presumptive aegis of monarchial government in which the king’s whim thousands of miles away in London was their law and had freed themselves from that princely caprice not merely personally as only the most craven of us do not but by creating the first lawfully limited government in extant history.
Very clearly its law stated that whatever were not the specific powers of the government were controlled by the states or the people. Such the states had similar constitutions of limited government the practice of such sometimes tentative directions in self rule was to give as much freedom over to the common people as possible.
Of course it never addressed the issue of freeing the slaves by law. It didn’t take up equal franchise for women either. It was still in that way very much thinking of the Greek and Roman republics. Still s one can see from the fact there were plenty of personally freed slaves in the United States. They lived in the North but were residing as far south as Philadelphia. They were one quarter of the revolutionary army.
Yet one might argue in fact that in 1782 that was freedom for White males. We might be more systematic if we think of the governments of the world we currently have on the planet to a our government if it passed the Bill of Rights only a few years later, gave equality to people of all colors in 1864, and to women in 1920.
Some things can’t and don’t happen right away. Beyond that Jefferson and Hamilton would have been the first to agree that whatever the law is, people are going to take up their programmed intents in life, legally of the can, irrespective of the law if they have to. The burden of adaptability in this case is in the ingenuity of the law, not in the set of biologically hard wired intents of humanity.
Government by law rather than by whim has in it inherent notions of limited government. A king living under a set of laws wither he is George third or Hammurabi is as much bound by the law if he is indeed living in a regime run by it as anybody. The argument of Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence is really very similar to the one on the Torah; the real and puissant liege of mankind is Nature or God or one’s own character in the mysterious service of that deity rather than any law made by the princes of our species.
Anyone who tries to force another reality on that natural law or designs of the Creator or whatever is going to have a lot of trouble from nature and people. As much as Jefferson admired Locke his ideas are rather contrary to Locke’s tabula rosa idea that humanity is what they are educated to be. Jefferson at bottom was at least in this way what the modern world might call a psychogenic mechanist.
Government by whim has had a lingering death among us or has not perished t all. Jethro says to Moses in the Torah that he would do better and not be as fatigued as he was if he had a written law that any judge could administer. Jethro’s as Moses’ Midianite father in law is assumed to be a wise man.
In Greece lawgivers known as savants like Solon and Lycurgus were hired by states to come up with laws people could live by. Certainly the founders were thinking of this folk and Moses when they came up with their edicts. The Constitution one should recall is the second plan for the United States of America, not the first one. Our Constitution is the result of an initial mistake.
The Articles of Confederation didn’t have an executive or judicial power and gave all powers it could over to the states. It doesn’t breathe the populism of the Constitution. The federalist papers of Hamilton, Madison and Jay argue for something like our Constitution because the Articles of Confederation didn’t work.
After its ratification, an event brickyard in a buckram by Hamilton which almost didn’t happen given the reluctance of the big states like New York and Virginia to give up power, we’ve certainly had amendments along the way which suggest the desire to hone and tweak the not quite sacred document has never been lost to us. Outside of the Bill of Rights, almost all these amendments came from dilemmas that were mechanics of government that didn’t work.
Obviously one couldn’t maintain a free populist republic and embrace slavery or lack of franchise for women. Sometimes a President like FDR who was elected four times provoked the country to elevate George Washington’s model of serving only two terms into a law. We relay have to give some due to people whose actions inspire others to make new laws against them.
When Adams made his remark about who was still in his world in 1826 the new generations under 50 he probably found incapable of appreciating him because he had grown up in world of unlimited autocracy were in fact part of a population we have with us today in some form. Anyone who is under 50 as I write this in the 21st century does not remember the draft for the Vietnam colonial war of once such legendary odium nor do they recall Jim Crow and the generally vertical racist levels of legitimacy one had to live with and endure in an ordinary way before 1960 or so.
They don’t remember all the laws against fornication without a license and the legal punishments giving out aggressively to those who had other ideas. I don’t remember myself when a sipping a glass of beer was crime. It was a law repealed only six years before I was born. Actually Prohibition was never replaced; it was left up to the States and counties heather or not they wanted to live by it. One cannot read novels like The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises nor see movies of the early 30s that celebrated drinking booze the way its own public did when such nefarious actions were a heinous crime.
There has never been an end as a stain in the American culture of people who were born in despotisms coming to America and in one way or another gaining equal franchise and freedom in this country. One fourth of Europe came to America to live under our laws. Many Chinese came here too starting in 1820. Even people who were forced to come here like the slaves could say if they survived the year 1864 that they got lawful equality even if they really didn’t get it till 1964.
As meandering as the road to freedom has been in and out of America there is no doubt that the more unorganized elements of humanity in the world have resonated to the ideas in the Declaration of Independence and the attractiveness of human actions ruled in a limited way by a limited government. It separates us from Adams as well as his peers most profoundly not that they didn’t have our comforts or were part of a country that had such dominating imperial power on the planet, but that they were born in a world in which they were raised to believe by whatever organizations re in the vicinity that they were wights of a liege who had no interest or taste for limited government.
In another chapter I want to go into some detail about how Jefferson with the editorial help of Franklin and Adams positions themselves as people who believed governments were made to nurture their aims of the common people. In this chapter I want to look with another sort of focus at the way freedom has worked in various ways as a boon and yet simultaneously as an unknown burden on human beings who for various reasons weren’t ready to examine the geography of liberty.
I might be in a good position to take up such a scurvy analysis in a sketchy way. I was born in a world in which I was defined as a third rate if marginally White ethnic. I wasn’t quite a slave but I wasn’t a master either. Much of the European provincialism I was nurtured in saw the folk in my part of the world waiting for savants from Europe, the cradle of the most efficient and aggressive autocracy on the planet, to waft us their latest philosophies, amusements, notions of elitism and ways of cutting and dismissing other people. I have by waking up in the morning a number of decades much like John Adams found myself in a world that has no memory of that straddling acrobatics and beyond it that has good reason not to remember it.
What use can a past of people languishing in oxbow lakes and umbras of provincialism and assorted foreign lieges, sometimes England, sometimes France or Germany, sometimes even Japan or Tibet, have for anybody? What good is any belief system that is based on service and slavery even if they claim it is to God to anyone who wants to be an adult and live at liberty from any master? Adams probably realized in talking to children in his domicile in 1826 that they not only had no memory of the despotism he had fought and risked his life to overthrow; they found such a prior world unthinkable. His very life was a kind of Jurassic irrelevance.
It’s very hard to make that leap into adult freedom. We all do it when we move from childhood to maturity. Yet we do spend some fifteen to twenty years in childhood. We don’t really have cognitive abilities to survive on our own until we are six or seven. We don’t come out of the egg as miniature adults like turtles. We are hardly aided by a society that still values keeping young people in autocratic institutions of moderate fascism in colleges, even struggling to get PhDs in their late 20s when in fact people of that hermit ilk in a monastery are the least likely among us to nurture our lives with any independent ideas.
It’s one of the mechanics of our current school system nearly two centuries after Adams had perished that we can easily give up ideas like provincialism and Anglophilia such as I endeared mostly politely in the 1950s; we are less likely to walk away from a system that behind its ideas tethered people to a dead of observation or lack of a sinecure white collar job unless they submitted their mortality to years and years of such dogged service to an imaginary gentry.
Such worlds generally only were able to elevated the rabble to be such self-invented masters of vapor as were metaphysicians in Europe in medieval times but even that among us has tended to make an effective advocacy that these unctuous and articulate educated fools are somehow our priests according to our courts.
The truth is that the culture and shibboleths of the organized unsteadiness of Europe are at best of no use to us. We can admired their cathedrals but they do dwarf and infantilize humanity by their very size. The notions that one has some evangelical or imperial calling like Christianity or the White Man’s Burden to harness the whole world or even the whole universe into colonies or slave pens is hardly to our interest if we want to be free ourselves or level in a free republic.
It is both reductive and false to say that everyone who has come to America has stayed here and based in the pleasures of liberty. That really is simplistic and linear European thinking. The world is not run by linear history; it establishes paradigms of survival whether it is ourselves or the duck and then varies the design to the point of dysfunction and beyond. Nature will generally reject its two headed and five legged ducks and people but sometimes it will find utility in its singularities as well when they are able to deliver ornaments to the mediocre as have Newton and Beethoven.
Many emigrants have come to America and then returned to places like Greece for example because in their early life they have assessed that living in an autocracy with money is better in some ways than residing in a free republic with the same lucre. Perhaps it is; maybe it isn’t. Certainly if one is rich in a world in which nearly everybody is desperately poor one does gain the service and even the respect of a lot of people. One might also be inspiring them to despatch one as part of their plan to take one’s wealth from oneself.
Other emigrants have come here or to England to learn how to be part of Western colonial classes that govern others as slaves of some sort and can garner enough income from their place in a natal worlds of ordinary despotism to live very comfortably.
The myths of Europe not obviously disseminated by a church or a prince are equally not notably nurturing to anybody in a free republic who hopes to be at home in it. Many of them are on observation simply scientifically false. There is no master race in our species. Any group of human beings in Japan or China after studying the engines of Western colonial organization can imitate it if they choose to do so and even outdo it at its own game. If we go to the opera house and take in spectacles about nobles and prelates we might ask what any of these people do for a living. The dour answer is they are all in some way slavers.
There are various versions of this design of masters and slaves that are diverse as the assorted countries they come from. In ancient Greece one assumed that anybody who showed extraordinary cheilitis like Alexander the Great was in some chaeta way a god. Roman emperors often called themselves gods for this reason. They even elevated themselves to being deities as Caligula did in pious ceremonies.
In England following the Roman model the design is one of a vertical class system based on birth and a general presumption that people who weren’t English and particularly were adorned with a dusky epidermis were inferior to them. The Roams didn’t have that illusion about themselves; they merely said they weren’t very good at many things but were geniuses at management. the French have a more overt system of empire based more nakedly on race and class.
When Flaubert said derisively that democracy assumed his vote was of the same worth of one who was a peasant he was assaulting the nub of a belief system that denies the peasant or even cats and dogs a separate and respectable set of agendas nard realities.
The German Olympian cults which opposed the Nazis as a cabal of poltroons is rather more intriguing because its much more a product of the guild system than of class. It’s not that Germany and Austria didn’t have a nobility and vertical classes but that it was in Germany if not in Austria also influenced by the low Protestant movement to bring rough equality to everybody.
Yet as much as we can admire the ideals of the German or Olympian cults and their achievements somebody, in fact a lot of people, had to be serpents to Goethe or Stefan George or Richard Strauss to allow them to pursue their explication of high consciousness. Somebody had to be working in the kitchen to give them their dinner. That somebody to Americans was as important and real as Strauss or Goethe.
As much as one can’t imagine Strauss or Goethe beating a peasant or admiring Hitler we are remote from their directions because their very journey can only be taken up by squelching the natural potentialities of many other people. Even if it were one that would be enough to make us feel they are in some sugared way one step or less from being slavers. It’s no wonder that in the United States we pooh-pooh such elevated intellectuals and ask whether or not they could help us build a latrine. How many intellectuals it takes to turn on a light bulb might be one of the jokes that resonates with us as Americans. We really as a country don’t want to be patronized as louts, drones, cockroaches or slaves by anybody.
It’s always a parlous and daunting situation when one realizes as our founders must have that they were traveling into the unknown without any handle on how to function there given to them by their sires or their traditions. Nobody who had to function as best they could in a tyrannies has the luxury of wondering to a surfeit what he boons and kicks of lawful freedom might be like. One can’t blame them entirely if they have taken us to a place were we can find some elements of our liberty engines of our misery. We may be free from familiar constraints or political invasive incursions into our lives but our liberty can gender a loneliness as well. We like to be valued by others even if they are our masters. We spend too much time in our mortality as infants for it to be otherwise. Few of us are willing to admit we might prefer some kinds of slavery to some kinds of freedom. Yet if we are of no value to those around us they are right to neglect us or even kill us as a burden and an irrelevance if they can get away with it discreetly or if it is lawful as it was in the Third Reich.
Fei aber alein is a 19th century German adage which sums up the dilemma.
One of the ways that European empires cemented their control over people was promoting a notion of provincialism among the rabble in the hinterlands. A province is a place that is a moon revolving around a central planet. Rome in defining areas of the world as provinces was at bottom trying to persuade people far away from Rome that their very identity came from Rome. Of course that set into motion the assessment of many people in those exotic places that their reality was who they were where they were. Our founders were quintessential exemplars of folk who took up that very natural rebellion from a remote despotic hub.
Provincialism in my lifetime was much more subtle stuff than swearing allegiance to a king or queen, or claiming one was a servant of an imperial belief system. One was brought up to read newspapers and magazines that promote the latest bob-bons and thoughts of savants in Europe. One was in the grip of local prelates trying to parasite one that violence was the most odious action one could take up for any reason. Our country was entre nous founded by violence in the service of justice. It was a response to an empire who at bottom itself ruled by force. Our place in the food cycle even if we shoved chicken into our mouths with a fork is based on our assumption that our life is more important to promote than the existence and aims of that chicken.
At least for Adams being a colonist was a simple connection with an English despotic regime he could be clear about embracing or rejecting. In my lifetime provincialism had a thousand heads like Proteus. If one managed to realize that one was being cozened by prelates to thinking of oneself as a third rate Englishman, perhaps half-acceptable something like an Australian or a Canadian, one was on the second level of pits and lairs where the priests where coming out for India or Tibet, or if one were a Bohemian out of France. After a while there were so few people meditating on what it meant to them to be an American and as well what it might mean to other Americans that one accepted the provincial lunacies of the age as ordinary madness. At least such people weren’t also murderous and systematic thieves.
Even the folkies and rockers who were trying to evolve a culture that was born and raised in America had to wait until England acknowledged that maybe what Black musicians were OD’ing in Chicago was worth one’s attention until they accepted it in Mayfair. Rock and roll become respectable among intellectuals when the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Eric and the Animals were exported to them straight from Albion. Meanwhile Bob Dylan and the McDougal Street folkies were making similar provincial safaris into an imaginary Appalachia.
When I used to say as I did very politely when I was twenty that I wondered what was the ammeter with being who one was and not claiming one was an Englishman or Tibetan in exile, I got a lot of pained responses from the souls I made such remarks to. I never meant when I said any of these things that one should dismiss Shakespeare because he was an Englishman, sort of, or pay no attention to Chicago blues or jazz because it represented the Left wing of a remote debased culture. I could rite blank verse or pay the blues myself pretty well. They were artifacts of style that I tried to make use of as much as people who were born into it. If one heard it on the radio one was as much one’s own culture as if one heard it on the street or in a local bar.
If one neglected where one was and who one was such provincialism did inspire one to think that it didn’t matter what happened in one’s locale because one was really a citizen of some other place if one were lamentably in exile. As a result many a community in America was wiped out by franchise stores and lack of jobs , many other communities in the suburbs never had any singularity about them in the first place, many architectures of our cities aimed at an impersonality the building makers could repeat infinitely anywhere. Nobody stood up and said:
“You are destroying my sense of place itself.” that was a level of loss of reality beyond the old provincialism. if they came from a properly socially engineered place like the suburbs they didn’t have any to do in.
One can see the results kicking in clearly enough from such lives. They never defended their homeland; they never had any. They tended to congregate with people of the same lunacy much as insane asylums and hospitals put everyone with the same diseases in the same ward. Their lives were supported materially by a world that though sometimes it was wicked knew who it was and where it was. Like all provincials they never lived the life they were born to live. They didn’t value that life.
In my old age I realize in spite of myself there are attractions to being a provincial much as there are to being a slave. One never has to feel as if the life one is leading is important or that one has to evolve one’s own definitions of oneself or one’s world. One bends the knee to a prince or priest who claims to have such certain information about oneself; one saves oneself the labor of such discoveries of where and who one is. He can be from England. Tibet, France, or the Vatican. He can even be from Mars if one can find such masters of neat truths there.
Perhaps the biggest provincial movement in the world is Christianity. Devotees of this cult are persuaded that they are part of the history of a Mideast, Greek and Roman set of bailiffs and values of magic and sacrifice that flourished among some demotic folk two thousand years ago. I even understand why this improbable creed has its popularity. It does make people feel important. If nobody in the real world is much interested in oneself, at least God is. If God doesn’t care either, at least the devil regards oneself as worth his attention. Why even a minor demon might be interested in us one can’t say.
It’s very hard for any of us brought up in a family to accept that perhaps nobody cares about us; yet nearly everybody is in fact indifferent to us. Perhaps one might do better with such embraces if one were brought up in an orphanage. Lacking that key to sanity, one might hah to make do with if grudgingly a family that is legally prevented from offering one any authority or guidance. If one wants to escape provincialism one merely has to come from a place that is defined from the get-go as nowhere. If one might be destructed in one’s young life by observation of ones locale one can pass laws that make unsupervised life in the streets a crime until one is twelve.
If that won’t do it one can get a cell phone and be most involved in amusements from elsewhere than anywhere one physically is. If one feels that the schools are citadels teaching various falsehoods but one can’t expunge them from the society one might have to accept making them so inept that they can’t even teach literacy. If one doesn’t want to be ruled by anyone, one might have to embrace the despotism of a moron which will involutely achieve the same freedom.
If one can’t find intimates in a world that has never learned the arts of intimacy one can always replace them with escort services and text messages to faraway spirits. One can can’t always count on the proverbial kindness of strangers but one can always depend on the civility of paid escorts.
Am I being facetious? Maybe.
The important thing is that none of these solutions are designs or focused applications of a plan to remedy a problem. Yet they are a ubiquity. Could it be that some anodynes to our woes are taken up by us through conduits that aren’t visibly organized? Do we have to be led like cattle to take up freedom?
Most of the inquiries I’ve read about freedom have been on the sentimental side. We can thank of liberty from a tyrant as clearly a boon for us, perhaps in the long run even for the vainglorious autocrat. When we do overthrow the nefarious villain as likely as not if we are going to organize ourselves even to defend ourselves against other candidates to enslave us we are going to have to endure our own home grown autocrats. Military defense of a country is necessary but never a friend of democracy.
We can equally avoid learning any skill that might make us competitive with other people who are forced under more strict rule to learn those crafts. We shouldn’t be surprised if after a while we really lack any ability to perpetuate ourselves if others enslave us by offering to us the harvest of those disciplines they have acquired with some boredom and pain in return for our liberty. If we really want to purge from our life anything that requires hard work or endurance because it is indeed not pleasant at least initially to suffer either pain or tedium we are going to be very vulnerable to the tyranny those who have those skills and after a while no longer will accept our paper currency for their efforts.
It’s also going to alter our character for the worse to lose our ability to do anything but consume. As Balzac said it brings the vices of the rich to everybody. We can’t escape the inner sense of contempt and disdained for our servants no matter how civil we are to them. We certainly aren’t going to think as soon as we need such folk to sustain us that all men are created equal.
The worst of the vices of any society are ordinary ones. It’s easier to pick out the bizarre qualities in some evil and trashes it as a crime than to assess some quality or taste everybody has and has been trained by our institutions and priests to have as a resident wickedness. It’s almost enough to make one hanker for the days when the nobles and priests tried to define inequality and slavery as a doleful fact of nature or a necessary evil rather than pretend they weren’t slavers and wildly greedy consumers on top of an impersonal shopping mall food chain, swine by their free choice.
If our education isn’t going to do anymore than embed us in a net of unarticulated presumptions about our lives that are false and destructive to us as well as to others, we are better off without such schooling. If finally the way one can keep paying the bills for a tolerable life is to so something to acquire such lucre, the means doesn’t have to be legal or within the genteel range of benign and prestigious professions such as our educated people value.
Furthermore, consistent social skills under duress as one can observe by watching small children inevitably tangle and fight with each other, are acquired by experience, not natural to us. Infants are severe egoists. It’s easy to put up with those who are for us or seem to us to be of troves of virtue, loyalty and sacrifice; if we don’t learn how to tolerate fools among us or accept with some civility the tragedies and limitations of our intimates, if we look too much to amassments to satisfy us instead of our own capacities to work or accomplish something, we are going to have other problems than our founders ever imagined anyone could have.

The Home Of the Brave

Since we learn about our founders in America in public school we never heard that perhaps this turn in history was marked by a general lack of sobriety on all sides. American history generally is never taught as a tale of armies of people imbibing copious amounts of alcohol.
Yet the evidence is that Americans from their leaders to their populace in 1995 were hard drinkers. Thomas Jefferson often mentions his inordinate love of Madeira. Alexander Hamilton was told he should giver his kidney problems keep his wine drinking down to three glasses a day. George Washington was known for his bibulous parties at Mount Vernon. George Washington made his fortune in liquor, selling whisky and fruit brandy brewed in Virginia to Europe.
Both Hamilton and Washington complain about the inebriated character of their troops. Their armies must have been very juiced if they were intolerably sunk in such rank habits by men who themselves were heavy drinkers. Two of Washington’s generals were terrible dunks. Luckily Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne on the British side was a something of a lush. We can be certain that the soldiers were always looking for such inebriation, carousing and whatever female flesh they could embrace during their grunt military labors. We can also deduce with confidence that given the adaptability of commerce some cunning people and some organizations with competent business heads supplied all of these classical consolations of the soldier to their resident markets. As much as soldiers are clapped into the brute mechanics of war they aim in their hours while not fighting battles to enjoy the pleasures of peace.
I don’t believe that too many soldiers went into battle drunk or berserk in any war. Perhaps they might as the stories say, have a dram to two before going off to battle. The battlefield is such a dangerous arena that it inspires in most of us the need to come into it with relative clarity. One needs any edge one can get in a dire quandary. We never want to face such perils with even a little dulness or slowness of action or cognition. I don’t think the American revolution was fought by two armies of reeling drunks. I do think that since most of the time one spends in a war is waiting for the next battle that there was a lot of drunkenness among the rachides on both sides between their conflicts.
Even in such a struggle as the American revolution the soldiers themselves had to aim for relatively trivial entertainment to pass the time. given our hunger for amusement even when we are defending ourselves in life and death situations we can savor and outlast we might ask ourselves what happens in a society in which peace of sorts and a vaporous wealth is abroad in it to the point where the threat of jail or death as a check on human action is non-existent.

The Singularity of the American Revolution

1

It’s our nature to combines similar looking events in front of us as if they were the same thing. We call all revolutions by the same word even though they are on a central levee singularities and have no models. With such reductive thinking we are likely to call ourselves fish because we share the anatomy of fish and even brain power of fish much more than we are different from them.
We might confuse ourselves with protozoa because we are both systems that ingest certain sources of energy and egest wastes we don’t need from these imports. Reductive thinking is built into our cognition and our language; it works for us as long as the similarities between things are what we need to know about them. When we meet singularities we would be lazy or crazy to think that somehow they aren’t as original and without model as they are. After all aside from our own sanity it is their originality we value and even cherish.
I would speculate that the American revolution is sui generis because it wasn’t about freedom from some despotism as much as it was about privacy. American revolutionaries were happy to make a better system of limited government based on popular power; more than that, they wanted to be left alone. They had a country or set of colonies that all had a Western brooder that was wilderness, filled with Indians. French or Spanish cadres to which one could repair if one didn’t like the way things were going nearer the Atlantic coast.
This one factor, lacking in the revolutions of France, Russia, China, Vietnam, various arab countries and the Latin America freed by Bolivar and San Martin, was the central reason why America never had a Terror and return to some fascism as France did though France had the philosophers that once had defined how many Americans had thought about politics.
Of course one could say the same about Canada, a place which has never had revolution at all. Anther factor might be as Hamilton thought, that English freedoms on the ground level, a cultural element which Voltaire comments upon as well, as their centuries old low Protestant history leading to their relative legitimacy of diversity and commoners in their parliaments abetted the same singularity in the United States. If one could say that some version of Prescott’s frontier theory and English looseness were a point of diopter, the fulcrums by which America has become what it was, we might be baffled why it didn’t happen in some similar places.
It certainly is true that no Spanish, French, or Belgian colony has every had more that a cosmetic show of popular freedom and democracy. Interestingly there is a little more of such liberty in Dutch colonies like Guiana and Indonesia. Legitimacy of freedom in Holland has had a comparable history to England.
If one visits places like Mexico where freedom and democracy is merely a patina on another kind of system running its national politics one can’t help after a bit of observation in the streets realizing that politics systems do not generate a culture or view of life from the top; it is the bottom that foals political systems that have honest and real roots in the way people are living in the countries that supposedly are being governed by them. If one gets to know Mexico and Mexicans or folk from any Latin American country well one will see that Mexicans don’t look to their government for anything at all but oppression and corruption. They don’t believe that power can be meted out to anybody without having that person turn totally corrupt or even filled with aggressive malice. It seems unlikely that they got this notion from being ruled by Spain for a mere three centuries. This must have been the attitude as well of the Latin Americans who were living in their countries millennia before the voyages of Columbus.
I think this is equally true of any Islamic country or any African country. The bottom folk of these parts of the world aren’t generating the culture that can support or sustain limited government, freedoms, or democracy. One is either ruled by oppressors or a rogue not governed at all. One can run such slave states with purely economic means without standing armies and priests or one can do it the old fashioned pious and murderous theocratic way.
Some of these rules of politics change because the nature of the bottom changes. In my lifetime there has been in Africa, Asia, and Latin America at least two generations of young folk who have no memory of autocratic rule by Spaniards of local avarice or scooping out of the mind by Christian priests; they are influenced and motivated by Western technology and its freedom through the import of these vessels of communication and amusement to the point where the implications in politics of such devices are as much their heritage as they are the inheritance of anybody in the West.
Whether this can make any ingress on the deeper tribal patterns of lieges and wars against eternal enemies is a moot point. Certainly the evidence has been coming in to any of us by the early 21st century that the notions of rough accolade, limited government and the value of equal opportunity that we take for granted as at least theoretical premises of politics in the United States have some difficulties when they meet the systems of the older ruling steel of these areas based on inequality, brainless loyalty of the faithful, and poverty as a means of inspiring such ordinary corruption and collapse of the soul. Such regimes thrive on such desperation.
The reason that emigration flows into the West from all these regions of older human political designs is that as Jefferson says all people want limited government and freedom to act as they please; the despotic governments only have the power to make those hungers illicit to criminal, not to eradicate them.
Rather interestingly as much as America has had of a movement back to some organization with its inherent means of force to attain certain interests was Hamilton’s army that quelled the Whiskey Rebellion. The apparent issue was whether the government could tax people who had stills and were manufacturing liquor. The actual contention was taken up at the then Western frontier of the United States. The frontier people of the time backed down without a fight.
The United States had established if by force its franchise to tax the populace to raise revenues even for its limited government. In the Federalist Papers Hamilton stresses that the federal government should have the right to raise a standing army, not the States. It’s a point of argument between Hamilton and Jefferson that Jefferson wanted such armies confined to local militias. Of course Jefferson was always wondering whether Hamilton, giving his ideas Jefferson deemed monarchial, was thinking once he had these armies under his command, would be thinking of becoming a Napoleon. After a lot of chaos in France that is what happened in that country.
Trotsky in his Memoirs called this turn in politics the counter-revolution. The United States may have had something like Trotsky’s counter-revolution; it certainly never took the form of an army coup. Hamilton aptly pointed out that anybody who wanted such a usurpation by the army would be arguing not for military rule and despotism but the opposite, stressing the need for anarchy and general mayhem for good cases to provoke an autocratic reaction. There are never any lack of them in a contentious world. Then, Hamilton said. The harvests of not limiting such natural explosive events and stifling federal power would result naturally in something and somebody like Napoleon.
Hamilton subtly implied that unless we had minor checks on popular freedoms we were going to have to endure major ones. It says something about our time that we don’t have intellectuals like Hamilton or Jefferson among us publicly to argue these matters on that clever level.
I think Hamilton was right. If we don’t have external checks on our personal morals and honor we are going to meet them in a place of blood in our external politics. Freedom and limited government doesn’t means that we all can do whatever we want; it shifts the power to act from the approval or scorn of a ruler to ourselves. The action or motivation to do the action is the same. If we can’t take up the necessary limits on our action locally or individually we are either going to meet such limits among some autocrat like Napoleon or we are going to be successful rogues among a society of adventurers like ourselves and live in an solar atomized way, trusting nobody because they are all out to take whatever liberty they can from us and everybody else.
This is why Hamilton, Washington and Jefferson all stressed living by “their principles” or by their sense of honor, whether or not we want to assert that they were at all times able to do it. Honor was as much of a liege to them as kings and priests were to other people. in fact honor was the natural competitor of monarchs and prelates. All of these founders hoped for a society in which honor or some means without the individual would replace the commands of despots. If we take honor out of the design of freedom and limited governments we are fulfilling Hamilton’s dire prediction that when people lack integral checks and some power of practical accommodation to diverse intents of others in a private way they are going to set into motion the engineer of a future war, then a subsequent despotism.
It wasn’t conventional organized religions that preempted relative peace in the United States. The religious all advocated privilege to the franchise of their own belief system; they were unwilling to face the truism in life that human beings lock for inequality of opportunity in business, in court or in an alley. Institutional Christians were alas trying to establish America as a Christian state, whatever that means to them, much as the Europeans of the Old World had that franchise allocated to that cult in most places in Europe up through the Second World War. None of the Christian beliefs of any of the contenders in these various European wars throughout the history of that cult were ever deterred from the slaughters, massacres, hold invasions and conquests by Christianity.
Some of the darker and less lawful aspects of American history has been to promote Christianity in Asia from the Philippines to Vietnam. I think on the evidence any place is better of without Christianity. This cult is always going to try to run things. Christian roguish converts always formed the colonial classes of China, Korea, Vietnam. Can anybody argue seriously that being colonials was good for these people or the papal who lived near them? Ailed anybody be able to mount an argument that Christianity there or anywhere was compatible with diverse republican life, equality and freedom?
Has there been in the course of 1400 odd years of Christianity one Christian thinker who argued that Christianity was for freedom, or that if and when it wasn’t it was wrong to promote conquests, colonialism and slavery? The founders weren’t about to outlaw Christianity but they did affectively deny it privilege with the First Amendment. They had no doubt from the world before them what they would get if they called America a Christian country. many of their state legislators made Christianity an established church with the inevitable results.
I’m certain the founders, almost all of whom had their double about the magical world of Christianity, were happy with the idea of a country in which their skepticism were somehow unfashionable, illicit or illegitimate. It’s a burden on the soul to have to waffle or be silent when somebody asks oneself one’s beliefs with a view to seeing whether they sit one’s one’s notion of the day of proper orthodoxy. These people who were revolutionaries and risked their lives to have freedom of action and thought weren’t about to cede anyone a right to control their NNE lives.
It is a common argument for established region that it teaches morals. Macchiavelli said it; Hamilton in his later years said it, echoing Macchiavelli. Perhaps morals are most damaged by inept teachers of it. In my age where morals are never taught at least it has the advantage of the romance of being illicit.
I don’t think there is any question that conventional religions do attempt to promote ethics; they aren’t very good at it. If they were effective the story of the world in places where they managed things would have been very different.
I don’t think it is true that morals can be leant from books. Books can catalyze thought; they don’t lead one too far beyond one’s observation and character. I have no idea what makes one human being ethical and another a psychopath. I don’t think anybody else does either. George Washington was one of the most moral men among our founders; he certainly didn’t learn his “principles” from books. He was a lifelong student of Nature like Thoreau. His last words, “tis well” would have been the summing up the beliefs and means of obtaining their principles of Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman.

2

Some of our historians think that George Washington personally set the pattern for the vale of privacy in American life when he left office after two terns to live on his estates in Mount Vernon. In fact even Washington’s choices are often misunderstood. Washington was thinking of leaving after one term; he decided not to do because his country probably didn’t have anybody like him to run it for the next four years. Given his notions of service to his country he had to admit to himself he was the best choice to be the leader of a country surrounded on all sides by enemies and learning how to be what it was like some infant in the cradle.
Washington made a real point of wanting to have a private life rather than public one for a variety of reasons, some deep, some superficial. The newspapers and personal slanders he had to endure as a public leader were very painful to him. He really did prefer living in Mount Vernon to leading the country. As adept as he was in wielding power he was never corrupted by it. Though he was a man of surface measure most of the time he had a passionate nature and a terrible temper that led him to have very acid views of most of the people he met in public life. He really did do better in Mount Vernon where he didn’t have to have the social company of people he despised. He managed by not hiding these attitudes to have kind of unorganized practical power that most politicians of any age only dream about. Everybody knew he was ready to walk out and go back to a place where he really wanted to be were the people around him weak enough to act on their partiality to malice and mischief. With such managerial tools in his personality he was able to run a revolution, the Constitutional Convention and the presidency.
Washington was not so much retired at Mount Vernon as taking up his complex private life with a focus he couldn’t mount while he was a leader of a country. even after his Farewell Address when John Adams asked him to lead an American army against Fence Washington was ready to do it as long as his assistant was Alexander Hamilton. Adams didn’t like Hamilton but he had to accommodate Washington. It would be more accurate to say that Washington never retired at all from adult power; he merely was able to take up power when he fell it was morally necessary for his country because he had figured out a way rooted in his personality as well as his principles not to be corrupted by it.
Also Washington was a deeply religious man who believed Providence had singled him out to do what he did publicly in the world. The idea that one’s liege was Providence or the will of an unknown and unknowable God is not an invention of Deism; it is in fact one of the central paradox as far back as in the Torah. I’[m sure that’s where Washington found it. Washington was one who was out in his surveying and elsewhere to find those patterns that had traces of this unnameable being much as Thoreau was.
As many historian have pointed out, Washington was fascinated both by theater generally and Addison’s play Cato specifically. Maybe it should be noted if it might distress a few people that Addison was a very worldly Englishman who helped create the first English newspaper; Cato was a notable republican Roman.
It’s easy to understand Washington’s fascination with Cato. The idea of a republic in which some man comes out of a private life to lead a nation, then when the dilemmas that brought him into power is over returns to his estates, is an obvious resonance in Washingtons’s spirit. Still why this play should appeal to Washington as much as it did is another matter. After all Addison’ Cato was one of the most often played and read theater pieces of his time. It didn’t have the effect it did on others that it did on Washington. Maybe Napoleon read it too. Napoleon certainly didn’t see his nature mirrored in this piece. To most people it seemed like fiction.
I would speculate that Cato appealed to Washington because he had already decided long before he read or saw this play that he was a better man for never entering into the circle of light than those who were attempting by any means to be in it. It might have something to do with being the second son and not going to Europe, not being formally educated, learning everything on his own, deciding after meeting those who had the privileges he didn’t that they were mostly what the Southern called “educated fools”, people who lacked any talent at observing what and who was in front of them.
Observation was a talent Washington had always cultivated even when he was a young man, as a surveyor and in the French and Indian war. If one were not as observant as an Indian one was likely to be lunch for somebody or something who was.
I’ve always been impressed by how close to evidence and detail Washington always was, how comfortable he was with it. He also always had a set of pistols accessible to him. He was never afraid of violence. In his will he makes a large point of whom he gives his weapons to as an inheritance. Much of his sense of manhood includes his guns, his famous horsemanship, though not his punctiliousness he acquired from his watch, comes down to us not from him directly but the legends of the Wild West whom we celebrate now globally, even if the directors are Italians like Sergio Leone or Koreans of genius like Kim-Ji-Woon.
Gilbert Stuart remarked on Washingtons inner savagery of spirit. The image of a leader who has those qualities is perhaps a little uncomfortable for those of us who like people who aren’t as at home with Nature’s violence and don’t carry guns as George Washington was; yet even these more phlegmatic folk might reflect that with those qualities George Washington remains the most successful politician and leader in American history.
Washington and Hamilton shared the focused sense of life that comes from never going to Europe, never personally observing the world from which nearly all European settled in the United States had either came from or had near ancestors who had done it. They never went back to these tainted roots though in fact these wonderful places had inspired those who left there to escape them and never return to them. It sets them apart from Jefferson, Franklin and Adams though outside of Franklin’s sojourn in England these three only were in Europe in their middle age, not their youth.
Washington was not unlike them in his self education though some of them said things to him that made him feel less formally knowledgeable than they were. In fact it’s hard to tank of one founder that wasn’t essentially self educated. They would have a breadth of interests and views our current Academics who read only what they have to and never are curious about anything else as inexplicable. Of them all Jefferson was the most openly avid book reader to the point of addiction but Washington in his more discreet way and Hamilton much more flamboyantly weren’t far behind him.
Perhaps it is not as transparent why Washington who saw many plays as well as ancient texts of philosophy and history as part of his private self education, might find the toffish Addison one of his mentors, or how England, which was a monarchy was able to at the same time enjoy Addison’ Cato, given its successes as a theater piece. I think Addison’s time interpreted the Cato story as a kind of low Protestant notion of rough equality from an improbable source. The elite British were all trained in Latin and Roman thinking as a mark of aristocracy. I don’t think it occurred to most Brits of Addison’s age that the Roman republic was not the most civilized place one could imagine.
It couldn’t have escaped Washington that both war and politics had a lot of similarities to theater. There was a restricted area of action, the plot was field with contentions, there were many pious and intriguing speeches on all sides, the matter was often resolved near its end by violence of some sort and the audience as well as the actors once the play was over had a chance to retreat into another world they called real life. Europeans were certainly as violent and aggressive as anybody but they were not allowed legally to carry guns.
In England until recently even the police didn’t have any more weapons than clubs with called nightsticks. In America it almost defined a man as not being a European that he carried guns, was adept with them, ready to use them whenever he had to. The image is now worldwide, is varied in Japanese movies only to the use of swords instead of guns, and has a kind of ordinary acceptance that was much more innovative and a mark of a man close to the physical frontier of Nature’s reality itself as American were in Washington’s day unless they lived in some relatively secure coastal mercantile city. Even then one didn’t have to walk more than a quarter of a mile in any direction to be in the wilderness.
To paraphrase the thoughts of Jefferson, there are some ideas, hungers and opinions that don’t need kings or priests to promote them. They are either illicit or intimate but they never go away. Nobody hash to go to school to learn them either. One of them is that when one’s honor is threatened by anyone and all restacks of space and diplomacy fail it is natural and lawful to take up guns and violence. If one is of a passionate temperament One might not even look to invoke the arts of reason and civility before one embraced a more violent contention.
Such an attitude does make for private revolutions and no end of revolutionaries to fight in chamber as well as public revolutions. On the other hand lack of weapons didn’t stop any of the European revolutionaries; it only postponed them until the natural rebellions had the physical means to organize and take them up. As we can see in Eisenstein’s Potempkin the key to wining the Russian Revolution and disposing of the czarist regime wasn’t the anger of the populace but the coming over to the agendas of the common people of the Russian navy. In America tat wasn’t true. The British army in America never rebelled against the imperium.
Yet I don’t think it does much for a regime to try to deprive its dissenters of the means to usurp it by violence. Stability in politics is gained by a fluid adaptability and accommodations that at least in a rough way partially satisfy almost everybody. One is never going to make serial murderers legitimate but one can stand having them as one’s enemies. The only way one can stay in power over the long ruin is to disarm one’s citizenry and franchise the army to control the country but force but to make and have civil accommodations with the populace, not to check its fury at one’s autocratic rule by keeping them from the means to get rid of oneself as an ultimate odium.
The French, English, Chinese and Cuban revolutions happened anyway if a bit tardily because the only hedge that stood between the demise of the ruling regime and its natural fate given its ruling policies and inept rulers were the means to story it of the common people. Eventually the populace did rebel in every one of those governments. I am here arguing here for a view that Jefferson expressed very well in The Declaration of Independence. Whether they or we like it or not rulers and rule is always in power at the whim of the populace.
I dolt need to elaborate on this discourse because Jefferson said it better and more brilliantly than I could. As Jefferson says in one of his letters, even if one is surrounded by an army of despots one can still fall upon ones enemies and try to despatch him if the act is an absurdity. It’s an insight that we might call existential and relate nowadays to Sartre and Camus in occupied France.
The impetus that provokes such action even when it is doomed is based on some set of biologically programmed intents and the sense of personal honor to act upon them. If one doesn’t do that one is very angry in life over trifles. If one does it at least one faces the source of one’s frustrations in a direct and sane way even if one lacks the means totally to effect ones’ aims.
To phrase it from Hamilton’s point of view or Hall’s, if we don’t do it, who will do it? If we don’t do it even privately somebody will do it for us, not in the way we want to do it. This might sound to some like Hillel’s axiomatic; lo anni, mi? It is as Jefferson says a set of reflections as we’ll as actions that are inalienable in us.
We tend to think sometimes since we begin our lives without power that being an adult itself means having power. Maybe not. Obviously as soon as one acts to gain any power at all one knows who one’s enemies are. Most of the founders were themselves out of power most of their lives. They all outlasted their days of power. They all had years and sometimes decades to savor life without power after having it. Of them al Washington had the most power not because of the superficial legitimacy of his means to have it but that he was given his personality in al league of his own about wielding power. A man who saw the very world of power as a lair of intriguers and corrupt souls he would personally rather avoid if he could wasn’t going to be vulnerable to the diminishment of character that usually comes to most people with their ascendence to any pokier. His character had nothing to do with his legitimacy or lawful franchise to take up power; he had law those Celts long before he ever had any power at all.

3

In their pursuit of life, liberty, happiness and the privacy that abets all these virtues the founders were at their most revolutionary departure from the idea of the nature of princes. A prince in the old world might have power given to him by an aery and priests, claim it came from God; yet either he or his stewards had at some point to manage his country like a business. most of the founders saw their own private chambers and estates as such a principate, not the rule that comes from running a government. They were in a sense about not running a state but creating a series of states within states. They wanted to make these sub-states as autonomous as possible. That is certainly most clearly expressed in Jefferson’s ideas; yet toward the end of his life Hamilton saw this direction as preferable too. He bought land in the northern part of Manhattan he called the Grange and had in his last years his own version of Mendaciously or Mount Vernon.
It should go without saying that most organized religion has an antipathy toward privacy that is very profound. As distressing as it might be to think so one can finds very similar ideas in the Marquis de Sade’s novels and essays. His fictions almost always take place in such sequestered private refuges. Given that they weren’t conceivable in a national autocracy they would have to be hermitages of some kind. It’s an idea whether one hers it from the founders or de Sade apparently quite at a Polaris from
nationalistic or individual freedom from princes and prelates in power as one finds in the Old World in the 19th century.
I don’t like to think it at all but it is inescapable to speculate that the American invention of the suburbs, the atomized culture of laws standing between one solo life and another one, is a very different one than the notion of pueblo, popolo, communitas, class, tribe, the faithful or any of the other agglomeration of folk into a common definition or cause. When I saw as a child people move from communities in large and corded but intimately connected groups in cities like my New York into the impersonal suburbs I never read nor heard of one thinkers in books or preaching on the media of the day that they were involved in the sacred labor of breaking up any notion of family or community altogether.
Yet that is precisely what they did while saying only that life in the future for suburbanites would be more comfortable remote from the annoying and intruding proximity of other people.
If we apply the same disturbing analyst to other phenomena of the 50s besides the suburbs, the Playboy Philosophy, the interest in adheres like Camus and Sartre, the new addiction of watching synthetic crap on televising, the hipster cult of urbane amusement, the Ayn Rand parsed of egoism, the Welfare policy for breaking up families, and so on we are going to find the same directions if the means are different to take up privacy or at least some diminution of the importance of others for each of us to the point where we can take or leave whatever qualities anyone or anything might have to offer us. We aren’t going to veil the table talk of a Playboy bunny lounging around a swimming pool, valued for her flesh, sunny manners and accommodating carnality, not in the way that some of us had hoped to feel in depth about out hopes for a virtuous wife.
We may feel chill and laugh at programs on a televising set; at bottom we can make them all disappear with a flick of a button. We don’t even have to run a rainbow as a sign we will never do it again as God did after the Great Flood; we are people with standards; we hope very much when they aren’t met to do it again. We certainly can resonance to the hero of Camus L’Etranger who says that he accepts being acaudate for a crime he didn’t commit but he doesn’t want the sham consolations of a society that itself imposes such ultimate injuries on him. Before he is incarcerated and is executed the hero of this novel lives a very secluded life, perhaps only has any intimacy at all with his mother. He is no nationalist or rebel; in fact he is neither quite French nor quite Algerian.
Sartre’s Being and Nothingness has a very long argument about solipsism, finally concluding that if one can’t prove one is in the company of others, one might be begetter off accepting tentatively that one is conched in such minor intimacy. It’s a long way from the Torah’s love thy neighbor or Plato’s conclusion in The Republic that he who does not have charity for others is insane. Both Sartre and Camus were the most popular philosophers of the 50s.
As we see other play such addictive amusements as video games in the cede century we might reflect that the roots of such static directions in life began in the 1950s after World war Two, a time when not only the United States but most of the world was ready to reject any notion of community given the aspect of massacre Hitler and Stalin had put on such common actions ending in the lives of people unlucky enough to be merely in their vicinity.
During the 50s, the last decade in which there were a classical set of American intellectuals in the country, there was no critique from any of them whatsoever of any of these involute phenomena. Nobody eve said that the suburban migrating which would separate people from family, friends and community they had loved and hated deeply in various ways would replace such strong feelings with an emotionally flat life of civility among strangers at best, a loneliness and hunger for the intimacies of close neighbors at worst. Moreover the long range effects of such a life were unknown, should be embraced with great caution. All of these great tankers accepted that it was better to be more comfortable than less so instead of looking at the contract as a tradeoff. Giving up one’s parson for comforts might be respectable and even banal but it isn’t ambitious.
If the Left was responsible for the national Welfare fiasco, attacking the family, the Right with its lobbies of relaters areas culpable for the follies of suburban life with tis destruction of community. One isn’t likely to have much dissent if one is an autocrat out to rule by one’s whim from pele who don’t know their interchangeable neighbors, move every three years, and are on the commute.
None of these intellectuals saw in the advent of Playboy Magazine from a young employee of Esquire in the 50s and its base in Chicago, not New York, as anything but a hinterlands taste for shallowness and soft porno. The idea that a Chicagoan could have opinions and a taste for easy sex he called a “philosophy” was dismissed by these Eastern toffs as preposterous. They themselves in turn were deep provincials who saw philosophy and cognition generally as something that happened in Europe, not America, even if came out of New York.
In fact the shift in thinking and the volume sales of Playboy should have alerted at least one of these intellectuals to speculating that the Playboy Philosophy was not merely socially acceptable porno but legitimacy of egoism and radical diminution of nay serious interest in one’s neighbors even if they slept with one.
The French existentialists were given more repacked because they weren’t American; English philosophy really had self destructed in the early 20th century; yet not only pundit ever ventured to remark that Sartre and Camus were two very intelligent and creative men whose support system of community had utterly disappeared for them in World War Two. One never heard about their family, their brothers and sisters, their children. Both in fact were unarmed and childless as adults. Both lived under German occupation for several years and could have been killed by the Germans. They represented a generation that had no military means to protect itself against despots like Hitler. They were a part of a world in which they lacked the engines to nurture any privacy, any freedom, any legitimate life as long a they lived in Europe. This was as much true for the Nazis, a culture that like Genghis Khan’s regime, viewed all humanity as either prey or solders in the army that made others prey. Whether or not such harvests were applicable to American life was never take up by anybody in the 60s existentialism and its companions were presented to the American public as if the quintessential Parisian and urbane, Sartre and Camus were hermetics issuing polemics, plays and novels from their sylvan or cafe refuges.
During the Korean war and the heyday of the China lobby of the 50s nobody among this seller bunch of thinkers ever mentions that both Chiang Kai Check and Syngman Rhee were Presbyterians of a converted American colonel class that were in league with Christians in the United States to make these fiefs Christian baronies of despotism, that this fascist and colonial agenda from America probably inspired more Chinese and Koreans to become Communists than that anthill ideology ever did. When Liberals attacked the China lobby they never mentioned once that the juggernaut they found wonting in sense were working by whatever means they could drum up with money and influence to turn not merely China but the United States itself into a base for Christian imperialism. When the whole agenda surface din a brutal way in the Vietnam War nobody among their intellectuals said that the intent of American shouldn’t be to elevate a colonial clasps of Christians in Vietnam like Bao Dai or Thieu while our supposed enemy Ho Chi Minh was basing his regime on his strength among the populace and molding his thought and laws on our own Declaration of Independence. One heard every other accession against our Vietnamese lobby but the right one.
In this disinclination to identify the primary and powerful organized adversaries of republican life in their maw, they weren’t any different in another time than the founders if the founders were not craven provincials. Nobody in the history of America including the founders have ever been hungry to take on Christianity as an enemy of freedom, equality of opportunity and devoured. even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson never publicly said a word about the matter.
Jefferson had to content himself with praising the gritty and inductive America way of life as superior to Old World ones in a vague way without a public analysis of how Old World belief systems had contributed to and buoyed the Old World despotisms. It came on in Jefferson’s case in a kind of uncritical praise of the French Revolution no matter how violent it became under the Directory or how reactionary and imperial it was afterwards under Napoleon. To Jefferson at least the French were willing to dump the kings and priests of Christianity who had in their American version made his own life suspect to illegitimate. If Jefferson had lived in France during this French regime nobody would have complained that he wasn’t a Christian.
During the 50s along with Huge Hefner and his popular base there were noises in the Eastern Academic intellectual camp that there were acres of compassionate liberal and freedom loving cratons among us, two of whom were Reinhold Niehbur and the thick accented German emigre Paul Tillich. I actually saw Tillich in person when he gave a lecture at my college. He spoke with a thick accent and offered a neo-platonic discourse that I double had much resonance with young people preparing whether they knew it or not for the bellicosities of the 60s. Neihbur had a mysterious charm for Liberals because he seemed less doctrinaire and inimical to personal freedom then Cardinal Spellman. I guess he was. In fact Neihbur was all for converting everyone he could to Calvinistic Christianity if he could figure out how to do it. He said as much to his fellow Christians. He didn’t make the same speeches to the Liberals.
Since nobody has taken up the despotic agendas of Christianity in and out of America for fear of reprisal and dread from an organization that could deny one a job or perhaps even a free life out of prison on one pretext or another, the issue has never been in front of the United States in any form to this day. Yet the real bottom contention isn’t really because Christianity and the heathen but organized and unorganized life itself. Organized life follows the same rules whether it is Christian or Bolshevik, Hitlerian or fundamentalist Islamic. It has a simple imploded cartoon definition of the nature and purposes of human life, USS all means including force to effect it, and in formal contention with its real enemy, diversity and chaos. It always wins the short tear battles with its superior ability to mass focused force on any person or situation. It is as Hitler aptly said based on the triumph of the will. Hitler didn’t seem to notice these victories were short lived.
Unorganized life is very different in nature and means of survival. It optimally never confronts organized life. It retreats into the greenery, operates illicitly, needs no army or priests to alert anyone to its agendas, has a mercurial caning and swiftness of foot, waits for the organized activity of tis enemies to decline, age, weaken and finally dapper.
The founders felt that if one did confronted directly the inclination of some of their populace to afar into armies of organized cults they could rule any place. One can’t legislate against fools. Although their acting and laws speak for this view of such organizations well enough, they never stated this all that publicly. given that Christianity lie many despotic cults from Bolshevism to Nazism is very efficient at organizing, the essential counterpoint of running a free republic with laws guaranteeing liberties and a country often governed by Christians with their inherent agendas has never been addressed by any American publicly to this day. Then we get what we get. On some days America is a free country, on other says it is running a base for despotism, colonialism and general contempt for freedom.
This brings up some of the paradoxes in Jefferson’s thinking in a rather incommodious way. Jefferson saw healthy politics as based on public approval of governments, a premise that assumes not that people are individuals with diverse opinions but are an organized estate with some common notions although not as Hitler envision his own Deutchesvolk.
In fact Jefferson held two apennines of the nature of the populace, each of which are somewhat inconsistent with the other one. One can’t have a populace out to take up their individual freedom, and one out to organize to make common policy as an estate at the same time. Looking beyond who organizes whom to do what in politics, not claiming that one system is inherently more tyrannical than another one, the mere fact of organization of humans of any kind in any place with any common cause is enough to set into motion engines of opposition within as well as without their juggernaut that is hardly consistent with any Jeffersonian idea of individuals retiring to their lands and farms to take up a private life legitimately like old Romans at their leisure. AS long as the populace was out of power, which it was until Jefferson was in his 30s he never had to think much about recoiling these two very distant definitions of the common people.
One should say that organized coups of any kind always have enemies, most often other organized groups not too different from themselves. The logical enemies of Christianity have always been other groups like Islam. Bolshevism, Hitlerian fascism, and so on. Of all of these cadres only Christianity has not boldly and honestly admitted that it has no interest in freedom and doesn’t value liberty at all. At least Islam can say that it was always for submission to the will of Allah, Nazis could always assert it was live or die for German rule of the world, Bolshevism could state with justice that it always for world revolution and a socially engineered equitable despotism to replace all prior systems in view: nationalism, religions, democracy, whatever.
Interestingly enough the hatred of such tyrannies coming from belief systems was one of the hallmarks of opinion in the revolutionary army. George Washington had to order his own forces to stop burning effigies of the pope. The anti-Catholic sentiment must have been a heady element in an army that was recited from the bottom and included many Scotch-Irish folk among their contingents.
The Nazi movement certainly was rooted in the idea of common causes of the populace, a clear enemy needing to be put down by force and so on. The German populace approved of Hitler and kept him in power without much dissent for twelve years because Hitler have them a stable internal life as long as they were patriots and soldiers of some kind. As soon as the Wehrmacht was shot out of the skies by 1943 and Germany was no longer fighting foreign wars but being bombed day and night the popularity of Hitler among the populace was hardly as great. If Hitler couldn’t gerund that one wasn’t living under bombardment at all times in a war zone what was he giving the common people as their leader?
Jefferson’s assumption that the common people all want freedom has a kind of blurry side to its premise that can be very unsettling. One could say that at least for a few years the common people of Rupia wanted Bolshevism because the Bolsheviks rid them in very efficient if murderous ways of any vestige of czarist rule. This short term approval of Bolshevism of course was gradually replaced by a long tern haired of Bolshevism by the common people of Russia as the populace realized they had exchanged one set of tyrants for another one. As Nabokov put it, perhaps in spite of himself arguing inferentially for rule by the weak and incompetent, at least the czar ran such a inefficient regimes that some people escaped his tyranny; the Bolsheviks were efficient in a way that made a free adult life in Russia impossible for everybody.
I certainly heard much praise of Bolshevism and their Five Year Plans from people I knew on the Left in the 50s as if these very deigns and their executions weren’t the very engines that promoted long term hatred of Communism in Russia. If one parlayed with such people in even in New York they were all sure as they settled these matters in a city park since they were all out of power, they positioned themselves as tough minded scientistic armed with some equitable means of governing people charitable and well. Meanwhile anybody who could get out of Soviet Russia did so even if they had to cut through bared wire at midnight and later show up elsewhere naked, anywhere at all with nothing. My friends on the Left dismissed that vast army of hamata in flight from the Soviet Union as innocents and fools. Yet they didn’t go to live there themselves.
In the early 21st century this war between Christianity and a free republic hasn’t abated. In 2008 both candidates to be the leader of America, Barak Obama and John McCain were publicly examined by a Christian prelate about their bailiffs and orthodoxy that would be palatable to this severe cult. This was not a secret inquisition but one reported in detail on the media. Both McCain and Obama civilly said that they didn’t believe in the divinity of anybody or the reception of humanity by the blood sacrifices of the late Jesus.
They were however admiring of Jesus as a moral model. They particularly thought very highly of Jesus for his opposition to orthodoxy and the implied sense of personal honor that apparently motivated this long dead prophet. These answers, very similar to what the finders of this country would have said under the same examination by some Grand Inquisitor, was not disputed by the redneck minister who conducted this remarkable inquiry.
It was an odd performance by two politicians who still are not comfortable with lying. Neither one said they believed in the divinity of Jesus and valued his loss of life that redeemed them and humanity itself. They both very similarly to Jefferson regarded Jesus as a moral reformer. They might have never used Jefferson’s very words to appraise their opinions. In Jefferson’s time that was enough to have his enemies say he was no Christian. By the 21st century that rather deistic notion was good enough even for this prelate.
Over there were no great shows of protest while this vaudeville was going on from anyone who valued the first Amendment or noted that America was a free republic with no obligations to any belief system whatsoever. Neither McCain nor Obama rejected such an examination as unworthy of their hope to be leaders of a free republic. They were after all politicians as much as our founders were, leaders who knew that some sort of blurry accommodation to such juggernauts of organization could stabilize their popular base in a way honesty about their personal opinions never could.
I am bringing this up because I plainly and happily am not a Christian. I rather like Jesus but think his importance to the world is rather overblown. I don’t think much of institutional Christianity. I can’t say it did worse that any other group in power; it certainly didn’t do any better. I’m very happy I never fought in a war to support the Christian looting of Asia. I’m rater annoyed they tried to muscle me to do it. I have currently as much of a franchise as anybody in the United States who lacks a whole lot of money or friends and allies who have that sort of trove of lucre. After all I am getting two pensions for doing nothing. I don’t meed any more franchise in the United Sates than I have. I’m lucky. That’s all there offering.
If anything the disinclination of Americans from the founders on to confront the despotic agendas of Christianity openly has been very destructive to Christianity itself. Autocracies age and die. One constantly hears Christians saying that America is a Christian country, which by law it explicitly isn’t, that Christians have some corner on morality and charity, which given its imperial history it clearly is lacking in, or that morality and Christianity are somehow the same, which if morality is about long or at least politely avoiding one’s neighbor, given the institutional intents of Christianity, always to melt us all including themselves into a fondue, charity and love of others is about the last quality one might expect in a Christian not overly inclined to do some honest self appraisal about the history of his own religion..
As with most fundamentalist cadres, Christianity is a cult quick to assert that the power with power who mother their institutions and orthodoxies aren’t really Christian. Thank God, we all are more compassion and charitable when we are out of power. It’s better than never have such qualities at all. We can all grouse about the ethics of those despots in the vicinity who are beyond our means to influence or effect them. Our own morals are tested only when we have the means to make them manifest in action. I don’t think there has ever been one regime in history of Christians in power that have been for freedom.

Unwritten Books Of the Founders I would Like to Read

There are three principal books that were not written I would like to read: the Memoirs of George Washington, the Memoirs of Thomas Jefferson and the Memoirs of Alexander Hamilton.
The only one of the founders who left a Memoir is Benjamin Franklin, an excellent book that as well gives some sense of what the virtues and limitations to us of what such confessions would have been like among his less candidly effusive peers. Franklin in everything he wrote down to squibs was a real stylist and charmer. He is also fairly transparent; one doesn’t feel in his writing this wag is holding back anything. John Adams is another such writer if he never wrote his memoirs. Adams is always right in front of everybody; he offers one as well the felicities of his considerable lateral poetic imagination.
Both these men for some reason had no trouble nor any lack of confidence in patting their thoughts on a page anymore than they were shy in their conversation. Both men are out to give the flavor of their discourse as well as its substance. I would guess that both men had been formed before they ever had the sense they were taking part in some great event in history. Both men weren’t born to be politicians or finding themselves immersed in large turns of politics until their middle age.
It gives both Franklin and Adams a kind of waggish quality one associates with Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Will Rogers, George Carlin, Jackie Mason and many wits who were as much prophetic voices as stand up comics of character in the culture who surfaced later in American history. In Adams, Franklin and Freneau the comedic style is already in place as the central way to communicate large political ideas in the United States. It was one of the trademarks of Abraham Lincoln.
It is interesting what is not in Franklin’s memoir. Franklin is the only one of the founders who actual worked for a while in England. Hamilton and Washington never went to Europe at all. Jefferson visited England but never stayed there long. Both Franklin and Jefferson were more at home in France. John Adams was in England a bit but didn’t think much of its autocracy. Franklin, the only one who had lived in England and presumably knew it better than any of the other founders, never mentions one in his writings that he likes,. vales or cherishes England. When he does write about England he makes fun of it.
Although every one of these founders was brought up to believe they were part of the English empire as colonists, some of them only taking up independence from England in middle age as did Washington and Franklin, In fact there is no writing extant at the time of the founders of anybody pining to go back to England or finds that England might be a better place to live than the United States even when it was an English colony.
It’s remarkable if one listens to emigrants in my time with their ambivalence about their pilgrimage to America and their sentimental attachment to their old contra. Alexander Hamilton always praised English institutions, always from afar; he never in his life went near England. The lack of any loyalty of any kind of Americans toward England among the founders or even among the bottom classes is very striking. Revolutionaries usually don’t have such a base among the populace as the founders had. It’s very noteworthy that when Alexander Hamilton at twenty was a college student finding himself in the middle of an uprising it was a movement from the bottom in which nobody had much to say about England that was other than excoriation.
Why they fell that way when England was hardly the worst of lieges on the planet is worth our reflecting. It does show that the principles we now consider rather “self evident” as Jefferson put it were common parlance in American before the revolution, probably many decades before it. In fact the more educated one was in America, the more likely one was open to some difficulties because one lacked the language to talk about a populist republic.
Franklin and Adams who were both lower middle class scholars who had spent most of their lives as English colonists corrected Jefferson use of the word “subjects” to “citizens”. The original draft of the Declaration of Independence as written by Jefferson was a little tentative, not in his ideas but it the articulations of them.
The big three among the founders, Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton, had wit, a distinct voice and were heavyweight thinkers; yet one feels they are very aware in their way, each of them, that they are on the stage of history every time they pick up their pen. Of this trio, the most soulful writer is Washington, the most clear and brilliant, Jefferson, the most persuasive in argument Hamilton. Hamilton and Jefferson wrote very quickly and didn’t revise anything; Washington measured each word as if he was standing outside himself judgment with a wary eye.
I think Washington was the only one who rewrote his early letters and writings to meet standards he didn’t have when he was a young man. One can now look at his youthful originals and his revision on the Internet at the Papers of George Washington site. They show how much Washington was an adaptable man who was always learning how to do things a little better. Every change he makes in his early writings cleans out the clichés and is more precise in language.
Improvement was a particular Franklin focus. Franklin and Washington were two men who are astonishing in their ability to change into old age. They didn’t become who they were early on and stick to it over a lifetime. Franklin in his early life owned a few slave; in his middle and old age he was a strident abolitionist. He was the head of the Philadelphia society for ending slavery. Obviously at some point in their lives, probably as children. Jefferson and Washington weren’t the abolitionists they became later. We don’t have the events that inspired them to change their opinions on slavery anyone than we do Franklin’s. Hamilton’s abolitionism is less mysterious. We can imagine Hamilton’s repugnance at how slaves were treated in the West Indies when he was a child. He himself had almost no support system, very aware of how human beings might be pushed around by force by men of legitimacy and power. Maybe all this happened; maybe it didn’t. It is odd that at twenty Hamilton was such a confirmed republican and advocate of the American revolution. George Washington wasn’t so quick to be a revolutionary. Hamilton seemed to have his opinions instantly; Washington distrusted his first impulses; he always conferred with people and thought it over before he had any minor policies and principles about anything at all. It would be nice to know what events where he had acted too impetuously inspired him to make that adaption. I suspect Washington found he was naturally too charitable and effusive a personally to be optimally effective as a leader; he needed all the measure and contort he could get. Also, as good as he was at reading people he didn’t start out that way.
It as well didn’t inspire him to easy discourse that he had decided at some point he didn’t believe in Christianity and had very different view of God and Providence than most people. Yet in many cedens he was leading people who would have been appalled at his opinions. He certainly valued silence. If he thought about writing his memoirs after his retirement he probably calculated if he couldn’t be frank it wasn’t worth doing.
However after reading a Canada of Washington’s letters and speeches one has a very good idea of how he would have reacted to any situation. He took pride in his ability to hold in his feelings but temperamentally he wasn’t naturally secretive. In certain ways Hamilton’s personality and intelligence in the most baffling because he didn’t seem to have to think much to come up with his detailed to encyclopedic ways of perceiving the world. Accounts describe him as pacing up and down a room and creating his discourses in a kind of manic state much like the way Balzac write novels. Yet when Hamilton ward his long essay about his affair with Maria Reynolds there are dimensions of the liaison left out of that narrative that are very perplexing. We don’t know why Hamilton find Maria Reynolds attractive. It never occurs to him to tell us. In fact he implies that once she left him know she was available for coitus that was as much as he wanted to know about her. There’s no psychological reflection in this essay.
Hamilton is one of the few of the founders who left extant his love letters to his wife and, in spite of himself, his correspondence with Maria Reynolds. One can see that Hamilton loved his wife very much. They re very moving. He even wrote her amorous sonnets to her when he courted her. It is not as if he didn’t have the ability to express his passions. It’s rather that the dark sides of him didn’t go into his writing. He seems simpler on the page than he apparently was in reality. Hamilton had a scathing wit and command of rhetoric; yet it seems at times oddly impersonal, as if he doesn’t trust his reader in the way that Adams and Franklin did. All who knew him said he was a brilliant talker in a salon, in fact could go on for hours as if he had composed an expository speech or were involved in a public discourse.
Yet I suspect some of his magic must halvah been in his manner. His writing has vigor and charm but there is something elusive about it too. His intimacy with his wife Eliza shows he was capable of profound intimacies with women. Given his unstable and brilliant mother he probably had some early understanding of them. Tis is equally true with Adams and his wife Abigail and George and Martha Washington. We know much less about Franklin and Jefferson’s ability to connect on profound levels with women. Ironically the most severe advocate of equality for women of the time was Aaron Burr. In life he seems to have lived to corrupt them. Jefferson thought women should never be elected to Congress nor given the vote.

Meditations On George Washington

We might find it hard to understand how it might feel to spend the first decades of one’s life with no rights nor any legal franchise in the world we lived in, then in the decades afterwards find ourselves not only having all the franchise one might ask for but making the very lawns from scratch of the society one inhabited. It obviously can be a bracing and daunting experience. Yet that was preciously what all of the founders had at the center in their lives, actions that separate them from us.
It is plain whether we like it or not that we are different from the founders and are skewed or remote in our perception of their age. If we all aim for the same things as Jefferson says, we apparently don’t have one soul among us like them in action. If we do they aren’t revolutionaries. It may be as perhaps is not as accessible about them that we don’t have the hunger for privacy almost all of them had. Some of us might not have any life to be private about.
One can’t describe any one of them as only alive when they were in politics or taking social action. The whole nature of our limited government is a testament to the private hunger of the founders for an autonomous life that perhaps we don’t share with them or have any idea how to garner. When people in my age talk about their private life they mean a home in which there is always a television set and computer connecting one to a selective or false version of the world.
The idea of going out in the wilderness as George Washington did and finding oneself in places in which one has no possible communication with anybody is a tarrying thought to most of us.
Yet I am going to suggest without trying to make since of it that the founders in many cases were motivated by rage about being colonists. If it’s only the surface of their discontent, this fury stayed inside them over decades because they would have been arrested or defranchised had they expressed it openly. Then when circumstances like the Boston Tea Party put in front of them that they had a physical resource to escape for that rule, they took it.
With a wilderness to the west of them and almost no good roads in the colonies any direction they took was a quick route to the wilderness. It may be that we don’t have such opportunities. If we did we might change out mind about how many people like our founders we have. We can’t make this a science because plenty of people have such anger within them and don’t engage in revelations to rid themselves of the source of their pique. Perhaps if we believed our actions could change anything we would have as many personalities as adept as the founders at life as they had in much more materially difficult circumstances.
The experience is not all that singular in America though it certainly is as well elsewhere. Anybody who emigrated to America after 17788 including my own grandparents and great grandparents found themselves by dint of living in the United States at least theoretically if only so equal to everybody else in it, equal in opportunity to all in it. Black folk freed from slavery, the Black folk freed from Jim crow a hundred years later as well experienced this Salem rather vertiginous lurch into freedom.
There is a recidivist part of us that refuses to believe it even if we are elevated to a more legitimate position in life than the very bottom. Sometimes it is our rage at being treated like cattle that has formed our character and fuels our drive to outdo the former oppressors by any means. The kind of enthusiasm for ferocious action that inspires many a human being to heroic activity or original acuminate loses its motivation to take up that audacity even if they are easily successful at it.
Many a satirist and general has identified that early rage as the ferric that drove them like the wind to their momentary heroic triumphs. We tend not to think that napoleon was a Corsican of short stature who probably suffered a thousand slights in his initial years in the French army.
We as much are perhaps not aware that most of the founders of the United States had formed their character as colonists, were middle aged by the time they found the American revolution and drafted the laws of the Constitutional Convention of 1789. George Washington was 44 at the advent of the Revolution, 57 when the Constitution that created the position of President he occupied for eight years was drafted by the United States. He spent four or five decades before those events defined at least by his world as a hinterlands English colonist in a faraway English colony,
Washington was one who managed to turn all of his early learned qualities to his advantage. He certainly learned how not to make enemies he didn’t need in a realm run as a colony in which he head no rights or equality of any kind of make the kind of contention he clearly hungered to make to a lot of powerful and inept people. I think the central experience that crystallized Washington’s sense of himself came from the French and Indian war when he was in his early 20s.
He learned he could make it anywhere in the wilderness. He learned to admire the Indians even as warriors; he said they were surprised to any Europeans. He himself sometimes dressed in Indian clothing because it was better for living in the forests.
At the same time he was an adjunct to a General Braddock who made every mistake a colonial army officer could make in leading his troops to a forest in the Ohio territory. In the end Braddock was mowed down by the Indians and French and killed. Washington rescue him from the debacle and took him away, mortally wounded, from the arena of his defeat. When he died of his wounds Washington buried him.
Braddock was hardly the only patronizing English-born man of power Washington thought was a fool early on. He had wanted military carer himself much a Hamilton did later but couldn’t get a commission in the British aery because he was a colonist, a native.
Washington was right to think that the seeming involute caprices of his fortune seemed to conspire to bring him into the great theater of history as a player in his maturity. All the people that stood between him and positioning himself to be who he was mysteriously died young. It is not as if the deaths of many of his kindred and his marriage to Martha Custis didn’t elevate him from a minor landowner to being one of the most healthy Virginia planters by the time he was 26. It still meant that even with wealth and private power on his estate he didn’t make the laws or even set the fashions of the world he lived in. His childhood as a neglected second son formed him. He was in his youth and early middle age somebody scrambling in an empire he hadn’t designed whose laws and institutions he had no say in. It tended to make Washington the sort of person who didn’t confront any of those powerful institutions with words much less manifestos but kept his own consul, devised his own schemes for functioning in the world much as a rogue anywhere does.
One reds for example that Washington had hundreds of slaves and was, though an abolitionist, once who had called for Abolition in a draft of his Farewell Address, one who freed his slaves, was a person who had never manifested any opposition to this immoral institution early on. Still when one the means came, what Washington did with the institution of slavery gives one a pretty fair idea of what he probably always thought of slavery even when he was a very young man,
Washington’s slaves all had guns. They were hunters and killed their own game. Obviously they had the means to revolt from him at any time. They also left his estates to visit other settlements. Some of them were artisans and lived quite comfortable lives.
His slaves went to local markets and sold their game they had killed. They had money. They even sold fowl and fish to Washington himself. They were like small businessmen. We can see in these intermediate reforms that slavery at Mount Vernon was even early on very different than anywhere else.
Washington also early on always made sure that his slaves kept their families tougher and never sold any of them; in fact by the 1750s he stopped selling slaves altogether. He called his slaves “my people” and treated therm a bit like family. His closest aide and almost a doppelganger r shadow to Washington in many ways was William Lee, a mulatto. Washington always insisted on equality for Negroes whenever he could promote it, rather an unfashionable thing to do among some in Virgin. He personally tended his slaves when they were sick. Sometimes he worked side by side with them.
Even if we didn’t have his will, a document which shoos how carefully he had devised a free life for Black people, his letters show how compassionate he was to these people without franchise even when he was young. He didn’t have a bit of race prejudice in him.
If legally the people working for him in a system he inherited were his slaves, we can see without Washington needing to explain his actions or motives that he had carefully and systematically looked at the business of slavery with his morals as well as his cleaver chimerical intelligence and saw even in his 20s that the essential flaw in the silvery system was the lack of freedom and money of the workers. His management of the slave system gave them freedom and money. But at his whim, not at theirs. If he was always ushering them to work as hard as he did, he didn’t have the clout to motivate them as long as they weren’t free and there because of their adult choice.
Washington in an age where planters tried to do nothing but drink, gable and womanize was a dedicated workaholic. He sincerely despised all vice as a unworthy of human beings. Since he wanted his slaves to have the same work ethic, he must have calculated that he would be wise to give them every reason to have it. He had the power to do it; he did it.
He didn’t advertise that he was in a quiet way reforming the slave system to make the workers in it virtually as free as he could make them short of freeing them altogether. He was politician enough not to make the enemies he would have were he to force such ideas on Virginia though originally he offered Abolition as his policy in his last speech to Congress. In a colonial world in which he didn’t make the laws or institutions; yet it wasn’t comfortable for him to maintain slavery with a discreet silence.
I would imagine that Washington if he had been asked about it laster would have said that under the British colonial system and slavery he went as far as he could go at least in his own estates to taker up Abolition without confronting an authority and law that would have probably crushed him had he been more open about his general abolitionist intents. It wouldn’t have bothered him to say so either. He was acocosusotmed to living in a society that imposed a world upon people who had no say in the society and could either be rogues or cattle. George Washington was never going to be cattle.
It is not notably hard to figure out Washington’s thoughts in this matter. He began as one who was driven by a hunger for self improvement like Franklin, had a drive for excellence, applied a never hasty systematic focus on any problem he had. Wanting to give this very ethic to his slaves, his family, he realized given the system of slavery itself he couldn’t do it. It wasn’t just slavery but conscription of free men for military action in maillots that had frustrated him. He saw the franchises of the Bill of Rights not quite as Jefferson did, more philosophically, but as necessities for any human action that is going to be at all effective anywhere. The revolutionary character of this insight could be lost to us. In his day in one way or another nearly all states were slave states and had no memory of being otherwise.
Washington reacted to slavery in various. One of them was to show the workers that he could do whatever he was asking them to do. He wasn’t a manager who sat in the barracks and avoided even physical proximity to the labor of others. He was out in the fields every day, sometimes doing the grunt labor with the slaves. He didn’t stay behind the lines and direct strategy as a military commander either; he was in front of the troops, very visible, easily found on a white horse, ready to accept any peril of being shot by the enemy they were facing in battle. in both war and peace this style of leadership certainly earned Washington a respect and loyalty few ever get from free men much less slaves.
Yet to his consternation slaves did desert his plantations, even sometimes those whom he had favored and were virtually free men anyway. Clearly being virtual free wasn’t good enough. He knew that if he could command more people effectively by intelligent managerial tactics there would always be in all situations some who in his fellow Virginian Patrick Henry’s famous words, chose libretti or death, men for whom benign slavery wasn’t an option.
One should note that Patrick Henry was not an abolitionist as Washington, Laurens and Jefferson were. Henry at least early on didn’t apply his high republican morals to people of color. Henry veiled Washington and other Virginia abolitionists as somebody “who wanted to take away our niggers”.
This brings up a matter that might be distressing to some of us but has its lesson if one wants to learn from it. We tend to see the world our founders came from as a realm sunk in systems of enchilada and arrogant use of others as if they were cattle in a way that pushes them away from us if we cannot in our ire with them quite dismiss them. Obviously being for liberty or death if only for White males is morally better than being for liberty or death for nobody. How much better? It’s just another two tiered system.
Still our age is for liberty of death for everybody in a way that is almost a banality. We are not only for such a franchise but the whole West since the New Deal and the disappearance of the late German fuhrer; we are dedicated to cherish human life even to providing old age insurance, unemployment insurance, a series of government handout to sustain the indigent, socialized medicine in most of the West, and sustaining of education even among those who on the evidence seemingly cannot be educated.
We embrace full equality to the point of supporting the very people who are contemptuous of us as fools for pay for lives even they regard as contemptible. We outdo the Marquis de Sade in indulging the far frontiers of free human action, calling one choice of activities is no better or different than another one. Then when we absolutely have to have competent work at something we import people not as crazy as we are who can do it. We despise honest labor in a way the founders would have found inexplicable. Though we don’t have to fight their fight, we with our values good and bad have an impatience with our founders Bacchus they with no models but colonial imperialism and the risks of a hanging that was all theirs, not ours, they didn’t come up with a more egalitarian century than they did. I really am not going to argue about that assessment. I will say that one day in the future if we last long enough to be in it we are going to hear the same thing from the currently unborn about ourselves.
Where were the honorable men and women among us when our country invaded Vietnam or subsequently put Asian labor into slavery with only a few noises to work for our felicity afterwards? How much freedom do we give to our American Indians? Beyond that, if freedom is garnered with competitive skills as an adult, how much freedom are we giving to anybody?
Are we really in our piety going to write off Patrick Henry altogether because he was an idiot about slavery? We can do that; we better be ready to be written off ourselves one day because our age was at least as immoral and shortsighted about doing injury as Patrick Henry’s time was. Are we really going to denounce Jefferson as a hypocrisies Bacchus he didn’t free his own slaves? He might have been one. Are we freeing ours?
I’m very conscious as I write this on a computer that some Chinese fellow or few of them has assembled the machine I work on when if they had their own druthers they might very sensibly have chosen to do something else or nothing at all. It does connect me in a certain way with the dilemmas of George Washington. I dolt have the power to bring down this system of servitude but I’m going to do what I can to justify my season as a crone given leisure and a sinecure to champion equality as much as I sensibly can. I’ve risked my life for some clear causes like Black civil rights, by which I mean severe equality, not just abolition of slavery, and the education of Americans so they are competitive with anybody in the world in skills and the standards of their labor. I can’t say I was Saul Alinsky or John L. Lewis. I know it’[s people like that in my lifetime who set the standards for an honorable life.
Jefferson takes this up by making it lawful and even preferable for the populace to own land. Two centuries or more later we are all too away that the small farmer was one of the chief prey of the big cats of the 19th century. One could send that farmer into debt and penury even if he owned land if one controlled the prices of his crops and the taxes on his soil.
Washington twenty years before the American revolution was irked to put it politely by soldiers who were deserters, badly dressed, unskilled when they were around, dilettantes at military combat at best, more involved in gambling, whoring and getting drunk than whatever conflict that was in front of them, were impediments in Washington’s view to what had to be done were one going to fight a revolution at all. He picked up right away about Alexander Hamilton that waken Hamilton formed a legion out of such a militia he dress them in tolerable uniforms, drilled them and was stick but fair as a colander. If one thinks of the sort of tavern veterans under Washington and Hamilton’s command one can appreciate their frustrations.
Both men had wanted very much to be military commanders. The line of thought that leads one from living in a world in which one has no power whatever to take up force in the cause of such a franchises of power and freedom for everybody is possibly more elusive than it appears. We can deduce easily enough Washington and the rest of the founders made those connections long before that acted on them. Why others in the same cedens didn’t do so might provoke us to think that such directions aren’t quite a science.
Before we go on from Washington’s attitudes about slavery and his initial attempts to reform it to make it an institution that promotes excellence and virtue in his very chattels before he wanted to destroy the system outright, it might be worst our while to look at the other systems available to him were he ale to choose them, and our own ways of promoting excellence or even brute competence in our group labors.
At the bottom of Washington’s world slaves working in fields and living in barracks were the nadir of franchise and personal freedom for anyone living in such a realm. in Virginia law one could whip and even kill a slave with impunity. Since this world was pretty loose and lacking in enforcement of law of any kind one could do a lot to things with impunity in Virginia. Freedom of action was built into the logistics of the system with its open Western frontier long before it became the law.
Washington gave virtual if not legal freedom to his artisan slaves, even made sure they were houses in comfort. Still whatever happened on his estates was beyond any contract law between men. It didn’t stabilize his world to keep power from its slaves, au contraire. As Jefferson says, since people are natural going to pursue their biological intents, the effect of any tyranny has to be to encourage all in it to take up the illicit. We see children doing this in all places; it’s when adults do it to that the state gets very volatile and chaotic.
One step above slaves were the mass of small farmers, artisans and wage workers that probably were the majority of Virginians. In his time slavery accounted for 40% of the Virginian population. One might estimate that more than half of the others were bottom folk of a type one finds in all times and places. Jefferson saw them when they were running small farms as the model for practical liberty. In fact small farms since the farmers weren’t living off them but selling produce from them in commodities markets were not all that independent. Washington himself was a big farm but could be wiped out and forced into deb t by a bad crop or tow. This society was not really run by autonomous farms and farmers but was as much tethered by money as our own.
Washington and many of his cohorts like Lafayette in the 1770s took up the issue of slavery with some practical focus. Lafayette proposed a state of free colored people in the topics. Hamilton’s close friend John Laurens proposed Black battalions in the revolutionary army. Later Washington looked at freeing slaves on his estates and hiring them as day laborers.
He didn’t lead the country in abolition but he thought about it enough to put it in a draft of his Farewell Address. He was probably afraid of a civil war such as Lincoln had to face later in 1860. It should be said that secession in 1860 was taken up by the South not because Lincoln threatened to free the slaves. Lincoln didn’t do so till 1862. When he did the Southern leaders were pushing slavery hard. The Civil War was about whether slavery should expand into Kansas and Missouri; even after the Civil War it still hung on in Jim Crow for another hundred years. An oligarchal set of planters wanted to extend slavery as far as they could do it as much as they did in Washington’s time even in my lifetime.
In his 1850 debates with Douglas Lincoln pointed out that nobody in the South but the slave dealers wanted silvery. Everybody else, he said, thought it was immoral. If true the real issue then and perhaps even now was whether or not articulate lobbies but not a whole populace were willing to enslave others lawfully to provide for their comfort and leisure for the few. The story isn’t much different if the slaves are from China or Mexico and aren’t called slaves’ sometimes the only check on slavery is revolution. Washington was not about to run two of them.
Lincoln’s remarks bypass an intriguing caroler to his argument: would he be for slavery if the majority of Americans wanted it? Would he be for slavery for one man for one second if Americans wanted it and were for freedom for everybody else? At other points in his Peoria address Lincoln does say that slavery is immoral under all circumstances.
Washington’s scheme of turning slaves into day laborers with wages wouldn’t have made much difference to slaves. Day labor was not a lucrative activity in early America anywhere. Still Washington wanted to “get clear” as he put it, of slavery. Abolition in 1780 would have adjusted, I think to the same agrarian economy with a lot of poor people at the bottom. Of course with chaeta land and small gardens and chicken shacks one had a better fall back position in those days in some ways than if one were living in the suburbs currently. Some desperateness are purely economic; there was a community in Virginia of free citizens that starved to death. Still one never hears of one owner of land including Washington who ever aimed or much less achieved autonomy at all, certainly lacked the severe freedom Jefferson and privacy was talking about. On one level or another all the farmers big and small were speculative businessmen at the mercy of a market of strangers.
I am trying to say here that odious as slavery was, those with more legal franchise weren’t quite free either. Moreover as much as the northern abolitionists were proud of disdaining slavery the businesses of the north paid scanty wages when they could have lived the same life if they had been more generous in giving their free workers a chance to live a materially tolerable life. The whole of the Union movement, a cause which barely had its beginnings in the last years of Washington’s lifetime, not to mention the various reform and revolutionary Socialist movements of the 19th and 20th centuries all had their basis in the inequity of how much the managers and the workers derived from the same work. When Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto that workers had nothing to lose but their chains in usurping power from the bosses, he wasn’t talking about slaves; he was describing the lives of free men.
Some very similar distinctions as Patrick henry made in the 1780s were part of two tiered systems in America in my own lifetime. Sometimes it was Jim Crow; sometimes it was the calculation of George Meany, head of the AFL-CIO that franchise and freedom didn’t apply to Vietnamese or anybody unlucky enough to be living outside of America.
Patrick Henry who said: “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death”, a speech I had to memorize in its entirely in public school and still can quote, was a man who set some standards for what he was willing to accept or endure were he to accommodate himself to living. It’s a position taken by many Islamic fundamentalists in the early 21st century. We might be offended to compare Islamic revolutionaries making war with our American founders, but its worth pausing to look at their unmistakable similarities while pointing out as well their humanistic differences.
Liberty to do what? Freedom from whom? In both cases the revolutionaries were and are attacked as themselves slavers. The Islamic adapted toward women is somewhere between a two tiered society and slavery. Yet liberty or death for one male group, flawed, violent and hypocritical, might be better in some ways than slavery and life for everybody.
The words of Patrick Henry should resonate in us how much liberty we want to cede to those who value it, or those who would rather die than not have it. Most of us would never take up the imaginary cudgels for the far frontiers suggested by the Marquis de Sade in this matter. We would not want pele to have the freedom to murder, rob, betray, take up adultery or other actions which are at once proscribed by the ten Commandments but as plainly the options of anyone on Earth who is willing to risk any punishment or death much as Patrick Henry says to embrace that liberty and really wants to do them. Even Jefferson dismisses some people who have vices and zeal they take up agist their moral interests as “scoundrels”. Jefferson’s implication is that whatever made them as they are, there is nothing one can do about them.
One might ask who was or is more free, a man of deep resources living in a society, not the wilderness, or one with no skills for survival who has many more comforts and all the freedom that technology can muster or that dollars can buy. Of course we would want to have both. It is on the evidence a fact that many people find their are enslaved as much by their dependence on monetary clout and comfort than on a terror of what might happen to them from the malice of despots. It separates us from George Washington that like Odysseus he knew on observation that he could survive anywhere. He didn’t need slaves, a country, an economic system, anything at all to thrive as George Washington.
Nobody has yet solved the dilemma that if we all want to pursue our lives, some of us will probably perceive our optimal existence much as the dissolute Virginia power group George Washington found to be a bunch of lazy degenerates: the libertine Virginia planters who wanted nothing but an unending season of card games, whoring and boozing. They were of course as much addicted to leisure as hundreds of millions of people are today; in the 18th century its vices were restricted to a few and not yet a common banality. The end of dire poverty does wipe out certain vices only to invite one to new ones.
Some people like Washington find work more satisfying.
Like Odysseus he had a capacity for total and endearing focus on any goal he embraced that found amusement trivial. That’s not to say he didn’t enjoy drinking, theater, card playing and other amusements. As a host for feasts he was the perfect leaders. It’s that he understood they were only entertainment.
We might note that most of the founders were what we would call workaholics. Washington was one of the most systematic and driven of them; how far had in a passion for work was he from Hamilton. Jefferson and Franklin? We wouldn’t want to be as reductive as Marx, Christianity, Communism or any other general theory of the past several centuries about the common nature of mankind and on that basis try to impose one set of cacaos in life on everybody. We wouldn’t want to leave such judgment behind us on such matters totally like the Marquis de Sade either.
As Jefferson says equality is about legitimizing franchise and opportunity, actions which otherwise would be taken up illicitly. It’s not about making everybody the same. Jefferson compared Newton to some ignoramus and said both should have equal political rights but Newton will always remain Newton with all the delights such a singularity must feel to be who he is. Nothing in the worlds was ever going to make a moron equal to Newton personally. The issue was whether or not both newton and the moron had the legal right to be who they were.
It’s a distinction which might escape my own age, one that candle tell the difference between Newton and morons, workers and professional indigents but it is as much true in the Jeffersonian sense that one isn’t wise to make an enemy of the natural diversity of our spaces even to be a moron anymore than one is sagacious to try to impose more than very limited rule on anybody in it. Nobody knew better about he vices of despotism than the founders, all of whom were born into it. None of them had to face the evils of cecitis that tried to amps a severe and general levelling of the nature of all humanity on a species naturally diverse they called equality. As Jefferson might say the effect of such a tyranny would only be to stifle as much as it could the dynamics of the varied capacities for intelligence itself that generated diversity among us a crime.
At the hub of organization of George Washington’s society where the large landowners and planters. Washington excoriated most of them as conventional provincial degenerates. He hated them. He couldn’t imagine anything more hellish for the spirit and for morals than to live a life of constant leisure and torpor. He very systematic, detailed and hands-on management style in anything he did was at as much of polarity as he could muster from the style of existence of those people. Of course Washington was different from most folks. He had sorted out as a nobody if by 26 he was one of the most wealthy men in Virginia. He worked on self improvement with a severe fracto; he probably always felt that without such efforts he might become a nobody again. He put his inner desperation into harness for his moral and private agendas. Of course he saw and recognized the same qualities in Alexander Hamilton. Peacetime for George Washington as the application of military analysis to any situation including how to run a business or a farm.
Taking this inquiry to the present one might ask how free is anybody living an upper middle class life in the suburbs? they grow nothing, shepherd no animals, cannot build their own houses, won’t even walk a block if they can ride the same distance in a car, are prey to the pits of life that come from expecting too much from amusement, in general aren’t all that different from the big planters class Washington loathed and excoriated. Yet are they free? Is the hope for the capacity and success to do nothing freedom? A truck strike that would keep goods out of the shopping malls would bring the to their knees in a few weeks.
It’s hard to imagine George Washington running out of rescouses for survival no matter what was happening in the world. Like Odysseus he was a quick learner, ready to adapt to any circumstance, was at home at the frontier.
Washington had the ancient cunning of the hero. His intelligence was field with a million details. He knew all about various weeds, diverse tobaccos, game birds, how to raise dogs, how to ride horses, what land is arable for what crop, and so on.
He didn’t have to look up anything in an encyclopedia that could be wrong or censored in some way; he was an encyclopedia. He certainly discovered in his early 20s when he lived in the wilderness that he could survive anywhere. He had a tremendous respect for the Indians survival crafts that never left him because they were even better at it than he was. His inaugural addresses always stress looking out for the Indians. Washington certainly knew enough of them close up during the years that led up to he French and Indian war.
Washington was very much at home with war, comfortable with violence. Even in peacetime when he tired of arduous work he went out on chases of foxes and hunted them down over days. Like Napoleon he saw himself as one born to be a warrior. It must have come naturally to him. In this way he might easily escape the perceptions of some of us who find violence abhorrent. Early America of his time like the wild west a century or more later was a very violent country. It couldn’t have escaped Washington that he was not only bigger and stronger than almost anybody but he could ride a horse, shoot a pistol and make war in large or small groups if he had to as one of his option to fulfill his agendas.
Similarly his religious views weren’t a set of opinions that came to him in middle or old age. He was a local surveyor in his 20s of every belief there was in his area. He had early contact with Jews and all kinds of sects; he visited all of them in youth, a habit that became lifelong.
He certainly didn’t believe in communion or the divinity of anyone though he had an enduing faith in Providence. He didn’t avoid going to church, any church. He merely left quietly before its magical reties began. Washington’s discretion piqued Thomas Jefferson, one ten years younger, one who was much more confrontational about laws and social situations in his writing and talk. Although Washington was a very articulate man and could use English very well to articulate his complex thoughts, he never saw the kinds of large philosophical arguments Jefferson mounted as worth his study.
Washington had an aversion to expression of any abstract thought or principle though plainly he had plenty of them. I would imagine he learned this circumspection being a hinterland colonist. It didn’t make him any the less enraged that he was living a life in which he had no clout and was the subject of a king thousands of miles away. It just kept him very cautious about expressing his views to many people.
He actually used this laconic habit to his advantage later. People always thought the very eradicate Alexander Hamilton was the one who formed the central American government. Hamilton was partially that but he and Washington thought alike in so many ways constitutional it’s hard to say where one man’s opinion ended and the other began. Both were extremely systematic and detailed people who made long lists of even seemingly trivialities during their day. Both were very well skilled in business and often thought like business.
Both were driven workaholics always out after self improvement. We don’t think of George Washington as coming from as low a station as Alexander Hamilton and he didn’t. Yet lowliness is sometimes a perception. How it felt for Washington to be as a younger son and minor part of a family in which others came first, one not even worth schooling, as self taught as Hamilton was, his talent for deference was very much a source of tension in his very passionate man. Hamilton never seemed overly ambitious to Washington because they were of a piece.
Washington saw himself as coming from virtually nothing just as Hamilton did too be what he was because he was enduring, driven and willing to work harder than anybody else. Both had shadowy and absent fathers, Washington’s father dying when George was nine years old. Both were attached to their brothers early on. Both had curious relations with their mothers. Washington always said he learned everything including morals from his mother; while she was alive he avoided her and her somewhat saturnine critiques of him.
We don’t know what Alexander Hamilton’s relation to his mother was because Hamilton could not bear to talk about the highlighting life he had lived as a child in the West Indies; given her feisty nature, not unlike George’s outspoken and critical mother, it couldn’t have been altogether good. Both men wanted to be generals in wars. Both were frustrated early on in that intent.
Some of their sense of themselves filtered into the plays they resonated to and quoted from. We are away that Washington was enamored of Addison Cato; he was as attracted to Sheridan’s School for Scandal, a play that preaches tolerance and acceptance of people rather then cultivating slander and evil tongued gossip about others. Washington saw Hamlet in Philadelphia and quoted in one of his letters from one of Prospero’s speeches in The Tempest about the fabric of a world raised by magic.
The School For Scandal, Hamlet, and The Tempest are all about protagonists who have been wrongly usurped of their portion in the world They are all these stories of men retreating into magic isles, lords in a sort of exile, feigning madness sometimes or even taking up a voyage to England, escaping a world which is not their own nor made to be their own natural environs.
There is a kind of immortal sharing of experience between Shakespeare, Sheridan and Washington, all provincials in the English empire patronized by toffs, that is worth our attention. All three were excellent satirists. Washington’s letters are field with humorous sardonic comments, all of which suggests that he shared with Shakespeare and Sheridan some of a sense of being an unappreciated fellow in an oppressive legitimate world.
Neo of the differences between Hamlet and Washington was that Washington was sincerely and profoundly ambivalent about a life of iconic heroism and power. In his late years Hamilton fell into such ambivalence and took up a private life with his family much as his father-in-law, Philip Schyler, had suggested he do twenty years earlier. Of course it was easier for Washington to settle into lands he knew as a child and become master of an estate than for Hamilton to buy one in a world he had never seen until he was sent to New York to study in college as a late adolescent. Hamilton never returned even once to the West Indies. Had he bought land there and became one of its patricians he would have been more like both Shakespeare and George Washington.
I would suspect Hamilton was more sacred by his upbringing than Washington was; that doesn’t mean Washington wasn’t injured emotionally by how early other people fobbed him off as a marginal character. Perhaps some of the drive character of all three men not to mention Sheridan reflected their primal fears that one day somebody would belie all of them to be nobody.
Fro this reason Washington identified with Prospero, the man in exile who could raise a world from nothing by magic. Prospero is always one not involved in petty politics. He works through an agent: Ariel. He might have associated Hamilton with Ariel. Washington also resonated with Hamlet, a prince slurped by an uncle, one living in a regime deeply adverbial to him. Hamlet has a sardonic style that one might find echoes in Washington’s saturnine appraisal of others.
Obviously a duo like these two men, Washington and Hamilton, or for that matter, Sheridan or Shakespeare, could never take up the idea of inequality as was of life they could ever be comfortable with. Washington and Hamilton had to be Abolitionists who stood for hard work and opportunity for everybody including Black people. They identified with Black people because once they weren’t all that far from a form of servitude themselves. It could have gone the other way.
The most obvious contact between Hamilton and Washington is their sheer physical presence. Washington was built massively like a football tackle. He had not only ferocious drive at anything he worked at but tremendous brute strength one might then more than now associate with ancient heros like Heracles or Odysseus. Like Odysseus Washington was also very adaptable. Whatever mistakes Washington had made early on because the very fulcrum of setting up a decreet private school of his own life to never make the same errors again. It does influence a man’s sense of himself and the take of others on him if he is clearly such a physical prodigy that if there are contentions he can dastard anybody in the room. Hamilton had the adaptability but not this brute virtue. Washington made sure by how he walked, carried himself and rode a horse that there would be no dabbled in anybody’s mind that he was endowed with such brute qualities like an ancient hero. Combined with his driven character, sardonic mentality, focus and capacity for work he was an awesome spirit.
He wasn’t a showoff or braggart as many heros are. He balanced his enormous physical presence with a charity and kindness that was all by self startling in a world that was much more involved in sheer grunt survival. Yet Washington even in his twenties took all kinds of jobs that were available to him that defined him as a leader. He ran for the House of Burgesses, a kind of state senate, served, was always punctual, never missed an appointment and was a grunt force in this august group. Ding this time he was asked to make a speech he stood up and found he had nothing to say. The leader of the group covered it up. That only happened once. To me it shows that Washington, certainly a fine thinker and no mean articulator of his thought, a keeper of private journals, a poet and excellent letter writer, was so accustomed to keeping his counsel and thinking over things by himself he was absolutely astonished when he was empowered as a kind of senator to make a public speech in front of a group of people about anything. Hew never did like it; he got very good at it.
Nothing that separates us from the founders including Washington is the sheer quantity of death of lived ones they had to endure. Not only had Washington’s father died when George was nine; his beloved brother Lawrence at thirty four, another brother August at 39, and there were only the major losses for him.
These people lived in a world in which disease, Indians, whatever could knock off anybody at any age. They reacted to such trials by feeling that life was often a sorry realm, perhaps accepting as best they could that anybody they liked or loved or admire might be a corpse next week. Washington himself almost died several times before and during his presidency. He was sick unto death with smallpox, malaria, dysentery and other fevers and diseases we can only guess at. His brother Lawrence had died of tuberculosis; he was afraid he had the ailment too. When he was elected president he had a chancre cut out of his thigh that almost killed him.
Both Washington and Jefferson married young widows. It wasn’t so strange to be one in such perilous times. Since men in t he prime of life were dropping dead all over the place there must have been a lot of widows. There were also since women were perishing at the same rate a lot of widowers. It says something, I am not sure what, perhaps his intimacy with Sally Hemmings that Jefferson’s managed to live as a widower for fifty years without ever marrying aging.
Jefferson and Adams both claimed Washington was uneducated. Adams noted he couldn’t spell. Washington did have his own way of spelling words but he was one of the best writers among the founders. He obviously had worked at it. His style after twenty three or so is almost entirely free of clichés. That takes work. He has a real voice and says what he wants to say at all times.
Washington spent two hours a day every day at home in his Mount Vernon library in the late morning reading. One might imagine that Washington reading anything meant also that he was critiquing very freely everything he read. We also know that even as president he went to public libraries. He still owes about 232 dollars on some book from the New York Pubic Liberty, a study in English law he never returned. His writing comes to about 100,000 pages. He certainly wasn’t one who abjured education and the uses of an articulate pen.
It’s not hard to figure out what George Washington watershed experiences were in life though he rarely talked directly about them. It might be worth listing my guess at some of them.
1.I f he could survive in the wilderness he could survive anywhere. There was really nothing that could do him in but diseases, bellicose enemies and old age. Otherwise he had nothing to be afraid of. With a gun, knife, bows and arrows and his strength and endurance he could function without any help from any state.
2. He knew the Indians had a civilization of intelligence focused very effectively on individual freedom and power. They might ally themselves with other groups but they really didn’t need them to perpetuate themselves.
3. Old world organization with its class system, monarchial obligations, formality and military discipline was inferior in America to more fluid, mobile and informal ways of taking action.
4. Slavery was not only immoral and an enemy to humanity, to the master as well as the slave, but an utterly doomed economic enterprise. It could not motivate its employees to work beyond a certain level of competence if it could do even that. It certainly could not compete with any society that valued and produced excellence. If one such neighbor didn’t do in a slave sate another would one day.
5. It is better among people who are likely not to be open to new ideas or other ways of thinking or conducting oneself to be silent and let them talk out their orthodoxies.
6. The center of life is not about what one is or can be as a soldier to any regime but whether or not from the castle of one’s private life one now and again offers one’s services to a regime that is just and operates under a code of rectitude and honor.
7. One might need political systems that are overly organized and built on class but one needs an economic system with detailed elements to operate politically in a world in which commerce was going to be even more powerful than any ruling class.
8. All men are created equal but different; given that, one would be a fool not to value everyone for their good qualities and by dismissing them make them one’s enemies.
9. Human begins cannot be provoked either by dread or seduction to work beyond the capacities and moral notions or lack of them.
10. Public life is very much like a theater. It is well lit and catches the attention of many people in the shadows. Yet it is the audience is more real than the actors.
11. Strangers will always make the beset case they can for assuming one is acting on one’s supposed worst impulses.
12. If one is being cortical of another it is preferable to state one’s disagreement with them later in one’s otherwise civil discourse rather than immediately.
13. The United States was if it ever got clear of England, given the weakness of those in the way of tis expansion, was going to have the territorial expanses it currently has.
14. There is a deity that operates secretly beneath the surface of things to take up its benign will.
15. It is preferable to bond with others with good qualities and honor rather than those for whom one feels some carnal passion.
16. The future of the United states will be resolved on its ability to produce competitive manufacture and its own banks, not merely its raw materials as it had been when a colony.
17. The presumptive politics of a free republic should be neutrality to all merely engaged in interests. One should never take up any cause unless it is clear just.
18. Afro-Americans and Indians are just as good as White people. They differ in fortune, not character.
19. In a world increasingly based on skilled labor even slaves should be encouraged to be artisans; his former slaves deserved an education to attain those competitive crafts.
20. No family should ever be broken up lawfully or otherwise for any economic reason.
21. The principal motivation to work in any society is freedom and fair wages.
22. If one has power one has to be especially wary of intrigue and flatterers.
23. The freedoms inherent in a republic are based at bottom not on law which can be bad and oppressive, not on too much centralization which makes enemies in the hinterlands, but on the belief of everyone in the nation from top to bottom that private life is more important than public power.
24. If anyone or any group is given an opportunity they will discover what they are made of.
25. You can be fooled by another human being once respectably, not twice.
26. Religion is worth one’s attention for its morals but not its claims to be able to perform magic.
27. Since an uncommon and astonishing diversity of action perpetuates the existence of many kinds of people it is likely that they are all as good in some way if not in all ways as each other.
28. If one lacks certain qualities naturally to be a master of life one has all the more reason to learn them.

I think that is a fair beginning if hardly more than a shard of all of George Washington’s principles of life. I also think it isn’t that hard to guess where and how he got them. We might find in our time many of them disturbing.
We currently have a system as well as a science based on interest, not honor. We have a government and corporate world that invades private life with near impunity. Our foreign policy has been very spotty at best about backing just causes or opposing unjust ones.
Over none of this has interfered with the effect on the world of application of some of Washington’s axioms; it’s at most hidden some of them from open view. Our principal export, opportunity, egalitarian politics and the freedoms of limited government really has come to the world not from our capital and its leaders lately but from 50s and 60s rock musicians based often in Chicago. One should say that rock and roll like jazz is a word in America meaning coitus. We have achieved more influence in the world from jazz and rock music than we have with any of our prestigious artists and thinkers run at various exotic places on the planet by our foundations.. given our populist roots that shouldn’t be entirely surprising that our real ambassadors aren’t the one who are in diplomatic places but are guitarists and signers who show up in glittering dress in rock shows.
Ron Chernow notes that one of the effects of ruining the American revolution on George Washington was his increasing respect for bottom people. Washington was always one who judged others sheerly on performance. He was never a racist and never honored the colonial system given he got a fair whiff of it. When he started out in life his goal was to become a gentleman. That meant he would be a peer of the very rich patterns in Virginia and a businessman who had made a fortune. When he saw in his forties what ordinary people where capable in the revolution he honored them. It’s this adaptive side of Washington that still reverberate over the entire Earth. He is the most important man in human history because he is the maker of revolt and fashioner of a regime without a model that was the first to make the dream of humanity for many to be able to lead an adult life manifest.
I don’t think there’s any mystery or obscurity in Washington’s principles. They are transparent to the point where one has to make an effort, which this country has ample one, to ignore them and claim Washington was a sort of opacity.
If people complained about him they found in Washington one too much focused on intricate systems that worked like Swiss watches. Since he was a surveyor and military man, then a very successful businessman with a head for commerce, it’s hard to imagine how else he might have developed. He certainly wasn’t going to take up metaphysics.
George Washington might have been the first and last man in history not to lose any of his sanity when in power. He also was one those who was the most successful politician in American history, famous for never having lied, moreover had an dry abhorrence of “dissimulation”. That first quality alone if the second might be questioned does suggests he might very well have been aided by divine powers and in front of unbelievers was performing a miracle.
One of the ways that we contemporary Americans are ruptured from our founders is the assumption that they were all right for their time but they have nothing to say to us. Nothing could be more untrue. It would be more acarid to say that we in our time haven’t caught up to their insights. In many ways George Washington’s time was more apt to remind people of the political possibilities of limited government and freedom than our own imperial industrial juggernauts and vast suburbs. It was more plainly in front of Washington that it is to us that local people have to figure out some means to live with enough peace and design to survive in an indifferent world. It wasn’t a world in which one waited for somebody else to deliver the pizza.
George Washington understood centrally that a country could be an ethical and just idea, not an expanded city state of a tribe extending its imperial power over a hapless population. George Washington understood that politics is or at least can be the art of bringing rivals together, governing in a limited way as a mode of brings peaceful organization of life to some very diverse and equal people. That is a revolutionary idea whose time has not yet come.

George Washington in Valley Forge

One of George Washington’s recent biographers has said that at Valley Forge Washington had wondered what level of desperation Americans would have to embrace to take uke revolution actively and at some peril. It’s a speculation many of us have had about our own lives as well as a more abstract anchored about history. It is a concern probably as old as our species. The Jews call it tschuva, turning; they have a moth of preparations for such a metamorphisms of spirit beginning with slichot, a time to meditate upon one’s sins and mistakes. Some Russian savants have speculated that the road to redemption is thorough embracing the worst of crimes since only evil that is unspeakable to the Saul inspires the spirit finally to take up goodness.
In the modern era twelve step programs ask the addict to take up a self appraisal much like the Jewish one as a preparation for making amends when one can, trying to become a better person. The Catholic church runs its confessions as a way of articulating the same dilemmas some soul has not faced though such a look in the mirror is plainly not to their interest. Trotsky mentions that the Politburo under Lenin had such wrestles every time they met.
In our personal lives we can easily observe others or ourselves take action one day upon angaries that have bane endured by us without action for years. Why one day we act on trying to remedy our woes and on others we don’t is one of life’s ordinary domestic mysteries.
It might be interesting to look at whether a society can survive at all much less thrive when it lacks institutional mechanisms of such self criticism. There certainly are no lack of engines among us that our institution of all kinds of bypass, mute or salience to prevent any self criticism. As Freud says in Civilization and Its Discontents, nothing takes up excess and perversity quite like any institution. If individual human begs are less prone to embrace the mass atrocities of institutions they don’t lack for the capacity to entertain private excess either.
John Adams said the American revolution was really in place by the 1760s; it needed some accidental tinder to make it into an active military reality decades later. One might in fact say the same of many revolutions. Wouldn’t we think on the evidence that France should have had its revolution in 1720 or even 1680? Shouldn’t the Russian revision have occurred in 1821 with the advent of the Decembrists?
The revolts of the French, Dutch and English colonies after World War Two were studiers in how a previously unorganized dissent of a colony stayed as it was while the power to organize them from the center of an imperium gradually weakened, then disappeared.
What might have kept off the revolt of China from the various juggernauts of Europe that were keeping t a slave camp? Why have certain callowness in the present like Australia or Canada, either of which could not be defended by England were they to declare themselves a republic, never happened? Both colonies, and other we might mention, could not lose in a long war against a colonizing enemy that had to transport their entire means of force to maintain that rule. It’s possible that since George Washington was in the English colonial army for a time he had more moments of pique than most of the residents of the American callowness to feel umbrage about the British.
Yet I suspect that one of the reasons the American Revolution was successful was that outside of holding the coast and the large coastal cities with a navy and some forts the British had no means of ruling over the inland populations of these chillness even a few miles from their Atlantic bases.
I think there are a lot of reasons for tardiness in change for all of us. One is that as the twelve steppers say, nobody knows what is the bottom for anybody else. Levels of desperation that seem call for actions from everybody in fact can’t be objectified in common human action anymore than human beings in general can be described accurately and precisely by any general theory.
Beyond that people are apt to embrace known evils rather than unknown situations of any kind. It’s only when the known eels become both observable at all times and utterly intolerable and one has the means to remedy that dilemma that people will take up the unknown,
Anther factor in the mix is that the imperium to be revolted against hands out the jobs and salaries to its faithful while leaving all others to the caprices of Nature. The very mechanism of sheading the monies to pay off everyone on all levels to maintain this flow of income to the colonial class is a deterrent for anyone in any stage of the colonial operation ever wanting to change the present into something less secure.
The Romanovs and Bourbons made the mistake common to many autocrats of keeping only a tiny amount of their citizens paid off to keep quiet. Sallust accurately decries paying off everybody as mass bribery. Most people aren’t averse to being given some material guerdon for their silence, perhaps a little more for their more vocal assents.
In the 2012 American election Mitt Romney made a cogent reference to this juggernaut of entitlement when he was that 47% of American wouldn’t vote for him because they didn’t want to give up beg on some niche of the vast government dole. Romney was castigated for this remark but he was right. An awful lot of vetoers in that election did not vote for Barak Obama as much as against Mitt Romney, one whom if elected had premised to take them off that pad.
One might glean from Romney’s dour insights that it is in the interest of a government to keep everyone on the pad once they have put them on it, or at least be able to threaten them with punishment or death were they to rebel from the selective world which only keeps some people on the skim.
Thins isn’t entirely a physical or even a legal matter. The Soviet Union fell while claiming that everybody in the country was on the pad. The truth was that the inaptitude of the system was so stifling to the populace that very few people in it felt on the pad or were ready to continue being on it.
Obviously in 1776 very few people in the American colonies felt they were being supported in any way by Britain. They calculated on the contrary that they were being skimmed by people who had contempt for them and who gave them back nothing, I think Romney underestimated the honor of the American constituency as much as his opponents did. My guess is that a good deal of Romney’s vetoes came from people who were on Welfare and food stamps in the rural areas.
Politicians generally don’t value honor or think it exists because their craft in their secret diplomacy is to act as if they themselves totally lacked such a quality. In politics anyone can ct a del with their friends; the effective politician can also make one with his enemies.
I’m certainly not making a case for Mitt Romney’s solutions to a realm whack is bribed at the top as well as the bottom to take the money and shut up. What Romney called Free Enterprise, kept in its heyday in the late 19th century had most of the Congress on a private dole and had set into motion all the instability and revolution that comes in any time and place when the few are paid off but the many are given nothing but a life of slow starvation.
One can say that it is the burden of the government for the worst of reasons, an elite that is bribing large volumes of people to make sure that the schmeer, the greasing of the palm, is generous and wide, that massive volumes of people who get the schmeer know it and appreciate it.
In many revolutions the change in the polices of the army or other quasi-independent estates within the government make a rebellion possible. We’ve had a series of independent estates in America, few of which are happy to be seen as what they are. The Southern senators and clubhouse Supreme Court judiciary kept slavery in place, even extended some of it de facto in Jim Crow rule for a hundred ears after the Civil War.
After World War Two the army and CIA all wanted to draft African citizens for wars that were not in the national interest if they were favored as moneymakers by these individual organizations, some private contractors and a few local imperial religions,
Anytime politician are the leaders of a state that has an armed force in them, whether they are obviously independent or not the politicians, lacking guns, have to accommodate a group that is allay one step or less from being utterly free given its weaponry to do as it pleases.
Often these armies are filled with soldiers gleaned from the very people whom the state elsewhere hopes to keep a colony. The English army was field with Scotsmen and Irishmen. The French army was a haven for African colonials. It suggests that even in the 18th century England and France didn’t have enough solders from their own populace, none of them part of the elite and bribed, ready to kill or be killed to command their own empires. They had to make do with more desperate people than their own citizens to man their armies. The anginas were already in place given the narrow aegis and generosity of these despotism back home for a general implosion of the empire and a retreat from its colonies back in the ps, perhaps even earlier.
Many critics of the American revolution have thought that it was won not by the Americans but the French landing under Rochambeau. Certainly Rochambeau’s army and navy abruptly accelerated the British defeat; I don’t think it was necessary to Washington’s success. On the evidence England had no ground support for a mobile army moving through the inland America, no real answer to a mobile army that could picked up and move across rivers and large spaces of land such as Washington had mounted to oppose their rule. Even if they had had such means of warfare Washington could have retreated to the Ohio territories and conducted a long and mobile war from there.
The growing apposition to the American War of Independence in England itself and the lack of attractiveness of the British cause to Americans themselves would have over a longer time inevitably defeated the British. Washington’s strategy of a lean and nimble army avoiding confrontation of a British presence, one that apparently was always confined to a few cities, was a good one. Rochambeau and the French catalyzed the resolution of an event that one can see at least in retrospect was inevitable.
One has to wonder why give the same observable facts as Washington had why England didn’t press for a major battle in the war or back off and give the colonists their demands. I suspect the answer might be to the first inquiry that they didn’t have the means or the inclination from top to bottom in their military ferric to do so.
People in the army of somebody else and their agendas, not bonded to their by the same aims nor by blood tend to be motivated to survive their labors, not to take the continual major losses that would come with such a policy of major frontal assault. Had the British generals ordered their solders to make that battle they might have had to endure an internal revolt. The British solders, largely from Scotland and Ireland, were content very understandably to skirmish here and there and survive.
As it was both sides were happy for different reasons to fight a long war in which as few people as possible died. It meant that the British generals were limited by the unorganized lack of enthusiasm of their own solders for this war.
One might remember that way back when Alexander The Great was dissuaded from his own Macedonian troops from continuing to fight invasive wars after twenty years or so at that tiring and perilous duty. Generals have to factor in the unorganized enthusiasms or lack of it of their troops when they want to fashion a winning stratagem for milder victory.
Soldiers are motivated also by the staying and ravishing of sexual provender they can take up lawfully in successful assaults and sacks; after a while even those primal rewards for their perils of life and death seem to pall.
When any solders, especially born poor recruits from other parts of the very population the empire has enslaved, armed with the cunning of rogues, are fighting a long colonial war in faraway places the colonials are usually not eager to risk their lives in any way. The natives have more reason to purge the candor of their foreign rulers and rule themselves. The solder who is part of a long losing colonial war will go on to another job on salary and be perfectly happy to lose another colonial war in another place.
It was much more iffy for Washington and his generating whether a free popular republic manned by cetaceans governed by self rule as much as possible might survive at all. Such notions, probably garnered from Aeschylus and The Persians and the of politics of Cato as well as of course the central actions in the Torah, a book read by nearly every America more than Aeschylus and Cato, had many more chances of failing than the American revolution in after its success and the subsequent peace than as a pure calculated military exercise.
America after all from the beginning was not conceived as a tribal contra linked by blood but as a cosmopolite and diverse nation based on an idea of what government does not or should not do rather than what it did do.
The general view of the founders that America was bless by Providence was really what the founders needed given how much the attempt to fashion a new kind of government and its consequences might produced catastrophic harvests that had few or no models in the past and were otherwise completely unknown.

Atomization As a Direction in History

Most of the founders of America were in middle age and had formed their character reacting to an autocratic social juggernaut that had defined them as colonists. No taxation without representation, a shibboleth of the rebels, is a rather interesting phrase that assumes one might have power by having trusted people who representing one speak for one’s interest. It is a common notion of a day when the closeout one get to having a legitimate franchise in politics was to have such representatives, in England in the House Of Commons. It’s interesting to realize that the House of Commons in England was itself not much of a representative body until 1945.
In the 19th century only one tenth of England’s males had the right to vote for such representatives. The females didn’t of course have any such means of anyone promoting their interests. Until the takeover of the British government by the Labour Party the veto power of the House of Lords over any House of Commons action was a check from the autocrats of the day in England on any popular policy until many of the lords and their king to protect their fiefs turned out to be treasonous Nazis.
As far as I know in concordance with the English way of doing things even to keeping a monarch as pet but giving the ruler no power, this option of the House of Lords has nave been fully taken from them; it exists but only theoretically. No House of Lords has vetoed a single action of Commons since the 1940s. If they did it or the current monarch exercised her fait pair they both know they might be abolished instantly altogether.
I am pointing out that the means of having political power in the 18th century was limited in several ways, only one of which was the lack of communications that would allow the populace to vote directly on every measure brought before Parliament. Plainly we have that means now in computers. Yet nobody in or out of power among us has suggested that perhaps we don’t need representatives anymore.
I’ve never even heard libertarians argue for such an oblivious aid to franchising the common people with power. Perhaps the are all bribed to be politely silent. That act would of course put a lot of lobbyists as well as our supposed representatives out of business. Representation in our lifetimes has continued in diverse guises, even sometimes a democratic Congress, as often a way of creating a perpetual set of middle range autocrats through having them elected in “safe” districts. Anyone who has any proximity at all with modern America government knows that the way to get a contact and income from the state is to talk to and bribe those representatives. That after all is where the big magna is to be made. Oddly in England the “councils” which are local village officials, have more power in a more decentralized government locally than America has today.
It means we are still as we were in George Washington time in the hand of people of power who want to make sure we never get any. They don’t in America appear in entertainment costumes and run ceremonial magic shoos like kings or the pope. They appear on television as low key philosophers when their only visible credential to have any sagacity is their gift at garnering and holding on to money.
This modern way of flaunting despotism doesn’t make people less free. It relegates their liberties to the place where betrayals occur classically: in their private and local lives. Dissidents, rogues and pilgrims are always going to look for such adult power., they are always going to take it where they can find it. Even the slaves in George Washington time had personal power in their homes and in the rising of their children, possibly more power than some of our current citizens who think of themselves as free. There are more laws attempting to control the personal lives of people now than there were in 1776.
However I want to assume as in my view Jefferson aptly said that the war between the individual and the states is never going to be resolved, not by social engineering nor anything else, that an artificial despotism of nobles is not going to be superseded in the long run by a natural despotism of experts, commissars and social architects. In the short run anything can happen. I think I can take up freedom only because in my own lifetime the social engineers have been as inept as they are in making a case for themselves for assenting their rule.
They have a genius for taking good common causes and making them into fragrant ashes. The current revolt of Conservatives in America that began in the 1980s under Reagan was the result of the failure of the Left to run things justly and efficiently as much as the rise of the Left came from the failure of the Right do manage the world with justice and measure. Then when the Right got elected they acted in the same way they always did, forgetting nothing as the French say; they inspired a more modern left movement. It doesn’t seem to matter who the engineers are; they are the evidence apparently all doomed to fail.
No matter what their ideology was or wasn’t the reasons they failed are very predictable. They are bribed to give contracts to scandals and thieves or even without such goads they expand their power from the useful to a kind of ineffectual and ceremonial Toryism to the grossly lethal.
This suicidal character to organized power has been commented on by many sages for millennia. Pericles suggested a state does best with a limited war of no consequence because it might be check enough to stem the vices of peace. Rather than echo the meditations of political theories including the opinion of God on matters sufficiently analyzed in Heaven and Earth I want to move on to the vices without model of those who escape from despotism. To paraphrase Montescqieu, a free popular republic can be a tyranny in which all men are free.
That paradox isn’t going to happen anymore than Montescqieu’s original definition of a tyranny as regime in which one man is free, though Hitler and Stalin both gave it a try. Although history is notable for its meandering and slow quality I don’t think the turn in the past few centuries from monarchies and naked empires to free republics, at least cosmetically limited governments and franchises for the populace is going to go away or be other than other heaps of ashes at the end of the general direction of history. It works better just as the free market and wages work better than slavery.
I also think that fundamentalism is going in the future to take more of the beating it has in the last few centuries. One can’t have a skilled labor force in which the skills are based on problems solving observable science and a belief in a metaphysical system that leaves all in the populace poor, hopeless, passive and fatalistic. Given the hunger of all as Jefferson says for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, enough of the populace is going to want to be more wealthy, powerful and comfortable with the means to attain material felicity than they are when they are notably poor and uncomfortable to do away with fundamentalism in most of the planet.
This has happened with slavery, monarchy, and various class systems because it weren’t competitive with equality, republics and want come down to presumptively skeptical belief systems. This run of history has been going on for five hundred years and in one direction. With the communications available to the world currently the alchemy from the vertical and pyramidal structures of monarchy to free republics should accelerate.
It seems to me, though we have more free people on Earth with wealth and technological means to achieve things previously unthinkable than any time in the known past, the literature on the vices of peace and personal power is rather scanty compared to the books written on the follies of despotism to the point where people mistake certain losses in their lives for freedom.
Unquestionably freedom has such tradeoffs. Frei aber alein was an early 19th century German commentary such exchanges. Balzac’s remark that democracy is the spread of the vices of the rich to everybody isn’t lightweight stuff either. The Marquis de Sade’s inquiry into the dark side of the uses of freedom is certainly worth our attention. There isn’t much difference morally between de Sade’s fantasies in fiction and a real world of porno. The great fear of de Sade’s monsters is that they will no longer have any more enthusiasm about sensation. They are not even ambitious enough to hope for affability or intimacy among their diverse prey.
The ancient lore about the vices of freedom isn’t negligible. We have legends of wizards living in castles that are fair mirrors of folk in suburban homes playing video games or watching television.
Many of those who survived Hitler and Stalin can’t help noting that as Lord Acton famously said: absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is a diminution of the importance of things and people that creeps into the soul when one has power over them. We can survive this skew if we are dealing with the future and hopes of chickens more easily than if we are ruling human beings.
A society of people in substantial material power might be one that relates to others as we currently do to chickens.
We have a fair idea of the vices of power for the few. We don’t know what they might be if they are common and fashionable. We have no clear information about a world in which as far as we can see in all directions everybody has the same wealth and power. It certainly isn’t an issue our founders every took up. They had every reason to believe that there would always be classical poverty of the many, wealth only for the few. They were straddlers at the advent of the very technological revolution that produced new means for organization and freedom in our society but they saw no sign of broad wealth and power that characterized life in much of the West after 1945. As a result there is no talk in their writings of what might hapten if indeed everyone or nearly everyone in the society had a home that was a fortress filled with magic and power for solarity to the extent that most citizens were living in sorcerer’s mansions where one could conjure spirits.
If we follow Acton’s dictum that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and Balzac’s maxim that democracy spreads such vices to everyone we halvah a pretty good deductive handle on where to look for our troubles. We can call addicting to booze, opiates, and individual compulsions illegal and criminal; we are more likely to find our woes coming from actions that are at once corrupt but perceivable, lawful and fashionable in some ordinary way.
We might have very disagreeable things to say about boozing, whoring, needle jabbing and gabbling; our focus should be on the ordinary soporific comforts of suburban living, watching some electronic devices offering us perpetual amusement, shrugging as en thinks in passing of the relative penury of Mexican servants or the woes of one’s neighbors, moving from a place where all that one loves and hates has been dismissed to make a nickel more at another locale about which one feels blissfully indifferent, liking the very anonymity in architecture of the new physical basis of one’s life and all the other rejectable, lawful and comforting actions we take as the very mark of our success.
If we have a belief system based on pure interest and the ultimate triviality of all action we might ask ourselves what has motivated us to embrace such a reptilian faith. It is the modern established religion. Nobody knows whether any actions are important or unimportant. No society including those run by Genghis Kahn or Hitler has ever existed for long with a morals of pure struggle, looting and interest. The societies that have endured like the Jews and Chinese have very strong fashionable and rejectable systems, honored or not honored, of standing against the plain enough interest we seem to have sometimes to kill, steal, lie, covet, commit adultery and so on. If we take the dialogue between what the Greeks called right action and the Jews righteousness, the Romans called honor away from us and deems it the sentimental garbage of the past, do we benefit by such freedom or lose by it?
It might be very disturbing for us to view the march to the suburbs and the acceptance of colon addictions like excessive watching of television as a vast retreat from mature life into vices. Plainly there is nothing wrong or inherently evil about comfort, being amused, or having wealth and power; there are in fact reasons enough generated from lack of these elements in one’s life to hunger honestly and morally for such remedies to avoid greater griefs. Nobody is going to argue persuasively for the embrace of poverty, lack of amusement and absence of freedom and power of any sort and convince anyone except a few educated fools that it might be a good idea to have such a severely predatory and desperate life shuffling in the ashes for scant bits of corn. We are not going to go backward. We can only hope there is a door at the end of the tunnel of corruption that can lead us to a recovery.
We have examples of such actions in life. The Indians may have been prone to alcoholism and Western diseases to the point where three quarters of them died; the ones who survived are largely not alcoholics and are immune as Westerners are to the same bacteria. I think in a comparable way the people who were addicted to television between 1950 and the present caught the full brunt of this new addictive taste; their children who survive such posh incarcerations are much less addicted to it.
Human beings do survive common plagues and calamities in this way much as cockroaches adapt generational from the graves of their relatives destroyed by DDT have adapted by mysterious means to be immune to pesticides. We certainly have had no lack of boozers over the centuries all over the world yet we have plenty of people who can down a glass or two of ale or brandy and function very well without becoming addicted to liquor. Addictive character is apparently at least partially an inheritable quality. It has to compete in the world with people who don’t get addictive to the same substance and its subsequent manipulative way of life.
Given the variety of combinations of genes and ineluctable factors we don’t understand how or why every spaces does produce its sports. At the bottom end the dunces, geniuses and monsters die or are even born dead though their progenitors and more mediocre inheritors of their legacy are viable enough. At the top end they enrich the possibilities for survival of the entire species.
If the individual may not survive some antagonist to its hope for perpetuity, the species sometimes will.

Free Republics and History

1

The basis of the America republic is a set of presumptions that are true or not true. One is that history isn’t a tale of struggles and contentions between opposing tarns but the story of the people who elude all those regimes. When I went to school I never heard this theory. My teachers preached that every progressive moment in history was a further centralization of power and efficiency in politics though they hardly Communists. History for them was the gradual alchemy of diverse and bellicose people over long periods of time into the aegis of a wise and beneficent ruler, perhaps like the late Augustus Caesar.
Many among powerful Americans in the early 20th century from Joe Kennedy backing Hitler and innumerable lefties backing Stalin felt that it was only a matter of time before some group or person or even a machine would come up with a better system of tyranny than the current one of class and impose it benignly, b force if necessary, on everyone. The slavery might even be one in which the slaves were wealthy and free in some way to choose at least their amusements.
It was never too far from this idea to fascism or Communism if the sagacious and just ruler was more elevated and charitable than Hitler or Stalin. Since I was brought up in the middle of World War Two there was also a strain in this paradoxical thinking that America was the champion of freedom against such regimes. It wasn’t that Hitler and Stalin were despotic that had doomed them but that they were evil.
I don’t remember one person in the America of the 1950s articulating much less promoting the idea that freedom and diversity was possibly as powerful a direction in human political history as fascia. The age even had phrases like “assimilation” or the “melting pot” that assumed that there was something very clear and substantial for inferiors and provincials to assimilate to, perhaps drinking scotch, austere manners and claiming a vague priestly franchise in an imaginary world that was very mildly Episcopalian.
Sometimes we are too blind to know who are revolutionaries are. John Lindsay’s notion of New York as Fun City was a kind of political application of High Hefner’s philosophy. It postulated the future of a city would be a pleasure capital of a nation that had sensibly given up work as a value and was focused ice the angels in Heaven on amusement. I think this value system of pleasure is the central reasons such real cities of this sort like Las Vegas exists. We do tend to think in our time of history, that is, the important patterns in human behavior, as tale of who can organized group action better than other competing cadres.
Even by the 50s when Hitler’s ultimate organized force had been defeated the only real dissent from fascism of some kind for us all such a direction for us all was generated by Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Philosophy. He had to menthane his base in Chicago to advocate such a dastardly set of notions. A bit later one heard that it wasn’t all that good an idea to be an English provincial but to be a French. One’s flesh might be very much to the taste of the more Bohemian au courant among us. One must say that like the community party if one joined such groups one at least lived a tolerably carnal life of ample coitus on very little money. I think it was more attractive an idea than any of these intellectual causes had preached. When sex and pleasure become more generally viable in the 1960s this pitch to take up some taste because all action was absurd became considerably less fetching. People were happier sleeping with each other without having to embrace any ideas altogether to get into the sack with somebody tolerably amiable.
To this day one hears echoes of that strident party line clamor among the extant criticism of that time and those after them, debased social activists in a teacup who thought that being rude and nasty was being intelligent. When the party line disappeared, whatever it was, the style of slashing and caning the bonders if it never died become a discernable disagreeable quantity j the same people shunned by anyone sensible.
In my old age I still see the news on the media of a different technology portrayed as if it were the politics of the world before 1776. There are empires, detentes, penetrations, old and new courtiers, the cabal in the palace, the hierophants in the citadel, the princes leading the forces of lawful order, the priests calli for peace when they are out of power, righteous exterminations of neighbors when they have some clout, the wily rebels in the wilderness, the army, the scruffy high priests of the rebels ranting of inevitable viceroy and so on. In fact this version of the news describes fewer than one percent of the political concerns of anybody on the planet. Unless there was some invasion of the size mounted by Genghis Khan or Hitler it was never more relevant to most people on Earth than that.
As emceeing as this was to me when I was an adolescent I can see a half century later that intellectual life in the West is still in spite of the efforts of Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton and their peers a realm concentrating on, not what pele do to elude fascism of some kind but what fascism is most efficient and will control us for our own good all whether we like it or not, its Darwinian wing, or what fascism is most benign for us commonly, the Communist wing. Left and right fascism really only distinguishes itself by whether or not it has any geniality or charity in it. It’s almost impolite to say in America in intellectual circles that our country is fondled by people who felt it didn’t matter what fascism or system was in vogue in any time or place but that it had the approval of the populace as its reason for being. In Jefferson’s words: “Any system at all but that the people approve of it.”
Since at some point we all differ from the polices and laws of any government that standard must lead to a very limited government, sometimes in spite of itself, whenever one takes up social engineering.
When I was eight and in Miss O’Reilly’s third grade class in public school I first was introduced to the version of the time of the history of the American revolution. I remember thinking upon reading the account of Samuel Adams and the Boston Tea Party that it was absurd to think that a tax on tea would precipitate a vast political revolution. It seemed to me it was more likely that a trivial apices had set aflame much deeper resentments and frustrations from the common people we tykes in our public school class knew nothing about. Moreover since the Tea Party was an open affair in which all the participants were known and nobody was afraid of being arrested the act must have had a very wide popularity at least a catalyst of common action among the citizens of Boston. That would means Boston was probably ready to revolt from England on any pretext on the day of the Tea Party. The British control of Boston must have been therefore confined to their garrisons and dread of their means of force. Obviously Boston wasn’t afraid of either one if they ran that Tea party.
Since I was eight I was ready to listen to any discourse that would make sense to me or that would illuminate how a price increase in tea would provoke a whole people to take up independence. I never heard it. Nobody who ran these explanations of the design of American history felt they needed to give us kids more than they had given us.
I can also remember the day when I was a tyke when I saw the internal paradox in institutional fascist thinking. One of my teachers in the fifth grade in public school, the excellent Miss McDermott, told us that Charlemagne and his plan to centralize the French government was the best things that had happened to France. After all it was much more effective as a government than the loose Moorish confederacies and autonomous French baronies that pocked the Middle Ages with their brute dissolute life. I remember thinking to myself that I was rather have lived under the Moors. They warned democrats but they knew the value of lawsuits faire, loose and limited government as more than many American democrats did.
I calculated that as wise as Charlemagne might have been in some ways were I to have lived under his aegis he was at some point going to differ with me on how I wanted to conduct my life or how I thought. The more power he had to do so, the worse it would be for me.
I had some institution it might not be a good idea to vocalize this dissent. My teachers in public school were all Irish Catholic maidens brought up under a system that was not notable for its interest in or valuing at all the notion of limited government. Miss McDermott never did hear my argument that Charlemagne might have been the worst thing that happened to France if we presumed that freedom was a natural and inevitable franchise of free men.
Now I would suggest to Miss McDermott that Charlemagne was one of the first Protestants. He learned how to read at forty. He wasn’t satisfied with intermediate sources like priests. It doesn’t take much of a stretch from his embrace of literacy for himself to rails were one Charlemagne that everyone was better off being literate for the same reasons. Anyone who was a king of literate people who valued observation would have had an edge in promoting their politics.
I had good reason to take up such silence. School was not a democracy. The students didn’t have any freedom to dissent from anything. It might be a slippery step from embracing that two plus two is four to the values of people and what is important in history but Miss. McDermott took it. Irish catholic teachers were great at teaching anything that was like mathematics if not as good as elusive matters and nuance. If our current schools were smart they would contact them and beg them to come back to work. We know the past and its seeming patterns from observation of witnesses and their testimony, not from our own personal take on matters long gone. The people who have written about the past while it was the present during the times of monarchies were usually the nobles and scribes who could read and write. As a result there is no history of the common people; there is only a tale available to us of how many despots of many kinds tries to organize cadres of people with varying psyches.
As a result the history of the populace is as much unknown as the sexual habits of people before the 20th century. We can assume only from indirect evidence, the constitution of the species, that humanity in the West had carnal intercourse before our own time. What common people thought or even what people in courts thought and shared in conversations but did not write down is only accessible to us through indirect evidence.
As a consequence one might think and some do conclude that before the 19th or 20th century nobody had any idea that social freedom of the sort the American founders advocated was ever thought or much less talked about in the West. My own guess is that in the 13th and certainly the 14th century in Europe it certainly became more easily stated openly and more popular to express the kind of humanism we see in the 18th century in American political thinking. In fact it was still the fashion in the 18th century to look to the Greeks and Romans for such models as it was when Petrarch and other Italian scholars began translating the pagan books they could garner in the 13th and 14th century.
We also like to think that deism, which is the current epistemological system under which we live whether we realize it or not, that we can derive all we need to know from observation and don’t need books and revelations as more than ancillary sources to tell us anything, is an 18th century idea that become popular in England. Skepticism about received ideas is built in us like having legs and lungs. Deism is millions of years old. Its as ancient as the first children who were critical of their parents and their ideas.
Those 13th century scholars who were looking to escape their received ideas turned to another set of them instead of saying openly they didn’t need any legitimacy from the past to think as they did. One finds the same intellectual mechanism in the 18th can entry in Jefferson and Hamilton, two of the most audacious political thinkers in human history. As they were stepping intrepidly from observation into the unknown and almost unobservable they were always looking in the back of their minds for models in Roman history books or the Bible. The assertion of Jefferson that people do not need leaders unless they can make some populist use of them can be found in God’s remarks about politics to Samuel in First Samuel, a book probably written mostly three thousand years ago. It’s where Jefferson found it. Of course, since he believed in observation as the source of knowledge much as Hume stated and politics as Locke put it a social contract, he didn’t need to have that model. Still his way of stating the issues suggests he was looking directly at the Bible, not Hume or Locke as his models of thought. Certainly Hume and Locke had been at some time in their lives pondering such matters with the Biblical models too.
My guess is that it hardly escaped such readers of pagan lore as Jefferson that the apex of Thucydides’ History of the Pelopessian War was the tragic so-called Sicilian expedition in which Athens had tried to quell a revolt of one of their colonies in Sicily. The expedition had failed because the colonists fought a cunning war of attrition that made the attempt to control the colony in the long run a fiasco for Athens. Thucydides’ narrative begins with a similar rebellion taken up from Corinth by another set of colonial rebels. The other source of Jefferson’s analysis was of course the Torah, a book which takes up the revolt and emigration of the Jews from Egypt and their formation of a contra across the Red Sea that before the time of Saul had no kings. Since many American towns had Biblical Andes like Zion, Bethlehem or Salem (Jerusalem) nobody in American including Jefferson had to look very far to find parallels in the past to their social condition.
Thucycides as a particularly good model for thinking for American revolutionaries because he himself was a severe citric of prior histories. He is as skeptical of received ideas and previews accounts the past as any deist. He deliberately confines himself to his won observation or the observation of witness he trusts as his sources as much as he can. Yet even Thucydides who was a noble himself was still writing the history of other nobles organizing people for various causes rather than the full table of his narrative. He leaves out all the people who escaped fighting in the Pelopenesian War.
That was a lot of people. Only one tenth of Athenians could have fought in the war since only one tenth were male and free men. George Washington’s army was one tenth to one quarter Black. Part of his troops were people who had arrived in America as slaves. That fact alone separated his army from any known model except that of Spartacus under Rome. Washington companion in all of this foray was William Lee, a Black man. As is clear from innumerable actions of Washington he didn’t view anybody as a natural salve and was eager to rid America of slavery if he could figure out how to do it. One might cavil and say he never quite did took up abolition beyond his own estates but Washingtons’ actions as well as views really vault the American experience to a world beyond anything Thucydides wrote about. It was the first war fought by everybody who could fight it but not the last.
I”m hardly saying anything original or astonishing when I note that the history of 99.9% of the world has never been recorded. If one travels in England where Socialism and law Protestantism before it has had a peaceful and respectable place in the society there are People’s Museums that attempt as best they can with scant evidence to bring the history of common people into their sacred halls. Clearly describing how a few people organized others not nations or armies is as much history as those who escaped such a net; it isn’t any more worth our attention or less important a pattern to us than those who excluded such enterprises.
Most despotic laws are based on the underlying presumption that there is no check from Nature on the power of those laws nor of ruling whims; moreover if any law is passed by a parliament or by a king people will follow it. This is a notion so contrary to even the most cursory observation that one might rightly ask why anybody at all believes such nonsense. In fact the power of law is only to punish actions done in utter freedom and to make certain actions lawful or illicit. Laws and Constitutions live in a large world of lawlessness which is always more powerful than any attempt to remake a state or Creation itself.
A canny businessman looks at the bad and invasively oppressive laws of any real he hopes to do commerce in, and invests in businesses that operate illicitly. He pays no taxes and is probably always among social company that is more interesting and amusing than those who are living cravenly under the law. Moreover there are usually two tiered structures in such a society where the same or similar actions are legal. One might think of murder and war, marijuana and booze, theft and conquest. Whoring is unlawful in sour society outside of Nevada; the exchange of sexual feverous for money in most suburban a marriages is legal. Smoking marijuana, a mild non-addictive taste is an imaginary crime for which real people are put in jail, Smoking cigarettes, a habit addictive and lethal in several ways, is a legal baseness. Gambling whether it is throwing dice in the street or in casinos is sometimes a crime; investing in the stock market, the commodities market or trading in currencies is legitimate, almost pious. This same man, knowing that pleasure, gambling, prostitution, stimulants of all kinds and a surfeit of fat and salt in foods are not vulnerable to be eradicated by any law, investments in these contractual enterprises is sometimes a felony, sometimes not, whether they are pitching prostitution or potato chips.
A man who wants to know the nature of a society he resides in doesn’t look at its laws; he examines first of all its commerce. Bases is the part of life that is least interested in honoring law; it never needs to do so. A law against its operations merely means it has to pay off a few people with money that were it legal it would have to waft away in taxes.
There is not a law in Creation that was ever passed by a parliament or ordered by a king that could prevent anybody living in this universe from acting in some way that they really wanted to do with a sense of calling, intensity and zeal to the point where they were willing to endure any prospect of punishment were they to do it. Often such people are deemed righteous and heros by the future. Laws for this reason inherently put a lot of power in the hands of such zealots or folk ruled by honor. Our American revolution was one of the most unlawful acts of American history. Everybody on the side of that rebellion we now honor and regard as icons were in their time committing mutiny and treason.
They were never hanged for it because the rule was so unpopular that its law could not be enforced; in other words, it could not rule. Such things happen when the rule and rulers haven’t got the approval of the people who live in the society. Our country currently has a lot of such edicts but remains stable because it is materially about the best place one can live in the world. The tradeoff is an accommodation to bad laws for any easy path to wealth compared to the rest of the world. As long as most of the world keeps its populace poor and unable to do better for itself materially it is the central if unspoken contract between the government and the governed that keeps America stable and peaceful.
When we have laws or policies that lack such approval but are ruling us anyway we have not only slavery, Prohibition, drug laws, and other such edicts most people evade in an ordinary way but a general feeling among the common people that government is an enemy to elude, stealing from it and being bribed to break its laws is a virtue; fighting its colonial wars is suicidal madness, giving any energy to it a waste of mortality.
Many of the worst American adventures in bad and unenforceable laws were made because of underlying religious or moral feelings of a distaste for certain pleasures liked by others and the corruptions of addiction which were themselves the real issue in their lawmaking. On the evidence nobody in human history has ever successfully legislated against addiction or pleasure. They aren’t so good either at passing laws against any taste or real vice one takes up with a zealous passion. They remain evils to individuals and states which either have no remedy or if they have common anodynes, these real cures for vice have nothing to do with law. I suspect people have been freed from vice more by staleness and fatigue than anything else.
I had another such insight at 19 as I did under the aegis of Miss McDermott in public school when I was nine. I had a little more confidence that I might be heard at nineteen; yet the one time I stated openly some of my idea about what I thought had happened in English history in my field of study I was looked upon by the professor with such deep unease that I gave it up after a few sentences, seeing his infelicity at my very polite discourse. I changed the subject. He was happy I did; that world of hermits and barons wasn’t a realm to talk about anything honestly. The matter was never brought up again by me to anyone though it formed the basis of by subsequent analysis of that field.
Finally when it showed up in a major paper I delivered I would roundly condemned by some of the prefacers; I was lucky I escapes from college with my degree. A few years later most of these same pressures were teaching remedial reading to illiterates in Detroit to keep their jobs. Nobody could honestly study under them. They were Calvin Klein courters. They weren’t very good or honest scholars.
My insight was one which was plain enough if one was a serious scholar. It was that the Tudor Royalist fiction when ran England in the 16th and early 17th contrast was not merely anti-Catholic but immersed in pagan Italian Renaissance notions that in turn had their roots in Roman and Greek lore. One can see this anti-Catholic politics particularly in the plays of Shakespeare, Henry VI being filled with such polemics. Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus in which his hero tweaks the pope’s nose is another famous surfacing of such sentiments. The Gloriana cult was a kind of English adaption of the Raman emperor semi-religion.
Queen Elizabeth was the leader in translating all the pagan classics into English so that every literate Englishman could read them. A bit later King James did as much with the Bible, translated directly from the Hebrew. The aim of this monarchy was to create a hedge against the kinds of freedom and humanism preached by the low Protestants in their time with their republican intents. As it was, the movement failed and England became a low Protestant republic under Cromwell, then a lifted Tory monarchy.
Some of this history has a strong resonance in American 18th century life. George Washington’s army at one point was ready to burn an effigy of the pope in a public ceremony; Washington told them to desist with such blatant religious intolerance. This idea of Catholicism and its tyrannical ambitions was sail alive and well in the I was in college and later. John Kennedy was perceived by Protestant right wingers all over America as a quisling who if elected would take orders from the pope.
I wouldn’t want to make a case for the Catholic Church being any less autocratic and out for profit as it in fact is. Yet Is it any worse than the other groups out after the same ambitions. If ne wants to knock the Catholics, one has to throw in excoriations of similar ambitions of the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, the Islamics still fighting for the Mogul invasion, the Communists looking for prey wherever people are poor and desperate, as well as various assorted war lords who dolt mount their very parallel operations with the fragrant adornments of a belief system. Besides that, the Catholic church does teach personal morals and in my view teaches it well generally. A religion can never be any better than the people in it. In any organization those who want to organize the most, the autocrats, soar inevitably to its top. It doesn’t matter what its beliefs are. One should never be anti-Catholic or anti-anybody unless one is ready to apply one’s standards to all organizations, all people. One might do well to start with oneself.
From the 13th century through my time the popular revolt against institutional Christianity, the recourse to other sacred books or other priests reforming the present faiths of the day was a kind of hedge against deism and its rejecting of the need for any book or received ideas at all that became fashionable to assert in enlightened circles by the 18th century.
I am offering this seemingly elaborate tangent to show that Jefferson remarks about the approval of the common people was rooted not merely in Aeschylus, Thucydidies, First Samuel, Locke and Hume but sundry observations he had garnered from his long daily walks in Virginia talking to the common people he met on his rural ambles. It was an arena for honest observation everybody else mace ion America had at that time as well. The American revolution was in place in every way but the military resolution of it probably by the 1730s. Of course I would assume nobody stood in a public place and articulated these things standing on a wooden crate. They said these things in taverns and in their homes. The American revolution had everything but a military organization to affect it long before Washington led the Continental army.
The absence of such popular dissent to the revolution is not a mark of a fierce desire for independence from England but a sign of the invisible power of unorganized action. England was very punitive about anyone who used the printing press or held a public meeting to disseminate such ideas. England couldn’t destroy unorganized decent or desire for rebellion; it could and did cut off for decades any means of organizing a revolt.
One of the interesting things about the Declaration of Independence, which we usually attribute solely to Jefferson, is that Jefferson wrote a draft of it, then submitted it in Philadelphia to Adams and Franklin. Since Adams was based in Concord and Franklin in Philadelphia, this document which states for the first time the theory of popular government was worked over by Adams and Franklin before its final draft. Adams said later he could have written it himself. It seems to me this means from Virginia to Massachusetts the ideas in the Declaration of Independence were share as shibboleths by a lot of people who had very primitive communications with each other. The methods of sharing ideas and observations must have been the classical ones of the populace: casual talk in inns, taverns and rural enclaves. Jefferson must have felt confidence that Franklin, Adams and many others had the same ideas if he give his draft of the Declaration of Independence to these two men as peers on a common enterprise. The history of limited government is based on the assessment of its advocates usually based on observation that law itself has a very limited effect on human behavior. An advocate of limited government acknowledge it cannot change much of human behavior by making some of it lawful, other elements of it criminal. Since law is at bottom a mechanics of force and punishment it confines its executions of action to those common purposes few would dispute are inimical to nearly everyone. These crimes include murder, theft, fraud, arson and violent assault. The functions should also include as Hamilton pointed out some means of raising standing armies to defect the nation, some bank under local control to feel its commerce, some autonomy in its economy to lessen its dependence on foreign places and so on.
Sadly these matters were stated much more clearly and argued about with much more honesty in the 1770s and 80s than they are now. Understanding politics generally these days requires one to taker up a denature from the ideas one is presented with in my age as tools of such analysis. One of these notions is that history is a series of contentions taken up by organized groups. most of human history in fact is the attempt successful or otherwise of individual human beings to escape or elude those same groups. As a corollary to these realities revolutions such as our own rebellion often happen when unorganized people who have privately made the same assessments of a politics they live in are called by leaders to put their already formed common opinions into a military deign for doing something about them.
When a leader spies such unorganized sentiments if he is wise he puts them to work for his service. If he is not all that canny about politics he tries to impose his agendas on that same independent and free populace with decisteres results.
In my own lifetime these most major catastrophes included the Vietnam War, the various drug laws, the skew in the courts toward privilege of women, the Welfare fiasco and the general habit of various leaders of the Right and left once they were in power to do the opposite of what they had been elected to do.
In all cases they met with an inevitable disinclination of their constituency to follow them. This isolated and diminished the plower of the would be despot. The leaders of the American revolution met with almost no resistance from their populace in a war of independence from England. It means that before they organized the revolution England itself had made a case for departure from it that no revolutionary leader could have made. It inspired the unorganized populace to revolt from it long before the actual mechanics of the rebellion were ever in place.
It helps in the understanding of the history of this revolution and the subsequent annals of the United States for the next 240 years or so to focus on the issues that the founders themselves took up in the Constitutional Convention of the 1780s. Everything that happens afterwards is a footnote to how much a limited government should be limited. Should the States no loaner have the right to secede from it if their locals and local governments don’t like it?
Should the government have the franchise to start a bank as they did under Washington or buy foreign territories that are not state and have not voted to be part of the country as the government did under Jefferson? Should the real power over policy be given to the people in a contract or should the folks among us with conspicuous organizing power offer those same people a choice of two despots? Is it the business of a limited government to run public charities, monitors agencies on commerce, abortion clinics and make wars in calls “police actions”? Should the government even think of denying men and women the solace of a glass of beer?
It should be plain from subsequent history that those who were sincere apostles of despotism didn’t quit trying to run tyrannies in the United States as soon as the Constitution was ratified. The augments for despotism are always the same. They are that common people are without the means or reason to manage their lives, that they need priests and scientists to tell them what to do in their existence, that they cannot possibly understand the profound mechanisms of their institutions, that they aren’t to be trusted with even running their own private lives given their natural inclination toward being derelicts, criminals and mean spirited jerks.
These scurvy common folk all need a class of priests, therapists, judges, court prosecutors and charismatic leaders of all kinds to herd them into the prober posh corral where their lives can be optimally led. This isn’t an argument at bottom for a particular cult or way of oppression so much as an underlying view of humanity as a group to be dreaded in their nascent power and in all ways otherwise brainless and contemptible.
The Constitution takes the view states in a Euclidean way in the Declaration of Independence that governments are given power by the common people; when they fall to act in the interests of the populace they are justly deemed derelict in their function and need to be eradicated. Individuals can manage their own lives better than governments; a contact between the populace and the government should be clear, limited and at bottom controlled lawfully by the right of the people to remove those governments that do not honor this natural covenant.
This view is summed up by the Jefferson epigram: “Any system at all as long a the people approve of it.” It doesn’t say that men are naturally good as some people think; it in fact says that nearly all men when in power at all turn out to be despots; they need to be checked externally by firm limiting laws. These are the real battles of the time of the founder and of our time. We would be wise to see them as they are rather than how autocrats want us to see them.
When the founders looked in any direction or examined
European models of the past they saw nothing but despotisms. Limited government even in republics in Greece and Rome or under the service of a merciful and charitable God who argues against monarchies were still all to a degree slave states as much as the United States in the 1770s was a slave state. Nobody had any idea what would happen if everyone was free in a given nation.
One should make a distinction between the power of the government to make a human being legally free and whether they are actually free. One can turn people dependent and even into slaves by other means than laws. Anyone who cannot act to take up the skills of survival or is denied access to the means of perpetuating himself is going to be the thrall of whoever has those skills and control over his access to such resources.
As Jefferson implies in his The Anglo Saxons this optimal condition of independence occurs more propitiously in a small community of several thousand people rather than a large nation or empire. Jefferson’s politics at least while out of power was based on the idea that local government means as much freedom as humanity was capable of while delegating some actions to an organized common purpose.
Some of these foretastes of Jeffersonian autonomy have proven to be less that impeccable. Slavery and Jim Crow was promoted by States and local rights. Small farmers were often wiped out in America by control of commodities market prices and sending these farmers into irreparable debt. One can close one’s dolor to the government and other strangers and find oneself with a television set in the middle of one’s living room as an altar piece blaringly promoting agendas of the very outside world that one had thought in one’s innocence one could keep beyond the door. The founders were arguing these matters of limited government as point of denature from one book we should pursue ourselves if we are to take up these matters with any intelligence. It is Aristotle’s Polices. Among the many deep comments Aristotle makes in that book, saucy as his remarks that in Nature “the strong make their own laws” is echoed in some way in Jefferson’s wrestling with Aristotle; for this reason for Jefferson it’s the province of the government to make some provision for the sustenance of the weak. This is of course the same duskier as the Torah’s laws protecting of the weak, commanded by God.
One might wonder given the Darwinians believe that the strong exterminate the weak, why anyone including God would have such ideas. In fact humanity has a kind of diversity even of intelligence and charity that makes a lot of involute use of the merely physically or mentally weak. If women are usually not as strong as men in lifting great boulders, to use a Homeric metaphor, they are better at raising children and consoling both kids and adult men for the inevitable disappointments in their frustrated lives, and listening to their woes. We aren’t so simple a race that we can say as Hitler did and Darwin implied that our history is designed on the gradual emergence of the strong from the tricky nets and seductions of the weak.
The relating between the strong and the weak can be looked at from many angles even if our analysis is in a narrow and au courant way only one of pure interest. In politics the strong among us are never so powerful that they don’t need all kinds of help from common people not as endowed as they are to achieve almost any common purpose. At some point even the strongest human being among us has to run some sort of accommodation to those less strong to lead humanity even in the common purposes of tieing their shoelaces.
Moreover in spite of Darwin and Mendel the strong don’t reproduce themselves anymore than the weak do. We don’t have to look too far in our own private lives to perceive that the strong are as likely to produce the weak as the weak are to foal the strong. There isn’t as a consequence any line of survival such as Darwin and Hitler said in which promoting only the strong and terminating the weak is going to promote the survival of the species itself.
Some human beings who come from very weak circumstances seem to thrive on recovery while others who appear strong in similar situations crumple and die. One can’t couldn’t imagine a more weak and feeble circumstance than the early life of Alexander Hamilton. Yet other founders had their own journeys into the wilderness feeling neglected and abandoned. Franklin when he left Boston for Philadelphia must have felt as bereft as any pilgrim without resources. Washington as he surveyed the wilderness after a youth of parental neglect must have lamented his own rupture from any nurture. We don’t know what propelled Thomas Jefferson to take up a life of books and solarity but it must have been pretty powerful stuff.
All in all its probably not wise to stand against any large group or oppose them at all directly unless one must; that group will produce one’s enemies that will be worthy of one’s intent to stifle them. This is a somewhat different and I think more accurate way of saying as Jefferson did in the Declaration of Independence that humanity when momentarily enslaved is going to punish its oppressors in one way or another or depart from them altogether. It’s probably more true that if all of humanity isn’t quite up to Jefferson’s heroic assessment of them, enough of humanity is not going to crumple and end up as servants and soldiers under some despots to make tyranny itself a very unstable way of trying to run people in large groups.
When I was a young man I took a walk on the Bower of New York City where the people who had indeed crumpled repaired to live out their lives around the cheap bars and flophouses that served their collapse in that local area. I wondered as I walked down these streets felled with bodies lying in the gutter what if anything could be the source of their woe and distraction.
I was after all brought up in an age of general theories about a remedy for anything and everything; it wasn’t that strange for me to try to glean some few principles in the manner of Newton or Darwin by which a common action celestial or otherwise was occurring in the world. I never did come up with an answer. I don’t think anybody knows. It doesn’t matter what the answer is.
When I talked as I did to the inhabitants of the Bowery they couldn’t tell me whey they were there either. In fact they had as far as I could tell no sense of diminution or regret that they were there in the first place. If anything they had found their peers. The Bar and their slavery to booze seemed as good to them as any other mode of life. Maybe it is. In that case the Declaration of Independence isn’t quite self evident nor is it for all of us.
It’s as true that we lack ankh science that can tell us who among us is going to recover from some initial circumstances that would send some of us to the Bard and others to become somebody like Alexander Hamilton. We really don’t know why Hamilton or Franklin didn’t end up as drunks muttering to themselves anymore than we can explain why some people who seem to have every initial advantage in life become wastrels and expire from one taste in some classical degeneracy or another one, perhaps a few of them novelties..
Aristotle’s dictum assumes that all of us can identify who is the weak and who the strong. It isn’t so easy to do.
The United States was founded by people who came from places where the strong identified them as such trash that the best thing that could happen in these place was that they would be exported to the United States. Benjamin Franklin remarked on that standard as the one set by England for emigration to the colonies. Yet those folk and their descendants not only successfully rebelled from England but eventually supplanted England as a world power.
The Bible makers a similar assessment of the credentials for grayness or strength of Abraham, Job, Moses or David. Abraham as a marginal trekker who doesn’t seem like much of a candidate to be the father of a race that will astound the world. Jacob runs away from everybody; he is a trickster and rogue. In the Torah God picks out the least likely candidates to lead the Jews from Egypt. Moses is not only an escapee from a criminal charge in Egypt; he can’t even talk all that well. In the David story Samuel is dispatched by God to the home of Jesse to find a new king for Israel. Samuel can’t discover the right candidate among Jesses numerous sons. Then Jesse mentions casually there is another one, David, a stripling shepherding sheep in the valley; Samuel meets him and realizes intuitively David is going to be the anointed one. Jesse and his sons not only pooh-pooh David’s strength but continue to do so after he has shone that he can handle Calleth.
Whatever we think of the truth of these stories their point is that we cannot distinguish from the surface between who is strong or weak. Given this disturbing premise we would all do well to live under a limited government. Governments have even less perception than people. They are blind blunderbusses. They need the eyes and ears of individuals to have any perceptions at all. When people have power they loses such acuity. It makes sendee at least from this angle of viewing the elephant of rule given the way ignorance and blindness seems to be the portion of most people in power for a government of ankh kind to give up as much power as to individuals as it can and have as few functions as possible.
Hamilton’s argument for a strong central government rests not on a penchant for despotism such as Jefferson accused him of but a realpolitik view that in a world of banks, standing armies, and organized manufacture if is better from many nations including a free and populist one to make sure those banks, armrest and sources of manufactory are their own. Otherwise they will be run as colonies in one way or another by whoever has such viable institutions.

2

The American revolution was like one of August Weismman’s mutations an abrupt event with no model, no similarity to any other rebellion has had admirers but no imitators. These things do happen in Nature. As Beethoven says, there is only one Beethoven. There is also only one Newton, one Eisenstein. Nobody could have predicted any of them. Nobody has identified any of the factors that produced them and has been able to offer similar such people they have foaled in a laboratory.
The odds that any revolution would be led by men like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are either improbable to be laughable or such men are always there in all times and places, ready to be put into service but there is no proper revolution to do it.
When I was a young man I was taught the faith system in college by experts in all matters of life that events and people were slow an accretive harvest of previously very faint minor changes and turns in circumstances that lugubriously evolved like coral plants into whatever Byzantium it was we were looking upon. Moreover Nature never created or could create a singularity; anything that seemed without model or relation to anything else but clearly stood apart in a dramatic way was really upon intelligent examination mostly if not whole like other things of a mediocre and common quality. This wonderful faith system which called itself a science as much ruled the study of history as it did the Arts and Sciences generally.
Like all faith systems it claimed that if we only had the evidence we could positively corroborate its presumptive axioms in a persuasive tough minded way. If these facts warned available to us today they might be accessible to us tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
Even in the 19th century this initial Darwinian theory was challenged by scientists like August Weissman; Darwin, an honest man, backed away from his notions and accepted a mysterious abrupt mutation as a source of all change. Although biologists have under the attack of crushing evidence also retreated from the accretive theory of life as well as the neat linear history of life forms the word never has gotten out to the study in colleges of the social sciences nor the Arts that perhaps these premises were complete nonsense. As physics has proceeded since quantum theory on the presume that nothing is entirely predictable, the Humanities when I went to school were as sure it was all predictable.
One still was treated to mechanists and psychogenic general theories of human growth in Freud, Piaget and similar analysts rooted in such notions of unseen shadowy engines. Why one could never identify nor predict the actions of anybody after a hundred years of attempts to come of with a general theory to do so was never even breathed by these savants. Why European civilization as we know it started in Europe instead of Samoa or Guatemala or among the Eskimos was simply an impolite cession that might threaten the job and tenure of any prefacer who had the coarseness and foul temerity to ask it.
Why Japan and then China could imitate European culture in its organization but Latin America and Africa could not or at least did not, why no country or culture has ever recovered from Spanish dominating but has done very well when English culture was its model in a Roman-style slave state, was speculated on as perhaps a consequence of tropical weather or the cognitive inferred of the colored races. All these theorists were sure that if they didn’t have a scientific answer to these matters right now they would have one next week.
George Washington who was a very adaptive intelligence and independent thinker over decades with no lack of opportunity to take in the mysteries of Nature in the wilderness where it rules as well as in more comfortable circumstances. He thought that there was an invisible life force that directed the affairs of mankind in a discreet and elusive way. He was always looking for these patterns because he felt they were subtle and hard to discern at all. He was sure that he was destined to be the leader he was and do what he eventually did; he was sure America had a singular and inimitable role in human history. In other words Washington felt that life was not an accident, not without a purpose and ready to enlist improbable people to do improbable things to take up that destiny.
This belief is possibly one of the most traditional and most conventional one among Washington’s many more intrepid thoughts. Another of such vintage is the notion of the enteral lie of the spirit as “the undiscovered country”: the line he constantly quoted from Hamlet.
This politics of singularity and some define spirit as a shadowy actor in history is also at the mythical core of the Torah teachings Washington was of course familiar with even as a child. In that book the Jews are not only marginal slaves who have shown no sign of taking up a nigh moral system that will one day dominate the world but seemingly a nondescript set of Egyptian human cattle. Moreover God doesn’t give the Ten Commandments to everyone or even a few groups; he does it only for one group if he has to give it twice.
Washington was by choice a man of measure who was very slow to take up opinions and actions we associate with him as if he were born with them. If Washington had been born into an Anglican slave state as his agrarian environment, the process by which with such beginnings he became a deist, an abolitionist, a champion of manufacture and so on is utterly mysterious and not available to any science I know.
As the deists say it’s much better in life generally to take up observation without preconceptions. even if one realizes later that some sacred book some venerate has the same ideas the initial study should always be one of looking squarely at Nature without any preconceptions. The burden of proof of the trust of any book is whether or not it mirrors one’s observations.
Franklin when asked about his own beliefs by a prelate said that he didn’t bother himself about such matters but expected to be acquainted it the facts about metaphysics soon enough since he was an octogenarian. Hamilton though under the influence of his wife he later lapsed back into some version of Christianity with the emphasis on morals and charity rather than his earlier Hellenic or atheistic notions thought of honor no differently than how Homer describes Achilles. When Hamilton said later that he felt he could prove the veracity of Christianity, he never talked about faith. He almost certainly like nearly all of the founders found faith contemptible.
I am saying something here that was a principle of Deism, Francis Bacon, Newton and several other thinkers familiar to George Washington. Hoover that is pretty much what the Torah says too. God doesn’t complain that the Jews didn’t believe in or aren’t interested in his moral system or freedom itself from Egypt because they can reason deductively there are better ways to live; he says like a good scientist that with hundreds of thousands of people witnessing his signs and wonders they reject the evidence itself to take up old slavish habits. It’s not as if science as invented by the Greeks. They did hone and codify it. It methods and skepticism are as old as the species itself.
In any case it is laughable that one might think to describe the American revolution and the actions of its founders as a slow accretive event anymore than one could say the same generally about any action of human history. There was only one American revolution. There was nothing like it, It was a singularity; it has never been successful imitated. Those are the plain if unpalatable facts.
Moreover the people who led it were all improbable genesis some of whom like Alexander Hamilton absolutely defy any mechanistic explanation of how they accurate their faculties or decided to act as they did. If we don’t want to go as far as George Washington and cerate that there ar higher powers of a mysterious nature that put all this activity into motion we can at least admit uneasily that in the face of the singularity of the events and the people in them we are utterly baffled to explain mechanistically or otherwise how any of it happened.
If we wanted to be deductively mechanistic about the American revolution we might think it would have occurred not in the United States but in Australia. The means of running Australia as a colony were much more frail for England than they were to manage the Thirteen Colonies. The motivations for the English settlers in Australia were the same as they were in America. Yet as we know Australia is still part of the English Commonwealth New Empire and has never had even a whisper of a revolution against England. Australia like America was even in part a penal colony. It rather perversely collected a large army of people who had every reason to rebel against rule by people who had jailed and exiled them in the same place. The Australians didn’t revolt.
We might also think using the same deductive means that the English part of Canada from Toronto to Vancouver might have revolted from England become an independent country. The logistics in the 18th century and beyond for keeping those areas English colonies were much more daunting than trying to keep the Thirteen Collies enthralled. There was no shore or harbor for the British naval fleet to land any troops in central and western Canada.
There was with plenty of opportunity during the days of the Directory and English involvement with trying to control the Thirteen Colonels for a revolutionary movement for independence in Quebec. They inhabitants of Quebec had double the motivation of the Thirteen Collies to make the move. They never did it.
Under such perplexing circumstances, whether one agreed with him or not, it was entirely respectable cognitively for George Washington to think that if he had exhausted all the logical and natural causes for the singularity of his own revolution and couldn’t explain why other places and people didn’t do it as well, he was right to look for other patterns and makers of visible actions of honor elsewhere. It certainly was a more intelligent way of thinking than assuming on faith that a mechanism that has appellant very little of what we want to know about life will one day acquaint us with the proof of its gift for illuminating the designs and designers of our existence.
Washington’s thoughts have an intriguing ancillary significance for many other faith systems of my time that parade as self evidence science. If there are invisible forces managing human affairs then humanity must be important to them. Humanity can’t be trivial and accidental products of some blind and brainless capacity of sundry dead matter in a large run of even less organization and emptiness to from agglomerations of complex molecules and develop consciousness as a means of perpetuating what is essentially a dead entity. Why any dead matte would botcher to change or continue to be what form it is, why compel forms would be more preferable to it and why, why the end of such an aggrandizing activity would be an ultimately large mud pie of impeccable character is apparently worthy of the speculations and praises of many a faith; otherwise it makes no sense whatsoever.
Such premises would mean that if we aren’t important in any absolute sense we are at least important enough to some high force or ourselves to command in our peculiar agendas certain events to happen among us and certain rather improbable people to appear in our midst when we choose to take up that direction of running our history toward that heap as our divine end. Whatever one thinks of this idea, one which Washington regarded as contrary to Nature, America has served both as a place for people all over the world to repair to as their old countries aiming as just that goal had failed them, as well as a model for others to emulate as closely as they can if oddly they always come up with different results when they do mimic us.
Since we also live in my time under the faith system of interest that pure mechanistic interest explains everything one was taught in the same places that the American revolutions was led by patricians who stood to profit by a revolt and for that reason promoted the war of independence. This is palpably false. Nobody who was rich in America needed to risk the peril of a probable hanging for being more rich, The risk of a hanging when one is already rich is hardly a wager most of us would be willing to make to achieve more riches. However the reality is that none of the founders were interested only in magna few of them, Jefferson and Hamilton died close to broke.
Jefferson died in debt. Moreover the American government paid their army and their leaders little or sometimes even nothing to the point where even though they won the war and survived the peace the founders put many years of their lives in services for which their own country didn’t see fit to honor with some stipend.
Whatever one thinks of the founders it seriously compromises one’s honesty to think of them as rogues and scoundrels when on the evidence they acted out of honor right down to the bottom. The soldiers in Washingtons army weren’t there for the pay or the passing swag. At worst one could all honor an illusion and their lives a grandiose absurdity, chivalric tilting at windmills or the service of vapor.
Perhaps some would like to think of the founders as either pious scoundrels or fools because we don’t have anybody around our circles of power that was anyone like them; we feel covertly impoverished by the lack of such people; since we have a science in our psychology that can’t imagine anybody else but curs we can’t even voice our dissatisfaction with our current leaders and thinkers. One can’t imagine our current army or politicians avoiding any situation or act because they taught it was dishonorable. The only honcho who ventured that opinion about anything they did in the late 20th century was Richard Nixon. Maybe he was the last one to pay any open homage to honor in Washington if he was only talking.
Some also tend to claim our founders were not naturalists and skeptics. I don’t think one can serious question that Washington, Jefferson, franklin and Adams were both. A skeptic isn’t necessarily one who has one opinions about something rather than another; he rather asks proof whatever anyone asserts rafter than accepts their claims on faith or the testimony of unknown witnesses either in an insane asylum or a laboratory.
I think Hamilton was as much a skeptic as any of them. He was quest about it. I would auger he was very grateful for his wife’s charity to him when he had humiliated her and was careful not to offend her by making waggish religious commentary on her beliefs. Yet his concern in his last day to receive communion in my view was probably only a worry for his wife’s future thought about meeting him in Heaven rather than any desire to take up local magic. Many of these founders including Jefferson (though not Washington) did nevertheless sometimes called themselves Christians. most people called Jefferson an atheist; he called himself in private a Stoic.
A lot of America’s leaders haven’t been Christians either. Abraham Lincoln was a skeptic and scoffer. Theodore Roosevelt was a resolute Darwinist. Andrew Carnegie was a Spencerian. John F. Kennedy was probably an atheist. Others like William Hoard Taft argued that in taking over the Philippines, which Carnegie opposed, America was righteously spreading Christianity. By that he meant Protestantism. The Philippines had been controlled by the Catholic church and largely is to this day. One should say that Catholics in turn often call Protestants not Christians but social workers.
The policy of working with Protestants to evangelize the heathen, really to offer them jobs and a bowl of rice in return for political loyalty, was a general feeling of a lot of Presbyterian missionaries from America running around the South seas and Asia up to the chines revolution of 1947.
One should say that the covert agendas of the China Lobby and William Knowland of California in the 1940s and 50s was to keep China and Korea run by Presbyterian fascists and mass killers like Chiang Kai Chek and Syngman Rhee. The United States didn’t gain any friends in these places anymore than the Europeans did with similar stratagems of promoting a colonial faith that would essentially put a set of quislings running an empire locally with the design of such provinces invented by the late Julius Caesar.
I never once as somebody who lived though the American adventures in Asia from China to the South Seas and Vietnam ever read or heard anybody say that the wars fought there were about whether or not any of these places were going to have Presbyterian or Catholic rulers and regimes ready to run these places as lacking even the home rule of Roman-style provinces or whether they would have some independence and freedom from them. One doesn’t have to know anymore than that about the capacity for honesty and independent thinking of American intellectuals of that time.
Yet it’s not as if such matters weren’t discussed if not by intellectuals in the media. The CIA in the 40s and 50s had a wing that promoted the direction of these very places run by Christian warlords to a path of moderate Socialism as a way of stabilizing these areas of the world for efficient business at the top with scant money ever coming down to the hapless populace. That’s why the United States backed Castro in the 50s. Then when they tried to strong-arm the very independent Castro because they had financed and orchestrated the military victory of his regime they were told to drop dead. To this day Castro is treated as a moral leader by our State Department not because he was some kind of Communist but that he betrayed his managers.
In spite of what some would like us to believe the United States has never been against Communism. It has been for anybody and any system who will provide a stable order in which it can do profitable and steady business. For this reason many Americans in the Right in the 30s including Joseph Kennedy were for Hitler. America businessmen might have been even more for the third Reich Where not lend lease sport of England against Hitler been one of our more profitable enterprises at the nadir of the Great Depression. As it was we only entered World War Two because afire Pearl Harbor Germany who had a treaty with Japan declared war on us.
The reason much of American business was for Hitler in the 1930 should tell us all we need to know about the general value of freedom American commercial interests have had. One can appreciate that business takes organization, that putting people to work for some common purpose is in some ways adversarial to their hunger for liberty. Yet if that end is the vast profits made by the organizers and the scanty wages made by the workers merely to perpetuate their lives so they could work as slaves for the organization the next day or the next week, one shouldn’t be too surprised if the workers don’t feel as if that aim is all that valuable to them.
One also shouldn’t be too astonished if the intents of the union movement is to give the workers an equitable piece of the profits rather than to bring down the organizing system, whatever it is. The greed of other organizers plainly as one can see in the annals of their 19th century exploits seems to have prevented them from realizing what was plainly in their own interest. Anybody who has worked as hard as they did when in power to create such vast runs of enemies should be viewed as at least a little crazy. That is as much true about Christianity as business.
Every time the United States has embraced the interests of Christianity as one of its agendas the same thing happens. If we success in imposing Christianity by force on a place as we did in the Philippines, China or Korea we inherit the poor and violent worlds with no remedy in this world that Christianity has engendered everyone in all times and places. If we fail to understand that much about Christianity we fathom nothing about it. Of course these institutional Christian apologists always try to divert one’s attention from tis history to the absolute truths of its faith. Out of power Christianity makes a much better case for morals to its faithful than when it is in power. That is true about any group, not only Christianity. Power and organization almost always has other goals for all than honesty, freedom and honor.
The idea that America was founded to be Christian nation is also demonstrably untrue. To say the obvious if it were true there would be no separation of church and state in our laws. The United States is the first nation in extant history to pass such a law. It was of course making a point. Of course one might say waggishly that it couldn’t very well have a country independent from England politically and yet make the Anglican religion founded by Henry V111, a man understandably looking to elevate his martial life, as its established church.
There’s good reason for America not to be any kind of legitimately religious country. Over aeons all imperial religions have been as a fulcrum of power no better and no worse than any other such institution of rule. Lamentably, it’s built into any organization no matter what its ideas, gods or goals that it tries to crush the natural divinity of humanity into something sampler, more controllable than freedom, then meets up what the natural enemies such actions inevitably inspire in people. It could have happened on Mars a billion years ago in a planet of giant arachnids. America hasn’t does itself any service by even covertly making Christianity an essential organ of its government. The agendas of Christianity and freedom which nurtures America are fundamentally different. One group wants to organize the country and world into some sort of orthodoxy, the other wants to create a free environment for all sorts of diversity, novelty and the unknowable.
Besides that it was never in the national interests of the United States to support evangelical Christianity in areas where it has had influence, inevitably setting into motion the massacre of a colonial class when the populace had had enough of them. One can see these events played out among the Islamics as the harvest of the Mogul envision. It isn’t inherent in the faith system of any group to be a prison of that history as much as it is inevitable as the consequences of any attempt to make Nature simpler than it is by anybody. Christianity or any of the other groups ready does better for the honor and morals of its faithful perpetually out of power.
Then as now the United States had a great many epiploa who were zealous Christians, at least as many who were anti-Christians and skeptics. It wasn’t merely the leaders of the American revolution who weren’t Christians; the army itself and the bottom world was fairly antagonistic to organized religion. George Washington had to issue an order checking the habit of his armies of burning effigies of the pope.
It’s not that Washington felt the pope deserved his respect; it’s that such acts seems gratuitously offensive to a group of people as morally elevated or not as the non-Catholics who were not in the war and did not need to be assaulted gratuitously by Washington’s side of it. As it was the Anglicans and Tories were enemies of the pope and severely anti-Catholic in hiring practices up through the late 19th century. It di create at least a two tired society, a prospect Washington felt was morally wrong as well lethal to stable rule.
One should say that the history of Christianity generally wither Catholic or Protestant has been one of the subjects few or none are ready to take up in a discourse given the bellicosity of the Christians themselves when accused of being historically other than avatars and disciples of love and redemption. One can be more honest about the history of the triceratops because this extinct reptile has no champions among us claiming its destiny under a just and loving God was to rule the world.
We don’t have too many champions of Hitler and Stalin in their similar claims either. Historians and non-historians always do better in their honesty when they don’t face execution for their opinions.
However the facts are that Christianity from the first as chronicled in their own New Testament in books such as Acts have often been evangelistic troublemakers; they have had their enemies such folk always have no matter what their ideas of faith are. Any group whose aim is to rule despotically even for the best of reasons over anybody else is going to collect such foes. As for its marriage to America law and culture one can’t say honestly that Christianity values limited government and any sort of freedom. Anybody who is an American Christian is whether they know it or not or like it or not a kind of improbable animal who at once is for freedom and against it, for equality yet for enchilada and world conquest as the will of God, for privilege for the stalwart faithful and punishment for the heathen, yet equitable.
Beyond that ultimate oxymoron though we hear much about the Pax Christiana as we do about the unicorn and the roc there is more proof of the existence of Bigfoot and aliens or UFOs than there is in any peace Christianity can bring anybody. The way Christianity and its missionaries created colonial classes in countries run politically by the United States much in imitation of similar policies of England and France is proof enough that Christianity of all kinds, not to mention anti-Christianity of all kinds, produces the sort of actions that inherently promote local adversaries and endless violence.
Initially the Protestants out of power were the criticism of the Catholics and their despotism; in the 19th and 20th centuries the Protestants did in China and Korea what the Catholics did in Europe, Latin America and Africa. The whole idea of fiercely evangelical despotic juggernauts such as Fascism and Communism were all variations of such tyrannies that were taught to be good for humanity by Christian teachers of Hitler, Stalin and their ilk.
Christianity seemed to be a dying cult all over the world nowadays not only because it only brings war and poverty to places over which it rules alone or with allies. It is essentially against democracy and freedom. It imposes whenever it can a belief system and private life on diverse people. As a consequence it preempts the revolts of these same people from such sincerely and pious oppression. If its death of Christianity is exceedingly slow it doesn’t mean that despotism isn’t going to take other forms with other notions of the proper way people should live.
If we believe that the future of humanity is to choose relative material wealth, peace and comfort over poverty and war there isn’t much of a future for any cult that has brought its faithful an inferior run of material options. I’m not plumping for the value of epicurean materialism in any absolute sense when I say on the evidence most of humanity when given a chance while choose it over Christianity. As Mae West says, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor and rich is better.”
One of the tricks of such ways of thinking to is persuade others to think they have a choice only of despotisms. If we have to choose between Christianity, Socialism and fascism we unquestionable have a party run of options. In all of them any free adult man is going to be a rouge and lawful criminal if he survives at all. We do have a fourth choice of embracing a limited government and lack of despotism.
At that time of the founders many state constitutions including supposedly enlightened folk said being Christian and swearing one was one was a basis for whether or not anyone was hired by that state government. Whether or not some Christians in America wanted to create that condition of privilege for themselves and still hope to do it to this day is another matter.
Like most laws when people feel strong antagonism toward any edict they break it with piety. One really can’t single out zealous institutional Christians as the only rebels in America to constitutional law. In spite of this clear edict we have politicians and witnesses in court taking oaths on the Bible.
Thomas Jefferson is easily the most elusive character among the founders though in certain ways Washington and Hamilton aren’t far behind him. Franklin was the most consistent one. I think as Whitman says we all “contain multitudes”. Jefferson was known to have a selective memory and seem in his clarity of propose more consistent than he really was. So are nearly all of us but a few frozen icons. One should remember that for most of his life excluding the eight years of his Presidency he was largely out of power. We are different out of power than in power.
I’m sure if we all look honestly at our lives we can find similar inconsistences in ourselves or days we would rather forget and forgive Jefferson his seeming mercurial character.

3

Most of the subsequent arguments over the next two centuries and more about the American government the founders left us had been based on what they themselves called the strict or implied powers of the Constitution. They were in the middle of their lives reacting to the failures of the Articles of Confederation. It only passed as federal law backs nine of thirteen callowness voted for it. They might not have done it at all had Hamilton aigrette to exchange acceptance of the document in return for making the present capital of the country in what we now call the city of Washington. If we go through the history of the way that set of law has be en executed and interpreted we can see how much of it in spite of tis clear language and very unequivocal statement that it describes all of the powers of such a government is still a subject of debate in the present.
Unless we believe in unstated implied powers there was no provision in the Constitution for Jefferson buying Louisiana, Lincoln buying Alaska, The United states making territories of Cuba, Hawaii and the Philippines nor the Galveston Purchase. There is also no provision that allows the government to run a Welfare system, public housing, a court system that gives privilege to women, a social insurance plan, enforce a Union shop or run medical care. Those are clearly in the words of the Constitution powers delegated to the states or the people.
Yet few Americans us would like to jettison these government actions between they are patently prohibited by their own central laws.
This matter of implied versus strict powers was the cause of Robert Bork, a very articulate judge and law philosopher being denied the Supreme Court justice seat. Nobody argued that Bork was incompetent. Some people didn’t like his idea of strict interpretations of the law. One should say that if strictness has its patent excess, the excess of implied powers is that one can attribute anything to the law as its inferential franchise. It is a ticket to tacit despotism.
One has to be struck by how little our usual notions of Right and Left, free enterprise and Socialism and the rest of the somewhat imaginary contentions we are told are the issues of our national history have to do with the profound sources of tyranny. One also has to notice that when there is no organized rebuttal and rebellion from despotism, it often in the short run gets its way until the illicit becomes legitimate. The Mormons may have multiple marries that some people they never meet find odious but the law as described by our Constitution does not put it in the marriage business. Why anyone might find any kind of marriage to one or four or twenty wives or husbands an act offensive to them to the point where they want to pass a law against it is all by itself rather baffling. My own guess is that many people in America who weren’t Mormons wanted to make the Mormons second class citizens under any pretext.
As much as our emigration laws currently are still the harvest of the supposedly democratic Woodrow Wilson and A. Mitchell Palmer’s idea that Northern Europeans are preferable emigrants for our country. No laws discriminating against their sorts of Europeans were ever passed in the days when the Free Enterpriser will filling their factories with such human cattle as wage slaves. After a while Wilson and Palmer were concerned that Eastern Northern aeropause were all social radicals who might bring down the regime. One should remember these two also cased down brothels all over the country and passed Prohibition. As much as Africans were denied emigration to the United States because they were supposedly inferior, the Asians were denied the same franchise in the 1880s because they were superior. Arguments against Asian emigration in the 1880s centered around the belief that nobody in America could compete with people who were as intelligent as the Chinese and could work as ferociously hard as the Chinese did.
We have had unlimited Asian emigration to America since the 1960s and the republic has survived it. In fact some may feel that the 1880s laws were venomous to American interests. Who would have come here from anyplace but the most enterprising of people from some place that didn’t much appreciate them? Such folk are likely to be the most stalwart patriots the country has. Besides that we need all the most indulgent and hard working people we can get. Somebody has to work here.
Another such opportunity for America was missed when Roosevelt and America generally was antagonistic to a massive gush emigration of escapees from Hitler. If we have six million more Jews and their descendants in America I think few would argue against the probable harvest for the United States in brains, stability and morals coming from a charitable exodus that sadly never happened.
On should note that according to our Constitution the government is not in the emigration business either.

4

One of the more interesting and utterly innovative cults that has evolved in both America and the West generally that has come out of populism if not from democracy has been the belief that the weak and helpless are or should be equal to the strong and resourceful. It’s an idea that certainly would have made the founders of America speechless with awe. The basic theory of American democracy is that most people are naturally strong and resourceful.
Otherwise they wouldn’t have survived on the planet. The value of democracy and limited government rests on the presumption that if human beings are left to manage themselves the natural strength and indulgence of the species will enable most of them if not quite all of them to live as well as they can political. Then with such a few and adult populace the state itself will be competitive with or superior to any other state or populace in the world. This loss of intelligence from domesticity in all species by the way is a scientific fact. Wild animals are always much smarter than their cousins in harness.
It isn’t a maternal, uncritical or consoling philosophy. It certainly doesn’t advocate that any group of people should be financed for their mere existence. After all the generation of 1886 had had enough of those notions though they would have applied it to a noble and priestly class. The idea that the bottom might replace the top, or that both the bottom and the top as a leisure class should be supported by the supposedly hard working and energetic middle classes would have struck these folk only antagonistic in their day to the claims of the top to such privilege as bizarre, venomous and absurd. It’s not as if they were against charity. They were all influenced by the Bible which states it is the obligation of each of us to provide for widows, orphans, beggars and the helpless. They did make it wholly a private enterprise.
The cult of privilege for the weak is usually associated in my time with Soviet or Communist thinking. It’s unfortunate. Its a faith system that has nothing to do with any Marxists notion of social engineering. Marx would have agreed with the folders that humanity was served best by giving personal power to the working populace. His view of the workers was stated very well in the Communist Manifesto. They were the mimicries of all tangs good in the society. They had nothing to lose by taking power over their politics as well but their chains as Marx said felicitous.
The last thing Marx meant by the workers was a class of people who did nothing, could do nothing and were a product of their lack of skills for survival. He would have regarded any government action to promote and expand such a class as venous and criminal politics.
The architects of the cult of the weak was put into place in the 1920s under the New Deal as a short term remedy for people who were jobless, one third of the nation, in the Great Depression. It never encouraged broken homes nor provided any reason for people to declare themselves paupers and demand public support for their hunger for decline or their accidental misfortunes. Roosevelt himself warned against Welfare, declaring it a short term inanition. He said he would repeal it as soon as the Depression was over. Roosevelt likened such a policy to the way the Roman public was vitiated of adult skills during the roman empire.
When the Depressions ended the machinery for managing the lives of the weak did not go away. Roosevelt was dead; Truman didn’t repeal it. Eisenhower let it expand into a perpetual clad of indigenous beggars on public charity, then after managing these ever more fat agencies for eight years warned as he left his Presidency of creeping Socialism.
Actually this cult or whatever one wants to call it is not Socialism. Socialism is a respectable and intelligent movement, like it or hate it, that believes in empowering the workers, not the indigents. It isn’t Syndicalism either. Syndicalism has the same initial humanistic beliefs as Socialism, but applies them in a bread and butter way to any system, not merely one of social engineering. Both the founders and Marx were following Aristotle’s earlier dictum that the strong make their own laws as well as the even earlier Biblical injunction in the Torah that the strong had a moral obligation to give charity to the weak. None of these people from the Torah or Aristotle to Roosevelt ever imagined that a movement promoted by sane people might be a hostile agency run by professionals, a set of mandarins, to tax the middle classes to expand the aegis of the weak, or perhaps more accurately, the monitors of the weak, then vitiate the strong so they become the weak themselves. One might think the prospect of running a regime in which everybody is weak might give them a sense of terror.
Previously such a vertiginous direction in politics leads to in one way or another the strong evading taxers to support anybody, strong or weak, eventually after issuing bonds on the basis of the achievements of the strong for decades, a debt ridden direction to bankrupt the government. This is pretty much the political and economic history of the late 20th century and beginning of the 21st century.
One can understand why it was to the interest of the buccaneer free enterpriser to make this blur of workers and beggars. As long as Socialism and Syndicalism or any movement at all had a power base among the workers, as Marx had said back in 1830 it was one very stoning organization with a lot of clout nascent or legitimate, a check against any oligarchy. Welfare’s base was an army of beggars with nothing to threaten the oligarchy with. They certainly couldn’t go out on strike if they didn’t work in the first place.
It’s less comprehensible why the Left bought into the notion that Welfare clients were somehow indispensable workers. The Left had a very healthy cause as long as their constituency was the working classes. They could close down business, threaten, negotiate and compete with anybody. They had no case at all for demanding that the workers support the beggars. They had less than none when the beggars chased them out of their homes in the cities.
When they expanded Welfare and put to flight nearly all their patrons, the factory towns to be replaced by the societal and violent Welfare culture, they certainly inspired generations of people to vote for the Right until this state realized that the cult of the supposedly weak was so entrenched they could not be voted out of power. In America one had to flee the artificial poor as one’s ancestors in Europe once had fled the equally artificial rich.
It’s not had to understand the covert reason why this happened. Welfare began with aid to people who needed it, expanded to those who didn’t need it, then extend itself even more to convince others who apparently didn’t need it to take up actions where inevitably they would need it. Decency is a monster with a thousand faces. Disability agencies began with people who were totally without means to survive without them; in their heyday in the 70s and 80s were expanding their rolls with people with mysterious mental problems that kept them functional but deterred them from work. There is a difference between being insane and miserable. They are more people who are feeling lousy than there are lunatics. It was obvious at least to the welfare agencies that vaporous therapy for feeling lousy was the preferable economic base for them.
The Aid To Dependent Children arm of Welfare began with services to abandoned families in the 30s; by the 50s it gave rewards to women who broke up their homes. By the 70s it was encouraging middle class women who were doing whatever they wanted to in the suburbs to regard their privileged lives as a prison and demand in court to break it all up and go to work in the tigerish marketplace. As Aristotle said in his Politics way back when everything given set into motion heads toward its excess. It’s a predictable enough maxim to enable any of us to know what the future will be at its worst if not as often at its optimal. Then one had the model for these classical vices of charity and their harvests in the bribing of the populace with bred and endless amusements in the Roman empire.
Since the founders were avid readers of Aristotle they knew these mechanism very well. That’s why they put external checks on the executive power and had the House of Representatives elected every two years. The Hamiltonian idea of a set of august and just aristocrats who might serve a lifetime as savants or mentors was not a faith that even too many people back in the 1770s believed in. By the way Marx was anther such sage who believed as did Hamilton that some people in power in a different system could remain honest and would not be courted by their franchise.
On the evidence these people were certain that if one were out of power one had one set of woes, but in power one went tyrannical and took up excesses of despotism that could only be checked externally. Since most of the augments between the founders were about this issues one can’t underestimate the degree that the found were suspicious of any ruler of any kind under any system.
Plainly it was to the interests of the 19th and 20th century oligarchs to alchemic the constituency of workers or small farmers of their populist opponents and replace them with beggars. The amazing thing is that the adversaries of the Right not only let them do it but helped them do it.
When I was a young man I worked for Welfare. I could see within three weeks the blur in the minds of people working for social agencies from top to the bottom between the healthy working classes and the clueless Welfare classes was the central fulcrum of the numinous support these agencies took up for people who not only did not work but were encouraged by the government not to work, to have none of the skill to labor at anything. I called it an infallible recipe for communal suicide as I took it in at 21. Did I know or observe something everybody else had missed? Hardly. People took the money. I had other skills in sports and didn’t hold onto the job and steady salary long enough to shut up even to myself about it.
As it was I worked for another city agency in sports, Parks, that had also committed hari-kari if in a different way; it was based on the notion that people needed a professional class a on government salary to help them amuse themselves. I got out and onto a golden parachute pension before it too walked over the cliff.
One feels lucky one has any sort of job even if it is making ovens of Auschwitz when one is young and desperate for an income. Conspicuous in these agencies even back in the 50s was the absence of any means of anybody getting off the dole either by training or by incarceration. If anything the mechanism was expanding the agency to get everybody including God on the dole in some way. This was pushed in the 70s and 80s by the extension of the wonderful treatment the government gave the poor and colored citizens in America to the White and middle class part of America.
Tens of millions of middle class fathers during that time were as monitored and deprived of their right to property as well as the poor and darker skin pigmented folk among us. Equal numbers of divorced women, formerly doing nothing but shopping and overeating in comfort in the suburbs, were then dependent on the government to exact their merely financial revenge on their once husbands for their horrible posh lives and collect their just dues as the act of apogee of such prior presumptive martial tyranny.
They did have a cause we can all appreciate if it wasn’t quite the one they were embracing. Pure materialism is boring. Once in the 50s affluent society their husbands had met their price for their sexual favors. Yet afterwards they were sleeping with men whom they didn’t like very much but in a world like a vast and legal prostitution ring had enough money to pay for nightly use of their bodies. That was a reasonable and just cause if hardly the one they wanted to make for themselves openly. They would have had to admit they were expensive tarts. Teat doesn’t make their anger any less terrible, only that they were unable to articulate their fury honestly.
Still the long term result of such equivocal liberations was to make the people who had the money, mostly men, wonder what alternatives they had in the way of carnal intimacy than a marriage system which indentured them to a level of franchise close to slavery and very much like Welfare. Naturally they hid their money like Al Capone; the tax base of the government went further down.
As long as there were working classes in America there was still reason to organize them against the oligarchs. As soon as Nixon and Kissinger made their deal to transfer much of American manufacture to China and the American working classes diminished by the millions, ten thousand or more under Reagan every week, there was after a while not a large working class to back the case that either founders had made for autonomy and freedom much less the one which Marx had made for benign tyranny and scientific social engineering.
Until the 1930s there was no strangling and squeezing tie-in between colleges and jobs in America. If one could do a job one was hired for it more often than not whether or not one had gone to college. By the time I was a young man wane couldn’t get a white college job without a B.A. This gave the rulers of the college system another four years to work on the minds of the young generations under a despotic priestly system worthy of a Carmelite monastery to filter out the dissenters instead of putting them out in the large world to grow and learn skills from observation. It was another way of vitiating the natural talents of working classes to be strong, independent and adult.
In the 1950s these school were also pushing the old vertical class system, one in which at the top one found Anglicans or at least non-practicing Presbyterians.
In certain ways this decline in adult freedom and natural growth to take up adult skills was ameliorated by of all things the disinclination of the elected representatives of the people to represent them. It’s hard to say when this started; its long effect was to inspire a majority of Americans at some point to wash their hands of the government and not vote at all. If they were living in a tyranny they were right to act as if they were ruled by depots. My own experience with this representation was my last vote; for Lyndon Johnson because he was going to keep us out of the Vietnam War. I can’t say though I am not in my 70s that I have ever been represented by anybody. I have spent my whole life in a democracy being represented only by my brains and my feet.
I was written off as casual fodder by the Vietnam war lobby, the Family Court child and marriage assassins, the drug agencies, the Christian Right evangelists, the Welfare missionaries and so on. None of these groups ever admitted they were not reappointing me nor not too many other people or were anti-democratic. They were all patriots. I’ve been patronized by them all. I have never committed a real crime but I have been in danger a good deal of my life for being locked up or indentured. I am not the only one either.
It is of course the oligarchs with their big money who make sure that a vote has a choice of two candidates either one of whom will never even think of representing anyone who vades for them. This doesn’t merely happen to devotees of the cult of the weak or moderate suburban Socialists; the half of the voters who have voted Republican haven gotten much satisfaction from these representatives either.
On the lip of the 21st century George W. Bush was elected on a promise to diminish the size of the government. He ran three huge and expensive wars, trebled the national debt, ran the largest government of entitlement for the weak some mistakenly call Socialism in the world. Anything he said he was going to do seemed really a pretext for him to do the opposite. Then he was elected again to do it four more years by the dupes who were left voting at all because they felt the Welfare zealots were worse than he was. It’s not much of a case to be made for an democracy if a party system outside the law gives the populace a choice of scoundrels.
One could say some similar things about cavalier responses to voters among FDR, Dwight Eisenhower and Barak Obama. Perhaps this tendency to do the contrary of what one said what was going to do when out of power was started in earnest by Thomas Jefferson. Yet Jefferson accused Washington of doing the same thing. It doesn’t matter who began this unraveling of the purpose of voting.
Harry Truman rightly said Jefferson was the first big government executive in American history. Yet he was elected by libertarian people who most of all wanted to be left alone by politics and remembered his reservation about having any sort of strong federal government as “monarchial”. The were all familiar with his trashing of Hamiltonian polices as autocratic and his accusations that Hamilton wanted to be a king.
Until his inaugural there were some who hoped he would go aback to States Rights and the Articles of Confederation. Although Gore Vidal says it was Lincoln who did it, if his contemporaries said Hamilton wanted to do it, it was Jefferson who established us as an empire. His purchase of Louisiana gave the United States tens of millions of citizens none of whom had vetoed even to be part of the country.
Such a record of representatives not represented the people who elected them goes back at least to one of our founders. It goes forward to our control of Puerto Rico I’m a stalwart Jefferson fan and have every sympathy with him. Yet I must admit he set into motion an American executive power which he himself in his excellent writings like the Declaration of Independence noted that was liable to inspire the people to rid themselves of anyone who had that sort of clout. One should also add that these annexations were in the long run good for the people who got annexed. How much less freedom people of Laesione or later of Mexico had under French or Mexican despots compared to American ones is dramatic enough. It isn’t clear morally or humanistically that Jefferson shouldn’t have done it.
As much as we might think this hunger for freedom is sentimental nonsense we merely have to examine our daily lives to see whether or not it describes how we live to honor its accurateness of analysis. If we don’t think a law or policy of our government is right or to our interest we are as likely as not to ignore it or even take up legal to illest means of changing it at least for ourselves by voting it out. The law can be as trivial as making a sexual tastes or two legal or criminal or partiality for a certain stimulant a felony. If we really find such laws insufferable hairweaver trivial they are we break them with no regret. If we go out in the street we find a good deal of business in the large world is rooted in organized ways themselves to break these edicts. In the 20th century fortunes have been made on the two common human tastes for pleasure, liquor and assorted drugs if on the state level some have been locked up at the bottom for the same offense. Other fortunes have been made on the expanding agency operations from courts to prisons that coronal human plankton and lock them up too. It is at the core two sub-heads of one government machine in place to make money.

5

If one wants to have some idea of the general view of the law and government the unorganized common people have about anything at all one does well to look at successes in the popular entertainments of the time. Before and during my lifetime the agitprop for “the rule of law” was heavy and relentless in populace amusements such as plays and films about crime. The crimes of the bad guys were always theft, fraud and murder: real crimes. When they were white collar folk they were foreclosing small farms or speculating in commodities and bankrupting small farmers. They tend to be schemers and secret sociopaths rather than violent people. They achieved their ends by lying and using the law to take up injuries to others, not the embrace of naked force.
Nobody would have felt a similar unease about a bad guy who sold liquor, cocaine or marijuana, promoted gambling or was an organizer of prostitution. Nobody ever made a film about Lucky Luciano because there was no way to avoid that at the peroration of the story he was arrested and jails for running a ring of tarts. Many in the audience would have seen Lucky Luciano as a hero and champion of affordable minor erotic consolations in an equitable and perilous business rather than a criminal.
The crime films in the 30s were much more about violent men who ran their businesses by taking up many murders. The violence focused on the dispatch of their rivals rather than on their commerce. Their liberal penchant for inflicting such mortal injuries in their enterprises still identified them as bad gush to their audience.
None of us quite wants such feral folk in our midst if we can help it. They might be as dangerous to us as they are to their imaginary antagonists in the movies. Part of the Breen code rules for these films was that “crime does not pay”. Anybody who committed a crime in the movies, even jaywalking, usually involving murder and theft, had to be punished by the last reel for his unsavory deeds.
Since these rules of popular entertainment tended to be at worst boring ritual the makers of such amusements had to work hard to make the breakers of the laws at least interesting enough to engage the sympathies of a movie audience for an hour and a half. in the huge quantity of B movies that promoted the “crime does not pay” faith system, the villains were always more interesting and often more sympathetic than the heros. How could they not be? The villains were scramblers like most of the audience, scufflers who acted decisively on some concerns the audience themselves would have liked to have taken up if there were less risk to do so. The good guys were cardboard professionals out to punish the real protagonists of each of these stories. The good guys didn’t have a private life. They never had any bad days. They were in a word: unbelievable.
My own initiation to all these tests in the world came to me as a small child from listening to a documentary style radio show called Up for Parole around 1947. I was nine years old. The show was variant on the notions of punishing crime in which the culprits were brought before a team of august parable judges about whom one knew nothing who determined whether some incarcerated culprit be let out of prison or not. The half hour of narrative looked back at the drama of the lives that had brought these bad guys into the hoosegow. Invariably as long as the convict expressed regret for his deeds he was usually let out into the large world to continue his life after a suitable time making car licenses in the slammer.
The metaphor of a set of convicts in stir asking for succor was resonant with a lot of people during the moderate fascism of that time. As much as it could the despotic side of government and the corporate world was locking up as much of America as it could in a prison without walls.
However in one show the narrative presented an Irishman of a passionate sense of honor who had every reason to wreak mayhem on an evil and meanspirited antagonist who had no good qualities. He was out to destroy the Irishman if he could. The Irishman’s dispatch of his enemy had been in self defense.
At the hearing the convict with the brogue said very articulately he regrated nothing, he had killed his tormentor out of provoked honor; he should be paroled because society needs people of honor like himself as natural checks on legitimate evils. To my puerile astonishment the man was denied parole. I was outraged. Plainly ins spite of the relentless agitprop to praesidia me even as a child of the value of the rule of law I believed a man should be ruled as this attractive and emotional Irishman was by his honor and honesty, not any law.
It was only the moment when such reactions sufficed for me. I was just as sympathetic to the various white collar scoundrels in the 40s radio documentary: The FBI In Peace and War. I had always found the FBI agent who caught them all, William Shepherd, supposedly my champion, boring and ultimately odious, a piece of cardboard.
I plainly was not the only one of my generation who had these disreputable thoughts. When we grew up and could afford to buy our own movie tickets there was a series of 60s films often from Europe that were completely amoral, flicks to accommodate another taste for watching movies. My second moment de la verdad came when I watched Robert Altman’s roguish Buffalo Bill film. Plainly the bad guys had become the good guys. In doing so they were open champions of breaking the law, not advocates of the rule of law.
I’m hardly some film junkie and hermit confusing fact and fiction by relating these narratives in which nothing happened externally to me. Show business is a revolving door for huge audiences when it is successful or it cannot shrive at all; it can’t be entirely ruptured from observable reality. It must mirror the inner life of its public at least in passing or it dies. I am saying that the popular psychics of such films of moral ambiguity now often starring Paul Newman instead of Henry Fonda were ample evidence that the public wanted not only open and direct championing of their amused habits of breaking the law but paid tickets to see films that expressed their contempt and scorn of the law. The law had to change to reflect the popular view of life or be even more of a joke than it was.
In the real world the law was not backing away from its position while 60s youngster like myself saw such films and acted in various elusive, radical and supposedly criminal ways trial ways outside the movie houses. Let us not confuse the 50s with a revolution though many in it claimed they were revolutionaries. We were outside of a few zealots blowing up buildings or doing terrible things like fornicating without a license, smoking reefers and throwing up from too much beer.
That is not a revolution. There was no general acclimation among the 1960s folk as there was in the 1770s to have one. If the government had enforced Civil Rights for Black people, backed away from the Vietnam draft war, legalized drugs and invited Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead to the White House that would have been the end of our rebellion.
The 1770s revolutionaries wanted formal political power because they saw it as the only way to obtain their natural freedoms. One should add that the American revolutionaries leaders themselves had as much personal freedom and often even wealth under England as one could have in that time. AS much as we think of the American revolution as one of legitimizing natural desires for liberty, it was really as the British put it a war for independence from something or somebody more than one for fraudem to live as one pleased.
I would guess that very few Americans who fought in the revolution had more freedom in practice when they won it than before they took up its cause. If anything they were risking having considerably less freedom if the Brits had won that war, not merely a loss of personal liberty one acquires in peacetime with one’s brains, hands and feet. Any organization even to run the fire department and pick up the garbage their way is oppressive to a degree.
There is always going to be a moment under any ruler, as I realest very well when I was nine, when we think we have something better to do than to give our services to the state. When I was nine it didn’t occur to me that Creation itself was set up to be free or was utterly free by accident. I didn’t see a lot of practical freedom in 1947.
Somebody had to do menial work they felt short of loving for its own sake. Somebody had to hold down a job they found at least mildly onerous or annoying to pay the bills. There was always some kind of class system that justified giving the dirty work to other people. It couldn’t have been any different before and after the American revolution.
Yet as I write this in the 21st century some things have changed. Countries can be based on something other than land. Places that were monarchies and colonies have become republics to a degree. None of the old popular religious that run the big magic spectacles are valuing the glories of poverty chastity and obedience all that much. None are claiming the virtues of humility that leave our masters to wallow in arrogance, calming that in the next world the last shall be the first.
If we are equal in a free republic we can only complain about our fortune or our stupidity, not our class. It cuts down on the amount of enemies of any state. In the most superficial ways it is still true or at least arguable as I am asserting here, that a limited government is the best way of ruling any place or anybody, even given the natural autocratic intents of the state itself.
A government is always limited in spite of the attempts of some historians, medieval ones or Marxists to claim that it is the only reality or the only important reality in human action. There is as Jefferson noted never going to be any end to rebellion. Children will revolt from parents, armies of people will migrate to places at midnight where they can live better materially and leave their old despots behind them. Our very cycle of human behavior is very often based in adolescent rebellions, gaudy youths, then some settling into a subsequently more conventional life in maturity. After one gains some power and uses it, one might even think in passing that perhaps the vales and structures of one’s parents and their communities were not worth rebelling against.
Since there has been a general strain of continuity in most existences in history that has been the cyclical case during most time. Technological progress changes those immortal rules only a little. Our own route of progress has for example certainly elevated comfort to a level of value George Washington’s generation would have found unthinkable. They were always even when rich and powerful one step or less from discomfort and death. It doesn’t mean that comfort isn’t finally neutral as Emerson says. There are as many people made miserable by comfort as those who are bright to woe by a lack of it.
Freedom isn’t any guarantee of happens. It just means that more of our griefs come from ourselves and close intimates rather than the whim of despots in some faraway central capital who don’t know us, owe us nothing and assume we are cattle and cockroaches. Yet in a time of relative broad wealth peace and order such I’ve lived in there has never been any shortage of injury done by some people to other people. Io a free society it is more likely to come from intimate betrayal or indifference or others than from the government. Yet there is still no lack of it. In fact the ability of our governments to offer us misery in comfort and able to deliver it defines us.
When the government in my lifetime has been an autocratic enemy it certainly has inspired people to oppose it with as much passion as people in prior times have done. Yet probably the reason why the government never quit the Vietnam Mar until they were militarily forced out of the county was the same reason why England didn’t make tolerable and generous pace with the American colonists in the 1770s: they were inundated by specific interests that for one reason or other wanted a war, also wanted to keep some faraway places profitable colonies. Whatever arguments anyone else in the 1770s and during the Vietnam War made for justice and limited government were overrode by the hunger of the supporters of the means to fight colonial wars to make the money they did. Presumptive government works as well for them as naked autocracy did once.
Whether we want to or not on the evidence we really as a species on the evidence are incapable of living a life that is socially angered and tranquil. If we are with anyone we suffer the abrogation of any intimacy; if we are alone we are unhappy and hungry for those domestic moments with their strains of contention. Our species tends to change in the midst of mistakes and educates that we regret. The hope of a despotism that works is as vain a desire as the claim of some that the faithful will have forty virgins to sleep with when they reach paradise. A mature man of experience get instantly fatigued when he thinks of such supposed celestial rewords. certainly Allah can do better than that for us.

Benjamin Franklin

Although all the founders were great writers who turned out enormous quantities of prose, Benjamin Franklin was the only one to write an autobiography. It’s not really a memoir done at the end of his life but an account of his childhood and youth that he made for his son so that such memories as his sire had of a vanished age might be part of his child’s legacy. Rather strikingly it is written in a very concrete style much like Defoe, Franklin’s clear model; it aims even in its sentences between witty conjunctions to emulate a waggish oral reminisce with an irony that might remind one of Mark Twain. As easygoing as the writing is, it has no clichés and is separated from most convention in its wit and sculpted and careful use of longing. Its fifteen chapters one might assume were done in a session a piece, as if they were fifteen discourses offered over a fireside.
Franklin is pyruvate by us as a clever and epigrammatic old man who was almost casually a polymath genius, as well perhaps the greatest savant ever to emerge from Philadelphia. As one can see from these memoirs he spent most of his youth in and around Boston and New York with some time in London; he came to Philadelphia after a while looking for work as printer.
The self portrait Franklin offers of himself as a young man is very engaging. He is a health nut, sometimes a vegetarian, a great swimmer, a master at argument, the chief entertainment of that society and his time, a maker of insinuating polemical pamphlets, one converted to the Deist persuasion after reading a book excoriating Deists by one of its enemies. There is an amusing character to his amiable discourse which politely sheathes how difficult his youth was. He was often short of cash, traveling to places that were unknown on roads that barely existed or ships that weren’t all that sturdy. One can see beneath the surface of the text that his observational powers were active enough taking in the stews, vices and women of the time.
Some of Franklin’s style might remend one of Defoe in ways that resonate into a gritty American future. He makes no attempt to be fancy, have aristocratic airs or let on that he is out to emulate the filigree of the nobles of his day. He is a very literate and clever artisan who takes his station in English colonial life in the hinterlands as a point of departure to be the polymath and genius he was. He never in his memoirs talks about his ferocious capacity for work, his consummate interest in everything, or any sweat, burden or pain he accrued from any of his labor. He seems in his own pages measured, relaxed, confiding, and very easygoing. He certainly knows the utility of comedy for making points he might offend others with were he to present them in earnest. He knows how to tell an amusing story pithily.
Defoe was not at all a humorist like Franklin. Has he been one he would have written much more like Franklin. Yet both men share irony and wariness typical of the city lower middle class artisan of some worldliness.
One feels as one reads Franklin a sense of the step by step methodicalness of the man. These are qualities we also associated with other workaholics like Washington, Hamilton and Jefferson; Franklin was among the them the most remote from any aristocratic disdain from grunt labor. He shares with Washington his distrust of enthusiasm, passion, libertinage and any rashness. Yet in his memoirs one never sees Franklin laboring at anything. When he talks about commerce it’s only to describe its potential for a profit or lack of it. Yet we know that nobody was more attentive than Franklin to the science if one existed of how anything might be done.
Franklin is as early Americas go one of the most urbane of them in his seemingly lower middle class way. He is one who always dwelt in cities whenever he could. He didn’t have any hunger for rural amusements. He is like many city residents one who plainly was a very attractive companion and social animal. One sees in the background how wherever he was he was among affable groups whenever he could be. He valued community life.
Yet he never talks about these qualities in himself as other than actions he hash taken up methodically. If one can’t aiming Franklin as an introvert or recluse he must have been something of one or he couldn’t have had al the achievements he had. When Franklin talks about his refections at all these seem a casual, en passant, or even funny. He seem to have been one who realest early on that cracker barrel waggishness while apparently talking of the dull mechanics of virtue was the best way to communicate to people.
One of Franklin’s early heros was Socrates. Franklin merely mentions that he loved Socrates’ style of argent from seemingly innocuous points of departure; it’s plain that Franklin found the skepticism of Socrates at least as attractive as his style. Like Socrates he was as, amusing and a great charmer.
As an abolitionist franklin really took up the central isseis of that cause very directly. He affirmed that Black people are the intellectual equal of White folk. If they weren’t he might have had different opinions. By the way Jefferson apparently was also of that opinion by the 1790s.
One should say that in the historical revisionist world of my time some critics have trashed Franklin for the tardiness of his abolitionism. Apparently this fellow wanted Franklin to come to his mature conclusions more quickly. Another way to look at the same evolution is to note how adaptable Franklin and Washington were the more they lived.
It’s an interesting assessment because Franklin politically wasn’t one who looked at politics as a world of natural franchises. He accepted and edited the Declaration of Independence with that presumption of Jefferson’s at the root of it but he had his doubts to put it politely about whether anybody had any franchises. In this sense Franklin was more of a Darwinist before Darwin.
Franklin’s Autobiography like his Almanac and other writings is filled with suggestions he calory took up himself about arming one for a life which contained struggle and contention rather than any privilege at all; his view of life was certainly a world of scramblers in which nobody had any franchises.
In this way Franklin is of all the founders the one most free of the chivalric character of many of them. He never thought of himself as noble, even a sham noble, never aspired to be a gentleman, never looked for models for his character in ancient books besides the very entertaining Socrates. He was one of the few founders to have a trade. He could always make his living as a printer. His writing in his autobiography about proper diet and working on athletic skill all has a kind of methodical quality that is absent in the other founders except Washington.
One suspects that Franklin was as much a scientist about amours s he was about lightening. He fathered a son by a different woman before he marred his wife though his wife graciously took the son into their home.
Yet in one way Franklin might seem very remote from us: his focus on virtue. One can imagine a conversation between Franklin and Hug Hefner over an afternoon at Hefner’s palatial swimming pool because Franklin would have approved of Hefner’s industry and freethinking but wouldn’t have understood Hefner’s valuing of trial pleasures anymore than Hefner would have listening all that avidly to Franklin’s accounts of how he could better himself morally. Franklin wouldn’t have seen anything wrong with Hefner’s carnal values, in fact would have apposed of his sensual directness and frankness, but might have thought to himself that Hefner had a notable absence of equal concern for elevation of his character.

The Founders as American Icons

It has occurred to me when some literary whore mentioned to me the 1980s doings of the literary bratback as they called themselves in their day that myths are not made by canny baseness selling pitches. How they are made artificially it a white collar art; they seem to the innocent erupt from the ground intact like dragon’s teeth.
George Washington is almost unknown in his inner life as he was because he was experienced as more or an icon than a myth. Yet we shouldn’t find the heroic image of the very large and strong man with a white horse, pistols, and the courage of a military savant, more expressive in his silence than in his commentary all that unfamiliar. Perhaps we don’t want to think that one of Washington’s coldest was his comfortableness with violence when necessaria. If it came to that he was always as the Marines say, the biggest son of a bitch in the valley of death. Then we have to make peace with Washington as not only being the one most likely to come out victories in any violent situation but also a shrewd and intellectual polymath with many cognitive talents. Also Washington was rather disdainful of vice. He drink over a meal or at a party but never got drunk. He didn’t think much of the substantial lasting power of the amorous passions either. Unlike Heracles or John Dillinger he was never going to be betrayed by a lover.
Heros like Washington enter the practical world as heros above the power and force of kings. That’s true for Achilles and Agamemnon, Moses and Pharaoh, Samson ad the Philistines, Heracles and any king, Jason and Theseus and so on. They can as Washington did lead revolutions of the people against kings.
When we think of other such populist heros deemed more slightly more sinister like Robin Hood, William, Wallace, Jesse James, John Dillinger, Al Capone and Joseph Kennedy they share with George Washington a natural constituency in the populace who lack as much lawful power as the hero does. In the minds of the populace the hero doe what they do not with less means dare to do.
Part of the general myth of the founder is the revolutionary one. They were people who were born into an oppressed colony and take action and risked death to free themselves and others from tyranny. John Brown is in that mold.
Washington in his long sojourns in the wilderness and his communicating with Indians resonated in the American iconic consciousness with Davey Crockett, Daniel Boone. Bat Masterson, and even motive actors like John Wayne. Whether we laced or not we are more likely as America to give sympathy and credence to these characters on a white horse than we are any dandy from a large citify. We assume even if we are not rural that the toffs are corrupt, dishonorable and will betray us more easily than snakes.
The plain style Washington took up as President wasn’t missed by Thomas Jefferson, one who walked to his own Inauguration. When Andrew Jackson did the same thing he beat him to a pulp with hi waking stick an assassin who tried to shoot him on his way to the ceremony. Both Jackson, who was a Tennessee representative in Congress under the Washington administration, and Jefferson, who was it Secretary of State didn’t miss the surface adornments of how an America popular hero had to appear. Alexander Hamilton among his many accomplishments put into a detailed memo to Washington what he thought the dress, manner and conversational style of a republican president should be. Before Hamilton nobody knew what these manners could be Bacchus there were almost no republics.
Benjamin Franklin is a different icon. He is one from the bottom, vulgar in the best sense of the words. His descendants include George Ade, Ambrose Beirce, Will Rogers, Lenny Bruce, Jackie Mason, George Carlin and Richard Pryor. Abraham Lincoln straddles both icons. He certainly was usually the biggest and strongest man in the vicinity, was very familiar with the wilderness and Indians, no stranger to violence. Yet he was always ready to tell a joke to make his point.
A third myth is the Alexander Hamilton: the glittering bastard genius up from the bottom. The myth of the genius who never quite escapes the illicit resonates in literature in the Great Gatsby, Dreiser’s Cowperwood Trilogy, and On the Road.
One should notice that all of these icons were ferocious workaholics and polymaths. Heracles never labored as much as even one of them.
Jefferson has some peculiar descendants in American myth, principally William James. Any honest man with charm who dares to think the unthinkable is one of Jefferson’s children.
Absent from this list is any myth about the urban dandy.

The Utility for the Present of the Founders as Models

1

There are many ways to view the founders as there are designs we can find in our own fathers, communities and other kindred. I’ve lived long enough to be represented by the presumption that our founders were sterling, virtuous, clever at forming government and brave in their rebellion against England. I’ve also herd mostly from the Left and anyone else that has no use for freedom that our founders were cynical middle class oligarchs and cunning plantations slavers who were looking for more profit for themselves and less for England from their own rule, still colonial but run by local colonizers. I don’t think either iconry or such gratuitous and fashionable slanders fit the reality of any of these people and their generation.
We all after a while if we are adults and have the power of action and thought of mature pele have to stand the verdict of others about our presence on Earth. We also deserve to be judged as people in the middle of our lives who intrepid and courageous as we have been in some situations may have not have had the same audacity and fairness in others. If we live a long time and among others who are as imperfect as we are, these things eventually happen. We’ve all had the experience as kids of thinking that we would never embrace or give accommodation to the bad laws and grotesque inequities that our sires have put up with,.If we live long enough we are harassed by younger folk who say the same thing about us.
I don’t think our founders escape that kind of assessment from our time or any time. Whether we want to attribute wickedness to them because they weren’t icons or lacked perfection is another story. One might ask why it took George Washington his whole lifetime it discoid finally to free his slaves and provide with his largesse a means for them to be educated competitive in society. One can also say that when he did it, he really did it. By the way it’s very clear that Washington believed Black folk were mentally and physically equal to White people.
Of course if we asked ourselves equally why we aren’t adamantly and unfashionably out to free the Chinese people who sacrifice their lives manufacturing our clothes, shoes and various machines for us in virtual silvery, perhaps we might have more respect of Washington’s and Franklin’s choices and compassion for how difficult it was for him to get to them. Washington could have made the same excuses about slavery we do about our indenture of the Chinese common people or many of the Mexican populace among us as servants. Moreover slavery under George Washington was more like living in an extended family. One of his closest intimates was Bill Lee, legally a slave. Washington sent some of his slaves to the theater, had means of education for them, nursed them personally when they were sick.
Washington’s slaves were of two classes, the artisans living in their own homes much like tenants. When his slaves wanted to travel they did so. That’s not to say that silvery is a good and moral institution, merely that Washington didn’t see practical means to “get clear” of a way of life he found odious and denounced often but was a ubiquity. Some of his slaves were hunters and were given money for providing food for the Washingtons.
Perhaps since he was the most powerful man in America he could he made it a central policy. He went as far as he thought he could. He personally freed all his slaves. Half his slaves didn’t work at all.
He expected many slave owners to fallow him peaceably in Abolition giving his singular prestige. As Abraham Lincoln pointed out many slave owners did just that. That’s why the United States had by the 1850s an enormous amount of freed slaves. We all know Washington would have supported the 1960s Civil Rights laws and would have denounced Jim Crow. It’s easy to do if you are living in 1950 though some people did get killed doing it. It’s not as easy when one is has inherited slavery as an ordinary practice while running a plantation in Virginia in the 18th century.
Can we get some strength from Washington that he did what he did about slavery as far as he took it?
As John Calhoun pointed out sixty years later factory towns and inferentially office work through free and contractual was in practices as much as an odium as slavery. It was still based on a notion of work in groups that offered an alterative of spending one’s mortality working for certain autocratic operations, being rogue or criminal, or starving to death. Of course slavery was the worst of the systems. The best of them weren’t so great either.
We do know that if Martin Luther King’s staff had met George Washington instead of Robert Kennedy in 1963 they never would have heard anyone ask them: “What do you want?” George Washington unlike Robert Kennedy knew what they wanted. As much as he could he gave it to them too.
The differences between George Washington and Robert Kennedy are innumerable; one of them is that trying to live a live of charity and kindness for all, Washington didn’t have any trouble honoring various kinds of people, even enduring the calumnies of his enemies. It’s necessary in a democracy. One of the lessons of history that the imperial Romans understood. As long as one is deionizing people who oppose one in action one is going to lurch form one despotism to another. Part of the insight into management of the Roman empire came from how well they treated their enemies. The strength of America came from its acceptance of the natural diversity of Creation, not from its imitation of European class system. Nobody understood that better nor pushed it harder than George Washington.
One might ask, if George Washington was such an egalitarian and had such deep friendships with women why did he never mention once giving women equal political rights? Why did none of the founders, all of whom seem to have had deep intimacies with women, never even bring up the subject? I don’t know.
Furthermore one might query why if George Washington was such an admirer of Indians, even emulated their method of warfare in the American revolution sometimes, why he didn’t listen to his cabinet advisor and close friend Henry Knox and give Indians total equality? Why did he feel as Jefferson that the Indians had to change and take up European ways?
Jefferson actually address this question in his Open Letter to the Indians in 1801. He says there is no superiority to one mode of survival, Indian or White. The problem is that the White mode of farming and livestock and industry is always in fair competition going to dominance the spacious Indian mode of hunting and gathering. Since the only means of opposing theine peacetime domestication was taken up by the Indians, the real battlefield was whether or not some, most or all Indians were going to acclimate themselves to European modes of survival or be defeated militarily in some ignoramus massacre.
Neither Washington nor Jefferson had the power to police the wild Western part of their country nor to stop White people from setting up farms and cattle ranches on Indian hunting grounds. They could only set aside certain lands they could monitor somewhat ad hope for an unstable peace. Henry Knox was for giving them full equality and a lot of land. I’m not saying this is a satisfactory response to making policy in a country of two cultures whose survival modes didn’t communicate much with each other.
Yet in curious ways some Indians were makes the accommodation even when Washington was a young man. They all had guns by the 1750s. Since they didn’t make such weapons themselves they must have bought them from the Europeans. The Indians with these guns usually took the side of the enemies the Whites were seriously afraid of: the English and the French. It’s unfortunate and even immoral who things resolved themselves in America between Whites and Indians as they did but the Indian leaders weren’t entirely without blame for the fiasco. As Washington and Jefferson knew the Indians were fully competitive with anybody. They would have all done better being one more franchised and competitive ethnicity in America.
How much better? Certainly the small farm was attacked and inundated by speculators on farm prices from the time of the founders to the present and was never all that superior to hunting. Working on railways, joining the cavalry or labor in a factory wasn’t all that salubrious. There as at least as much despotism in farming or factory work to harass people as an economy based on hunting and gathering. Yet certainly whether one hunted baffle or ate domesticated cattle wasn’t worth staking ones existence for. I’ve never heard anyone criticizing the policies of the Indian leaders for their failed choices.
The Indians were never organized well enough to take up effective force as a check on worst of the White men. Military opposition to the Whites was as a result in a large way not unsuccessful option for them. Their local massacres in the long ruin worked against them. They galvanized opinions agent them, better than their enemies could have organist themselves.
At some point in history all human beings have moved from hunting and gathering to domesticating animals and farming; they have done it without heavy losses. I’m currently living in the 21st century under the checks of the greed of the people who run those grain speculation and factories. Sometimes Nature works in that involute ways. If one is lucky one shows up and lives by remedies after some society has hit a wall.
One should add that none of the founders actually forced any Indians from their land. Washington and Jefferson merely said some policy of that kind in the future by some American government is inevitable. This view, opposed in Washington’s administration by more than Henry Knox, led to the acceptance by Whites of the forced marches of Indians out of their lands and the breaking of treaties with the Indians began under Andrew Jackson in the 1830s.

2

One of the major internal conflicts of the Washington administration was whether or not the United States should have a national bank like the Bank of England. Washington and Hamilton were for it, seeing an autonomous and sound financial system as the basis of a thriving national manufacture. Jefferson was against it, saying that banking was a speculative enterprise that would undermine the morals of anyone in it, skew the ethics of the country into taking up greed as a virtue. We can at once congratulate Washington and Hamilton on setting up the basis for American financial property and take a serious look at Jefferson’s prediction that it would corrupt us and turn our values into a national pathology.
I don’t think that anyone at this point would argue seriously that Jefferson was wrong. Perhaps the alternative of being a satrap of countries that did have national banks was worse. Corruption imposed from without might be more painful than internal degeneracy.
One of the interesting if disturbing observations one might make but the quarrels between Washington and Hamilton on one side in Jefferson and Madison on the other, is that sometimes each of two direction has excesses and sinister harvests. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. The Federalist one we’ve taken over two centuries has given us some of the griefs of empire.
We shouldn’t feel the choice of perils we have taken on in life is all that unknown to the past. Homer himself brings it up in the dangers to Iodizes of Skylla and Charbidis. Yet sadly much of the way the Futurists and Jeffersonians positioned themselves in the early republic was claiming to be one side of a polarized struggle between good guys and bad guys, demonizing the other side.
Of course the founders were all revolutionaries. One would expect them to have that skew.

More and Sundry Meditations on Hamilton versus Jefferson

1

It’s an iron adage of politics that every direction in organizing human life to a common purpose goes over a cliff. If we are for equality we tend to level the best with the worst of us in ways that gave power and franchise to people who are going to use it to bring down themselves and everybody else as well. What is worse, we alter our view of life to blur the distinctions between the excellent and the lousy, the good and the bad, the virtuous and the wicked until we cannot determine ourselves whether we are acting well or badly because even the heinous crimes we do to others have the same moral value as our charity toward the world.
If we are for inequality we get a multi-tired vertical society where the bottom have every good reason to ignore, trouble, usurp and overthrow the top; at the worst slavery in equality leads to holocausts and a downward spiritual movement that at its apogee in the third Reich finds any pretext at all to embrace death. If we aim to create a large empire in which we have internal peace in a polis either coerced or seduced to get along with each other in relative peace, there is always at the borders of that vertically levelled imperium a varied set of legions of so-called barbarians ready to invade the sleepy and feeble worlds of the empire and kill all as they loot their natural prey. If one takes generation or two of people away from the arts of combat they seem to tend on the evidence to forget how to defend themselves.
They also lose their standards of what is acceptable behavior and action among them because nothing anyone does seems to bring ruin and death to them. Many people on historical evidence are enslaved by some invading force one day if not another one, content to be slaves under any regime as long as they are left alone. People who are hardy warriors to a man on the other hand tend to fight people in the vicinity or in the next valley when it’s to their interest it take up tolerable accommodations to make peace with their neighbors.
One can multiply the examples of how various directions lead any group to diverse excesses worthy of such routes into the unknown; the horrible truth is that all of them have some dragons lurking outside of the fortress of human group action that re ready not only to destroy these inhabitants with a specialty in eating innocents but have the magical ability to alter the minds of the survivors so that they aren’t aware that by taking the route in life they have they have partially invoked the dragon themselves.
One of the intriguing aspects of the arguments between Hamilton and Jefferson, discussions moderated by Washington in his cabinet meetings around 1789 or so, is that not only were none of their advocacies resolved but that currently the same issues are in front of us without such heavyweight thinkers as Hamilton, Madison. Jefferson and Washington thinking about them at least on Earth. There aren’t any such savants among us in the cabinet or for that matter in any known and formal set of power. As a result even in myth and legend America is often two groups of people living in the same physical place with no easy way to straddle both worlds.
Some Americans, often around the Eastern coast, have a sense of America as free republic aiming at economic competition with anybody in the world if America is not precisely a classical empire. These adherents have a desire to promote colleges on the English model, a society of honorable republican wise men in the Senate and Congress generally if possible, a myth of an American society of clever and witty arrests dancing gracefully in their mortality more or less on the model of such folk in the Athenian and Roman republic. In economics long before Keynes floated his ideas, they were sure that floating an amount of debt one can pay back one day with confidence and creating with stocks what amounted to private banks was an excellent way to rise money to fund enterprises that could compete with any such large commerce with similar funding devices in the world.
It’s odd that this definition of a relatively organized American republic centers around Alexander Hamilton, one who was born with no restacks but his wits, and was always a farce opponent of slavery and diminishment of humanity of any kind. It’s untenable that this admirable and thornily to prickly honorable man would himself ever do or accept the damage to others in the name of any cause whatsoever. Many of Hamilton actions to create effective organization of the American state came from his very understandable fear that if America didn’t do it such things, it was an invitation for England, France or Spain to penetrate or invade the resultant anarchy and destroy the first free republic in history.
Many of his objections to Jefferson’s ideas of power resting in local communities not vulnerable to centralized organization came from a very sensible tactical assessment that hundreds or thousands of such local communities as Jefferson described in the Anglo Saxons could not defend themselves against a European invasion anymore than the whole of what we call Latin America or the Native Americas were able to defend themselves against the organizational skills of England, France, Holland or Spain. It certainly didn’t escape Hamilton, one who was brought up in a Danish-run island that was a brutal center of the slave trade, that the social atrocity done piously and daily to the working classes was a callosal offense to Nature.
Hamilton would have found the current moral presumptions of many Americans now who believe in the ethical equality of action and thought a set of riddles who had an unthinkable faith. He certainly though he was no Puritan believed in the wrath of God exhibited in Nature as well as the natural depravity of humankind, in fact more than most of the founders. He could into have imagined a world in which honor was seen as an illusion. He was very much one who had perceived a world of sin and forgiveness. Ascribing the uncharitable result of what John Adams called natural inequality to Hamilton and insinuating that he was some kind of Social Darwinist is really utterly slanderous to him. Hamilton probably had many ideas in common with Aaron Burr yet found Burr insufferable because he felt Burr, as Hamilton perceived him. had no honor. Hamilton got Jefferson elected President, one whom he regarded as an enemy, because as he said, he felt Jefferson was honorable. That alone says something about Hamilton’s priorities in whom he valued and whom he dismissed or found contemptible.
The lines we like to think are clear between Hamilton and Jefferson were never other than murky. Both risked their lives to free the American colonies from England. Though Jefferson was the Francophile between them, the bi-lingual Hamilton was much more fluent in French than Jefferson. They were both abolitionists but Hamilton also owned no slaves.
We all life in the middle of our lives and respond to visible enemies before we react to invisible or potential ones. The realty before the founders in 1789 was not how they could avoid in the excesses of equality. It was whether or not with no model they could from a republic that had a mich equality as possible consonant with its very existence, and avoid being swallowed up by an invasion of European autocracies. The English invasion came soon enough in 1812. The war with France almost came in 1797, Had that french war happened it probably would have been fought on the western border of the United States, perhaps from the North and Quebec as well, probably promoting a policy in England to start an invasion from the East at the same time.
It’s hardly astonishing that Hamilton and Washington were for neutrality and staying out of all Aaron wars if they could, that they as well were for mounting American banks to keep banking on American soil, took up debt they felt they could pay with the American manufacture they promoted, formed the Coast Guard and so on, aiming to keep all sources of industry thriving at home rather than be controlled by European colonizers economically when they had been defeated militarily. \England never gave up on reconquering America till 1864. It still maintains and controls some of American culture including some of its vertically layered college system and its public government media radio and television stations. England has after all this been saved twice from German invasion by American armies in some turn of power. Yet in fact even in the 20th century both England and Germany were and are economic powers that have the same aims of domination if they have gone about such penetrations and embrace different degrees of freedom tot he colonized in very different ways. If lately Germany has outdone England in subtlety of imperial agendas in the 1930s and 40s it was the other way around.
For those that had a memory of how the United States was involved in European wars in 1914 and afterwards the various pretexts mounted in the 1960s to bring it into the Vietnam region to fight for France and Roman Catholicism, two other imperial powers, was a result of a kind of direction that had began from small departures from George Washington’s advice to stay out of foreign imbroglios.
As much as one can look upon Spain and Portugal as very derelict in figuring out what they needed in charity and humanism to mount to protect their colonial empires, the slave pens and naked theft of everyone and everything they were involved in made sure that they were only involved in relatively small wars daring their whole advent and decline as colonial powers. The strength of England, France and the United States as nations at war came from their relatively democratic involvement and franchising of the populace in their local politics. A Spaniard or a Portuguese fighting in such a time would have no illusions that his efforts were going to lead to freedom and power for himself or his family.
As a consequence Spain and Portugal were not players in world colonial life in the 19th and 20th century; they were pushed over easily by populist revolutionaries like bolivar, San Martin and others of that ilk because their slave-driven colonial organization was inherently weak in the first place. Hamilton toyed with freeing Latin America with much the same stratagems for doing it as the local revolutionists had. Jefferson noted that it wasn’t worth taking over territories that Spain was holding rather feebly because Spain could be pushed over at any time; the real enemies America had to worry about were more democratic countries, not autocrats who piously ran slave pens.
This insight wasn’t lost on colonists of the 20th century. America ran a good deal of Chile, Columbia, Panama, and Mexico while England and Germany were active in the same way in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, maintaining their economic incursions without standing armies, bring local toadies to run the government as Julius Caesar had done in his day two thousand years before them. These practices still manage most of the world. We don’t like to think of Japanese and Chinese economic penetrations and the snapping crocodile movements of Pakistani banks bribing of our own high local officials as part of our local difficulties but we shouldn’t be surprise when this way of running an imperium comes our way.
We really don’t know how Hamilton would have reacted to the oligarchical class war of the 19th and early 20th century when the government and law Adolf was in the hands of social Darwinist plutocrats. It’s not quite a subject about which there is no evidence. His widow Liza lived into the 1860s and attended Abraham Lincoln’s famous Cooper Union speech. As one might have guessed Liza Hamilton was a supporter of Lincoln. The Hamiltons as well as the Washingtons were very charitable people. Of course we can quote Hamilton’s passing remark that the people with substantial mounts of money should have the franchise they earned by their acquisitions and industry to manage the country more than the populace who had done nothing for themselves.
If we find this opinion repugnant or elitist we might ask what we think of a country in which those who slothful ones have no skills and do nothing have as much franchise as those active souls who take action to do good or enrich or amuse themselves. It’s also an opinion Hamilton had about an America that in his time as yet had no world plutocrats but had in its cities plenty of large mercantile operations exporting everything from whiskey to beaver skins to Europe. As e know Hamilton had a record or reacting very irritably and more to people whom he felt had no honor. He certainly would have had that response to Social Darwinism.
My guess is that Hamilton would have much as Washington did, set up private charitable mechanisms to free masses of people who had no hope to compete in the large world. That in fact was Liza Hamilton’s central work in her later adult life.
Whether Hamilton would have felt a John Quincy Adams did that it was inevitably given the estate of a greedy commerce the government’s job to be a check on the natural depravity of some business and some businessmen is an intriguing question.
My own guess is that Hamilton would have come to that conclusion after realizing that private charity and good works for the poor merely kept the people making huge profits they didn’t need whenever they pleased and running killing factory towns, bribing government officials in power. One can pretty much guess the reaction Hamilton would have had to Jay Gould, Jim Fisk and Joseph Kennedy.

2

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It’s much easier to analyze Hamiltons’ ideas that Jefferson about defining America because Hamilton was never as radical as Jefferson was. Hamilton’s seeming virtues and limitations as a political thinker are easier to get a handle on because most of American organized life has been based on his ideas. The politics of Thomas Jefferson, not how he lived domestically though in fact he did push for abolition of slavery and did pay his own slaves wages, but his vision of an America untainted by large government and its quarrels, living in peace locally, is a way of thinking that Jefferson heard himself many times on his daily rural walks through the hamlets and small farms of Virginia.
He also heard as much from the Cherokees who were in his area. We tend to think of his Virginia as a place of large plantations but most of the state was countryside, part of it even wilderness, had few or no roads away from the coasts, and was populated by Yemen on small farms. They didn’t look for the English or the American government afterwards to protect their lives or property. They faced Indians, plagues and droughts by themselves. They were on their own.
As the Eastern folk looked to tax them, the settlers Jefferson in Virginia on his long walks knew quietly moved slowly westward, in each migration feeling more wary of and angry about any government at all. Andrew Jackson who was from Tennessee was much more openly bellicose in style than Virginia gentlemen like Jefferson and Washington though Washington was a consummate warrior who never went without his pistols. Washington treated his enemies with a respect Andrew Jackson would have found unthinkable.
Even the military arm of the American revolution was a freely embraced contractual affair. The revolutionary army was wholly a volunteer corps, not a draft force. Washington had a peroneal covenant with each of his troops, all of whom freely joined his legions, even and stipulated the time they would serve in it. It had all the virtues and flaws of such a contingent. It more like a militia. It was very good at endurance. It could do extraordinary things in its boldness because Washington could call upon men who would put their excellence into the fray, not merely their tolerable competence. After the revolution though everybody in America benefited by it Congress was very slow to pay this army its back wages. The American populace did not forget that.
After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and the war that took over much of northern Mexico in 1848 the sort of people who believe in Jefferson’s values wandered westward, in the dry areas west of Arkansans into harsh teretes much less arable than Virginia. They were farmers, sheep and cattle herders, miners and were involved in maintenance economy in the villages.
If we think of mythical Americans it’s this Western realm populated by emigrating Jeffersonians who resistant in our imagination. One of the central reason that our founders are more monuments to us than icons in the American imagination is that they were not Westerners or people who lived at the edge of a vast wilderness like Daniel Boone, Andrew Jackson, Davey Crockett, Abraham Lincoln, Clarence Darrow, Will Rogers, John Wayne, Woody Guthrie, Clint Eastwood or Willy Nelson. In fact the manufacture of a public image of that sort really is to the interest of any politician, entertainer or American philosopher.
Actually several of the founders including more obviously George Washington were of that ilk. Yet Washington, a physically huge man and natural egalitarian who was a warrior, great horseman and never far from his favorite pistols, he is still rarely seen today as the sort of person Americans associate with Westerners than one whose models were Roman republicans and liberal English aristos. Even the characteristic measure and slow and complex weighing of choices that was typical of Washington’s character is not appreciated in him much, though when we see some cowboy in a Western movie have the same qualities we recognize them well enough as iconic and central to American legend.
It might be worth our while to try and look at this image with some reflection. central to the sense of oneself in this icon like classical heros from Heracles to Moses is a very severe notion of the adult value of personal freedom. It is liberty taken and not given. It can be embraced by exile or superstitious flight as well as war.
It is the ability, one t which Washington was particularly adept at, to survive in the harsh wildness in any kind of uncomfortable circumstances. It’s a male image; there are female Greek and Jewish heroines of this sort but there are no American ones. In actuality Martha Washington was as heroic as one can get short of picking up a gun and going to the front lines with her husband but she doesn’t enter the halls of iconry for some obscure reason.
Heros like George Washington are self regulating spirits who judge themselves very well rather than suffer the assessment of kings. Nobody had more of an internal mechanism for self judgment that reached into the realm of the uncomfortable and unthinkable than George Washington.
Nobody as well left a better record of his inner lie in the hundred thousand pages or so of his papers if we know how to read it. Washington was not only aware of the capacities in himself for sins of various kinds but the recovery power he had once he had done something he found not “according to his principles” as he put it. What animated Washington was not just honor and a fierce check on his passions but a very active sense of charity. Everything Washington tried to do was in the service of honoring other people. His writing about eschewing personal ambition even in minor matters isn’t fluff or subterfuge; he really meant it.
Since Washington as probably the most important man in extant history of not only amerce but of the planet itself, the man who set off a global movement toward freedom and republicanism, it’s almost funny that he spent his life avoiding such an ambition and vanity but there it is. To only his improbable fortune but the sense of others that he was above and beyond any intrigue was one of the central sources of his power. His hunger to retire to private life wasn’t some footnote to Addison’ Cato but a desire articulated in a different way than Jefferson’s to take up a life free of encumbrances and obligations to the America community. Nobody can doubt from his evident falcate when he lived that way that such an assistance was preferable to him to leading men or having any power at all over anybody.
Of the three men Hamilton was slowest to take up a strong private life. He did in his late 40s buy some land in the per part of the city he called the Grange and began to build his version of Monticello and Mount Vernon. Solitary life didn’t suit him; he worked more from enthusiasm than reflection. Before his purchase of the Grange he lived downtown in New York and was a happy workaholic lawyer in public life.
One of the major legacies Washington left his country was his freeing of his slaves. I would guess that Washington felt that when his will was published as a pamphlet, his decisions would have inspired many slave owners to do the same thing. He was aft all the father of his country. One can see Washington’s plan for general abolition in his will clearly enough. Slavery in his veil was to not only to be done away with but ample means should be available from their former owners to make the former slaves educated and competitive with anybody. Since Washington himself though one of the best read men in the country always felt his lack of formal education this proviso is not surprising. Unfortunately some but not a majority of slave owners lacked the sense to follow the lead of Washington in peaceful abolition. However as Abraham Lincoln pointed out in his famous Peoria speech, many slave owners did voluntarily follow Washington.
We can’t doubt where Washington would have stood in subsequent American history. He of course would have been all for the Black Civil Rights movement; since he was very methodical he would have especially pushed hard as well for competitive Black educational opportunities. He was unfashionably and stridently anti-racist.
He certainly would have continued to champion innovative American manufacture. If it disturbs some Right wingers to think so, he would have opposed the Vietnam war and all other such colonial wars. Like Hamilton he would have been appalled at men without honor who were in American politics. Like Hamilton he saw nothing wrong in achieving wealth and living richly.
He did assume as we never do in our own age that one could be rich and honorable simultaneously. Since Washington’s notion of how one might be wealthy was doing honest commerce that isn’t as strange an idea as thinking that one might be a speculator and be honorable.
In fact honor is a virtue in commerce whether or not many take advantage of it. In my lifetime Wolkswagens and Japanese cars developed a vast market because one knew if one bought one that one was getting the optimal vehicle for the price, one that would not break down and which would probably last without repair for ten or more years. Apple computers had a similar sales pitch. If one bought George Washington’s whiskey one could be sure he didn’t water it to make a larger profit.
Honesty as Benjamin Franklin said is the best policy; it also gives such commerce an edge over business about which one feels that somewhere along the line one is going to be skimmed or bilked by the manufacturer. Of course the study of the utility of virtue if much more of an 18th century concern than one which is currently fashionable.

3

Thomas Jefferson was the most articulate philosopher of this Western image of what an American should be; yet he escapes the aegis of the legend because he was so obviously a polymath, philosopher, intellectual and even a scientist. Those are qualities that if a hero has them at all are often other than in the background as he does his intrepid deeds.
It should be said that the first three Presidents of the United States, perhaps five of the first six of them were geniuses. Behind them were many other geniuses like Benjamin Franklin. The 18th century in America was much better at nurturing its geniuses, even promoting them sometimes to leadership than it has been subsequently. The only three presidents afterwards who were in their league were Abraham Lincoln, the two Roosevelts and the self educated Harry Truman.
One might argue about who the first American President was who lacked honor. I really don’t know all that much about John Tyler or James Buchanan. I think the last honorable American President was Dwight Eisenhower. That’s not to SA he didn’t preside without complaint while he was in power over the multurer-industrial complex or that he wasn’t an adulterer. It’s merely to say he understood what honor was and generally tried to live by it. It might be worthwhile to cogitate over a dram about why after Eisenhower we have had the Presidents and leaders we have had.
It’s true that Hamilton and Jefferson were the more classical variety of genius with their uncanny charm as well as their polymath avidity in exploring everything; George Washington was more a homegrown genius with different observational and laconic sort of personality if he was like them charming and fiercely avid for all knowledge of any kind.
The image of the hero and the genes sis hardly the same among us. If anything we in America don’t want our heros to be too intelligent. They can be smart but they should keep their intellectuality in the background. It reminds us too much of the clever leaders of Europe hinting they might be love children of gods who ran the enslaving despotisms they did with their good qualities.
I don’t claim to fathom all the complexities of Thomas Jefferson. He was such an honorable man that his worst enemy said he had that quality. People generally liked him and were not threatened by his abilities, even John Adams. Yet George and Martha Washington thought him after a while treacherous and duplicitous. Another way of looking at that elusive side of Jefferson was that he was much more a diplomat that a strident polemicist in his life if hardly in his writings. Thomas Jefferson rather like Hamilton, both of them lawyers, tended to simplify reality in their view of life. They were as lawyers in the business making cases for some clear decision by a court in which the realities of a situation were much more blurry and murky than their clear edged advocacies claimed they were. Of course judges like men like Hamilton and Jefferson because they are sources for judicial inquiry of choices that seem after their swaggering discourses to be more clear than they were. One can be a successful lawyer or maker of polemical arguments such as the Federalist Papers or the Declaration of Independence with such skills. They aren’t as sensitive an instrument to make political cacaos in a world in which things are never other than soft-edged, internally contradictory, complex, perverse, unknown, or even unknowable.
Thomas Jefferson’s writings make some of the best reading of his age. He was also very likable. As a moralist one can’t have any more testimony to his capacities to question his actions and thoughts than his remark in his Second Inaugural Address that if anyone had anything negative to say about him he wanted to listen to it and address whatever grievances anyone might have against him. That is the statement of a man daily testing his own intuitions, observation and reason with his own adult and mature judgment. Then to be fair to him, Jefferson like the other founders never wrote a large book of memoirs or political observations such as one might find in the writings of Julius Caesar, Charles de Gaulle or Winston Churchill. Our record of their thoughts comes from their published polemics, witnesses to their table talk, and their letters.
As a consequence we can easily infer opinions that they might not have had or position them as systemic thinkers when they might not have been. If we are fir to them we have to allow them to change their minds, to have some contradictory notions and to think differently after they have made their mistakes honestly honoring the opposite opinion,. One thing is certain; all the founders had the ability to wire such systematic books or memoirs but none of them did. Franklin only wrote about his youth. It’s an enigma worth thinking about.
Still one must say that given the charm and clarity of Jefferson’s writing it takes a while at least for me to look at some of his opinions with some modicum of skepticism. We would all like to believe that in a local community or a hearth the best, wisest and most ethical assessment of politics might be made in a small community or a home. It might be a chilling experience to think that perhaps this is not true.
It certainly beats politics run and imposed by monarchs or priests easily enough. That’s not the argument Jefferson makes. He claims the small community is the natural way human beings should live, have in fact lived for millions of years. It’s like saying that beavers really do best building dams. It might be that something we do are unnatural, even painful, yet good for us. Jefferson never addresses that argument.
If true, it means that the wars these communities have taken up are natural too. If maybe sometimes we might do better not uncritically valuing what is natural to us, such thinking leads Gibbon to say the best time for humanity was the despotism of the early Antonines. It was such a loose regime for most people that without formally giving anyone any franchise it allowed large quantities of people to live with a great deal of practical if unlawful freedom. Of course Gibbon was aware that Rome under the Antonines was a slave state. One assumes that most people under the Antonines were slaves. Gibbon’s argument wasn’t that this Antonine age was the optimal regime one could hope for, merely that it was for more people the best they had in history.
Jefferson leaves out of his charming essay the Anglo Saxons that most and possible all Anglo-Saxons were continually at war with other Anglo-Saxons. Since sometimes one tribe, extended family or inhabitants of a valley won over another one, very few of these people escaped being killed, sacked, looted, enslaved or otherwise impoverished at least for a season by other Anglo-Saxons. It meant that in these communities lot of people were getting killed, raped and looted. Monarchy, a word for Jefferson that is an ultimate anathema, probably came after a while from the cunning policies of some tribal chief who could organize other such chiefs to leave off war enough to maintain relative peace and work together against common enemies farther down the road from the next valley. One should remember that the Anglo-Saxons were about as organized to meet large groups of common enemies as the New World peoples were when Cortez and Pizarro landed in Mexico and Peru.
England was still running much of the world in my lifetime because those whom they had calloused and systematically looted weren’t organized anymore than the English Anglo-Saxon ancestors were. A Tolstoy said, domination of others can come not from force but ability to organize that is unthinkable to the dominated. It shouldn’t escape us that as soon as Japan and then China imported and took up Western methods of organization they had spotted in England and France they instantly became equal in means of acquiring power to any regime in the West. Now the White Man’s burden is everybody’s burden.
Moreover in the 19th century was clear that more republican European methods of organization were superior in effectiveness to the monarchial ones of Spain and Portugal. Technology, even political systems, are reliable and neutral. Like a toaster they will produce the same results no matter who uses them. Conversely lack of such engines will always lead the same people to enslavement or some form of lowly life under foreign domination from others because like the stone club or the bow and arrow, once one group uses them it becomes r should become plain to everybody that they either have to take up the same political means or be somebody else’s cattle.
Colonial places in the world don’t embrace such instant surmises taking up a remedy for their indenture because the enemies of such a move are their local chiefs and indigenous politicians generally. It does make for an odd common cause and secret alliances between colonizers and local conservatives.
As a consequence it’s usually when a part of the world has been so scooped out utterly over a long time that nobody remembers what the native traditions were that can make the kind of recovery and become equal to a Western imperium much as China, India in japan have. The other enemy of such abruptly vertiginous political turns is of course the agendas of the penetrating Western powers themselves. It seems hardly to their interest to make competitors out of slaves. Actually it might be to their advantage. Monopolies age fast and collapse by themselves in a way competitive enterprises never do.
As much as I don’t have too many good things to say about the British Empire, live in the first country to depart from it successfully and applaud its journey to relative freedom from such a magnetic siren calls to be a thrall, I also recognize that not only the British empire but empires generally offer the kind of peace and relative freedom Gibbon had been savoring because the small communities Thomas Jefferson lauds as the natural politics of our species were not only prone to take up war against their neighbors but ready to accept those bellicosities as eternal and ordinary. Yet Jefferson is almost certainly right when he ways that empires of any kind are radical superimpositions on such communities that contain in their politics all the volatility he ascribes to its essential radical nature.
It’s central to Jefferson’s argument in the Declaration of Independence and elsewhere that it is the empire which is responsible to the common people, not the other way around. When the empire fails to honor that set of obligations to the populace it rules, the populace not only has every right and franchise to leave the empire peaceably or by war; it becomes a kind of natural check to the excesses of the empire it leaves when that imperium is delated by its arrogant notions of one way contracts to itself a the liege of its supposed subjects. The argument of the Declaration of Independence is not that there should be no empires but that “in the course of human events” empires on one day if not another themselves set into motion the engines by which their former subjects free themselves from a tyranny that operates under such foolish illusions of invulnerability from a check from the bottom and its attendant arrogance. Such a surmise is of course the basis of the Torah narrative of the flight from Egypt. At one point in time if not another some pharaoh is going to not remember the value to his kingdom of a people that can and has provided him with the talents of a Joseph.
Beyond that one should note that neither pharaoh nor anybody in his court needed to enslave the Jews nor steal their mercantile wealth. Pharaoh himself was doing very well with a country of well off and reasonably free Jews. He certainly didn’t have to worry that any Jews would rebel or take the side of any of his enemies. They were making a fair living from a stable Egypt under a pharaoh. The kind of avarice and greed and a hunger to put himself in peril and make an enemy or strangers out of friends for no reason at all that motivated this pariah shouldn’t be all that unfamiliar to us. It is of course why the Torah says that God put such notions and polices into the mind of the pharaoh. They certainly weren’t to his interest.
Of course in other writings Jefferson suggests that if power is given as much as possible in a loose federation to individuals and local communities the essential instability of a large tyranny will be ameliorated by a ground level politics that keeps the motility of Nature churning in private life or in small communities. One might remark that if empires are indeed radical impositions on such human life they probably have had the run of rule they have had not merely by force but by their superior power of organization. In the ancient world it was a very cogent argument of empires long before Rome, Sparta and Egypt that people would do better living in peace under a large, loose and accommodating empire with low taxes than they would jousting with people like themselves in the next valley and continually losing adult and brave citizens on both sides.
Moreover in his actions Jefferson in buying the territory of Louisiana from Napoleon, and sending Lewis and Clark to explore and map out the West, then mostly under Mexico, commissioning them to go as far as Oregon, was very much an imperialist in the manner of Hamilton and George Washington, ready to form a large United States with more or less the size of a country it is today.
Nobody in the Louisiana territories nor in the far west ever voted to join the United States except perhaps for Texas. One might wonder how many Mexicans in Texas were franchised to vote for and embrace the realities of that acquisition.
Jefferson was ready to throw Spain out of its colonies when the time came for America to push that feeble empire over. Nobody understood better than the reason Spain was as weak as it was come from its systemic inability to franchise any of its citizens even in their homeland much less their colonies and given them a reason to have something to fight for or defend in the Spanish dominion. Jefferson fathomed as much as Hamilton and Washington did that the United States was not a tribal country but a superior idea of government that superseded tribes, religions, accommodating local or even private sovereignty. To some degree given the power of its ideology this system has attracted the common people everywhere; it has transformed the entire world.
Ene though he never expressed it in this way, Jefferson’ politics was not focused on remaking the map of the world into hundreds of thousands of local communities and utterly free
private existences within them but was about whether empires formerly based on a mixture of organization and force could be replaced by a polities that refined in its limited power the old imperial mechanism by invoking in a legal and open way the natural responsibility of any empire to its common people. It certainly didn’t escape Jefferson of all people that in doing this, some of it under his own Presidency, the United States itself would become a kind of empire.
Moreover one must admit whatever one’s political persuasions that the last half of the 20th and the first part of the 21st century gave the inhabitants of the West, an aegis which includes Japan, Malaysia, China, and India, a great deal of personal freedom and wealth they had never had under any previous government, has provided the West as a system with a domination over the globe that outdid anything Gibbon had analyzed to be the freedoms within the practical reality of the early Roman empire.
There really isn’t any conflict between holding Gibbon’s opinion and Jefferson’s. Gibbon was commenting on what had been most practically the known mechanism in history for promoting personal freedom if the franchise was on the illicit side. Jefferson was arguing that there were better and worse ways to conduct both sides of “a perpetual revolution”, that is, a civil or uncivil dialogue between individuals and the common people on one side and the state on the other; the optimal system would be to give the common people ever freedom they could have as a legal franchise, one which would among other things strengthen the state clever enough not to have any more enemies than it needed, certainly not to weaken it.
Similarly what seems to be two directions in free republics, one promoted by Jefferson, another by Hamilton, really aren’t at odds with each other. Jefferson’s argument that if we follow certain polices of a known monarchy that the United States has recently departed from, we are going to be like that monarchy, is really indisputable. On the other hand I don’t think anyone could argue that Hamilton’s vision of the United States was anything like England. England didn’t have what Hamilton called “judicial review” which we call the Supreme Court. It didn’t have a Senate filled with distinguished republicans; it had a House of Lords in which feudal barons of various fiefs sometimes spent their days. Even Hamilton’s idea that a President should serve a lifetime still meant that after the death oaf such a leader, the common people would elect another President. Since Presidents are usually older men that time of rule would probably be in each case less than twenty years and probably more like ten years. Moreover since the executive branch as defined by Washington and Hamilton was a limited estate checked by both Congress and the Supreme court, a President didn’t and couldn’t have the power of a monarch.
Of course such leaders if then are in power for a ten or twenty years, not four without a referendum, given their age are always going to be behind the swell of the times in their polices. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing though sometimes it can be. We really do better if we have some group in partial and limited power with memory of the past and some sense of how policy in the present who can analyze a short term remedy that might have more venom in it than one might think. Having such a check on the House of Representatives and the executive power is probably a good idea.
Many people have objected to Hamilton’s Supreme Court as a bunch of old men with lifetime positions. That may be true; it still is one of the most revolutionary ideas in political history to have any monarch or Congress superseded by law and by judges interpreting that law. It stand for the final judgment of policy as either lawful or unlawful according to the Constitution rather than the whim or judgment of any leader. It wasn’t present in the England of the time of the founders. When England finally took it up at all they were imitating Hamilton’s ideas and our system.
It’s very unfashionable and even disturbing argument to make but the failure of the Supreme Court in America when it has failed, which is often, has been either that it hasn’t upheld the clear policy and aim of the law it was supposed to honor, or that when the other two branches of the government hadn’t honored the law either, it became the hub of a social activist set of oppressive federal mandates that were in themselves a kind of arrogantly imposed tyranny upon the common people. What one does to protect oneself against judges and leaders who will not honor the laws that put them in power, or sham elections that give one a choice of elevating one of two equally empty suites or rogues, I don’t know.
In the first instance it’s very clear for example that the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution gave Black folk lawful and formally legal equality. The Supreme Court waited a hundred years to implement this edict. This means given the age of these Justices that somewhat more than seven or eight runs of such authorities had a chance to honor Black Civil Rights as the law and didn’t do it. The law was clear enough. It wouldn’t matter how long such advocates were on the Court.
the previous Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, the one jettisoned in 1789 “in order to form a more perfect union” was always much more for ceding all powers if possible to the states. That possible made more sense in 1789 when states had relatively small populations. Currently my own state, New York, has a population of fifteen million citizens, five times the size of the entire United States in 1789. Communications between these communities in 1789 were weak and scanty. Given that, the real push in States Rights were its engines seen by its advocates as a means to empower small communities and individuals should have been to limit and the break up the states too.
That direction certainly is the implied thought of the last pages of the Constitution in which it says all specific powers not delegated to the government are reserved to the states and the people. Nobody I have ever heard of including Thomas Jefferson has proposed such a way of organizing the United States. Yet as Jefferson says, local rule has been the natural way people have been governed for millions of years. I think it’s clear that all these founders in one way or another, Jefferson or Hamilton, were committed to some sort of empire rather than utterly loose confederation of small communities.
George Washington, who certainly saw as did Jefferson ad Hamilton the probable future size of the United States if his deliberately vague phase was “the Western territories” was also one who was constantly consulting other people about the limits of his power under the Constitution. He even had an annotated copy of it that he marked with his detailed notes and signs of emphasis. He was also the one who had managed the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia when apparently nobody else could do it. He was delighted by Hamilton, Madison and Jay’s Federalist Papers arguing for the efficacy of such a set of laws. This was one set of founders who were at once determined to be their own judge of their morals and honor and as eager to make and to live by a just law.
Hover there are internal contractions in American constitutional law which to this day are still not argued about clearly because people on all sides would feel very uncomfortable if it were. It’s clear that the Bill of Rights and the last pages of the Constitution itself are all for limited government, personal and local diversity and freedom. That is at a very naked polarity with laws about slavery, Prohibition, sexual, marital and drug laws, and a thousand other notions of how Americans should supposedly lead their private life. In overt debate this issue has surfaced again and again from the time of the founders to the present as whether or not there are “implied powers” of the government or not, and ho far one wants to take them if they exist.
It makes for a somewhat abstract debate to look at such matters of law people are attempting to lie by or not lie by to frame the matter like that. The real question is whether or not our citizens want a government that stays out of our private life or one which tried to run it.
If we want it to stay out of our lives we better be willing to accept a lot of things and people that our leaders have been telling us they will keep out of our existence as an anathema, no questions asked. What this standard of acceptability might be I don’t know. It’s not that one doesn’t hear such things; it’s that it only comes out in superficial ways. One hears that some don’t like certain kinds of people or tastes or habits or whatever. It’s rather chilling that I’ve never heard what that perhaps imaginary island of tolerance might be, ever discussed in my lifetime.

The Politics of Honor

The issue of whether or not one can be free enough to be honorable has been discussed long before the Torah thousands of years ago instituted the Jubilee year as a way of freeing slaves. Nobody had claimed until the Roman empire that legal slaves could aspire to honor, they were apparently too stifled by external tyranny to take up something as elevated as honor with the freedom necessary to make oneself one’s own moral judge. During the Roman empire some gnostic claimed that if one had a properly philosophic inner life the outward obligations others claimed one had in the world were an irrelevant concern.
Another way of looking upon the matter is the Jewish one of working competently at a day job to take up serious inquiries and acts in the evening or on the Sabbath at a House of Study. Anyone could do that. It was a republican notion. Of course whether or not free common people could be honorable was for the founders the unspoken issue at the heart of who might or should have a franchise in a free republic. There is a vestige of this ancient way of thinking in the original Constitution in its insistence tea full citizens be people that had at least a little property or money. They did not want to encourage the power of indigent.
By honor we usually mean two things: that we as individuals are the sole judges of our actions and thoughts, and that we are obligated to God or to the human race or life to be generous charitable and merciful to all. One could take up the first opinion out of vanity, the second out of fear, and not be honorable.
When Jefferson objected to George Washington that Hamilton was ambitions, Washington said that it was honorable ambition; it was ambition in the service of his country, not his personal gain. Washington’s point appreciates the heart of any action done for the sake of honor. To be honorable, an action has to have that element of charity and service chosen freely, existential as we say now, rather than be motivated by interest. Hamilton himself made the me point when he said that his amorous vices never interfered with his duties nor compromised him as an officer of the government.
The value of honor didn’t seem to be much of a problem for George Washington or Alexander Hamilton, both of whom started life at the middle or the bottom of society respectively. Honor was the wellspring of Hamilton’s life and the cause of his death. There were times in the life of Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton where honor had motivated them to live very close to losing their lives altogether in a war or being broke in peace. Whether one veils honor as such a touchstone or claims like Falstaff in Henry IV or Karl Marx in his writings that it doesn’t exist isn’t an issue I care to argue for now.
I can say that in my own life I was consciously honorable with few exceptions, but that when I wasn’t I suffered from a lack of it. I saw that same anguish or at least some not too persuasive justification for their actions in others who were living mostly without it. I’ve noticed that the most happy men in their work are like barons, people who have some connection with a large politics but have a discreet independence from such adhesions as well. I become a baron myself after such a study.
Yet I wouldn’t want to argue that all men are either nurtured by honor or tortured by lack of that quality. Such general theories are unscientific. When we talk of what we all are or want or don’t want, the evidence is never in.
Beyond that honor isn’t based whether or not one can be free and honorable in an absolute position one has in the world: it’s function of the perception of where and who one is and what one is or should be capable of. The people who are very rich and powerful in this country yet lack honor don’t have any external reason to live without it. They choose to do it. Then, buoyed by a science of human behavior that only acknowledges interest, they fashionably justify it. They have been doing so long before the Social Darwinist plutocrats.
Actually the interest of anyone with wealth or power is to keep it. They don’t make the optimal case in the world of fortune for hanging onto it when they are other than honorable, charitable or generous to friends, strangers and enemies. Honor and charity toward all, malice toward one, really is the best political policy for anyone that has anything. The despots who think otherwise take a beating generation after generation since though the evidence is clear enough, they don’t think so.
Consequently even if one isn’t characterologically despised to be honorable or to know what honor is, one does well to take it if one wants to continue being rich and powerful. In politics honor and interest are the same thing. The greatest politician in history was also one of the most adept people on earth at the mechanics of honor. George Washington obtained and kept his power centrally because it was unthinkable to all that he would ever act without honor.
Most of my friends on the Left have been persuaded by their priests that honor doesn’t exist. They for that reason re sure that our fondness all had motives only of interest in their rebellion from England. This is at once an absurd opinion and one that is very fashionable in Leftist circles. They are sure that somewhere hidden away in the recesses of the minds of the founders are nuggets of reptilian cunning and a passion for pecuniary gain that can explain why they risked their lives for issues that most often affected their interests not at all. They are equally sure why nobles from European lands like the Marquis de Lafayette to Pulaski were ready to cross the seas to take up the same cause. If the chances that the rebellion might be successful weren’t good on the historical evidence, that shows not that the foundered were honorable but they were stupidly wagering their mortality on something like an inside straight in a poker game.
As a result these friends of mine on the Left go out of their way to slander the founders as a bunch of hypocrites, poltroons and slavers only interested in financial profit, as if they were all Wall Street brokers. Meanwhile this bunch manages to survive very well in peace, order and affluence in the country these founders had fashioned at their peril from such improbable antecedents, a place where the main external source of political woe for most of us is accessibility to a surfeit of taco chips. While protected from the rule of other governments by American law and the American army they re always quick to denounce the founders along with their successors as a bunch of criminals.
Usually their proof is that the founder or at least some of them went along with polices like slavery or Indian persecution, actions which no founder invented and almost none supported.
The effect of such a set of rigid opinions is never to understand the founders nor to mull over whether honor exists or not. They are sure on faith it is an illusion.
Meanwhile the Right is always invoking honor as the reason why they need to impose upon other people a way of life themselves deem the only honorable course in life. Their charity is the generosity that inspires them to impose such a despotic existence on people who don’t know what’s good for them. Honor to them is a pretext for forcing other people to do what to the Right seems honorable. Often that is run of habits, tastes, opinions and metaphysical notions that are on the hilariously absurd side.
As a consequence the Right isn’t likely to think much about honor anymore than the Left does.
This tough minded attitude has its resonances in all of us. We are equally amused and even sympathetic when Falstaff questions whether honor exists, or when Oddment says like an early Social Darwinist: “Nature by my God”. Few of us are entirely comfortable with any quality within us, real or not, that might take away some edge we need to survive at all.
I don’t mean to assert the absolute reality of honor as much as I feel confident that it is indisputable that most of human culture has been about the honor or lack of it is some if not all humanity. Homer’s two epics and the Aenaid are all about the constraints honor puts on interest in their protagonists. The poets’s famous lines: ”not that I loved thee less but that I loved honor more” sums up some of these internal conflicts among the honorable, some of them fictional, in the ancient world.
From another angle the Torah explores in a very unsentimental way the calls of interest on people who are pushed by external events to take up honor and freedoms they might have shrugged away as irrelevant to them had they not been robbed and otherwise treated with severity by the pharaoh of the day. It’s a pretty uncomfortable and realistic view of how many common people respond to whether or not they value both freedom and honor.
It’s worth asking oneself in passing what George Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton would have thought of our notably dishonorable leaders in the subsequent history of America: Warren Harding, John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush. Some of them like George W. Bush were personally honorable; they were political disasters because they were dishonorable in their public life. We all know what they thought of Aaron Burr, hardly the most dishonorable man in human history. We know particularly what Hamilton thought of Burr. It’s not as well known that Washington also thought Burr more interested in intrigue and Jefferson had him prosecuted for treason.
Yet I think it’s much more to the point to assess why lack of honor in politics doesn’t work for anybody in any time or place. Whether it does or not isn’t arguable. Leaders and governments without honor make strangers and enemies from potential allies in all directions and are thrown over by one group if not another one.
If one is in business the honesty, integrity and reliability of the product can out-compete any product and any commerce about which one feels the manufacturers are ready to sell out their customers for a good price or any price at all. That is the story after all of how the Japanese and then the Koreans penetrated the automobile, also how later the Taiwanese and Chinese dominated the vast American electronic markets.
If one does nothing, lives off a fief and has servants, if one is niggardly or uncivil to them, they will look for more generous masters and probably out or rage or indifference steal from one as well. Honor in general can organize the energies of many other people in a way lack of honor never can. When George Washington asked his troops to stay on beyond the time of their contract with him, his army listened and largely acceded to him. If Bill Clinton had made the same speech with the same words m the same situation the same legions would have laughed at such a pitch and disappeared into the greenery.
If one runs a government in an democracy and is selected on one’s promises to do this and that, then does nothing or sells out to the opponents of policy executing one’s prior claims to be there to effect hope and change, one is going to meet instantly or in a short season with all the people one lied to showing up at the noting booths to remove oneself, or if they are offered no better choice, taking the day off for their own private concerns. Then when the time comes to draft them in armies against real enemies or persuade them to take up some common enterprise in peacetime they will be elsewhere.
As remarkable as this assertion is, we all for the worst as well as the best of reasons want on honest government filled with honorable men. Honorable government and people are more stable and reliable. The person we bribe to do some favor for us one day will be bribed by another to act against us unfairly on another day. If all that stands between us and our enemies is the price our allies and friends demand to betray us we haven’t got much security in our lives.
If one lacks a legitimate place to present one’s political woes, is dismissed as a cockroach by leaders when one civilly asks for an equitable remedy, the state and people as a whole shouldn’t be astonished when some, most or nearly all of the ones who are told to get lost come up with anodynes for their externally imposed social difficulties that are much less acceptable to the powerful whimsically managing the law.
Then there is the anguish to be dealt with one way or another that apparently most people feel when they are being corrupted. One of my friends who has smuggled contraband from Mexico to the United States has commented to me that one spends most of one’s time on the border persuading the guards they should be overlooking one’s actions out of charity and honor rather than for the money he puts discreetly in their pocket.
Then, one might ask, given the overwhelming evidence that honor or acting at all times as if one has honor even if one lacks it, gains one optimal material benefits that the worst and most ambitious of us usually aim for, why are so many leaders, rich men and men of power dishonorable?
As Seigmund Freud, certainly a presumptive mechanist, was never tired of saying, human beings don’t act merely on interest. Freud tried to make an advocacy for a larger mechanism that included the apparently irrational because it was indisputable that certain human actions bypassed interest, in physical hysteric symptoms even the design of the human anatomy. Beyond that honor doesn’t have consistency as a piston in a machine does. Even people we think of as masters or lovers of honor have their moments when they are dishonorable. Alexander Hamilton after all was on some days an adulterer.
We don’t know the details of what passions drove George Washington in his youth; we can guess the geography of them from his large later assertions that passions can’t be lived by without coarsening the soul, that it’s preferable not to trust people too quickly or deeply and that when in doubt it’s preferable to be silent.
Washington’s ethical pronouncements have the sagacity of a man who has made a disturbing assessment of his mistakes. Honor comes at less often from human recovery power as from habit or reason. We used to call those engines within us the mechanisms of sin and regret. One might even deduce from the life of George Washington, a very passionate man, that sometimes honor in the soul is won after a season of some inordinate attention to the passions.
Given how his wickedness turned out for him, we commonly think of Aaron Burr as dishonorable twenty four hours a day; plainly that is not true. He had many friends, was a lawyer to men who trusted him, was very well liked by some when he was the Vice President presiding over Congress, and along with the other founders had risked his life to embrace their just and righteous rebellion from England. Burr had a compulsion to tell his confreres over dram sundry tales of how he did dastardly deeds to innocent women.
Why he offered up these lurid confessions to strangers must remain a mystery to anyone who believes that human beings are ruled only by interest. Perhaps they might repair to the noels of Dostoyevsky or the tales of Poe for some explanation of such astonishingly self destructive perversity. It could also be a sing of a nagging sense of sin.
If one were a Freudian one might mount a theory that Burr, Hamilton, Jefferson and Washington among others were traumatized by early loss of every intimate and kindred soul who should have loved and protected them. Since many people have had such loses and not reacted with such confessions of their private wickedness the theory doesn’t stand as science.
If we what to be scientific and mechanistic we either have to assert that some but not all people react in certain ways to external difficulties; the reason that only some do it is unknown to us. Even if only some do it the design of action and response isn’t negligible. It is a kind of knowledge.
We might apply that tentative, cautious and egregiously inexact way of thinking to the kind of radically different society that America developed after the Second World War. Rather plainly being clients of the Welfare system at the bottom didn’t apparently predispose too many people to honor. As obviously a suburban world in which people moved every three years, watched television either hours a day, and were isolated souls on some sort of long commute didn’t do it either.
We don’t know commonly about the lives of the people at the top of such a realm as ours for good reason; they don’t want anything about them including their names tracked by inevitable hunters aboard in the world greedily after their money and power. Yet one might suspect with pure deduction that a life of such wariness can’t be entirely healthy for one’s capacity to be direct, honest and a plain dealer.
In any case a life in which one is dependent on all levels, poor, middle and rich, powerless and powerful, for a tolerable food supply, shelter and clothing from strangers unknown and far away, people who have nothing to lose by telling one to drop dead, folk often living in places remote as Asia, is never going to inspire most of us to feel other than a strain of dread about whether or not we can continue to live in an uncontrolled world of such deep potential motility.
It seems unlikely to me that one can pursue the aims of being free, republican and adult oneself, promoters such qualities in others, and at once running a colonial empire, live in the suburbs and commute, be an addict to electric amusements and living with the dared of irreparable debt or the king who holds such dupes in thrall.
When one has a formal system leading one way and a shadow system promoting the opposite direction it inspires everyone in those two modes of living in the same place to an internal warfare. All end up on either side of the fracas. Since one mode of life has a set of principles as George Washington might put it and the other doesn’t, the second mode has to operate in the large ceremonial umbra of the first one.

Jefferson versus Hamilton- 1790

One of the intriguing patterns of history like biological evolution is how some social or pollical phenomenon appears abruptly with no intermediate forms, and then becomes a model for all subsequent development of the sudden, unexpected and unpredictable turn in human behavior. A science of politics like one of biology should focus not on its norms or foot notes to these events and people but try to analyze its monsters. If there is any political science at all we can fathom it can only be lodged in some savant offering us the secrets of the anatomy of improbable, extraordinary and laughably inexplicable men and events.
There is an unwritten history of such advents of monsters that will probably never be put to paper. At one point in our history one only man guessed that the Earth was round and not flat. It seems flat because it was gigantic but it had to be round because it gradually residents in view no matter where one took in the landscape around one. One might imagine this singular man standing on top of a mountain or at the keel of a ship where he could see for miles in all directions. Assuming this surmise came from observation he would have not only to be on that mountain or the vessel but have made the logical inferences from his observations that seem ordinary and inescapable to us.
One might assume deductively rather than wholly on the evidence that the history of republican politics isn’t any different tan that sight some sailor or mountain climber had about the roundness or at least the elliptical character of the Earth. Moreover it isn’t that the eye is fooling us into thinking the Earth is flat. It’s rather than it doesn’t matter try our survival whether it is flat or round. We can deduce from our view of the horizon that it in fact it is round; the trust about the size and shape of the Earth is before is from Nature that does not lie to us clearly enough if we are clever enough not to look for normal or massy patterns alone as the source of our information.
We know much more about the abruptness and inner wrestle of cognitive explorers making such surmises because many of them from Kepler to Einstein have written about their discoveries. In any case when we hear about them at all it is because they lived in relatively free country and had the leisure to reflect on whatever had interested them. Yet both Kepler and Einstein like the fictional Nero Wolfe were working with data that had been collected by other people. Like Sherlock Holmes they could see in a reality available to everyone things nobody else could see.
If one is struck by the caution of Washington an d the Euclidean movement of his excellent mind one must be equally intrigued by how swiftly Hamilton and Jefferson seem to have arrived at their insights and conclusions whenever they did. Whatever their engines of cognition were, we have no science to understand them.
If this set of remarks seems excessive or too general to make easy sense to the reader he might ask himself very specifically what models in history he can find for any of the founding fathers of America. Like all monsters they were looking for them.
If there had been no free populist republics in history, how well could any of us with no more models than the funding fathers had, devise one? Of course this is a theoretical question for us. We do have that model in front of us; we could easily pretend we don’t have it either. The reality as strange as landing on a new planet and trying to come up with ways to exist at all on it died with the last ember of that generation of founders.
Most historians of this day wisely are content to say that Washington’s administration and cabinet were political engines without a model. They usually praise Washington for setting the standards of government he did. They don’t speculate what had promoted Washington to embrace modes of government whose virtues we now think of as ordinary or self evident enough.
We can observe that Washington was a great listener, one who cultivated silence and slowly exploring his own counsel, a man who listened to all sides of any issue, one who controlled his passions and was deliberately slow to choose one direction rather than another. That is all true. Yet we might be at much more of a loss to explain why his choices were nearly always the right ones. Another person might have all the means Washington had to make a decision and still be wrong.
Some intractable contentions even Washington couldn’t solve with all his inexplicable or uncanny skills. He didn’t ever quite figure out how to run a country that was equitable to the Indians or how to take up Abolition peaceably and as a logical solution to slavery of slave masters, some of whom were not as honorable as he was. Whether or not the heartlands of America were going to be a place for faring and herding or for living off buffalo was a quandary beyond even his abilities to resolve them. He could only lead Abolition by freeing and priding for the educating of his own slaves, offering his personal example. As we know both issues were settled only by bitter and bloody war.
Washington was a champion for all the codicils of the Bill of Rights long before these cardinal amendments to the Constitution were ever passed. Beyond that his “cabinet of rivals” was a theater of very argumentive debate that has been imitated in various ways by presidents from Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt. Washington’s Farewell Address includes as its rhetorical center piece the advice to honor justice, not interest and stay out of foreign wars whenever possible. Yet Washington, this radical setter of models in republic that was a sui generis monster in human history, as much as he could confined his political actions to influence rather than force.
One might focus on three centers of political brouhaha that Washington arbitrated between Hamilton and Jefferson as well as Washington could during his administration. One is the need or lack of it for centralizing the United States into a country that had some executive power and could use it in the service of the common good.
Even with the Bill of Rights it’s startling how often America has bade the wrong decisions by weakening or completely ignoring their clear directives. Our country has embraced at least among its leaders in power all manner of follies from not listening to Washington’s once rather radical theory that a notion should run its foreign policy according to principles of justice, not interest.
These are all being discussed in my time as avidly and passionately as they were in Washington’s offices in downtown Philadelphia around 1790. Unfortunately we don’t seem now to have men of the quality or honor of Washington and his cabinet to participate in these colloquies.
The Hamilton-Jefferson arguments were like all contentions taken up in the middle of situations that helped define the short term resolutions of these discussions. Whether or not the United States should be a loose associations of states with various laws that themselves were on the loose side with the politics as much as there was nay centered around villages, militias and local neighborly activity of the most minimal sort. This was never in the lifetime of any of the founders an issue that was examined in a vacuum, peace time or without some imminent peril of being invaded by somebody. The less decentralized things were the more vulnerable to destruction the Unified States was.
Obviously England wasn’t very happy with an independent United States’ it was likely as not to come back for another foray at making it a British colony as it did in 1812. Finance was controlling much territory tarde the western fronted of the nation from Detroit down to New Orleans; they were of course having their own revulsion and were always a source of volatility and danger as well as alliance for the United States. The Indians were populous within the country, often allied with either Britain or France. In the South Spain held Florida and had some claim that Louisiana was their territory, parts west as well. Some centralized power with an executive administration of some limited clout was prebill the only way the new country could have protected itself against all these enemies. In such circumstances it was very hard to make an argent for local rule and severe limits on federal power though in fact Jefferson made that advocacy in Washington’s cabinet meetings often enough. It’s not hard to appreciate that Jefferson and after a while Madison as well saw these external threats as catalytic agents that would crate an American monarchy if only in self defense. It probably didn’t escape Jefferson and t he Anti-Federalists that though Washington was clearly for all the internal freedoms of a popular republic, in his equal push toward a state centralist enough to protect itself by means of taxes and raising an army when needed, Washington was also setting into motion policies which in other hands once he retired might be the very roots of a future American monarchy or empire on the Roman model.
As Washington pointed out since Jeffersonians and Hamiltonian they agreed on most things the level of acrimony at these meetings wasn’t appropriate to the kind of enraged contention they inspired in their advocates. I think that is a fair assessment of the differences between Jefferson and Hamilton. They really had the same republican opinions on most things but were argumentive with great heat over details. None of the founders would have even breathed that they might do well to make the United States any kind of monarchy; that would have been unthinkable to them if it is what happened under Napoleon in France.
Yet when for example Hamilton proposed an American national bank, Jefferson responded by saying that easy money made on speculations would undermine the ethical character of Americans and corrupt their ability to work at jobs that paid more scant recompense. I think after sixty years or so of a book market and the very vices and follies of speculation that had injured American capacities to be commutative in this world; it promoted notions of themselves as consumers, people who valued leisure most of all, skewed the national sense of what one needed to lead a tolerable life. One can’t argue that Jefferson wasn’t right.
Yet Hamilton’s answer was that if America didn’t do it, somebody else would run the same operation, it would be in foreign hands, one day if not another working against the interests of the Untied States, was probably right as well. One can’t eliminate the ubiquitous hunger of some if not all humans to take up gambling, to avoid hard work, to have a chilled spirit as one fleeces another in some game or other, out of human life. There certainly was enough gambling going on in America as a past time; George Washington made a point of avoiding such amusements after dabbling in them uncritically as a very young man.
Can one say that give such penchants set in human biology such corruptions as Jefferson described articulately enough were inevitable for our species? Certainly all the laws we’ve had against gambling in America at varies levels haven’t prevented our country from being a gambling nation at dice, cards, more legitimately at commodities and stock markets, investing in bonds, or wagering upon horses and dogs. This contention did not go away over centuries of subsequent American history.
There has always been at the top in America life a class distinction amide by merchants and businessmen who regard speculators as gaudy scoundrels. The varies panics of 1893, 1905 and 1929 not to mention the one in 2008 have all been followed by some reflective perceptions that perhaps we might do better than to be a nation of gamblers.
Rather ironically, gambling is one of those human activities that is a great equalizer. It has a resonance in the politics of country that has an egalitarian strain in it as a kind of faith system. Like music, sports, and lovemaking, anybody can be a gambler. In America anybody who is flush with a stake has the franchise to be one, can be one. As Clarence Darrow said about lawyers, they dress well and don’t do hard work like farmers. If the reader has done any farming he might appreciate that remark very pointedly.
Gambling has been settled as an issue in a way the belief Jefferson had in decentralization resonates with. If people want to gamble they now have places to go and do such speculations. In Nevada one can gamble and hire prostitutes for sex legally. They can also drink liquor in most of American counties but not all since Prohibition was not repealed but left up to the states and local countries to make a law or not.
It’s almost not an exaggeration to say that every episode of trouble with bad laws the United Sates has gotten into subsequently to 1790 has come from ignoring the Constitution and the Jefferson’s Bill of Rights. Any two tiered society, especially the kinds deemed illicit by our Constitution has produced more problems for the masters as well as the bottom than it was worth for the elites. Whether it was lack of franchise for Black people, the poor, women, slaves of any type, Jim Crow, armies shooting strikers, attempts by varies Christian sects to become a de facto Established Church or the soft core vertical racist society I grew up in during my lifetime, each of these tacks have done more damager even to their adherents than was ever good for them.
The last sentence of the Constitution clearly talks of limit government as an ideal, even if one might speak about “implied powers”. As soon as the American government has gotten involved with the business of private concerns, individual tastes, domestic life and unorthodox opinions it had foundered and created many more enemies than anybody needs.
George Washington was much more for private leadership and offering a model for others than he was for legislation. He freed his slaves if not all slaves, avoided magical religion entirely in his private life if publicly he never said a word against it, was charitable to everyone if he never proposed a law promoting government charity.
We might underestimate the different sort of power George Washington invoked rather than government law and it blunderbuss clout. We all can look at our lives and note who and what enriched us by their private example. It might not set up an organization that accomplishes anything but it catalyzes some unorganized people if not all of them to act well or badly effectively enough.
At the time George Washington atavist the country to stay out of foreign wars the United States was a country of three million people in a country also inhabited by many Indian tribes thousands of miles from those European wars and reevaluations George Washington must have been thinking of. It might have seemed more obvious to take up his policy at that time than when we were later one of the great powers of the world. Yet could anyone imagine George Washington leading us into the Vietnam war? Nobody would have said quicker than he would had that the authority of leadership ultimately rests on its moral and equitable decisions, if not always on its tactical ones. Once that authority is palpably the power to do immoral acts the very sinews of effective leadership disappear quickly enough. Yet Washington. Jefferson and Hamilton all understood very well that America was going to be at some future point the champion of popular revolt and power all over the world. Washington wanted to do it not by force but by accepting the armies of emigrants that could do much better in America. Washington’s approach was in place till the advent of the Chinese Exclusion acts of the 1880s which climaxed in emigrant policies of the more overtly racist regime of Woodrow Wilson. It was logical to Washington that if one had a government such as ours, everyone would want to come and live here.
Jefferson saw the same process as accompanied by various stratagems in diverse situations. He had advised against attacking the Spanish empire in his lifetime because it could be brought down by the United States anytime; their problem was the British empire. Jefferson of course was the source of the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon. By the way the Spaniards claimed the same territory. They weren’t in a position to dispute either Napoleon or Jefferson.
Hamilton was ready at some point to raise an army to free South America, then probably the entire world. He was the one most prone to take up military solutions of these men.
As it has turned out America has had precisely the attractiveness to the world Washington ought it would have. When the populace all over the world thinks of having freedom and franchise they think of America as a model. When they contemplate private freedom and power they think of coming to America as an emigrant to this day. As a result we have been nurtured by the most enterprising people on Earth for over two centuries. It can’t be argued that America is a very flawed country with many problems it has lacked the capacity to resolve equitably. As much as that is true, the parade of emigrants is still only going one way, to America, not from America.
When people think of how they might live adult lives of making their own cacaos they look to the America model, even if they know all the warts of our society and all the stumbling our country has done in its picaresque history. Yet they have no other ideas of how to run politics before them that is even in the same league of the United States for nurturing its populace except for perhaps the moderate Socialism of most of the West generally since 1945.
I wonder whether one can have a society that has a franchise for everyone who aren’t egregiously wicked felons and leave out honoring the motility and unknowability that is part of the equivocal legacy of freedom.

Hanging Out With Jefferson and Madison

As we examine the intellectual radios of our very experiences in America we in a ghostly way are suddenly sitting at the table with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in Virginia in the 1790s, wondering what might be the foundations of a proper base from which we can take up the majeure free republican business of this country.
I’ve concentrated on the founders of the United States in this book because it seems to me to be centrally preposterous that we might hope to have a nation of involved democratic citizens and at the same time AK this very constituency to embrace as a point of departure for themselves presumptions and values that are much more fit for monarchies, courts, citadels of civilized life led by an imaginary elite and pious social engineers.
If we have a hopefully static and monarchial society it is right for us to look to institutions, citadels and urbane folk in our cities for our culture, traditions and ideas. If we have a realm which as Jefferson says is based on perpetual revolution as the element of Nature we are wagering will give us the most virtue and stability we are going to have to look elsewhere for our savants than the places explored for such far by monarchies. The people who are most adept at adapting to change and are masters of the uses of freedom are not going to be the ones who are comfortable and sojourn for a long and affable time in any institution.
I don’t think I need to go further than offering this direction because its principles of judgment of the value and direction of some of our institutions are clear enough. One shouldn’t have to guess after reading this book what I think of the New Yorker, the New York Times, PBS, the Ivy League, the various English or other European provincial clubhouses among us, and the recent such penetrations into our culture after they realized what chumps we are for such imported fare, from Europe and Asia. If anything its we who are offering the world our notions of political and culture, not the other way around.
Obvious I’m very much for that deliberate and conscious embrace of who and were we are in the world. This inquiry was taken up somewhat in the 60s by our populace and rebellious former college students and then rather quietly to clandestinely closed down by the 80s. One might guess to whose interest that was with some accuracy. It didn’t stop the large move of the American people at the bottom and middle toward a more severe populism. It merely reputed any contact between our institutions purged of our own natural populism and the voice and action of the common people themselves. It meant that our high culture could commit suicide as it has without any dissent from its critics,
I think our strength is in our freedoms, not merely our ancillary capacity to live materially better than anybody else. If we don’t think we are free or can’t figure out how to get free we aren’t going to be able to remedy our problems. We will doubt whether we have the means to do anything. Freedom is what gives us the legitimacy to our natural diversity to be able to put our minds and physical strength in a focused way to change including living materially better.
However I don’t want to seem as if I am some soot of American jingoist or isolationist either. My complaint isn’t the presence of many European and Asian cultural juggernauts here; it’s the absence of the legitimacy in our institutions of our own devices as a nation for discerning our native reality. I think one would have to be insane give the wealth of information we have with our communications technology about the varies souls on our planet, to be other than ultimately cosmopolitan. I don’t see any of these foreign organizations trying to make us our colony an enemy so much as a neighbor that is a stranger rather than our ally and is in the business of selling their local produce that has found some weakness in us.
Strangers are not enemies. They are sojourners in a celestial airport like ourselves. We aren’t their colonies either. Once we correct our flaws they will be better neighbors.

Two Visions Of America

Edmund Wilson once said wittily that the American Revolution was the English Revolution conducted in another country. Is epigram really does some up the hopes and oophoritis of two forces in the same physical place whether it was England or Africa to produce a land base in which they could live according to certain notions of reality as well as laws that suited their view of the world.
One can see these two direction in the very names we still use for placers in the United States. The English imperial aim for America is reflected in Andes like New England, New York, Plymouth and New Brunswick. The low Predestinate nee Jewish version of America is embedded in names like Bethlehem or Zion, Pennsylvania, Salem, Massachusetts and so on.
The English vision hoped for a world British empire with control of most of the world through Roman organization and legions, a strong navy and a seductive educational organization in the colonies that taught the primacy of English in the world and the propriety of regarding its monarch as one’s liege. It also provided a chance for its Anglian church backed by that sovereign to run its operations in the infinite veldt.
The English empire was tottering a bit in the 19th century after the loss of many of tis colonies including and only starting with the United States. It only gave up trying to take back the United States militarily after the North won the Civil War ; it was certainly alive and well to turn out English provincials in my lifetime with such alleys as Woodrow Wilson, various racist Congressmen the whole of the American college system and the genteel publishing industry of our once rebellious republican country.
It was after its gunboats and armies were defeated in the United States still active in claiming that England was the center of civilization for anyone but a barefoot lout. It really went down not merely from its concretions with France an Germany for what empire should be running the world but a worldwide spread of American cultural populism that entranced most of the former colonists of all empires on the planet, overtly and brazenly after 1945.
When I was traveling in the lands of these former empires in the early 60s it struck me how many Elvis imitators I would come across in my wanderings, often offered by warblers who had no idea what words they were singing. One can credit Elvis Presley and his successors as well as George Washington for bringing down the British empire. As one of my friends from Czechoslovakia put it aptly, it is was a revolution taken up with a guitar. The rebellions were particular thick in England, something one should have expected given its strong low Protestant bottom worlds and its founding of the late Cromwellian republic. People like John Lennon and Mick Jagger even imitated the accents of Americans. While American in college of that time themselves were being schooled to act like provincial Midlands clerics, the Brits were fashioning a virile new English culture based on America populism and Black music coming out of Chicago, country music from Nashville, and urban music born in Gertie’s Folk City. The lines of contention in the 50s were reported in the newspapers as a fracas between Communism and the so-called Free World, but the real war was between the empires, even Communist empires, and the value of decentralized political power and home grown populism. That struggle is still very active in the 21st century and is liable to gone on expanding on this planet for a long time to come.
Once Gibbon’s notion that one does best living in a large, civilized and relatively equitable empire run by intelligent monarchies rather than any other mode of political life made seine in the middle of some past lives. Republics seemed to be as relevant to their contemporary politics as the dire wolf. Republics can’t organdie people as well as monarchies. One can appreciate Gibbon’s comments as an assessment made before the United States created the first free populist republic; it not only worked after a fashion but certainly left all rivals in the just in the very system that gave a tolerably comfortable life to a lot of people such as Gibbon was looking at while surveying the early Roman empire.
England has even adopted the proposals for a Senate of Alexander Hamilton for its own uses, gradual moving the old feudal banns out of the House of Lords, replacing them with scientific savants. In 1830 England had a parliament that was voted in by only one tenth of the people in the country, one in which any measure could be vetoed by the House of Lords; now it has a two house system in which the House of Lords has no power.
It isn’t too much to say that the whole world including Japan either wants openly to emulate the American system or is being coerced consistently by its own constituency to live by limited government and laws that assuming on faith that the values of mankind are rooted not in loyalty to a ledge but life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Perhaps one day historians will wonder why high culture and its institutions in America fought and died in obvious Khartoums as they did to stand for English imperial values of one kind or another against the incursion of the scurvy louts that generally populated the is country; it wouldn’t be antral surprised if the Cecil Rhodes combine, the Round Table, the Fulbright Scholarships and other English bastions of a cultural empire that could and did use Americans as if they were Englishman were involved.
As somebody who was in college and spent my youth at the height of this great cultural penetration I can’t say I feel any loss at its demise. It at bottom through seduction injured the potential of millions of people. There is hardly anything worse if one doesn’t kill others in the way of moral action than to try to convince them they are not who they are and they are as well not where they are. Doctors in insane asylums are paid high salaries for trying to remedy such abrade noting in their more severely mentally damaged patients.
If anything I think England deserved Mick Jagger, now Sir Nick Jagger.
This post 1945 turn from England and imperialism generally in the world wasn’t at all a literary revolution. There certainly were no end of thinkers who found imperialism odious during that time but the empires evidently could control that source of sagacity by a covert censorship. They couldn’t control the Mafia and the Grand Old Opry. Perhaps they felt that those organizations were too contemptible to bother to squelch. If they had such notions, they themselves didn’t know who the champions of their enemies were. That can be as fatal as being an American and not knowing one is one.
There is a respectable argument to be made for some kind of imperialism in the world though I’ve never heard it made except by Andrew Carnegie. Somebody with organizing skill has to create the efficient systems which give people a tolerable material life when they have it at all. Otherwise we are going to be reduced to local produce and its caprices, seasons and the hungers of gofers and crows. Whether one needs to buttress such organization education as Carnegie rightly admires with despotic poultices, applied force and a parade of executions of the dissidents, not to mention the promotion of crazy religions babbling to ghosts is another matter.
In any case the cause of imperialism, any imperialism, in my youth still approved of by many folk, especially intellectuals, has been content for very good reason to remain in the shadows and run their former chillness when they can and with what limited bases they can by accepting home rule, staying out of military fracases, religious wars and viable appearances altogether. They were happy to be able to thrive economically on the very organizational skills Andre Carnegie praised back in the early 20th century. It’s very possible that this sensible retreat has created a detente between the organizing elements of any society on Earth and its populace that might be more stabile than trying with erratic success to convince the rabble that they are slaves, brainless grunt soldiers or somebody or something other than who they are.
When Gibbon made his remarks about the early Roman empire he didn’t mean that the Roams had the legal rights and means to make and execute laws suitable to their own whim and desires; he sad without quite putting is so baldly that in a vast centralized imperium one could with some conning as long a one never confronted the system directly with a rebellion, achieve a large manner of personal freedom. If one can have that and have some say also in making the laws of one’s community, Gibbon’s argument is no longer viable.
Yet it should be noted that Gibbon was very much like Jefferson concerned that human beings aimed inalienably for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. His argument was only based on what according to the evidence was possible for the greatest number of citizens in known human history. There really isn’t any difference between Gibbon and Jefferson’s core humanistic values. One might even find that Gibbon’s philosophical Tourism and Jefferson’s liberalism were in deep ways very similar.
Neither were advocates of humility, martyrdom, fatalism and passivity. Both men felt that freedom was the aim of all humanity and that any state that was going to be stable enough to be effective in politics had to give its citizens a certain amount of that freedom lawfully or even illicitly to stay alive itself. If as Jefferson aptly put it, when a state ceases to accommodate the perceived needs of its own people, the populace had a just franchise in Nature if not in law to bring it down, Gibbon doesn’t so much disagree with Jefferson as look for different ways than republicanism to achieve the same freedoms.
I am saying here that in a curious way the worldwide war between imperialism and republican and decentralized populism is not as clearly wrought in its design as one might think. In practical politics even the most severely monarchical citizens of any country is going to have to make some peace with others whose organizations skills are when executed going to mean there is going to be some limit on freedom among those who contractually and freely make a covenant to take up such communal actions to produce comfort, leisure, amusement and even whatever power can accrue to them from an elaborate technology.
One can take up residence on the shores of Warden Pond as Thoreau did and observe that the alternative to such hermitage is an organized “life of quiet desperation”. Till the mass of humanity is going to opt for quiet desperation when they think of the alternatives they might have to endure in their existence. Thoreau was able to make his life in Warden Pond viable for as long as he wanted to be there not because he was a philosopher, a genius and a very independent thinker who valued the sanity that comes to one sometimes after much leisurely reflecting, but because the neighbor in Concord who owned the pond never tried to chase Thoreau off it.
If it made Thoreau content, its felicities wouldn’t do for most of our species. A cleaver state might only go as far as trying to ensure that there is something like Walden Poind for ifs few Thoreaus to enjoy as the theater of their mortality.
Although we tend to associate freedom with populism and republicanism the passion for liberty is not and was not a future of the low Protestant movement either in England or Germany. They of course wanted freedom from something: the Catholic Church, the Anglians, the king or local baron and any of his baronial institutions. Whether they wanted freedom in their own bailiwick once they had power over even an acre is another matter.
One of the reasons we have so many stalwarts of the curet Christian Right waftng their opinions about who people should lead their private lives, calling for laws to enforce their notions is that at bottom they don’t believe in the value of freedom; they relay want as Cromwell did a despotism that enforces their idea of virtue.
Out of that pious desire they run all their opinions about what virtue is, what it is not, and piously persecute or even execute those who have different ideas. It gives them a grandiosity of character not even proper for God. After all it is God according to them who produced Creation; one ready can’t argue other than that Cation is a very free place of action. If God has wanted a despotism of virtue and easy felicity he had the means to make such a world according to their notions of our deity.
Their Christian messiah said while living in the real Roman empire, not an imitation one, that it is proper to give to Caesar what one should cede to such a monarch. Obviously Jesus was referring to courts of law, politics, military strengthening of the sinews of an empire and so on. In our modern terms one can affirm that Jesus himself was for limited government and private rights. The Christian Right is for neither.
Of course one doesn’t have to believe in Jesus or God to take up such pious despotism. The Third Reich and the Communist Party in the last century did it without Jesus. The Christian Right may think much like the low Protestants of the past they are for freedom because they want liberty from rule by any empire including Washington, the Catholic Church and the local apostles of epicurean urbanity. Whether they want freedom for anyone but themselves or ene for themselves is another matter.
This doesn’t mean that they are wrong to want such autonomy; far from it. It’s that, not loving their neighbor, always hard to do. they aren’t avid to honor others with the same freedom to be their own moral judges of how they want to live their lives that they want for themselves. One must say that they are helped by the equally injurious and insane excesses of their enemies make them optimally attractive as long as they are out of power.
We really would all benefit from a departure no matter who we are from people who tell us that our goal in life is to fight, kill or be killed for the colonial interests of some plutocratic liege that has lobbying power in Washington, or the clout to maunder in peacetime in an amusing world in which nobody knows what is right or wrong, injurious or beneficial, sinful or charitable while everybody else is helpless and miserable because in such a realm betrayal itself is merely one more respectable and even preferential stratagem one doles out to strangers.
A citizen of the Christian Right, a Communist, a fundamentalist of any kind will be much slower to sell people a lemon for a used car, lie about their invulnerability to sin or shrug as other people are being drubbed in an ordinary and fashionable way by the empire. One might do better buying a used Chevrolet from Billy Graham or the Rosenbergs or Osama bin Ladin than from the Rockefellers. Fundamentalists are generally more honorable folk personally than urbane epicurean. They are often more independent thinkers too out of power if one campers their thought with the cognitive machines of the urbane and fashionable, of course, indeed, faint praise. They also are armored in their morals with a discernment of sin, not a small instrument these days of orthodox assessment of ultimate triviality in anyone’s self appraisal.
Still when in power they bring us such wonderful laws as would drive any man or woman wanting to make their own cacaos about how they live their lives into the camps of the illicit. Nearly all our really bad laws have come from people of some faith or other in power. It doesn’t make a despot any less wicked to lack faith and oppress people; it might make him more sane himself about his motives when and if he takes up his etudes in muscle and seduction. After a shot time he will not be a popular in power as he was out of it. The English replaced Cromwell and his son with the monarchy after a while not merely out of an exhaustion with dullness but backs they weren’t any more free under one autocrat than they were under another one. If one has one’s choice of despots, one should always choose a degenerate if possible, not Cromwell. As Gibbon would say, the dissolute will be too busy in their realign and addictive vices to pay much attention to oneself.
Its notable that among the many hundreds of people who founded the United States not one of them was a fundamentalist of any kind. A few of them like Jefferson were pilloried by their criticism as skeptics and atheists. Jefferson observed Washington nimbly escaping the prelates asking him his religious opinions. Washington was particular adept at this; he after all was known as one who never told a lie. Silence does help such an ambition.
Franklin and the early Hamilton were scoffers, Franklin by his own testimony was somewhere between a Deist and agnostic. John Adams called himself a Christian but he was plainly one who would have been drummed out of any fundamentalist Christian group. Anyone in that time or this one who is for personal freedom and honors the individual as the only real autocrat worthy of a franchise to manage his private life is not going to be popular among any fundamentalists.
Whether one likes it or not one can’t honesty call any of our founders people who established a state without a religion, a group anything like the Christian Right or any sort of fundamentalist because each in his way were not only honorable but in life practical freethinking mechanists or scientists. Obviously freedom has infinite room for fundamentalism if the converse is not true.
A country valuing freedom and perhaps not conventional notions of property or virtue is going to be more stable than one that has such opinions about life and is all too ready to enforce them. Even in trivial concerns like whether or not a human being should or should not have a legal right to sip a glass of beer, freedom will offer a state that honors it many fewer enemies.
The history of freedom has been to put it politely an evolving one. Freedom in the Bible is expressed as “service to God” rather than a king. It’s uncomfortable for us to think so but the Ten Commandments is a covenant not expressed in the language of freedom but the pledge to live morally under the edicts of Nature with God himself as one’s liege. However the Torah does include the Jubilee Year and looks for any excuse to free everybody. Of course such a system doesn’t have to worry about the excesses of freedom as delineated all too terrifyingly by the Marquis de Sade. The freedom of the Athenian or Roman republics was only the franchise of one tenth of the male population. Everybody else was slaves of some sort. Limited government was a product of the Roman republic but it had plenty of slavery in it.
Freedom for everybody is certainly a Jewish idea, which is where our founders read about it, as well a goal aimed at by many American sects in various ways including the Quakers. Yet the first government with iron laws that guarantee freedom is the American Constitution. In spite of our hunger to think otherwise sometimes it is an abrupt and inexplicable turn in history. If as John Adams says the ideas were extant decades before the American revolution it is not unreasonable to assume they come from the private reflections of people one on one rather than any initially any received ideas or organized run of thoughts and actions.
If so we would be wise to honor and respect the power of the politically unorganized life.

Republic Versus Empire

Empires of the classical kind need large and mobile standing armies. The larger the empire the more that regime has to have a legion of pure force that can move from place to place quickly and effectively quell any rebellion. One really can’t no matter how strong the military arm of the state is either entirely eliminate revolt nor bribe everyone equitably to fight such wars. The British empire was very good at eliminating jobs for locals in their callowness and then recruiting them for their army to accept “the kings farthing”. To pacify their own people, they soldiers could be paraded as well to be converts to Anglicanism. The Chinese called such people ”rice Christians”. Starving, one bowed the nee for a bowl of rice.
Today in the 21st century many of these old European empires are running their colonies by a system that is as old as Julius Caesar, some by the modern German one of semi-visible economic penetration. Both include home role, their toadies educated in Europe as young men, then operating as governors of the provinces, autonomous maintenance commerce sustaining the large economic operations that are geared to the interest of the parent
country. Those big imperial enterprises provide jobs for the locals. When all else fails and they must intervene in local politicize roman style with a standing army to quell rebellions they call themselves “peacekeepers” which I suppose in an imperial way they are.
They are of course open to a land based leader whom the empire trusted with power and backed to attain it rebelling from the hub of the empire and starting his own country. That was pretty much how the British empire saw George Washington if Washington was nothing like that sort of rebel. It’s probable that most of the British were sure that Washington if he ever got power would become a monarch, not one in service to the common people in a limited government. In that opinion of Washington they were joined at times by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
If anything Washington was one of the most intrepid explorers of the uses of influence short of force that the world has known. He was a populist revolutionary who oddly had more ties in this way with the uses of peace than any European monarch. Washington was one who felt as a leader he could influence people by personal example. As head of the Revolutionary Army he was always careful to cede power to Congress in Philadelphia at all times. He was very aware at all times that he was setting standards with no model for proper behavior in a free republic. The last thing he wanted to do was to emulate the leaders in Europe who ruled by force. Interestingly, Hamilton’s advice to Washington is not to get too chummy, too egalitarian. One can’t imagine Washington falling into such excesses. Ironically, Jefferson took up theses standards. He walked to his Inauguration; when pulp came to the White House he answered the door.
Since Washington was a military man he knew the limits of effectiveness of force and coercion very well. In a long war in which the British were essentially an occupying army in a sea of inhabitants who didn’t want them around he calculated accurately that if he could sustain a rebellion without risking all or nothing on a main engagement he would in the long run predial over the English. It wasn’t easy to do; it required patience. his initial army was a set of militias without uniforms, sometimes without proper weapons. It’s really amazing how quickly he was able to turn such undisciplined solders into an effective army.
When Washington became president Jefferson. Madison and Frenal were very suspicious of Washington’s motives. They though that every move he made to create a defensive integrity in the United States was a covert tactic to produce creeping monarchism and something like the British empire. In fact Washington very explicitly walked away from anything that snacked of monarchism. We are still living under his wise and honorable decisions to stand for limited government and personal freedom. He was the first and only President to be elected by acclimation.
We can amply compare Washington to various successors as American leaders who in power weren’t honorable and responsible to the common people. Whether they picked up on him or diad not was their choice. Obviously, most did, some didn’t. The salve states were quite aggressive is not oily justifying slavery but pushing it as law in place in the West like Kansas. Abraham Lincoln and the 1860s Abolitionists were facing a set of forces that were looking to identify America as a slave stante. As we can see from the vista of the 21st century such policies would have doomed the United States as a model for a worldwide revolution in which all humanity, previously called louts, cattle or low lives were lawfully franchised to be equal and free. One really can’t imagine any system like the Confederacy leading a global rebellion of resident slaves.
Its really unfortunate that the Confederacy cited Washington or Jefferson as their savants as they pushed for what Calhoun called natural inequality. Both men were after all Abolitionists who believed in equality and said so. Jefferson made the point that even if some papal were not at the level of Isaac Newton they had the natural franchise of anyone in a world in which Newtons are few indeed. Calhoun’s argument of natural inequality was contrary to Jefferson’s view that in a world in which some of us are superior in many way to others it doesn’t mean that Nature if not states should not honor their equal poetical rights.
The five forces of autocracy that have darkened the moral statues of the United States during its history have been slavery., corporate oligarchy and the rise of the Army, the CIA and the FBI as an estate after World War Two, the cultural penetration of the Anglophiles, the native religious fundamentalist Right.
All of these machines of tyranny have not had constitutional support. As a consequence they have tended to remain in the shadows while they exert their aggressive influences. The history of the United States has never been written about that covert war as far as I know. Yet the lines of contention internally in the United States from the beginning have been between libertarians of various sorts and imperial autocrats, the slavers, the oligarchs who after the Civil War through 1932 were tacit oligarchies, sometime even Anglophiles; after he rise and influence of the American army in the country after 1945 to the present.
Rather than try to sketch out a detailed history of the half hidden usurpations of these various colorful autocrats I think t would be helpful to fathom the difference between our founders and these diverse apostles of despotism.
George Washington was never against making money. He was always buying land, always refining his knowledge of agrarian and factory science, always promoting manufacture while running his own export business. Yet he never confused these private directions with running a limited government by constitutional law. Wither he was the head of the only army in the vicinity or the President of the country he never used his power to advance his private concerns. The slavers. Post-Civil War oligarchs and American army after 1945 did the opposite.
I think enough is known about the depredations of slavers and oligarchs in our history to spare myself and the reader dwelling on them. Yet before we leave them it should be noted that even usually with the law and federal troops on their side their causes eventually collapsed. We no longer live under slavery or robber baron taupe oligarchies anymore. It seems for this reason not unreasonable to auger that the American army and tis various foreign and domestic adventures after 1945 will have a similar fate.
The power of the common people in a republic may be unorganized and unable to bribe their way through their means of government to effect their interests but the autocrats they oppose founded and crumple because they in their confidence over extend themselves to the point where they do not have a mandate of any kind in the populace. That as Thomas Jefferson says is one day if not another lethal to their hopes.
I live nearly all my life in the same real time and place as the rise and fall of the American army as an estate in our way of life. Before the Cinched World War there was a minimal military element in our rule. We didn’t have any close enemies ready to invade us. The army in World War Two was not only a source of tremendous wealth in the period that the Great Depression ended but had a tremendous cultural effect on the United States as well. Object-based management as it is called is nothing more than the military way of thinking about applying focused force to achieve an aim. The great centralized machines of 50s commerce were enormous juggernauts like the army. It even affected the American language. People talked about their jobs as “details”.
During the 50s the Army put an ROTC unit in every college campus it could much as it did in Germany or Morocco and made scirocco of all young Americans in their operation including college students mandatory.
I did it myself. I actually think it was a very good idea. I know how to use and take apart any weapon, have a knowledge military philosophy, developed a respect for the best of our military men and learned other vales that have always been nurturing to me. It returned me to some mutuum of sanity about a world that included enemies I had lacked earlier.
Sometimes one has to fight for what one thinks is moral or right. Our founders certainly knew that None of the founders were pacifists. George Washington couldn’t imagine his life in peacetime without his pistols. A lot of people in the South still felt that way. This is a gun toting country.
It obviously stuck not a few people in the Army as very much of a business to extend their operations over any place they could in America though from 1945 though the present America has never had a serious major enemy.
The decline in the Army came with the Vietnam War. A draft operation and a decistere that brought millions of Americans to a foreign land to kill or be killed in a colonial scuffle that didn’t even have any places for any resolution. Why should it have such a estate when the country was putting much money from the taxpayers into the coffers of career army people, munitions factor, caterers, toilers, cobblers, bugle makers and every other mechanism an aery need to conduct a war?
The religious Right has had its days of power too, mostly in the late 19th and early 20th century. William Hoard Taft advocated the Spanish American war to spread Christianity among the heathen. The China Lobby led by California Senator William Knowland was in the pocket of Presbyterians who like people of their faith like Chiang Kai Chek and Syngman Rhee running China and Korea.
They weren’t miserable that Vietnam as long as an American aery backed him was run murderously and despotically by the Catholic Thieu. The general effect of this group when they were successful as a lobby was to make a terrible case for the United States as a base for freedom, limited government and diversity in religious opinion as Washington and Hamilton saw it.
The difference between anyone who vales freedom and any of these fanatical bulwarks is that those who value liberty are liable to confine their activities to their private life while promoting the possibility of different and more enslaving activities for other people. George Washington and John D. Rockefeller were both avid to make money if that what they were doing at the moment. George Washington wasn’t about making money.

What Can Be Done?

It’s not hard in one’s privacy in a room, in a parlor over wine and cheese, or perhaps over a card game to structure in theory to a convivial neighbor some acceptable change in how our institutions work to promote American values as known, lawful and legitimate ones.
Perhaps one might over a gourmet brunch suggest that somebody should close down PBS and any other taxpayer supported public media organ, all of which do nothing to promote the interests of their hapless patrons, to fund a new media organ, perhaps part televising station part web site and blog, that would do the job for adults.
One would demand a two year required proforma in American values in every college helped by federal funds. This two year course would include not merely studiers of the founders but the contributions of our diverse cultural strains, Midwest, Far West, Southern, Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian, all honoring our refuge from the world’s ordinary oppressive politics.
One can imagine as Jefferson and Madison did a curricula that wild be drawn up, a choice of books that are ample points of departure for the wrestling with America values to support such an effort.
There are ready very good books on Jefferson and Adams, some good ones on Hamilton and Washington, fewer on Chief Crazy Horse, William Du Bois and Eugene Victor Debs.
Yet it’s reasonable to wonder whether anything organized of that caliber can be taken up to catalyze a revolution that has happened at the bottom over the world without lawful approval and is going to happen anyway without that same governmental approbation.
Practically, who would be the media executives, the teachers, the text book writers, the savants of such a change? Certainly none of our current ones. We’re would we find them? Would we import them like French perfume?
When one looks at the sort of shameless people who infest our government on all levels one has to feel that with such fools, grotesques, scoundrels, empty suits, robots and lightweights in our ruling system nothing good could ever happen. If we survey our colleges for souls who might contribute to an intellectual change in our country we are going to be comparably disappointed.
The only real qualification for executing any plan at all to make it an lawful and an ordinary boon to know who and where we are would probably be that one has no formal certificate to do it, no experience in government, and has never been in the vicinity of a college of at least twenty years. That might be too radicals a standard for such credentials; it certainly would acknowledge what one never ears from the government, the colleges or the intellectuals of this country: that they have failed.
Of course they will never admit that. These unctuous and articulate demagogues who aim to be from nowhere will say that they never had enough money and power to do what they had wanted to do, or that they were unlucky, or had perhaps in some minor area pushed the wrong stratagems. Their utter failure was never their fault nor ever a result of their wickedness, flaws and limitations. They are very predictable in saying they never made a mistake. We should leave them politely and silently after listening civilly to their explanations.
However I think viewing our current pantheon of leaders as a garish sideshow worth merely our derisive Bronx cheers that is a very superficial assessment of the dolorous situation. Tee assorted grotesques have been in power because a system behind them that ha promoted such failures and told everybody else to look for work elsewhere.
I don’t believe this is a country of lightweights, thieves and degenerates. I suspect it’s a nation of institutions pushing emptiness and concrete degeneracy and most people eluding their networks.
I can point to my own life as an example of how the stem pushes one kind of citizen one way, another of a different ilk another way. I‘m somebody who had thrived in this system because I read it early on as what it was and drifted to places where I would feel socially comfortable. Sometimes they were illicit; they were never quite respectable.
The area where I got netted and stung at least momentarily were always the respectable institutional areas of our culture. Marriage, having a steady job, having children were three areas picked out by our honchos for an ordinary hunting season. For them to pick up the fresh carcasses of the local fauna with the help of their hounds. One dodos notice with a kind of awe that they are always surprised when vast armies of the children of such concentration camps without walls or guards are wary of entering the very physical theaters of these slaughterhouses with their smell of fumigation from a vast communal death.
I was never the most raucous and vocal proponent of rebellions from our institutions either. I never did confront even for one moment while in college that perhaps it might be worth a passing cortical look at a system that was pushing English culture when our country was founded on departure from England and England was in many ways, particularly cultural penetration and a notion among some of us that seeming vaguely English w tantamount to being civilized, still our enemy.
I also never said that some of these Englishmen, Milton, Shelly, Byron, Keats, Swinburne, and H.G. Welles were themselves populists and foes of any vertical class system, that it was silly to pretend they didn’t have that sort of politics. I never mentions any of our founders or Emerson or Whitman in our schools, even in a whisper.
I never once remarked to anyone that the intellectual pinions of our own contra really orbited around various populists whom the system called Communists or evangels some sort of alien cause were actually our unacknowledged patriots. even if they weren’t, aping imperial England and its colonies was hardly an advocacy that could ever be popular in America beyond a few reactionaries and medievalists. One after all doesn’t meet up with an alien cause quite as raw as one which affirms we should all imitate England.
It’s doubly a hard case when England itself had jettisoned such a regime in a peaceful revision and had decided from the bottom to imitate America.
I didn’t think much of the Communists either. To me they were a small ineffectual coltish gourd who only talked to each other, never left their narrow little clubs, and if they had met the common people wouldn’t have liked them at all. I took a lot of flak in the 50s for making fun of them. I took even more ire from saying that for all we ken the Rosenbergs really were secret agents and had committed treason, and we all knew people like them who were capable of it.
I also predicated that once the Left had vine anyone it effected while in power the chance to be barrages decadent it would collapse by itself because at this point in history that was all the populace wanted. I would ask my Left wing friends what was the difference between an oligarchal monologue and Communism. I didn’t make nay friends on the Right or the Left even when I was a young man. Selah.
Still my detachment, silence and affable civility back in the 50s, the heyday of the cause of austere provincial elevation, never fooled anybody on the Right. At twenty I was already viewed by the college I went to as one who would never be part of the elevated professorial system. They caught on to my independent mind before I raised myself that it might be in some way dangerous to them. They knew before I did that one day I would figure out who and where I was if I hadn’t done it already.
A year ladler working for Welfare I again with detachment and amiability said that the creation and expansion ingot the middle class and top of a set of clients whose contact with the state was to do nothing was not going to produce a generation of mature and free adults. I was very wise to move out from their aegis after a year and work for Parks as an athlete and later a big time social organizer.
I always felt good about laboring in sports because it was real. Secondly because my society valued it as they never did any of the artifacts of the intellect.
When I was respectable I never saw enemies coming from all directions ready to enslave me or do me in otherwise in a formal execution ceremony, standing in front of me lawfully and piously out in the open as I did when I was respectable. They were all telling me as they ran their lawful assaults in occasional soliloquies that they had a lawful right to enslave and destroy me.
Luckily when one is a rogue in this country or does anything illicit but private outside of one’s personal enemies they leave one alone. I’m not entirely inept at being a resourceful outsider. I speak and read about six languages and have always kept my passport. If it doesn’t work I can swim. I can still work physically at any job requiring brute strength. I can still run. These means become after a while an ordinary way of attaining tolerable freedom.
I mention this perhaps not so intriguing personal history only backs I think most Americans in my lifetime have had a similar experience. The minority that stayed within the system were pulverized into a fine powder and giving a salary, a bribe, to act like leaders and people of power, then to retire to a fortress in a warm pace to await the Angel of Death. They commanded in their heyday only our citizens who are insane, supposed felons, in dread of foreclosure on their mortgage, are on the commute wondering how they could live without their car, or are otherwise legally scooped out, thrashing weakly in the sophisticated and invisible nets of the government and corporate fishing expeditions.
I’m hardly the first person to say this either. Thomas Jefferson called it “the perpetual revolution”. My point is that the reader will find in his own life likely as not either the bones of my own political existence such as it is, or the skeleton of some poor slave on the galactic commute who has been gobbled up by the system. There are plenty of both of us.
Yet I think it’s fair to say that on both sides the last half of the 20th and early 21st century has very different ideas on what can be accomplished by lawful organized pressure on a government inclined to want to rule by no other law but its whim. This country unfortunately is inheriting the half century or so of lack of interest in law of its government, its illegal wars, its imperial alliance with odious colognes, its view of what is proper in stimulants, it’s view that marriage and children creates in men one way obligations to others who owe them nothing and injure them when they can, all sorts of notions that are very unpopular with the common folk but which the government has run thus far with impunity.
It’s part of the traditional history of the United States that in time those disenfranchised groups that are treated like cattle or worse by the government become not only franchised one day but are tainted later by excessive power. That might be one of the lessons of the American reevaluation that freed this country from England.
During the America revolution the American colonists I’d have means of lawfully petitioning their government to act differently. England itself had a House of Commons. Apparently in Virginia some local politics were settled locally by the House of Burgesses. There was a tendency in English rule to honor Julius Caesar’s politics of home rule, keeping taxes low and beg the armed force that could protect one against a common enemy, in the case of America, Indian marauders. Yet America had a revolution anyway. They had for the time had limited government; the Americans wanted one even more limited.
One might concluded that as persuasive as Julius Caesar’s argument was, as much as the British followed his precepts as Spain, Portugal and France never did, there was even a better politics than that if one were willing to fight for it.
‘ Those who are in power even by acclimation have to be ready to deal with the response of their actions among those out of power. This country was settled mostly by Europeans who left a world of power freely, and those whom the Europeans deemed criminals, probably most of them rogues, independents, dissents and enterprising small businessmen more than honest felons. The hardest case even an official elected unanimously has to ma to a public is to rule it over a week.
Eventually when one is out of power long enough and has no memory of what it might be like to be franchised one will tend by once means or another, from military action to the vote, to take up revenges their enemies have earned well enough but are lately too dead too be brought to formal or informal justice. There are even times when out of power and then in it we miss our vanquished foes who once had been more powerful than they now are in the dust. We might even discover now that they have been destroyed that they weren’t all that bad.
Still, to paraphrase Jefferson, the success of any autocracy at ruling with impunity merely daffiness the means by which they will be brought down by their enemies later.

Notes for An American Republican Education

When I went to the University of Michigan in the ps and took a course in Contemporary Philosophy it was hardly surprising if one knew as one did in the 50s and onward that our colleges were pushing European provincialism that the principal savants we had studied in those courses were Jean Paul Sartre, A. J. Aver, Martin Heidegger, Paul Tillich and Ludwig Wittgenstein. It did strike me even then as I explored the real insights of these very clever people that they were writing in and for a time and place on the other side of the world in which the common people for very good reasons had lost all faith in their institutions to nurture, protect and sustain them. Two horrendous world wars can do that. Perhaps we would all have that set of premises if our own country had passed through the nightmare of the collapse of the peaceful institutions of our empire as well as World War Two.
Rather predictably there wasn’t a single Marxian philosopher in this parade though Sartre always remarked that he voted Communist. We also didn’t read Sartre’s large book on Flaubert, one very critical of that writer, which contains some of Sartre’s reasons inferentially for some of his severely egalitarian if hardly Communist sentiments; Sartre was hardly a Red. Sartre derisively quotes Flaubert as saying that he didn’t vote because his vote was not worth the same value as one of a peasant. Sartre implies without quite saying so from that comment that Flaubert was a rabid believer in inequality, therefore some kind of sheathed monarchist. In fact as Sartre knew perfectly well Flaubert was a skeptic close to if not quite a nihilist.
It was much more popular at Michigan to be a Logical Positivism and student of what could be expressed in language of any kind. The center of this inquiry was after all taken up in England after the Nazi chased its Viennese practitioners out of the city of waltzes. Nobody ever mentioned that this was a cousin of John von Nemine’s Game Theory ideas: that we could manipulated whatever could be expressed mathematically. I never heard of von Nemine’s Game Theory at Michigan though it was the basis of the vast computer installation at North Campus where I worked occasional. There was instead a heavy focus in the course on the thought of Paul Tillich and mirabile dictu one American: Reinhold Neihbur. They were both Christian theologians who were trying to make some soot of liaison of convenience between Christianity and the modern world. Tillich was a kind of vague and eccentric Platonist or Jungian. He came to the school and gave a long and wooly lecture on his ideas in his heavily accented German.
There was along the way some causal attention in this study paid to George Santayana and Albert North Whitehead, Americans who had been working as professors around the turn of the century in Ivy League schools. There was one American in the course presented as a serious philosopher: the pragmatist William James. Wee never read anything of his interest in mysticism.
I wasn’t thinking in those days that there was something deeply twisted about a college course that was skewed toward a kind of Olympian way of viewing philosophy when America as a populist republic of a singular character would most likely not be foaling savants from some lordly height in the European manner. One might expect to find American philosophers among entertainers or journalists rather than savants teaching at Harvard. I was perfectly happy to ramble around the brilliant minds of these various European and Ivy League professors, particularly William James. Why shouldn’t I have been?
Still the people one heard quoted in the 50s was most often stand up comics like Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce and Buddy Hackett. Lenny Bruce was a comic whose recordings were passed around quietly in colleges much as in music they were listening to the Modern Jazz Quartet. They might have also taken up the en passant observations of Chuck berry,. Ray Charles and Buddy Holly.
Lenny Bruce along with Lord Buckley and Red Foxx represented a kind of urbane hipster class of the 50s better than anyone. The only legitimate entertainer who could say he was a champion of that world view was Norman Mailer. They all including Mailer did blue material. As much as the polite world could they marginalized Mailer. They couldn’t do the same to Lenny Bruce. The very places he worked were all by themselves illicit.
Sartre, one who at one time was so illicit he would have been executed by the Nazis if they found him, would have appreciated Lenny Bruce. I met Sartre and Simone de Bouvoir briefly in Prism in Sartre’s usual cafe on the Boulevarde de Mont Parnasse where he sensibly spent many of his afternoons. One of my friends at Michigan who became afterwards a French rock star, Joe Dassin, introduced me to him. Joe who known everybody famous in Paris had said to me one day:”You think Sartre and Simone de Bouvoir are monuments in America. They’re just left Bank people who hang out in a cafe.”
We went to this spa and sat at their table. Sartre struck me as a bit dry but he certainly had my respect as a great thinker and talent. Still think his later confessional book, Le Mots, in which he accuses himself as being too involved in words at the expense of observation is a harrowing great book. Yet this man of action and honesty really apparently had no idea of ho far such a skew might go among intellectuals since he had never resided in America.
Some fifty years laster my son at college studied the same people in the same sort of courses. It was fun to sit around with him and distiches the genius of these very brilliant men. Still my son was much more apt to quote George Carlin than Sartre, and I was never loathe to quote Richard Pryor and Jackie Mason.
The English knew who their philosophers are. They have invited Jackie Mason to Oxford several times. They would have invited George Carlin and Richard Pryor had they lived long enough. Jackie Mason has given a performance for the Queen of England but yet to appear at Harvard.
This kind of duality is so ordinary to us as American that we might easily forget that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison tried to remedy its cleavage when they were attempting to come up with a curriculum for a new republican university in Virginia in the 1790s. Their conversations and correspondences of the time were filled with assessments of books, whether they we’re proper for a republican college. One dodos have to wonder why such an inquiry seemed to have stooped after the time of Jefferson. Was it covert European penetration? Just sloth? I don’t know.
In any case I would recombined taking up Jefferson and Madison’s explorations up again. I still say we are all enriched by the most brilliant men of Europe. Still it isn’t so mach that something should be replaced in our universities as that something is absent.
I would guess that founding a philosophy department in our colleges based on the wisdom of our founders might be more of a popular idea than asking these same didacts to teach the salacities offered by our stand up comics and our entertainers. Yet one must say Poe, Emerson, Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Carl Sandberg and Robert Ingersoll would made a formidable set of inspired charismatic worthy of admiring in a classroom. If one thinks of journalists like Mencken. Ben Hecht, Gene Fowler, Murray Kempton, Jimmy Cannon, Damon Runyan and Ambrose Beirce one might have quite a heady course in our schools to offer young Americans.
In case one doesn’t know what any of these entertainers did, perhaps the most dramatic one was the intent of Buddy Hackett, George Carlin, Jackie Mason, and Richard Pryor to make many English words previously a reason to arrest people if used in public a spice in their acts that has enriched the possibilities of using our language in ways that echo how many American talk. They were able to do it because they largely worked in illicit places run by the Mafia. Do we have our pedagogues claim that Al Capon was our most canny producer of the Arts? Yet it’s an important and deep turn in American culture because lawful use of street words reduces the two tired notions implicit in genteel language and opinion in America that come from Manichean notions of the value of a polite world having power and with its somewhat aery use of English managing the unruly rabble.
This was given our populist presumptions a reform taut was a long time coming. As Al Smith said in the 1920s when somebody suggested there should be a way of keeping the rabble out of a Long island place of gambling amusement: ”I am the rabble.” It was taken up in various ways earlier by journalists like Mark Twain, James Huneker Maxwell Anderson and H.L. Mencken, along with novelists like Norman Mailer. It makes a difference to all of us because how we think about and use lang is often our central way of communicating with ourselves along with other people. If we cannot think much less talk in language natural to us we are certainly not very free to take up action often set into motion by what we think and say.
Those terrible words that got people arrested were the visible trace of a general disinclination to acknowledge the concrete in polite American life that was always not an agreeable way of thinking for journalists and entertainers. It does make for a peculiar turn in censorship. Walt Whitman’s last words after all were:”I have to shit.” We are either lucky or unlucky that in a different time I can write this without getting thrown into the slammer for relating this piteous and authentic testimony.
“Archer Winston, the movie critic once for the New York Post, said wittily: ”There seem to be two Richard Priors, one of whom acts in movies.” One could have said the same thing about Robin Williams, Phil Silvers, Georgie Jessel, and Red Skelton. A lot of stand up comics like Don Rickles and Buddy Hackett who were known for their raw acts never did get movie work because they had already established what their attractiveness as entertainers was once.
This two tiered way of thinking did create a censorship that made the reportage of certain dimensions of life an argot of aery implication, or case for the teller of such tales of the concrete in a bald and graphic manner to be sequestered in the hoosegow. It did inspire many a journalist and entertainer to take up pure style, ironic, ribald, waggish, sardonic, dryly comedic rather than offering bare substance as a way of implying what could Tao be uttered without being hauled into a police wagon. American journalism as a genre is unthinkable without such wordsmiths employing elaborate circumlocutions.
One thinks of the gentility of such phrases of “a house of ill repute”, “rest room”, “streetwalker”, “madam”, “viper” and more lately “adult entertainment“ if one has any sense of comedy, with some dry chuckles. What was that culture afraid of or impatient with that they invented such slyly inferential phrases? What will be the reverberations of such dread among us manifest once, now more covert as our American culture moves toward a concrete vision and leaning that reflects a wholly concrete life, sometimes to an excess? I don’t know but it’s plain to me that if I live long enough in this country I will know it all too well.
We can either get there on a high road laid out by our founders or arrive at the same place kicking and screaming because we don’t know who and where we are as a candor or as anything else. Yet is the only end to our journey no matter how we get there.

Trying To Perpetuate A Perpetual Revolution

When I was in college in the belly of Leviathan doing a few years in the strange exercise of listening at bottom to a veil of history and the United States I found both wrong and at least vaguely treasonous I didn’t have the sense at that age that false directions of a regime do set into motion responses that their very enemies could not have hoped to achieve without them.
It’s not a bad way to look at some aspects of history. The American revolution never would have happened without an arrogant and excessive English colonialism. The Union movement would have occurred without the subsequent greed of the American oligarchs. The 20 never would have the point of departure from traditions that it was weren’t it for the Wilson imperialism, Prohibition laws, closing of place of any commercial pleasure and racist emigrant polkas. The 60s never would have happened had it not been for the sort of crucible the 50s ran to melt its young people into a social goo.
I was in fact at the ramparts of a world revolution. It want the one the American oligarchs wanted in which the empire would rule over the planet, certainly not the one the Communists had hoped for in which some phantom science of social engineering was about to replace the current economics, nor was it any rebellion associated with ideas more profound than anything our founders had proposed: freedom, limited government and respect for privacy.
The people in power in each case didn’t seem to have a clue they were the real causes of their failure. As Thomas Jefferson says in the Declaration of Independence that when people are in power and they fail the common people, the people have the right to relieve themselves of their government. In fact they will inevitably do so when they don’t leave the country or become rogues within it as many did if they weren’t devoured by the 50s.
Ever afterwards I’ve been asked as one of the active rebels of the 60s what it was like to be part of that idealistic time. I would imagine any of the generation of the American revolution heard those same questions.
I can say as they could have said: the rebellion didn’t happen right away. I look back on the time the 50s were an expansion of thoughts and actions already in place and thriving in smaller ways in the 50s. Its later universal popularity was expanded by the horrendous and illegal Vietnam war but it one thinks about it, the essential features of the 50s were easily found in the Beats, the hipster urban culture, the Martin Luther King marches for Black Civil Rights. The performances of Lenny Bruce, and the rock music of Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, the intellectual jazz as a kind of native high Art by the Modern Jazz Quartet and Dave Brubeck.
Still nobody thought in the early 50s of organized rebellion. That had been too scared by the devastations of the previous age: the Graft Depression and World War Two. The 60s happened only when people who couldn’t remember either one were becoming adults and going to college. I would guess the American revolution happened as it did because none of the revolutionaries could remember the laces of generations who had come to America from Europe.
Back in 1963 Robert Kennedy had a meeting with the representatives of Martin Luther King and asked them what they wanted. It was a politicians questions. He was ready to deal whatever it was they were militating for in return for internal peace from their estate. King’s representatives could tell Robert Kennedy specifics that the government could do something about. Jim crow was everywhere in the United states in some degree but it was illegal. Since Woodrow Wilson nobody in the federal government enforced the laws that stood for Black equality.
Though Thomas Dewy had passed civil rights laws in New York state in the 40s they weren’t enforced much either. When I entered the work force in the late 50s many Black people told me they could only he hired by the government and by the airlines. even in both arenas qualified Black folk didn’t get promoted.
If it certainly created in our society an awful lot of very brilliant Black people working in areas they could get a job, that’s not what they wanted. Like al human beings they wanted equality. All the Kennedys had to do was enforce existing laws that were evaded by many parts of American society including its own judges. In some ways the Black Civil Rights movement had a possible political solution. However it’s interesting the Kennedy’s, the people in power at the time, couldn’t understand that Black folk might want this level playing field.
Equal opportunity in one’s own country would seem obvious enough a standard for life anyplace, one might think. Yet people in power never understand much less see as a value to themselves that people out of power want some or all of the advantages of people who can only get those boons by getting privilege. That’s why our Constitution calls for avoidance of any two tiered society. Of course as long as the decisions are in the hands of people in power the ones out of power rarely get it, law or no law.
The 60s for all people living in it had such conflicts amenable to political solutions. The trouble with such direction is that the government and corporate world didn’t want to negotiate about whether or not they would embrace limited government and leaving private life alone even out of pure interest and cynical detente.
I think this might be true about most revolutionary situations. It’s not as is the English kings, the Romanovs, the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs didn’t have time, leisure and means to reach some equitable peace with people who finally usurped and killed them. Most of the Holocaust and general killing in warfare the Germans took up in the world two happened after the war was effectively lost in 1943.
The Germans, shot out of the skies by the RAF, had no more air force, were being pushed back from overextended lines and had no means to do other than lose the war thought they could have still won a battle or two. Once they had lost the war in 1943 they might have gotten something from a negotiate peace morae than they got in 1945. Instead they chose to up the ways they could kill people for two years. As a result they were obliterated by day and night, bombed for two years, then occupied for the next 60 years to this day. Since one doesn’t get more autocratic than the Third Reich their policies when it was wise to regret and negotiate to salvage what they could from their debacles are a kind of model for what happens between people in and out of power in all times and places, to use Thucydides’ apt phrase.
A similar if much less moderate pattern happened in America in the 60s. The American government had plenty of time to back away from a war in Vietnam, create a competent re-education program to school Black people and others who momentarily lacked a trade or ability to enter the job market competitively, or to accept that it wasn’t the governments job to stand in the way of any equality or hunger among the populace short of a few that might threaten the rule itself, felonies like murder, grand larceny and arson.
They didn’t have to look for example of how to aid the transformation of people out of power to people with a franchise any further than the will and opinion of George Washington.
Instead, they did the opposite of what George Washington did. They expanded Welfare and regarded any woman who needed an excuse to break up her family with a monetary reward, given merely on her ampliation for it. They even pushed Welfare and breaking up families into the middle classes wherever they could.
They never protected tens of millions of Americans, many of them Black, from the chaos, ignorance and violence of the fiascos the government itself had created. Is it any wonder that they were finally voted out when Reagan was elected. The miracle is that they weren’t hustled out of power by force long before the election.
The period between 1800 and 1932 that led to the legitimacy and power of Unions and the Wagner Act of 1936 never would have happened if the oligarchs, who had nothing to lose by taking fewer profits, would have cut a fair deal with their workers.
Our current obsessions with and over-valuing of pleasure in our culture are responses to Woodrow Wilson’s regime, one that wasn’t satisfied with leaving the access to carnality in America viable but very discreet. Yet Hugh Hefner and his Playboy magazine and philosophy were selling to tens of millions of buyers in the 50s, not merely the 60s. Of course the epicurean Hefner was advocating in a time when it was a radical to supposedly treasonous idea that Americans have a tolerable carnal life. From this horrible notion he was investigated and his organization penetrated by CIA contact operatives for signs that he was a Communist.
None of these various peaceful and less polite revolutions happened right way. At some mysteries point in time enough people at the bottom had lost enough patience with the specific impositions of autocracy by the middle and top that the middle and top couldn’t do it anymore effectively or at all.
It could be that the means and reasons for rebellion and change are always present under any regime; the variable is whether or not the regime itself has any attracting. I can say having lived though that time that nobody had any love for the establishing in the 50s. They were in dread of it. They were afraid, remembering the Great Depression that if the 50s Leviathan collapsed they would be out of a job. People eventually do something about dread if they are often ready to put up with a lot of difficulties in the service of affection.
When I was in college majoring in English I was struck by how the twin intellectual popes of that decade, Eliot and Pound were respectively two once American who had turned their backs on democracy and the United States. One had actually committed treason. The other pretended he was a brilliant English provincial. I don’t deny anybody’s right to be a traitor from the Rosenbergs to Ezra Pond ; if both the Rosenbergs and Pound were justly indicted for treason, could such crazies and innocents even if they were charismatic lead the American populace at all?
Such assessments that they could had the same probity as the vas of the 50s generally that Americans would put up with the oligarchal Leviathan of that decade. Obviously the group most left out of that set of insiders in a vast citadel was Black folk. The 50s was I can say on observation hitching though the country, was very Jim Crow. Maybe it’s less obvious that very few people in the 50s were insiders. That style of organized life wanted almost everybody to take the steady money and never to ask any questions.
Rather intriguingly, the articulate prophets of populist freedom the 60s were more often than not inspired by America but weren’t Americans. The Beatles and Rolling Stones were in their day the apostles of populist freedoms in a central way never quite taken up by American rock groups like the Grateful Dead, Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings, only Bob Dylan was in their explosive league. Of course some say if Buddy Holly would have lived longer everything might have been different.
Still the nature of all these revolutions tended to thrive in areas that the governments of the time couldn’t touch. In any case, mostly connected with private pleasure, the very laws of the government created those ares of freedom. even if one weren’t interested in the kind of pleasure one could garner in those places beyond the law the social company as infinitely better. Generally it’s much easier to elude the blunderbuss of eyeless weaponry of the government or bribe the monitors than to run a rebellions whose aim is to bring down the state.
When the 50s turned into the 60s the movement began with people like Black folk who felt they had little to lose by being openly rebellious. Most White people in the 50s felt they could run their lives their way as long as they never confronted the system with open revolt. I think in some ways this was probably the way things went in the American revolution. Yet the American revolution had a lot of middle run colonists as well, some of the middle aged like George Washington or Benjamin Franklin, who took up the rebellion because they fell it was consonant with their honor.
One might think that compare the 60s with the American revolution is a false analogy. It is false in some ways; I am making a partial point. Besides, all analogies are inherently coarse stuff. I do think that had the government franchised Black folk equitably and never run the Vietnam war the 60s would have remained a discreet marginal activity of many people much as it w in the 50s. When one runs an imposed reality on people that deprives them of a living or sends them to shoot and be shot at by strangers to protect local colonial Catholics and heroin importers the risks aren’t the same as the ones faced by the American revolutionary generation; they aren’t negligible either.
Yet the ashy harvests of despotism were hauntingly lethal to the oligarchs in other ways. The administration that ran the Vietnam war, the laws against private pleasure and the Jim Crow polices never backed down on any of these autocratic assaults on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness even when it was plain to anyone that had they capitalized on all of them they would have acted totally in their interest. America is going to run more stably for anyone who rules it if it runs a limited government that doesn’t try to force people to fight colonial wars that benefit only a few religions and munitions factories and put everybody else in harm’s way as they say.
Substituting Welfare for Jim Crow wasn’t and breaking up families with federal mandates was not going to give many Black Americans an adult franchise in the United States. If anything both Welfare and Jim Crow became a fulcrum for why millions of Back and White citizens voted Republican instead of Democratic after getting mugged by the soldiers of the artificial class of people whom the Democrats felt represents the best Black people could do: live on public charity. It was insulting to Black folk as well as a reason for them to get out of neighborhoods populated by Welfare clients of any color.
The Vietnam War only ended when the American army lacked the means to have a physical presence in Vietnam. Nobody in power backed off on that atrocity either. In general like the Romanovs, the Hapsburgs and Bourbons not to mention the English nobles the group in power never retreated on a single issue. As result they set up the very rules and arenas in which they were dealt with harshly when the time came for them to meet their dissidents. The Romanovs for example would have been better off to honor the requests of the Democrats of 1921, all Liberals, than to face the Bolsheviks in 1917.
Similarly we are living in a country that has been exhausting all their means short of violence and revolution not to be governed by our equally rigid and arrogant autocrats. It would be very foolish not to see these patterns of those in and out of power if in America we haven’t come to the places the European rulers found themselves as a result of their inability to negotiated even in areas where they would have been big winners had they done so.
It might be argued that a lack of usurpation of the United States government under Lyndon Johnin in the 60s was the only means by which the American populace could have escaped either the Vietnam War or the illegal post-Wilsonian legislation against pleasure that was still in place in the country. The Vietnam War ended after 14 years only because the American army couldn’t stay they there they were forced out. The neo-Wilsonite war against private life and the right to case one’s direction in the pursuit of happiness has never had a revolution. As I write this in the second decade of the 21st century it is still the principal source of convicts parading into prisons, 70% of them, who have committed no crimes but have broken laws that say what stimulants are inexplicably legal for Americans, which are as inexplicably illegal.
I can say that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not bad handles with which to judge any revolution. As soon as Lyndon Johnson pushed the Vietnam War he was definitely threatening American life. The inexplicable assault not merely on the right of American citizens to stay out of their war in Vietnam, on private taste in drugs and sexual tastes was an attack on liberty.
If we have lived any amount of time in the world we all know that anyone who stands between anyone else’s happiness should find a better place to occupy a space, even if they sincerely think some action is destructive or lethal to others they do best for them and themselves if they get out of the way and let them do it. They are wise to content themselves with saying a word or two of avuncular advice to those whom they feel are taking up injurious actions.
Still though people talked of a popular revolution in the 60s there never was anything like a recall or impeachment of the American leaders in the 60s. The 60s was for that reason a revolution in which the classical acts of rebellion occurred outside America. They occurred in places as deferent as Hungary and Cuba. Rather ironically they have surfaced much more half a century later in China, Libya and Egypt where the technology pushed 60s values of freedom though means that weren’t available in the 60s and as a rest of the actions of class of younger nerdy techies who were in their reclusive way as much advocates of freedom as the raucous 60s dionysiacs were.
Still the populist revolution of my lifetime isn’t based on nationalism, land, belief or some franchise either given or taken. It’s based on the idea that people want to be governed as little as possible. As Jefferson says, given the biological urge for individuals to live with the power to realize their character, the less any government tries to govern the better it is for that government as well as everybody else.
As Jefferson also says the source of instability in politics isn’t dissidence to the current rulers but the inability of those governors to understand they work for the populace, not the other way around, or “in the course of human events” these rulers will be dumped by the populace for a system more to their inalienable biological interests.
Over sixty years later I see these same phenomena very differently, more or less a Thomas Jefferson did when he used the perhaps perpetual revolution. It seems to be built in to governments that they are checked not by their own common sense but by some external bellicose response to their notions of imposing despotism on the populace. Why that is I don’t know. Nevertheless its irrefutable the last people who seem to know they are on the wrong side of a revolution are the one’s for whom the populace is rebelling. Today as in the apt their response to dissidence in the inherent diversity of any group, large or small, is to put it down by force or seduction.
I think the American Revolution set off a set of struggles between itself and its institutional governments that was never resolved or even articulated much politically. Certainly if the American reevaluation was about individual pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it wasn’t about substituting the slavery of local masters for foreign ones or the elevations of working for factories run by American producing enterprising that treated its workers like cattle rather than laboring under similar conditions under English rule.
It was more about a kind of person who valued freedom and slowly wandered westward during the 19th and 19th century to avoid working either as a slaves or for wages for anybody.
Almost the only thing the people in power in the United States in the late 20s and early 21st century understood was that violent revolutions don’t usually happen in a boom market or one in which a servant class is five thousand miles way and happily inviable. Revolutions occur when the revolutionaries perceive generally they have nothing to lose by a violent revolt. Brokers will tells one that it just wasn’t likely that anybody who could garner 15% of an equity they didn’t have in the first place would be plotting a revolution.
These usurpations usually only happen classically when masses of people re starving to death, are being drafted as cannon fodder in a colonial war, or are otherwise stifled in their hopes by stupid and odious laws punishing people who have committed no real crimes. I say usually because the American Revolution was an exception. Nobody in the Thirteen Colonies was starving in droves nor lacked the means, principally by quietly moving westward, to avoid the colonial rule without a military confrontation. The English revolution from an empire to a moderate socialist rule in a de facto republic after 1945 also acarid without any violence.
As one travels through Europe and America in the 21st century one can see the relics of not quite defunct social habits and abandoned temples all over both ares. I haven’t been there in Asia to observe them but I’m sure given their own radical social change in the past half century or so they have also found themselves in a better way of conducting their mortality in a world cluttered with the old furniture of dead tyrannies.
I have speculated in another book that some of these social structures, given how they were always not to the benefit of anybody including the rich and powerful, might have been themselves holdovers from a pre-Flood era where various humanoids claiming to be gods or even aliens of various kinds were running human politics for their own benefit much as we run our cattle ranches and chicken coops. Whether or not this is true it finally is irrelevant to our present circumstances except to suggest that our bad social habits as a species might have a longer history than we might think.
In my opinion it’s irrefutable that for about 3400 years or 700 years or 60 years, take you pick the politics of the world has been journeying toward living in a social structure of Acadia, freedom, and a set of regimes that have the superior sense to stay out of the way as much as possible of humanity as it all in diverse ways tries to realize its variety of character. Since we are very adaptable and mercurial in our capacities for being different from each other laterally the test of what is or should be illicit among us should be pushed off as far away from the center as possible. Instead our politicians and men of power behind them are looking for some way of making a new norm or center out of sheer banality if not quite out of morals or the hope for favor and dread of a deity.
It isn’t going to work. Apparently if the old models hold true they are going to be the last people to know they have been political failures like their despotic predecessors.

The Future Of A Perpetual Revolution

Sometimes the views of the past can be a fine point of departure in fathoming the present. In an 1814 letter Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We have no paupers. The great mass of our population is of laborers; our rich, who can live without labor, either manual or professional, being few, and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families, and from the demand for their labor are enabled to exact from the rich and the competent such prices as enable them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families.”
In this perhaps optimistic epistle Thomas Jefferson certainly lays out the aims of the free American republic very well. Whether or not the workers on the Erie Canal owned pard or the slaves in Virginia, at that time 40% of the population of that state, or the servant classes all over the country, or the women, half the population, deprived by law of owning property and other rights, would have agrees with Jefferson’s appraisal of the economics of his country is a moot point. Jefferson at 72 was not doing a lot of traveling. By 1814 he had no means to make such assertions on the basis of his own observation. Since he himself was surrounded by slaves in his domestic life one might wonder whether in his ripeness he might have needed a pair of glasses.
Nevertheless to be fair to Jefferson, his claims were certainly more true about the United States than any other country in the world. If perhaps he was exaggerating the boons of living in America it was in a league of tis own in having some of those benisons and unlike various other regimes was set in the direction of trying to obtain them. If it had not been the slaves never would have been freed, the women in America never would have been armed with lawful equality and those armed with a trade people valued able to exact a tolerably affluent life from their labors.
When Jefferson talks about the rich he doesn’t means speculators like Jim Fisk, Joe Kennedy, Mitt Romney and Warren buffet. He means merchants and manufacturers. One of the major themes in his thought is the corruptions that occur in the inner lives of speculators and a world which values them and their easy and cut throat ways of making money from nothing. We should have valued Arnold Rothstein higher that Warren Buffet. At least Arnold Rothstein was no hypocrite; he said openly even in court that he was a gambler.
Most interestingly in Jefferson’s analysis he clearly saw the dialogue between the rich and poor as a peaceful detente; no matter how greedy any side might have been, each of the parties could bring to the table what the other one wanted. He didn’t see as Karl Marx did the interests of both the patrician few and the scurvy many as a struggle that could only be resolved by domination of one or the other group. That’s pretty much what many moderate Union people and Socialists believed after him if it was hardly the philosophy of the American robber barons.
Jefferson takes for granted that the values of the populace are going to be pretty much what he always thought they were: owning land, family life, tolerable material means and skills to effect a just barter of one’s abilities for enough income to live a comfortable if moderately affluent private life.
Jefferson assumes the same values govern the lives of the American rich of his time. He himself was a rich man in some ways and as he says of that class, did not have to labor, but no one can double that he lived simply and with philosophic measure. His worst vice was reading books.
Another assumption of this letter is that stable family life is preferable to any alternative style of existence. It might have seemed self evident to Jefferson but it certainly hasn’t been the view of our feminists, courts and Welfare agencies each of these three groups have strong ideas about how family life should be ruled over by some experts, monarchs or supervising monitors armed with an infallible science of life just out of view.
Jefferson took up his affluence as a means to take up his real work, not to avoid labor. If he had had a job and worked for other people the history of our country would have been quite impoverished by his lack of leisure.
Many of America’s more reflective sprites have had to work at day jobs, as a consequence have been only able to offer their achievements done in haste when they are done at all. Too many of these souls have been broke and lowly starving to death as the muse urges them on. We shouldn’t be too quickly to condemn anybody who luckily has the means to live the life they feel they have a calling for.
Two hundred years later than this letter many American feel that Jefferson’s aims, if one might be piqued by some of the complex and injurious realities of his time including slavery, are pretty much what really all Americans would agree upon as the goals of their own lives as well as the proper directions for the laws of their country. As much as we might say Jefferson didn’t quite live in such a world himself, he is still the maker not only of the Declaration of Independence but the Bill of Relights, in their day quite astonishingly radical notions of what law should be.
He really is not only the Galilee of America but one of the great lawgivers of all time along with Moses and Solon. We would do well to apply the same standards to ourselves that we do to our founders. How many of us can say we purged our country of unjust laws at the risk of death and pointed our neighbors toward a more ethical life? If we are living by his laws or want to live by them as American leaders break them, we really should have the sense to honor a man who if he wasn’t a saint was still more an adornment to the world than nearly anybody.
In any case the sense of valuing privacy and protecting the economic means by which one might have it is at the hub of Jefferson’s letter. It doesn’t occur to him to mention it in the epistle because it seems self-evident to him that everyone would want such a life.
If people really are living private lives they live them in different ways. They don’t eat the same foods, amuse themselves with the same entertainments, take shelter from the weather in the same kind of houses nor have normative opinions and thoughts that a community can listen to with the mild soporific feeling that the one’s who have valued privacy are still one of the faithful. Privacy does encourage diversity.
Conversely, organized life whether done in a server and open style like the politics of the Third Reich or the Soviet Union tends to discourage the natural variety in our species. They inspire Nature itself to fight back to rid the world of such cartoon notions of reality.
Then whatever and whomever manages the monopolies of the day falls prey to the classical inconsistencies and occupations of power, takes up force or seduction to impose some notion or other and, as Jefferson was never lathe to point out, is replaced because he is inherently an apostle not only of injury to the populace but a deep political instability even when he follows relatively just policies.
I think it would be rather coarse of us not to see the deep implication of Jefferson’s comment about the poor. In his view the United States has figured out a way to avoid having a class of poor people beyond a few marginal sloths, lushes, dunces and perhaps a select bunch locked up in insane asylums.
If it took until 1950 or so, not 1814, for some of these view of Jefferson to seem more a mirror of normative American life it is true not only that the United States has had since around 1950 only a marginal class of impoverished people in the classical Mexican or Moroccan sense but that most of the West including China, Japan and various former British colonies emulated or took up independently as best they could the kind of elevation from classical poverty that Jefferson was talking about in the way that he was describing as a reality in 1848. It is turned out to be prophecy we are lucky that as a prophet he augured the future for hundreds of millions of people quite accurately.
Still this doesn’t mean that the juggernauts of organized life and their implicit journeys to the music of siren songs toward some sort of sugared of dreadful despotism haven’t been at work to push humanity in the opposite direction. The generations that have been watching television since infancy have been connected with the same communal synthetic reality to the point where they may know nothing about the real world; yet they share an identical false reality that in itself makes from them a kind of media country.
One isn’t going to achieve much privacy and diversity in a home if one can’t close its front doors, the very values of the residents are to be amused by clown shows from some astral satellite. The suburbs might be defined by realtors as The American Dream; others might view these same places as land which doesn’t sustain oneself with a food supply or work to build shelter, one in which one can feel the emotional flattening of the spirit in a limbo that comes to others only when they are in a tomb, a prison or an airport.
Unfortunately since the generating of our founders there hasn’t been a plethora of American thinkers and politicians who have stood for freedom or even thought about what a country that promoted freedom might mean as a normative politics in their vicinity. We have had our intellectuals backing Hitler. Stalin and Mussolini, other cultists who kowtow to other champions of compassionate social engineering, a third group finding wisdom in institutional religions, a fourth set of folk certain they knew what was the best way of life for us all, snared in their eccentricity with no particular common support. How many of them have been willing like Washington and his generation to set standards of as much freedom as the community could bear is a quantity that might make us feel dismal about the prospects for ever having such souls among us.
Of course freedom doesn’t need any advocates anymore than there are beaver pedagogues teaching their species the value of bridling dams. Yet we all benefit by making what we can bear in life open and legitimate, not illicit and clandestine, if for no other reason than by doing so we stop making the illicit more attractive than at bottom it often is. When freedom and diversity is legitimate we benefit by the Galileos of our time having access to putting their honest if unfashionable notions of the world into some kind of utility.
As long as we are ruled overly or even covertly by any orthodoxy at all we lose the capacity to compete with those societies who lack such wonderful ruling institutions and are in danger of being colonist by them without a standing army as so many places in the world at present enslaved.
If one direction lads us into slavery, the other to mastery of our lives we would be wise in competitive world to bring the fullest amount of our powers and cognition to the matter if only to make sure that one day like all provincials in all times and places we at once don’t know and are haunted by who or where we are. We may not have the sense of articulate calling of our founders but we have it in us in some vague way even if God wants us to make pizza.
If the reader notices, I have left out the Communist Party from this list. I don’t think an very marginal organization of 500 largely incontinent old people half of whom were and are working for the F.B.I. is a threat to America. They might once have been a threat long ago. They did penetrate some of the Labor Unions in a clandestine way at the turn of the 20th century. They were never a threat as themselves because Americans if they had a referendum would vote 99.9% against Communism. Americans and humanity itself doesn’t want to live in a machine suitable for insects. They had that once, wherever the came from. They left it. It was their point of departure. It didn’t meet their standards. It wasn’t good enough for them.
The attraction of any autocracy is to claim that with organized action it can bring the populace some material boons: in Russia it was land, peace, bread. The faith of the American people is that they can garner such benefices for themselves without a government to champion them, without organization itself. It’s a very deep cleft in one’s political falloff if it is hardly articulated by either side of the debate often or at all. No Communist wants to admit at least in areca that he is against freedom. People who don’t like Communism azalea claim rather irrelevantly that it is an alien faith system rather than a plan of some ringers of such utopias to live an efficient life without freedom. This is because the critics of Communism are usually not advocates of freedom themselves.
The issue of freedom, whether or not a government is responsible to the people or to nobody, hasn’t gone away at all since Jefferson articulated in the Declaration Of Independence over two centuries ago. One can see on the bloody stage of the world various governments, often these days outside the West, sixty years before this writing running Germany and Russia, taking up a stance that government is the only reality in history; individuals are simply unreal, irrelevant or totally an illusion in a lamentably loose and inefficient anthill.
As Jefferson says, this war goes on perpetually with both sides operating under a thousand names. We are aware the Genghis Kahn never claimed to be working for the common people, was never much worried whether he was loved or admired by his Mongolian populace or his enemies. He ruled as a pure extension of his caprice and will.
One could say the same for Hitler. Stalin at least gave some homage to being a champion of the common people because he operated in a faith system that like Christianity was superficially humanistic, not about pure will like the Nazis. Yet Stalin killed more people than Hitler. Both Stalin and Hitler were brought up as Christians, thus had a model for the seeming value of despotism. Stalin was even a Christian seminarian in Georgia.
The classical place of battle between the forces of freedom and tyranny isn’t too often the field of arms and revolution. There are certainly no lack of revolutions against despotism in history though Sallust would say these revolts are usually against not the mechanics of despotism but rebellion from an unjust master. It’s worth pondering Sallust’s dour dictum. In different language it is argued by God in the Books of Samuel. Since God has made this Creation one in which freedom is valued centrally, god argued against kings, then acceded to the popular will of the common people to have a monarch.
In the Bible the point is made continually that kings and prophets are checked by God. It’s a political theory that in a different form surfaces in America as a check from parliaments and the populace. Gaffers in this spirit argues that the represent the voce of God. Vox populi, vox dei.
However as Jefferson points out aptly once can deduce easily that there is also some grunt biological imperative that motivates people even with there is no organized rebellion to take up other means of gaining liberty. They are scramblers, exiles, rogues, guerrillas, petty thieves, working clandestinely to achieve what they cannot accomplish with any army and priesthood they palpably don’t have.
Even that direction has its excesses. Society is filled with a generous plethora of ordinary psychopaths that do to intimates and anyone else in the vicinity what tyrannical governments do with laws, armies and priesthoods. It isn’t as if in a free society the armies of despotism and monopoly aren’t going to find their way to be as tyrannical as they can be. As Jefferson implies, even if we could guarantee freedom in law, there is a biological motivation for people to be despots too.
One should say that the two sides engender a series of attitudes in the populace with which we are familiar. A ruler who aims to be feared and dreaded, whose means to rule is to make war on all dissenters and reward his armies and monks with a steady means of survival through lawful theft, doesn’t inspire anyone in the real world to give him their independent and varied energies for any common causes.
Only a limited government can do that. Nobody is going to work as hard for an autocrat as they will for a limited ruler. That does give free republics an edge in competition with tyrannies.
This argument is hardly original with me. It was stated most clearly and logically in Aeschylus’ The Persians, written 2500 years go. Jefferson’s argent is just another version of it. In turn it is stated by God in the books of Samuel. Obviously human nature has stayed the same over the aeons if the furniture in the theater of life has changed.
Genghis Kahn and his philosophy does lead to consciences that don’t change over the centuries. There is always the war against an external enemy, one that changes or cannot be defeated, the open or secret division of the swag, the exhilaration of pillage, the sense of relief of the loyalists from the claims they are obligated to treat anyone well, the contempt for their seeming prey, the justifications for robbing in war, swindling in peacetime.
There is even an aim among many in such regime to be invisible as a thief in uniform or if one is more a rogue, being able to bend light altogether of most people in such regimes. This way of life certainly was not different under Hitler.
Regimes which straddle despotism, honoring the populace with charity instead of freedom, are another kind of world with their own directions and harvests. Christianity, Islam, Communism are the most famous examples of such organizations. They tend to invoke piety for valuing their depredations as holy acts more than the late Genghis Kahn ever did. All of them have more humanistic justifications for injuring people than would ever exist in world with regimes only run by people like Genghis Khan. Yet, given the unorganized but real power of the universal lust for freedom over the universe, that planet ha probably never existed.
The third direction in politics, the free republic, has its profile and excesses defined by its inability to ever squeals despots with total effectiveness. Organization itself is probably from the hydra to Hitler inherently despotic.
It’s the limit of freedom not to be able to contend much in the short run against focused organization. Beyond that, despots under such democratic regimes rather shamelessly claim to be our butlers.

Biological Implications of Jeffersonian Thinking

Jefferson makes two arguments against the nation state. One is that the nation state is unstable, artificial, and cannot stand against the wishes of the common people. The other argument is that the nation-state is immoral and inherently works against the interest of humanism. Jefferson uses this duo of points almost interchangeably but beneath the surface they are separate assaults against empire.
One is a critique of the flawed engines of large states, attempting to be stable when they are the last champions one could imagine of stability; the other is a moral argument that the state or any executive power inherently is opposed to both the interests common people have as a whole and the agendas of individuals.
The Hamiltonian dissents from these two positions don’t claim that Jefferson is wrong about either assertion. It says that when one has enemies or one needs to take up a cause common to the populace like the joys and comforts of wealth that come from broad manufacture one needs to have at least a minimum organization of people with all the evils of such activity to produce a realm of living stable enough to compte with others and vanquish its enemies.
One can be sure that the very truculent arguments Jefferson and Hamilton had under Washington’s administration were all about how much one can avoid organization enough to free the populace from most acts of government or how to embrace organization without turning one’s engines into one more monarchy. The aim of Jefferson and Hamilton: to stand for republican freedoms, was identical.
I want to look in a large biological way than any of these arguments at the way freedom, organization and natural law combine or are in contention with each other.
The non-living world, nearly all of Creation, is immortal in the sense that without life and its hungers a dead world can be immune from the terrors that set the activity of life into motion. It really doesn’t matter to a pebble or a star whether it is subsumed in some cosmic fire or broken into pieces by the inanimate in a chemical explosion. What we call primitive forms of life, ubi-cellular organisms tend to be potentially immortal in another way.
They don’t age or turn inept like old machines. The amoebas and paramecia we can barely see in a tepid pool in a swamp are apparently the same organisms or cousins of now dead creatures like themselves that existed billions of years ago. They have their deep vulnerabilities to death though. Some bacteria only live one second. A slight change in the saline content of the pool kills them all off.
It takes a lot more adversarial assaults on large animals on Earth to destroy them. When single cells bond together to become these large creatures they trade off one immunity to destruction for another one. Yet multi-cellular life doesn’t loose its capacity for partial versions of uni-cellular immortality entirely either. Clams and lobsters are theoretically immortal; they grow but never age. Neither do jellyfish. Reptiles like the turtle, plants like redwood trees partake of this lack of aging. They have the stability valued in Jefferson’s first argument.
Still the vulnerability of clams and lobsters not to mention redwood trees occurs from other enemies and from other angles. A change in heart or salinity can do in some life as quickly as senescence in an elephant or a bear.
Since some life forms are more vulnerable and less stable than others it’s hardly surprising that when Nature comes up with some creature that is excellent at survival resources it uses it as a generic paradigm to take up radial variation of itself right to the frontier if the possible.
Thus the duck is one of a range of animal from geese to flamingos and cranes that can fly, walk, swim, dive under water, can live easily and well on vegetation. Some fish keep the same biology without change for a billion years. Perfection or powerful success at survival seems to inhibit adaption. Turtles have been roughly the same over two hundred million years.
Human beings are the other direction life takes in its dialogue with Nature: adaptability. In my lifetime alone I’ve seen the most radical changes in human life that no other species could take up without being destroyed. We not only can walk, swim, fly and dive underwater like the duck but we can travel to the moon or other planets.
When human beings have cancer their cells regress to a condition of autonomy from the interests of the main organicism.
If the rebellion is successful they and their host die. Since most cancer occurs in middle and old age in human beings it’s not unreasonable to suggest that there is some mysterious inherent fatigue in organisms of complexity that kick in after awhile.
As adaptable as human beings are to restless Nature’s changes in temperature, as clever as they are in defeating their natural enemies, lengthening their existence into extreme old age, they trade off the more classical range of adaptive mechanisms for survival for another set of them. In the past two hundred years our natural enemies: the bear, wolf, lion, tiger, shark and large snake have taken a near mortal beating from us.
Scientists have also discovered ways of defeating all sorts of bacteria and viruses venomous to us. Yet we are the only species that enslaves our brothers in peacetime and otherwise makes war. Some of us have hungers for dominating that are biologically inexplicable. The desperation and armies of enemies have only shifted, often to our cousins instead of more remote adversaries. It doesn’t mean that we have eliminated our adversaries; it Evans that we have been victorious over the first run of them.
One of our canards if we are in the belly of Leviathan is the priestly notion that history is the history of organization. In the last century or so a lot of real people have died in the service of trying to mount some organization that might be able to govern humanity in a more efficient, equitable or benign way. Sometimes these idealists spend a certain amount of their mortality in prisons raised by the very people they have tried to aid in such an enterprise or if more lucky go into exile to escape the very Leviathan they have helped to nurture.
If history is the tale of organization on all levels the nation state, monarchy or empire as a biological model is not much of a specimen fit for stability or even long seasons of survival. It cannot see, hear, feel or think even in rudimentary ways except through its individual components. We might imagine the nation state as an blind unthinking animal like a sponge or coral plant in which all the cells were not under control of a ruling neural system. The cells were taken up their own uni-cellular agendas only some of which were even perceived by the larger animal.
If met by similar such organisms in a war they might be able to compete or triumph over their enemies similar to themselves; they lack the capacity to deal with individualist and mobile small rogue groups. Even if they impose an imperial belief system as the large religions attempt to do, they cannot really rule over the neural engines of their citizens. Moreover since they want things to continue as they are when they are in power they are at war with Nature that never is happy with static existence.
It seems to me that this is an overwhelmingly persuasive case for Jefferson’s first dictum: that the nation-states are inherently unstable.
Whether they are also lacking in morals is another matter. As Gibbon implies, a weak and tolerant empire might be moral in spite of itself. Still Jefferson’s ethical argument rests on the premises of the value of humanism, individualism along with a biological argent worthy of the scope if not the substance of Darwin that each of us one by one are going to take action in our lives to fulfill our individual agendas. Anyone who takes up service to a nation state is by definition one who has not embraced his own life or what he must do to live up to his calling.
In this sense the second edict becomes a corollary of the first one. If we were all natural slaves and history were heading toward more efficient forms of slavery we might have a different tale to tell of the human race. In fact as Jefferson says we are going to have to live with a government if we have any at all that is wise to be very deferential to the diverse ways people are trying to satisfy their nature as programmed as the hungers of dam-making beavers for their actions. The actions of despots can only postpone the moment when they get tired and the immortal biological drive of Nature to embrace its variety is going to bring it down.
Yet individuals are made to be in some organization or other if small ones. Sex creates male and female organizations along with children. Specialized talents in human genes do lead to some sort of extended family. As Jefferson says the group is more stable than nation state. Nation states are almost always about two tiered societies and some form of slavery. Only small communities have any chance of being egalitarian because everyone in them is needed in some way. The hope for survival pushes stability in such a small group in a way unknown to an empire.
Since the tale of human history isn’t the aim to make a better political organism but adaptability to unknown ends we might do well to think of the tale of our species as a narrative that has a churning plot with ends and resolutions we know nothing about.
Some critic has said that nobody in the 18th century would have found anything strange about the mechanics or technology of Homer’s world or for that matter such instruments in the ages of the Bible. Whether or not they could have madame as much sense of the way technology has changed human life centuries after them is another matter.
Plainly anybody in my time sent back to the age of the founders would have noticed first of all how relatively uncomfortable life in the past had been. Of course the people of the past, knowing no other way of life would not have had that response to the same existence. Most life on Earth would have regarded the life of most humans in the 18th center as wildly luxurious. Comforts and amusements do invite us to be dependent on them in a dimension unknown to those not liven existences adorned by such apparent boons.
George Washington who lived sixty seven years spent all of his waking life observing the natural world, not less than half of it coasting through refuges from it like some modern human beings with television, air conditioning and automobiles. He was afraid of nothing, could sleep in a bed of straw or on a heap of leaves like an Indian, could forage for his food and when in the wilderness wore simple clothing, most importantly leather books that protected him from snakes and thistles.
In a sense he lived several times as long as most people in my age. He took riches when it to him came but he would have been perplexed by anyone who took any value in doing nothing. He would wonder from what in life they had been looking for relief.

The Varieties of Dependent Experience

We all have our dependence on something or somebody unless we are a hermit in the woods living in a straw hut alone and eating a diet of berries mushrooms. We have obligations to family, governments, tribes, lovers, gods, neighbors, all of which John Locke famously said were tow way connections. Perhaps it might be more accurate to say that all of us want them to be mutual and work toward making them as much as possible or withdrawing from utterly them when all else fails.
I thought I was distinguish some of these occasions since they are all different. There are ties in our values that make us family members, citizens of states, neighbors, people with spiritual connecting,. The first two of the Ten Commandments make it clear that one’s primally allegiance should be to God, not to kings. This convent is a two way connection. In turn for a moral life God promises to bless those who live it or at least honor a murky covenant. What we do is under our control. Waft God does for us is not. It may not even be explicable. Whether both sides honor this agreement has been a subject of many an inquiry.
The founders of this country has many political adhesions, some of which included being colonists, slaves, and people who lived far enough away from any social organizations in the wilderness that they were in a contact only with Nature. Beyond thee more obvious categories they were proximate to Indians who had no contract with any of these organizations and were expert on living with Nature, and various groups from England, Sweden, Holland, France and Spain which had some comparable if hardly identical runs of franchises among their citizenry.
In the original Constituting the people in the United States who had no income or property did not have the right to vote or exercise any other instrument of citizenship. Plainly the intent of this provision was to exclude paupers. We really don’t have legal instrument for depriving the insane or prisoners with misdemeanors from voting. Nobody sets up a polling both in a prison or a nuthouse.
Until the Civil War the institutions of states and local country rights give their inhabitants a variety of franchises or lack of them. Equality for people of all kinds wasn’t in the Constitution unit the 14th Amendment in the early 1860s. Equality for women didn’t happen unit 1920. The federal government did not actively practice lack of racial discrimination unit 1974. Since two tiered or more societies were the model they had inherited from Europe with their nobles, and rascally stewards and peasants, plainly the whole notions of equality was a direction with an unknown harvest that made many people contemplating it wary of its consequences. Even Thomas Jefferson said he couldn’t imagine women having any legal rights at all. We can’t fathom why he had that opinion.
Indenture by the government and lack of constitutional rights has always been to the present a policy of treatment of privilege for some people in an unstable politics. Men as I write this are commonly dunned by the government of children, property and income when they have marred and have had children, then have been divorced. States like Delaware have accommodated this large new class of Americans by offering them corporate status to escape the federal laws and laws of other states.
Some of these dependencies are more subtle than others. When I was a kid New York had a nearly entirely local encomia. Food that was eaten in the city was grown within a fifty mile aired. They were sold by small competitive personally run stores. There were no super markets. Many supermarkets in the later 20th kneader undersold those stores, drove them out of business, and then set prices afterwards at their whim to customers buying their goods.
The development of frozen floods meant edible merchandise could bar sold out of season and transported for thousands of miles. Their food wasn’t fresh but it was edible and cheaper. It is illegal currently in many parous of the United States to grow edible food on one’s supposed property. That does create a climate of dependence that isn’t overtly political.
Various oligarchical cornering of markets in the past have created similar monopolies that have led to dependence among us as well. Fro a long time one had to buy an American car. Only five or six companies made them. They were gas guzzlers that usually broken down in three years. The market was penetrated by German, Japanese and Korean cars after 1950 or so. Minneapolis tend to produce shabby overpriced products after a while. Since the suburbs was a place where one had to have a car to survive those living in these areas were dependent on all the car companies and oil businessmen on all elvers.
Oligarchy and global business is the machine that creates dependence of economic colonies even when pulicidal the regions may have a different system. A community or country that produces one produce and has one market for it is dependent on that market for its substance. Much of the world has no native industrial machine to produce anything but maintenance goods. If one promotes acquisition of affordable television to every home in these areas one educate a generation of people to be dependent on the machines that can give them what they never knew they wanted or needed unit they purchased a television set.
I suspect this pattern of social organization is built into human life if it has evolved the means to do it. Clearly the founders didn’t have many of these problems. They walked from place to place, rode horses or took if rich took drawn coaches, ate local goods or grew their own food. They had homes in which one had to prove one’s own amusement. They didn’t have radios or television sets, conversation had to be the major entertainment. The idea of home being one’s castle is radicals when a home is in fact the center of sales pitches and value systems of owning what one does not need and addictive greed in buying goods from the outside world. People who spend time in the home watching electronic amusements do not have much of a family life to defend.
Of course this direction in dependence has produced its rebellions. Some orthodox Jews do not watch television. Neither do the Pennsylvania Dutch. The Pennsylvania Dutch won’t even use electricity. They aren’t crazy. They know the history of electricity leads in direction they don’t want to go.
Omen might ask oneself in the present some cessions the founders never had to wrestle with about one’s own dependence on others. Many Americans in the present don’t feel they are tied to their land or their neighbors or they wouldn’t be moving from them every three years on the average. One can move in such a situation by standing still. These enclaves don’t have much of sense of bonding with people with whom they share a base to amuse themselves with electronic clown shows.
Since television is addictive the media like the oligarchies have become an estate which has its own thralls, colonists and citizens. They trade in invented realities.
It is only a step to offer shows that are fictional narratives to purveying news programs that are equally remote from reality. Since the waking hours of observation of these realms are at least diminished to a quarter of the time our founders had the amount of reflection one can take up while observation Nature is considerable scant compared to people in the past.
In such climes the vocabulary and cognitive power of the faithful diminish dramatically. There is nothing to share or talk about. People get more narrow, stupid, less able to function physically or emotional much as laboratory rats and mice could never compete with their feisty wild cousins.
Public assembles becomes a phenomenon that implode to a minimum. There is nothing to care. No community if there were something to share it. There is nothing to be curies about. It can’t compare in interest and malleability when the small if unreal world one knows.
All this supposed progress helps to define some of the notions and rebellions from them that the founders took for granted. They even thought they might have to be depended on food or communication of a global oligarchical system that could or would not dole out their gods. They never thought in nearly all their homes there would be something like an altar of commerce promoting hungers they never knew they had or should have had. Perhaps as importantly the founders assumed one would be spending nearly all one’s working lives in activity or independent reflection. One would be asking up one’s own mind on the basis of observation what world they were living in, what if anything was sanity.
One can have a political system that works very well for independence people one step from the wilderness but has problems accommodating itself to a world field with various systems of dependence. Since everything one does alters character the idea that if one did something that was absolutely unnecessary to survival one should command more income for it than somebody who provides means of survival one cannot do without is probably a caroler to a world in which one has chosen to take up the direction of doing nothing as an optimal choice in which the alternative is some job or set of chores that are boring, onerous and physically debilitating.
If one is doing nothing or wanting to do nothing, one can be sure somebody is doing something somewhere to help one survive. One is dependent on that person. Of course if one had a choice between working in a mine and catching some lung disease and watching television he would all choose the latter. One can only argue those aren’t the only tow choices in an optimal situation.
I would even argue if slightly tongue in cheek that wealth and leisure in volume is no more a circumstance humanity is ready for that Indians ever were ready for alcohol.
The central assess of dependence don’t go away because nobody realizes them consciously much less articulates them. We all know to whom we own dependence, who are our lieges.
One of the principals of limited government is that our politicks such as it is doesn’t define our lives. The American Constitution is designed to protect what the founders thought of as their real life,. A government should protect the country from its enemies, run communications like the post office, keep roads viable and so on but do all of this to operate as an instrument of promoting another kind of life than a political one. In the Communist and Progressive agendas in which there is no reality beyond weather or no one has allegiance to the government and works for it.
One hears similar claims to one’s attention and loyalties from corporate firms in America. Many religions praise their martyrs who have sufficed their life for their cause. One doesn’t have to be a radical Leftist to give up one’s life in the service of some cult or regime.
It’s bracing to look at what one’s dependence on what and whom might be in a superficial way a ledge rather than ask oneself what theoretical franchise one has under the law. Our law since it is not based on case law though it claims to be, is in free fall. Besides that laws aren’t the only instruments of making one dependant or free. Some megaspore that has undersold and put out of business all its rivals is a pretty effective nascent autocrat, Whether it gives out survival gods at its whim or not is as much a figure of clout as the classical despot with embrace and priesthoods.
Some of the history of the United States and its systems of dependence has created some very paradoxical institutions among the founders and later. Obviously it couldn’t have escaped the colonialists that slavery wasn’t much different than being a colonists except in its radical and sometimes theoretical detail that the salve had any right to free existence whatsoever. Colonists existed under the European powers and still do to make profit form the center of the empire that run the colony. That was pretty much what the peasants internally in Europe had to live with as well.
George Washington said he couldn’t imagine life without his pistols. The Constitutions is set up to nurture local militias, not a standing army. The Second Amendment in the most famous protector of that institution to protect one’s freedom. People don’t as quickly try to oppress people with guns. Those who oppose the Second Amendment clearly don’t feel oppressed or in danger of oppression. Paradisal most of these folk are orbiting around those autocratic systems: the colleges.
The idea that a country of free and independent spirits might be preferable to all even for the worst of reasons as wall as the best ones was pretty much an unknown direction in
Europe. It was an argument take up by the English, French and German dissidents, often for religious reasons, who had the benefits of reading the Old Testament and realized what that book was about. Aeschylus makes a similar comment from another angle in The Persians. Americans took the notion of the value of freedom from the Hebrews,, that’s why towns in America are called Salem, Bethlehem or Zion and Americans often have Biblical names.
Perhaps not as obviously all the founders could do something competitively in an open market to be valued by strangers. George Washington was a surveyor, military leader, expert on new kinds of grains, a brandy manufacturer, exporter and so on. Benjamin Franklin was a printer, journalist, scientist and inventor. Thomas Jefferson must have had about fifteen things he could do including inventing and botanical experiments nobody else could do. He could do everything from playing the violin to produces new and better forms of olives. Hamilton could run a small boyishness, teach and translate French, had many military and organizational skills, invented a code for communication for the maritime corps still used today and was the best lawyer in New York. Everyone of these people had fallback positions if they were never in politicks here they could thrive in an open market.
None of these people achieved such skills by valuing doing nothing.
It hasn’t escaped some people that a community that encourage people to live up to their diverse potentials is going to have superior means to promote its lives than one in which one is cynically attached to an indifferent yet oppressive and simplifying juggernaut to take up survival, often by covert means.
These separate directions emerge in hydra headed ways. Our sciences tend to be involved in cartoon norms, stable paradigms, repetitive and predictable phenomena they can supposedly depend on. Our courts openly value stability over any other instrument of survival though it’s plain enough that our world is motile and diverse. Oar prisons and our jobs try to narrow the range of human action to doing a few things repetitively or if they are white collar, doing nothing.
Yet without champions, articulate advocates or any sign of an army or priesthood there are always among us some unruly people who in spite of the state take up their character actively in diverse ways.
It buttresses Jefferson’s famous argument if currently it is one not often listened to, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is a biological imperative in our species. Jefferson’s clear implication in his The Anglo Saxons that community is as much of a human need is even more roundly ignored. Plainly lateral or symbiotic connecting and those to electronic amusements and oligarchical economies are rivals.
Since social organizations of their nature can’t and don’t want to offer freedom to their adherents, to the extent they are efficient machines its optimal utility for its citizens is to offer the virtues of material comfort. Yet if Jefferson is right, they can‘t remedy or cure human misery. They can at best offer a life of woe taken up with some consoling commodiousness.
One might ask: what is worn with dependence? Waft is the matter with a theory of history that assumes that our direction as a species is to be decedent on an equitable social organization run by selfless saints? Sallust says most people prefer a just master to freedom. It may not be true. If we all want to be mature independent adults as Jefferson says any dependence, even the most loose and generous of such vertical connections may be a central cause of misery among us.
We don’t lack for examples we can all note in our own lives of people who have walked away from dependence when it is materially affluence enough. Even if only some people want freedom rather than just master, these enterprising folks are much worse an enemy to any state than those who are merely bargaining for how much they will be paid off to be momentary slaves.
Since we are not likely to have that decentralized economy again all that soon given our technical mean to have a large and complex one is it to the interest of all from bottom to top to have a limited organization and government to preside over it. Fewer laws make fewer enemies.

Disciplines of Freedom

1

The founders realized that their military revolution from England was only the first step in a constructing a viable popular republic. The alchemy to take up self-rule wasn’t easy for them. Benjamin Franklin corrected Jefferson when Jefferson wrote “subjects” instead of “citizens” in a draft of The Declaration of Independence.
These people were after all brought up under an autocracy. They had to conduct some serious mental surgery on themselves.
Washington called for an American University to Prague the citizens of the United States of the “European vices” he found detestable that people adorned by affluence learnt as youths when sojourning in the Old World. He never specified what he felt should be the curriculum of an American University. Jefferson and Madison did that alchemical office.
Two hundred years and more later we don’t have a single college in America that offers the values and disciplines of republican life that Washington apparently fund self evident. That was a side of American revolution the British won. Tone of the amusing results have been not merely that our two greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lankan had very little formal schooling but that our national institutions have a philosophy of government; they are brainlessly and fundamental autocratic. Our worst president, Woodrow Wilson was the best formally educated of that bunch.
We can’t at once have an egalitarian popular republic and a school system that educates people to be imaginary gentry. With such strange institutions we are going to have the rather dismissive opinions many Americans have of formally educated people and the practical uses of any education.
I cold make my own list of books proper to my vision of American education as Jefferson and Madison did; in fact I did it once and offered my curricula to anyone who wanted it back in the 1970s. In this chapter I want only to write about the presumptive altitudes that a free society should have to be a viable popular republic at all.
First of all one should have as few laws about human behavior as possible. We aren’t going to have a law code that we can live with a government that charges at murder, arson, theft, betrayal fraud, slavery, lack of respect and franchise for women, perils of people with criminal records, or even the cry of “no taxon without representation”. It’s particularly absurd to think that if we elect two people in a government with millions of employees that thee would or could ever represent us.
We aren’t going to do too well in a society as well in which one must have a car and am mortgaged house and credit at a supermarket to exist at all. Sometimes tyranny comes to us in the guise of a relator’s American dream. If we have no survival skills we are never going to lose the primal panic in our hearts that we are easily dispensable in Nature. That desperate feeling doesn’t invite freedom either.
We can n the evidence if not the claim of our politicians do very well if we have a government that has no opinion one way or another about tastes in stimulants, soporifics, carnal huggers, amusements or raucous vocal opinions. We don’t have to like any of the things various people who seem odious to us do. We should get out of the way if possible while they do them.
Moreover when a government locks up people for their tastes and private life or makes any action that is not injurious to others impolite to illegitimate we should oppose such policies in any way we can even for the worst of reasons. One day our own freedom will ultimately be at stake as the government takes after us and our nefariously idiosyncratic life after it finishes killing, stifling or incarcerating the more dramatic eccentrics among us.
Governments tend to move cautiously and lowly when they are taking up some new act of tyranny. Hitler began his depredating by killing insane people in asylums in 1934. When he was finished with executing people who had no champions at all like the daft he moved on to other prey.
We have had a similar set of circumstances in the United States. The United States government has locked up a few million Americans mostly of color in their prison for a taste in some drug or other or selling them in small businesses and put them to work in privatized labor camps. It’s no different than Auschwitz or Dachau. If and when they get out they have “a criminal record” and can’t get a job, can’t vote, lack the franchisees forever of people not netted by this immoral notion of what crime is, what law is, what in particular law in popular republics should be. Then what happens to people of color in the United State, good or bad, in five or ten years happens to everybody.
It isn’t a mystical destiny. People of color in the United States are groups that most conspicuously lack champions to stand for their interests, make large amounts of trouble if they are not heard. People of color aren’t good at organizing. That’s true whether they are Afro-Americans, Native American or Latinos. They don’t come from cultures that have evolved any protection for themselves from an imperial government but physically eluding the rule and the rulers.
It isn’t about race or color at bottom. Asian are White Bacchus they do organize. It isn’t as well by the way a response that in antiquated. The more successful any government is now at organizing people in volume anywhere, Atlantic or the future, the more elusive behavior such skills invoke in the populace.
It is a classical situation that is recorded in the travels of Abraham, Joseph and Moses as well as the well known motility of Greek heros from Perseus and Theseus to Heracles. The relating of Jacob and Laban are a variant of the myth, the Native American coyote is another direction to the immortal colloquy.
Kings are natural organizers. They have a static regime to protect. Of course they aren’t natural or happy democrats. Heros may not be democrats either but they take freedom with their cunning in whatever way they can. The remedy in a democracy to his seemingly eternal dialogue is to have the king organize his citizenry less centrally, the hero to have a place in a parliament, a franchise in the regime. If this doesn’t happen the king and hero revert back to their timeless and sometime acrimonious dialogue.
Kings are always for centralization. Their solation to all dilemmas is to keep power in one pace for themselves. Then we are dependent on one man’s whim. The more centralized a regime becomes the less power people not at that monarchial hub are going to have in it. One could formulate that maxim in algebra. It’s probably true as Jefferson says that we should try to limit practical poetical power to local cements or “wards”. At least the catastrophes those small governments control will only bring decider around themselves. It’s a variant of the virtue of self rule.
In all cases kings don’t have t power to make anyone do anything. They can at most kill people. They can’t make others labor for them. They can’t prevent others one day form fleeing from them. The monarchs must provide some strong reason for others to give up their freedom for the comforts and amusements of an empire. A philosopher shouldn’t find pleasure dangerous or repugnant. It isn’t. He should be like Secretes indifferent to pleasure or pain. One masters pleasure not by dismissing it but by realizing its inherent triviality.
Kings can make actions legal or illegal. They can sometimes punish the illegal actions of citizens. They can’t stop the actions themselves. There has never been a regime without dissent, rogue actions, natura enemies. Sometimes they ar neighbors; sometimes they are wolves and bears.
It’s reasonable to assume on the evidence that there will never be a tranquil organized state beyond a blessed half hour. Given the natural place where power resides, the individual, there can never be anything but a state desperate to take what power it can for desperate reasons from a common cause, a sharing of an enemy or the ancillary disasters of self-rule.
We should if we want a stable and peaceful world in front of us want as well as regime we live in that calls as few things as possible crimes. We certainly don’t want slaves or even mild social enforce of any kind in a regime hoping to be peaceful for obvious reasons. Whatever is a social contract between two or more people freely choosing to do anything with each other including mutual suicide that at most injures nobody but themselves is not a crime.
If we are clever we don’t want to be telling people what to drink, smoke, eat or whom make love to. If they have families or friends we don’t want to invite these individuals to not bond with pr betray each other. We know if we do push that direction we are going to meet with a variety of opinions and actions responding to us we won’t like much. We are going to have to deal with the revenges of people whom we have declared ourselves to be odious or our enemies. If we sincerely don’t like them much, they are going to like us even less.
This discipline of freedom for ourselves and others isn’t easy for us to embrace. If we love people we suffer when they do. If we hate people they never are punished for their iniquities or their impudence to us quite as much as would like in our ire to injure them. If we murder people we can only do it once. We can only enjoy the initial results of a successful courtship once too. At least that might last domestically a few weeks.
Even to feign accommodation to the natural harvests of accepting freedom in others can be a nasty chore. Yet no matter how indifferent we are to Creation itself we are likely to meet up with people and institutions we find disagreeable, repugnant, even geratic, satanic and inexplicable.
Most of us learn these sober truths only in our middle age. Nature is our great teacher. We take up with a lover and discover after a while to our horror and rue she is imperfect. She might even tedious, contemptible symptoms. We hope she doesn’t notice we might be even worse. We embrace a causae and find it is field with waspish, officious or unctuous minor barons. We have an notion of a better life and discover its excesses are no less injurious than the contrary set of directions we had found an anathema.
We judge what we think people can do, then watch one day abruptly their decline so that they cannot even accomplish the little they once could. Some people go dramatically insane in front of us. They sometimes may just collapse and fall down stone dead. We don’t know why it happens. We can’t guess why it occurred on a Tuesday, not a Thursday. We may think we can judge others only to discover someone at once secretive, treacherous and patient has outlasted the focus of our initial scrutiny. We are given all sorts of boons we don’t deserve while we complain about the burdens we live under we palpably don’t deserve either.
If we are parents we should know our children one day are going to exact some pain from us for our charity to them. If we are children we equally should be aware that we don’t like autocracy even when it is plainly set out to promote our survival. If we are an apprentice we can’t wait to be a master. If we are a master of any survival ability we hang on to our skills at our live-or die crafts even if we are half dead.

2

As difficult as it might be to stand for oneself as an adult in the world after being brought up in some colony or other, and as a child reared twenty years by parents, it is both assayer and harder to put one’s energies into a dialogue with a government that inherently has a tendency to want to solve its dilemmas large and small by taking more and more power, among others power from oneself.
Yet we don’t have to look too hard at the history of American law as a successful enterprise or not at promoting individual maturity and limited government. We”ve had laws that make slavery legal, deny ailed to women, put us in jail for taking a sip of beer or selling a bottle of wine, deny the rights of parents to raise their children, consign people of arcane carnal tastes to some imaginary asylum where they have no more rights or franchise than convicts or lunatics, arrest people for drinking a beer without a paper bag to hide the nefarious contents of the vessel, arrest people under eighteen for fornication and so on. Our execution of the clear means by which we could have had a popular republic has been a legal disaster.
Whether or not the lawyers who pass these tyrannical laws or the police who enforce them or even dolt enforce them are educated by our schools in the philosophy of law or the Constitution seems to have made no difference in their actions. The check on autocratic law and the whim of kings comes not from schools but from the inability of the kings of the day to run a viable state living by those bad laws. When they see anarchy coming their way they back off.
Often these kings won’t admit they were ever wrong to pas these laws in the first place. Nobody in the American government has apologized for slavery, Prohibition, injurious drug laws, colonial escapades that killed millions of Americans, notions of what on might do on Sunday but not Saturday that have created a whole industry for cops on the fashionable take. We had to fight a civil war to rid ourselves of legal slavery. Prohibition was never repealed; it was left up to individual states and counters to live by or ignore. If one has existed several decades in America one sees that laws that were once trumpeted as the very hub of what was good and evil are now discreetly gone from us or simply not enforced because they were if acted upon a means of creating a huge romantically popular criminal class among the populace.
It is now legal to sip a beer in most of the country. It is lawful to take up prostitution and gambling in Nevada. One can see on the Internet sites sponsoring selling wives on the huff from impoverished Eastern European countries if one has to money and wants to buy them. These women want to be marketed in that way. It’s no different than prostitution. Maybe prostitution was always a social contract, never a crime. Sometimes when the whores aphtha day are articulate they remark that their customers are contemptible to be satisfied with a momentary servant or a causal spasm. They are probably right.
The essential argument for calling most consensual acts a crime is always that it is unhealthy for one or both parties. In the end it’s the individual who makes that judgment no matter what the law is. If somebody really wants to jab a needle in one’s arm and go into a torporous funk from an opiate they will do it irrespective of whatever the law may be. If they take up any action venomous to themselves or others they will do it if they earnestly and seriously want to do it. That is the reality of the world we live in. Governments, laws, do not protect us either against ourselves or others. Nobody, nothing can.
Still I doubt whether it is really true that we are the only species on Earth that cannot govern ourselves. Moreover it seems as unlikely that we at once dominate the planet and are unable to take up any mature adult action including tieing our shoes without the aid of counselors, presets and assorted astrologers. It seems more probable that we are superior in survival skills on earth to all other species to the point where some of us have very self destructive traits but survive anyway. Sometimes the mark of the power of a life form is its ability to survive while in a state of ineptitude and decadence that would do in any other species.
Of course there are organizations like AA who counsel one to ask aid to God and take up apologies and make amends to those when addicts have casually injured. Even these Anonymous groups say the only help the ten percent of their clients who are willing to make an honest appraisal of where their actions and thoughts have led them. Before Anonymous groups in the 19th century there were Temperance Leagues; one presumes they had the same function. America remains as it always has been: a hard drinking country in which some people in it crumple from the work, the losses, the sense of large disappointment, and some do not. With such a cloven life affirming ethic we are doing better politically than almost anybody.
If one wants to live with freedom one probably does better in rural parts of America. The government leaves one relative alone backs they meet the people they are taxing to maintain their rustic regime. If one lives in cities as I do the autocracy is much more steep, the comforts and amusements much more intense.
One at least has one’s choice of tyrannies.

Republic or Empire?

In Thucydides’ Peloponessian War of 2500 years ago the author remarks that the defeat of Athens came from promoting a Sicilian colony that really did not want to be ruled by the government of the state that had settled it. One could say the same of the American Revolution of 1776. Revolutions in colonies are different from those on the mainland of a country some of the reasons for this distinction are more obvious than others. Empires are not really threatened in a lethal way by the loss of a colony. Egypt lost colonial wars for thousands of years and remained intact. The pharaohs have agencies for losing the right wars.
The Bourbons or Romanovs could not afford to lose their French or Russian Reevaluation and still have any power at all. At the end of the America Revolution the British military were scent back home; business between Eland the United States thrived almost with a pause.
The subject was one the founders had more access to than my age does. They knew about Julius Caesar’s ideas that empires could be stabilized by giving all the colonies home rule and political control of domestic affairs by a local potentate in the pocket of Rome. Oddly the British empire did not take up this side of Julius Caesar’s assessments until 1945.
Currently if one wants to watch a fairly unbiased and measured offering of the news in America one has to repair to the four great English newspapers or the BBC. F one wants an education in the Liberal Arts one is going to find oneself in the presence of provincial advocates of English culture.
This isn’t to criticize England or English culture and its penetrations at all. If it outdoes the local products, it deserves our attention. I am merely saying that as a consequence American culture doesn’t have prestigious distributors, promoters or analyzers of any legitimacy. In fact African culture is, particularly in music, often a slightly criminal enterprise.
Aeschylus in The Persians, written around the same time as the Peloponessian War, says that a band of free men with something to defend is going to prevail ene militarily over a huge force of men with no other real motivation in war but to survive it. Aeschylus goes on to say that it is pride in the souls of the leaders of the huge force that prevents them from seeing what Nature puts plainly before them. 2500 years later there is nothing really more or new to say about the matter than to agree with Aeschylus’ analyses.
The advantages of colonial revolutions to the parties losing any political power over these regions should never be underestimated. The homeland stops bleeding trying to contort a populace that doesn’t want them as their governors. They also don’t have to pay or man a standing army to run their schemes and portent their profits. The instruments and mechanics of commerce between the home state and the former colony has different visible leaders but remains the same.
It could be said that China became another kind of colony when it broke with the West. It mooed it colonists over to manufacture instead of export of raw materials and paid them better without giving them more freedom. Certainly the penetration of Germany and Japan of a good deal of the world economy after their politicians and armies lost a war is a sign that states and commerce sumptuous pull in different directions. During the American Revolution Edmund Burke thought the independence of the United States s a good idea and said so. He would have had different response from the state had he avoided an internal revolt like by someone like Cromwell. Many of us like parents happy to see children to into the world as adults might feel some relief when their colonies revolt and leave them.
All this being sad the interests of politicians and oligarchies in the same country tend to be at odds in ways that rarely surface among them overtly. Businesses though they claim otherwise don’t ever have a national allegiance. They can be anywhere. They might be happy to have a national army as their allies as they had in the British empire. They operate for profit, for change, not to maintain an order. Since they need to generate wealth they have a dynamism a state finds presumptively threatening to its stability.
Producing such lucre isn’t always a naked draft of the polloi to come common intent of the rich. Many people in loosely run of Socialist centrist have made a fortune out of illegitimate commerce or from nurturing the energies of the poor.
Millennia later than the days of Thucydides one can see the different pulls of businesses and politicians in the 21st century most dramatically in Chinese political expansion into areas where nobody in the populace wants them. They do what states did in Egypt many thousands of years ago with the same vain result. They import a managerial class of their own people to the area. They oppress everybody else.
After an inevitable revolt in which the oppresses really have little to lose by being defeated militarily the managerial class is isolated and sometimes even exterminated in the locale. Then the same businesses are run with comparable profit by another managerial class who are paid by the once colony, not the mainland elites. In same cases like the Vietnam-American conflict the long term result is an expansion of businesses that could not have happened before or during the failed African war to keep Vietnam a Western colony.
Noam Chomsky once said that “America has colonized itself.” By that he meant that the United States had treated its own internal populace as if they were colonists without a franchise. It’s an argument that can be made very persuasively if one takes up the presumption that led German and Japan to have the economic power they now have without any military means. If one controls the food supply and perceived means of survival of a given population one really doesn’t have to take up such brute means as military conquest and occupation as more ancient empires did. One’s enemies do the work for one.
Gore Vidal suggested that Abraham Lincoln had eased the United States into an empire from a republic. I think it would be more accurate to say that the South was as much a commercial empire as the North. Both were embedded in global operations that involved aspirates of goods to places of consumption and intermediate manufacture all over the world. The destination of the cotton from the South was often the Cottswolds in England. The markets for the finished product of English tailors of various kinds were worldwide.
John Calhoun pointed out that there wasn’t much difference between chattel and wage slavery in the 1850s. One had a choice as a blue collar worker in the North of moving to another town of course; yet that bit of organization was usually build around factories no matter what place one traveled to. We had in my youth many such urbias: Detroit for cars, Corning for glass works, Richmond for tobacco, all the university and prison towns and so on. Some businesses even build towns from scratch around their commerce. As soon san humans organize their citizens around one central activity the same monopolistic things happen.
Some of the struggles between republicans and imperialist in the United States have been ignored or been marginalized in common perception since the Civil War. When I was a kid most areas of the United States ate or bought local produce. Compared to these time they really asked very little from any central organization much less the state. They didn’t travel or move around much. If one has people moving every three ears on the average one doesn’t have a community to defend.
In the 21st candor one can travel into the Amazon as I have and see little villages with straw roofs and television antennas. If the people in those huts are hooked to watching television they are as dependent on the people that provide haem with that amusement as some bears are hooked on bamboo.
If they have shortened the length of their observation of their environment, they have curtailed by repairing to such entertainments their perceptual sense of place and ho they respond to it; they are comparatively limited and ignorant in a way it never way without these equivocal consolations of technology. The founders in a way lived twice as long at least as much current Americans because they didn’t spend their waking hours savoring these or any other passive amusements. It made the citizens of that time generally wiser than our age usual is.
One of the estates along with political leaders and business of the current age is the media franchise among us. Military, political and bases operations are organizations not all that different from media enterprises. They all involve bringing in and tethering by bribes, force or seduction a group of people to come common intent or embrace some reality. When one has a population as we do now that watches television eight hours a day on the average they are citizens that are as much resonating to some fiction on the tube as they are to anything in Nature.
Then as with the political and commercial estates the media evolve their leaders and champions of their estates against their rivals.
Each of these social organizations has its inherent problems and weakness. A republic is probably the most stable of all political enterprises. Still as we can see in the Roman Republic a class that comes from commercial success that has a surfeit of wealth or the allegiance of a military force as did Pampa or Julius Caesar is likely to undermine the republic by any means it can.
Empires cannot hold their colonists to any loyalty. Without leaders, champions and manifestos the interest of any group is to be autonomous of all other groups.
Since the aim of the media citizenry is to do nothing somebody else has to do something to keep them alive. For this reason alone media citizens will never be sympathetic to the life of a republic. They must have a slave state somewhere to keep them extant.

Ten Visions Of America

When I was a kid the notion that one should want to live optimally in the suburbs behind a lawn was vended in volume to the gulls as The American Dream. On the basis of this supposed hunger to have such a cloistered existence, hundreds of millions of innocents went into debt and were effectively netted in a juggernaut of sorts that give them jobs and white collar actions on those jobs they defined as sops to the Leviathan to pay for that lie.
Whether in fact it was the American dream or should have been is of course an etude in hilarity.
Hugh hefter had another vision of the American dream he pitched in the 1950s. It included a swimming pool. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had another one, never in a league with Hefner’s for popularity..
On a short list I would count at least nine major visions of America that have come up from the Black Lagoon. None of them can to their own rue either run the country nor decisively destroy any of the other ones. One can associate the Founders with some of these very diverse notions. They are:

1. America as a decentralized country dominated by local righters.

2. America as moderate socialist country run by a big government filled with entitlement.

3. America as an oligarchy and empire run by business people, stock investors and invisible power brokers.

4. America as a Christian evangelical country, a base for Christianity to conquer the world..

5. America as a free popular republic governed by a culture and politics that comes up from the vulgar bottom.

6. America as a genteel aristocracy of gnostic and the fey, a nation that never should have rebelled from England.

7. America as a refuge for escapades from the tyrannies of England the world. A caroler to this vision is the movement westward to the Pacific coast and beyond if possible of people who don’t want to be ruled or told how to live their lives by any law or any centralized authority.

8. America as a center of utterly organized gourmand life around consoling secular pleasure. This includes suburbs, shopping malls, supervised childhoods and federally controlled schools.

9. America as a pale to cure mysterious disorders and lunacies darkening in the human psyche by muscling “sick” people into a Orwellian benign forced therapy.

10. We should let scurvy work be done by machines and indulge our curiosity.

Obviously all of the these notions but the one of refuge are in some sense autocratic and each other’s natural enemies, even the decentralized one. Local rights after all on the evidence has meant local power to legitimize slavery or sometimes to deprive its constituency of a choice of whether or not they want to sip a glass of beer.
If the sanctified charter of the country, the American Constitution, is clearly on the side of decentralization and local power, the temporary failures of that cause currently without effect champions has produced in its wake a plethora of centralized remedies for the follies of local life and family authority in the once sainted hearth. The history of the United States is in one sense a tale of the bases, forays, assaults, defeats, and corruptions of all of these nine causes. They all have their land bases and champions. They also have a history of having real power in some places along with a distressing memory of the corruptions that had set in when they had that power.
If we look to our founders for optimal directions in the welter of these scuffling cadres and their separate journeys we are going to find some disagreeable blurs tainting our analysts. These after all were matters the Constitutional Convention delegates were arguing about in Philadelphia in 1790. Only George Washington finally managing that convention saved them from chaos and a lack of ever settling on a Constitution at all. The notion of implied powers that Hamilton brought up opened an argument again that was never really resoled in those acrimonious and pugnacious Philadelphia debates.
Much of the history of the United States has been as a consequence a story of ascents to power and usurpations that have never been articulated by anyone on any side. We can caned the very few like Gore Vidal who noted that the United States changed from a republic to an empire without a vote, with no debate on whether it should continue to have the central freedoms plainly franchised to the locals and individuals in the country by the Constitution.
The polities of the nation practiced in my lifetime was usually visibly about the venoms and follies of the enemies of whoever was championing some cause. They were always short on or vague about solutions to these infamies. The various right wing attempts to limit civil liberties were always done in the name of protecting our country from godless Communism. Terre was no overt or even covert threat to the United States from this odious alien Communism, but for the very reason that imaginary assaults could be invented, they did very well for these cabals as their foes.
As Voltaire jibed facetiously, if Communism didn’t exist its enemies would have had to invent it. There is nothing alien or even godless about wanting to escape from slavery. Whether starving to death in wage slavery or being in chains from its late Confederate cattle version with simple legal indenture, all life down to microbes is fashioned to elude any autocracy.
The lack of conscious reflection in American politics went back a long way before my lifetime. In the end the Civil War was about not wanting silvery, as much as it was about the rule of plantation owners over slaves producing raw material for the manufacture of goods in Europe; it wasn’t a conscious shift in direction from a slave state to a republic.
The New Deal was a disguised moderate socialism that wore pragmatic garb, claiming never to have an ideology. It wafted out that it was a superficial instrument to solve problems with proper agencies, dilemmas created by others who did have an oligarchical Social Darwinist ideology. In fact the New Deal did have an ideology. It had a faith that human life should be cherished. That belief isn’t at all self evident and was clearly not held by everyone on the planet.
My own feeling is that though there is never a winner in this fracas, the champions of decentralized life and limited government can at least never be defeated, can never even be checked in having some franchise in America, whether legal or illegal. In spite of what Hegel and Marx or for that matter Hitler said, politics isn’t about resolutions of any kind. It is about scuffling between social systems organized by Nature and those fashioned by the human will. One of my left wing friends put it another way: he says, all good things come from the bottom.
This is not entirely true. There are many cultures that have never evolved an economy or politics that gives people more than bare survival or not even that. They don’t produce any government that values limited rule and nurtures freedom. Sometimes as in post war Japan history such a leap that benefited everybody in Japan came not from the bottom but from purely external means: loss of a war, unconditional surrender, invasion, a forced democracy.
The loud and apparently effectively actions and noises that come from autocracies in the short run can do anything. In the long run any tyranny grows old and weary. Nature never does; it is ageless and deathless. That is why the cause of freedom can never be defeated for long. It’s also why as Jefferson put it we lived in a world of perpetual revolutions.

The Uses Of The Past

I wonder whether any even centra to human history has ever been less analyzed by the beneficiaries of these global influence and perilous actions than the American Revolution. When I was in public schools I did hear a simple and echoic version of the American Revolution as a departure from English autocracy and then a series of battles to achieve independence and freedom. We were in the middle of Word War Two.
Many Americans were risking their lives to defend America against fascism. The Irish Catholic teachers had presented the American revulsion to kids had been themselves as second class citizens by the resident English-descended oligarchy that ran the country. In Ireland they could remembered England w hanging Irish dissenters in their lifetime. Nobody mentioned in these lessons about our founders that the populace had very good personal reasons to rebel from colonialism or a lot of help from the French.
My childhood was not a time in which anybody asked or answered a lot of questions abut anything. Only the American army stood between us and Hitler. We studied the American Revolution much as we took in arithmetic.
There was a copy of the famous crossing of Washington of the Delaware river on the wall of my school; he looked very iconic and noble.
That was the last time I heard about the America revolution in our scholastic institutions. I went through Junior High School Hag School and college without anyone once mentioning that America had a revolution. Several years later I took a Masters Degree without anybody letting on that this revolution had happened either. Never during this time had anybody discuses what freedom means or might men to anyone in a deep way or at all. Whatever freedom was, it was better than living under Hitler or Tojo.
Sometimes in my maternity I would read in passing some historian claim in a literate journal that we were a Hamiltonian country with a Jeffersonian vision. Nobody refers to the founders of the American Revolution as a trodden from which we might glean any wisdom. If they were mentioned at all they were patronized as naifs who had founded a little contra of three million pele nearly two centuries before our more sophisticated mortality. They were mired in a past which had been a rural fairway wilderness without roads.
Actually George Washington ad looked over my own Brooklyn during that war. He had fought a few battles from his Brooklyn base. He has frequented Fraunce’s Tavern across the river. He was closer to my generation both in place and notions of self rule than any of the European monarchs we studied in school or any of the priests of that continent on the other side of the world. The founders had been quietly buried by the very people whom the revolutionaries had given a second chance, a life of opportunity to live out one’s character or at least escape hopeless Old World penury, a chance as was Washington called “self rule.”
I can appreciate that I was a kid being schooled by adults who were right to claim the authority they ad to educate me. In fact the Irish Catholic educational machine w the last ethical set of educators in New York City and many another place in America. They have a lot to be proud of. Some of them like John J. McNeil were even philosophers. Of course they came from a background that didn’t think much of the idea that freedom was an opportunity to take up waste and vice. At least they weren’t spineless and empty.
Rather than focus on what should be a disturbing lack of information among our citizenry abut our American revolution, our founders and the uses of the past in the present, I’d rather take up Jefferson’s notion of America as not so much a land but an idea. When he weighed against the “monarchial tendencies” in the Washington administration and talked of history as “perpetual revolution” or spoke in the Declaration of Independence about the hunger from freedom having what we weld call a biological program in all human beings, it’s clear that Jefferson didn’t think that once the American revolution was over and England vanquished everyone could go home and as if they were still living under the same circumstances. Freedom meant for the populace that they were exiting under conditions other than the monarchial one of some rule and ruler with elaborate plans for all of us.
If the America revolution meant anything at all to the founders for whom once it was their present, it was acing on an idea that their action didn’t age as a response to tyranny, whistled merely for their time. They took some of this idea form the Bible. The Jews left Egypt only to make kingdom of their own with the vices of monarchy.
Jefferson in his own hand made copy of the Bible looked as Jesus and his disciples as earthly social reformers. That w a nice w of saying they were revolutionaries like himself.
I would say that if Jefferson is right abut human nature the last thing we should expect is that the American Revolution ended in the 1770 and was finally put to rest or static triumph with the acceptance of the Constitution.
It should be plain to anyone with eyes in their head that sell rule is not the intent or the practice of America right now. If anything it is avoid to take up all the direction the founders found odious. It is the capital of global money speculation. It has had after the 50s a certain disdain for hard physical work. It has been involved politically in all manner of imperial excursions Washington had warned against, a Roman policy typical of any empire. It’s notion of opportunity is a mechanism for orchestrating human action to act in certain ways defined by others, even to be amused by steel jacketed fare from these same sources.
In many ways it isn’t too different than the English monarchy and its empire the founders once had rebelled against. In one way it is very different: the English right through the Victorian and Edwardian era, from Rupert Brooke and Cecil Rhodes to the days of Winston Churchill always were very conscious they were running an empire. They wanted to run it. The peaceful socialist revision in England of the 1940s under Atlee never quite let go of the empire and embraced the case of the common people unnatural either. To this day England still has a royal class. England may have walked away from its empire with some courtesy and honor but after being bled white by the Second World War it has had little choice except whether to leave the lands of Hottentots quiet or retreat from them after a picked battle with assorted locals all over the pallet as the French did.
During that empire there were many dissenters. From the low Protestant though Keats, Byron and Shelley, through Charles Dickens and George Orwell, these naysayers who were honored as respectable skeptics about the value of the imperium by England. None of them were tried for treason.
If one follows Jefferson’s line of though everybody who doesn’t act in a legitimate way in a tyranny is a potential enemy of the state. The more clear the despotism is, the more vigorous the despot, the more dramatically the dissidents are defined in a polar way as its enemies. Only with a several diffusion of power to local communities and individuals can one avoid that venomous counterpoint between the king and the populace.
If we had a government that honored our Constitution we weld be thinking of who are our friends and enemies in America because they have different ways they would like to live their lives. The Constitution says very explicitly that power is given to governments by the common people. The clear aim of the Constitution is to keep power in the hands of states, cements and individuals, to have as few laws and restrictions as passible consonant with survival and effectiveness in limited ways of a government at all. It wasn’t about organizing people to have acceptable or even delightful work and amusements.
Such a direction in centralized politics whether government or corporate in its origin, doesn’t even bring to the table a way of life based on self rule. On the other hand if we honor Jefferson’s insights into organization and its dissenters is a battle that is going to be with us forever “under a thousand names.”
In my own lifetime I lived for about twenty years under a moderately fascistic semi-military organization of America overt enough down to having ROTC on most college campuses. The 50s, a rule of hardly severe fascism in peacetime, were some of the angriest times I have ever seen. The 60s was a general rebellion from this autocratic regime that were we to apply Jefferson’s ideas was inevitable.
Many people including myself who certainly had a wonderful time in the 60s said it was a revolution that was more effective in what despotisms it was against, clearing away venomous notions about pleasure, but not much good at nurturing the community and individual life that sustains any country. Of course the 60s was better materially in volume for all than any other political life elsewhere.
I think had we more of a knowledge of our founders and heir ideas we would have done better in the 60s as a reforming force. Instead the 60s was filled with assorted Asiatic ideas that came from worldly that had no notion of freedom whatsoever. It’s understandable why these Asiatic cultures would advocate renunciation n indifference to physical reality. If we were beggars and slaves we all might find that Asiatic belief attractive. In a situation where the ability to change one’s situation is hopeless that might be a sensible consolation for some people. In a world where a technology can generate material wealth in volume, vault huge classes of people out of material poverty it is inapplicable to the conditions of those who looked to such cults for succor.
If anything reenunciation and a belief that reality is illusion, true or not, is a belief in the interest of autocrats
Whether or not we can elude the cycles of perpetual revolution depends on how much each of us individualist have better things to do than to be organized.
One of the overlooked elements in Jefferson’s idea of perpetual revolution is never looked at too closely by any autocrat. It is that what is stifled by legitimate authority operates with freedom ad vigor illicit without much trouble. In many ways an illicit life and illicit commerce is considerably more free than a legitimate one.
Most of what calls itself reform or potential change in American politics these days is merely adapting the nature of the organized tyrannies in some more attractive way. Freedom begins when we ask ourselves what we want to do with our lives when we aren’t part of any organization at all.
Back in the 1770s Thomas Jefferson said: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal, are endowed by their Creator to take up life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” If these axioms are self evident as he said Jefferson must have met a lot of inept and worse people who had some class stature, good looks and money as well as many more commonly restless spirits who hoped to take up some pilgrimages as some peril to find whatever felicity in the world they could garner.
How one interprets Jefferson’s Euclidean movement ala Aristotle forward from his initial set of axioms might be only different in its details in the present. We all know plenty of people corrupted even in their sense of their value by their money or power. We also know ruefully from our own lives if we aren’t at the bottom of our realm that happiness doesn’t come from money, power, amusement or good health. It may even be unattainable.
Yet we are never going to have a lack of people who are looking for it.

A Few Principles of Freedom

The discussion of what it might take to have a free society seems to have closed down the 1820s around the time of the last years of the founders of this country. It doesn’t have to stay closed.

1. The disciplines of freedom require a tremendous amount of durance, indulgence and tolerance of people whom one doesn’t agree with on all or any subjects. Anybody can accept freedom in people we like or whose notions are congenial to us. We have to live instead if we value freedom with a certain consistent irritability if we are to widen our scope of acceptability to those who seem perverse, wrong or inexplicable to us.

2. One way to relate to those folks one may not like is to emulate George Washington’s skill at being silent and keeping his own counsel whenever he could. Another stratagem is Franklin Roosevelt’s tactic of seeming to agree with everybody in person yet suggesting they were both involved in some sort of vague criminal conspiracy about which they should be discreet.
Unless one has some means of convincing others that at least one will respect and honor them over a wide palette of actions and opinions one really can’t run the broad organized mechanics of a free country.

3. Unfortunately the case for what Jefferson called ward politics and general decentralization was utterly gutted early on in American history by the South’s insistence on pushing slavery at a legitimate part of a free country. The absurdity and impossibility not to mention the morality of such a contention seems to have been lost utter on the South.
Probably George Washington would have included the Fourteenth Amendment in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1789 if he hadn’t been afraid the whole document would never pass a vote. As it was it barely passed nine to three. The founders after all including Washington were all Abolitionists.

4. One can garner from this still suppurating wound in American hopes for democracy and freedom that any legal inequality whatever among its citizens is going to lead to a loss of general freedom. Whether this inequality is between men and women, pele of various skin colors, nepotistic ruling families, rich, middle and poor it will always lead to the same result.

5. As soon as the legal system denies equality and franchise to act freely most of us among humanity are gaging to figure out other ways to get those boons. We don’t have to look further to the disasters of Prohibition, lack of accolade for women, slavery, definition of fathers as visitors or exiles, laws against some personal taste in pleasure, and outworkers running by seductive easy credit to figure that out.

6. Freedom is not always or even often a harvest of democratic politics. Voltaire remarked often that the English had more freedom than the French did though political the English were ruled by a monarchy. Many Americans have been amazed at the freedom in both France and England. When a culture pushes for freedom its power is stronger than any politics.

7. One can’t have any kind of supposedly benign autocratic rule and legitimate freedom at the same time. The fewer areas of life rulers feel they must govern, the more free the society will be.

8. Freedom doesn’t eliminate evil and injury; it can at its best sequester injuries to others to isolated personal actions rather than bring some fashionable desalter to everybody with the force of a regime that calls some action or opinion treason or a crime.

9. The great philosophers of freedom of the 19th centra included Montaigne, Descartes Montescquieu and de Sade as well as Locke and Hume. Ultimate audacity of thought has been a french quality for many centuries. In my lifetime it was at the core of the philosophies of Sartre, Camus and Foucault.

10. Our own philosophers of freedom like Emerson and Thoreau are honored as icons but never taken seriously by a country whose economy tends to be autocratic in its organization with pail in the middle taking discreet wads of money, folks at the bottom unable to produce a different model for survival.

11. Until we are old or wise enough to examine our own imperfections we should be overly hard on the limitations and vices of people of the past. It is true that all of the founders were imperfect. Yet the future is going to look as us with no more sympathy on the ways our own time did injury to its citizens.

12. One of the ways some people in the 18th century thought a free society might work is if a group of aristos who were economically untouchable or unbribable could run the government in some soot of Senate. They were of course thinking of Athens and Rome. In fact probably many Mediterranean states had that system including Carthage. It’s an unfortunate model. They were all slave states.

13. Sometimes thee absence of something is as significant as the presence of something else.

14. Jefferson unlike Hamilton felt this aristocracy would be not local toffs but the common people. The trouble with that direction is that common people often don’t organize well even for their own shared interests. They do better as allusive rogues. The strengths and weaknesses of the common people have made our country what it is.

15. One should never underestimate the power and adaptability of autocracy in ruling people nor the equal power and adaptability of the populace to avoid that rule.

16. Often the outlanders who bring innovation to a country are more desperate than the ones who don’t. There are always going to be among any group a cadre of people who can meat any challenge. Their contribution to life might prove one to a satanic argument for inequality.

17. The more subtle despotisms of the West after the naked autocracies of Hitler and Stalin in my day are much more sophisticated in their armature to manage tyranny than the monarchs of a few centuries ago. Nobody claims anymore they know how to run other people’s lives better than their citizen do themselves but a few aging therapists.

18. Nobody anymore defines the populace as prey, gulls or cattle. The Great Slave Revolt of 1789 has demonstrated even to kings and priests that those are no loaner positions any ruler can waft at his faithful.

19. These autocrats run mildly pleasurable distractions to the point of undermining the ability of the citizenry to accomplish anything in their waking hours. One can abandon one’s exigence in a sea of delight.
They stage raucous debates between causes either of which have no effect on most people at all. They run synthetic celebrities at the public as heros about whom one is supposed to feel love or enmity because they have been touted as one’s champions or mortal antagonists.
They fill the media with events and people that may not exist. If the result is a dramatic loss of predication of anything they can always import goods form other regimes more transparently enslaving their populace, not notably involved in inspiring people to do nothing.

20. If the means of despotism can be concealed the effects of a tyranny apparently can’t be hidden. If we live in a time and place that aims at and achieves the values of absolute rule we can always discern it by its harvests. Parodies of freedom or synthetic liberty is never gong to be perceived by too many people as real freedom.

21. Freedom is linked to the inexplicable and the unknown. As Carlyle says the unknown and innovative in Creation comes to us through the effects of one individual. It can’t be managed like a football team. If the innovation isn’t buried with its makers as treason or a felony or done way with by a discreet murder it is looked at after a while as a possible means of profit. It still is an unknown change.

22. There is never going to be a lack of such novelties and innovators. What changes from time to time is only the means by which rulers can or cannot make them criminal or unreal.

23. A life lived within an organization is to some degree not ones own chosen existence and sets one in a direction of embracing other men’s disasters.

24. A life in the wilderness is a tradeoff from dependence on a despotism. Animals in a zoo often live longer than any in the wild; they don’t live the life they want.
A Short History of Freedom

1

When I was a kid the history of anything that happened to humanity was taught to myself and my generation as the story of kings and priests organizing people do do things that might or might not be to their common interests. I suppose some of this view of history came from the Irish Catholic teachers who had most of the jobs in the public schools. I’m not knocking these stalwarts. They were some of the best teachers I had.
They were honorable people who probably gave Brooklyn kids their last chance at getting an education worthy of them. God bless them. Then we had an invasion n the schools of Dewey social workers who claimed they wanted to be our friends. I wish those Irish Catholic teachers could have run the whole of our American schools.
Still there is a lot more to history and what happened in the past than kings and priests putting people into harness or intellectuals dissenting from these autocrats and influencing rebellions from these juggernauts.
We probably think of the 15th and 16th century in Europe as a time of mass rebellions from authority. I don’t think that is an accurate portrait of the times. Both king and priests really had little power over their citizens unless the peasants were in the close vicinity of the palaces or temples. As long as one didn’t organize oneself to usurp their titular authority a peasant or artisan in the 15th century was as free as ordinary people are in a free republic of the present. How free that might be is worth our attention. However given the lack of means of control of everybody and everything by despots and manipulators of public opinion not to mention seductive offers of jobs by clever pitchmen, the amount of freedom one had then and the enemies one had to avoid hasn’t changed.
The intellectual development of arguments for freedom was primarily a 17th century English phenomenon aided by the hunger of the late Henry the Eighth in the previous century to it for a legitimate divorce. Henry’s distaste for his wife at the time and desire to many another mate led him to break with the Catholic Church, an organization that had many strong ideas about how human beings should act not only during their life but before and after death. Once Henry Eight made that political break it freed many thinkers who weren’t kings or priests but who had privately always beleivi3d in freedom and a much large population all over the Earth of nations and individuals not controlled by the Vatican or other autocracies to take up their personal directions in life with less discretion.
If the Protestant movement began formally with martin Luther’s denial of any authority over him by any worldly power and his right to think and do anything as long as the Bible didn’t contradict or forbid it, the lines of battle were dawn clearly enough. Yet Martin Luther, who founded European Protestant beliefs almost in passing was hardly an example of the Tory philosopher shrugging at the vanity of human beings with a tolerant sigh. Luther, who flourished at the end of the 15th and early 16th century was a fierce, choleric and vituperative man often as severe and ready to kill his enemies as the Vatican he rebelled from. He had a sympathy for the peasants since they were human beings, but was no revolutionary in their cause to free themselves from princes.
Though Luther founded his faith on books written about Jews by Jews, he was very intemperate about the existence of Jews still extant in his time. He regarded them s one of many blasphemous sects inspired by the devil, beyond descendents of those skeptical rejections of the divinity of Jesus. He was to be fair to him as polemical and incendiary about Catholics, Antinomians and all the other dissenters of various sorts from his personal beliefs. As much as Luther is seen by some s precursors of Nazi Anti-Semitism Luther didn’t single out Jews for his incendiary disdain. He said as many unpleasant things about other groups he regarded as inspired by Satan.
To be fair to Luther, he was one beleaguered by enemies, one who almost was executed by the Catholic Church for his opinions. He had courage and honor. He had a lot of reason to hate and fear the Catholic Church besides their selling of indulgences .Luther saw other autonomous groups as rivals. He came from an age that was not notable for tolerance or valuing diversity.
As a result it is a long way from Martin Luther and his world populated by demons to the Enlightenment. In the 16th century people were executed by the princes and prelates of that age for translating the Bible. Even if Luther had had a different and less sanguine character it wouldn’t have made sense to him, trying to erect one version of Christianity in Saxony, to give any respect to anybody else who had any other religious ideas.
This is a way of thinking that should be familiar to us. We all know people of Luther’s temperament. They haven’t disappeared from the Earth after the 16th century. Modern thinking like Hellenic philosophy is based on a study of Nature. It inhabits a different world than the premise that Creation is to be simplified or piously purified by benign force and seduction. It takes Nature as a basis for its assumptions. It is usually a discipline that produces more complicated and morally indifferent unsentimental explanations of anything than Luther ever wanted to embrace.
We can look at Hobbes, Jefferson, Baudelaire, Kropotkin, Freud, Andre Breton and Jung and find they all begin with what they think are self evident axioms describing the natural world. Luther sincerely thought Creation was run by or influenced by the devil. He wasn’t concerned with making an alliance with Satan.
Luther was a man in the right place at the right time rather than an adept politician. He had a land base to repair to that could not be conquered by his enemies. That essentially military issue was dealt with in subsequent times by the Spanish Armada, the Huguenot civil wars and so on. To this day some parts of rural France remains locked in its autocratic religious beliefs in a world of institutions Luther had rebelled from. In fact a good part of the planet is still fundamentalist. It doesn’t care about honor rig or getting along with Nature.
A good politician is always on cordial and civil terms with his enemies. He never badmouths them privately if publicly he may excoriate them. He knows that to produce any peace and room for action undeterred by his enemies he will have to sit down and cut a deal with some of them. perhaps all of them. He never wants any foe to think he is decisive and incorruptible That isn’t a description of Martin Luther.
Luther had been a monk, a law student, a writer with Aristotle and reason, and had had at least two tutors early on who taught him the value of skepticism about any opinions in the world. One of the reasons he dismissed Aristotle as that he felt reason wasn’t an ally of faith. Of course that is true. He lo denied that a virtuous life could redeem anybody. To enter Heaven they needed the salvation offered by Jesus. In various ways Luther seems much more medieval than anyone who inspired the Enlightenment or the largely Deistic founders of the United States.
Yet he agreed with his tutors that observation even when denied by books is usually more accurate than anything one might read. He also in translated the Bible, various prayers and articles of faith, tried to tailor his own beliefs to reading of common people of these books. Luther even read the Koran. He was not one more medieval bigot. He advised one of this patrons, the princely Philip of Marburg to lie about his second wife. He wasn’t a simple man, he certainly had a formidable intellect, and can’t be dismissed as a thinker.
Yet if one believes as he, Calvin and perhaps Paul the Apostle did that life can only be justified by faith, not works, one has to live with the obvious excesses of such an opinion. People who have no morals,are ruled by a hunger to do injury to others and even go out of their way to be nasty to all, can be redeemed by God if they sincerely accept that the late Jesus is their savior. Luther does does that the ten Commandments is an optimal moral system for a Christian and is not totally insensitive to the crudities in his doctrine, but Luther’s the medieval belief that repentance at the and of one’s life for one’s sins after a life of doing damage to all and sundry satisfies God.
There are many other sways Luther’s beliefs tend to be indefensible nonsense enriched by his defense of them ; I’m not writing about Martin Luther in this book as other than major precursor of the ideas of the founders he would have found edicts of Satan. Luther did say that humanity when saved does not need a priesthood, that freedom of the individual from intellectual despotism is preferable than being ruled by folks who know more about who to live our lives than we do ourselves. That set of notions all by themselves set Europe and then the Americas on a course in which presumptively any organization that tries to control the beliefs and actions of anybody about anything is wrong or at least ineffectual in its efforts. Luther of course would have attribute such actions to Satan. We can dispense with those colorful demonology and its savage polemical tone but as much as Luther was in some way a champion of princes, he was also sometimes an anarchist. In the end he made up his own mid about everything.
Luther never escaped the medieval way of thinking that affirms ones own opinion are correct, righteous and the will of god, also assumes that anybody else with different notions is inspired by the devil or some sort of deep criminal a pious man needs to be exterminated, preferably by an Inquisition and auto da fe. Still his assertion that ordinary people don’t have to take their notions of sanity assumptions from a head priest but their opinions are rooted in personal surmises and hopefully the sense of honor to affirm them is the beginning if a paltry one of the general modern assumption that human beings have the right to make up their minds about what is real and sane I all matters. It is hardly the harvest Luther had aimed for but it was in the end his chief legacy to the modern world.

2

It’s a wonderful a paradox that a divorce by a horny and lonely English king, a rebellion led by a vituperative former monk and the lack of force to quell such rascals the Vatican could muster from invading England with the Spanish Armada to raising an army north of the Alps to keep the rabble in chick in Germany. In France the same conflicts provoked a state of civil war. The further away one was from the Vatican physically the more opportunities for freedom one had. Yet the philosophy of valuing freedom one only for one person, in Montesquieu phrase, but for everybody was slow is escaping from a European religion that asserted there was only one set of proper actions and beliefs. Many of the arguments in European history haven’t been about freedom but which of those cults and despotic opinions one might hold publicly without being jailed and executed. Fascism isn’t about scooping out the brains of people as much as it is an instrument to stop them from saying what they think aloud or organizing people to agree with them .
For this reason it isn’t Luther but Hobbes and Locke along with several other English and Scots philosophers who are the founders of the intellectual premises for valuing freedom. As much as Hobbes felt freedom was the liberty to live a nasty,brutish and short existence in the wilderness, he set up the questions of Locke’s argument that politics was at bottom a social contract. Conspicuous in its absence in Hobbes is any claim such as one might find in Luther that human beings were living in a medieval world haunted by both angels and devils. Hobbes and 20th century psychologists like Sigmund Freud occupy the same world. Hobbes and Freud would have understood each other.
One should say again that conspicuously left out of this intellectual history populated largely by educated people is the general biological hunger to be adults and act freely that Jefferson talks about. We shouldn’t think as Luther said about himself and the Popes he hated asserted as well that human beings in any time and place listen to these savants, either followed them or dismissed them. It’s rather that people art the bottom have a lot of waking hours to observe the world of nature and have their own opinions about the Creation they are living in.

4
Often changes in human politics are articulated by some clever people at the top; they can’t become manifest without a concordance of approving opinion from the bottom. We can only speculate about the opinions of the peasantry in Europe over these centuries but it seems likely as Jefferson says that most, perhaps all human beings, want the freedom to take up life, liberty and the perhaps tragic pursuit of happiness. what her or not savants, king,s priests and scholars have the same opinions is not s central to political change as what the common people think and do.
It might be a weakness of a despotism in the use of force that promotes freedom as much as anybody who is a champion of individual liberty. One would argue that if the Vatican discovered the means to quell their dissenters the modern west never would have happened.
One might also argue that given the weariness of all despotisms after a while that one day if not another some group of people are going to fashioned a mode of politics in which freedom is legitimate. As Jefferson says nobody can rid humanity of its hunger for liberty. The only question is whither or not the hunger for freedom will be legitimate or criminal.
If one might think these issues dis speared discreetly in the 17th and18th century one might consider how much Al Smith was opposed by many Americans because as a Catholic he would supposedly take orders from Rome, and how similar accusations were made against John F. Kennedy.
From Luther to George Washington’s time the Church when it had power in a nation never backed away from controlling its belief systems and owning much of its land. When out of power the Church to this day positions itself as much as it can as a compassionate and humanistic voice. It knows from its own experience how much one will hear such arguments from the powerful. However when in power it is never loathe to use it to try to control people any more than any other autocracy ever does. That is Nature. . Such a fear of the Church dominates subsequent ways of talking bout freedom in the next few centuries. Even in places where the Church was not franchised to take up such rule most Europeans and Americans are loathe to make an articulate case for freedom. That does mean people don’t make such an advocacy to themselves privately. One can glean from looking at the United States, France, England, Germany before Hitler, and Russia before Lenin and Stalin that these men were hardly there for many people to choose to take up their natural liberties. Various philosophical cases for freedom have been made by Milton, Jefferson, Kropotkin, Bakunin and Camus; they are hardly the only ones in their cultures who have articulated this argument. that thy did it in print distinguishes them. Milton finds it a moral virtue to be free. Jefferson, Kropotkin, Bakunin, Hobbes and Locke find a biological reason in Nature to embrace freedom.
In ll cases one might be surprised by an absence of reference of nearly all these parties to the Torah: the central document of the Jews which makes the first case for freedom in our extant world literature. The Torah never mentions faith. God may have brought one out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, but plainly one doesn’t have to believe that he did it to honor the Ten Commandments. Luther in his system was honoring the first two of those commandments though he replaced God with Jesus. Luther had his problems with God; he said so honestly. He was more comfortable with Jesus. Jesus was to him more like Martin Luther than God was. One can understand this. God in the Bible usually stays out of human affairs and contentions. Jesus is a moral reformer. Like Luther he is the maker of a new way of thinking about morals decocted from an old one.

5

It would be untrue to claim that Hobbes and Locke derived their ideas from Luther given the way people take their ideas where they find them that suit their character. Luther himself never seem to have been all that critical of the taste of the church for executing and incarcerating its dissenters. He was ready to do as much to others as the Church had tried to do it to him. Yet there is something that suggests he had a tragic sense and a notion of individual moral responsibility in his actions and thoughts that one won’t find in the Vatican. He remarks that he was responsible for the deaths of many peasant in I the German peasant wars because he had told them to lay down their arms. Luther doesn’t distinguish between writing advocacies that he hopes will be taken up by others and leading them as a general. One can see this argument about who is responsible for what going back at least to the statement in the Torah that God had hardened the heart of the pharaoh to do evil to others . as Milton says, good often springs from evil. Questions of freedom, the will, and fatalism were articulated by Luther at least in a large way as concerns that held the individual, not God, responsible for their acts. Whether God is really omnipotent or has retreated to allow freedom as Homer and Plato affirmed is a subject that concerned Calvin more than Luther.
One might find this rather intellectual way of explaining the history of articulated and legitimate freedom in the West much too deductive One might be content to say that with the military means to remove themselves from the authority of a central power Saxony and then England were able to establish their own aegis of power much as the colonies of Athens had once severed themselves from a centralized mother country. Maybe this is all we need to know.
Whatever the progress of thought might be in the West in writing with the complex subjective of freedom, one wouldn’t think such a volume of meditations could be printed or promoted too easily by a corporate or political world that given their admiration for organized life would find such a tome hardly to their interest to pass on to the populace.
Freedom is a thorny and involute subject. It can lead to the tyranny of the strong because as Aristotle said, the strong don’t need laws or charity. John Adams made a reference to that sort of dark side of freedom in his remark to Jefferson that natural inequality might be more devastating to the hopes of humanism than the artificial inequality of class. This is probably why charity is necessary to promote stable freedom. Of course charity has its excesses, much as lack of charity does. When we or Aristotle are talking about the strong we mean people who among us can organize by force or seduction the inherent oppression of any organization upon everyone but one person, as well as their physical or mental strength. that is often what the current Republican Party would define as freedom in our own present.
One of the ways he differs principally from the Enlightenment and any modern thinker as well is his claim that morals and an honorable life are not sufficient to be honored by God with the rewards of virtue. Luther’s belief in justification by faith, not works effectively separates him from the future history of the West. Modern life has no real inters in the opinions of anyone.
Before we leave Luther and his supposed influence on us it might be wroth our while to savor how little he, princes and other savants of faith had any effective rule over anybody.
Until the early 29th century princes and hierophants were not even sure who lived in areas supposedly controlled by themselves physically and mentally. Anyone with discretion and a disinclination to confront them could effectively live as they pleased by staying out of the way of an army or priesthood. Thee attempt to find out who or even what was residing in many countries in eruptive was taken up by kings who thought they might be able to tax the poor as well as the rich. Otherwise since the population was not threatening what they had garner from Nature; they had no reason to care one way or the other who was living in the vicinity but just out of view.
Luther was for his time one who was curious about the diverse run of humanity in all directions he lived with on this planet. He actually read a Latin translation of the Koran. One might imagine the legions of the powers whom Luther called the Turks were like all armies in all times and places, far away from home, perhaps liking the remote distance from their natal domiciles, wishing if anything they were even further away from them than they I fact were. Armies of this sort aren’t themselves looking for victory over infidels; they are hoping for survival. If they can attack a city they might pillage it and walk away with some provender. They don’t make forays against the poor; the poor have nothing they want from them. They live in a world much more and yet also less complicated than the corrosive and intimate corruptions of empires and cults.
The peasants in Luther’s time and our own also often inhabit a larger world than the one of literate monks and rapacious princes. In a country that is mostly a sea of poor people and their desperations the degree that instruments of what we call civilization can organizer anybody into a cohesive group is to put it politely, distressingly minimal. We might derive from this history that literacy and civilization itself is a neutrality, as ready to corrupt and stifle the spirit as to free it from powerless and general scientific ignorance.

6
The founders of this country understood freedom, argued about it, wrote about liberty in passing, but none of them produced a book that laid out the premises for their political opinions like Plato, Hobbes and Locke. Of course had they done so it would not have slowed down at all the various attacks on freedom in America over two centuries that has made the United States at once an oligarchy, an empire, and a refuge for a populace that does not talk to the oligarchical but discreet masters of the imperium.
We have a clear American Constitution which is set on the presumption of the value of limited government and personal freedom, yet a history in America of generation after generation of people in power who have promoted slavery, factory autocracy, various forms of indenture, racism, punishment for private tastes of all kinds, and a dismissal of the natural hunger for equality of women. It’s easy to write a history of the United States in which nothing but these intrusions on freedom are quoted as evidence to show that we never had a free popular republic, or if we did people with the clout to back up their politics made sure that we as a nation never gave any legitimacy to freedom or to people,refugees from autocratic places, who wanted to be left alone.
The founders seemed to assume everybody know what freedom was and what the value of limited government was. Perhaps it was more accurate to presume they knew what lack of freedom was. It was to them so self evident they didn’t bother to enunciate that it was of any utility to those who lived in the country. As a consequence there is no American Hobbes or Locke.
Hobbes would have been more accurate in his surmises were he to have said that many people if not all chose the life ruled by a monarchy or some organization over the wilderness. Daniel Boone didn’t. Mastery of the wilderness is a credential one must show in many an initiation rite. Some of humanity continually chooses the wilderness. Also sometimes one man’s monarchy is another man’s wilderness and visa versa. Beyond that the amount of obeisance anybody in a monarchy ever paid to a liege is very partial or monarchies wouldn’t be as fragile
e and volatile as they are. Certainly Hobbes who wrote as he pleased, lived with tolerable wealth and has many benefits of English life in its upper middle class realms was sensibly not about to trade in his existence for any wilderness. That is not true for other people in different circumstances.
Still Hobbes’ definition of man as one making a choice of the political world he would like to live in, and his lack of appeal to metaphysics, the primacy of interest in Hobbes’ calculations, makes him a modern philosopher with whom we in this time can all feel comfortable. We really wouldn’t know what to say to Luther’s claim that he knew what was good for all of us to think and do any more than we would want to hear such directives from the autocrats from whom Luther had rebelled successfully. We don’t want to be under house arrest for our opinions like Galileo or burnt at the stake for them piously live Bruno.
The implication in Hobbes’ Leviathan is that if one didn’t want monarchy and was willing to accept the consequences of that opinion one was perfectly well franchised by Nature to take up such an existence. Hobbes leaves out in this choice the possibility that one would like to take up neither of his direictions but become a revolutionary. Given the century and place he lived in it is a notable omission.
Hobbes is the founder in many ways of honoring personal liberty in this short history of freedom because though he was in Leviathan making a case for monarchy and organization, it rests on the premise that living in the wilderness and civilization are polar opposites, two sides of a politicians that hasn’t got a middle or arena in which one can honor the values of both directions. It seemed to Hobbes axiomatic that the wilderness only produced a life that was “nasty, brutish and short’”.
It didn’t occur to Hobbes, in many ways a wonderful genius, that in practice human beings embrace both organization and the wilderness.
Locke’s theories in his The Social Contract has both similar and other defects as a tome stating the premises of freedom or any other notion of politics. It would be naive to think that some warlord or head of a gang who hopes to terrorize a local population into coercion to his whim is acting on the basis of a social contract. One can’t have a covenant with only one party signing the agreement. It would be equally foolish to assume that the various predatory and seductive illusions of the world that systematically bribe and corrupt people into not living their lives eve in a free society are out to make a covenant with their lobotomized faithful. Folks who make corruptions of an active and independent life affordable and easy to come by are in the same business as those who try to control people by force. If the human race were made up of folks of honor and measure with nobody in it trying to beat or seduce others into dependence or slavery. Locke’s theories wold have more applicability to the real world.
The closest the founders ever came to taking up the value of freedom in their writing can be found in Jefferson’s copious letters. Still they are based on a kind of pretense that Jefferson himself in his personal life was running an other than autocratic realm. His abolitionist belief stopped and never entered his personal life. This doesn’t diminish his honesty or his perceptions; it does create a paradox for a reader of his letters ; his opinions are of one who wasn’t willing to apply his ideas to his own life.
Betides Jefferson sometimes doesn’t take his excellent arguments to their end. He says that autocracies are unstable but neglects to say specifically why they are both a ubiquity and yet doomed to fall at the hands of their enemies one day if not another one. It’s not that Jefferson doesn’t know why despotisms are weak and vulnerable. It’s that he never says apparently what everybody in his generation seemed to feel was self evident.
If it were as axiomatic as Jefferson thought it was the first half of the 20th century in the West wouldn’t have had all the intellectuals and politicians it did clamoring for some organized tyranny or other. They were all sure that the future of humanity was going to be an existence as a citizen of a modern dictatorship. The reasons why they were wrong has never been published in book or discussed in any other media either. These intellectuals and politicians overestimated the power as well as the boons of a sophisticated modern despotism. We all know why Genghis Khan’s empire fell apart a a few generations after he died. Regimes that act on pure force create rebellions among a species that is never happy being coerced to live a life that is not their own. One can terrorize them or bribe them but the terrorized and bribed are not the sort of citizen over whom one wants to rule optimally. On is weak in multiple dimensions when one’s army and priesthood are weary and the slaves are torporous, scooped out and empty.

7
I am going to try in this chapter to sketch a different case for freedom that Hobbes had made for monarchy. It’s an essay that Jefferson probably should have written along with the Declaration of Independence.
Nature when it produces any life form at all tends to push at its limitations radially. Consider the ur-goose. It is a bird that can fly, walk, swim or dive into the sea. It lives off grass. It is large enough to have few natural enemies. What does Nature do with this excellent ur-goose or for that matter any families of creatures that decorate our planet that seem to have sufficient means for maintaining their existence? It produces variations of the ur-goose and specializations in these directions to diversity to the very border of excess in its quest to see what degree of variation of the animal can still survive. Aristotle noted this in his Politics: one of Jefferson’s favorite books. If we re going to live in a world that is acceptable to us we ar3e gong to have to honor the diversity of Nature.
Jefferson suggests in his The Anglo Saxons that the way to embrace this law of Nature in politics is to have decentralized autonomous communities of no more than several thousand people, and to practice what he called “ward politics.” He argues that human beings biologically move toward that social condition no matter what the legitimate size or mass of the regime on the maps may be. We might criticize Jefferson for not drawing the obvious conclusions of that essay or a similar lack of surmises in his Notes From Virginia., but when he wrote this essays in the middle of the18th century he was a man living in a colony under a monarch; he could have been jailed or killed had he taken his ideas to their end in print.
Later others, principally Russians like Kropotkin and Bakunin,. did take up such a direction. Both men were eager to remedy the injuries politics does to humanity by replacing organized life with Nature. Of course monarchists were trying in their time vainly to do the reverse. In Baudelaire’s famous sonnet about Nature he asserts that the study of reality is an etude into not merely the complex and world of tooth and claw but the surprising and seemingly irrational. We don’t in our age seemingly have to worry abut the influence of such writers and their books. this is an age of clear information and narrow problem solvers. Writers and books and savants who say otherwise are marginalized in our time to the point where nobody takes them seriously.
Still as Jefferson, Kropotkin and Bakunin would have been the first to admit, lack of legitimacy never got in the way of any action of Nature. To look at it from other angle Camus in The Rebel says that all change and good things com from rebellion from the resident tyranny of the day. Camus doesn’t identify this dissent as a choleric departure from the machines of a narrow sense of progress or the explosive radial movements coming from a paradigm anymore than Aristotle or Jefferson did. It’s a romantic discourse.
There is a similar argument in Carlyle’s Heroes And Hero-worship in which he says, identically to Camus, that change and all good and bad things come from fearless individuals who if not killed or jailed become in time iconic savants to the larger world, a new banality in a realm having to compromise with what they cannot destroy
Freedom to both is always freedom from something or somebody. George Washington remarked that the people all over the world living under a despotism might settle in the “western lands” of his country. Hamilton thought of raising an army to free people in their own bailiwick. The United States and to some extent countries like Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Australia were places where one could physically leave a place of hopeless despotism elsewhere and take up relative liberty In one’s life. The character of the Untied States in particular was generated from the bottom if not always the top but offering a refuge to people who otherwise were constrained to lead hopeless lives as some kind of slaves. The emigrant experience is that sort of journey from one place to another.
Unfortunately the first or second generation that has no memory of what they had come from to be where they are tend to look upon emigrants in their own time as usurpers, criminals rivals or general riffraff. It might remind them of stories of their parents or grandparents they don’t care to remember. It’s necessary that we have these refuges on Earth if we hope to have any stability at all on it. The folks who want freedom will take the journey; the others who don’t hunger for freedom will not. The famous Chinese manual The Art of War says that armies should always provide refuges for their enemies. If they do not they may have to face acts of desperation that they would not have had to endure otherwise. The world functions better when it has such places. The despots rid themselves of the worst of their antagonists; the freedom lovers got a chance to see where if anywhere their freedom in life might take them.
Freedom is not a remedy for internal woe. It is a chance to take action to remove an external impediment to one’s natural interests. Whether the subsequent circumstances one creates by one’s own action are adequate to meet one’s dilemmas is another matter.
Yet few or none of us would choose to be ruled by another human being with supposed expertise at how to live a tolerable life. We prefer to make our own mistakes.
Of course chracterologically there are many people who do turn their lives over to kings, experts, scientists, priests or whatever. Those who embrace freedom have to take responsibility for their lives in a way a slave or believer in the superior knowledge of others to ruler their lives never does.

8

This definition of a place of refuge has a certain moral content one can see in George Washington’s remark that many human begins would do better in the western territories. Washington and the citizens of America owed none of these people anything. Their charity went one way. Nobody argued among our founders that the emigrants that came here would enrich our country with their diereses skills and exotic modes of perception. Charity to the poor, orphans, and the downtrodden is set in America of moral politics, a champion of Americans themselves at the bottom as a premise for how they want their country to conduct itself.
This charity is for all humanity no matter how debased their current superficial condition might be. If one could have said in 1790 that there was no evidence whatever that any of the emigrants that came to America or were already here would fare any better with freedom than they did without it., it’s an article of faith that seemed self evident to these founders threatened with the external evils and hoping for the satisfaction one gains from freedom and opportunity. They were sure they would do better. It gravies many people in America that the institutional life here can’t figure out a way to elevate certain groups to a superior condition in their existence though it may be argued as Mark Twain did in Puddin’head Wilson, that the White society is so greedy and sunk in injury to others as hardly to be much of an improvement over conditions that might be materially impoverished and without franchise but at least admits some common feel of humanity among those who are not making waves in it. Of course, Twain would affirm it beats slavery.
The self evident virtues of freedom is as rooted in the morals of the Torah as the value of freedom itself. One does not owe the poor, orphaned, invalided and otherwise unfortunate people in this world anything if one calculates only what one’s interest is. They lack the means to take care of themselves much less threatened the lives of others. Yet both the Torah and the founders stressed in their writings the obligation of the people with some wealth and power to the poor and powerless. This presumption shows up in the 20th century in the New Deal, the general notion that government is responsible to take care of people who can’t survive on their own. The presumption is at the basis of the New Deal and the various social programs the Democrat produced in the United States from 1943 though 1980. the opposing argument, often offered by the Republicans, is that charity to people who who cannot function as adults in a land of opportunity perpetuates their indigence and debasement. Since 1980 the government has had many advocates of this concept of freedom but has not really slacked off on its bread and butter New Deal policies.
It is possible that neither charity nor benign neglect will help some people or many people elevate themselves from poverty and desperation but that is never argued by anybody. Aristotle for example would have said that charity like everything else radiates toward its excesses. Instead we have had various Democrats claim that they can cure poverty, diseases, and other enemies of private felicity with various programs and social manipulations ,much as the Bolsheviks had claimed they could do with success in Russia. As excessive or ineffective as these social programs may or may not be they certainly are leagues better for the poor than a society that lack them entirely. It might be better to be corrupt than to be dead. My own view is that charity and interest are not really mutually exclusive; they are covert allies. One who is at least mildly generous and charitable to others has his best shot as survival in a world in which others might not have otherwise any reason not to try to take the wealth and power of the those who have the clout to remove it from away from them violently or giving them no loyalty and energy. Beyond that there is a felicity one has when one is kind and looks out for others that is a preferable way of being alive than an existence in which one is surrounded by strangers, fey punks and enemies. Plato makes an even more severe case for the value of charity as a part of interest. He says in the Republic that people who don’t have benign connections with all life and the universe itself are insane. That is a strong argument. We could all do with as much sanity as we can get.
Assuming that any of this is true we would all do better to be charitable; or governments would honor the adult lives and capacities of diverse people and avoid trying to check their freedom. Why nearly all regimes including the Untied States government does not do so is still worth our attention. For some reason people in power in all times and places have to guard against feeling contempt and disdain for the apparently powerless. As Pascal and Jefferson say no man is utterly without power. He can fall up an army of enemies. He never even in such an extremity has to accept lack of independence in his actions much less indenture.
One might think as well that any despotism even if it were moronic would be happy to have a country like the United States on the planet if far away from itself. It would serve thee tyrannies by siphoning off their dissenters, leaving the despotism more secure given its citizenry left in its aegis who aren’t disposed to independence or rebellion. One might regard this kind of thinking as theoretical given the current laws in the United States, some of which have been slavery, Prohibition, various drug and sex edicts, its extermination of Indians, and waiting till 1920 to give legal equality to women.
Perhaps there are degrees of freedom as there are ones of tyranny. As critical as we might be of the checks on freedom in this country we have been generous if hardly all the time beyond most places in the world in offering our citizens personal liberty. We haven’t had a war on our soil since 1864. As ineffective in championing liberty as our government has been, compared to other regimes it has done better than most states in staying out of the way of actions and laws that are dramatically tyrannical. that of course is faint praise.

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