The Art and Science of Governance (excerpt from Blind Tribute)

Chapter Fifty

 

NewspaperBannersLR-01

by P. H. Wentworth III
National News Editor

April 9, 1864

United States Senate Joint Resolution 16, passed April 8, 1864

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Reader:

Science and Philosophy are often at loggerheads, but in truth, are natural bedfellows, sharing many commonalities: distrust of accepted wisdom, untidy experimentation, exacting analysis, flashes of brilliance on the back of years of laborious work, the paring away of supposition and half-truth, and a canon on which to build initial reflections into what we call “natural law.”

However: Laws are never natural; they are always man-made.

Long before the discovery of oxygen, human beings were inhaling and exhaling, and no one can argue our need for food and water; either we eat, drink, and breathe, or we die. Presumably, Adam and Eve learned, after their first cold night away from Eden, to shelter against intemperate weather; they surely found a way around their fig leaves to procreate, or humanity itself would not exist. (For those more inclined to Mr. Darwin’s hypotheses, as I am, the same might be said for any ancestor we share with monkeys.)

Killing one another indiscriminately was considered immoral long before the Code of Moses, but even the prohibition against murder is not “natural law,” at least until such time as one is deprived of corporeal existence by an unseen force upon committing such an act. On that day, however, I doubt the entity passing judgment will distinguish soldiers at war, executioners at law, or men upholding their honor.

This question of intrinsic, universal human law may also be explicated by the rules of the physical universe. While Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion are integral to our understanding of the physical world, even without him, apples fall from trees. Before we understood the Earth to be round, it was already circling the sun; Copernicus had no influence on the orbit, for all he opened up the Heavens.

By Enlightenment principles, though, the theories of both men might yet be disproven. Gravity might be nothing more than Satan dragging us down to Hell. When we travel to the moon, we may discover it is made of cheese and held up by a puppeteer’s strings. We may one day come across a hidden race of people who would choose service over self-determination, but I think it unlikely, at best.

Nature (God, in some circles) is the arbiter of life and death, not scientists, not philosophers, not governments. The extent of the human imperative is biological. Every other law has been constructed by man to improve our lot and is, accordingly, fallible.

Everything we consider vital to our existence—civilization in general—is a moral imperative, not physiological, and moral imperatives change, day-to-day, year-to-year, generation after generation, between cultures, religions, one person and another. Values—personal and patriotic—are never universal. Never.

Simply put, this misapprehension is why civilizations rise and fall.

Such was the case even in America’s naissance. Whether or not they were responsive on the subject of slavery, the founders of our nation were enlightened men of reflective inquiry, who understood the implications of the march of time. Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and Washington stood on the backs of Locke, Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Rousseau. This is how and why their social constructs emphasized free will, personal autonomy, individual responsibility—the most progressive, self-directed philosophy of governance in history.

They knew they could not decide the course of our nation based on eighteenth-century facts and values. They could not decide the course at all. Only time would bear out their thesis, which, paradoxically, would only prove true after change had become the accepted norm.

So, in their wisdom, the framers imposed frequent and habitual reexamination of our collective morality. They understood that knowledge changes history, and there is never a dearth of new knowledge. It is, therefore, our responsibility—as caretakers of the vision of our forefathers—to reflect upon matters of principle and consider our society’s advances and changing mores.

There is no doubt amending our Constitution is not to be taken lightly. It is an enormous step to change the underpinnings of our government (especially so without the input of half our nation, who will be assimilated back into a society that has made a fundamental shift in priorities, policies, and parity).

However, not only have we made such changes before, we are only clarifying what we have declared all along to be “natural law”: humans (or rather, Americans) have unalienable rights, among them freedom from involuntary servitude.

Is the call to freedom, or is it not, as natural a law as breathing? Is it not at the core of every person born everywhere? True, one can survive without it, demonstrated by countless unfortunates around the globe, but is it not a half-life? Does the futile yearning for self-rule not starve the soul?

A successful system of governance (using longevity as measure) maintains internal stability in the face of external events—economic, social, cultural—but permanence is a balance between past and future that must be maintained in equilibrium. Formal governance is meant to impose social norms, but no widespread edict has ever sprung from the ether fully formed. Every “accepted fact” was accepted first by one person, then a second, a third, and so on. No great sea change is spontaneous.

Though some moral imperatives have proven more pervasive and long lasting than others—commandments set out in religious doctrine tend to have staying power—there cannot ever be a man-made, universal “natural law.” The premise is entirely faulty.

A century ago, when our country was deciding how to govern itself, we only had knowledge of the same six planets as Copernicus in 1543, when his De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium rejected the hypotheses of Ptolemy’s Almagest, by that time “natural law” for almost fourteen hundred years.

Today, a star chart is filled with named planets and moons, more classified each day. We have rejected great swaths of Copernicus’ work, one experiment at a time, even redefined the taxonomy. Our understanding of this fixed force of nature, the night sky, has changed radically during my lifetime, and is yet as impermanent as stardust.

One hundred years hence, we may find there are millions more planets than we can see. If we make such discoveries, it will happen because Newton was dissatisfied with accepted wisdom, so advanced the technology of the telescope. Scientific innovation—theorizing and testing and reframing—changes what we believe possible, again and again.

A century ago, there was little question in America of the rightness of slavery (and precious little question elsewhere)—a few toothless voices drowned out by the rumble of a worldwide financial engine. Now, human servitude is at issue all over the globe, even to the point of full-scale war in America. (Ironically, given the stance of the British Commonwealth, it is only by dint of our hard-won independence that slavery still exists here at all.)

One hundred years hence, perhaps human bondage will be eradicated everywhere on the planet, but first, we must accept this philosophic proposition: human beings are not property, no matter their complexion, desperation, or circumstance, and freedom itself is a natural law. Only in decades to come will our moral code evolve to meet our highest American ideals.

This should not be such a vexing question: without Enlightenment philosophers, without rigorous inquiry, without a document declaring it so, every person on Earth understands—for himself, in any case—it is better to live free than enslaved.

Returning for a moment to Newton, his 1687 Principia defined the “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.” Most applicable here, The First Law of Motion: Inertia. An object at rest will remain so unless acted upon by some catalyst. A moving object will maintain the same speed and trajectory until acted upon by an external force.

The question of Southern secession forced action by the Northern states. The military defense of slavery forced action by people of conscience everywhere. Any manner of external (and internal) forces surrounding our Black population have set into motion this remarkable momentum toward the Thirteenth Amendment, not least, our President and esteemed Senators, to be commended for their courage and resolve.

Bad luck for those who would rail against it; there is no stopping the trajectory now, for freedom is every man’s natural state, and “all men are created equal.”

Even if the South won the war tomorrow, the American Negro will not now stand for anything less than absolute liberty and full citizenship, nor should he. If not imposed by economic sanction, by martial law. If not enforced by Lincoln, by the Crowned Heads of Europe. If not now at the hands of the Federal government, a year from now by armed insurrection. Slavery cannot, will not, stand.

Much as our founding fathers outlined their philosophical treatise using theoretical principles to explain intangible truths—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—Lincoln knows his courage in the short-term will transform our nation’s moral center in the long run, perfecting our most deeply held values.

This is why Lincoln cannot give up the forest for the trees, much like the framers, who knew there would be conditions on “life,” responsibilities to “liberty,” and more definitions of “happiness” than citizens, but still deemed enforcement of “natural law” to be worth the cost in American lives. If their suppositions remain true today, the Thirteenth Amendment and its resultant legal precedent will move our society in the direction of freedom, equality, and brotherhood.

The president’s personal interest has, perhaps, been the deciding factor for the passage yesterday of Senate Joint Resolution 16, and rightly so; he has no other honorable choice. His Emancipation Proclamation does not carry the full force of American jurisprudence, and would not withstand a drawn-out test in the courts. As a man of principle, he must make the injustice right, and he has only so long—and so much Congressional currency—to do it.

If Lincoln is to fulfill his promise and leave an end to slavery as his legacy, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution must be passed by the House and ratified without delay. This legislation is far from law and, much like a Presidential proclamation, it only takes a shift in the political wind, a change in milieu, for the House bill to fail, or to invite an amendment to amend this one. The very idea of four million Americans given freedom to have it snatched away is appalling.

As such, President Lincoln is following the example of our learned antecedents, defending his thesis so it might take hold and become part of the American philosophic canon. So freedom might, eventually, come to be thought unalienable for everyone in our borders.

I, personally, am more partial to scientific illumination than philosophical. Perforce, both hold pride of place in our understanding of ourselves, individually and cooperatively, but both also have something weighty in common with American governance: the creative process. At some point, all looks a jumble, maddeningly muddy and indistinct, but by application of rules, systems, context, experience, trial, error, evaluation, and correction, one ends with a masterpiece: a hypothesis or doctrine or piece of legislation changing the trajectory of “natural law.”

© 2017 Mari Anne Christie. All Rights Reserved


Blind Tribute

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Buy in ebook or print at major online retailers.

Keep up with Mari’s new books and other projects:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Amazon Author page
Goodreads
Bookbub
Mari’s Muses Street Team

Advertisements

The Cutting Room Floor – Blind Tribute

One of the most unique elements of Blind Tribute is the epistolary writing that underpins the narrative. Not only letters and telegrams you might expect in a certain type of historical novel, but also the newspaper editorials the main character, Harry Wentworth, writes about the issues of the day (in the 1860s in America, slavery, secession, and the Civil War). However, as with any novel, there were many pieces of the book left on the cutting room floor. In this case, one of the shortest editorials ended up replaced with:

“Today, however, would be a true day of rest, which always required solitude. He knew he needed to consider how to address General Sherman’s despicable show of force, as well as the fact that his family, friends, and colleagues were still spread out across the Confederacy, about to be trampled by the annals of history, if they hadn’t been already.”

So, indicative of the flavor of the dozen or so editorials that remain in the book, today, I am offering up an exclusive look at one that didn’t make it through the final editing round.


December 3, 1864

MERCIFUL HONOR
by P. H. Wentworth III
National News Editor

Reader:

An age-old weapon in the waging of war is a heavy-handed, uninhibited use of force by the prevailing army. While force is clearly the objective of any armed conflict, the spectacular nature of such a campaign is undisputed and has been the making of many wartime triumphs. This will likely be the case with the long, terrifying, and ruthless march of General Sherman, which began with the burning of Atlanta and continues unchecked through the countryside.

I am not conflicted as to the validity of such an act of war, nor the rightness of using all necessary force to put down the Rebellion. Such a crusade—as it has been for centuries—is the consequence of many failed military actions. Compassion and mercy are rare in a clash between generals, and Sherman’s actions do not disappoint in this regard. This serves as a microcosm of the gratuitous destruction of the entire South, and a warning to the losing side of what is to come upon their defeat.

There are many reasons such military exploits are not in the best interest of the Union Cause. While it is true that I have personal feelings about the burning, looting, and terrorist actions Sherman’s men are taking—fear for the lives of my family, grief at the destruction of the countryside I love, futile longing for a peaceful resolution—the primary arguments I present here are not predicated on my limited concern for what remains of the Confederacy.

Economically, this campaign and its larger context are the death knell of prosperity for the winners and those defeated. The wanton destruction of property that might otherwise be used to finance the dwindling Confederate Cause also ensures such material goods may not be used to repay debt raised in the pursuit of Northern victory, nor assist in the reintegration of the Southern States at the conclusion of this conflict. It also brings surety that global interest in a newly formed Union will remain elusive due to internal instability and a marked shortage of agricultural production. Additionally, this war in its entirety will leave America burdened with debt and our military inadequate to defend against outside invasion.

Societally, this march ensures a long-term, radical distrust of half the populace of a united nation. The willful ruin of noncombatants—women, children, the sick, the elderly—and the pilfering of already inadequate stores demonstrates that the South will be denied justice from their appointed overseers for many years to come.

Such a population will naturally eschew efforts toward integration. Sherman’s actions will only create additional reason for the Southern states to remain in defiance, in heart and mind if not in action, long after the cessation of combat. This is incompatible with the best interests of both a defeated South and a victorious North.

Further, perhaps least important to those carrying out General Sherman’s orders and possibly to you, Reader, this campaign impugns the honor of these men, and indeed the Union Cause itself. Assuredly, men given free rein to indulge their basest instincts will never be inclined to mercy toward their eventual countrymen, even with the Southern population vanquished. It is with great sorrow I predict continued atrocities against the populace long after the cessation of military hostilities. There is no telling what form this violence may take, but it is certain such punishment will be swift, terrible, and long-lasting.

I have not been a centrist in many months, and this remains true even with knowledge of Sherman’s troubling tactics, but I am justifiably concerned for the future of a unified nation. A Union victory is inevitable, as it has been since the first shots of the war, and the pillaging of the defeated Southern homeland serves no purpose but the unbridled terror of the conquered Confederate states. This has been the goal of nearly every military conquest in history, but in this instance, will only result in an irreparable tear in the loosely woven fabric of this new American nation.


Blind Tribute

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Buy in ebook or print at major online retailers.

Keep up with Mari’s new books and other projects:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Amazon Author page
Goodreads
Bookbub
Mari’s Muses Street Team

Historical Fiction Book Tour: Sedahlia

SEDAHLIA

By

Cynthia D Toliver

After fleeing post-Civil War Georgia, John Masters, Sr., his wife Virginia Masters, and their rebellious servant Jessie Lindsey have built new lives in Texas ranch country.  Now their offspring, Johnny Masters and Rachel Lindsey, are in love.  On the isolated, sprawling Sedahlia ranch, their youthful dalliances are largely overlooked until Rachel becomes pregnant, forcing Rachel to leave Texas for a freedman’s school in Georgia.

From the insulated Sedahlia ranch to the Jim Crow south, the rails both separate and unite – parting lovers, reuniting family, pushing out the old, bringing in the new.  It is in these settings that the Masters and Lindseys live and love, and their personal needs and mores clash with society.  The repercussions rumble through this family and the surrounding community, tearing them asunder and bringing them together as only love and tragedy will.



Links for Purchase 


About the author

Cynthia D. Toliver is a 1980 graduate of Rice University and a native Texan. She has enjoyed a varied career as an engineer, environmental consultant, educator and author. Sedahlia is her second novel and third book. She has two previously published works, Crown’s Jewel, a historical novel and Come See a Man, an inspirational book. She also hosts a Christian blog, Back to Eden at cynthiatoliver.blogspot.com.
Follow Ms. Toliver at http://www.cynthiatoliver.net.

Inspiration

My inspirations come from multiple sources. Sometimes it is a word or title. Other times it may be a thought, observation or dream. From that seed, I will develop my characters and write an outline. The seed for Sedahlia was a dream about disparate lovers. Their story sprouted and grew to the family saga it is today.
I love the creative process, from beginning to end. My books are very much character driven. As a writer, I become invested in the characters and their stories. If I’ve crafted them well, my readers will do the same.
Other Links
Author website www.cynthiatoliver.net
Christian blog, Back to Eden http://cynthiatoliver.blogspot.com/
twitter @ctoliver58

Save

Save

A Book and Its Movie: Gone With the Wind

2e9ef305-fb7e-4a7d-b71b-216ab04919a0

I’m trying something new to bridge the gap between my Historical Romance books and upcoming Civil War Historical Fiction. I am teaming up with Laura Michaela Drone Banse and her Banse’s Book Club for a long-term read of Gone With the Wind, and an eventual movie night. Please come join the Facebook Group for discussion every Sunday.

*****

A Book and Its Movie: Gone With the Wind
August 21 – January 22

We will read and discuss Gone With the Wind, a chapter or two a week, with new discussions opening every Sunday, culminating in a Sunday afternoon viewing and discussion of the movie on January 22.

To order the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes