Quote of the week

As is his wont, Severian gives us a brief history lesson:

The original “reactionary,” [Joseph] de Maistre argued that there’s no such thing as a “rational” polity, because any attempt to frame one will always devolve into arguments about ends, means, and above all, legitimacy. This is because people are people and not cells on a spreadsheet. In other words, there are lots of individual men, and many different types of men, but no such thing as Man.

The Founding Fathers understood this. That’s why, even as they let Thomas Jefferson gas on about “all Men are created equal,” they designed a system specifically to safeguard man’s inequality. No, I don’t mean the 3/5 Compromise or any of that hooey. I mean federalism itself. Whether or not slavery was an integral part of being a “Virginian” in 1789 (it wasn’t), it was clear to everyone that Virginians and Massachussans were different — irreconciliably different — and that any political system which required them to be on the same page for any but the biggest of national questions would rapidly devolve into anarchy.

Words mean what they mean. “Unequal” doesn’t mean “inferior;” it means “not the same.” A man like Light-Horse Harry Lee would cheerfully agree that Virginians and Massachussans are “unequal,” but suggesting that Massachussans are therefore superior to Virginians would be met with an invitation to debate the issue with pistols at dawn. Everyone at the Constitutional Convention understood this, because they’d just fought a big nasty war together, and everyone there had seen the color of everyone else’s blood.

I rather miss the custom of pistols at dawn. Not only was it handy for settling disputes, it had the singular virtue of being singular: today, we’d have Twitter Mob One versus Twitter Mob Two, and no one would get a round in edgewise.

And frankly, “Massachussans” is a clumsy sort of construction at best; the government of the Commonwealth has declared “Bay Staters” as the official demonym, and I have yet to see anyone actually bound over for saying “Massholes.” It’s more of a New Hampshire thing, anyway.

1 comment

  1. McGehee »

    22 June 2019 · 12:40 pm

    Massachus-its? Massachus-them? Massachusites!

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