Saturday, November 26, 2011

Atlantic Cousins, Visionary Friends

In Atlantic Cousins: Benjamin Franklin and His Visionary Friends (2005), there are many clashing ideas and viewpoints that carry over or morph into those of 2011-2012.

Flashback. One clash in Atlantic Cousins (pages 88-89) comes over voting rights, even before the US Constitution. In the wake of the American Revolution, Presbyterians make a power play in Pennsylvania, pushing through a "Test Act." Test, you wonder? A "test" of religious belief that favors the Presbyterians. In order to qualify to vote, one must, among other things, attest to the divine inspiration of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Blocked from voting even among otherwise qualified adult males are: deists, Jews, German anabaptists, members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), gnostics, agnostics, atheists and more. Richard Price, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Ben Franklin and numerous other civil rights proponents work to overturn the Test Act as effectively as possible. Franklin returns from his 1776-1785 stint as American ambassador to France in order to become President of Pennsylvania, whereupon the Test Act is repealed (the full details must be serpentine). 

Earlier, in England in the late 1600s, the Parliament had passed similar Test Acts in order to block Catholics and "Nonconformists" from holding important political offices. Those versions weren't overturned in England until 1828-1829.

In 2011-2012, the same kinds of cultural-political and economic power games continue in the USA and globally. Same shit, different century -- united by the glue of human nature. It's worthwhile to remember, though, that there were cool people then and there are cool people now, fighting for many of the same sorts of Enlightenment-style ideas.

Today's Rune: Whole.     


Charles Gramlich said...

It's good in one way to know that this crap has a long history, and sad in another way. Don't we ever learn?

JR's Thumbprints said...

History repeating itself again and again, even with all our advancements in communication.

Erik Donald France said...

Too true, too true. Cheers, y'all ~~!