However tiresome to others, the most indefatigable orator is never tedious to himself. The sound of his own voice never loses its harmony to his own ear; and among the delusions, which self-love is ever assiduous in attempting to pass upon virtue, he fancies himself to be sounding the sweetest tones.—John Quincy Adams, “Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory: Delivered to the Classes of Senior and Junior Sophisters in Harvard University.”
Oh, my goodness, could that man talk. And talk. And talk some more. It might amuse you to know that, in the above quote, he was referring to his fellow lawyers.
So much you can say about John Quincy Adams. Annoying, crabby, bilious, voluble. Also, one of the most remarkable men ever to occupy the Oval Office—and even more to serve in the House of Representatives. A superb diplomat, who literally began his career at his father’s elbow prior to the negotiation of the Treaty of Paris, he served four Presidents (Washington, Adams I, Madison, and Monroe) as Ministers to the Netherlands, Russia, Prussia, and the UK. He was Monroe’s Secretary of State. During the wilderness that was Thomas Jefferson’s Presidency, he spent six years in the Senate. In typical Adams manner, he managed to irritate his own Federalist Party enough for them to deny him renomination. In 1824, he won the Presidency against three strong candidates, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William Crawford. None got a majority of the Electoral College, and the race was thrown into the House. There, Clay endorsed Adams, enraging Jackson supporters (who called it a “Corrupt Bargain” when Adams picked Clay for Secretary of State).
Adams was not as deft a President as he was a diplomat, and Jackson trounced him in a rematch in 1828, sending the then-61-year-old home to his failing farm in Massachusetts. He was not thrilled to be back in the Commonwealth; he sulked and became even more a pain until his own neighbors rescued him by sending him back to Washington as a Congressman. Read more »
Port Sunlight was a model village constricted in the Wirral, in the Liverpool area, by the Lever brothers, and especially under the inspiration of William Lever, later lord Leverhulme. Their fortune was based on the manufacture of soap, and the village was built next to the factory in the Victorian/Edwardian era, for the employees and their families. It’s certainly a remarkable place, with different houses designed by various architects, parks, allotments, everything an Edwardian working class person might want. An enlightened employer, Lever was still a paternalist: he claimed his village was a an exercise in profit sharing, because “It would not do you much good if you send it down your throats in the form of bottles of whisky, bags of sweets, or fat geese at Christmas. On the other hand, if you leave the money with me, I shall use it to provide for you everything that makes life pleasant – nice houses, comfortable homes, and healthy recreation.” Overseers had the right to visit any house at any time to check for ‘cleanliness’ and that the rules about who could live in which house were observed (men and women could only share accommodation if they were in the same family). Still, by the stands of the day it was quite progressive – schools, art gallery, recreation of all sorts for the employees were important. Read more »
There are some notions, ideas and arguments, that no matter how often they are exposed as fallacious, are rebutted and refuted, seem to recur again and again. Moral relativism is one of them. Put simply, this is the view that one’s moral judgments are delimited by the culture or period in which one lives, so that it is impossible to make meaningful moral judgments about other times and places, since they had or have criteria for what is good or bad that may be quite different from one’s own. It seems to be stuck on ‘repeat’. The perennial nature of such ideas ought itself to make us pause before we repeat the ritual of refutation. We need to ask, what, exactly, the attraction is– what is it about the idea that seems to make it so irresistibly attractive and inevitable? Rather than an error to be corrected by better reasoning, it looks more like a symptom. Moral relativism never seems to go away, no matter how often philosophers try to swat it. The same is true of a related notion – ethical subjectivism (the view thatmoral judgments rest on personal taste, or emotions and nothing more). So rather than just show for the umpteenth time why the arguments for moral relativism are flawed, it would be better to go on to ask why they have this quality of eternal recurrence. There is an insight at the bottom of the idea that has got twisted, and its ‘symptomatic’ aspect has something to do with the nature of alienation in modern society. Read more »
We have it in our power to begin the world over again —Tom Paine
How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes? —Dr Johnson
That the Age of Revolution and Rights was also the Age of Slavery and Empire is well known. Less obviously,it was also the time (roughly 1775-1835) which a template was established for the control and exploitation of citizens and subjects which has lasted into our own day. The rhetoric of libertyand equality accompanied a reality of control and subordination. It still does.
In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt commented that the FrenchDeclaration of the Rights of Man (1789)marked a historic turn: a claim that man was now ‘emancipated from all tutelage and announced he had come of age’ . It is an echo of Kant’s 1786 answer to the question ‘What is Enlightenment?’: for him, it is the end of tutelage, casting aside the would-be guides (and gaolers) in the shapes of priest and King, in order to achieve maturity which Kant takes to be thinking for oneself. He adds that this must involve the free use of public reason, the uncensored exchange of opinion between citizens qua citizens – as distinct from the use of the private reason of the specialist, bureaucrat, etc. Kant’s message then, and that of the Declaration, is anti-paternalist, invoking the ideal of a mature citizenry. A core meaning of the politics of Enlightenment: free citizens, deliberating together without the miasma of superstition, taboo or state censor. But this is a kind of promise, not an accomplished fact, a statement of what might be about to emerge. Read more »