One of my posts of yesterday reminded me of a scene in a Landmark Book that I liked: Our Independence and the Constitution by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, published by Random House, New York, (c) 1950. The book is about the American Revolution, encompassing the years from 1775 to 1787 (with a postscript set in 1840/1841), but as told from the perspective of a family — husband, wife, two boys, and one girl named Debby — who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The story shows a deep-seated respect and admiration for ideas and reason. It is not anti-intellectual nor anti-American. The book ends like this (pp. 179-180):
Drawing a long breath of relief, [Debby] looked up.
To her surprise four of her grandchildren stood there, rosy and smiling, their coats and caps still on, their skates hanging on their shoulders. Debby’s ears as well as her eyes were now rather dulled by her age. She had not heard them come into the house, as they often did, after school or play, hoping for apples or cookies.
They laughed out now to see her look astonished that they were there.
“We just clumped up the stairs,” they said, “but you were so deep in your reading you never heard a sound. We’ve been standing here watching you — almost ready to cry one minute, by your looks — and then ready to give three cheers. That must be an exciting story.”
One of them leaned over her shoulder and read out the title:
“DEBATES OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL
CONVENTION IN 1787
as set down by Mr. James Madison.”
The youngsters broke into groans. “Oh Granny, how can you read such a dull book?”
At this, to their great surprise, their grandmother broke into a merry ringing laugh, as though they had said something funny! Such a young laugh! They had never heard their grandmother laugh so like a girl.
They liked her, all right. She was always good to them, especially when one of them was sick. But she had seemed to them a very serious-minded old lady — working hard in the local Society for the Abolition of Slavery, always doing something for the public schools of town, always reading the accounts of the political goings-on in Washington, instead of the fashion notes. They were not used to seeing her enjoy a joke so heartily.
And what was the joke?
She pulled off her reading spectacles to see them more clearly. Here eyes were still crinkled at the corners from her laugh. “Dull!” she said, and laughed again. “It’s only dull to ignorant people. It’s the most exiting book I ever read in all my life!”
Wow. Ideas — specifically those of natural, individual rights — and debates — as to what government and what society are best for human life on earth — are exciting and practical. And I’d add: sacred.