Friday, February 18, 2011

AMERICAN STATE PAPERS AS LITERATURE

You may be interested at take a look at our American State Papers as literature. Their greatness as documents of change eclipses their contribution as great literature.

Benjamin Franklin was the only one to have been involved in all the State papers: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. The fight against tyranny, he knew, was and is a universal endeavor. Ideas, expressed in written words, have power when they appeal to universal truths and ideas. A declaration of independence would only take the country so far. The Americans knew that French assistance and support would be needed to actually win a revolutionary war. In the hope of obtaining their support, Franklin was sent to France. In his home near Paris he built a press to reproduce and distribute papers of interest. He took his case directly to the French people, who would very soon embark on their own struggle for independence.

The Articles of Confederation, also written in part by Franklin, granted Congress no power to levy taxes. In fact the messenger that delivered the articles to Congress could not be paid from the national treasury, so members of Congress had to dig deep in their own pockets for the money. The states had all the power under these articles, as there was still an inherent distrust of a central government. The weaknesses were built in. Article Two, for instance, stated, "Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled."

Determined to draw up a constitution, the Constitutional Convention gathered together in secrecy. Franklin was 81 by this time. He was in favor of a supreme national government, but not everyone was with him on that. His concluding remarks at the end of the convention, September 17, 1787, begins "I confess that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present..."

"... there is no Form of Government but what my be a Blessing to the People if well administered; and I believe further that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government..."

He ended with, "It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment and pay more respect to the judgment of others..."

"Most men, indeed as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in possession of all truth..."

"It therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does..."

"Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best."

It was almost certain that many would oppose the new constitution, and indeed the powerful governor of New York, George Clinton, came out against it, writing an article for the New York newspapers. Alexander Hamilton began a series of essays also published in the New York City newspapers under the pseudonym 'Publius'. He was joined with contributions made by James Madison and John Jay. Together these essays became 'The Federalist Papers' which remain today a classic of political philosophy.

Franklin continued to lead the country toward reason and equality right to the end of his life. He came out against slavery - something none of the other founding fathers, Washington and Jefferson among them - were able to embrace. Late in his life he became president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and one of his last writings, near the end of his unfinished 'Autobiography' deals with the issue of slavery in an ironic way. He mentions 'the Idea of Sancho Panza' which in Cervantes' 'Don Quixote' (Part 1, Chapter 29) is this: Sancho Panza laments the fact that he will be required to oversee slaves. This until he comes to understand that he can, in fact, sell them for a profit. This was the dilemma facing many Americans of that day. The specter of slavery would cast its own stain and long shadow over the nation for many years to come.

Hope you enjoyed my American History lesson. It is a part of the second chapter of my 'American Masters' and so is copyright 2011 by James D. Sanderson, all rights reserved.

COMING: I will boldly proclaim that on my birthday, August 18th of this year, my novel 'The Angelic Mysteries' will be available as an ebook. You can download it to your Kindle or other device. It is the story of Daniel Allman who, while traveling in Europe, meets a woman who believes herself to be an angel. They are set upon by a psychopath they believe is an angel from hell.

I do a lot of talking about Literary Greatness. Well, now it's time for me to put up or shut up, and it will be up to you to decide. 'The Angelic Mysteries' is a thriller; a love story; and a grand adventure. I do hope you will like it.

Anyway, I'll give you more details as time goes along.

Jim

PS: A recent article stated that ebook publishing amounted to only about 9% of the industry right now. However, within three years it was predicted that fully one of every two books published will be an ebook. Just as Benjamin Franklin took his argument directly to the people, so too we writers are able to appeal directly to our readership without all the publishing industry gatekeepers in the way. We live in interesting times.

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