I posted a version of this post the other day and I decided I didn’t like splitting Centinel up into multiple parts, and thought he should be discussed all at once. I found myself trying to write a post and read Centinel simultaneously, and it just didn’t go well, so I’m going to do a complete post on Centinel and pretend like the last one never happened. I won’t delete it, because I don’t think that erasing one’s published work is a good idea.
The letters of Centinel are a series of 18 essay published in Philadelphia newspapers by Samuel Bryan. Unlike other founding fathers, Bryan’s mark on history is exclusively tied to his pseudonymous persona, which he rigorously defends against attempts to discern his true identity. From his final essay:
Great pains have been taken to discover the author of these papers, with a view, no doubt, to villify his private character, and thereby lessen the usefulness of his writings, and many suppose they have made the discovery, but in this they are mistaken. The Centinel submits his performance to the public judgement, and challenges fair argumentation; the information he has given from time to time, has stood the test of the severest scrutiny, and thus his reputation as a writer, is established beyond the injury of his enemies. If it were in the least material to the argument, or answered any one good purpose, he would not hesitate a moment in using his own signature; as it would not, but on the contrary, point where the shafts of malice could be levelled with most effect, and thus divert the public attention from the proper object, to a personal altercation, he from the first determined that the prying eye of party or curiosity, should never be gratified with his real name, and to that end to be the sole depository of the secret.
After the fiasco of the last Harvard Classics volume where my Kindle edition of the classics did not have all of the texts, I was rushing through to get myself to this fourth volume. This volume was certainly the most difficult and rewarding so far, as it contained what many consider to be the greatest work ever written in the English language, Paradise Lost.
The letters of Centinel, at least the ones pertaining to the adoption of the Constitution, are a collection of 18 essays by Samuel Bryan, who, unlike many of the other pseudonymous authors, isn’t of any particular importance except as the author of these essays. These essays were addressed to the citizens of Pennsylvania.
The first letter opens with a discussion of the Pennsylvania constitution. In light of the current age, I believe it is important to emphasize that like John Milton, Centinel treats the phrases “free press” and “freely publishing your thoughts” as synonymous, as opposed to the modern definition. Also Centinel uses the phrase “so great a disparity in the talent, wisdom and industry of mankind”, which should indicate that he held the correct view of human equality that most Americans in public life would be afraid to say.
Centinel’s main point in his first essay seems to be that a free republic requires that it be filled of men of virtue and relatively equal status. If this can be obtained, a small government with frequent elections and term limits on representatives is all that is required for good governance.
Volume 3 of the Harvard Classics was short and narrowly focused. It contained the text of a pamphlet written by John Milton on free press and a letter he wrote on education. [Edit: 12/22/2016, the edition I had ommitted 2/3 of the volume. Works by Francis Bacon and Thomas Browne were included as well. I’ve added an update at the end.]
At times a work like the Harvard Classics seems incredibly expansive, but when I realized that Ancient Philosophy had been distilled to a single volume, I realized how much of a surface treatment this truly is.
This volume of the Harvard Classics contains works from three philosophers: Plato, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. This gives excellent coverage to Stoicism, but doesn’t delve deeply into anything else. The works of Plato that are included, Apology, Crito and Phaedo do not delve very deeply into Plato’s philosophy. Continue reading “Harvard Classics, Volume 2: Ancient Philosophy”
The next series of Anti-Federalist writings I’m going to discuss are the letters of Cato. There are seven in all. This is the first pseudonymous author we’ve read in this series, which from now on will be the rule, rather than the exception. Historians speculate that this author may be George Clinton, Governor of New York.
In Cato’s first letter, he provides an introduction. He states:
“Government, to an American, is the science of his political safety…”
Cato’s focus is on the long term stability of the government and how it will work for future generations. Because of this focus, Cato encourages careful inspection of the Constitution before ratification and to help make the new government as good as it possibly can be.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve set out to tackle the Harvard Classics. These are what the President of Harvard at the turn of the 20th Century determined was the core of western thought. The goal was to create a set of works which, if read, would give the reader a solid liberal education, measured by turn of the 20th century standards.
One might be concerned that I am using Harvard’s recommendations. After all, Harvard is, according to neo-reactionary theory, the root of modern ills. But back then, universities were still concerned about making their students as knowledgeable as possible. So while it might not be a reactionary set, it certainly doesn’t push anything near a progressive agenda.
Don’t take my word for it, read their lecture on US History. Not only will you be much better informed about US history, you will see what a narrative of American history devoid of progressive input looks like. It is a noticeable difference versus everything you’ve seen before.
The second batch of Anti-Federalists I’ll be looking at more dissenting convention members. They hold differing criticisms, so I’ll look at the three works individually.
Robert Yates and John Lansing hail from New York. They were serving at the convention with Alexander Hamilton, who was one of the writers of the Federalist Papers. In their letter to the New York state assembly, they outline their concerns with the new Constitution.
Tonight I decided it would be fun to build my own US Presidential Election prediction model. The goal of this is to show you how these things are built at their most basic level, and to show their limitations.
With those caveats, the goal for the model itself was to make it simple, something which most people can understand. All my source code will be included in the post. It’s only 50 lines of MATLAB code, I don’t mind if you steal it.
One of the things that I most enjoyed about reading Mencius Moldbug’s blog “Unqualified Reservations” was the use of primary source documents to analyze history. I have decided to embark upon a long-term project to investigate primary sources and to share interesting results with you on this blog. The goal of this project is to unearth counter narratives to the current narrative of historical events. My focus will be on understanding the viewpoints of those who found themselves on the proverbial “Wrong Side of History”. The long-term investigation will look at the writings of people who sat on the losing side of historical arguments in order to try understand their thought process and to judge whether or not they had valuable insights or supplied arguments that have not made their way down to today.
The first set of texts I will be examining are works of the Anti-Federalists, Founding Fathers of America who objected to the implementation of the constitution. I will be working from the Table of Contents of Storing’s The Complete Anti-Federalist. This provides more works and a differing organization to the main Anti-federalist collection which was assembled in the 1960’s. The work of the Anti-federalists were not coordinated in a way that created an easy comparison to the familiar Federalist Papers of Hamilton, Madison and Jay. Instead, they were individual essays written by dozens of Americans across the nation.