« Month-From-Hell | Home | A Blank Page and the Battle of the Pyramids »

The Plain People

         Hello!  The weather is beautiful here, the plumbing is fixed, my family is healthy and happy, people are smiling, my midterms were a success, and yes, it is Chopin’s birthday. Well, it was actually yesterday, but why not celebrate it again.

          Listening to a bunch of Chopin’s nocturnes  (mixed with Johnny Cash) I’ve been reading, for a class, something very interesting that happened in American at the end of the 19th century.  I don’t think I actually ever spoke to Hunter about it, but it reminds me so much of him that I had to share it with you.  As you know, there was a tremendous amount of change happening in America before, during and after the Civil War that the experiment of the United States was severely tested — almost to the point destruction. It was not just the war of course, but also the fallout from it and the remaining hostilities that were devastating the country.

“As the camel falls to its knees, more knives are drawn” is something Hunter liked to say to explain that during times of weakness is when you must really be watchful, because that’s when the enemy make its move. Such was the case in this country, particularly in the South.  Yep, during the uncertain time of the postwar period came the birth of the Mega Corporation.  (40 years later, Roosevelt, understanding that axiom, implemented the New Deal)

The Populist party platform was adopted in 1892 and really is a beautiful document written at a time when the two party system seemed to be failing the working people.  So, out of the small farmers unions came the Populist party.  I think it’s heartbreaking that the party didn’t last, but it does leave a lasting legacy that lasted over the next 50 years — things like government control of currency and a graduated income tax.  If you want to be inspired any day of the week, go ahead and read the entire Populist party platform.  But the Preamble is my favorite document from that period, and here is an excerp I selected for you. You can read the entire thing here.

Assembled on the anniversary of the birthday of the nation, and filled with the spirit of the grand general and chief who established our independence, we seek to restore the government of the Republic to the hands of “the plain people,” with which class it originated. We assert our purposes to be identical with the purposes of the National Constitution; to form a more perfect union and establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.

We declare that this Republic can only endure as a free government while built upon the love of the whole people for each other and for the nation; that it cannot be pinned together by bayonets; that the civil war is over, and that every passion and resentment which grew out of it must die with it, and that we must be in fact, as we are in name, one united brotherhood of free men.

Our country finds itself confronted by conditions for which there is no precedent in the history of the world…

We believe that the power of government—in other words, of the people—should be expanded (as in the case of the postal service) as rapidly and as far as the good sense of an intelligent people and the teachings of experience shall justify, to the end that oppression, injustice, and poverty shall eventually cease in the land.

While our sympathies as a party of reform are naturally upon the side of every proposition which will tend to make men intelligent, virtuous, and temperate, we nevertheless regard these questions, important as they are, as secondary to the great issues now pressing for solution, and upon which not only our individual prosperity but the very existence of free institutions depend; and we ask all men to first help us to determine whether we are to have a republic to administer before we differ as to the conditions upon which it is to be administered, believing that the forces of reform this day organized will never cease to move forward until every wrong is remedied and equal rights and equal privileges securely established for all the men and women of this country.

preamble to the populist party platform, 1892

 Until next time, your friend,

Anita Thompson

P.S. Doug Brinkley wrote a beautiful piece about Arthur Schlesinger. I highly recommend reading it when it appears in the L.A. Times on Sunday.  

P.P.S. a huge thank you to Peter for putting up the message board. He is going to integrate it into the blog soon. Because this is a test, we have decided that to approve each member, which takes a bit of time. so, if you don’t see your posting up yet, it will be soon. Don’t worry, we’ll get to everybody! I would love to see which was was your first HST book and how you got introduced to him. Most people remember, "where they were" when they discovered his work.

P.P.P.S.If you don’t know much about Chopin and want to learn, I would suggest starting with nocturne in E flat (alhtough that is not the most famous) I loved it so much that it was the first piece I learned to play when I was younger.  Hunter really loved the sound of piano and there was a period when we had a chopin CD constantly running constantly. Give it try!

Email this to a friend

Email this entry to:
To prevent misuse of this service, only one recipient is allowed per email

Your Name* : required
Your Email* : required

* This information is used for the sole purpose of identifying you in this email you are sending. We at Owl Farm hate spam just as much as you do, and will never sell or give out any of your personal information to third parties. Ever.