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Month: November 2021

“I do not recollect in all the animal kingdom a single species but man which is eternally & systematically engaged in the destruction of its own species. What is called civilization seems to have no other effect on him than to teach him to pursue the principle of bellum omnium in omnia on a larger scale, & in place of the little contests of tribe against tribe, to engage all the quarters of the earth in the same work of destruction.” – Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to James Madison,” January 1, 1797

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“The discovery that individual events are irreducibly random is probably one of the most significant findings of the twentieth century. Before this, one could find comfort in the assumption that random events only seem random because of our ignorance. For example, although the brownian motion of a particle appears random, it can still be causally described if we know enough about the motions of the particles surrounding it. Thus, as Werner Heisenberg put it, this kind of randomness, of a classical event, is subjective. But for the individual event in quantum physics, not only do we not know the cause, there is no cause. The instant when a radioactive atom decays, or the path taken by a photon behind a half-silvered beam-splitter are objectively random. There is nothing in the Universe that determines the way an individual event will happen. Since individual events may very well have macroscopic consequences, including a specific mutation in our genetic code, the Universe is fundamentally unpredictable and open, not causally closed.” – Anton Zeilinger, “The message of the quantum”

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“To pass once along a public road thro’ a country, & in one direction only, to put up at it’s taverns, and get into conversation with the idle, drunken individuals who pass their time lounging in these taverns, is not the way to know a country, it’s inhabitants, or manners.” – Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on Professor Ebelng’s Letter of July 30, 1795” (punctuation in original)

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Thomas Jefferson on the objects of higher education (usage and punctuation in original):

To form the statesmen, legislators and judges, on which public prosperity and individual happiness are so much to depend;
To expound the principles and structure of government, the laws which regulate the intercourse of nations, those formed municipally for our own government, and a sound spirit of legislation, which, banishing all arbitrary and unnecessary restraint on individual action, shall leave us free to do whatever does not violate the equal rights of another;
To harmonize and promote the interests of agriculture, manufactures and commerce, and by well informed views of political economy to give a free scope to the public industry;
To develop the reasoning faculties of our youth, enlarge their minds, cultivate their morals, and instill into them the precepts of virtue and order;
To enlighten them with mathmatical and physical sciences, which advance the arts, and adminiter to the health, the subsistence, and comforts of human life;
And, generally, to form them to habits of reflection and correct action, rendering them examples of virtue to others, and of happiness within themselves.

(“Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia,” August 4, 1818)

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Thomas Jefferson on the objects of primary education (usage and punctuation in original):

To give every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;

To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts, in writing;

To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;

To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;

To know his rights; to exercise with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;

And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.

To instruct the mass of our citizens in these, their rights, interests and duties, as men and citizens, being then the objects of education in the primary schools, whether private or public; in them should be taught reading, writing and numerical arithmetic, the elements of mensuration, (useful in so many callings,) and the outlines of geography and history.

(“Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia,” August 4, 1818)

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“Instead of embarrassing commerce under piles of regulating laws, duties, and prohibitions, could it be relieved from all its shackles in all parts of the world, could every country be employed in producing that which nature has best fitted it to produce, and each be free to exchange with others mutual surplusses for mutual wants, the greatest mass possible would then be produced of those things which contribute to human life and human happiness; the numbers of mankind would be increased, and their condition bettered.” – Thomas Jefferson, “Report on the Privileges and Restrictions on the Commerce of the United States in Foreign Countries,” December 16, 1793

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“It is demonstrated in natural law that he who promises another confers on him a perfect right to require the thing promised, & that, consequently, not to observe a perfect promise, is to violate the right of another; it is as manifest injustice as to plunder any one of their right. All the tranquility, the happiness & security of mankind rest on justice, on the obligation to respect the rights of others. The respect of others for our rights of domain & property is the security of our actual possessions; the faith of promises is our security for the things which cannot be delivered or executed on the spot. No more security, no more commerce among men, if they think themselves not obliged to preserve faith, to keep their word.” – Emer de Vattel (as translated by Thomas Jefferson in Jefferson’s “Opinion on the French Treaties,” April 28, 1793)

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“In 2013, Wayne Jones, a black man experiencing homelessness, was stopped by law enforcement in Martinsburg, West Virginia for walking alongside, rather than on, the sidewalk. By the end of this encounter, Jones would be dead. Armed only with a knife tucked into his sleeve, he was tased four times, hit in the brachial plexus, kicked, and placed in a choke hold. In his final moments, he lay on the ground between a stone wall and a wall of five police officers, who collectively fired 22 bullets. . . . [W]e are asked to decide whether it was clearly established that five officers could not shoot a man 22 times as he lay motionless on the ground. Although we recognize that our police officers are often asked to make split-second decisions, we expect them to do so with respect for the dignity and worth of black lives. Before the ink dried on this opinion, the FBI opened an investigation into yet another death of a black man at the hands of police, this time George Floyd in Minneapolis. This has to stop. To award qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage in this case would signal absolute immunity for fear-based use of deadly force, which we cannot accept.” – Judge Henry F. Floyd, Estate of Wayne Jones v. The City of Martinsburg, West Virginia, et al. (June 9, 2020)

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“On March 29, 1779, Congress recommended that Georgia and South Carolina recruit 3,000 slaves to serve in separate battalions under white officers. Slaveowners would receive up to $1,000 for each slave who enlisted, and at the end of the war, the slaves would be freed and paid $50 for their service. The proposal was rejected by the government of South Carolina in May 1779.” – Joanne B. Freeman, Alexander Hamilton: Writings

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“This letter, my very dear Eliza, will not be delivered to you, unless I shall first have terminated my earthly career; to begin, as I humbly hope from redeeming grace and divine mercy, a happy immortality. If it had been possible for me to have avoided the interview, my love for you and my precious children would have been alone a decisive motive. But it was not possible, without sacrifices which would have rendered me unworthy of your esteem. I need not tell you of the pangs I feel, from the idea of quitting you and exposing you to the anguish which I know you would feel. Nor could I dwell on the topic lest it should unman me. The consolations of Religion, my beloved, can alone support you; and these you have a right to enjoy. Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted. With my last idea; I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. Adieu best of wives and best of Women. Embrace all my darling Children for me.” – Alexander Hamilton, “Letter to Elizabeth Hamilton,” July 4, 1804

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“Nothing is more fallacious than to expect to produce any valuable or permanent results, in political projects, by relying merely upon the reason of men. Men are rather reasoning than reasonable animals for the most part governed by the impulse of passion.” – Alexander Hamilton, “Letter to James A. Bayard,” April 1802

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“Beware, my Dear Sir, of magnifying a riot into an insurrection, by employing in the first instance an inadequate force. Tis better far to err on the other side. Whenever the Government appears in arms it ought to appear like a Hercules, and inspire respect by the display of strength. The consideration of expence is of no moment compared with the advantages of energy. Tis true this is always a relative question—but tis always important to make no mistake.” – Alexander Hamilton, “Letter to James McHenry,” March 18, 1799

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“I have rape-colored skin. My light-brown-blackness is a living testament to the rules, the practices, the causes of the Old South. If there are those who want to remember the legacy of the Confederacy, if they want monuments, well, then, my body is a monument. My skin is a monument. Dead Confederates are honored all over this country — with cartoonish private statues, solemn public monuments and even in the names of United States Army bases. It fortifies and heartens me to witness the protests against this practice and the growing clamor from serious, nonpartisan public servants to redress it. But there are still those — like President Trump and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell — who cannot understand the difference between rewriting and reframing the past. I say it is not a matter of “airbrushing” history, but of adding a new perspective. According to the rule of hypodescent (the social and legal practice of assigning a genetically mixed-race person to the race with less social power) I am the daughter of two black people, the granddaughter of four black people, the great-granddaughter of eight black people. Go back one more generation and it gets less straightforward, and more sinister. As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help. It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men — my ancestors — took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children. What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals? You cannot dismiss me as someone who doesn’t understand. You cannot say it wasn’t my family members who fought and died. My blackness does not put me on the other side of anything. It puts me squarely at the heart of the debate. I don’t just come from the South. I come from Confederates. I’ve got rebel-gray blue blood coursing my veins. My great-grandfather Will was raised with the knowledge that Edmund Pettus was his father. Pettus, the storied Confederate general, the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the man for whom Selma’s Bloody Sunday Bridge is named. So I am not an outsider who makes these demands. I am a great-great-granddaughter.
And here I’m called to say that there is much about the South that is precious to me. I do my best teaching and writing here. There is, however, a peculiar model of Southern pride that must now, at long last, be reckoned with. This is not an ignorant pride but a defiant one. It is a pride that says, “Our history is rich, our causes are justified, our ancestors lie beyond reproach.” It is a pining for greatness, if you will, a wish again for a certain kind of American memory. A monument-worthy memory. But here’s the thing: Our ancestors don’t deserve your unconditional pride. Yes, I am proud of every one of my black ancestors who survived slavery. They earned that pride, by any decent person’s reckoning. But I am not proud of the white ancestors whom I know, by virtue of my very existence, to be bad actors. Among the apologists for the Southern cause and for its monuments, there are those who dismiss the hardships of the past. They imagine a world of benevolent masters, and speak with misty eyes of gentility and honor and the land. They deny plantation rape, or explain it away, or question the degree of frequency with which it occurred. To those people it is my privilege to say, I am proof. I am proof that whatever else the South might have been, or might believe itself to be, it was and is a space whose prosperity and sense of romance and nostalgia were built upon the grievous exploitation of black life. The dream version of the Old South never existed. Any manufactured monument to that time in that place tells half a truth at best. The ideas and ideals it purports to honor are not real. To those who have embraced these delusions: Now is the time to re-examine your position. Either you have been blind to a truth that my body’s story forces you to see, or you really do mean to honor the oppressors at the expense of the oppressed, and you must at last acknowledge your emotional investment in a legacy of hate. Either way, I say the monuments of stone and metal, the monuments of cloth and wood, all the man-made monuments, must come down. I defy any sentimental Southerner to defend our ancestors to me. I am quite literally made of the reasons to strip them of their laurels.” – Caroline Randall Williams, “My Body Is a Confederate Monument”

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“That nation, which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to it animosity or to its affection—either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and interest.” – Alexander Hamilton, “Letter to George Washington,” July 30, 1796

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“Government is frequently and aptly classed under two descriptions, a government of FORCE and a government of LAWS; the first is the definition of despotism—the last, of liberty. But how can a government of laws exist where the laws are disrespected and disobeyed? Government supposes controul. It is the POWER by which individuals in society are kept from doing injury to each other and are bro’t to co-operate to a common end. The instruments by which it must act are either the AUTHORITY of the Laws or FORCE. If the first be destroyed, the last must be substituted; and where this becomes the ordinary instrument of government there is an end to liberty. Those, therefore, who preach doctrines, or set examples, which undermine or subvert the authority of the laws, lead us from freedom to slavery; they incapacitate us for a GOVERNMENT of LAWS, and consequently prepare the way for one of FORCE, for mankind MUST HAVE GOVERNMENT OF ONE SORT OR ANOTHER.” – Alexander Hamilton, “Tully No. III” (emphases in original)

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“If it were to be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of security in a Republic? the answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws—the first growing out of the last. It is by this, in a great degree, that the rich and powerful are to be restrained from enterprises against the common liberty—operated upon by the influence of a general sentiment, by their interest in the principle, and by the obstacles which the habit it produces erects against innovation and encroachment. It is by this, in a still greater degree, that caballers, intriguers, and demagogues are prevented from climbing on the shoulders of faction to the tempting seats of usurpation and tyranny.” – Alexander Hamilton, “Tully No. III”

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To the Honorable Council & House of Representatives for the State of Massachusetts-Bay in General Court assembled January 13th 1777—

The Petition of a great number of Negroes who are detained in a state of Slavery in the Bowels of a free & Christian Country Humbly Shewing—

That your Petitioners apprehend that they have, in common with all other Men, a natural and unalienable right to that freedom, which the great Parent of the Universe hath bestowed equally on all Mankind, & which they have never forfeited by any compact or agreement whatever—But they were unjustly dragged, by the cruel hand of Power, from their dearest friends, and some of them even torn from the embraces of their tender Parents—from a populous, pleasant and plentiful Country—& in Violation of the Laws of Nature & of Nation & in defiance of all the tender feelings of humanity, brought hither to be sold like Beasts of Burthen, & like them condemned to slavery for Life—Among a People professing the mild Religion of Jesus—A People not insensible of the sweets of rational freedom—Nor without spirit to resent the unjust endeavors of others to reduce them to a State of Bondage & Subjection—Your Honors need not to be informed that a Life of Slavery, like that of your petitioners, deprived of every social privilege, of every thing requisite to render Life even tolerable, is far worse than Non-Existence—In imitation of the laudable example of the good People of these States, your Petitioners have long & patiently waited the event of Petition after Petition by them presented to the Legislative Body of this State, & can not but with grief reflect that their success has been but too similar—They can not but express their astonishment, that it has never been considered, that every principle from which America has acted in the course of her unhappy difficulties with Great-Britain, pleads stronger than a thousand arguments in favor of your Petitioners—They therefore humbly beseech your Honors, to give this Petition its due weight and consideration, & cause an Act of the Legislature to be passed, whereby they may be restored to the enjoyment of that freedom which is the natural right of all Men—& their Children (who were born in this Land of Liberty) may not be held as Slaves after they arrive at the age of twenty one years—So may the Inhabitants of this State (no longer chargeable with the inconsistency of acting, themselves, the part which they condemn & oppose in others) be prospered in their present glorious struggles for liberty; & have those blessings secured to them by Heaven, of which benevolent minds can not wish to deprive their fellow Men.

And your Petitioners, as in Duty Bound shall ever pray.

Lancaster Hill
Peter Bess
Brister Slenser
Prince Hall
Jack Pierpont
Nero Funelo
Newport Sumner
Job Look

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“Religion operates in different ways in different persons. It hardens some natures to pride and bigotry; it softens others to sentimentality and a refusal to confront life’s sterner demands. Some it inexplicably irradiates; some it brutalizes. Religion may be as Professor Freud said, civilization’s greatest illusion. If that is so, it may be thought of as resembling a sun long extinct whose rays still continue to warm, animate, and inspirit the minds of men. It instilled fear and awe in the cave-dwellers; it offered the image of an overwatching Eye; it became identified with all those dawning ideas of order and morality, of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad,’ of rewards and penalties. For thousands of years it has played a large part in the public and private life of mankind. Truth or illusion, it is ingrained in the human mind. There are two characteristics of men and women of religious conviction that have often been remarked. The first is their way of viewing the facts of the daily life—our humble daily life —as freighted with the greatest importance, particularly in relation to the future. Everything is under that overwatching Eye; everything is on a Grand Scale. Such men and women are seldom able to transmit to their children the conviction that illuminates them, but in that charged cell, which is family life —in that enclosed space of finely tuned acoustics—they transmit the concept of scale. Their children learn to think big, to make large demands on life, on themselves, and on others. This ‘scale’ has not necessarily any spiritual qualifications; it’s enough that it’s big, big. Hence the phrase ‘Beware of sharks and missionaries’ children.’ ” – Thornton Wilder, “New Haven, 1920” (emphasis in original)

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“The writer has lost a great deal of his influence, and he is situated now, if anywhere, on the margins of the culture. But isn’t this where he belongs? How could it be any other way? And in my personal view this is a perfect place to observe what’s happening at the dead center of things. . . . I am not particularly distressed by the state of fiction or the role of the writer. The more marginal, perhaps ultimately the more trenchant and observant and finally necessary he’ll become.” – Don DeLillo (interviewed by Gerald Howard in Hungry Mind Review, 1997; ellipsis in original)

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