Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Anti-Federalist Papers

The Anti-Federalist Papers, written by Robert Yates, was used to promote state power having more control than the central government. The reason being that once "people part with power, they can seldom or never resume it again but by force." Anti-Federalists believed that if the states lose power because of having to conform to the federal court then state power will lose dignity and respectability and it becomes the "destruction of liberty" in their eyes. The reason they want state government to have more power is for the people's voices can be expressed to the government. They weren't in favor of a standing army because that would only make the populous listen if there was a gun pointed to their heads. In sum, the Anti-Federalists argued that if the people would have a stronger central governments it would end in demise just like all of the other past countries (i.e. Romans, Greeks).
Yates' ideas are a move towards this idea of trying to cater to the individual not just the class. Instead of having more power in the central government, the states would be able to focus on what the people in their particular state need and help them satisfy that need. I don't think this idea was as liked because then it would look like each state is more like a country of its own instead of a state in the country. This system nevertheless, should be more efficient because the opinion of the people would be heard and the government could act upon it if it suited the best interests of the people.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Venture Smith

The autobiography of Venture Smith was completely different from any other autobiography that was written around that time.The difference strives on the fact that he was a former slave, not some rich or well educated white man. He was actually illiterate but got someone to write his story. It sheds a different light on slavery because it is being told from a person who lived through slavery down to being taken away from his home and traveling the middle passage to America. Smith's story is a success story because even though he was enslaved and had to go through unjust acts he was able to be free afterwards and even bring all of his family together. This was not an ordinary occurrence for many people were not as fortunate to end up the same way Smith did.
What was amazing is the way that Smith treated the slave owners. He was always respectful and submissive for whatever they asked him to do. On one occasion he was told to keep the master's keys and not let anyone touch them and that is just what he did. He did not even let the slave owner's family take it away from him, thus proving to be a trustworthy man. But, in turn, whenever the slave owner would not treat him the right way or beat him, Smith did not just let it happen. He went to the judge and the judge told the man to treat him right. Obviously Smith did not like slavery but he was not trying to fight it but rather make the best of the situation he was in. Smith was able to save money from what he earned and build towards buying his freedom and the rest of his family later on. I think Smith was trying to convey the idea that even thought life is not always the way we might have thought but through hard work and diligence it is definitely possible for anyone to make it better in the long run.
The story reminds me of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography because it highlights the idea of doing things for yourself and not waiting around for other people to do them for you. But it is different than the Sot weed factor because Ebenezer Cook was disillusioned and just did not try to make anything out of himself or have a positive outlook. There were immoral things happening all around during that time but it did not mean that people could not do for themselves and at least better the way they lived.This autobiography shows the different ways that people can react to situations although they may be oppressed by the people around them.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Frederick Douglass

The 4th of July Speech Frederick Douglass gave was very controversial for its time. Douglass spoke out against the way the government was acting, religion, those who say they are religious and the internal affairs that citizens were ignoring. He brought up the hypocritical nature of the Americans because they are advocating for freedom like there is no tomorrow while here at home they will not let their fellow man free from slavery. The religious aspect of this country is also brought out by demonstrating how people do not really take it as a guide for how they should live their lives. It also shows how the religious leaders do not care about the principle of being christian.
It was interesting that he spoke of the independence of America as "your political freedom" thus, isolating the slaves from that idea of having the luxuries that should be natural of a resident of America. In reality the slaves were anything but free in a "free country" so whenever they heard such things it was feeding on their disgust of the America they lived in. I never thought about the way 4th of July celebrations were loathed so much by the slaves but it is very logical. If America was boasting about having the freedom to be what they wanted and worship like they wanted but at the same time oppressing the slaves, then it must have been an unhappy position to be in.
Douglass had a lot of guts to say that the whole country was not acting in accordance to what the founding fathers had once stated, nor the religious people follow what the bible says. He did not have a problem with the constitution but rather said that it was made "look[ing] beyond the passing moment[s]" and "seized upon eternal principles." It was the people now that only cared about the money they were making out of having slaves that made them act the way they did. This is also the reason that the religious leaders were not in opposition to slavery: If they spoke out  against it then most, if not all people, would not go because they do not want to hear that they are doing wrong and that would equal no income. I noted that Douglass referenced the bible and Jesus a lot in his speech because there were many similarities between the way the government and religion was acting back then and in Jesus' time. They were more focused on following the minuscule details of the law (the fugitive slave act) that they forgot the reason why they came to America in the first place was for that freedom.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Harriet Beecher Stowe

The tract "The Two Altars" was more like two short stories depicting the different lives of the American during 1776 and 1850. In the beginning the little kids bring our what is the major ideal of that era: sacrificing anything for liberty. There was a war and people did sacrifice things in order for the soldiers to keep on fighting for everyone's freedom. As read in the story, people did not think twice about giving them clothes, blankets, socks even their most prized possessions-- their family. The other story was the one of the black family during the 1850s in which a freed black man was tending to his family and trying to enjoy the supposed liberty in America but ended up being thrown into jail and later sold as a slave once more. Both of the stories indicated a struggle for liberty and sacrificing many things for it but it also depicts how slow things change among the human culture. After many had fought for this liberty, almost a century later there were people that were being ostracized and not able to enjoy the "liberty" this country offers.
Obviously, Stowe was trying to show that so many people died and suffered for this country which said they achieved this liberty from their motherland but did not give people the liberty they yearned for. Although the black man had achieved liberty, he was free, the power of the government made him go back to being enslaved. And even in the 20th century we could see similar occurrences. The black people were given different treatment and denied the rights any human being should have. A person couldn't receive the proper medical attention because they were less important than others with a lighter skin tone. But there is also a connection with any minority or women, even though people fought for everyone in the country not everyone here can benefit from it. I think it is good to be thankful for what we have but not always expect for the sacrifices we make to make a difference. The black family in the story did not do anything wrong but yet were going to be slaves again and not enjoy a peaceful family life. The white family was also forced to live without a father/husband so he could serve his country but nothing can ever replace the time that was lost and who knows if the father ever even came back.
Did the freed black man go to war also or was he just working for his family?
Why did they take the man back if he was free by the authority of the master?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" must not have been liked by the politicians of his day. He focused on how people do not need to be blind followers of what the government says or promotes. It is not that Thoreau is rooting for any idea in particular but would rather people think themselves and make sure that what they do is going to be in accordance to their beliefs or, in other words, their conscience. Thoreau was really trying to better the government that was in place not remove it completely. He believed that it could help the government not only aid those in the majority but even down to the individual needs of the citizens. A government, just like those who created it, is imperfect and "unjust laws exist" which make the need for every man to examine their own thoughts and do what they feel is correct. Thoreau believed that acting against your conscience was almost unforgivable on the person's part because it results in "everlasting death" thus denoting the seriousness of the situation.
The part that was really interesting was when Thoreau mentioned that the rich man is always sold to the institution that makes him rich and that if you have more money then you have less virtue. It reminded me of how the businesses today really don't care about the consumer. All they care about is making money and keeping the clientele so they can keep on making money. For example, the cigarette businesses make billions of dollars a year but they do it by slowly killing their clients. The propaganda is used to lure people into smoking and creating that addiction and that's it, in comes the money. In reality those people do not feel a moral obligation towards the people around them.
Another point that got my attention was that the majority of the people voice their opinions while a visibly smaller percentage actually try to do something about helping society or our world become a better place. Thoreau used examples like Jesus, Luther and Washington to show how they made a difference in the world but at the same time were crucified, excommunicated, or deemed as rebels. This shows how Emerson and Thoreau come together because these people made a difference in the world regardless of the unjust laws that were set in place. All of them were looked down upon by their peers for doing something that was not popular but was right according to their conscience. The way these two writings were composed leads me to believe that this era was focused on acting on what the person believed and not really caring if it was right at the time as long as you felt that you were acting right. The examples of Franklin, Venture Smith, Stanton and others backs up this idea of self reliance and focusing on following your own code of ethics.
If everyone's conscience is different, in what way would this style of government work if there are so many people?
How can laws, if there are any, be enforced if everyone goes by their own standard?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

The "Seneca Falls Address" is a speech Elizabeth Cady Stanton gives in order to get the ball rolling for woman's rights. In this discourse she describes how much society has belittled women and how much in actuality she really does to contribute to the continuity of humankind. Through the use of biblical references she refutes man's idea that the bible says that women are inferior to men. I really thought that her explanation to the Adam and Eve story was interesting. She used the term men use that women are "creatures of affection" while men are "beings of reason" in this instance to show how opposite this idea truly was. According to Stanton, Eve had to be manipulated through her desire to improve her intellectual nature while Adam only followed what his wife told him to do because of his blind affection. Stanton also uses examples of cultures from all over the world trying to explain how women are treated but how they are equal to men also. Although Stanton says that women and men are equal, she talks about man in a condescending tone. The worst thing someone can do when they are trying to gain respect is belittling them also. I am not a feminist and do not argue that all of her points are valid but she does make people think of the predicament women are in. When she was making the point that men are not always physically stronger than women, she referred to the Amazonian women. I thought that was really funny.

This speech reminds me that the way they treated women back in the day was not as a person but as a property. I remember when I read what Peter wrote in the bible there was quite the problem back in the day. Women were mistreated and if the man wanted to divorce her, he would find any petty reason like because she burned the food so I don't want to be with her anymore. I read that the woman should have a profound respect towards her man and that he is her "head." I don't think this is in any way demeaning but rather establishes someone to be in charge. Man and woman work together so that they can reach their goals; furthermore, the woman is complement to the man and her opinions are taken into consideration when making decisions. Even though now in America the treatment towards women is much better than before but definitely not as well as it should be.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Harriet Jacobs

The story of Harriet Jacobs describes her life as a slave girl. Although she is still very young, Jacobs is forced to see and do things that are frowned upon. She grew up with her grandmother but also has fond memories of her mother which had already passed. Her will is strong and Harriet longs to be free of this suppressing environment; furthermore, she learns to read and write to make her possibilities greater. Being a female, Jacobs was forced to have sex with her master at a very young age. She tries to buy her freedom but Dr. Flint does not allow it to happen for some odd reason. Jacobs finds love and tries to get married but once again her master tries to impede her from staying with anyone that is not him but Harriet still manages to have two babies by another man. In the end Harriet is on her way to freedom but the tone ends in a bittersweet way.
Reading this selection was really sad because I realized how little control these girls/women had over their own bodies, something that is taken for granted. In the beginning she writes about how "there is no shadow of the law to protect her" because she was just property according to how the law was written. And then the wives of these slave owners were jealous of the slave girls for something they did not even want to happen. It is unbelievable how the man just got away with doing things like that and the wife would take her anger out on the slave. It was hard for a slave to be happy within the confines of her circumstance. Harriet wrote that "the light heart which nature had given [her] became heavy with sad forebodings" meaning that her joy was going away inevitably.
It is interesting to see how even though Harriet was a slave girl and the men were going to rape her, she still cared about maintaining a good relationship with her grandmother and trying to be chaste. Today's society is more open to things with respect to sexual relations and many people do not seem to care about how they are seen. Our culture has become less modest in that respect. One thing that sparked my attention was that even though Harriet was in such a bad situation she still fell in love with someone. It was sad that she was not able to marry him but does show on her part a greater love for him because she knew that if she rebelled against her master, he would have killed them both. She displayed altruism with him and with the care of her children. No other story could have displayed the trials and sufferings of a slave girl better than coming straight from someone who lived it.

Why would a man rape a girl all the time?
Did marrying a freed black man not really count by law to have any sort of power?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Self Reliance" had a lot to do with focusing on one and not worrying about what others think. It was a pep talk for each person to trust what they believe or think and not be sorry for what they say. Emerson said that in order to be great or do extraordinary things there was risks that came along with it like the general population not agreeing with what one's ideas are. I noticed that Emerson used many bible references like that of Joseph, Moses, Jesus, and others. He recognized that even though they were great figures, in their time most people looked down on them. He looked with disdain on society when he wrote that it is in "conspiracy of manhood" because it does not allow men to be individuals.
This writing was written at a time when people were exploring new thoughts and ideas. They wanted a change in their lives and were willing to take into account things that were not popular. Emerson gave just that; furthermore, he went on to frown upon many practices people have even today like charity work. I guess what he is trying to say is that when they are donating for the cause it is only because they feel indebted to being alive or they have to prove themselves. Instead of giving from the heart, "their virtues become penances." 
It was interesting that Emerson didn't like the way our memory stopped us from doing things that did not agree with what we had done in the past. He encouraged expressing the way you think without caring what others thought or if it contradicted in any way what they may have done in the past. The way Emerson wrote reminded me a lot of Benjamin Franklin because even though others did help him out, he did not try to rely on them. When his ideas conflicted with the vast majority-like education-he didn't care and went on to benefit many. The only thing I have a problem with is that it makes man look flawless, perfect. In the essay there was no place stating the possibility of human betterment just a nonconformist view on what was going on, which only means to go against the current.
"Infancy conforms to nobody: all conform to it"- Why would Emerson write about babies if they are at the least self-reliant peoples?
Does Emerson think we are imperfect beings?

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography was not only useful in learning about one of the founding fathers of this country but also in learning about the growth of young America. As a young boy, Franklin ran away from this brother to which he was an indentured servant-which he did not admit to in his narrative. Although he encountered a struggle in this country, Franklin did not express himself in such a manner. He seemed to breeze right through with the help of many and nothing would stop him. In his autobiography I could sense the air he had of thinking very highly of himself and did not do any wrong.  Franklin even included letters from other people almost venerating him and asking him to write about himself because his life was so great. Later on, he was even trying to perfect his personality and work on some virtues but it was obviously not an easy task.
Even though at the time education was not thought highly of, Franklin vouched for it. He did not like the educational system but what he was in favor of was self education. This concept was not popular since many were too busy working as much as they could and did not spare time for the furthering of their knowledge. Nevertheless, he started a public library in Pennsylvania to promote self education among other citizens.
Another aspect that stood out to me was the way Franklin thought of religion. He was very well versed man but was not content with the way the churches gave their instruction. In chapter 6 he wrote that "not a single moral principle was inculcated or enforc'd, their aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than good citizens." This reminded me of how most religions really don't try to teach what the bible says but would rather teach doctrine. If people sat down and dedicated time to read the bible then they would find out that what most religions are doing is not what should be done. But this idea of self education really ties in with learning not about religion but what God approves. And of course it follows that if people learn how to become better and act in consequence, they will contribute to the betterment of society.

The Sot Weed Factor

Ebenezer Cook is the protagonist of this narrative poem describing his coming to live in the newly discovered country: America. Instead of being a happy go lucky writing about living the dream, Cook is disillusioned by what he comes to find in the new world. It was described as having "plagues worse than fill'd Pandora's Box" alluding to the dark side of what was happening in the colonies while they were beginning to form. Women went to work in their "linnen blue" as slaves or working on the farm and ended up prostituting themselves to make a living and have nice things.
 The writing also displayed the duplicitous nature of the people who arrived in America such as that of the "ambodexter quack" who was an apothecary and attorney. It was very easy to become whoever one wanted to be because modes of communication were not as encompassing as they are today. People did not have a way of knowing who others said they were because the records were new if not nonexistent at the time The thing is that in those times a person did not have to have a diploma or any form of certification to show for their skills so they could assert to be someone that they are not. Cook really began to see life in America as it was and did not seem to like it. 
As I was reading this poem, it reminded me of the people who immigrate today. In Hispanic culture, the United States is looked at like the land of opportunity and some people really think that the roads are filled with money all over, paved with gold. They think that if they come everything will be easy to do and they could help the family's financial problems go away. But, just like The Sot Weed Factor it is not a reality. People may immigrate from different countries expecting it all to be so easy but they struggle finding jobs and may even resort to those that are less than glamorous just to get by. Indeed it is a disillusion but it is just what they grow up to be. When you ask a young man from Latin America what he wants to do when he grows up it will be to go to the US and send money to his family. Unfortunately, sometimes it is better to have stayed where they were.
1) Did Cook end up getting the land he inherited or did he go back to London?