Saturday, March 10, 2018

Boston Libraries and Tempest at Dawn

Matador contributing editor Sarah Park has “curated” two galleries of fascinating libraries around the world. These links will take you to some interesting buildings dedicated to the written word.

tempest at dawn
Boston Public Library

I’ve used the Boston Public Library to illustrate this post because I spent untold hours in this room. Actually, I found my greatest treasure in the basement of this building. I was researching Tempest at Dawn and discovered Christopher Collier’s doctoral thesis on Roger Sherman. Collier is the coauthor of Decision in Philadelphia, among other books. I was able to speak to him on the phone, and he had no idea that his thesis had been preserved on microfiche or that it was retained by the Boston Public Library. Since information on Sherman was relatively rare, it was fortuitous to find this academic profile about the architect of the Great Compromise at the Constitutional Convention.

Since I’m writing about my time in Massachusetts, there were two other libraries that had an impact on my writing— the Concord Free Public Library and the Boston Athenæum. One is public and home to great literary traditions and the other is one of the oldest private libraries and cultural institutions in the country. I suggest Sarah Park do a third gallery of libraries dedicated to unique institutions in the United States.

Tempest at Dawn
Boston  Athenæum
Tempest at Dawn
Concord Free Public Library

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Essay at Constituting America

Today, I had the privilege of participating in Constituting America's 8th annual 90-Day Study. This year, their study looks at the Founders’ vision and purpose for a legislature that belongs to, is comprised of, and serves the American people. 

You can read my essay here, and all of the essays here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Constituting American Begins Eighth Annual 90-Day Study

The core mission of Constituting America is to educate Americans about the Constitution

Constituting America has initiated its eight annual 90-Day Study. This year, the study is titled Fire on the Floor, and looks at the "Founders’ vision and purpose for a legislature that belongs to, is comprised of, and serves the American people." The essays have already started posting, so take a read here.

I've agreed to write essays on these five subjects.
  • Why the Legislative Branch is listed first in Article I of the United States Constitution
  • How Congress is designed by America’s Founders so a king could not rule, but instead the American people rule within a civil society
  • The United States Congress versus the Confederate Congress During the Civil War
  • What should and should not be placed in a bill to keep legislation easy to understand and appropriate
  • Impact that running for elected office, and serving in Congress, has on the members and their families
2018 Essays

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gouverneur Morris has some advice for modern Americans

Gouverneur Morris

Most Americans don't recognize the name, Gouverneur Morris. They should. Morris is often called the Penman of the Constitution. He took a jumbled mess from the Committee of Detail and crafted the eloquent Constitution we know today. As a preeminent Founder and Framer, he did more than wordsmith the Construction. Among other things, he spoke at the Constitutional Convention more than any other delegate (173 times).

He had a lot to say, and most of it remains relevant today.

Here is a snippet from James Madison’s convention notes dated Thursday, August 9, 1787:
Mr. GOVr. MORRIS. The lesson we are taught is that we should be governed as much by our reason, and as little by our feelings as possible. What is the language of Reason on this subject? That we should not be polite at the expence of prudence … as every Society from a great nation down to a club had the right of declaring the conditions on which new members should be admitted, there could be no room for complaint. As to those philosophical gentlemen, those Citizens of the World as they call themselves, He owned he did not wish to see any of them in our public Councils. He would not trust them. The men who can shake off their attachments to their own Country can never love any other. These attachments are the wholesome prejudices which uphold all Governments …”
In a few words, Morris cautioned against being governed by feelings, spoke against political correctness, agued that a nation had the right to determine who became citizens, and explained why he distrusted “Citizens of the World.”

Friday, February 9, 2018

On Transmigration Reviews Tempest at Dawn

In an article titled "Books: An Observation," The Cajun writes:

"The only new title that knocked my socks off is "Tempest at Dawn" by James D. Best, published in 2009.  I've finished it and plan to read it again, after a spell.  There is a lot there to absorb and enjoy.  I know I missed many things as I read it quickly - it's a compelling read - and the second time I plan to read more slowly and savor each character, and there are many historic figures involved. I also began looking up his other works and maybe add a few of them to my collection.
The book brings our founders to life with great writing, historic accuracy and amazing wit."

Thanks for the kind words.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Ryan Cooper writes "America's Constitution is terrible"

Ryan Cooper has an opinion piece in The Week with the provocative title, "America's Constitution is terrible. Let's throw it out and start over."

He starts by saying, " The American Constitution is an outdated, malfunctioning piece of junk — and it's only getting worse."

What's wrong, you say? Well, that damned parchment is interfering with him and his cohorts from governing in the fashion they believe best for all of us. How will we ever turn the United States into a European country with that odious “piece of junk” in the way?

He has a prescription, of course. As the intellectual equal of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, et al, Cooper defines five brilliant changes to our countries most sacred document.
  1. Get rid of the Senate filibuster—super majorities are undemocratic
  2. Radically change the way House members are elected—gerrymandering is just plain wrong
  3. Neuter the Senate—too damn much power to low-population states
  4. Elect the president from the House—a separately elected president “increases tyranny and undermine democracy”
  5. Throw the entire Constitution in the garbage—git rid of the “ancient, janky mechanisms of the American Constitution”

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Musings About Concord, Massachusetts

I don’t believe in muses. Writing is not a matter of inspiration. It's more of a compulsion. Think about all of the famous authors that wrote until the last shovel of dirt was thrown onto their grave. Most people retire when the get enough money. Not bestselling writers. They just keep going. They write because they loved writing. 

That said, I actually have a muse of sorts. It’s Concord, Massachusetts. Some of my fondest memories are of that historic village about twenty-five miles north/west of Boston.

American Revolution
Colonial Inn
I lived in Boston for three years and consulted there for many many more. When I was consulting, I frequently spent two weeks in the city. I discovered that I could catch a commuter train Friday night and spend the weekend in Concord. I must have done this dozens of times, sometimes with my wife, but often alone.

Concord was peaceful, pleasant, and friendly. I stayed at the Colonial Inn, where in 1775, rebels had hidden guns and ammunition. The shot heard ‘round the world was only a mile or so down the road. Tourists visit Concord because of its iconic place in the American Revolution. Many are surprised by the town’s grand literary heritage. Nathanial Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Robert B. Parker have all called Concord home. No wonder Henry James dubbed the village, "the biggest little place in America."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Happy Birthday ... You don't Look a Day Over 230

Congress designated September 17th as Constitution Day (celebrated this year on Monday, September 18th). Two hundred and thirty years ago, thirty-nine delegates to the Federal Convention signed this venerable founding document.

Congress made an error. I believe our elected representatives should have chosen June 21. On that date, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, making it the "supreme law of the land." I believe James Madison would concur. Delegate signatures were important, but only as a milestone. Legitimacy depended not on esteemed delegates, but on ratification by conventions of the people. After all, it's our name that appears first, and in bold, outsized characters. So, as we go about our busy day, let's take a moment to celebrate 

 We the People

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Bush v. Gore and Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board – Guest Essayist: James D. Best

Today's essay at Constituting America is Bush v. Gore and Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board, which which settled the 2000 presidential election.
The 2000 presidential election came down to who won Florida. Twenty-seven days after the election, the presidency remained undecided. Surrogates for George W. Bush and Al Gore clashed in a close-quarters fight that seemed to have no end.  Both parties persisted and refused to yield. The media filled nearly every broadcast moment and column inch of newsprint with the maneuvers and shenanigans of both parties. The pursuit of minutia, gossip, and a major scoop drove wall-to-wall reporting of the countless twists, turns, and skirmishes.
 You can read or listen to the entire essay here.

7th Annual 90-Day Study

Friday, July 7, 2017

Unexpected Recommendation for Tempest at Dawn

One of the great things about the internet is that if someone mentions you, an email alert can let you know about it. Gear Technology posted an Independence Day salutation. They also made a recommendation for Tempest at Dawn. Thank you, even though I have not a clue what "power your Skiving" means.

So if you have a quiet moment between parades, ball games, picnics, and fireworks, I encourage you to go online and get a copy of James D. Best’s book, Tempest at Dawn. This very well researched novelization of the Constitutional Convention will show just how close the entire experiment came to failing. The reasons were much the same as the conflicts that divide us today. Best presents the signers as real people, with real life problems — not as supermen sent down from some divine mountain with wisdom of another world.

Power Your Skiving

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

District of Columbia v. Heller ... Essay at Constituting America

Guest Essayist: James D. Best

Today's essay at Constituting America is District of Columbia v. Heller, which ruled on a long-simmering conflict about the meaning of the 2nd Amendment.
District of Columbia v. Heller provided clarity to a long and quarrelsome debate about the application of the Second Amendment. The crux of the case was whether the right to “keep and bear arms” was an individual right or a collective right associated with regulated militias. The Supreme Court (5-4) ruled the Second Amendment an individual right.
You can read or listen to the entire essay here.

7th Annual 90-Day Study

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Thank You Librarians

Book Riot published a piece on Finding Libraries in Unexpected Places. There are some great pictures and an interesting narrative for each. Also, some nifty ideas that might help libraries remain as a place to check out books—real books, printed on paper. I would hate to see libraries turned into book museums, or internet portals for the digitally deprived. I prefer librarians to be information savvy, rather than technology chauffeurs.

Concord Free Public Library

Boston Public Library

As you can tell, I’m a bit old fashion. I love bookstore and libraries. My favorite libraries are the Boston Public Library and the Concord Free Public Library. I like both because there are surprises buried in their stacks—surprises that knowledgeable librarians help you uncover. 

In the Boston Public Library I found a Roger Sherman doctoral thesis by Christopher Collier, the author of Decision in Philadelphia. In Concord, I found a one hundred and sixty year old biography of Roger Sherman. Both finds were invaluable for my research for Tempest at Dawn. Since I was not a resident of Massachusetts, I was further surprised when the Concord Free Public Library issued me a library card on the spot and let me walk out of the building with this valuable book. Free library cards for everyone is a longstanding tradition of this charming bastion of American literary history.

Bookstores are great, used bookstores are fun and great, but libraries are indispensable because they come equipped with tour guides called librarians. I sure hope the digitization of books doesn't cost us this valuable resource.

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Musings about Concord, Massachusetts
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