Calvin Coolidge: Address at the Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia, Pa.

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Fellow Countrymen:

We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. That coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the 4th day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgment of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.

Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience

“About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.”

It is not so much, then, for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.

It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear to the uninstructed as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell of a former time, useless now because of more modern conveniences, but to those who know they have become consecrated by the use which men have made of them. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them, because of their associations of one hundred and fifty years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago. Through use for a righteous purpose they have become sanctified.

It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they therefore resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.

statue-liberty

We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility. It was in no sense a rising of the oppressed and downtrodden. It brought no scum to the surface, for the reason that colonial society had developed no scum. The great body of the people were accustomed to privations, but they were free from depravity. If they had poverty, it was not of the hopeless kind that afflicts great cities, but the inspiring kind that marks the spirit of the pioneer. The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them.

The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its Members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.

While North Carolina has the honor of first authorizing its delegates to concur with other Colonies in declaring independence, it was quickly followed by South Carolina and Georgia, which also gave general instructions broad enough to include such action. But the first instructions which unconditionally directed its delegates to declare for independence came from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. These were immediately followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while the other Colonies, with the exception of New York, soon adopted a like course.

This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion, it did not partake of dark intrigue or hidden conspiracy. It was well advised. It had about it nothing of the lawless and disordered nature of a riotous insurrection. It was maintained on a plane which rises above the ordinary conception of rebellion. It was in no sense a radical movement but took on the dignity of a resistance to illegal usurpations. It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.

When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession if territory and the establishment of a new nation. Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the administration and reverence of humanity. There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.

It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed. Read the rest of this entry »


Shrinking Spaces, Rising Costs: Hong Kong Residents Feel the Crunch

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The average area per capita dropped 29.3% from 2013 to 47.8 square feet in 2015 – not much bigger than a king-size bed.

Isabella Steger reports: For some of Hong Kong’s poorest residents, the tiny subdivided apartments they call home are shrinking– and becoming less affordable.

With the city’s real estate among the most expensive in the world, many low-income Hong Kong residents — sometimes entire families — have been forced to live in so-called subdivided units. These apartments have been modified by landlords to fit multiple tenants and aren’t strictly illegal, but are subject to different structural and fire-safety requirements.

future-cities-HK

According to a study jointly conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Institute of Future Cities and a concern group for people living in subdivided units, tenants of subdivided units now pay on average around 41% of their income towards rent, compared to 29% two years ago. The average rent is about HK$3,924 (US$506) a month, the study said.

A general view of old residential flats, which contain subdivided units, at Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong February 4, 2013. Reuters

Rents in more central areas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon far exceed those of the New Territories, where many poor families are forced to live despite long and expensive commutes.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

According to the study, a 90-square-foot subdivided unit in the downtown Tsim Sha Tsui district could command HK$5,500 (US$710) a month, which works out to be about HK$61(US$7.87) a square foot a month. In a 2011 Wall Street Journal story, a family of four paid HK$4,000 (US$516) a month to live in a 150-square-foot subdivided unit in the low-income district of Sham Shui Po in Kowloon. The unit housed a stove, desk, fridge and bunk bed.

Michelle Wong, a single mother, plays with her two-year-old daughter in the bedroom of an 80 square-foot (8 square meter) sub-divided flat, which she rents for HK$3,000 ($387) per month at Sham Shui Po, February 4, 2013. Reuters

Spaces are also getting tinier in subdivided units, according to the study. The average area per capita dropped 29.3% from 2013 to 47.8 square feet in 2015 – not much bigger than a king-size bed. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Victory at All Costs, Victory in Spite of All Terror, Victory, However Long and Hard the Road May Be’ – Churchill, May 13, 1940

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Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat’: Winston Churchill, May 13, 1940

First Speech as Prime Minister to House of Commons

On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. When he met his Cabinet on May 13 he told them that “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” He repeated that phrase later in the day when he asked the House of Commons for a vote of confidence in his new all-party government. The response of Labour was heart-warming; the Conservative reaction was luke-warm. They still really wanted Neville Chamberlain. For the first time, the people had hope but Churchill commented to General Ismay: “Poor people, poor people. They trust me, and I can give them nothing but disaster for quite a long time.”

I beg to move,

That this House welcomes the formation of a Government representing the united and inflexible resolve of the nation to prosecute the war with Germany to a victorious conclusion.

On Friday evening last I received His Majesty’s commission to form a new Administration. It as the evident wish and will of Parliament and the nation that this should be conceived on the broadest possible basis and that it should include all parties, both those who supported the late Government and also the parties of the Opposition. I have completed the most important part of this task. A War Cabinet has been formed of five Members, representing, with the Opposition Liberals, the unity of the nation. The three party Leaders have agreed to serve, either in the War Cabinet or in high executive office. The three Fighting Services have been filled. It was necessary that this should be done in one single day, on account of the extreme urgency and rigour of events. A number of other positions, key positions, were filled yesterday, and I am submitting a further list to His Majesty to-night. I hope to complete the appointment of the principal Ministers during to-morrow. The appointment of the other Ministers usually takes a little longer, but I trust that, when Parliament meets again, this part of my task will be completed, and that the administration will be complete in all respects.

I considered it in the public interest to suggest that the House should be summoned to meet today. Mr. Speaker agreed, and took the necessary steps, in accordance with the powers conferred upon him by the Resolution of the House. At the end of the proceedings today, the Adjournment of the House will be proposed until Tuesday, 21st May, with, of course, provision for earlier meeting, if need be. The business to be considered during that week will be notified to Members at the earliest opportunity. I now invite the House, by the Motion which stands in my name, to record its approval of the steps taken and to declare its confidence in the new Government.

To form an Administration of this scale and complexity is a serious undertaking in itself, but it must be remembered that we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history, that we are in action at many other points in Norway and in Holland, that we have to be prepared in the Mediterranean, that the air battle is continuous and that many preparations, such as have been indicated by my hon. Friend below the Gangway, have to be made here at home. In this crisis I hope I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today. I hope that any of my friends and colleagues, or former colleagues, who are affected by the political reconstruction, will make allowance, all allowance, for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act. I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Read the rest of this entry »


Do Other Countries Have Donald Trumps?

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Of Course They Do

Adam Taylor writes:  As America stumbles its way through the early stages of Donald Trump’s unlikely and uncomfortable bid for the presidency, some here are wondering what exactly Trump says about the nation.

“Do other national cultures create men like Donald Trump?” Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg asked on Twitter. “Asking for the United States.”

Goldberg probably asked that question in jest, but there may be real concern behind it. To many, Trump’s political career seems to combine three ugly undercurrents of US politics: the outsize role of money, the never-ending campaign season, and America’s embrace of reactionary celebrity figures.

So do other countries really have their own Donald Trumps? Well, yes, of course they do. When Goldberg asked his question, there was a flood of responses from foreign readers, who pointed to their own rich and rude political figures. Some comparisons don’t quite seem fair (you may dislike Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Nigel Farage, but their faults and virtues are different from Trump’s), many, many other suggestions did seem apt.

Trump is a product of American society, but he’s not unique. His mixture of murky wealth, extreme arrogance and vulgar chauvinism can be found all over the world, albeit with local spins. Here are just a handful of the world’s other Donald Trumps.

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: Remo Casilli

Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: Remo Casilli

One of the best-known examples of a foreign Trump might be Silvio Berlusconi, the business magnate who was Italy’s prime minister for about nine years in total. Berlusconi, like Trump, espoused an entrepreneurial spirit but soon became better known for his misdemeanours and odd behaviour: One time, he hid behind a monument and jumped out to scare German leader Angela Merkel, shouting, “Coo-coo” (“She enjoyed it,” Berlusconi later said). Like Trump, he even has an intriguing hairstyle….(read more)

Clive Palmer

Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: Remo Casilli

Silvio Berlusconi. Photo: Remo Casilli

Clive Palmer, an Australian billionaire, certainly creates Trump-size headlines. He has plans to construct a replica of the Titanic. He wants to open his own “Jurassic Park.” He has accused his political opponents of being funded by the CIA. He has called Chinese officials “mongrels” (and later apologised).

The similarities between the two go beyond headlines and money, however….(read more)

Chen Guangbiao

Chinese billionaire Chen Guangbiao. Photo:LUCAS JACKSON

Chinese billionaire Chen Guangbiao. Photo: LUCAS JACKSON

China is a country full of very rich people, and often these very rich people have deep political ambitions. However, it’s possible that Chen Guangbiao is the only one who can match Trump for sheer arrogance.

There are numerous examples of how big Chen’s ego is, including his audacious and doomed attempt to buy The New York Times and his insistence on singing at media events. Perhaps the best example of Chen’s ego, however, is a business card he handed to me in 2013….(read more)

Vladimir Zhirinovsky

Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Photo:AP

Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Photo:AP

While Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the loud-mouthed Russian politician who founded the Liberal Democratic Party in 1990, may lack the business credentials of Trump (his background is in the military), he has a habit of making statements that suggest a kinship with the American businessman.

For example, he suggests arming every single person in Russia so they can kill birds….(read more)

Tomio Okamura

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Tomio Okamura, photo: Filip Jandourek

In many parts of Central and Eastern Europe, business success and political populism mingle, creating fertile grounds for local variants of Trumps. Read the rest of this entry »


American Revolution a ‘Monumental Mistake’

George-Washington

‘Blame America First’ Journalism Hits New Lows

“The very definition of Blame America First liberalism in the guise of ‘explanatory journalism.’ The U.S. never should have been created so it would be easier, 230 years or so later, for liberals to pass a carbon tax. How petty.”

Paul Bedard writes:

…written by Vox‘s Dylan Matthews and headlined: “3 reasons the American Revolution was a mistake.” …Matthews argues that had the colonies remained under British control, slavery would have been abolished earlier, government would be more proactive, and calls for a carbon tax would have passed with ease…

 “Save Harvard University the embarrassment and never again allow their graduates into journalism.”

— Media Research Center Vice President of Research Brent Baker

An excerpt:

American independence in 1776 was a monumental mistake. We should be mourning the fact that we left the United Kingdom, not cheering it…

Traveling throughout the United States of the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville pondered the question of just how funny Americans were before deeming us decidedly unfunny.

Alexis de Tocqueville

I’m reasonably confident a world in which the revolution never happened would be better than the one we live in now, for three main reasons: Slavery would’ve been abolished earlier, American Indians would’ve faced rampant persecution but not the outright ethnic cleansing Andrew Jackson and other American leaders perpetrated, and America would have a parliamentary system of government that makes policymaking easier….

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In the US, activists wanting to put a price on carbon emissions spent years trying to put together a coalition to make it happen, mobilizing sympathetic businesses and philanthropists and attempting to make bipartisan coalition — and they still failed to pass cap and trade, after millions of dollars and man hours. In the UK, the Conservative government decided it wanted a carbon tax.
Read the rest of this entry »


5 Things About the Hong Kong Vote

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Isabella Steger reports: Hong Kong’s legislature is expected to vote down a proposal that would let the public directly elect the city’s chief executive in 2017 — but only from a prescreened slate of candidates. The showdown follows city-wide protests and a year and a half of efforts by Hong Kong’s leaders to sell the Beijing-backed election plan. Here are five things to know about the vote.

1. The Legislature Will Vote This Week

The proposal currently on the table will be put to a vote this Wednesday and Thursday. This is arguably the most critical of five stages in the election overhaul blueprint, laid down by Beijing and in accordance with the Basic LawHong Kong’s mini-constitution

2. Pro-Democracy Lawmakers Oppose the Package

The package lays out the rules for electing Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017 within a framework formulated by Chinese authorities, in which all candidates must be nominated by a 1,200-member committee that is heavily pro-Beijing. After slight tweaks announced in April, the opposition maintains that the system is not democratic enough to allow one of their own candidates to stand.

3. The Plan Is Not Likely to Pass

27 pro-democracy lawmakers — who control a little more than one-third of the city’s legislature –say they will vote against the package, as has one lawmaker who isn’t part of the opposition camp. Read the rest of this entry »


What International Air Travel Was Like in the 1930s

1936:  Passengers enjoying a drink and a game of cards in the cabin of an Imperial Airways plane.  (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

1936: Passengers enjoying a drink and a game of cards in the cabin of an Imperial Airways plane. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

Today we largely take international air travel for granted. Every major city in the world is little more than a hop, skip, and jump away. But what was it actually like to fly halfway around the world in the 1930s, when the very concept was still novel? Pretty incredible, as it turns out—provided you could afford it.

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At the dawn of commercial air travel, Imperial Airways was Britain’s shuttle to the world. As the British Empire’s lone international airline in the 1920s and ’30s, Imperial was responsible for showing the rich and famous every corner of the Empire. And in doing so, their mission was to make the Empire (and by extension, the world) feel that much smaller.

They did it in style.

circa 1938:  Sir Robert Hodgson arriving at Croydon from Paris on an Imperial Airways flight.  (Photo by London Express/Getty Images)

circa 1938: Sir Robert Hodgson arriving at Croydon from Paris on an Imperial Airways flight. (Photo by London Express/Getty Images)

Rough Take-off

During the WWI, airplanes became a vital tool for victory, ushering in a brave new world of battle. Airplanes were the future of war, but they had yet to prove themselves as the future of peace.

After the war, Britain had a surplus of warplanes that would jumpstart its commercial air industry. But the early 1920s was a hard period for British aircraft companies. Unlike their counterparts in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the United States, very little government investment in British air travel occurred during peacetime.

Instead, the government hobbled together the few struggling British air companies to form Imperial Airways, which was incorporated in 1924. Imperial was devised as a private, highly subsidized company that would operate with monopoly support from the British government. They shuttled mail and passengers to the farthest reaches of the globe.

 

circa 1937:  Imperial Airways plane 'Hanno' at Croydon aerodrome before flying to Paris at 7 o'clock.  (Photo by London Express/Getty Images)

circa 1937: Imperial Airways plane ‘Hanno’ at Croydon aerodrome before flying to Paris at 7 o’clock. (Photo by London Express/Getty Images)

Modern Tech

Imperial’s planes of the 1920s (made of wood and fabric) would slowly morph into the planes of the 1930s (made of metal). But it wasn’t merely because the streamlined aircraft looked sleeker. The newer planes also better suited Imperial Airways’ mission of Empire maintenance.

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Tom Paine’s Two Radicalisms

NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION/ART RESOURCE, NY

NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION/ART RESOURCE, NY

And their consequences—for his era and ours

From the Autumn 2013 Edition of City Journal, this is a long article but highly recommended, save this to read at leisure, it’s good — Sunday Nov. 10 – The Butcher

Myron Magnet writes:  On November 30, 1774, a 37-year-old Englishman—an ex-privateer, ex–corset stay maker, ex–tax collector (fired twice for dereliction of duty), and ex-husband (also twice over)—arrived in Philadelphia with a letter of recommendation from Benjamin Franklin in his pocket. The old philosopher’s praise was understandably restrained. This “ingenious worthy young man,” Franklin wrote, would make a useful “clerk, or assistant tutor in a school, or assistant surveyor.” Four months later, however, the shots that rang out at Lexington and Concord galvanized the newcomer’s hitherto aimless life into focus and purpose. “When the country into which I had just set foot was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir,” he recalled. “It was time for every man to stir.” And so, adding a final “e” to soften the surname he was born with, he began to write under the byline “Thomas Paine.”

Celebrated around the world for his key role in the American Revolution, Paine went on to play an important part in the French Revolution, as well.

He found he had a literary gift that almost instantly turned him into one of history’s greatest revolutionary propagandists—not just of one major revolution, as it happened, but of two. But as his thought developed—and except for the Norfolk grammar-school education that ended when he was 13, he was self-taught—his radicalism, so lucid and solidly grounded during the American Revolution, lost sight of the darker realities of human nature. As a result, when he and his close, like-minded friends, the Marquis de Lafayette and United States ambassador to France Thomas Jefferson, plotted reform together in Paris in the fateful final years of the 1780s, they disastrously misread the French Revolution as it gathered and burst forth. While Jefferson luckily went home to America with his illusions intact, Paine and Lafayette both ended up wasted with illness in pestilential prisons, and Paine escaped the guillotine by the most capricious of chances.

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