Saturday, January 27, 2007

One of the projects I manifested the intention of finishing last week is now completed in a form ready for posting. I hope to post it in the coming week but I have had to circulate it to some friends with sharp analytical knives to poke and prod first so that it reads as coherently and rationally as it does to these eyes.

The issue is not as much the arguments themselves individually but the systematic presentation of them that is the issue here. Considering the hectic weeks I had work-wise and the spare moments I had to put the piece together on lunch or short breaks, I want some fresh eyes and perspectives to review that piece before I post it. Anyway, I just wanted to note that up front and also that this weblog is not in beta form as of yesterday evening.

There are a number of things I like about the new platform -one of which is that there is a colour cube for different parts of the pot. Gone therefore are the days of manually entering that stuff in by hand and here are the days of time-saving and more diverse choices of coolour overall.{1} Unfortunately, it does not appear that there is an option for comments boxes on individual posts as I had previously assumed{2} it may have. Anyone who knows more about the platform and if my perception of its capabilities is wrong or not, by all means let me know.

One thing is for sure, publishing on this platform is a lot easier and I am able to better access my entire archives -something I have not been able to do since mid 2003 unless I could remember a key word or two when doing a post search.{3} Plus, future template adjustments will be a lot easier too so all I can say for those who have not upgraded platforms yet{4} to do it when you can. Unless you are off of blogger now then (of course) feel free to ignore this advice altogether.


{1} Except on those days where I was feeling extra-HTML spiffy which was not often. (That explains why the colours on some posts are more creative than are the norm for past postings but I digress.)

{2} Now it is possible when I am able to transfer my blog to the new beta that I may have targeted comments allowed as that can be done on a post by post basis with the new software. But at the present time, I have too many posts for my archive to be moved to the new platform. We shall see when the time comes if a selective use of comboxes on a post by post basis is feasible to do or not. But that is as close as I will get to the comments box zeitgeist for reasons I noted in the text above. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa January 25, 2007)]

{3} I can usually remember approximately when I wrote on something or a key word or phrase I may have used to help in finding something with the archives search option. However, it has been over three years since blogger had a platform that enabled me to go through my whole archives start to finish and look more than 300 posts back for something. Sometimes I cannot remember key words or precisely what a subject I wrote on can be found in the archives but only when approximately it was written. The new format allows therefore for those kinds of posts to be found and that is a nice upgrade from the old format in my opinion.

{4} I only was able to do this with Rerum Novarum yesterday evening.


Friday, January 26, 2007

My Superbowl Prediction:

Go HERE for details.

Labels: ,

The Comments Box Subject Revisited:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

On occasion, certain contentious sorts raise the subject of comments boxes and have the audacity to presume that our failure to have them at Rerum Novarum constitutes some sort of timidity on our part. It is asserted by these sorts that I have little if any confidence in the solidity of my positions and that somehow I have to "sift" what makes it to the weblog in a careful fashion to preserve some "illusion" or whatever.

Comments boxes for those of this sort of outlook are considered "interaction" or "dealing with others" and giving "freedom to express themselves" or whatever -even of a critical nature. Usually these kinds of criticisms of my approach come from people who try to evade arguments I have made but I am hardly going to presume that only those sorts have questions as to why we at Rerum Novarum utilize the weblog policy that we do. And as every once and a while it helps to remind people of why I do what I do, I will do so at this time to hopefully make it clear that the presumptions behind those who take a negative view of what I do on this matter are significantly off the mark.

To start with, those who want to have comments boxes can do what they like. I do not begrudge them at all personally but I do not agree with their use generally speaking for many reasons. For one thing, they are not strictly speaking required for interaction with others as there are many ways to get feedback. I interact with some of the more interesting emails or discussion list stuff on this blog -interesting to me that is and if I am not interested in the subject, it is not going to get dealt with here. Sometimes I get emails from people that they want posted as guest editorials and generally I am willing to do that too -even if I do not agree with viewpoint on the subject matter being posted. There are also times where I will interact with others on discussion lists, in chat logs, on message boards (occasionally) and in the comboxes of other weblogs: virtually none of which I have editorial control over and that is of no small significance.{1}

There are numerous ways to receive and interact with people's views much as there are numerous sources with which to come up with material for writing. I have discussed this before and at 2400 plus posts to this weblog have come nowhere near exhausting my well of subjects which I can discuss and do so in an intelligent and thought-provoking manner. Do I utilize "selected feedback" as some critics assert??? Yes I do but for a very good reason which may not be evident so I will say it here.

Before I started blogging, I perused various weblogs and observed the manner in which comments boxes were handled by their participants. I came to realize after a period of observation that they cause more problems than they are worth most of the time and therefore decided to find other avenues for interaction with others when I got around to starting a blog of my own. This is why I never have had and never will have comboxes at Rerum Novarum of a general nature.

As far as what my precise views on this matter is, it has been explained before on more than one occasion. I have noted the reasons most recently in this thread and I stick by them. Nor am I the only one to have taken this view -indeed others have come to similar conclusions as I have via experience with them personally which mirrored what I observed back in mid 2002. And what I have observed subsequently with comments boxes at other people's blogs -including those of some of my critics- has only solidified my view on this matter.

General comboxes on all posts{2} is not something I am interested in for reasons noted above both by myself and also the other party in question (Jonathan Prejean) whose correspondence was blogged at one of the links above. To quote part of that text at this time in dark red font:

[T]he quality discussion on email (which, naturally, provided motivation for me to blog about some subjects) far surpassed the interaction I was getting in comments. The process of thinking through a subject, as is customary when drafting more lengthy communications than idle responses in a comment box, tends to produce a higher quality of response. [Excerpt from Rerum Novarum (circa June 10, 2005)]

I did not say it quite as explicitly as he did but like myself, Jonathan realized that the quality of email responses was light years ahead of virtually all combox stuff except in very rare situations where there may be some parity. The question then becomes whether one wants to take the time to try and find the stuff of worth in that endeavour or instead find ways of trying to weed out the chaff and get to the wheat in a fashion much more conducive to the time constraints that are always on these endeavours for most of us.{3}

Truthfully, I have almost never seen a combox thread where the quality of responses is comparable to a decent email correspondence. Well, a number of my combox interactions are close to that quality but even then, if stuff is taken from the comboxes and eventually blogged, I almost always have to refine it a bit in spots and flesh out some points. There is also the need to string together as a rule a lot of shorter postings because of the time constraints -one reason why the nature of the combox format does not tend to allow for quality interaction as a rule.

So while comboxes can serve as a good source for blogging material (and I do use it sometimes), in the end whatever it produces of value even in my case needs a refining for blog presentation which private emails often do not.{4} And that comes from someone who actually tries to make good contributions to comboxes as a rule: something that only a minority of people actually do. If my critics want to take the time to pan for gold that way, they can be my guest. I though have far better ways of coming up with persons of substance to dialogue with than that.

The primary reason I do not use comments boxes is because combox stuff is rarely up to snuff and I do not want to take the time to dig in the coal mines to find the rare diamond or two there may be. Someone who is moved enough to send an email is usually (though not always) going to put some thought into what they send. And I only use the cream of the emails I receive because I have no interest in playing "erect the strawman and knock him down" which much too frequently is what many of those of an "apologetics" mindset do.{5}

There is a serious lack of interest in logic and rational thought out there and I do not want to contribute to it either explicitly or by implication. For that reason, my interest is in taking the best possible argument shots people want to throw my way. There is also the part where I discuss only what I want to discuss at a given point in time. Emails may sit for a while unresponded to until I want to respond to them -usually my stock response to emailers if it is something that I intend to respond to is that I am "working on a response." That lets them know that they will be taken seriously when I do get around to responding to them and not infrequently they send a follow-up email expressing gratitude for that.{6}

In the end, it is quality over quantity and I will take the former any day of the week. My critics can feel free to entertain the rabble who cannot put together a coherent argument all they want. I though prefer to deal with those who can much as I am interested in helping people become better thinkers and thus better contributors to the arena of ideas. That in short is why I take the approach to comments boxes that I do and why that will not change in principle -even if in the future certain new blog technology allows for an occasional deviation{7} from my ordinary blog protocol.


{1} The truth is, those who have comments boxes are capable of manipulating the content there to suit their own agenda including banning people who raise strong enough arguments against the "prevailing orthodoxy" at a given weblog. Now obviously people who are genuine trolls do not need to be given the time of day but you would be surprised at how often those who laud their "willingness to interact with others" will put censors on their comments boxes that would make the monitors at Pravda in the days of the old Soviet Union blush.

{2} Now it is possible when I am able to transfer my blog to the new beta that I may have targeted comments allowed as that can be done on a post by post basis with the new software. But at the present time, I have too many posts for my archive to be moved to the new platform. We shall see when the time comes if a selective use of comboxes on a post by post basis is feasible to do or not. But that is as close as I will get to the comments box zeitgeist for reasons I noted in the text above.

{3} There is also the fact that some of these critics have more time than Big Ben for these sorts of endeavours whereas most of us do not. For that reason, it makes sense to use one's time as productively as possible and that is what my approach to these matters enables me to do.

{4} I say "often do not" because sometimes due to certain parts of an email which the writer may request complete confidentiality on, it requires rephrasing certain parts of the text to provide a reasonable flow to the content therein. I have no problem with people being highly critical of me as long as they show proper respect for basic ethics in the process. That includes (but is not limited to) scholastic integrity too which I already have pointed out several times not a few of my critics have shown a lacuna in on a few occasions.

{5} This is done even those who are more seasoned and are not mere neophytes so the problem is quite widespread.

{6} Though I almost never blog those unless they also involve a continution of the thread under discussion.

{7} See footnote two.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rough Draft of a Book Review on Young Patriots For Amazon:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

[Prefatory Note: This text was written last year and I though I had posted it. However, when doing an archive search for the text to consider revising it -something I noted in a recent posting that I planned to do- I found only a draft text version dated to June 30, 2006. Anyway, I will post it at this time and set about doing an abridged version for posting at Amazon sometime before spring time-willing. -ISM]

* * * * *

The Founding Fathers Live!!!

Charles Cerami deserves credit for doing something that is rare for a historian and something that is essential: making the characters he writes on come to life rather than read as a collection of stale hagiography. I certainly saw some minor problems with the work but I would be remiss in not noting that the pluses of this work by far outweigh the minuses.

First of all, I cannot emphasize enough the way he covers the characters of the Founding Fathers -particularly Alexander Hamilton and James Madison the two main characters of the book. The Founders were complex personalities and too often they are written of in a simplistic fashion, which speaks as much for the biases of the writers covering them as it does anything else. That is not to say that Cerami is free from bias: he definitely has a liberal bias but he is careful to not let it colour too much of his treatment on these complicated subject matters. For that reason as well as the quality of his writing and overall analysis of the Founders as men and the issues they faced, I give this book five stars. To briefly touch on some of the points that I found of particular interest:

---The main forces behind the Constitution either in the ideas presented in the document or in building consensus for the ideas of other Founders which they believed should be included but (without such a consensus approach) never would have seen the light of day.

---Though Hamilton and Madison were the main characters covered in the book, Cerami also touches on George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (the latter was not even involved in the pre-convention or convention proceedings) but also dealt to some extent with the important contributions of Benjamin Franklin, Gouverneur Morris, George Mason, Roger Sherman, James Wilson, Elbridge Gerry, Edmund Randolph, Rufus King, Patrick Henry, the Pinkney's of South Carolina, John Adams, and various others figures -including some who were practically invisible except for a key decision they were involved in at points where their decisions changed the course of history.

---While often getting a bad rap on the slavery issue, Cerami points out the truth of the matter which to touch on briefly (since this is often misunderstood): there was no consensus amongst the Founders on the slavery issue. If anything, the currents at the time did not favour it even among the more favourable of the Southern states. There were however different opinions as to how this was to be dealt with and Cerami astutely noted that most of the Founders (even many who had slaves) viewed the institution of slavery as an unfortunate reality of the time.

--Despite that general viewpoint, the Founders generally viewed the slavery issue as a thorny one that could best be dealt with from within the framework of a stable government structure. This is why a man like Madison (who abhorred slavery with every fiber of his being) could agree to the kind of compromises that he did. (Hamilton was not present at those preliminary meeting and who probably would have vigorously opposed such compromises not because he disagreed with Madison's view on slavery but because he was more analytical than practical on these kinds of points than Madison was.)

---If not for following a protocol of secrecy, there would be no Constitution and thus no United States of America. Those who think every proposal should be run by the masses (read: journalists and other sensationalist sorts) and who whine about "constitutional protections of free speech" when their irresponsibility is pointed out to them should be better aware of the way they contradict themselves in their words and activities.

---The proposal for a more stable union in the late eighteenth century was as well as the Constitutional Convention and the informed meetings that preceded it was a matter involving the security of the nation. Cerami himself seems to recognize the conundrum of sorts that his more liberal approaches involved (he later argues briefly in the book for an approach to the freedom of speech that is a fairly blanket approach) and how the Constitution he so evidently loves would not exist if his principles were followed around the time of its crafting by the Founders. It seems to this writer that a differentiation between what does not involve national security and what does involve it is the logical points of distinction that need to be made on this issue but enough on that point for now.

I noted that Cerami is a liberal and he certainly presents his views on certain issues in that vein. He also has a presuppositional thread common to the Whig historian in his take to some extent which should likewise be noted in this review. However, to his credit, he generally sticks to the issues and avoids editorial comment when writing on the persons involved in the creation of the Constitution and in commenting on the labyrinth of issues that had to be navigated. His portrayal of the various characters --particularly Madison and Hamilton but also to a lessor extent Washington and (from his Paris vantage point: Thomas Jefferson) is detailed.

Every indication is given that Cerami wanted to present as complete a portrait of the subjects he wrote, the debates that shaped the document's crafting, the clashes of personalities, differing ideas, major principles involved, etc. as reasonably as he could. That he gets it all in a volume of approximately 320 pages with a well-footnoted text (and in a way that brings the characters and the issues to life) is no small achievement.

That Cerami's work will hopefully shatter forever the common misperception of the Founders as a bunch of slave-endorsing graybeards is certainly something to hope for. This misperception applied to some of the Founders is certainly true but the two men most influential for the ideas that shaped the Constitution and the process that saw that achievement through to its final form (not to mention getting it ratified as the law of the land) were indeed very young men. Alexander Hamilton for example was only 32 and James Madison was 36. The average age in fact was 43 - 39 if the two oldest Founders (Benjamin Franklin and Roger Sherman) were factored out of the mix.

In summary, this is a most excellent book which I recommend that everyone obtain and read for their own edification. Madison and Hamilton were not the only characters among the Founders who had disagreements and even passionately disagreed with one another. The book highlights well how many men of varying temperaments were able to put aside petty differences and work together for the common good of the nation they loved and to save it. Would that many of today's belligerents develop this kind of approach to the complicated issues of our day and age but I digress.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Drinking some water
Finished my blogging right now
Back to work I go


On Stem Cell Research and Fundamental Rights:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

A good post on amniotic stem cells was recently posted by The Holy Fool which is worth considering for anyone who is heavily into promoting stem cell research. It reminded me to some extent of an article Michael Kinsley wrote for Slate back around 2003 or so where he appealed to his own situation and asked those who refused to endorse stem cell research with embryos to basically tell him he deserved to die. He said this to those who refused to play into an attempt by the abortion lobby (which Kinsley supports) to pitch their position in moralistic overtones.

Readers of this humble weblog who were good at putting two and two together could probably have figured out that I would gladly have told Michael Kinsley this not out of personal dislike{1} or malice but instead out of principle. Indeed, the only pre-Rerum Novarum social commentary of mine which is linked to this weblog happens to be on the subject of stem cell research.{2} As obviously it would have served no fruitful purpose to say it directly in that way, I chose therefore not to.

But yes, those who recognize that life is sacred and that in the absence of definitive proof of where life actually begins{3} believe erring on the side of caution is important, that is the position that they have to take. However, as The Holy Fool has noted, there is now an alternative approach to this matter:

The institutionalization of pursuing illusion slowly strangles the collective conscience of our society. When we're cut off from the truth by our own denial, we lose the fundamental source of wisdom upon which our conscience depends. Thus, our institutions--like MSM--can celebrate a "freedom" whose fruit is murder while it condemns an ethical breakthrough in cutting-edge science. One that may save lives and improve the quality of life for countless others.

The question is, does amniotic stem cell research violate any of the fundamental rights of man -the first of which is life. I cannot see how it would considering that cells themselves do not constitute life and from all that we know about biology if these are cells which are shed by the embryo are easier to maintain in lab conditions than stem cells extracted from a fetus. Wherever or however we want to argue the issue of where life begins, it is not arguable that amniotic stem cells do not constitute life. And knowing that should make how we approach the stem cell research issue at Rerum Novarum both evident and obvious: amniotic stem cell research is fine while fetal stem cell research has more problems from a procedural standpoint and more potential Pandora's Box problems from both the moral and ethical realms. But watch as The Holy Fool noted those who are adamant about wanting fetal stem cell research as a moral banner to support federal abortion funding to ignore this good news and press on with their agenda. And when they do, you have all the proof you need that they are not children of light but instead are children of darkness.

Hopefully Michael Kinsley -a man who has shown evidence of taking reason and logic seriously- will jump on board this bandwagon at some point and chastise his liberal allies who try to pass over this breakthrough. And hopefully those who are opposed to abortion will stand solidly behind amniotic stem cell research as an alternative to fetal stem cell research.


{1} Actually, I have long liked Michael Kinsley because while he and I disagree far more frequently than we agree, I always found his positional arguments to exceed others of his overall outlook in the areas of reasoning and logic. (This of course made me take greater consideration of his views than I otherwise might have and produce better arguments for my own positions.)

{2} Opening Pandora's Box, Yet Again (circa September 1, 2001)

Other articles or material around this time of a geopolitical or socio-ethical nature that I wrote either was either on sites which did not archive them or in texts on my old computer hard drive which crashed in mid 2002 and had to be reformatted. (Whether I will undertake the time expense to try and retrieve any of it in the future remains to be seen.) Nonetheless, I still agree with the overall position as enunciated in that thread (and substantially agree with the arguments set forth in it as well).

{3} And yes, this is a fair question to discuss because whatever one wants to say about theological speculation, the issue of life is a biological and scientific one first and foremost.

Labels: , , , ,

Some Biographical Bits on a Few of the Founding Fathers:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

[Update: The material originally contained in this posting on biographies and the accompanying footnotes were originally going to be published in another medium in its original form on the date of this update. However, I ended up expanding on every one of the biographies below for republishing the material -including eleven new footnotes of material. Since the product as it was published yesterday was in every respect significantly superior to what was originally cobbled together in the original posting here, I have decided to replace it with the new material which contains within it the material originally posted here following a principle I have adhered to on this weblog for a long time but only recently enunciated on the weblog in explicit form. -ISM 7/6/09 @1:00pm]

Partly to spur on my own intention to revise and abridge a rough draft of a review I wrote last year on Charles Cerami's Young Patriots which was blogged to this very weblog -and partly for another post the subject of which I do not want to reveal at this time- it seems appropriate to outline in a short sketch some pertinent information about seven key founding fathers of the American Republic. So here goes...

--James Madison was born in 1751 in Virginia to an aristocratic family and his intelligence (like that of his onetime ally and later rival Alexander Hamilton) was recognized early on. He attended Princeton College where he was trained in the law and was one of the contributors to the Virginia State Constitution in 1776 -serving in both the Continental Congress and also the Virginia Assembly.

James Madison was not the only Founder who realized the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation early on but he did play key roles in the process that saw those articles abrogated in favour of the Constitution we now possess. For one thing, it was his idea to get a meeting together of widely-influential men from all the states to discuss the issue of trade. It was from a meeting standpoint an abject failure garnering only sixteen participants from five states. However, this abject failure has gone down in history as The Annapolis Convention serving as a milestone to a much more successful meeting eight months later in Philadelphia known to posterity as the Constitutional Convention.

Madison is widely referred to as the "Father of the Constitution" for his role in the planning of the Constitutional Convention (or "Convention"), setting forth in what was called The Virginia Plan a rough draft of a three part system of government that though there were a variety of changes to his proposal in specific details, the broad outline of the finished product was very much along the lines of Madison's original idea. Madison was also involved in directing the Convention proceedings to some extent, and also for being the official historian of the proceedings (taking down the only official set of notes on the proceedings). He was particularly instrumental in the finer detailed arguments in advocating strongly and against strong opposition at times for the role of the people in directly electing the members of the House of Representatives. He worked to get what would eventually become the United States Constitution (or Constitution) ratified in his home state of Virginia, contributed twenty-nine papers to the eight-five paper series known to posterity as The Federalist Papers, and also was the supporter of the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution (known as the Bill of Rights) which he wrote with his own hand.

After the ratification of the United States Constitution, Madison served in the House of Representatives in the 1st Congress for the State of Virginia where he opposed Alexander Hamilton's proposed Bank of the United States{1} based on arguments he had previously written against in The Federalist Papers.{2} Madison was also an early confidant of President George Washington but when Washington saw Madison's duplicitous nature on federalist matters, the confidence Washington had in him evaporated forever. Madison's struggles with former ally Hamilton resulted in the formation of the "Republican Party" -though not the party which we know of by that name today. During the administration of President John Adams, Madison and Vice President Thomas Jefferson sought to undermine Adams' policies in ways that were less-than-honest (to put it nicely) and in Madison's case it involved him continuing in his contradiction of his previously enunciated views on federalist principles.

In the administration of President Thomas Jefferson with whom he had been and would remain close (1801-1809), Madison served as Secretary of State. He was elected to the presidency in 1808 where his brilliance as a legislator did not translate well into his new role as president; to put it bluntly: he was our first mediocre president which considering his various gifts would be quite a surprise. He served two terms, saw the country through the War of 1812 and the demise of the Federalist Party, and also reverted once again to the views on federalism that he had prior to 1791, particularly on the second Bank of the United States which he fought to have chartered after lack of funding upon the expiration of the first bank's charter in 1811 proved to be detrimental in the war that followed. (This was achieved in 1816 towards the end of his second presidential term.) Late in his life, he spoke out against the secessionist rhetoric that had started to perpetuate asserting that the union of the states was "near and dear" to his heart. He died in Virginia in 1836.

--Alexander Hamilton was arguably the "Chief Defender of the Constitution" because he worked the hardest and against the greatest odds to secure its ratification once the document was finalized and ready for voting by the states. He was born in the West Indian island of Nevis in either 1755 or 1757. He spent his childhood being educated far ahead of his years and was running a trading post efficiently and profitably before he was a teenager. After he was sent to the mainland for further education, he took up with the cause of liberty signing onto fight with the colonies against Great Britain.

Hamilton served as captain of artillery under General George Washington rising to become the General's chief of staff and responsible for a huge portion of the latter's correspondence -most of which he was authorized to draft and send in the General's name. He also saw some military action -particularly at Yorktown when General Cornwallis surrendered in 1781 and Hamilton was given a command and elevated to colonel in which he performed admirably.

After the Revolutionary war, Hamilton received legal training and was a successful lawyer in private practice for many years.{3} He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1782 but resigned the following year to practice law where he made quite a reputation for himself. He also founded in 1784 the Bank of New York which existed as one of America's more significant financial institutions until 2007 when it was merged with Mellon Financial. But even more significantly was his involvement in the aforementioned pivotal meeting of business-minded men at Annapolis on September 11, 1786. It was called to discuss trade and failed in three days to reach a quorum but the ever-audacious Hamilton proposed that the men present plan for an even bigger meeting the following year to discuss trade and various other issues of a national nature -embodying these ideas into a report he wrote for the group. Copies of Hamilton's report were sent in the name of all present to every state legislature requesting them to send representatives to Philadelphia and the rest is history.

Hamilton played a much smaller role in the Constitutional Convention -due in no small part to the New York delegation voting contrary to his positions on every ballot. He also was absent for stretches at a time while he tended to his legal practice. However, he did make a couple of important interventions including a major speech advocating a monarchial form of government that while it had broad support amongst the participants at the same time was not capable of being practically implemented. However, Hamilton did influence the thinking of most of those whose roles there were much more significant in the main crafting stage and presumably his advocacy for a strong executive resulted in the role of the president being given greater strength than many of the participants coming into the Convention may have wanted to give it. Later on, in the final stages of the document's development he was selected to be on key committees (such as the Committee on Style) to shape the final product.

Hamilton's main fame as it pertained to the United States Constitution specifically was in defending the final product which he did better than anyone else. In the widely read compendium of the time called The Federalist Papers --originally written as newspaper editorials to explain various parts of the Constitution in the face of significant misunderstandings being floated about by the "Anti-Federalists"-- Hamilton wrote at least fifty-two of the eighty-five texts -some account as many as fifty-five of them to him. The other two contributors to The Federalist Papers were James Madison and John Jay who wrote twenty-five to twenty-eight and about five texts respectively. Hamilton worked doggedly to get it implemented in his state debating Anti-Federalists for weeks at a time while writing his contributions to The Federalist and running his legal practice. He finally succeeded in winning over a key Anti-Federalist debater (Melancton Smith) to their cause which helped secure its ratification in New York. Overall, Hamilton was as important to the defense and ratification of the Constitution as Madison was in the overall planning and direction of its creation.{4}

After the Constitution was ratified and became the law of the land, Hamilton served as Treasury Secretary to President George Washington (1789-1797) from 1789-1795 and was instrumental in constructing the first Bank of the United States, securing a solid financial foundation for the infant nation, setting up the first system of tariffs for government revenue, establishing the United States Coast Guard, writing many of President George Washington's speeches (including his Proclamation of Neutrality and the lions share of his famous Farewell Address) and also influencing Washington's decisions on many key policies that set precedents for future presidents who would follow.

Hamilton retired from government service in 1795 and almost immediately was forced to defend himself against charges of financial corruption. He vindicated himself from these but at a price; namely the integrity of his political life was spared by a major black mark on his personal life. For to spare his ethics in handling the treasury funds of the United States, he was forced to admit to a private indiscretion; namely, an affair with Maria Reynolds and her husbands financial blackmail of him as a result. Even this would not have been the problem it ended up being if not for the fact that Hamilton was so concerned for preserving his political integrity that he embellished in typical Hamiltonian detail the elements of the affair.

Despite these political setbacks, Hamilton continued to have an influence on the policies of both the Washington administration and also indirectly the later Adams administration -though the latter was not to be realized until the final year of President Adams' term. When the Quasi-War broke out with France, Hamilton was reluctantly promoted to Major General when George Washington refused to serve as Supreme Commander of the military forces without his longtime trusted adviser being close at hand and able to do in person the sorts of things the elderly Washington was no longer capable of doing. As it was however, President Adams was able to successfully avoid war with France via a peace treaty with Napolean though this happened too late to help President Adams at the polls in the 1800 election. And as he was involved in nearly every other major event of his time, Hamilton was also for better or worse involved in the 1800 election as well.

Hamilton's involvement in the aforementioned election was (to put it nicely) less-than-tactful political machinations to bring down the administration of John Adams in favour of another Federalist candidate (Charles Cotesworth-Pinckney). In doing this, Hamilton basically insured a major division in the Federalist Party that led to the election of their political opponents. Hamilton was subsequently to become more religious after one of his sons died in a duel (1801) on the same field where he was himself to die three years later in a duel with then-Vice President Aaron Burr{5} after refusing to fire at his challenger. Burr himself had no such scruples and Hamilton died about a day after he was shot. Gouverneur Morris (to be profiled next) eulogized Hamilton at his funeral.

--Gouverneur Morris was one of the more important contributors to the Constitutional Convention both in ideas suggested or supported and also in a few other key ways. He is also one of the least-known even though he represents in many ways what America has become -both the good and the not-so-good. Morris was born in 1752 and given his mother's maiden name as his first name. Like Alexander Hamilton, Morris was a child prodigy of sorts enrolling in King's College (now Columbia) at the age of twelve and graduating with a masters in 1768 at the age of sixteen.

Morris became a barrister{6} and when the conflict with Great Britain was pushing the colonies towards declaring their independence, Morris found himself in a family with divided loyalties. His initial sympathies were with forming a reconciliation of tensions with Great Britain but the continual encroachments of the British Parliament finally made him throw in with the cause for independence. Morris could have avoided fighting in the Revolutionary War for legitimate reasons, he chose to fight. However, when he was offered a second on command of the state Minutemen, he declined when the latter refused to transfer to the Continental Army in the fight for independence from Great Britain.

Despite this development, Morris' prodigious talents both at committee work and also his prowess with the pen made him a valuable ally both for the legislatures and also for the military forces. He played a key role in the drafting of the Constitution of the State of New York (1777-1778) and also served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1778-1779. He was sent by that legislative body to Valley Forge in 1777 to assess their condition and found them a freezing band of starving and near-mutinous men. Both legislatively and financially he fought for their behalf in the Continental Congress improving their financing and acquisition of needed supplies. When there was a refusal to fight without some financial restitution, Morris got through the legislature a bill to guarantee them half pay for seven years. He also signed the Articles of Confederation (1778) and suffered a tragic accident in 1779 where he lost one leg below the leg. However, he did not let this misfortune get him down nor did his peg leg effect his tomcat reputation.

When financier Robert Morris{7} was appointed Finance Minister to France, G. Morris served as his assistant and when the nations finances threatened the fight for independence, G. Morris assisted R. Morris in establishing the Bank of North America saving the cause from financial ruin. He also as a result of attempting to get a national sales tax passed got on the bad side of General George Washington for a time. In 1785, he played a key role in stabilizing US currency on the basis of the decimal system and saw his political apex at the Constitutional Convention where he represented the state of Pennsylvania.

Few of the participants were as involved as he was in these proceedings. He came in with a view shared by several others that there needed to be a strong executive but Morris more than most of the others viewed it as a necessity that the states needed to take a more national than state-dominated view of themselves. He was instrumental in the system of referring thornier issues to smaller committees to hash out which saved the Constitutional Convention from disaster or dissolution on more than one occasion, was on many of those constitutional committees himself, was involved in a healthy number of interventions in the convention.{8} Morris was one of those who advocated for a strong executive and also led him during the contentious arguments for how the president was to be elected to suggest the Electoral College system which remains with us today. (Morris in this bridged the gap between those advocating direct election by the people and those who distrusting the people favoured appointment to the presidency by the congress.) Finally, once everything had been systemized into a coherent form by a Committee of Detail and a subsequent Committee of Style{9}, Morris was the selection by the other delegates{10} to write the final draft

Affixed to the beginning of the finished product was a preamble that Morris conceived of with which to majestically introduce the material and also the construction "we the people of the United States" rather than a roll call of the states themselves: reflecting Morris' view that the focus had to be more on the nation as a whole rather than the kinds of provincial state-focused mentality which was more common for that time. After the final draft was signed by 39 of the 55 participants of the Constitutional Convention, Morris then wrote the cover letter that General George Washington would sign and use to formally submit the material to the Continental Congress then convening in New York. Hamilton would later on request Morris' aid in drafting texts for The Federalist Papers which was not to be forthcoming.

After the ratification of the United States Constitution, Morris' political life began winding down to a certain extent though he did serve as President George Washington's Minister to France for three years (1791-1794) of a near-ten year sojourn to that country. He also assisted his friend Alexander Hamilton in creating the Federalist Party and served as a Senator in 1798.{11} After losing an election in 1800, he helped lead the efforts to create the Erie Canal, was a vocal critic of the Jefferson Administration and the latter's economic policies though he did support the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. When the War of 1812 arose under President James Madison, Morris opposed the attempts of the government to put in what he viewed as unnecessary controls in place for national security. A lifelong bachelor with a reputation as a "ladies man", Morris finally settled down and got married towards the end of his life and sired a son in 1813. Morris died in New York in 1816.

--Rufus King was born in Maine in 1755 to a wealthy merchant father. He enrolled in Harvard in 1773 but his education was interrupted by the Revolutionary War stirrings of 1775 and the need of the colonial military to use the school buildings for barracks. When the British forces were evacuated from Harvard in 1776, he resumed his studies receiving a degree in law in 1777. King served briefly in the state militia and saw action in the Battle of Rhode Island after which he was admitted to the bar where he practiced law (1778). He was elected to the local legislature in 1780 where he served until 1783. In 1784, he was elected to the Continental Congress where he was reelected in 1785 and 1786.

When the Constitutional Convention (or Convention) was convened in 1787, King was sent as a representative of Massachusetts where he played an important if often not appreciated role. Though brilliant in his own right, King came to the Constitutional Convention with reluctance to change anything in the defective Articles of Confederation. He claimed after arriving to have had his mind "transformed" by listening to Alexander Hamilton speak at the Convention: probably Hamilton's greatest contribution to that event prior to the finalizing of the text itself because Hamilton missed a lot of the Convention due to legal and family matters and while he spoke brilliantly, he did not speak often. King however did speak often and at pivotal moments.

King had a role on several important Constitutional committees for dealing with the more thorny areas of controversy and also in refining the various parts into a somewhat cohesive first draft for further work. (Such as with Madison, Hamilton, and Morris on the five member Committee of Style.) He also kept his own set of notes of the proceedings which while not official like Madison's notes nonetheless are helpful to compare with Madison's notes as well as the notes of New York delegate Robert Yates who also took notes of the proceedings. After the Convention, King worked to get the United States Constitution accepted by his home state of Massachusetts and also to be seated in the United States Senate for his state. He succeeded with the first endeavour and failed with the second one. Alexander Hamilton after his failure to win election to the Senate persuaded him to move to New York where he did and was elected in 1788 to the New York state legislature. Hamilton pitched King for a senate seat from New York and surprisingly, Governor George Clinton{12} also supported King's candidacy and he won serving from 1789-1796.

King was appointed Minister to Great Britain (1796). He later ran unsuccessfully as Charles Cotesworth Pinckney's vice presidential candidate when Pinckney faced off against President Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1804 and against James Madison in the election 1808. King unsuccessfully sought the Federalist nomination in 1812 and ran again for the senate out of New York in 1813 and won. He was nominated for the Federalist Party for president in 1816 losing to James Monroe but retained his senate seat.{13} King authored the Navigation Act in 1818 and ran again for the Senate where he served until 1825. He died in Jamaica, Queens in 1827 and was renowned by his contemporaries for his intelligence, his integrity, and his capabilities as an orator.

--Roger Sherman was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1721. To list the many shifts in his life would take well over a page as he was a renaissance man in many respects; however, they will be briefly listed here. He was mostly self-taught though that included reading from his father's extensive library and he had a special aptitude for mathematics.

After his father died, he and his family moved to New Milford, Connecticut where in 1743 at the age of 21 he opened a general store with his brother. Like George Washington, Sherman was successful in business to a degree that many other Founders of more shining intellectual gifts{14} were not. Sherman later became town clerk for New Milford. Due to his math skills, he was appointed town surveyor in 1745 and in 1748 he started providing astronomical calculations for almanacs.

Though lacking formal training he was encouraged to read for the bar and he was accepted in 1754. The town of Milford sent him to represent them in the Connecticut General Assembly from 1755 to 1758 and again from 1760 to 1761. The Connecticut General Assembly elected him to their upper chamber in 1766 where he served until 1785. During this time, he was also elected as justice of the peace in 1762, judge of the court of common pleas (1765), and justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut from 1766-1789: a position he vacated later on to serve in the US Senate out of Connecticut. Sherman was one of those who was appointed to revise the Connecticut statutes which had become confused and in some respects outdated in 1783. And during the national issues of his time, he was involved like virtually no one else.

Sherman was involved in national politics being elected to the Continental Congress in 1774. He was a signer of the original Articles of Association in 1774 which was a combined effort by all the states to boycott trade with Great Britain. He was later a contributor along with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to the final draft of The Declaration of Independence in 1776 (which he signed his name to) as well as contributor and signer of the original Articles of Confederation. In fact, if the United States Constitution is included with those three documents, Sherman can claim to be the only Founding Father who contributed to as well as signed his name to all four of them. The cumulative effect of all of his activities caused a strain on his health, which caused him to have to petition the governor of his state to relieve him of state legislative duties to allow him to continue to serve in the Continental Congress which he did until 1781 returning in 1783. He further dabbled in the fields of finance and theology as if everything else he was involved in was not sufficient.

Sherman was one of the oldest representatives to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.{15} Though of limited education formally, he was by this time in his life known for his intelligence, his powers of negotiation, and also as possessing an adaptability of mind that in some respects surpassed the other convention delegates. In 1787, he was a solid player at the Convention making over one hundred floor interventions and crafting several important compromises to keep the various factions on the same page and moving towards a final product.

Of particular note in this area was what has come down to us as The Great Compromise or The Connecticut Compromise hammered out on recess and in the evening hours over the weekend after a particularly tumultuous week of disputations with fellow Connecticut representative Oliver Ellsworth. The dispute which required settlement was representation in the houses of congress and the larger states wanted representation by population while the smaller states wanted representation equally. The rift on this issue alone threatened to tear the convention proceedings apart when Sherman proposed that the lower house be elected as the larger states wanted and directly by the people with the upper house be elected as the smaller states wanted and by the legislature.{16} As additional incentive, Sherman threw in the tidbit that all bills for raising revenue must originate in the lower house but the Senate can propose or concur with amendments as on other bills. This was a significant concession to the larger states but Sherman was an astute negotiator and politician and this compromise saved the Convention on one of its more explosive issues so that the work to fashion the eventual United States Constitution could continue.

Sherman did not live long after the Constitution was adopted but he was a pivotal figure in the founding of this great nation whose abilities and broadness of mind were respected by many of his contemporaries who are better known to us today. He died in 1793 from typhoid at the age of 72.

--Charles Cotesworth-Pinckney was born and died in Charleston, South Carolina. (His birth was in 1764.) His education included a stint at Westminster prepatory school in London and a degree in law from Oxford University. He was admitted to the bar in 1769 and when he returned to the colonies was a successful landowner and barrister. His first involvement in politics was an election to the state legislature in 1770.

His family was aristocratic and attached to Great Britain participating in the colonial government. However, in 1775 when it was clear that there was going to be an uprising against Great Britain, Pinckney was among those who pledged his "life, fortunes, and sacred honour" to the cause. He was among the few who recognized the importance of a strong national government early on. Though he had previous militia experience, he volunteered for the Continental Army and served as a senior field commander. After participating in the successful defense of Charleston in 1776 from British forces, Pinckney was promoted to full colonel. When things cooled down militarily in South Carolina in 1777, Pinckney actively sought out General George Washington to have a more active role in the proceedings. He saw action in the military campaigns of Brandywine and Germantown and in the process forged important associations with people outside of the deep south which would later on prove to be valuable.

In 1778, Pinckney returned to South Carolina to resume a role when things got active in that area again. He fought in several successful military battles but eventually was captured in Charleston in 1780 in a losing effort to the British. As an officer, he was treated much more harshly than the average soldier but he refused to compromise the cause. After nearly two years of captivity, he was released in a general exchange of prisoners in 1782 and returned to active duty until 1783 when the southern regiments were disbanded.

After the war, he threw himself into his law practice, represented South Carolina in the lower legislative house, and enlisted in the militia. When the Constitutional Convention was called, he was sent as a delegate from South Carolina. He played key roles in keeping the Convention together when the volatile issue of slavery threatened to rip it apart -all the more remarkable when you consider how much he personally abhorred slavery.{17} Pinckney also had a role in forming many compromises -an endeavour to which his previous connections outside of the south proved their value. He was active in securing the ratification of the United States Constitution by South Carolina as well as forming a state constitution heavily based on the federal model to which he contributed.

After some time out of politics, he agreed to serve as Ambassador to France in the second administration of President George Washington. He had an unsuccessful bid for the Vice-Presidency in 1800 when President John Adams ran for re-election and lost to Thomas Jefferson. He then had two unsuccessful attempts at the presidency in 1804 and 1808 losing to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison respectively. He remained a Federalist to the end dying in 1825 at the age of 79.

--John Dickinson was born in Maryland in 1732. He was educated by private tutors and was admitted to the bar in England in 1757. He returned to the states and spent time as as a barrister and solicitor until hewas elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature in 1764.

Dickinson was involved in the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 which was the start of the rumblings of discontent with Great Britain in the colonies.{18} He was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774 and to the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and 1776. He was a late bloomer to the cause of the colonies for independence -though he was involved in the authorship of key documents during this period including Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms co-written with Thomas Jefferson and also a last-ditch effort at reconciliation with King George III called The Olive Branch Petition. He refused to sign the Declaration of Independence when it was ready for signature because he believed that the unfinished Articles of Confederation should be finished first -the first draft of which he had authored. His refusal to be involved in the drafting and signing of the Declaration meant he had to resign from the congress and he enlisted in the Pennsylvania militia afterward.

After the colonies had voted for independence and needed a charter to govern them, the Articles of Confederation was compiled and completed in mostly out of drafts Dickinson had prepared. He was re-elected to the Continental Congress in 1779 and affixed his name to the final product of the Articles of Confederation, served in the Delaware Assembly in 1780, and was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from the state of Delaware. He later moved to Pennsylvania and was elected as President of Pennsylvania -a position which was basically a weak version of a governor. His experience in this position probably was part of what prompted him to want a stronger executive and thus his support for this during the later Convention in 1787 where he also played a role. Dickinson's main contribution to the fashioning of the United States Constitution was probably his coming up with the original idea for what Roger Sherman eventually and in a more favourable moment proposed a much more developed concept of: the idea of proportional representation in at least one of the proposed houses of congress.

After the Constitution was signed by 39 of the 55 Constitutional Convention participants -Dickinson wanted to sign but was ill so his signature was dubbed in later on- his state of Delaware voted immediately and unanimously for its adoption. Dickinson later in 1791 helped redraft the Delaware State Constitution which was approved in 1792. Dickinson returned in 1793 to the Delaware State Senate where he served one year before having to step down to health issues. His final days were spent fighting for the advancement of the slavery abolition movement. He published two volumes of his works on politics in 1801 and died seven years later in 1808.

These are only seven of the thirty-five participants of the Constitutional Convention who had legal training. Those who wonder why I am bringing this issue up will find out in the coming days eventually if they have not figured it out already.

[Clarification: What I originally thought I would post "shortly" ended up for various and sundry reasons becoming a process that resulted in one part becoming several parts spanning between nearly three months (April 17, 2007) until one follow up thread, the summer months of 2007 for a separate series of Founding Father "points to ponder" threads loosely related to the original idea, roughly ten months for a rather serendipitous posting within the matrix of general thread material originally planned (December 26, 2007), and over two years for the final part (February 6, 2009) of what I had in mind at the time this post's original material was published. -ISM 7/6/09 @12:55pm]


{1} President Washington concurred with Hamilton signing the bill into law.

{2} A contradiction that Hamilton made no small light of when the two were battling for the ear of President George Washington on the matter at hand.

{3} From 1782 all the way to the end of his life -interrupted only by his service in the first term of President George Washington.

{4} This is in one sense remarkable as Hamilton himself was not entirely thrilled with the final result. He wisely recognized however that the principle that a potential stability in the new format was far more preferable to the anarchy that was developing due to the inability of the Articles of Confederation to bind together the nation. Preferring greater stability over anarchy -even if not by the manner in which he would have preferred- shows someone who put the welfare of the nation over his own whims: something many people today could well learn from.

{5} Burr had also been on the losing side of many a political fight against Hamilton including as president in 1800 when there was a tie of Jefferson and Burr in the electoral votes which exposed a weakness in the original election mode for president. Hamilton was the one who persuaded a tie-breaker on the thirty-sixth ballot where a few Federalists who previously voted for Burr to stymie Jefferson changed their votes. Hamilton was viscerally opposed to Jefferson but believed Jefferson was the lesser of two evils: essentially wrong but at least not corrupt whereas he believed Burr was both wrong as well as unstable and of low moral character. Hamilton also derailed Burr's bid for governor of New York and it was in part due to the latter machinations that Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel.

{6} Morris had legal training and was admitted to the bar in New York City in 1771.

{7} They were not related to one another.

{8} Morris had more floor interventions than anyone else and often at key moments where he demonstrated a kind of warmth and wit to his arguments that eased tensions between various factions.

{9} Where he sat with Madison, Hamilton, and three others.

{10} Morris' selection for this task met with the enthusiastic endorsement of both James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.

{11} He was appointed to fill a vacancy.

{12} Clinton and Hamilton were political adversaries. Clinton's support for King unlike Hamilton's was very discreet.

{13} King's defeat in 1816 was the death-knell for what still remained of the Federalist Party after 1812.

{14} For example, Madison, Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson were all blessed with greater intellectual talents but were also much poorer businessmen overall than either Washington or Sherman whose intelligence was of a more pragmatic kind.

{15} Sherman was sixty-six years of age at the time. Only Benjamin Franklin (at eighty-one) was older.

{16} The election mode for the Senate as Sherman proposed was accepted into the final product but later superceded by the Seventeeth Amendment (1913) which made the Senate subject to direct vote by the people as the House was.

{17} Pinckney was astute enough to realize that a functioning government which could be weaned away from slavery was preferable to a situation where there was no effective government and the threat of anarchy.

{18} He drafted the resolutions of that congress which were the first attempts to file complaints against the Crown -viewed by some as a precursor to the American Revolution.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, January 22, 2007

Points to Ponder:
(On Being "Pro-Choice")

It seems that for an increasing amount of people, the term "pro-choice" means they are for only "one choice": abortion…..even to the point of forcing that choice on others. [Michael Forrest]