Friday, July 3, 2015

Carry On Continentals

David Brooks is off today, so we're kind of on our own.

The late Sid James as (I'm pretty sure) highwayman Dick Turpin in Carry on Dick (1974). Via My Ear-Trumpet Has Been Struck by Lightning.
David Brooks writes ("The Declaration Dilemma", New-York Times, July 3 1776):
All eyes seem to be fixed on the so-called Continental Congress, which has been hunkered down in Philadelphia for a little over a year now, ever since last year's unfortunate disturbances in Massachusetts, where rebel rioters managed to force the royal peacekeeping troops to pull back to Boston from Lexington and Concord.
Yesterday the Congress voted to declare that all the crown colonies south of the Canadas are independent countries, so that they can start negotiating with the French for financial support. A committee chaired by Dr. Benjamin Franklin is said to be drafting a document explaining this weird theory, and it could be published as early as tomorrow.
Dr. Franklin is an amazing character radiating a sense of health, wealth, and wisdom that just won't quit, as well as a terrific sense of humor, but he is just naive if he thinks France is meddling in this situation out of disinterested compassion. As it is, they control a huge part of the continent that the Congress optimistically named itself after, from New-Orleans up through the interior, and nothing would please them better than access for their navy to the Atlantic ports and revenge for the loss of Quebec. Americans have already taken to drinking coffee instead of the traditional tea; will we be eating frogs next?
All of this is not to say that the other party is above reproach. Both sides have shown a dogmatic unwillingness to compromise and a lack of humility that has only made the situation worse. Both have emphasized superficial problems like taxation, having troops quartered in your house, the issue of representation in Parliament, and the East India Company's tea monopoly, while ignoring the deeper problems that have brought our society to the point of moral breakdown. These include:
Religion. There's a huge divide between the vast majority of the people, happy to attend their traditional Puritan or Anglican services, soothed by the beauty of the ancient rituals and inspired to charitable works, and our selfish modern elites, many of them libertines and Freemasons, attending lodge meetings where they practice strange rituals and are exhorted to charitable works. One day a foreigner will visit these shores—let's call him "Alexis de Tocqueville"—and wonder how we could have gone so far astray.
Character. Too many of us devote ourselves to the wearisome routine of making a living, making sure our children get fed, and making fun of honest hard-working Tories who simply want the security to make a living and feed their children, just like anybody else. Where are the people who radiate joy and significance, and talk about the things that pass understanding?
Sex. I'm looking at you, Alexander Hamilton.
The hour is growing late, and in more ways than one. For example, if I'm going to file this copy I'm going to have to wind it up.  His Majesty's troops have now had to evacuate from Boston, and Colonel Washington—a figure of amazing dignity and grace who has never told a lie, and a transcendent inspiration to all who know him, but not very well informed about political matters—has been appointed to lead an army headquartered in New-York. This could conceivably lead to war, an incredibly painful process if it is not directed against French and Indians. Worse, the Congress has started issuing paper scrip, which it calls money, raising the specter of serious inflation and discouraging investment. 
If we want to avoid the fate of a dinky little country like Switzerland, which split off from Austria centuries ago only to find itself stuck in a permanent rut, with no resources and no industry—even their cheese is full of holes—we need to pull back from this brink.

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