October 03, 2012

A radical Tory

I've been making my slow way through James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson, mostly to indulge my affection for 18th century English prose. Johnson was an interesting person, one for whom conversation was a game of one-up-manship.

His political views were generally very conservative. His groundbreaking dictionary of the English language included the following definitions of the two parties of his day:

Tory: One who adheres to the ancient constitution of the state, and the apostolical hierarchy of the church of England, opposed to a Whig.
Whig: The name of a faction.
Yet on a critical issue of his day this hardcore Tory was ahead of his time. At one point, Boswell noted disapprovingly that "He had always been very  zealous against slavery in every form..." He even went so far as to drink a toast at Oxford in which he said "Here's to the next insurrection of the negroes in the West Indies."

Unlike Boswell, Johnson had no sympathy for the American revolutionaries of the 1770s. In fact, he put his finger precisely on a major contradiction of the period when he asked, "how is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of the negroes?"

Good question.

FRAME THIS. Here's George Lakoff on what to look for in tonight's presidential debates.

COOL RANT by a good friend here.

IT'S NICE TO BE IMPORTANT, but it's more important to be nice. If you're a baboon anyway.


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