AMST301.JonStewart.Mr.Smith.TheFounders

AMST301.JonStewart.Mr.Smith.TheFounders - AMERICA (THE...

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Unformatted text preview: AMERICA (THE BOOK) *‘k‘k A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction (100%) Written and Edited by Jon Stewart Ben Karlin David Javerbaum With 3 Foreword by Thomas Jefferson Foreword When America ( T lze Book) first approached me about penning the foreword to their tome, I was surprised. Firstly the foreword is not my bailiwick, but rather the Declaration. Forgive my conceit, but if one is looking to introduce a grand composition with a pithy and clear pronouncement, my declaratives are second to none. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...” Google it ifye doubt the claim! Also of some concern, I have been dead for...oh lord, has it really been 178 years? My goodness, time certainly flies when you are no longer consigned to your earthly vessel. Notwithstanding, Irv over at Warner Books sent me some galleys, and I have to say...funny. Not John Winthrop’s A Comparative Treatise on t/ie Most Unusual of Distiaclioas ’Tzwixt t/ze Fairer of Species and Her Masculine C ouaterpart funny...but funny. Of course, Sally was less enthused. “You are the author of the Declaration of Independence. A scholar. A statesman. This is beneath you. It’s not even network.” But truth be told, I was itching to get back to the quill and paper, and declaration work is not as steady as it used to be. Sally may not like it, but as we used to say in the back parlours of 18th-century Paris, “tough titties.” I was also looking forward to this opportunity to dispel some of the mythol- ogy surrounding myself and my fellow Founders——particularly the myth of our infallibility. You modems have a tendency to worship at the altar of the Fathers. “The First Amendment is sacrosanct!” “We will die to protect the Second Amendment!” So dramatic. Do you know why we called them amendments? Because they amend! They fix mistakes or correct omissions and they themselves can be changed. If we had meant for the Constitution to be written in stone we would have written it in Stone. Most things were written in stone back then, you know. I’m not trying to be difficult but it’s bothersome when you blame your own inflexibility and extremism on us. Not that we weren’t awesome. We wrote the Constitution in the time it takes you nimrods to figure out which is the aye button and which is the nay. But we weren’t gods. We were men. We had flaws. Adams was an x l Foreword ,7“ unbearable prick and squealed girlishly whenever he saw a bug. And Ben Franklin? If crack existed in our day, that boozed-up snuff machine would weigh 80 pounds and live outside the Port Authority. And I had slaves. Damn, I can’t believe I had slaves! Yes, we were very accomplished. We discovered electricity, invented stoves, bifocals, the lazy susan, efficient printing presses, and the swivel chair. But in the 18th century it was nearly impossible not to invent some~ thing. “What if we put this refuse in a receptacle?” “Oh my God you just invented a sanitation system!” We lived in primitive times. Hell, I shit in a bucket and I was the president. But I digress. My point is composing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution was hard work. God didn’t dictate it for us to transcribe from some sort of dictation-transcribing machine. Hey, did I just invent something? Do you have anything like that? You do? Hmm. Well, our pur- pose was to create a living document based on principles that transcended the times we lived in, and I think we did that. We created a blueprint for a system that would endure, which means your lazy asses shouldn’t be coast- ing on our accomplishments. We were imperfect. It was imperfect. And we expect our descendents to work as hard as we did on keeping What we think is a profoundly excellent form of government supple, evolving and relevant. After reading this book, you should be better prepared to do just that. As Always, \\ I, RS. Oh, and is it true Halle Berry is once again single? If so, I’d be forev- er in your debt if you would put in a good word for T]. Oh how I loves the mochachina. Foreword I xi l l i i 3 A few/,Iswuflfi‘ +0 Qchd a George Washington, Slavehol ____~_____________..._1——'——— slavery has gotten most of the at- tention — thanks to scholarly research, popular novels and, not least, DNA — he was far from being the only Found- ‘ ing Father to face 'a dilemma. They all recognized the contradiction be- tween the Revolution’s ideals and the reality of slavery, and few of them - not even Jefferson, perhaps 7— thought longer and deeper about it than George Washington did. ‘ . Washington’s feelings were rooted, as his convictions so often were, more in his own experience than in philo- sophical abstractions. Slavery was something he dealt with daily at home, and what he found there was a cruel paradox: Mount Vernon, the cherished creation of his imagination, the place he, loved better than' any other on earth, owed its existence to a system of labor that was not only morally wrong, but also hopelessly inefficient. ' The roll of slaves at Mount Vernon in 1799, the last year of Washington’s life, listed 317 names, making him one i of the nation’s largest slaveholders.j Indeed, it is hard to imagine his life} without slaves: as a young man, he, had- gone into debt to acquire them, believing they were the key to wealth and power in Virginia. He was assidu- ous in tracking down runaways, and had his slaves whipped when he thought they deserved it. , Then came the ReVolution, with its ringing commitment to freedom Whatever his feelings had been be- fore, by the end of the war Washing- ton wrote privately of longing “every- day more and more to get clear”- of slavery. Yet he found that this was more easily said than done. At the very least, Washington de cided, he would stop selling his slaves, and thus avoid participating in what he called “traffic in the human spe- cies.” In the same spirit, 'he took increasing pains to see that Mount Vernon’s slaves were well fed and provided with adequate medical care. But as a matter of pride, if nothing else, he also remained determined to make his plantation pay. And in his efforts to turn a profit, he recognized that slavery was a profoundly ineffi- cient system of labor. From Philadel~ phia, he wrote, “Buildings that are run up here in two or three days . . . would employ (slave carpenters] a month or more.” The reason slave labor was ineffi— cient, Washington came to feel, was that slaves had no chance “to estab- lish a good name” and thus were “too regardless of a bad one” In other words, he believed, they worked badly because they had no incentive to work well. The problem lay in the institu-, tion itself, not in its victims. This explanation was surprisingly free of the racist assumptions of black inferi- ority then held by most Americans including Jefferson. Washington continued to searcl fruitlessly for a solution at Moun Vernon. During his Presidency, h. devised a plan for renting its acreage ’ to immigrant English tenants, hoping. they would employ his slaves as free, laborers. But the tenants never mates! rialized.‘ Washington retumed home‘ in 1797 to find everything just as he had left it. For Mount Vernon’s slaves, mean while, freedom beckoned as strongly as ever. Soon after Washington’s re- turn, his cook, Hercules, ran away. When Hercules’s young daughter was asked why he had done so -— since the Washingtons believed they had treat- ed him well —- she replied simply that he wanted to be free. Any of Washing— ton’s slaves could have given the same answer. \ In July 1799, when Washington sat 'down to write out his will, he tried to come to terms at last with the dilem— ma of slavery. The resulting docu- ment is as significant as anything he ever produced w . To begin with, it stipulated that once both Washingtons had died, their" slaves were to be freed. 'It also pro- vided for the support of freed slaves who were too old or too young to work, as well as for the education and train- ing of the young, In a real sense, the end of slavery at” Mount Vernon would mean the end of Mount Vernon itself, and Washington did not shrink from that fact. He had no children of his own. But instead of leaving his estate to a single relative, as was customary to preserve a fam- ily's wealth, he divided the plantation among five different heirs, and his other lands and possessions among many more. This, then, is where Washington’s struggle with slavery led him: to free- ing his slaves but also, finally. to dismantling his personal world, the world that slavery had made. What iid he expect would replace it? A world without slavery, certainly, but he seemed to go further, envisioning a more egalitarian alternative to the plantation society in which he had spent his life. For as a result of his will, his personal fortune — one of the der ‘ From; Now lec 10/1! {1‘9 ege: is author . O k Q. 3. L O ... L”. .z :3 (I m [z .alzell Jr , lliams Co Roberz P D fessor at W: With Lee [Ia Washington it was a bold solution, conceived with uncompromising determination. Unlike so many politicians in his day and since. Washington had no talent for cnmpartmentallzlng the separate parts of his life. 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F5 A1150” N u“ film-NINE was a busy F‘ m stionabty. the 33.93% Goes lo . “hm. Stmnwas3lyearsold M b: as sighed “1 5m 35 the M Mat 79"”9 m is Wat-omit: who smgie-l’xandedly i an all 0011111?! Congress» : m m opened toa storm of my After a disastrous pre- thashington, D.C. toaroom WMSupremeCmrtNSm and members, senators, and other pkg] dignitaries. the picture seas boosted by the local press. Director fang Czpra was labeled a traitor, . tag with Columbia Pictures president 25,"): Cohn. Cohn received an urgent from the United States am— W to Engiand; Joseph P. Xen- mty, saying that Mr Smith ridiafled 'b-noaacy, could be construed by our European allies as pmAxis, and thus. should be withdrawn from European mam Members of the U.S. Sen- atehad even harsherwords, crying “It stinks! " and "I’ve never seen a member Smmptaybyfidrwyaudmm ‘Basedonastorybyuwisfljfosw ProducedanddiractedbyFranKCam ACADEMY AWARD nommns ll I nio' Bat Picture Best Actor (James Stewart) Best Supporfino Actor ("any Carry) Best Supporting Actor (Claude Rains) Best Director (Frank than) '8est Original Story (Lewis R. Foster) Best Saunpr Best Interior Decoration Best Sound Recording Best Score Best Film Editing n: 5 Stewart—be made five ' MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON COLUMBIA 31,500,000 as dumb as that boyl’Thetfltimate epithetwashudedbyonememberof Congress, whotabeteddtefilm‘fiust somethingfmnflofiywood." But themajorityofthemecfialoved thefihnThHolbwoodRepomrhead- fined: “Mn. smnrcoesmmvm; DUE FOR Boxomcs successful wentontosaythat "FlankCaprahas anothersmashhit. . .JamesStewart istheperfectdtoicefordaemle. .. mderannkCapra's guidance. Stewart hnnsmthefi'xestperfomnnceothis career. . ." TheNm Yorfi Tvnes' reviewerwasequaflygenemus withhis praise: "lCapral has paced it beautifully andhelditinperfectbatame.. . IamesStewanisajoyforttfisseasorL ifnotforever. Hehas too mnygood scenes, but we Etc to remember the wayhisvoicecrackedwhenhegotup toreadhisbifl. . ."NoMethodacting here—ImyStewarthiredadoctor who sprayed his throat periodically with bichtoride of mercury in order to hoarsen his voice in that famous scene. The film was so successful that it spawnedamnnberofinfitators, includ- ing a short—lived television series star- ring Fess Parker (September, 1962 to March, 1963), and a Tom Laxghlin movie vehide, Bflbjack Got: I» Was):- WOW”. But perhaps the highest tribute that couldbepaidtoaflmwasonegivenby a formeractor. . . whoalsohappens to be a former Resident. Ronald Rea- gan, when asked to reflect on the film that most affected his life. dted Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He saitt “When Jimmy Stewart walked the halts of the Capitol buflding, I walked with him. Whenbestoodinaweofthat great man at the Lincotn Memorial! bowedmyheadtoo. Whenhestoodin the Senate chamber and refused to knuckle under to the vested interests, I began to realize, through the power of motion picnn'es, one man an make a difference.” 1‘ 1 i E i I i 1 i 2 t 1 "fa-Yo Sides or innocence By GARRY erLs “MEN” ‘4' 1997 ARLY IN THIS CENTURY, THE HUMORJST STEPHEN Leacock said the American innocent must prove his folksy virtue by being semi-inarticulate, mouthing things like “Heck, b’gosh, b’gum, yuck, yuck." That is why Jimmy Stewart’s hesitating- .-. .5? gulpy delivery was reassuring. His appeal went so deep because it touched America’s belief in its own simplicity. When Mark Twain wanted to present himself as a traveling American, he called his tourist book Yhe Innocents Abroad. America is the New World. What it has to offer the jaded Old World is its fresh eye and unspoiled candor. When Stewart goes to Washington as Mr. Smith, a band of amused journalists ask him what he knows about governmental procedure or the passing of bills. His answer: “I don’t pretend to know.” And that tco is a guarantee of virtue. Mr. Smith’s first name is Jefferson, after the man who said that a plowrnan is wiser than a profes- sor when it‘comes to essential things. » . Stewart’s appeal was the polar opposite of Cary Grant’s suave cosmopolitanism or Clark Cable’s rough self—assurance. Their glamour had an edge of danger to it. Theirs was a know- ing wink. Stewart was safe because unlmowing. He was the in— nocent at home. . The frontier myth, in one of its aspects, denied original sin. Sin is not original but cumulative. The origins are pure. Nature is sinless, before an overlay of mounting compromises and con- cessions induces a Weary cynicism. Even Mr. Smith’s fallen idol, the worldly Senator Paine (Claude Rains), was unsullied For all his It is hard to imagine Stewart’s innocence a dangerous. The magc moments I treasure most are when his throaty hesitations are melted in a murmur of tenderness—the defensive and rigid store clerk of The Shop Around the Cornerconfe'ssing his love for Margaret Sullavan, the small—time banker whispering "Mary" over and overwhile Donna Reed is on the telephone with another man. _ But there were other sides to the Stewart performances. He . is most often thought of as the sentimental avatar of “Capra— corn,” though he made only three pictures with Frank Capra. He made only four films with Hitchcock. But he made eight with Anthony Mann, more than with any other directorhand five _ __ V, . ..« c .rfii‘ése answer-a cynical Edge that anticipated 2 the; idark’ Westerns ‘ _ . _ , . - or Sergio and Sam Peckmpah. These appeared in the 19505, when American mnocenge was challenged and betrayed by a worldwide con- _ sprracy, 'y a won of the Imowin and elite, h - ' art had to show retaliating bitterrfess. . . Stew In these movies, Stewart’s charm is of no avail. nut-u n and victimized. In Man from laramie, his brotherp is his wagon burned, his mules slaughtered. He is- and . dragged through a campfire. His right hand is held downiwhile a A - shoots a bull}? through it His aw—Shucl's tenta~ ‘ eness turns to 'gh-pitched sputter-lugs; His thin frame is shaken with the outsize energies of hysteria. ‘ Feral] his tenderness, there was a hintof the vio— lent in Stewart’s innocence. His first reaction to ridi— _cule as Mr. Smith is to hunt reporters down and punch them out—rmtil Jean Arthur’s hardbought worldly wisdom is put at his service. The innocent is not good wrth words, so fists Ith serve—as Stewart shows before he breathed in the big—city corruptions of Washington. demessa In keeping with the age—old idea of Ameriea as the New there “(as World (we are hoary with youth), Stewart was, in the roles that . most gripped the public, a kind of child-man, 3 Harry Langdon 5 a hull Of with sex appeal. Even the serdrress brought out a ence in in women. He was their , poet, who had to be protect- ed from insensitive brutes. Nothing could be more American in its innocence than Mr. Smith Goes to W’ashington—though many called it Uri—American when it came out. Colonel Mc— a Corrnick’s Chicago Tribune launched a crusade against it. Joseph P. Kennedy, writ- ing to the studio from his ' diplomatic post at the Court of St. James’s, said releasing it abroad would do “ines— fimable harm to American . prestige.” Senate majority leader Albert Barkley called it a disgraceful attack on the U.S. Senate. Imagine the furor if any of them had known that a man still active ' in the Communist Party, Sid- ney Buchman, had written the screenplay foer.Smit}L ‘ —~ -» —- _. .. , The movie’s only problem is that it is too American, too comfortably nested in our native illusions. The glorification of the amateur and contempt for the professional are as old asJef- ferson and as new as the push for term limits. Jefferson Smith, with his army of Boy Rangers, must be Ross Perot’s favorite daydream. Militiamen and others who suspect the government and all “elites” of conspiracy or collusion will find confirmation of their views here. A whole race of phonics can be undone by one “genuine” American. "And a little child shall lead them ...T’ when he tries to taunt the glib C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) into fighting him in The Philadelphia . Story. Even saintly George Baileyterrorizes his own children before rushing out to'do violence to himself. I I; fMarinA'channeled these earlier minor eruptions into great cleansing erplosions. In The Naked Spur, Stewart is a bounty hunter who rs shot, rolled down a rocky elitibetrayed by partners, torhxredby fever into screaming delirium He uses the spur of the .btletodrghandhOIdSupasheer-clifi’, then ernbedsitin thefaceof his misone'r (Robert Ryan). Some fans of Stewart the gentle child- man do not like to see him become a snarling avenger. But that is what when the sense of one’s own virtue is affronted. J American innoceneehfairlybegs to be violated. Then it kills. l . Carry Wills is the author if John Wayne’s America. ...
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