Friday, November 27, 2020

John Jay's Address to the People of the State of New York, Part 5

A message for 21st century America in a 1788 address by John Jay, concluded:

“Let us also be mindful that the cause of freedom greatly depends on the use we make of the singular opportunities we enjoy of governing ourselves wisely; for if the event should prove, that the people of this country either cannot or will not govern themselves, who will hereafter be advocates for systems, which however charming in theory and prospect, are not reducible to practice.  If the people of our nation, instead of consenting to be governed by laws of their own making, and rulers of their own choosing, should let licentiousness, disorder, and confusion reign over them, the minds of men every where, will insensibly become alienated from republican forms, and prepared to prefer and acquiesce in Governments, which, though less friendly to liberty, afford more peace and security.

Receive this Address with the same candor with which it is written; and may the spirit of wisdom and patriotism direct and distinguish your councils and your conduct.

A citizen of New York.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

John Jay's Address to the People of the State of New York, Part 4

From a 1788 address by John Jay, delivering a message that Americans of the 21st century need to hear:

“Such other foreign nations, if any such there be, who, jealous of our growing importance, and fearful that our commerce and navigation should impair their own—who behold our rapid population with regret, and apprehend that the enterprising spirit of our people, when seconded by power and probability of success, may be directed to objects not consistent with their policy or interests, cannot fail to wish that we may continue a weak and a divided people. …”

“…Are we sure that our distresses, dissentions and weakness will neither invite hostility nor insult?  If they should, how ill prepared shall we be for defence! without Union, without Government, without money, and without credit! …”

“…We must in the business of Government as well as in all other business, have some degree of confidence, as well as a great degree of caution.  Who on a sick bed would refuse medicines from a physician, merely because it is as much in his power to administer deadly poisons, as salutary remedies? …”

“Consider then, how weighty and how many considerations advise and persuade the people of America to remain in the safe and easy path of Union; to continue to move and act as they hitherto have done, as a band of brothers; to have confidence in themselves and in one another; and since all cannot see with the same eyes, at least to give the proposed Constitution a fair trial, and to mend it as time, occasion and experience may dictate.  It would little become us to verify the predictions of those who ventured to prophecy, that peace: instead of blessing us with happiness and tranquility, would serve only as the signal for factions, discords and civil contentions to rage in our land, and overwhelm it with misery and distress.”

Friday, November 20, 2020

John Jay's Address to the People of the State of New York, Part 3

From an address by John Jay in 1788, with a message that present-day Americans need to hear:

Concerning the delegates to the Constitutional Convention:

“They were likewise sensible that on a subject so comprehensive, and involving such a variety of points and questions, the most able, the most candid, and the most honest men will differ in opinion.  The same proposition seldom strikes many minds exactly in the same point of light; different habits of thinking, different degrees and modes of education, different prejudices and opinions early formed and long entertained, conspire with a multitude of other circumstances, to produce among men a diversity and contrariety of opinions on questions of difficulty.  Liberality, therefore, as well as prudence, induced them to treat each other’s opinions with tenderness, to argue without asperity, and to endeavor to convince the judgment without hurting the feelings of each other.

“Although many weeks were passed in these discussions, some points remained, on which a unison of opinions could not be effected.  Here again, that same happy disposition to unite and conciliate, induced them to meet each other; and enabled them, by mutual concessions, finally to complete and agree to the plan they have recommended, and that too with a degree of unanimity which, considering the variety of discordant views and ideas, they had to reconcile, is really astonishing. …”

“You must have observed that the same temper and equanimity which prevailed among the people on the former occasion, no longer exists.  We have unhappily become divided into parties; and this important subject has been handled with such indiscreet and offensive acrimony, and with so many little unhandsome artifices and misrepresentations, that pernicious heats and animosities have been kindled, and spread their flames far and wide among us. …”

“As vice does not sow the seeds of virtue, so neither does passion cultivate the fruits of reason.  Suspicions and resentments create no disposition to conciliate, nor do they infuse a desire of making partial and personal objects bend to general union and the common good.  The utmost efforts of that excellent disposition were necessary to enable the late Convention to perform their task; and although contrary causes sometimes operate similar effects, yet to expect that discord and animosity should produce the fruits of confidence and agreement, is to expect ‘grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles.’”

Saturday, November 14, 2020

John Jay's Address to the People of the State of New York, Part 2

From an address by John Jay to the people of New York in 1788, advocating the ratification of the proposed United States Constitution by the state's ratification convention:

“As the importance of this question must be obvious to every man, whatever his private opinions respecting it may be, it becomes us all to treat it in that calm and temperate manner, which a subject so deeply interesting to the future welfare of our country and prosperity requires.  Let us therefore as much as possible repress and compose that irritation in our minds, which to warm disputes about it may have excited.  Let us endeavour to forget that this or that man, is on this or that side; and that we ourselves, perhaps without sufficient reflection, have classed ourselves with one or the other party.  Let us remember that this is not a matter to be regarded as a matter that only touches our local parties, but as one so great, so general, and so extensive in its future consequences to America, that for our deciding upon it according to the best of our unbiassed judgment, we must be highly responsible both here and hereafter. …”

Friday, November 13, 2020

John Jay's Address to the People of the State of New York, Part 1

The following is taken from John Jay's 1788 address to the people of the State of New York to advocate ratification of the proposed United States Constitution by the state's ratification convention.  The Americans of the 21st century need no less than the Americans of 1788 to give serious consideration to the points made by Jay in this address.  It is a message that Americans have needed to hear (or to read -- to receive, one way or another) for years, but the more time passes, the more intense that need has seemed to grow.

When Jay himself delivered this message, it was a plea to Americans to recover their senses before they (or "we") irreparably damage the hard-won and precious gift that America is and ought to be.  I offer this message now for the same reason.

As the title above indicates, this is the first of several parts.

“Friends and Fellow Citizens:

“THERE are times and seasons, when general evils spread general alarm and uneasiness, and yet arise from causes too complicated, and too little understood by many, to produce an unanimity of opinions respecting their remedies.  Hence it is, that on such occasions, the conflict of arguments too often excites a conflict of passions, and introduces a degree of discord and animosity, which, by agitating the public mind dispose it to precipitation and extravagance.  They who on the ocean have been unexpectedly enveloped with tempests, or suddenly entangled among rocks and shoals, know the value of that serene, self-possession and presence of mind, to which in such cases they owed their preservation; nor will the heroes who have given us victory and peace, hesitate to acknowledge that we are as much indebted for those blessings to the calm prevision, and cool intrepidity which planned and conducted our military measures, as to the glowing animation with which they were executed.

“While reason retains her rule, while men are as ready to receive as to give advice, and as willing to be convinced themselves, as to convince others, there are few political evils from which a free and enlightened people cannot deliver themselves.  It is unquestionably true, that the great body of the people love their country, and wish it prosperity; and this observation is particularly applicable to the people of a free country, for they have more and stronger reasons for loving it than others.  It is not therefore to vicious motives that the unhappy divisions which sometimes prevail among them are to be imputed; the people at large always mean well, and although they may on certain occasions be misled by the counsels, or injured by the efforts of the few who expect more advantage from the wreck, than from the preservation of national prosperity, yet the motives of these few, are by no means to be confounded with those of the community in general.

“That such seeds of discord and danger have been disseminated and begin to take root in America, as unless eradicated will soon poison our gardens and our fields, is a truth much to be lamented; and the more so, as their growth rapidly increases, while we are wasting the season in honestly but imprudently disputing, not whether they shall be pulled up, but by whom, in what manner, and with what instruments, the work shall be done. …”

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

At the very latest

After the Electors cast their votes next month, Congress will count those votes on January 6th, 2021.  At the very latest, the outcome of the 2020 United States Presidential Election will be conclusively settled on (or, if Congress is delayed, immediately following) January 6th, 2021.

The Clock Is Ticking

There remain some who, for the time being, are reluctant to acknowledge that the outcome of the 2020 United States Presidential Election is, in fact, what it is now widely believed to be.  Strictly speaking, I cannot say that they would be wrong to claim that the outcome is conclusively and officially settled.  (I would not say the same for some of the other claims that many of them have been making, however; the claims that many of them have made are definitely wrong.)  The probability that the President will prevail in his post-election efforts to force the election to give him a different result is, we should all admit, greater than zero.  That probability may be very close to zero, but it is not zero.  The outcome of the election may no longer be in doubt, but it is true that it is not yet definitively, authoritatively, irrevocably settled, yet.

But it will be.  The clock is ticking.... 

(In setting up this clock, I was required to set a location for it.  I chose Washington, D.C., but yes, I am aware that the Electoral College does not assemble in a single place for the actual casting of the votes, and that the electors from each state assemble in their respective states or in their federal district, as the case may be.)