Wednesday, January 29, 2014

By Way of Introduction...

So, here’s the deal.

I seem to have a lot of time on my hands. Or I suppose I should say that I have had, and continue to have, a lot of time on my hands. I won’t go into the wherefore of it all. Suffice to say events have conspired. And so I find myself casting about for something to do; something constructive, preferably. More than a few ideas have occurred, and I've pursued several of them to my own satisfaction, but now I've decided to do something a little different. Partially I do this because of the suggestions of friends and family, and partially because I seem, suddenly, to be well equipped to do so.

See, in another life I was a history major. Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, the whole nine. History and the study thereof are important to me. I suppose on some level they always will be. But as of late they've been shifted to the back burner to make way for other priorities and other projects. At times, I admit, I feel a little guilty about that. After all, it would seem a shame to spend five years and however many thousands of dollars on something just to put it aside and move on. So I've decided to take on a new project. One that, I hope, will focus my interests and my expertise and produce something that is at least readable, and hopefully interesting.

What I’d like to do is examine a topic near and dear to my heart, the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. More specifically I’d like to examine their writings; writings that helped to shape the vocabulary of American citizenship and set the tone for the political and social life of one of the most remarkable, and downright strangest, nations in human history.

Now, I don’t want to be too formal about this. I don’t plan on writing essays about the true meaning of this address or the history of that amendment. At this point I'm aiming for things like the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, Jefferson’s inaugural address, Washington’s farewell address, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, and the like. There will be no footnotes, few references to the works of historians, and only brief allusions to the philosophers and statesmen that the Founding Fathers were no doubt influenced by. I want to make my reflections accessible to someone who isn't a tenured professor of the American Enlightenment, and so my own thoughts and opinions will tend to make up the balance of any post.

And reflections they will be. Again without being too formal, I plan on selecting a document once a week, or maybe every few weeks, reading it over and writing out my thoughts, generally or specifically. I think it would be useful to provide some kind of context and discuss when and under what circumstances a particular text was composed; I think it would be interesting to discuss why a particular document was significant when it was written, or continues to be significant in the here and now of American culture and politics. But then I also think that certain documents may lend themselves to different kinds of discussions. We’ll see.

I hesitate to discuss, up front at least, whatever political biases I may (or in fact do) hold. I will aim, as ever, to be as objective as humanly possible when discussing what I regard more as historical texts rather than political tracts. While anyone who is familiar with Jefferson, Adams and Hamilton knows that they were as viciously partisan in their own time as any man or woman now employed in Washington, I don’t take it as my aim to rehash old arguments. Having said that I have no doubt that a person who sets their mind to it will be able to discern whatever my ideological leanings might be in due time and without too much trouble. 
Anyway, that’s about the size of it. I suppose this was all just my overwrought, preamble-laden way of saying “watch this space.” Still, I was taught that every thesis requires an introduction, and if nothing else I've given you the chance to decide if you’ll stick around or run for the hills. I will endeavour to include a link to a copy of the text that I am discussing at the end of every post. In most cases I don’t foresee this being an issue, but then I suppose time will tell.

Now then, ladies and gentlemen, on with the show. 

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