These Truths: A History of the United States

Summary

This is a one-volume narrative non-fiction history of the United States. Book focuses chiefly on a political history. Seeks to examine the question of democracy and whether a people can govern themselves fairly and justly:

It seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. — Alexander Hamilton

.. “Can a political society really be governed by reflection and election, by reason and truth, rather than by accident and violence, by prejudice and deceit? Is there any arrangement of government—any constitution—by which it’s possible for a people to rule themselves, justly and fairly, and as equals, through the exercise of judgment and care? Or are their efforts, no matter their constitutions, fated to be corrupted, their judgment muddled by demagoguery, their reason abandoned for fury? This question in every kind of weather is the question of American history. It is also the question of this book”

Three founding ideas to America:

  • all men are created equal & independent.
  • from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness
  • that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

— Thomas Jefferson

Idea of a fragmented historical record

  • The things that survive are often translated / transmuted, but they are the things that people chose to preserve

Early Colonization

  • Early colonization effort financed by Sir Walter Raliegh
  • John Locke at the end of 1600s
  • Thomas Hobbes and Leviathian set against the reports cannibalization in the early Jamestown colony
  • House of Burgesses was the first self-governing body in the colonies

Difference between british and spanish colonization

  • English protestantism needed converts to read the bible, wheras Catholics could bapitize converts. The former encouraged settlement over passing extraction.
  • English empire is maritime and commecial
  • English colonists are free men with the same rights and liberties as those in the homeland

Jamestown vs. Plymouth

  • Jamestown was a charter granted by the king. Plymouth had no charter and had fled the king under religious (and political) protest

Magna Carta

1215 -> King John pledges to barons he would obey the “law of the land”. The document was revoked shortly thereafter and largely frogotten. Edward Coke revived it in 1620s as an “ancient constitution”.

  • Crucially established the trial by jury

Slavery

  • Much of English common law ran counter to the idea of owning slaves. Some early rulings reached back to Roman law.
  • 1641 the Massachusetts legislature The Body of Liberties, a bill, or list, of one hundred rights

In short, the currents were running against the idea of slavery, but the early colonies were dependent on it as an institution.

John Locke

  • Two Treatises - laid the foundations for religious tolerance and egalitarianism

Freedom of the press

  • James Franklin (Benjamin Franklin’s brother) published the New England Courant which was one of the first independent (free from colonial government oversight) printings. Benjamin Franklin took over printing when his broth was jailed in 1722.
  • Cato’s Letters were written by John Trenchard (Englishmen) and Thomas Gordon (Scot) on liberty and freedom of speech

Early Slave and Indian Revolts

  • Slave revolts (both Black and Native American) raised the question: “By what right are we ruled?” that became so foundational in the American revolution. Minor revolts took place in some main land colonies and major revolts/wars took place in Jamaica and Antigua.

Campaigns, Inc.

  • Political consulting firm
  • Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter
  • Fought against Universal healthcare in California and Nationally against Truman
    • Branded socialized medicine

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