On July Fourth, the kind of “originalism” we should keep in mind

“Fellow citizens: Pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to me? . . .

“What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival . . .”

— Frederick Douglass, on July Fourth 1852, quoted in “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn.

“advancing the interest of this very small number of people”

“. . . the marshaling of little guys to protect the big guys ‘happens all the time.’ Small business owners protest estate taxes they will never pay. Community banks protest regulations aimed at the large banks that are their biggest competitors. Minimum-wage workers are somehow framed as the targets for IRS enforcement proposals aimed at the ultra-rich.

‘Not only does it distort discussion of incredibly important policy, it ends up advancing the interest of this very small number of people and industries that have a chokehold on public policy in Washington.’”Quote by Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets included in a New York Times story by Jonathan Weisman printed in The Seattle Times, Dec. 11, 2021, under the headline “Family rift reflects challenge of taxing rich.”

“the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privileges”

“When economic interest is seen behind the political clauses of the Constitution, then the document becomes not simply the work of wise men trying to establish a decent and orderly society, but the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privileges, while giving just enough rights and liberties to enough of the people to ensure popular support.”

  • “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn

Generational wealth starting from zero = never catching up

Isabel Wilkerson

“. . . colored people, having received next to nothing in material assets from their slave foreparents, had to labor with the knowledge that they were now being underpaid by more than half, that they were so behind it would be all but impossible to accumulate the assets their white counterparts could, and that they would, by definition, have less to leave succeeding generations than similar white families. Multiplied over the generations, it would mean a wealth deficit between the races that would require a miracle windfall or near asceticism on the part of colored families if they were to have any chance of catching up or amassing anything of value. Otherwise, the chasm would continue, as it did for blacks as a group even into the succeeding century. The layers of accumulated assets built up by the better-paid dominant caste, generation after generation, would factor into a wealth disparity of white Americans having an average net worth ten times that of black Americans by the turn of the twenty-first century, dampening the economic prospects of the children and grandchildren of both Jim Crow and the Great Migration before they were even born.”

“The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson

What humans do: Hoping to find a better spot in the sun

“They did what humans have done for centuries when life became unbearable — what the pilgrims did under the tyranny of British rule, what the Scots-Irish did in Oklahoma when the land turned to dust, what the Irish did when there was nothing to eat, what the European Jews did during the spread of Nazism, what the landless in Russia, Italy, China, and elsewhere did when something better across the ocean called to them. What binds these stories together was the back-against-the-wall, reluctant yet hopeful search for something better, any place but where they were. They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done.

They left.”

“The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson

https://madcapschemes.com/2019/09/

“Slaves, Don Teodore, are our money”

“. . . the financial genius of Africa, instead of devising bank notes or the precious metals as a circulating medium, has declared that a human creature, the true embodiment of labor, is the most valuable article on earth. A man, therefore, becomes the standard of prices. A slave is a note of hand that may be discounted or pawned; he is a bill of exchange that carries himself to his destination and pays a debt, bodily; he is a tax that walks corporeally into the chieftain’s treasury. Thus, slavery is not likely to be surrendered by the (Africans) themselves as a national institution. Their social interests will continue to maintain hereditary bondage! they will send the felon and the captive to foreign barracoons; and they will sentence to domestic servitude the orphans of culprits, disorderly children, gamblers, witches, vagrants, cripples, insolvents, the deaf, the mute, the barren, and the faithless. Five-sixths of the population is in chains.”

  • Adventures of an African Slaver: Being a True Account of the Life of CAPTAIN THEODORE CANOT, Trader in Gold, Ivory & Slaves on the Coast of Guinea: His Own Story as told in the Year 1854 to Brantz Mayer.”

How the slaves were brought across the Atlantic

“I returned on board to aid in stowing one hundred and eight boys and girls, the eldest of whom did not exceed fifteen years. As I crawled between decks, I could not imagine how this little army was to be packed or draw breath in a hold but twenty-two inches high! Yet the experiment was promptly made, inasmuch as it was necessary to secure them below in descending the river, in order to prevent them leaping overboard and swimming ashore. I found it impossible to adjust the whole in a sitting posture; but we made them lie down in each other’s laps, like sardines in a can, and in this way obtained space for the entire cargo. Strange to tell, when the (boat) reached Havana, but three of these ‘passengers’ had paid the debt of nature.”

  • Adventures of an African Slaver: Being a True Account of the Life of CAPTAIN THEODORE CANOT, Trader in Gold, Ivory & Slaves on the Coast of Guinea: His Own Story as told in the Year 1854 to Brantz Mayer.”

One reason slavery lasted four hundred years

“Slaves were scarce, and by 1819, prime field hands were selling for $1100 in the markets of New Orleans. Even in Cuba, the paradise of smugglers, they brought $350. On the Guinea coast they could be purchased for a few yards of cloth, a keg of gunpowder, and a cask of rum – for goods, that is, worth $25 to $50. It was an old axiom of the British excise men that no trade could be prohibited when its profits were more than thirty per cent. The profits of a successful slaving voyage were a hundred and fifty, two hundred, two hundred and fifty per cent.”

  • Malcom Cowley’s introduction to “Adventures of an African Slaver: Being a True Account of the Life of CAPTAIN THEODORE CANOT, Trader in Gold, Ivory & Slaves on the Coast of Guinea: His Own Story as told in the Year 1854 to Brantz Mayer.”

A time for whatever popped violently into my head

When reading, I often come across sayings, adages, well-turned phrases that I might write down in a notebook or forget within 20 minutes. The forgetting I can’t help, but the stuff written down should get better play – as in sharing them.   

So I have decided to put them on this blog, maybe on a daily basis. Why not dump them here all at once? Because I like the idea of a “mailbox surprise.” Maybe that comes from living on Rural Route #1 with a mailbox just across the road. Who knew what might show up there after the mail man had driven by, sitting in the middle of his front seat, left hand on the steering wheel and right hand reaching to the mailbox (before mail-delivery trucks with right hand steering)?

Same with daily comics in the newspapers that eked out one piece of the plot daily. Whatever happened to Dick Tracy, Steve Roper, Dondi, Terry and the Pirates and finally, Prince Valiant? Once the prince and Aleta were dropped from my daily newspaper, I stopped reading comics (except for “Shoe.”)

So this will be like Orlando in Virginia Woolf’s book where “whenever anything popped violently into her head, she went straight to the nearest telegraph office and wired” it to her husband. But I won’t drop into a cypher language or sign it “Rattigan Glumphoboo” as she did to keep the telegraph clerk from being any wiser. (That’s a better alias than the ones I have been using.)

The first “anything that popped into my head” came from a Zoom class Kathy and I are taking. Seemed to fit the moment:

“If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason’s and Dixon’s, but between patriotism and intelligence on one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.” Ulysses S. Grant