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Russell isn't the first historian to realise that understanding how our past informs the present means looking beyond the machinations of dead white males.
He may, however, be the most rumbustious, declaring: "(This book] tells the story of 'bad' Americans - drunkards, prostitutes, 'shiftless' slaves and white slackers, criminals, juvenile delinquents, brazen homosexuals, and others who operated beneath American society - and shows how they shaped our world, created new pleasures, and expanded our freedoms.
This is history from the gutter up.
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His Founding Fathers are a clutch of repressed men so deeply appalled by the louche, lotus-eating behaviour of their fellow colonials that they impose democracy as a way of weaning Americans off of the idea of having fun. As a result, he argues, America's national culture wound up "more sexually restrained and work obsessed than Victorian England".
Just what went on in the bad old days? During the War of Independence, he writes, Americans guzzled roughly "6.6 gallons of absolute alcohol per year - equivalent to 5.8 shot glasses of 80-proof liquor a day - for each adult fifteen or over". Employees, not bosses, determined if, when and how hard they worked. Taverns were integrated. Sexual relationships were fluid, with less emphasis placed on matrimony or the legitimacy of children, and prostitution was rarely punished.
On a related note... always find it interesting that the Constitution does not mention God or a deity (except for a pro forma “year of our Lord” date) and that its very first amendment forbids Congress from making laws that would infringe of the free exercise of religion, but there is a continual invocation of religion and somehow returning to the roots of what our forefathers intended..
In 1779, as Virginia’s governor, Thomas Jefferson had drafted a bill that guaranteed legal equality for citizens of all religions—including those of no religion—in the state. It was around then that Jefferson famously wrote, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” But Jefferson’s plan did not advance—until after Patrick (“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”) Henry introduced a bill in 1784 calling for state support for “teachers of the Christian religion.”
Future President James Madison stepped into the breach. In a carefully argued essay titled “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” the soon-to-be father of the Constitution eloquently laid out reasons why the state had no business supporting Christian instruction. Signed by some 2,000 Virginians, Madison’s argument became a fundamental piece of American political philosophy, a ringing endorsement of the secular state that “should be as familiar to students of American history as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” as Susan Jacoby has written in Freethinkers, her excellent history of American secularism.
Among Madison’s 15 points was his declaration that “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every...man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”
“We like to say that dependability is more important than ability,” Bill Belichickism....