Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Happy 4th of July!

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, "Betsy Ross 1777."
Wikipedia, public domain image.
Shown: General Washington with child at left, Robert Morris,
George and Betsy Ross. His name? Ferris's father was a portrait painter
who was an admirer of Jean-Léon Gérôme's artistry.
 The son, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930), is best known
for a series of 78 paintings drawn from American history,
The Pageant of a Nation.
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.  --Calvin Coolidge, from a speech on the 150th anniversary of The Declaration of Independence at teachingamericanhistory.org.

19 comments:

  1. That was a fine speech. I didn't think Silent Cal had it in him!

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    1. Yes, we don't think about Coolidge much these days, but it was a worthy talk...

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  2. One of the most horrific details to emerge from the Trump administration - mentioned only once and hardly commented on even in the New York Times - was a proposal to form a committee to rewrite the constitution. The reason: that many of the principles were by now outdated, though not that most outdated of all principles to do with guns. Perhaps even by Trumpian standards the task was later regarded as Sisyphean and I've rarely - if ever - heard it subsequently referred to. But that was before Trump was vouchsafed the gift of re-shaping the Supreme Court. I wonder if North Korea has a constitution, perhaps Kim will have it translated as a birthday prezzie for his friend in the east - or is it the west?

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    1. Sisyphean indeed. Simply to add a single amendment to the Constitution is an enormous, arduous undertaking: see Article 5 of the Constitution. There are two pathways outlined in Article 5, and they are both onerous and time-consuming. Changing the Constitution would be a very great hurdle.

      Maybe you know all about this process already, but here's a simplified explanation for any passers-by: <a href="http://www.ncsl.org/research/about-state-legislatures/amending-the-u-s-constitution.aspx</a>. (I go for the simplicity, but you may not want it!)

      I'd like to see a link to that claim if you can remember where you saw the comment. It certainly sounds curious and perhaps trollish. My impression is that, in general, conservatives tend to be the group most happy with the Constitution and least likely to want it amended. However, I tend to be apolitical and am not expert in these matters, so maybe my opinion is not worthwhile!

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  3. Not Mr Trump, but the Koch brothers, although I believe there are any number of Republican efforts going on to change the Constitution, working from both the state and national levels. The idea that the Constitution somehow no longer says what the founding fathers thought it said is being batted around a lot.

    "The Task Force has adopted model policy supporting the use of Article V of the U.S. Constitution as a tool to restore appropriate control to the states including the proposal of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

    "restore" is an interesting word here, as if the constitution originally gave states primacy over the federal government, which of course is not true.

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    1. "The idea that the Constitution somehow no longer says what the founding fathers thought it said is being batted around a lot." That's an interesting sentence.

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    2. I may be misstating the ALEC position, so I should be careful. But I doubt that anyone on either side of a constitutional argument cares a fig what the founders intended; they want what they want now, and that's all there is to it. Every man is his own moral authority, every battle is to the death. I'm so tired of it all. Maybe I'm just getting old.

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    3. "I doubt that anyone on either side of a constitutional argument cares a fig what the founders intended." Agree.

      What to do? Embrace the fogeydom...

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    4. Apologies for the wee rant. I'm off to read some St Francis.

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    5. Excellent thought! I've been reading Maximos the Confessor's 400 Chapters on Love as a antidote to politics.

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  4. Yikes—have had my nose so far into my research that I've failed to keep up with my blog reading. This is a really striking and thoughtful Coolidge quotation. People today discuss our Constitution and its values with either disdain or bluster, but rarely the confidence Coolidge shows here.

    And so, back to the books...

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    1. I liked it a lot, and also wondered why Coolidge is so completely overlooked (and that includes me, usually.)

      Luck with the digging!

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  5. I am a huge fan of the constitution and we have made it a long standing tradition to read it aloud every 4th of July. I always marvel at its prescient understanding of a just freedom -- an idea that was largely foreign in the time they conceived it. It does seem that over the last years, that political operatives from both sides have been wrangling to have some measure of control over its generosity -- without much success happily. I am also a huge fan of Amity Shlae's brilliant biography of Coolidge which you might enjoy. https://www.amazon.com/Coolidge-Amity-Shlaes/dp/0061967599

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    1. Rescued you from the Gulf of Spam! You were there with many ingenious spammers!

      That is a great thing to do--I am impressed. Prescience, yes! Thanks for the recommendation, too.

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  6. Just back from a holiday during which I regularly invoked a spot of US folk-talk."Hotter'n the hinges of Hell." Always liked it - hinges don't get the press they deserve. Checked in but saw you're still letting off fireworks. Or rather getting the fire services to do so. Liked that too because it seemed to confirm a popular myth that that institution was operated mainly by arsonists.

    This is neither fascinating nor curious, just word-spinning. But I guess on slow-moving days that's permissible too.

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    1. Oops, apologies. You flew into the Vale of Spam... I like that expression, too...

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  7. FYI
    https://miscellaneousinformalinquiries.blogspot.com/2018/08/percy-bysshe-shelleys-birthday.html
    Please forgive me for my blogging problems. Write it up to my insanity. I hope my focus on poetry will help me regain some sanity

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    1. I'm a bit behind on checking out such things. Will catch up soon. I hope!

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.