Rout of the Rebel Angels, by William Blake

A Dog Starv'd

A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
      -- William Blake,
     "Auguries of Innocence"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Department of Funny Coincidences

I don't mean "funny coincidences" in the sense of suspicious coincidences. No, it's just that in an 86-year-old document, I've found reminders of how far we in this fair country have not come. It's from H.L. Mencken's The American Language; in particular, it's Mencken's recasting of the Declaration of Independence into plain old everyday English. While he plays it heavy-handed in spots, and his intent overall is jocular, and allowing for the differences in the precise situations (us vs. England then, the nation vs. W now), it's amazing how clearly the ironies pop out when the ideas are made so plain. Or maybe it's not a case of how far we've not come, but rather a case of the battles which we continue to refight...

Excerpts (ellipses omitted), from the famous list of grievances against the king:
The administration of the present King, George III, has been rotten from the start, and when anybody kicked about it he always tried to get away with it by strong-arm work. Here is some of the rough stuff he has pulled:
  • He vetoed bills in the Legislature that everybody was in favor of, and hardly nobody was against.
  • He wouldn’t allow no law to be passed without it was first put up to him, and then he stuck it in his pocket and let on he forgot about it, and didn’t pay no attention to no kicks.
  • When people went to work and gone to him and asked him to put through a law about this or that, he give them their choice: either they had to shut down the Legislature and let him pass it all by him-self, or they couldn’t have it at all.
  • He give the Legislature the air, and sent the members home every time they stood up to him and give him a call-down.
  • He tried to scare people outen moving into these States, and made it so hard for a wop or one of them poor kikes to get his papers that he would rather stay home and not try it, and then, when he come in, he wouldn’t let him have no land, and so he either went home again or never come.
  • He monkeyed with the courts, and didn’t hire enough judges to do the work, and so a person had to wait so long for his case to come up that he got sick of waiting, and went home, and so never got what was coming to him.
  • He got the judges under his thumb by turning them out when they done anything he didn’t like, or holding up their salaries, so that they had to cough up or not get no money.
  • He made a lot of new jobs, and give them to loafers that nobody knowed nothing about, and the poor people had to pay the bill, whether they wanted to or not.
  • He let grafters run loose, from God knows where, and give them the say in everything, and let them put over such things as the following:
    • Making us pay taxes without asking us whether we thought the things we had to pay taxes for was something that was worth paying taxes for or not.
    • When a man was arrested and asked for a jury trial, not letting him have no jury trial.
    • Chasing men out of the country, without being guilty of nothing, and trying them somewheres else for what they done here.
    • He busted up the Legislatures and let on he could do all the work better by himself.
Now he washes his hands of us and even declares war on us, so we don’t owe him nothing, and whatever authority he ever had he ain’t got no more.

He stirred up the Indians, and give them arms ammunition, and told them to go to it, and they have killed men, women and children, and don’t care which.

Every time he has went to work and pulled any of these things, we have went to work and put in a kick, but every time we have went to work and put in a kick he has went to work and did it again. When a man keeps on handing out such rough stuff all the time, all you can say is that he ain’t got no class and ain’t fitten to have no authority over people who have got any rights, and he ought to be kicked out.
Read the whole thing here.

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