Monday, June 26, 2017


The undersigned first encountered The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution in 1978. It was a forced encounter, required reading, a compulsory purchase, set me back, I see, $3.50. 

Even as a callow graduate student, I recognized the quality, it was one of three or four books that stuck with me from that time and I reread portions of it over the ensuing, My God, thirty-nine years!

Somewhere, somehow, and recently, within the last year I'd say, to my exasperation only the cover has physically stuck with me. The remainder, like Dad's Note, PFFT! The missing content stuck in my mind though, has always stuck in my mind. It was with me, in (complete) physical form, and in mind when I started this here blog:

This is "Public Occurrences," a blog dedicated to all bloggers,

...and to the original bloggers, the pamphleteers of revolutionary America, and to the original blog, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, the first newspaper published in North America on September 25, 1690, it's first and only issue.

August 19, 2002.

I reread the intro and first chapter in pdf this evening. This is where I got the above dedication:

The pamphlet (George Orwell, a modern pamphleteer, has written) is a one-man show. One has complete freedom of expression, including, if one chooses, the freedom to be scurrilous, abusive, and seditious; or, on the other hand, to be more detailed, serious and "highbrow" than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals. At the same time, since the pamphlet is always short and unbound, it can be produced much more quickly than a book, and in principle, at any rate, can reach a bigger public. Above all, the pamphlet does not have to follow any prescribed pattern. It can be in prose or in verse, it can consist largely of maps or statistics or quotations, it can take the form of a story, a fable, a letter, an essay, a dialogue, or a piece of "reportage." All that is required of it is that it shall be topical, polemical, and short.

I think a blog ticks all them boxes! I think I tick all them boxes, lol. No doubt, No. Doubt. Orwell would have been a blogger had he lived another half century. 

Yes, we bloggers are heirs of the pamphleteers of the American revolution--and of their mental illness!--we stand wobbly on their shoulders shouting our seditions in scurrilous tones, spittle flying, fists pounding desks and punching walls, and occasionally producing "more detailed, serious and 'highbrow'" expositions.

It was in the context of the sources and patterns of ideas that I began to see a new meaning in phrases that I, like most historians, had readily dismissed as mere rhetoric and propaganda: "slavery," "corruption," "conspiracy." These inflammatory words... fitted so logically into the pattern of radical and opposition which the fear of conspiracy against constituted authority was built into the very structure of politics... I began to suspect that they meant something very real to both the writers and their readers: that there were real fears, real anxieties, a sense of real danger behind these phrases...

He is a careful writer who demands careful readers. What was "real" was the "fear," not the threat, the "anxieties," not the reality giving rise to them; what was real was the "sense" of real danger, not real danger itself.

In the end I was convinced that the fear of a comprehensive conspiracy against liberty throughout the English-speaking world—a conspiracy believed to have been nourished in corruption, and of which, it was felt, oppression in America was only the most immediately visible part—lay at the heart of the Revolutionary movement.

If they had just jerked off to orgasm. If they had just lay down and taken a powder.
We stand more immediately on the shoulders of Professor Bailyn, for it was he, in 1967, with a job description merely to index the pamphlets in the John Harvard Library but who quickly came to study them, and recognized their significance and brought them to light, discerning in them the ideological origins of the Revolution and revolutionizing colonial studies in the process and, poor man, providing the template for the blog, and serving as the inspiration for, and the origin of, this one. 

This is Public Occurrences.