Thirteen Clocks and the Myth of a Glorious Leader

It is the silly season. A presidential election that happen every four years. While this is not a political blog per se, it is about the importance of fundamental principles in society.

John Adams once wrote in a to Letter to Hezekiah Niles, marveling on the solidarity of American colonists, that:

The complete accomplishment of it in so short a time and by such simple means was perhaps a singular example in the history of mankind. Thirteen clocks were made to strike together – a perfection of mechanism which no artist had ever before effected.

There were no political parties represented at the First Continental Congress, nor the Second Continental Congress, nor the 1st Confederation Congress, nor even the 1st United States Congress. Neither was there a single Glorious leader guiding omnipotently though these years. What there was were colonists, some formally educated and others not, who stood on their principles and self interests. That Parliament had little desire take up their modest petitions was obvious up and down the seaboard. The list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence is a good two-thirds of the document because the interest of Carolinians were not the same as New Englanders.  The arrogance of the remote ruling class applied equally to all colonists.

Today, both parties are facing philosophical and regional insurrections the likes of which have not been seen in modern history. To simultaneously see this level dissension across BOTH parties you would have to go back to the 1860 election. The Donald and The Bern have both tapped into a simmering discontent, even if their approaches are vastly different.

Rather than looking for A Party to express their will, a significant portion of the electorate are looking for A Person – the quintessential Supertribal Leader from Desmond Morris’ Human Zoo. The parties have decided to look out only for their own interests. Better to have a known quantity in the White House instead of a wild-card, even if they are from the other party.

To match John Adams marveling of making the thirteen clocks strike at the same time, there is also the miracle that the leadership of the rebellion was decentralized. As children we are taught some of the names of “Founding Fathers” in school, but history has really only focused on a few names of military heroes and those who held public office later. Lets take a look at someone that has probably never graced a high school textbook – Captain John Felt.

Before Lexington and Concord, General Gage conducted a powder raid up the coast at Salem, Massachusetts. An account of the day’s events can be found in this text by Charles Endicott, however here is the important part:

At the moment these words were uttered by Captain Felt, a thrill of confidence was felt through the whole multitude. The people saw at once that he was just the man for the present emergency, and with unanimous, though tacit consent, looked to him as their leader in any movement which should he made for the further defence of the bridge.

Here is someone in the community who is respected, not for his words, but for his deeds. Here on the Sabbath, John Felt finds himself standing before a column of Red Coats, and doing the only thing he can do – the right thing. Colonel Leslie who was in charge of the Regulars was none too pleased with being waylaid at the North Bridge, unable to pass.

The Colonel then complained that his soldiers were much insulted, and expressed his determination to cross the bridge, saying he was upon the King’s highway and would not be prevented from passing freely over it. Old Mr. James Barr replied “it’ not the King’s highway, — it is a road built by the owners of the lots on the other side, and no king, country or town has any control over it.” The Colonel remarked “there may be two sides to that,” and Mr. Barr rejoined ” Egad I think it will be the best way for you to conclude the King has nothing to do with it.”

And there you have it. Parliament may not have been able to comprehend the level of discontent over their magnanimous ruling of the colonies – “it’s not the King’s highway…” Locals had decided to build the bridge and lay the byway.

Here’s a comparison. Try to get a township road district to put in a bridge over a creek today. You need to get the approval of the state Department of Transportation, and since you’re crossing a waterway – and all waterways are Federal, you’ll need the Corps approval, and of course the EPA will be involved since the construction may divert pollutants. Don’t forget that there may be a rare subspecies of bull frogs who will be adversely affected.  Time to bring in the Department of Interior and their various minions.

No single misguided Leader got the country to where it is today and no Glorious Leader has the capacity to keep their promises. At best, the two party system can be shaken up. Will it shatter like 1860? Only time will tell.

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