Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gordon S. Wood---Part 3

By Phil Johnson
Guest Blogger


Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2



The consequences of a blurred awareness of the differences between the private and the public to the Revolutionary era Americans are significant to our understandings of their mindset in the way they viewed government:
"Of the nearly 2,800 prosecutions in the Supreme and General Session courts of Massachusetts between 1760 and 1774, over half included sexual and religious offences, such as fornication and using profanity. ... Royal
governors did not have legislative policies and assemblies did not enact legislative programs. ... In William Nelson's survey of the Massachusetts General Court in 1761..., he could find 'only three acts that were arguably legislative in the sense that they changed law or made new law.'" (from Wood's essay)

Today, we take the differences regarding the private and the public as well as the separation of powers to be as natural as breathing. So, we can see a major disconnect in the way we think about who we are and in the way they thought about who they were. I mean as individual members of and in society, it is next to impossible to square our thinking with theirs. We truly are a separate People from those of our Founding generation. But, our journey began in those crucial days of the republic.

So, are we a different We The People?

7 comments:

Angie Van De Merwe said...

That depends on who you ask the question!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

bTW, Phil,
One doesn't have to be alligned with any religious organization to do humanatarian aid. What is the use of the Church, then? It is just a social "in-group", and that is all...

Pinky said...

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I think our Founding Fathers held a perception that just as the People of any particular society were separate from the People of another society, so were the People of one generation separate from the People of another.
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So, in reality, the Founding Fathers would have conceived of us in our time as a separate People and they would have afforded us the same independence and responsibilities they took for their own generation.
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But, a point could be made that we are so different that it makes it almost impossible for us to get into their minds--to understand their thinking. Of course, we all accept that as elementary to our study.
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Yet, there is an almost constant judging of the Revolutionary generation as though they held the same concepts as do we. In particular, it is the ideas of the separation of powers that they had little thought about. And, that is an important difference as the consequentiality of the blurring of the public and the private sectors is made more clear.
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One other point is that some of us here have gone far beyond others in their knowledge of American history; while others (like me?) still get excited with what we are learning.
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Pinky said...

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In one sense, you are correct to say the "church" is just a "social in-group"; but, in another,that is the understatement of the year. The "church" seems to be just about the most influential of all "social in-groups" in society.
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Angie Van De Merwe said...

If the Church has that much power, is it right for them to use it in dominating the public square? Yet, they would be the first ones to cry out if the State were to dominate, or any other 'politically strong organization....

So, now we are saying that it depends on what political organization one wants to identify with...?

Pinky said...

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Yeah, Angie, I see how you are addressing the Private and the Public sectors with your questions.
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One of the contributors here--brian Tubbs--has often made the argument that religious people have the exact same rights as every other persons to enter the public debates with their interests and esires foremost.
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If you and I like it or not, it is their right. And, I think we will see (in this series) how that right came to be an accepted aspect of American society.
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Pinky said...

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As the historical facts about the American Founding unfold, we are hard pressed not to wonder how the Founding set directions in which young America was on a course leading us to where we are today.
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Exactly what was involved? I see a hugely disproportionate emphasis on the religious. Obviously, the Reformed Protestant and other religious prevalence cannot be denied--it had ruled early American thinking for centuries. But,it was not the only show in town though there are obsequious attempts to say so.
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The Founding was--at least--equally influenced by other forces far less spiritual. I think the underlying currents were fueled by deep and, yet, un-thought ideas about liberty and rights. But, there WAS A SPIRIT being born in every RED BLOODED AMERICAN. It had something to do with the idea of the PUBLIC GOOD that was afloat in those formative years.
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Here is an overly simplified example. A fire fighting service was to the public good so that no fire spread out to take the entire village was jeopardized. Laws alone couldn't create public works to see to the tasks involved. Instead, governments issued charters and licenses to private interests to carry out the tasks involved for the Public Good. And, with came the privilege of collecting fees for services rendered.
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That current gets expanded to every aspect of the Public Good including roads, inns, police, and the maintenance of public property. That was the privatization of the Public Good. America, the Land of Opportunity!
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