Sunday, August 7, 2016

About Cursory Remarks

We do not talk -- we bludgeon one another with facts and theories gleaned from cursory readings of newspapers, magazines and digests
  Henry Miller (1891-1980)

...and that was before the advent of social media!

Cursory.  Also cursorie, cursary. 1.  Running or passing  over a thing or subject, so as to take no note of details ; hasty, hurried, passing.   2.  Moving about, traveling.  3.  Adapted for running.  4.  Cursory lectures:  lectures of a less formal and exhaustive nature...

This blog, separated from my other blogs about books and book collecting, is about politics–and particularly about the upcoming presidential election.  I created the title of this blog from an essay by Hugh Henry Brackenridge that was published in Paul Leicester Ford's book, Essays on the Constitution of the United States Published During Its Discussion By the People 1787-1788, Brooklyn, N.Y.:  History Printing Club, 1892.

I will begin this blog with the first two paragraphs of Brackenridge's essay, "Cursory Remarks," from whence this title came.  Mr. Ford noted that the article first appeared in The Pittsburgh Gazette, but he wasn't able to find a copy of that paper.  So he reprinted it from The American Museum.

Cursory Remarks
Hugh Henry Brackenridge
Printed In
The American Museum
April, 1788

   It is not my intention to enter largely into a consideration of this plan of government, but to suggest some ideas in addition to, and of the same nature with, those already made, showing the imperfections and dangers of it.
    The first thing that strikes a diligent observer, is the want of a precaution with the regard to the sex of the president.  Is it provided that he shall be of the male gender?  The Salii, a tribe of the Burgundians, in the 11th century, excluded females from the sovereignty.  Without a similar exclusion, what shall we think, if, in progress of time, we should come to have an old woman at the head of our affairs?  But what security have we that he shall be a white man?  What would be the national disgrace if he should be elected from one of the southern states, and a vile negro should come to rule over us?  Treaties would then be formed with the tribes of the Congo and Loango, instead of the civilized nations of Europe.  But is there any security that he shall be a freeman?  Who knows but the electors at a future period, in days of corruption, may pick a man-servant, a convict perhaps, and give him the dominion?  Is any care taken that he shall be of perfect parts?  Shall we, in affairs of a civil nature, leave a door open to lame men, bastards, eunuchs, and the devil knows what?

Hugh Henry Brackenridge (1748-1816) was an early American scholar, lawyer, and author who was later appointed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1799.  He went to school with the American statesman, James Madison, and the American poet, Philip Morin Freneau.  Although he was never ordained as a minister, he served as a chaplain in George Washington's army, preaching fiery patriotic sermons to the soldiers of the American Revolutionary War.

When he wrote his article, "Cursory Remarks," he was a member of the Pennsylvania state legislature but would be defeated in the next election because he supported Federalism (Western Pennsylvania did not support Federalism).  Brackenridge was in favor of Robert Morris's plan to establish a national bank, and was quoted at a dinner as saying:
The people are fools; if they would let Mr. Morris alone, he would make Pennsylvania a great people, but they will not suffer him to do it.

Brackenridge's literary masterpiece, Modern Chivalry, was published in two parts in 1793 and 1797, was revised in 1805, and was added to in 1815. Henry Adams called Modern Chivalry  "a more thoroughly American book than any written before 1833."  

In his 2009 book,  Empire of Liberty:  a History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, Gordon S. Wood called the great moral of  Brackenridge's novel, "this evil of men seeking office for which they are not qualified (220)."

And so, dear readers of this blog, you have a choice in this upcoming presidential election between an old woman or the devil knows what? A man seeking office for which he is not qualified?

Stay tuned...


Lew Jaffe said...

Dear Jerry,
congratulations on your new blog.
One request-can you use larger type ?
Without magnification I could not read iyt

Jerry Morris said...

Font size increased for this blog. It should be easier to read. Thanks Lew.