Day By Day

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Unknown Unknowns

Errol Morris, independent film guy, has an interesting discussion going on in the New York Times blog on the subject of "anosognosticism" [the condition of not knowing that you don't know something -- what Don Rumsfeld referred to as "unknown unknowns"]. It's a five-part series. Here's a link to the first part. Read the whole thing, it's interesting.

There is a related piece by Ron Rosenbaum on the subject of agnosticism as a superior alternative to both theism and atheism in the latest issue of Slate. It, too, is very interesting. Read it here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Take An Interactive Tour of Mars

Download the app here.
Text description of the site here.

Undermining the Cult of Expertise -- The New Republic and Its Symposia

The New Republic has another one of its little symposia in which it asks a number of experts what to do about a current problem. This time the subject is Afghanistan. Read the articles here. Or if you want to save time, Richard Fernandez has a summary with some comments here. Fernandez likens the exercise to blind men trying to describe an elephant, each touching a different piece of the animal's anatomy. He also notes that none of the essays puts the ongoing conflict within a global context. It all makes for interesting reading, but what it does more than anything else is to highlight the problems associated with adherence to the cult of expertise. On any policy issue the advice of credentialed "experts" is sought and often determines the outcome, but experts come in all varieties and styles and they seldom agree with each other or, for that matter, with themselves over time. Even when a "consensus" on a particular subject is proclaimed it is often a sham, and even if it is honestly arrived at, the consensual position often changes over time. This ambiguity leaves policy makers free to pick and choose among the experts those who support the course of action they prefer, and allows them to cover their butts if the policies fail by noting that they were following the advice of "experts".

Those in the know have long understood how the game is played. What is interesting is that the general public is beginning to catch on. Disillusionment with the opinion of experts is an important element in the populist upsurge that is currently roiling the political waters. What future effect it might have on politics and policy formation remains to be seen. Of one thing I am sure, it will be interesting.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Czar Goes to School

Over at the Ancient and Noble Order of Gormogons the "Czar" relates his recent experience in two Chicago high schools -- one largely Hispanic, the other Black. What he saw and heard is interesting, and more than a little troubling. A couple of his more important points -- many Hispanic students are not just illiterate in English, they can't read Spanish either; the iconography that permeates black classrooms is directly at odds with the positive message conveyed by speakers in many classes.

As I said, interesting. Check it out here.

Migration and Development

Alex Glennie summarizes the findings of a new international study of migration and its effects on development [here].

The most important focus of the study was the effect of remittances on the societies from which workers migrated. In many cases remittances from emigrants abroad constitute an important element of the entire national GDP and is far more important than foreign aid and investment. These direct transfers of money from workers abroad to their families have a tremendous impact on recipients. Not only are the recipients of remittances able to upgrade their standard of living, but they are able to invest in activities that will have further positive effects in the future. Households with workers abroad invest more than the average in healthcare and education. They purchase land, open shops, acquire rental properties, and other things that will provide additional income.

The study emphasizes that these positive changes, so significant to the families involved, are in societal terms incremental and cannot substitute for governmental and international interventions to improve infrastructure and the like, but they are nevertheless an important component of development. What is more, the positive effects of remittances benefit not just individuals and their families, but entire communities. Immigration policies in developed countries that restrict labor migration therefore significantly retard development elsewhere.

This is one of the costs of immigration restriction, and it is one of the factors that should be considered in the ongoing political debate in this country. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to do so.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pastor C. L. Bryant -- Slaves, Run Away!

Obama wants to have a new dialogue on race. Well, here's a good place to start.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ann Althouse links to a comment on a post about the death of Daniel Schorr by a hater on the Gawker blog [here]:
Maybe there will be a window in Heaven where he can watch Nixon slowly roasting on a spit....
How hateful, and after all this time! It serves to illustrate something I have often observed -- the fact that Liberals and Lefties are far more hateful than people on the Right, and that they tend to nurse their hatred forever. Bush derangement syndrome and the vicious and ridiculous attacks on Sarah Palin were nothing new -- just a recent manifestation of the seething cauldron of venom that is modern liberalism.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Good President [continued]

Mark Tapscott writing in the Enquirer:

Remember how President Bush, presidential counselor Karl Rove, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales politicized the Department of Justice by dropping voter intimidation charges against two members of the New Black Pan .... sorry ... for firing nine district attorneys?
Remember how this was the worst abuse of the justice system since the Nixon era? Remember how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers talked darkly about criminal charges?  Remember how the New York Times and the rest of the liberal ranks of the Mainstream Media cheered when Gonzales resigned in disgrace?
Well, guess what - the Obama-Holder Justice Department has, according to AP, decided not to file any charges against any Bush appointees in connection with the DA firings.
Read more here.

Once again charges leveled against President Bush and his appointees turn out to be baseless. The more the truth comes out about the good president, the better he looks.

Obama the Reactionary

Richard Fernandez argues that President Obama is confronting the problems of today with a set of ideas more appropriate to the world of half a century ago. He writes:
The fundamental weakness with President Obama’s theory of racial healing and social progress is that has assumed that America would always have the means to pay for its grand ambitions. With the arrow of redistribution flowing along racial lines from the relatively well-off whites to the latinos and blacks, ‘progressive politics’ in a depression may just be another word for “division and tension between black and white Americans”. When it became clear that Obama would not — could not — fix the economy; and when it became clear who was going to pay the bill for his social engineering, his supported melted away. President Obama doesn’t have a racial problem. He has an economic and ideological problem with racial dimensions.

The problem is that his governing mental model may be founded in a lost world — in the Marxist critiques of the 1960s and 70s. It may have been forged at a time when Americans seemed obscenely prosperous in comparison to the denizens of the Third World. They were harmless eccentricities at the time. Today, in a globalized world where China, not America is on track to become the greatest consumer in the world; in a world where Americans and Britons pose as Filipinos to get jobs, it is nothing short of disastrous.  His old categories of race and privilege and noblesse oblige are survivals from a bygone age. President Obama has made much of being the harbinger of the future. On the contrary, he may turn out to be a relic from the past.
 Read it here.

He's right. Much has changed both domestically and internationally since the 1960s, but Obama seems not to have noticed. He is the product of fossilized academic and activist institutions hopelessly mired in the past and, because of their antagonistic stance toward mainstream American culture, resistant to change. The self-proclaimed agent of progressive change is, in fact, a dyed-in-the-wool reactionary.

The Good President [continued]

George W. Bush did far more for Africa than Obama is doing. Don't believe me? Just ask Desmond Tutu [here].

Bennett on American Exceptionalism

James C. Bennett has a piece in the latest National Review on American exceptionalism, a subject that has begun to interest me. His is a rather narrow view of the matter, restricted to the peculiarly American formulation of republican principles, but he does make one interesting observation. Americans tend to think of these principles as properly being universal which leads them in two distinct directions. In terms of American domestic culture we think that the same rules and principles should apply equally to all persons and that everyone, regardless of their culture of origin can become American through a process of assimilation. In foreign affairs the same dynamic leads us to assume that every country, regardless of its national traditions, can become to some extent America. Bennett rightly points out that the latter presumption has caused a lot of problems in the international arena and suggests that we should adopt a more "realist" approach. But he remains convinced that cultural homogenization over time, because it has worked in the past, is a proper approach to domestic affairs. This, however, ignores the fact that, at least as regards elite culture, the assimilation paradigm has long been abandoned and in these pluralist times is often an object of ridicule; and the fact that absent stringent coercive pressures, which our current political culture is extremely reluctant to employ, assimilation has not generally in the past taken place. Past ethnically distinctive communities, some of them tracing back centuries, were not naturally assimilated -- they had to be "Americanized". For half a century now we have been systematically eliminating the instruments by which Americanization was enforced and it is unlikely that we shall see in our lifetimes their re-emergence. So, at least since World War Two, the domestic implications of the doctrine of American exceptionalism and its presumption of an "underlying common culture" have been just as problematic as in the realm of foreign policy. In both realms the only effective means of achieving a common commitment to republican principles is the ruthless application of force, and that is something we are increasingly reluctant to do.

Read Bennett's piece here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dead Sea Scroll News

According to an article in Discovery News tests on the Dead Sea Scrolls suggest that they were produced locally. There has been a popular theory that the scrolls were originally part of a library in Jerusalem and that they were taken from there into the countryside to hide them during the uprising. If this study pans out that theory will have to be laid to rest.

Read it here.

Poor Al Gore

Just when he thought he had finally put that sex scandal behind him two new accusers emerge. From the published descriptions of his behavior with the first accuser [of she could be believed] it seemed apparent that he was a long time abuser, accustomed to treating women like dirt. The new accusations confirm that picture. Read the article here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Crisis of Information

Carlson's Daily Caller, drawing upon e-mails between MSM journalists, exposes the deep dishonesty practiced by them on Obama's behalf. When the Jeremiah Wright story broke during the 2008 campaign, reporters for mainstream publications conspired to bury it and to change the subject lest it hurt Obama's chances for election.

Read about it here.

Andrew Breitbart notes that the supposedly free press is coming more and more to resemble Pravda [here].

Ann Althouse notes that moral and ethical considerations never arose during discussions among the journalists as to how best to deal with the Wright crisis [here].

And in a related story, the Chronicle of Higher Education admits that a recent story by Michael Bellesile's latest publication is false. Eugene Volokh notes that Bellesiles [like Lawrence Tribe before him] blames the errors and instances of plagarism on a student assistant. Bellesiles first rose to prominence several years ago with a bogus study of gun ownership in early America. Because his findings fit well with liberal biases the work was widely praised by scholars and even won the highest prizes awarded by the History profession. When Bellesiles' duplicity was exposed, by conservative commentators, the profession, to its credit, withdrew the honors, but the willingness of major figures in academia remains an embarrassment.

Read about it here.

There is a real crisis here. The major institutions upon which we, as citizens, depend for timely and accurate information [the MSM and academia] have been revealed to be so deeply corrupted by ideological bias as to be, to all intents and purposes, useless. So unreliable have these sources of information become that they cannot be trusted on any subject. This is important because academia and professional journalism are supposed to constitute trustworthy, self-correcting, communities of competence. That has been a bedrock assumption of our modern democracy Neither is currently functioning as such nor have they done so for a long time and in an environment in which no reliable source of information is available, all we have to fall back on is our prejudices.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Most Important Essay You Will Read All Year

Angelo M. Codevilla has a magnificent analysis of the transformation of the American political culture and class structure since World War II. Here's his opening:
As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors' "toxic assets" was the only alternative to the U.S. economy's "systemic collapse." In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets' nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.

When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term "political class" came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public's understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the "ruling class." And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class. 
 Indeed they do! Read his entire analysis of how and why this technocracy rose to power in our times here.


Ross Douthat, writing in the NYT, notes the rising class conflict and ascribes it to the role of elite universities as gatekeeper to the ruling class. He writes:
The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren’t racial minorities; they’re working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions. Inevitably, the same underrepresentation persists in the elite professional ranks these campuses feed into: in law and philanthropy, finance and academia, the media and the arts. 
Then he invokes the ludicrous analysis of Richard Hofstader, who saw "paranoia" as an essential feature of American political culture.

This breeds paranoia, among elite and non-elites alike. Among the white working class, increasingly the most reliable Republican constituency, alienation from the American meritocracy fuels the kind of racially tinged conspiracy theories that Beck and others have exploited — that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Marxist hand-picked by a shadowy liberal cabal, that a Wall Street-Washington axis wants to flood the country with third world immigrants, and so forth.

Among the highly educated and liberal, meanwhile, the lack of contact with rural, working-class America generates all sorts of wild anxieties about what’s being plotted in the heartland. In the Bush years, liberals fretted about a looming evangelical theocracy. In the age of the Tea Parties, they see crypto-Klansmen and budding Timothy McVeighs everywhere they look. 
Douthat's solution to the emerging cultural divide? Greater sensitivity on the part of elite college admissions boards. Yeah, Ross. That will do it.

Read it here.


I understand that Rush Limbaugh is devoting his entire show today to discussion of Codevilla's article.

And Janet Daily, writing in the Telegraph, picks up its major themes [here].

Liberal politics is now... a form of social snobbery. To express concern about mass immigration, or reservations about the Obama healthcare plan, is unacceptable in bien-pensant circles because this is simply not the way educated people are supposed to think. It follows that those who do think (and talk) this way are small-minded bigots, rednecks, oiks, or whatever your local code word is for "not the right sort".

And check out Richard Fernandez' riff on the article over at Pajamas Media [here].

And Victor Davis Hanson picks up the theme here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pournelle on Michael Mann

Jerry Pournelle seriously doubts that Michael Mann [Penn State's most famous fraudster] can possibly know what he claims to know about world temperatures one thousand years ago. His points are good ones, and not original with him, but rarely expressed as plainly. There is no objective measure of global temperatures, and even if there were, there is no way of calculating past temperatures with the degree of precision necessary to construct Mann's famous "hockey stick" graph. Finally, it is suspicious that Mann, rather than revealing in detail his methodology and data, chooses instead to launch ad hominem attacks on his critics. Why academic institutions allow Mann and his cronies at East Anglia to coast is beyond me. They do no credit to the institutions that sign their paychecks.

Read Pournelle's piece here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pat Metheny Alone

Pat Metheny is experimenting with the Orchestrion, a gizmo that allows him to do away with sidemen and to perform a number of instruments simultaneously. It's an interesting experiment. Check it out:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sara Jones -- Groovin'

One of my favorite singers, Sara Jones, performing at the Explorer's Lounge at the Intercontinental in Baltimore. She is simply fantastic!!!! To hear some of her studio work go here. Take my word for it, she sounds even better in person.

Waters of March -- My Favorite Version

I can't get this out of my mind -- Jobim, Jarreau, and Oleta, perfection!!!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Iowahawk Strikes Again -- "The Two Randy Vicars"

The funniest man on the internet writes:

The Two Randy Vicars

from Baudy Tales for the Indifcreet Gentleman (ca. 1710) by Anonymous
It happened that in Washingtown-on-Beltway there once ministered to the shire folk two vicars of remarkable and resolute piety. Polite history shall record their names and peerages as the Reverend John St. Edwards, Lord Plaintiff of Durham, and the Reverend Albert des Gores II, Earl Carbonet of Greenhouse. It shall likewise note well that each man, in his fashion, was a virtuoso upon his respective pulpit. What it shan't record, however, is each man's slavish indenture to the base desires of the flesh. As every schoolboy knows, as well he does his Latin infinitives, few are those men whose breeches are immune to the Devil's disturbances. In the case of our two ill-fortuned subjects, Lucifer himself seemed to take particular delight in presenting ribald temptations and the debasing consequences that follow. Herein lies their tale.
And what a tale it is! Read the whole thing here.

Cat Fight

Megyn Kelly gets it on with Kristin Powers at FOX News. The only thing missing is the jello.

Defusing the Population Bomb

One of the central tenets of the "green" movement is that there are just too damn many humans on the face of the planet. This has been an article of faith for greenies ever since the publication, way back in 1968, of Paul Ehrlich's "Population Bomb" and that faith has long been resistant to reason and evidence. Time after time demographers and economists have pointed out that the population bomb has been a dud and that famines and predicted resource shortages have not materialized, but to little effect.

Finally, after half a century of hysterics, a faint glimmer of reality has begun to seep into the world-view of some environmentalists. A case in point is this article by Fred Pierce which states at its outset:
A green myth is on the march. It wants to blame the world's overbreeding poor people for the planet's peril. It stinks. And on World Population Day, I encourage fellow environmentalists not to be seduced.
Some greens think all efforts to save the world are doomed unless we "do something" about continuing population growth. But this is nonsense. Worse, it is dangerous nonsense.
Pierce's article focuses on an important advance in our understanding of population growth. We have long known about the "demographic transition" whereby economic development produces a marked reduction in female fertility. What has now become apparent is that declines in female fertility are taking place not just in developed nations, but worldwide [with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa]. It is this new information that has caused Pierce to proclaim that the population bomb is a dud.

Of course, Pierce is himself an environmentalist and is still attracted to the puritanical doomsday predictions on which the movement is based. After assuring us that population growth in and of itself will not bring about global catastrophe, he immediately makes reference to an alternative round of apocalyptic predictions.

The population bomb is being defused right now -- by the world's poor women. Sadly, the consumption bomb is still primed and ever more dangerous. Now that would be a proper target for environmentalists.
So, the "consumption bomb" is beginning to replace population growth in the fervid apocalyptic imaginations of environmentalists and some within the movement are not happy to see that. Pierce's article has spawned heated responses from people and organizations that have a major investment in population control, like this article by Robert Walker, an executive with the Population Institute. These organizations are not going to go away, and will continue to promote their anti-humanist agenda throughout the world. That is why I am not much encouraged by the defusing of the population bomb. It will have little effect on the anti-humanists' sensibilities and will simply encourage those within the green movement to focus ever more intently on their anti-capitalist agendas.

The resistance of green activists and other assorted apocalyptics to reason and evidence is the subject of yet another piece, this one by Sean Collins. He writes:

[T]he end is very clearly not nigh. By any sensible measure – life expectancy, wealth, literacy rates, food supply, social freedoms, even the general state of the environment – we live in an era that far surpasses any previous one. Our best days are – or at least should be – ahead of us. Yet books that have had the temerity to point out these simple facts – like Bjørn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist or Indur Goklany’s The Improving State of the World – are routinely pilloried by liberal-left and green commentators.
Collins rightly identifies the apocalyptic visions invoked by the Greens as "moralistic and misanthropic self-loathing". I would not venture to judge the deep psychological problems associated with this movement, but there is something here that goes far beyond rational or reasonable discourse.

Berwick and the Death Panels

Stuart Schwartz writing in the American Thinker notes that Sarah Palin, with her invocation of "death panels", fundamentally changed the tone of the debate over Obamacare.
[Palin] cut to the heart of Obamacare a year ago, slashing through the professor-speak and government gobbledygook with a searing summary on Facebook of its bottom line: "death panels." With those words, the grounds for debate had shifted, the mainstream media ideological blackout was circumvented....
Not only was Palin's pronouncement a game-changer, it was prescient. Although Sarah was attacked viciously and vehemently by the MSM her prediction has been borne out by the recent appointment of Harvard's Dr. Donald Berwick to oversee the implementation of Obamacare. 
The Harvard health specialist's job is to transform Medicare, to make the primary medical insurance system for seniors into an instrument of social policy, to take wealth and years from seniors and redistribute them to favored segments of the population. This is not about health care, and it is especially not about seniors; rather, it is all about the social engineering.
Sarah Palin was right....

 Read it here.

Schwartz's assessment may be a bit over the top in its rhetoric, but the point he makes is valid. The implementation of Obamacare, as it is envisioned by Dr. Berwick and his associates, will indeed result in the rationing of health care resources available to senior citizens and will produce a redistribution of those resources away from seniors toward politically favored groups designated by government panels as being more valuable to society. Bureaucrats will be making fundamental health care decisions for us all, and when we consider their effect on senior citizens, the term "death panels" is by no means inappropriate.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Everything Must Change

Oleta Adams -- what a wonderful voice!

Strange video, though. Ignore the visuals, listen to an amazing singer.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Niall Ferguson Disses Paul Krugman

Here's Niall Ferguson discussing America's current fiscal crisis and liberal recommendations for dealing with it:

Here's Prof. Ferguson's guide to the history of sovereign debt. Check it out, and be afraid..., be very afraid.

Ferguson expands on his themes here [transcript included].


Sky over Sinking Spring, PA this afternoon. Glad I brought my camera.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Have you Heard? Levi Lied about Sarah!

People Magazine reports:
Levi Johnston isn't just getting past his differences with Bristol Palin – he's also hoping to make amends with her famous mom.

"Last year, after Bristol and I broke up, I was unhappy and a little angry. Unfortunately, against my better judgment, I publicly said things about the Palins that were not completely true," he tells PEOPLE exclusively. "I have already privately apologized to Todd and Sarah. Since my statements were public, I owe it to the Palins to publicly apologize." 
 I see two points to make here. The first is that the MSM was quick to jump on and publicize Johnston's lies about Governor Palin. Stories trashing the Palins were ubiquitous -- but the retraction, not so much. By contrast, note the skepticism with which the press treats scandalous allegations made against liberal icons. Secondly, once again MSM sources were trumped by the entertainment/tabloid press. People magazine, the National Inquirer and other such sources are now taking the lead in uncovering and resolving scandals. This would not be happening if the MSM were doing their jobs.

Mary Katherine Ham has the best commentary on this liberal smear against Governor Palin and the angry young man who abetted it here.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Good President [continued]

Happy Birthday to the good guy, George W. Bush.

Instapundit Explains Obama's Reaction to the Gulf Oil Disaster

Actually, the reason the oil cleanup is so slow is that there’s no oil spill at all. Oil’s just a cover story. It’s really aliens on the seafloor. That’s why the press is being kept away, and that’s why they’re preparing the public by floating stories about the possibility of nuking the site. Those skimmer ships aren’t cleaning things up, they are actually releasing oil to support the cover story. That’s why they’ve found lame excuses to keep volunteers and foreign assistance away. It’s all obvious once you think about it! Wake up, sheeple!
Read the whole thing here.

PS: For those of you who see this a confirmation of right wing paranoia, the Prof is joking.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Coolidge on Independence

On this Independence Day I can think of nothing better to do than to read once again and think about this magnificent address given in Philadelphia on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence by my favorite president:

Speech on the Occasion of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence

Calvin Coolidge
July 5, 1926
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgement of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.
Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.
It is not so much then for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.
It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear to the uninstructed as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell of a former time, useless now because of more modern conveniences, but to those who know they have become consecrated by the use which men have made of them. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them, because of their associations of one hundred and fifty years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago. Through use for a righteous purpose they have become sanctified.
It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they therefore resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.
We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility. It was in no sense a rising of the oppressed and downtrodden. It brought no scum to the surface, for the reason that colonial society had developed no scum. The great body of the people were accustomed to privations, but they were free from depravity. If they had poverty, it was not of the hopeless kind that afflicts great cities, but the inspiring kind that marks the spirit of the pioneer. The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them.
The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.
While North Carolina has the honor of first authorizing its delegates to concur with other Colonies in declaring independence, it was quickly followed by South Carolina and Georgia, which also gave general instructions broad enough to include such action. But the first instructions which unconditionally directed its delegates to declare for independence came from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. These were immediately followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while the other Colonies, with the exception of New York, soon adopted a like course.
This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion, it did not partake of dark intrigue or hidden conspiracy. It was well advised. It had about it nothing of the lawless and disordered nature of a riotous insurrection. It was maintained on a plane which rises above the ordinary conception of rebellion. It was in no sense a radical movement but took on the dignity of a resistance to illegal usurpations. It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.
When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession of territory and the establishment of a new nation. Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the admiration and reverence of humanity. There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.
It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.
If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination. But remarkable as this may be, it is not the chief distinction of the Declaration of Independence. The importance of political speculation is not to be under-estimated, as I shall presently disclose. Until the idea is developed and the plan made there can be no action.
It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world. It was not only the principles declared, but the fact that therewith a new nation was born which was to be founded upon those principles and which from that time forth in its development has actually maintained those principles, that makes this pronouncement an incomparable event in the history of government. It was an assertion that a people had arisen determined to make every necessary sacrifice for the support of these truths and by their practical application bring the War of Independence to a successful conclusion and adopt the Constitution of the United States with all that it has meant to civilization.
The idea that the people have a right to choose their own rulers was not new in political history. It was the foundation of every popular attempt to depose an undesirable king. This right was set out with a good deal of detail by the Dutch when as early as July 26, 1581, they declared their independence of Philip of Spain. In their long struggle with the Stuarts the British people asserted the same principles, which finally culminated in the Bill of Rights deposing the last of that house and placing William and Mary on the throne. In each of these cases sovereignty through divine right was displaced by sovereignty through the consent of the people. Running through the same documents, though expressed in different terms, is the clear inference of inalienable rights. But we should search these charters in vain for an assertion of the doctrine of equality. This principle had not before appeared as an official political declaration of any nation. It was profoundly revolutionary. It is one of the corner stones of American institutions.
But if these truths to which the declaration refers have not before been adopted in their combined entirety by national authority, it is a fact that they had been long pondered and often expressed in political speculation. It is generally assumed that French thought had some effect upon our public mind during Revolutionary days. This may have been true. But the principles of our declaration had been under discussion in the Colonies for nearly two generations before the advent of the French political philosophy that characterized the middle of the eighteenth century. In fact, they come from an earlier date. A very positive echo of what the Dutch had done in 1581, and what the English were preparing to do, appears in the assertion of the Rev. Thomas Hooker of Connecticut as early as 1638, when he said in a sermon before the General Court that--
"The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people"
"The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God’s own allowance."
This doctrine found wide acceptance among the nonconformist clergy who later made up the Congregational Church. The great apostle of this movement was the Rev. John Wise, of Massachusetts. He was one of the leaders of the revolt against the royal governor Andros in 1687, for which he suffered imprisonment. He was a liberal in ecclesiastical controversies. He appears to have been familiar with the writings of the political scientist, Samuel Pufendorf, who was born in Saxony in 1632. Wise published a treatise, entitled "The Church’s Quarrel Espoused," in 1710, which was amplified in another publication in 1717. In it he dealt with the principles of civil government. His works were reprinted in 1772 and have been declared to have been nothing less than a textbook of liberty for our Revolutionary fathers.
While the written word was the foundation, it is apparent that the spoken word was the vehicle for convincing the people. This came with great force and wide range from the successors of Hooker and Wise, It was carried on with a missionary spirit which did not fail to reach the Scotch-Irish of North Carolina, showing its influence by significantly making that Colony the first to give instructions to its delegates looking to independence. This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged that his "best ideas of democracy" had been secured at church meetings.
That these ideas were prevalent in Virginia is further revealed by the Declaration of Rights, which was prepared by George Mason and presented to the general assembly on May 27, 1776. This document asserted popular sovereignty and inherent natural rights, but confined the doctrine of equality to the assertion that "All men are created equally free and independent." It can scarcely be imagined that Jefferson was unacquainted with what had been done in his own Commonwealth of Virginia when he took up the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. But these thoughts can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was writing in 1710. He said, "Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man." Again, "The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth . . . ." And again, "For as they have a power every man in his natural state, so upon combination they can and do bequeath this power to others and settle it according as their united discretion shall determine." And still again, "Democracy is Christ’s government in church and state." Here was the doctrine of equality, popular sovereignty, and the substance of the theory of inalienable rights clearly asserted by Wise at the opening of the eighteenth century, just as we have the principle of the consent of the governed stated by Hooker as early as 1638.
When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature’s God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say "The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven."
No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period. The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event. No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.
Placing every man on a plane where he acknowledged no superiors, where no one possessed any right to rule over him, he must inevitably choose his own rulers through a system of self-government. This was their theory of democracy. In those days such doctrines would scarcely have been permitted to flourish and spread in any other country. This was the purpose which the fathers cherished. In order that they might have freedom to express these thoughts and opportunity to put them into action, whole congregations with their pastors had migrated to the colonies. These great truths were in the air that our people breathed. Whatever else we may say of it, the Declaration of Independence was profoundly American.
If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.
We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character 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.
In the development of its institutions America can fairly claim that it has remained true to the principles which were declared 150 years ago. In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people. Even in the less important matter of material possessions we have secured a wider and wider distribution of wealth. The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guaranties, which even the Government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self-government--the right of the people to rule. If there is any failure in respect to any of these principles, it is because there is a failure on the part of individuals to observe them. We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction. But even in that we come back to the theory of John Wise that "Democracy is Christ’s government." The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty.
On an occasion like this a great temptation exists to present evidence of the practical success of our form of democratic republic at home and the ever-broadening acceptance it is securing abroad. Although these things are well known, their frequent consideration is an encouragement and an inspiration. But it is not results and effects so much as sources and causes that I believe it is even more necessary constantly to contemplate. Ours is a government of the people. It represents their will. Its officers may sometimes go astray, but that is not a reason for criticizing the principles of our institutions. The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.
It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever-broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.
Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.
No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.


Have a happy fourth everyone.