By Quenton Horton
“…if one intelligent being had created another intelligent being, the latter ought to continue in its original state of dependence; if one intelligent being injures another, it deserves a retaliation; and so on.” –Montesquieu
The Declaration of Independence in its defiance of King George III became a foundational doctrine for royal subjects in the process of secession from the crown; in their (The Founding Fathers) criticisms of their subjection to the crown is an embodied historical moral dilemma of Thomas Jefferson, which is the to say that those seeking freedom continued to use the methods that the Portuguese under Henry the Navigator; and then Spanish; and later the English used to fuel their ambitions—slavery—the Trans-Atlantic human trafficking of African bodies is the dilemma of the Declaration of Independence. Independence of what and for whom; for Jefferson, “…when a long train of abuses” Jefferson is referring to King George III “and usurpations, pursing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right,” the right of the Jefferson and company “it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards of for their future security”. The American Revolutionary War is fought and won; resolved by Treaty of Paris 1783 and Article One, but the how to fund that freedom would become—a century later—the critique of Frederick Douglass in his abolitionist fight for freedom: most of all political agency. Recalling Montesquieu, the injury (Three-Fifths Compromise) to African American community, then and persist to this day, is being reduced a bodily presence; a presence that generates revenue for subsistence of the newly formed Union economic health: without the political efficacy to address/redress the needs of the African American community. The suffrage of African Americans, which for the purpose of this White Paper denotes Black Americans also known as American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS), has been attacked since the passing the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870; the policies, tests, and taxes of discriminatory laws and codes actively suppressed the vote of African-Americans, which actively suppressed the political education of the group.
“He is at the mercy of the mob, and has no means of protecting himself.”
Since Henry the Navigator received the papal bulls Dum Diversas (1452) and Romanus Pontifex (1455) the disproportionate treatment of African (over time African-American) persons has been the modus operdani of European settlers, explorers, courts, and merchants. The biases against non-Christian Africans of the Portuguese crown extended to the Jamestown in 1640 in the sentencing of John Punch to a life of servitude; whereas his fellow escapees, two white males, had years added to their servitude. The precedent for using civic and penal codes to dictate the lives and actions of sub-Sharan Africans and their descendants was well established by the enactment of the three-fifth compromise in 1787; which makes the removal of Thomas Jefferson’s condemnation of slavery a political move and not a moral lapse in judgement. Given the South’s reliance on free-labor (slave-labor) with the usage of Slave Codes to enforce the cultural prejudice of the Planter Class; it is not beyond reason to deduce that slavery as institutionally served the dual purpose of subjecting Black bodies and malnourishing the Black mind. Thus the subverting of African Americans’ political will to political actors whose platforms intend to keep African Americans in an economic position of dependence such as the case with Peonage; or under the penal code for prison-labor such as Convict Leasing; or the enactment of Black Codes for cheap labor; and passage of Jim Crow to limit access to economic opportunity (opportunity hoard) and segregate schools with asymmetric resource allocation has continued the de facto policy of subjecting Black people and Black bodies to the political will of political actors that do not act to resolve the communities issues and many ways reinforce (if not exacerbate) the problems the community face. The nefarious actions of political and economic actors has been the subject of a number books ranging from Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness to Dr. Stephanie Jones-Rogers’s They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South. Metonyms and tropes that have marred the image of the group internationally as well as has dampened the morale of members within the group to seek political efficacy as a method to redress former ills and injuries. The African-American community’s growth is stifled by non-African American political actors; whose platforms do not redress the “injury” of the past and contemporarily undermine the impact of the “old corruption”. Placed differently, the African-American community has been unable to recover from slavery and slavery’s inter-generational impact due to persistent prejudices, which exclude them from economic enfranchisement and on-going political erasure of African-American issues from political discourse.
“To reduce a man to slavery, to buy him, to sell him, to retain him in servitude are real crimes, crimes worse than theft.” –Thomas Jefferson
Article One established the United States sovereignty; however, the new sovereign would eventually fail to eliminate slavery and establish a rigid structure society was developed to enrich the children of European traders’ sans meritocracy. Wars, even those for independence, are not free; the debts owed to the French government (amongst others), then governed by the monarch King Louis XVI, placed pressure on the Union’s leadership to repay their to financial obligations to prospective trader partners and financiers: hence the importance of the Three-Fifths Compromise. For the scope of this paper, the compromise importance is the establishing of representation and taxation of enslaved populations in the South of the newly formed Union. The lack of political representation for the enslaved, buttressed by racial prejudice, rendered the issues of enslaved persons as a tertiary issue for the men of the Constitutional Convention. Jefferson’s condemnation of slavery was removed from a draft of the Declaration of Independence to keep the South’s interest in forming a strong Union. Thus, emancipation of the enslaved bodies would not come until the American Civil War of the 1860s. The South sought more power for their states by having enslaved bodies within population representation after repealing the North’s attempt to abolish slavery altogether. The importance of this shows an on-going political pattern to exclude African-American populations’ issues from being a part of political discourse that would redress the laws, policies, and attitudes that subject the population to the will of those with political agency; the critique of Frederick Douglass in 1865.
The Founder (Devon Lesesne) of Gilded Sages dragged me from my cave knowing well the importance of a political education and being politically viable as a change-agent; the wall of imagination displays the Belle Époque before the arrival of fellow Black Americans dressed as GIs: for in the quirky cave I call a skull that houses this mind I’ve been on Parisian soil since America’s credited Founding Father—British Rebels—fought for freedom. I am quite the fan of metaphysical conceits to frame a relationship between places in time; Belle Époque is Parisian, which stands for my time in Washington—since the Resident Act give Pierre L’Enfant the opportunity to display his penchant for boulevards known here as avenues—are the paths that informed my frame of reference. That is to say the Beautiful Epoch of growing up in Congress Heights will be the source material for many of these White Papers. Cedar Hill being down the hill makes it only appropriate to question the characters on The Hill. Following the tradition of Black Americans scholars’ efforts shall inform these papers and accompany materials, which shall service as Grey Literature for people who(m) live(d)in grey markets and grey spaces. Thus, the notable former resident of Historic Anacostia, Frederick Douglass, within his speech questions of freedom to freedom fighters; however, following Douglass’s line of reasoning brings the questioning to a quick succession of topics that do not involve the creation of a Democratic Republic. An important position to understand the justification made for subjecting people in the ‘old corruption’ although seeking to be free of the old world, and then protected by the ‘Lost Cause’ after the Civil War. For the purposes of examining the promise of the rebelling subject dream Alexis de Tocqueville is employed to construct a common ground for understanding Democracy’s appeal to persons who lived with Monarchal decision-making.
British scholars are biased, which is my American bias and quip, a habit to treat history with a bit of frivolous acceptance is part of being a Camusian Rebel (a signature motif) I wanted to learn what made them (the British Rebels) special in the American narrative; given they were subjects of King George III. If I’m truly honest I really became interested in Benjamin Franklin as a kid seeing that he was on the hundred-dollar bill never having been the president—I wanted to achieve that highly—to never have to be a president: I thought that was winning. In my imagination that meant that Franklin’s insight was perceived to so brilliant that his influence was an institution onto itself; which seems to be the legacy of Mr. Carter. It is quite clear that my daydreams are nearly delusions of grandeur; however delusions that are well-heeded by a passion for simplicity. Luckily there was Benjamin Franklin to do what he has done, so I can do what I want to do; and thankfully there is a Sean Carter, so I can do what I want to do: their examples of what can be accomplished is enough for me.
My interest is in keenly in America’s social capital: Her narratives; Her institutions; and the way We contribute to the shaping of those narratives and institutions. My hope is to find an innovation engine for ideas—Jeffersonian library ambitions; to access a library not limited to ethnocentrism; to see how the dead hand of history weighs the invisible hand. A quick read of The Visible Hand (1993) shows the importance of cotton to Anglo-American trade, case in point the Jay Treaty of 1794-95; which with a bit of historical context highlights the production value of forced hands, and after the failure of Reconstruction to provide capital for those who were once seen as chattel, heir northern breadthen struggle was articulated by W.E.B Dubois in the Philadelphia Negro (1899). Douglass’s cry for political efficacy is echoed in Dubois’s studies, echoed through Dorothy West, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Cade Bambara, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Nikki Giovanni, et al; culminating into the challenge set forth when trying to understand America within the confines of the American imagination. Returning to Tocqueville’s meditation as a common ground the discussion on poverty and class in America is expanded to the conversation from slave labor to the Planter’s Class usage of narratives (Sambo Art) to suppress the Union’s assistance to of non-slave populations; case in point Compromise of 1877, which helped to end the efforts of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Little to say the Founder of Gilded Sages (Devon) has dragged me from my Tocqueville decadence to a more purposeful exchange of ideas. Internal Intellectual Soliloquies is a series of meditations on the characters that have shaped the collective imagination of the United States; a comparative political discourse through a comparative literature analysis.
Franklin in France, I wonder about our Democracy. Our Democratic Republic is an interesting one as the iconography of power is in the myth of the “common man” or the “equality of conditions”. That is to say within the mythos of America a person has the opportunity to direct their path to prosperity by abiding the social contract of being American citizen. The iconography of who is and who is not a citizen, is an argument centered on who has Rights. I supposed that’s what a “more perfect union” is supposed to mean in our communities: mass experiments we affectionally call the United States of America. Nonetheless, the suffering for suffrage demonstrates the plights a nation of immigrants, slaves, their descendants, and surviving native populations came to who we are today. A public discourse that is disquieted by contemporary iconoclasm, “welcome the new boss”; like the Who I hope “we won’t get fooled again”, won’t fall prey to negative integration: In-Group/Out-Group fragmentation. Maybe I’m just an Animaniac looking for a peaceful tree to climb. From the shadows I see the light of a new dawn. Hence, I_IS importance to the Gilded Sages collective is my penchant to bite off more than I can chew, chasing the path of Benjamins and Benjamin has transformed a curious mind into one of an autodidactic with a non-conformist streak; then again Poor Richard’s Almanac was quite subversive. Nonetheless, en plein air I get the Impression that a new America is coming into view, which makes my oddly-advantaged socialization within the Beltway valuable to draw questions from.
My efforts to be receptive for novel narratives is my recommendation to redress the injuries of the past will be the personal essay portion of these papers. The cycle of retaliatory statements, the ad hominem comments that passes for opinion, needs an armistice; a place for a parlay, which is the value of #I_IS to anyone seeking some colour amongst the grey. Social capital has been my interest after living a life in which many believed in my talents (whatever they are) before I saw value in sharing my experiences with people. The conversations that I am privy to gives me the hope that people are interested in the lives of Others, which can mediate the horrors of separation. I wonder, as I stroll the boulevards, my city calls avenues, I ponder the ways the horror of history becomes the lesson of today and the questions for tomorrow. But how much can one heart bear? How much can one person do to change the world?
If I appear to be a romantic, I hope it depicts me as internal optimist with a realistic outlook. Maundering in West Potomac Park, I stare at the blue veins that rivers through the marble—The Anacostia—the river I cross to bridge understandings. To cast into my imagination a “more perfect union” to work towards; for I find no fault in acknowledging Founders’ did not create an equitable union that delivered on its promise on equality. An observation that makes Tocqueville’s comments on class and “the equality of conditions” an ongoing prompt for examining a part of American life.
With the ire of youth aside, this is the launch on a series of meditations about my experiences in Washington, D.C; Intellectual Internal Soliloquies or I_IS. The internal discussions I have with the symbols I imbibe during my travels and the interactions I have with people, with neighbors. Through these engagements I learned that history is the narrative that we all inherit; with role that we would not assign ourselves, and identities that complex our relationship to ourselves: in essence being urbane with the ability to tie Richard Wright to Jean Paul-Sartre—historically and philosophically—as a critique of institutions from a different perspectives; although I favor Simone de Beauvoir’s writing clarity. Ever inquisitive, I wonder what America’s new favorite character is, or placed more eloquently; the values of America as a new image of who is an American and who serves Americans. Soliloquies to address the motifs of Americana as in the accepted Founding Fathers in comparison to the narratives that challenge their commitment to their ideals; from King George III to Alexis de Tocqueville the praise of the yeoman as leaders’ of tomorrow to the opulent minority whose rights must be protected, I am curious as to the rationale that fed their rhetoric. From Phillis Wheatley to Kate Chopin, I wonder what it means to be a daughter of the revolution—the expectations placed on women in a paterfamilias society. I_IS will be a storehouse for all of these Impressions to have a larger conversation about America and Her future. A symposium with neighbors.