Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Franklin's Hidden Role at the Constitutional Convention

Ran across this article at Franklin on Freedom.

Emotions ran high at the Constitutional Convention and the delegate who sooth tempers was usually Ben Franklin. He often did this with a humorous quip, but once filibustered a nonsensical proposition until tempers eventually abated.

Franklin did more. He also teamed with Washington for behind the scene negotiations to keep the convention from collapsing. Reading Madison's notes, it appears arguments often escalated from about mid-week to reach a crescendo on Fridays. Many sessions were recess for the weekend with acrimony high, but on Monday, with little discussion, a compromise or procedural change would resolve or delay the issue. Obviously something had been negotiated outside the chamber. Most likely, the deal would have been struck under the mulberry tree in Franklin's yard.

Benjamin Franklin was one of our greatest Founders and this article is a fun read about an interesting historical character.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tempest at Dawn Review

I normally don't post Amazon reviews to my blog, but this one highlighted one of my favorite aspects of the book. In researching Tempest at Dawn, I read multiple books about lifestyles in the 1780s. I wanted to not only reflect what happened in the Constitutional Convention, but how the delegates lived. Separate state currencies were only one element of daily life that I wove into the political story.

Being a tremendous fan of early American history, this book immediately appealed to me. After reading it, I found there were several things I still hadn't realized about early America. The biggest was that every state had their own currency (which I'm sure restricted travel further than the fact that it could conceivably take days to travel from Connecticut to New York by wagon, depending on where in Connecticut you lived) and that there was an exchange rate between states that was figured out by...? All states still took British currency, which I suppose makes sense but I figured states frowned on dealing with British currency after the war.
At any rate, even though this is a fictional story of a real event, it held my attention and it wouldn't surprise me that all of the back room deals in the story actually happened. That was politics then as it is now.
It was also sad that with the country's imminent demise, there were politicians who still refused to give up their perceived power. Again, fictional story aside, I highly recommend this book if you like reading about early American history. Great job!

You can read the 216+ reviews (4.4) for Tempest at Dawn here.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Here’s an idea on how to fix Congress!

My grandson graduated from middle-school, so I’ve been in New York City for the last week. My visits are always fun because my three New York grandchildren will have it no other way. Sometimes we get time to do something other than attend school events, sport games, and dance recitals. Yesterday, I met an old friend from Arizona for lunch. Michael E. Newton wrote Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years and other nonfiction history books. Hamilton, of course, played a major role in Tempest at Dawn, so despite my emphasis on fiction, we developed a friendship based on a shared love of history.

After discussing book marketing, writing projects, and American history anecdotes, Michael shared a modern-day political idea that has shown some recent popularity. A congressperson today represents an average of 710,000 people. When we adopted the Constitution, each member represented no more than thirty thousand people. Michael suggested that we return to an upper limit of thirty thousand constituents. I laughed. That would make the United States Congress as large as the Star Wars Imperial Senate. I told Michael I didn’t want to pay taxes for a building large enough to hold so many representatives. He asked why they needed to be in a single building? In fact, why did they need to be in Washington D.C at all?

The intent of this movement is to make the House of Representatives once again answerable to the people.  If congresspersons remained in their districts and participated electronically with Congress as a whole, then they would be surrounded by their constituents rather than lobbyists and the House leadership. Further, if a congressperson only represented thirty thousand citizens, individuals would have more personal contact with their representative and greater influence over legislation. If we could pull this off, we would decrease the power of lobbyists and the establishment by geographically decentralizing the House, while increasing the power of the people by making their representative a neighbor. 

An additional benefit is that staff salaries and office expenses would siphon money out of the richest zip codes in America and disperse it to the hinterlands, from where it came in the first place. I count that as win/win.

Are there negatives? Of course. The senate would undoubtedly be further captured by lobbyists, the media, and party apparatchiki. They’ll probably even become haughtier, if that’s possible. But wait, there’s more. We could send senators out to state environs, as well. Maybe we require them to work in the state capital, maybe even the capitol itself. The Framers wanted the Senate to protect the states, and this might move us closer to the Framers’ vision. Although senators would remain popularly elected, proximity to local politicians would provide the states with additional influence over their prima donnas.

The whole idea is a pipe dream, but an intriguing pipe dream nonetheless. Maybe we could bribe them to go along by doubling their salary. It would be a bargain at twice the price.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Today's Essay at Constituting America

Today, I again 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 or listen on SoundCloud here, and all of this years essays can be found here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

In 1862, a sixty-five day downpour pummeled the western United States. California suffered the brunt of the storm. Almost a third of the state was under water, roads were impassible, telegraph lines down, rivers overflowed, hundreds of people died, and hundreds of thousands of animals drowned. Sacramento remained under water for six months, forcing the state government to move to San Francisco.
Geological evidence shows that a flood of this magnitude hits California every one to two hundred years.
What if it happens again?

I took a break from Steve and his friends to write a disaster story. This one's a corker. I didn't know I could imagine such mayhem.

For Steve Dancy fans, I have started Coronado, A Steve Dancy Tale and it should be available before the end of the year.

Back to Deluge. Greg Evarts and Patricia Baldwin are back from The Shut Mouth Society. The stories are unrelated, so Deluge is not a sequel. The novels just shares the same cast and locale. The characters have changed, of course. Greg is now chief of police in Santa Barbara. Patricia is still a history professor, but has transferred from UCLA to UCSB. When the sky falls on California, our two heroes must once again save the day. There's rain, inept and ept politicians, murading street gangs, cage fighters, spies, and collapsed dams that send mountains of rolling water toward everything we hold dear.

Deluge will be available in print and Kindle formats on June 4th. Happy reading.

Can a 150-year-old conspiracy be unraveled before it’s too late?

Monday, May 14, 2018

Essay at Constituting America

james D. Best
Today's Essay

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.

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.”