Friday, June 03, 2005

Buff-coats and britches with blue satin sashes,
checkered bell bottoms belong in the trashes


Battle of Bunker Hill, John Trumbull

Digby points out yet another example of how the founding fathers might find today's America hasn't evolved into the state they anticipated; or maybe that it has morphed into the state they feared it could.

The Digby post is timely, for me. While in Boston this past week, we spent a few days downtown. Our hotel (nice; recommended. Get a room in the upper floors for great city views) was on The Freedom Trail - the defining urban walk, if you're into history.

The Old North Church is obviously on the Trail and has one of the less-kitschy giftshops. Well... you can still buy a pair of lobster earrings, if you need 'em (Deb did).

I picked up a few books. I bought 'Secret Lives of the US Presidents' for the flight home. It's surprisingly entertaining - a non-stuffy, breezy read, with lots of trivia I didn't know. I predict one or more of its factoids are going to be cropping up here in the future.

At the other extreme from 'breezy read,' are two volumes of the Presidential Inaugural Addresses. You can read them online too, of course. It will be a while before I finish them, if ever. But after reading just a few, it's depressing how modern presidential speeches compare to the old guard. Where has the wisdom, the eloquence, gone? Just imagine Bush saying this:

"The Government has been in the hands of the people. To the people, therefore, and to the faithful and able depositaries of their trust is the credit due. Had the people of the United States been educated in different principles, had they been less intelligent, less independent, or less virtuous can it be believed that we should have maintained the same steady and consistent career or been blessed with the same success? While, then, the constituent body retains its present sound and healthful state everything will be safe. They will choose confident and faithful representatives for every department. It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties." - James Monroe, last of the revolutionary generation presidents; March 4, 1817.

The requisite trivia: James Monroe was partial to dressing revolution-stylee, long after the style was out of fashion. He kept to the britches, buff-coat, wig and even the 17th century cocked hat. As the author of Secret Lives... suggests, imagine George Bush appearing in public dressed like Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch.

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