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August 15, 2008


Martin Langeland

To prefer the war of what we should be over the war of what we must be.

David Corbett

Dear Berks. ,
Superb post ( as usual) . The Revolution is fascinating to us because perhaps we cannot actually believe that we did form a government without aristocrats and priests for the first time in history !!!!!! The scandal in my family is that one of the female forbearers married a Hessian ! NO one in my wife's fanmily including her ( eight years of higher education) , knows what a Hessian was . Still , the passions have cooled with time and we view it with detachment. Not so the Civil War for many reasons . There is the rub ! Emotions . I too , positively wallow in both eras much to the lack of rationality ! Good for us !
cordially ,
David Corbett


Wow, Tim. What an endless hallway you've just looked down. Both periods are critical today; I think we see in modern politics (in very broad strokes) a struggle over the denouement of each of these epochs. One strain of political America has been struggling for generations to reverse the implications of the Civil War and the Civil War Amendments to the Constitution. An opposing strain has been struggling to take those implications through their natural arc, toward both greater order and greater liberty.

At the same time, each player has tried to lay claim to the holy books of the founding fathers. "Originalism" in this context is an empty vessel, dressed in colonial colors, into which is poured the convenient draught of the moment. There has been a steady trend toward over-simplification and outright obfuscation when it comes to the opinions of our first politicians, as well as a misguided instinct to believe that any time we differ from them we weaken the experiment. It's candy, but it's apparently what the public is equipped to handle.

We re-fight the Civil War, and we fight over the Revolution.

As to your gradual turn from one to the other: duh. The Civil War is a huge field to play in, but unless you're compelled to become a PhD, or you're the kind of person who can listen to the same 20 records and watch the same 20 movies over and over again, it's no surprise that you're looking for other fields. You've been around this particular pasture a time or two.

That you find the Revolutionary era compelling is no accident, given the climate we're in (and have grown up in, old enough to remember 1976). A large personal archive easily cooks this coke into crack. You've got history in your hand--you're actually touching it! It's an incredible thrill--I can only imagine. The closest I came was a visit to the National Archives.

In other words, "Yay you!"

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