Tuesday, September 24, 2013

9/24 The American Revolution

"Declaration of Independence," John Trumbull,  1826, U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C.
Standing in front from left to right John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, presenting the document to John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress

England emerged on the world stage in the 17th and 18th century, but went through a devastating civil war in the mid 1640s, and religious war within England and its colonies. These tensions continued after Charles II was crowned king in 1660, reigning until 1685, succeeded by James II. In 1688, England goes through a second revolution, the "Glorious Revolution." The king was overthrown and a new king was crowned, William III or William of Orange who was actually Dutch, and his wife Queen Mary, usually referred to as William and Mary. The revolution is not as important for putting a new king on the throne as it marks the point where Parliament, the legislature, becomes the supreme authority in the land over the king (something the new king encouraged, thus making it "glorious" because there was relatively little violence).

These views were reflected by the political theorist John Locke (1632-1704) in his work Two Treatises of Government (1689). In this work he sets down what could be called the basic principles of liberalism: representative government, individual liberty, private property–all connected under the idea of "natural rights" that cannot be taken away. John Locke is the most important philosophical influence on the American political system today.

Locke was among the many influences upon the American colonists but not the only one. Other major influences were Montesquieu (1689-1755), English Republican activists from the 17th century like Algernon Sidney (1623-1683) and James Harrington (1611-1677), and their own distinct Puritan religious tradition, and even some influences from the Native American nations like the Iroquois in Western New York. Locke is also considered one of the founding figures of The Enlightenment (circa 1701-1789).

The Enlightenment was a product of the advances in science, technology, and communication in the 18th century and found its way to the shores of America through its ports and through its foreign travelers as well as the many Americans who had travelled to Europe. It is important to remember the Puritans predate the Enlightenment by almost a century.

Some of the major Enlightenment influences on the Americans were:

1) The environment was seen as the major source of change and variation in human behavior. Enlightenment theorists claim that there was a common human nature that was universal but that this nature was shaped and influenced by all sorts of factors in the natural environment: geography, climate, population density, just to name a few. Environmental factors can help explain the colonists' contradictory views on race. Most of them spoke more highly of Native Americans than they did of African-Americans. The colonists believed that the tough environment that they lived in brought out their inner strengths and made them better people. Since the natives had to deal with all the same factors but even more exposed to the environment they were tougher. Culturally, they believed the Indians were inferior and the colonists saw their supremacy resting in their developed political institutions which they inherited from England, but were also free from the corrupting influences of England. In other words, they believed they had the best of both worlds: superior culture and an open environment (same as the Puritans). They believed that people from warmer or tropical climates were not used to working as hard and did not have the "nobility" of the Indians. Within that logic many of them did believe that Africans brought to America would go through the same "toughening up" process from the environment.

2) A mechanical understanding of nature influenced by the theories of Isaac Newton (1643-1727). The natural world and the planets and the stars move in a regular pattern that can be observed and measured (these views would later be overturned but not till the 20th century). When we discuss the Federalist and the Constitution we will see they emphasized the "machine" like qualities of the government. Government was supposed to be self-regulating and almost automatic and would not need the direction of a strong leader to make it move; also government was supposed to balance out the competing interests in society like gears in a machine that together make the machine move. The basis of the idea of the rule of law comes out of this mechanical understanding, and is the basis for later bureaucratic theories of social organization.

3) Individualism, specifically the doctrine that states that the individual is a self-sufficient and complete organism that is the bearer of certain specific rights that are intended to guarantee its self-preservation. This belief was itself based on the ideas of "empiricism" associated with Locke. Empirical refers to experience, empiricism is a theory of knowledge that states that only knowledge verified by experience is legitimate. The natural rights of an individual can be learned from experience: all humans even all animals will resist attempts to be captured or killed, therefore there must be something that compels them to seek survival and security. 

Individualism dissolves the strong communal bonds of traditional society. It tends to assume that humans are self-sufficient entities instead of being interdependent on the larger community. Instead of religious obligation, morality comes to be based in theories of utilitarianism which stresses that whatever provides the greatest happiness, or utility, or use, to the greatest number is "good" or moral. This usually takes the form of measurements of economic well-being, something that can be measured, or verified by experience. Moral obligations then are based more on a calculation of self-interest: it is beneficial to your own preservation to follow the law.

4) Although empiricism and individualism seem to undermine religious belief, most of the major European and American thinkers associated with the Enlightenment were not atheists. They tried to resolve this contradiction by the separation of the public and private, however it was never entirely clear how they could maintain these distinctions in what they thought. 

Ancient societies like the Greeks and even the Puritans did not see such a distinction or tended to minimize it, there was no difference between public and private. This changes in the liberal age. The right to privacy is one of the chief attributes of liberal thinking, and becomes sacred in liberal philosophy. In the public realm science and rationality should reign supreme; but in the private realm people were free to hold any belief they wanted to. By isolating "reason" only in the public realm, "the rational public," however, they essentially made the private realm irrational and allowed the patriarchal family structure to continue. You will probably notice they exclusively talk about "man" when we would refer to "humanity" today or something like that. This underscores another aspect to the public sphere: leisure. Participation in the public realm or public sphere assumed a certain amount of leisure time to engage in public affairs so besides women this effectively excluded the lower classes, most "Free Blacks", and obviously all slaves. However some free blacks like Prince Hall or the poet Phillis Wheatley did reach a public.

There were areas of overlap between the older religious tradition and the scientific Enlightenment. Both stressed the idea of equality and natural law. However while the religious equality is based on an sense of being equally flawed and equal in the eyes of God that is modified by degrees of spiritual development; the enlightenment stressed the idea of "original equality" that is modified by environment and by degrees of scientific understanding. Also while the natural law referred to what is good for human development, the natural law in the enlightenment tradition is redefined to refer to self-interest, what is natural is what is closest to our self-interest.

It it also important to emphasize that socialism which also developed at the end of the 18th century came out of Enlightenment philosophy especially the emphasis on the environment and a mechanical understanding of human nature. Both liberalism and socialism can be grouped together as "materialist" political philosophies.

By the mid 1700s, England had continued to grow and to consolidate its power in North America and the West Indies. After the French and Indian War (1754-1763), British control over Canada was secured as well. To pay for this war and the maintenance of forts and soldiers in a still hostile environment, the British Parliament began to levy taxes on the colonists without their consent: Stamp Act (1765), Sugar Act (1764), Townshend Acts (1767) and the Tea Act (1773), the latter led to the "Boston Tea Party" (1773). Besides the increased taxes, the colonists resented the limitations on trade, immigration, and expansion ordered by the British. 

The colonists were prevented through tariffs and other devices from trading with the Dutch, French or Spanish as were the number of immigrants coming into the colonies restricted as well thus limiting its growth. Also restrictions were placed on Westward expansion in areas  that were still occupied by the French and their Indian allies. The British had settled on the Atlantic coast, while French settlements in North America were further inland concentrated around the Mississippi River Valley which stretches almost from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The French influence can be seen in names like the state of Louisiana; New Orleans is named after the French dynasty the "House of Orleans"; St. Louis, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky all named after the line of French kings like Louis XIV(just the fact there were thirteen before him should tell you a lot, nor was he the last Louis). The cajun and creole cultures in Louisiana are heavily influenced by French culture. There is even a rare French dialect known as "Missouri French." The French would continue to hold this area until selling it to the Americans in the early 1800s, The Louisiana Purchase.

Mississippi River Valley

There was no area in the original 13 colonies however, that more fiercely resisted the abuses of the British Crown (even though Parliament reigned people would still refer to the king who did in name still rule the country) than in Massachusetts around Boston and the surrounding areas and no one person more than Samuel Adams (1722-1803). Adams was a key figure in organizing resistance to the British through organizations like the "committees of correspondence" which set up communication networks between the colonies, or the "Sons of Liberty" which was basically a secret society devoted to revolutionary agitation. From the perspective of the British, the Sons of Liberty were traitors and terrorists. Adams also embodied the contradictions of what is now sometimes called "irrational Lockeanism." The "instinctive belief" in Lockean values, basically an attempt to explain the strong religious beliefs of the colonists mixed with empiricism and individualism which as I already said tends to undermine religious belief. 

In the short essay "The Rights of the Colonists" (1772), Adams lays out his critique of the British abuses which he says violates the colonists rights on three levels: as men (natural rights); as Christians; and as subjects of the British empire. The idea of natural rights developed by John Locke was meant to place limitations upon the government; also it reduced the government into a tool that is used to protect our rights, in other words our relationship to the government is determined by self-interest. Notice, however the strong language Adams uses to make this claim:

Samuel Adams

All Men have a Right to remain in a State of Nature as long as they please: And in case of intollerable [sic] Oppression, Civil or Religious, to leave the Society they belong to, and enter into another.–When Men enter into Society, it is by voluntary consent; and they have a right to demand and insist upon the performance of such conditions, And previous limitations as form an equitable original compact. (p. 40)

This idea, is usually referred to as the "social contract" and as stated is a voluntary agreement we enter into with the government to protect our rights. This might seem commonsense today, but in an age where the "divine right of kings" was still practiced this idea was very revolutionary. It is known that Locke had to originally publish his work in secret and anonymously and only explicitly admitted to authorship of the text in his will. It does also undermine the idea that the political community is a "natural community" and that its chief purpose is to remove the obstacles that prevent human development. Some kind of natural society may form by itself, people might cooperate to hunt, or to get certain things from nature, but the transition from natural to civil society is entirely artificial and accidental. This contrasts, with Winthrop's view, which stresses the opposite: civil society is "natural" too in that it is natural for human development. In the enlightenment theory there are no real obstacles to human development except what blocks our self-interest. 

The classical liberal argument for the government or the state is summed up by Adams which he refers to as a referee or an arbiter (one who settles disagreements between conflicting parties. He even argues taxes should be paid to the government to provide protection to show he is not anti-tax just opposed to "taxation without representation":

In the state of nature, every man is under God, Judge and sole Judge of his own rights and the injuries done him: By entering into society, he agrees to an Arbiter or indifferent Judge between him and his neighbours [sic]; but he no more renounces his original right, than by taking a cause out of the ordinary course of law, and leaving the decision to Referees or indifferent Arbitrations. In the last case he must pay the Referees for time and trouble, he should be also willing to pay his Just quota for the support of government, the law and constitution; the end of which is to furnish indifferent and impartial Judges in all cases that may happen...(p. 40)

This is not to say that enlightenment were anti-social or did not believe in values like "fraternity" (brotherhood or kinship) between people. However the crucial difference is that while the Puritans realized the value of fraternity people between as a means to an end: minimizing sin or human development; enlightenment thinkers tended to believe if you eliminated all barriers to individualism it would produce "universal fraternity" as an end, in other words the importance of fraternity and its relation as a means or an end of human conduct is reversed in Puritan and Enlightenment thinking. This goes along with a privatized view of religion that sees spiritual matters only as a private matter and puts off the achievement of spiritual values till the afterlife. Again, this makes it all the more stranger that the colonists attempted so long to maintain the balance between the two.

Adams concludes by noting how rapidly the colonies are growing and how it even contradicts British law for the colonists to be subjected to taxes and restrictions without the ability influence these decisions themselves. In the process he makes a good argument for the dangers of government when it is "out of touch" with its people:

The inhabitants of this country in all probability in a few years will be more numerous, than those of Great Britain and Ireland together; yet it is absurdly expected by the promoters of the present measures, that these, with their posterity to all generations, should be easy while their property, shall be disposed of by a house of commons at three thousand miles distant from them; and who cannot be supposed to have the least care or concern for their real interest: Who have not only no natural care for their interest, but must be in effect bribed against it; as every burden they lay on the colonists is so much saved or gained to themselves. Hitherto many of the Colonists have been fee from Quit Rents; but if the breath of a British house of commons can originate an act for taking away all our money, our lands will go next or be subject to rack rents from haughty and relentless landlords who will ride at ease, while we are trodden in the dirt (pp. 42-43).

One of the major issues of the revolution was the question of slavery. Although slavery had been established in all parts of the colonies including the North almost from the beginning there was a strong reaction against it because of its obvious contradiction of Christian values. Although scientific reason in this period did stress the original equality of humanity it did emphasize the differences in the appearances between people and their environment. This is consistent with empiricism since racial differences can be learned through direct experience. It also elevated the concept of "private property" and "self-interest" to such an extent that it made it difficult to ignore the claims of Southern plantation owners whose private fortunes and the economic system of the South rested on slavery. Scientific rationality also tends to create the kind of "prudent and cautious" attitude that would not support "radical" solutions like abolishing slavery immediately. In any case, the North was much more dependent on slavery, even if indirectly, because much of the trade of New England merchants was in the agricultural exports coming from the South, especially cotton so its own "self-interest" was threatened as well, or involved in international trade like rum-manufacturing which was heavily dependent on slave labor.

Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) was an early advocate of the anti-slavery or abolition movement. In the readings I have included you will see that his attack on the institution of slavery relies heavily on the language of Christianity, he even says "A Christian slave is a contradiction in terms." Of course this was true, and if slaves were caught trying to baptize each other they could be killed for it; slave owners also in most cases maintained strict limits on education for slaves and stricter punishments for slaves trying to learn to read or write (except for what they called "house slaves"). Again, Rush however does also subscribe to some of the "environmentalist" theories of the day, and although not included in the excerpt of this text, he regarded "negritude" as a "disease" which he regarded as a justification for the subordinate position of blacks in the colonies, in other words he meant this as a defense of African-Americans–odd as that may sound. You will notice on page 44, the text breaks off, when you see "..." or "...." in a text that means part of the text has been skipped (This is called an "ellipsis" 3 periods if its in the same sentence, 4 periods if it skips a sentence). Still, despite these contradictions between religion and science, he maintained a fairly radical position towards slavery, and provides a strong rationale for reparations: "All the money you save, or acquire by their labour is stolen from them; and however plausible the excuse may be, that you form to reconcile it to your consciences, yet be assured, that your crime stands registered in the court of Heaven as a breach of the eighth commandment" (p. 45).

Thomas Jefferson who was the chief author of The Declaration of Independence also owned slaves. A contradiction that has been repeated by many historians, just because it seems like a blatant hypocrisy, to write "all men are created equal" at the same time in which you own slaves. Jefferson was known to have had as many as 200-600 slaves working on his plantation at any given time. A very common practice among slave owners was to have relations and to father children with slaves, and Jefferson was no exception to this as well. Jefferson was well known, even in his own time, for his relationship with his slave Sally Hemmings, and very likely had children with her, who were also his slaves. We will talk more about Jefferson in future lectures.

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was perhaps the most popular writer during the American revolution. Paine wrote essays and books, but he was most known for pamphlets, short essays written for the public. I have mentioned already the importance of the "public sphere" in the American revolution. The public sphere was created from the "communications revolution" of the 19th century, which began, perhaps, with the invention of the printing press but really accelerated from about 1780-1830 and saw the rapid development of publishing making it more accessible and affordable which led to the proliferation of newspapers and other publications and was the early beginning of the "mass media." Ironically, increases in cotton production was one of the factors that made this possible.  In the 1790s the production of paper was often made out of old cotton rags which was  cheaper. However, newspapers had begun to develop in Europe in the early/mid 1600s. The first continuous newspaper to be published in the U.S. in other words lasting more than one issue, was The Boston News-Letter in 1704.

The writings from Paine include two of his most important pamphlets and his later work The Rights of Man (1791). Paine like many others of his generation vigorously opposed religious persecution and stressed the natural rights revealed through empirical reason. Paine in the 1790s would go to France and would become one of the only people to participate in both the American and French Revolutions (the only other one I think is the Marquis de Lafayette).

The first pamphlet Common Sense (1776), presents a case for why the colonists should seek independence from Great Britain. As the title implies it is meant to be sober and logical, presenting a "common sense" analysis for why it is obvious the colonies should be independent. In this short essay, Paine also outlines the classical liberal argument for the government as arising out of natural needs:

In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one might labor out the common period of life without accomplishing anything; when he had felled his timber, he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the meantime would urge him from his work and every different want call him in a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune, would be death; for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die. Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which would supersede and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other, but as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other, and this remissness will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue (p. 50).

However, Paine was writing also for a wide audience and so he is writing to motivate the people to want revolution. He tries to get his audience to think of this event in terms of world history and is significance throughout time:

The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent–of at least one-eighth part of the habitable globe. 'Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected even to the end time by the proceedings now. Now is the seedtime of continental union, faith, and honor. The least fracture now will be like a name engraved with the point of a pin on the tender rind of a young oak; the wound would enlarge with the tree, and posterity read it in full-grown characters (p. 53).

The second pamphlet The American Crisis I (1777), was written after the revolution had been underway for two years. The language in this pamphlet is much stronger and is meant to rally the soldiers to fight.

In the final reading, Paine writing in the 1790s long after the American revolution has ended and the Constitution has been established writes of the dangers of not adapting institutions to changes in the world:

Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generation which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow. The Parliament of the people of 1688, or of any period, had no more right to dispose of the people of the present day, or to bind or to control them in any shape whatever, than the Parliament or the people of the present day have to dispose of, bind, or control those who are to live a hundred or a thousand years hence. Every generation is and must be competent to all the purposes which it occasions require. It is the living, and not the dead that are to be accommodated. When man ceases to be, his power and his wants cease with him; and having no longer any participation in the concerns of this world, he has no longer any authority in directing who shall be its governors, or how its government shall be organized or how administered (p. 57).

The ideas and sentiments expressed by all of these thinkers are captured in The Declaration of Independence written chiefly by Thomas Jefferson in 1776, and according to G.K. Chesterton the source of the "creed of America." Jefferson who owned slaves but was anti-slavery in thought, had anti-slavery passages omitted from pressure by Southern delegates. The revolution actually began the year before in and around Boston. As early as 1774 the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to discuss possible actions against Britain, however, no action was taken at the time. In 1775 the Second Continental Congress met again in Philadelphia, and this was the body that formed the committee to draft the declaration: Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Sam Adams' cousin and future second president, John Adams. This was the body that declared independence from Great Britain and functioned as the government for the colonies during the revolution.

The most famous phrase from the declaration and what would be the creed Chesterton refers to is:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness (p. 59).

All of these writers stress a clear "right to rebel" if the government violates the rights of its people or if it fails to protect the rights of people from other groups in society. These ideas are supposed to be based on experience and on the laws of nature which supposedly can be learned from experience. They are hostile to traditional beliefs and superstitions which justify authority that cannot defend itself on rational grounds, i.e. cannot provide arguments for to justify itself. This hostility to irrational ideas would eventually be called "ideology" in the 19th century.

Without the "revolutionary liberal ideology" of thinkers like Adams, Rush, Paine, or Jefferson or before them Locke it is hard to imagine the American revolution ever taking place. Much more than the Puritans, the American Revolution still forms the core beliefs of American "civil religion" today. The ideology within the Declaration has even made an impact in the different parts of the world. Ironically, Ho Chi Minh leader of the communist forces and the government in North Vietnam from 1945 to his death in 1969 is known to have written several letters to then President Harry Truman urging his government to support the Vietnamese then fighting against the French who had colonized their land. Minh pointed to the Declaration and the American Revolution as an example of the common cause they were both fighting against colonialism and imperialism. Truman never responded and in less than 20 years the U.S. would be dragged into the Vietnam War. Next class we will see how the founders tried to moderate and tone down this revolutionary ideology when faced with the task of not breaking away from government but establishing a new one.

Assignment (Due 10/1 ): Choose a passage from one of the readings (Adams, Rush, or Paine) and one from the Declaration of Independence. Write out both passages. Under that interpret the meaning of what the author is saying, and why they are saying it. Explain why you chose this passage and how it relates to the lecture.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

9/17 Political Identity & Political Culture (Part 2)

The other essay we are reading  is actually the first chapter, "What is America?" in the book What I Saw in America, by British writer G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) in 1922.  Bourne is writing when World War I is still going and as a public intellectual figure, Bourne's writing is serious and meant to persuade and is moralistic to that extent. Chesterton is writing in the aftermath of the war and shows a more ironic and almost amused nature in his writings, it does not have the moral urgency of Bourne's writing, but in its own way it could be equally persuasive for pointing out absurd aspects of modern life. 
Chesterton, Vanity Fair

 The essay we are reading is his reflection about filling out his passport information at the American Consulate. This leads him to question how much do people really learn when they travel. There are many distortions that prevent people from experiencing another culture. For one, people have a conservative instinct to want to stay by what is familiar, "to travel is to leave the inside and draw dangerously near the outside" (Chesterton 2008, p. 1), in other words the inside representing the family or the community and the outside being the outside world. This can turn into hostility towards those who seem different.

Another reaction is to find amusement in different cultures. He finds no fault in being "amused" by another culture (although that is debatable) but argues, "where they are wrong is that they take their own amusement seriously" (p. 1). In other words most people never challenge their own superficial first impressions and are content with getting by on that. This second reaction he regards as clearly better than aggression or hostility, and argues that under certain conditions amusement can be constructive: "But I believe there is a better way which largely consists of laughter; a form of friendship between nations which is actually founded on differences" (p. 1). We can assume that this is his overall point. The rest of the essay is his reflection of his experience in the U.S. which to him offers a guideline for how this could be created.
 However what is the source of his own amusement upon reading the passport application? Why are these questions so unusual to him?:
One of the questions on the paper was, 'Are you an anarchist?' To which a detached philosopher would naturally feel inclined to answer, 'What the devil has that to do with you? Are you an atheist?' along with some playful efforts to cross-examine the official about what constitutes an ἁρχη [Greek: archê]. Then there was the question, 'Are you in favour of subverting the government of the United States by force?' Against this I should write, 'I prefer to answer that question at the end of my tour and not the beginning.' The inquisitor, in his more than morbid curiosity, had then written down, 'Are you a polygamist?' The answer to this is, 'No such luck' or 'Not such a fool,' according to our experience of the other sex. But perhaps a better answer would be that given to W. T. Stead when he circulated the rhetorical question, 'Shall I slay my brother Boer?'—the answer that ran, 'Never interfere in family matters.' But among many things that amused me almost to the point of treating the form thus disrespectfully, the most amusing was the thought of the ruthless outlaw who should feel compelled to treat it respectfully. I like to think of the foreign desperado, seeking to slip into America with official papers under official protection, and sitting down to write with a beautiful gravity, 'I am an anarchist. I hate you all and wish to destroy you.' Or, 'I intend to subvert by force the government of the United States as soon as possible, sticking the long sheath-knife in my left trouser-pocket into Mr. Harding at the earliest opportunity.' Or again, 'Yes, I am a polygamist all right, and my forty-seven wives are accompanying me on the voyage disguised as secretaries.' There seems to be a certain simplicity of mind about these answers; and it is reassuring to know that anarchists and polygamists are so pure and good that the police have only to ask them questions and they are certain to tell no lies (pp. 4-5).

At first he is taken back by how invasive the questions seem and makes some comparisons to other authoritarian states and the Spanish Inquisition. This then sets up his main argument about the U.S.: it is founded on a creed, the meaning of the creed is best captured in The Declaration of Independence:
The American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that it is founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things (p. 8).

Chesterton is considered to have anticipated the idea of "civil religion" that I mentioned last class. This relates to what he said earlier about a form of "friendship based on differences," but why does he believe the creed in the Declaration is good for this purpose?

In its most simplest form he believes the creed is based on the ideas of equality and justice. It is only to the extent that government supports these principles that its authority can be considered legitimate. As stated clearly in the Declaration if the government does not and will not change its abuses then the population has the right to rebel and to form a new government.

Being based on the idea of equality the creed is also universal, much like the Christian religion. It is no surprise then that the U.S. is heavily influenced by Christian values. Or more than that: democratic political values are basically Christian values. Chesterton would argue that the "Christian" aspect to American democracy comes out most clearly by using the metaphor of the "melting-pot," or as he says:
Now in a much vaguer and more evolutionary fashion, there is something of the same idea at the back of the great American experiment; the experiment of a democracy of diverse races which has been compared to a melting-pot. But even that metaphor implies the pot itself is of a certain shape and a certain substance. The melting-pot must not melt. The original shape was traced on the the lines of Jeffersonian democracy; and it will remain in that shape until it becomes shapeless. America invites all men to become citizens; but it implies the dogma that there is such a thing as citizenship. Only, so far as its primary ideal is concerned, its exclusiveness is religious because it is not racial (p. 9).
The mixture of races he refers to still needs a strong government to provide some shape to the fluid mix of culture, or as he says the pot must not melt. He argues that the political system established by Jefferson (the 3rd president) most closely resembles this and is most appropriate for containing the melting-pot. Bourne regards the "melting pot" metaphor as a failure, Chesterton argues otherwise, but both seem to suggest that the exclusivity of Anglo-Saxon culture is antiquated and cannot sustain itself. At the time in which they are writing anti-miscegenation laws make it illegal to marry outside your race, miscegenation, meaning "mixed race."

Chesterton contrasts what he calls the "American experiment" with the European states. Why does he argue that in Europe they do not have a creed because they have a type? He refers to the "national type" of England which he seems to suggest is a set of beliefs, values, and attitudes that are heavily embedded in English culture and reproduced through institutions which leaves their imprint on every English subject (not citizen, they have a king). He seems to suggest that there is an absence of a similar American 'type'. This point is highly debatable. 

He is not unaware of the realities of American life "but the point is not that nothing exists in America except this idea; it is that nothing like this idea exists anywhere except in America" (p. 15). He argues that this experiment is  not internationalism (inter- a prefix meaning "between" as in between nations, similar but not identical to "transnational," trans- being a prefix meaning "beyond"). Instead, he refers to it as "nationalization of the internationalized" (-ize or -ized past tense, is a suffix that creates transitive verbs that usually mean "to create or make something" as in "creating a nation" out of people who have been "created between nations"). This process is sustained to the extent in which equality and justice guide the actions of the government.

What then undermines equality? Besides, racial and gender inequality, Chesterton writing in the 1920s is aware of the enormous income inequality in American society at this time. The period of the Gilded Age (circa 1868-1896) and the rise of the "robber barons" is over and they have consolidated their power. By the 1920s, large international corporations like General Motors and the United Fruit Co. already exist. Automobiles, especially the Model T produced by Ford have now become affordable to many middle and working class Americans. The first suburbs are created as transportation allows people to live further away from where they work. "Culture industries" like radio and film are already developing quickly which also tended to replace the participation of citizens in the public sphere with diversions and spectacles that reinforces the status quo. Despite this income inequality is at an all time high in the 1920s. Economists like Paul Krugman have spoken of the 1930s and 40s as the "great compression" meaning the relatively compressed period of time in which a middle class is created in the country. In other words, before that there was no middle class in the country at least not since before the Civil War.
"Top 10% Share of Income," Saez, 2010

In this economic  context, the "natural law" of equality tends to be obscured leading people to believe that inequality between people is the normal and natural state of being, but as Chesterton says:
In truth it is inequality that is the illusion. The extreme disproportion between men, that we seem to see in life, is a thing of changing lights and lengthening shadows. A twilight full of fancies and distortions....It is the experience of men that always returns to the equality of men; it is the average that ultimately justifies the average man. It is when  men have seen and suffered much and come at the end of their elaborate experiments, that they see men under an equal light of death and daily laughter; and none the less mysterious for being many (p. 19).

In part to compensate for the large size of early 20th corporations large government bureaucracies were created in order to manage and regulate the increasingly complex demands placed on the political system and society. One of these vital demands is regulation of the immigration system which was crucial for American economic expansion since its beginning and provides a large work force for corporations and businesses. However bureaucracies work by creating a standard set of rules that are applied to all cases, however this makes it difficult to adapt to circumstances as well as creating something broad to encompass everyone–this is the origin of the absurd questions Chesterton is asked. It is a product of bureaucratic decision making.

Bureaucracies according to the sociologist Max Weber, despite their flaws, are the highest development of order and rationality. However, at least since the Romantic era of the 19th century there has been a reaction against the suffocating and "dehumanizing" (making people less than human) tendencies of science and reason. Distrust  increased more after World War I (1914-1918) witnessed supposedly "rational" European states massacre each other by the millions in a few years, all appling "science and technology" to more efficiently kill each other with poison gas, machine guns, and tanks. These events loom larger in Chesterton's imagination, who is only writing a few years after the end of the war, and this is probably why he emphasizes the "direct experience" of things rather than more abstract scientific models of understanding (which would never allow laughing at differences or even notice them) and is able to poke fun at the "rational" bureaucracies.

The 1920s is known as the "Roaring 20s" or the "Jazz Age" in part because of the development of consumer mass culture adding more "excitement" to life. The 20s was also the time of Prohibition when the manufacture and sale of alcohol was illegal which created "organized crime" in the U.S. Prohibition was also directed at immigrant groups many of whom consumed alcohol regularly. It is not a coincidence that most of the major beer manufacturers were German. The influence of the time period shows, Chesterton speaks only of "men" and says other things that would not be considered politically correct today. 

Chesterton also seems to assume that "nationalism" in the form of the "national type" or personality is natural. He may poke fun at the stereotypes of the English but he does not seem to think that they are unnatural, nor does he give any indication these values will change and seems to assume they are fixed and permanent, and not constructed from institutionalized social practices. In the 1920s the British Empire still existed after becoming the dominant world power in the 19th century and would last until World War II. At one point their empire reached every continent in the world and even had a slogan: "The sun never sets on the British Empire," and at one point it controlled the territories that are now India and Pakistan; Burma; Singapore; Iraq; large parts of East Africa including Kenya and the Sudan; Australia; Canada; and islands in the Caribbean like the Bahamas as well as parts of Honduras, and British Guiana in South America. In a sense, what helped Great Britain become a world power was its geographical separation from the rest of Europe; Great Britain is an island nation separated by water.

Until World War II (1939-1945), this protected it from attacks from other European powers; it also encouraged the development of a strong navy which was what made Great Britain a powerful empire in its day. Trade and commerce also developed alongside its naval power and Great Britain is usually regarded as the first nation to undergo the "Industrial Revolution" beginning in the mid 1700s. Textile production was the major industry which required raw materials from different parts of the world like Egypt and India and this in turn facilitated colonization of these areas. Even more important was the production of opium by the East India Company whose ships supplied the world (Greenberg 1951). During World War II, its colonial empire in Asia was mostly destroyed by the Japanese. This and the war in Europe and North Africa against Germany destabilized the entire empire. After the war, liberation movements many of which began before the war were able to throw off the foreign control of the British once and for all, in some cases this continued into the 1980s. The last major colony to gain independence was Hong Kong in 1997 when it was returned to China. After World War II, the United States became the dominant world power. At the same in which decolonization as a global process is occurring throughout the world, a massive new influx of immigration to the U.S., and to a lesser extent Europe, occurs as barriers against travel and immigration are lifted.

Chesterton points backwards to many thinkers who have come before him and points forward to many future thinkers who still echo many of the things he said in this essay. Chesterton is an early influence in developing the idea of "civil religion" to explain the relationship of citizens to the state. Chesterton could also be classified among influential American political scientists and historians, writers like Louis Hartz associated with the term "American Exceptionalism" that came about in the 1950s. The basis of this idea was that the development of the United States followed a unique path of development from Europe. Some of the basic "exceptional" characteristics that are isolated are:
1) Lack of feudal history i.e. a division of land and power between hereditary lords who rule over peasants.
2) The Western frontier that until about 1890 permitted almost continuous expansion west.
3) The geographical separation from the rest of Europe and "natural defenses" like the ocean.
4) The influence of the Puritans and emphasis on religious tolerance.
5) Relative income equality compared to Europe.
Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Although originally the term exceptional was supposed to be a neutral term only indicating the uniqueness of American development, although that is questionable. In the present day this term has been taken up conservatives and liberals who equate exceptional with meaning something like "special" or better than the rest.

1) Tocqueville emphasized equality as the chief virtue of democracy (although he saw downsides that Chesterton does not acknowledge as much, he also believed that equality creates anxiety and that's what makes American life so fast paced).

The origins of this idea however runs deep in American political culture and go as far back to the colonial times and the Puritans who saw their community as "a city on a hill," a model for the rest of the world. All of the American "Founding Fathers" were also similarly aware of this and saw themselves in this role as well. Another famous foreign visitor to the U.S. is Alexis de Tocqueville who in 1835 published volume 1 of Democracy in America (volume 2 1840). Tocqueville basically set the pattern for how everyone who follows American politics studies it. The influence of Tocqueville on Chesterton is apparent in many areas:
2) The emphasis on the Puritans who established small democracies upon their arrival that became the foundation for all democratic institutions in this country.
3) The emphasis on values or what he refers to as "mores" (as in morality) beliefs that are accepted without question for sustaining American democracy.

Here is a passage from Democracy in America that reflects these ideas:
Thus the Americans are in an exceptional situation, and it is unlikely that any other other democratic people will be similarly placed. Their strictly Puritan origin; their exclusively commercial habits; even the country they inhabit, which seems to divert their minds from the study of science, literature, and the arts; the accessibility of Europe, which allows them to neglect these things without relapsing into barbarism–a thousand special causes, of which I have indicated only the most important, have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American on purely practical objects. His desires, needs, education, and circumstances all seem united to draw the American's mind earthward. Only religion from time to time makes him turn a transient and distracted glance toward heaven. We should therefore give up looking at all democratic peoples through American spectacles and try at last to see them as they actually are (Tocqueville 2000, pp. 455-56). 

Assignment (Due 9/24): Choose a quote from Chesterton and write it out on your blog. Under that write your interpretation of what you think the author is trying to say. Then, after that write out your own explanation of the meaning of this passage and why you chose this specific quote. Next class, we will talk about the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution.