History Tidbits

Representation

I am wondering if you have had an opportunity to share your concerns with your representative (federal, state, county or city). Have any of them reached out to you for input? Did you vote for them? Do you know who they are. What if you lived, in a society where you could choose your representative from among 100 of your neighbors?

I last identified three issues residents of the thirteen colonies were concerned with while formulating the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union.” Those issues were:

  • Citizens allegiance to an autonomous colony with a separate history and culture
  • The fear that representatives to a central government would be so far removed from their constituents that they would become part of a tyranny
  • The colonies without a border to “unsettled territory” would not be able to grow and expand westward and so would be of lesser importance than the colonies that could expand.

The issue of citizens’ allegiance to a colony (now state) was addressed obliquely by reserving states’ rights and limiting the authority of the national government to international relations, national defense and relations between the individual states. The national government could mint currency (along with the states) and had the right to establish the value of all currency both federal and state.

Legal tender (both paper and coinage) has an interesting history. Samuel Higley, half-brother to my 5th Great Grandfather Josiah Higley, minted the Higley Coppers between 1737 and 1739. The Higley Coppers were the best known of the colonial coins.

In researching my ancestry from another branch of my family tree, I found court records from the 1780s in which tort judgments and witness compensation was awarded in pounds. The national currency we take for granted took some time to establish.

Looking back, it seems obvious that the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Unity” were not sufficient to guide the nation.

The constitutions of some states provided for their expansion to the west and the south while the constitutions of other states did not. This caused consternation that some states would expand their territory thus dwarfing the other states.

Thomas Jefferson presented a solution. Any new territory admitted to the union would come in the form of a new state. Existing states boundaries would be fixed.

I can find no successful resolution of the issue of accountability of representatives. Bear in mind that representatives to the National Congress were not elected by the people, but were chosen by state legislatures.

Under the Articles, there were no executive or judicial branches at the national level. Those branches of government were established with the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. I intend to present my thought on that shift next.

Articles of Confederation (cont’d)

Too often we citizens of the United States of America are somewhat deluded into the assumption that our Constitution dropped fully formed from the heavens.

The beginning of constitutional government was formed in the upheaval of war. There had been no army of the nation. There was, in fact, no nation, just thirteen colonies with a common enemy. None of the colonies had a standing army. There was a tradition of county militias. One of my ancestors, John Higley, was described as the leader of a “trained band.” There was, at the same time, the need for a military force capable of fighting the army of the British Empire. There was no mechanism for recruiting or funding such an army.

The minutemen of Lexington and Concord were made up of these ragtag militiamen. I can’t imagine the charisma General Washington must have possessed to form an army under those conditions without an adequate source of funds. Not only was there an inadequate source of funds to raise and maintain an army, here was not sufficient funds to perform any other governmental functions. The individual colonies did have some accessibility to taxation. Additionally, the founders of the nation were wealthy men who were not averse to using some of their own wealth to support their individual activities.

When it came to formulating a written document that laid out the structure of the new nation, some problems arose. Three major sources of dissention were:

  • Citizens allegiance to an autonomous colony with a separate history and culture
  • The fear that representatives to a central government would be so far removed from their constituents that they would become part of a tyranny
  • The colonies without a border to “unsettled territory” would not be able to grow and expand westward and so would be of lesser importance than the colonies that could expand.

Coming next are the solutions to these problems which allowed for the passage of the adoption of the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Unity.”

Articles of Confederation

From the 1st Chapter of the book of Isaiah, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

The scripture cited above is one of my favorites. It reflects (for me) the basis for human unity; that is to say, reason rather than emotion. I think that the Lord I worship recognizes that emotion exacerbates the differences that divide us whereas reason allows us to focus on our commonalities.

That said, reason has its limits. First and foremost, reason may disappear in an instant where emotion arises to stoke the fires of fear and anger. Secondly, deeply entrenched beliefs about the “other” may disallow the use of reason.

When our nation’s founders set about to establish the first government of these United States, they were hampered by the deep divisions which existed between the thirteen former colonies. For a detailed examination of the issues that divided them, I refer you to https://www.history.com/topics/early-us/articles-of-confederation.

Although the document’s title referred to the “United States,” the body of the document indicated several evidences of division. I will leave it to the reader to ascertain what those divisions were. My next post will be to determine and present the differences between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States.

Purpose

One of my teachers (history, shop class and football coach) asked me one day “Walter, are you ever going to be baptized?” I was baptized Into the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) in 1951 at the age of fourteen.

My family had roots in the Latter Day Saints movement. My grandmother’s ancestors (mine too) joined the movement in New York the year it was founded (1830). My grandfather was baptized, ordained and elected to preside over the congregation all the same day in mid-July of 1906.

One might say that I was well immersed in the church. My response to my teacher, Elder Elvin Dennis, was “Nobody ever asked me.” I was baptized the following Sunday. I was subsequently ordained into the priesthood in 1953 and have served since that time.

The following year, I received a spiritual blessing from an Evangelist, William Patterson. I frequently refer back to my copy of that blessing even now for strength and encouragement.

One of the challenges that blessing contained was the admonition to “go on in your studies.” It has been a challenge that has guided my life. Most of my adult life has been dedicated to learning and teaching. For the most part, my focus has been on the two disciplines of psychology and sociology. My formal education ended when I was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy in sociology in 1992 at the age of 55.

My main interests (all of which I see as related) are community, family and childhood development. Most of the current problems within our society have their roots in the weaknesses of these three areas of social life.

I made community the major focus of my doctoral research and the subject of my dissertation. The question for me now is “Can we create community for our contemporary society?”

American Colonies

In the beginning were the thirteen colonies of Great Britain. The non-citizen subjects of the King were subject also to the authority of the British Constitution and British common law. They were not participant subject in the political life of Great Britain, but vassals of the motherland.

Beginning in the mid eighteenth century, dissatisfaction with the colonies relationships with Great Britain began to grow. In keeping with time honored practice, the motherland responded to that dissatisfaction with force – a clenched fist to crush any disobedience.

In the case of the rebellious colonies, the military effort to dominate the rebellion only stoked the burning desire for independence. It is difficult for me to imagine what providential protection was given those brave souls who defied their King and the world’s most formidable army.

They had no government. They had only the weakest cooperation from thirteen colonial governments, none of which were well established in their own right. I am amazed at how, after years of bloody war thirteen former colonies, each quite independent of the others, were able to form any cohesive alliances. Mutual protection against a common enemy seems to have their guiding principle.

I intend to present some thoughts on the development of the Articles of Confederacy in my next post.

Together

In 1968, the Air Force sent me to attend the Academic Instructor Course at the Air University in Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, Alabama. I was also assigned as the barracks chief. One Saturday morning I noticed that the barracks seemed quiet. The only other person in wing was my assistant barracks chief in the room next to mine.

I knocked on his door and asked if he wanted to go down into Montgomery sight seeing. His immediate reaction was a strong NO. When I asked him why, he told me that it would not be safe for a black service man and a white service man to walk around Montgomery together. I remember telling him that no one had ever told me where I could go or who I could go with and I was not about to start letting anyone tell me now.

After some convincing, he agreed to go with me and we went together into downtown Montgomery. No one hassled us but we did get some strange looks. If I could be out there demonstrating with my brothers an sisters of all hues, I would be. Since I can’t. I have to be content to encourage others to be involved while I work on structural ways to make our country better in terms of equality of justice and opportunity.

Democracy

I have been thinking about democracy. As far as I can tell, the concept originated in Athens at the time of the great Greek philosophers; namely Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. For them it meant the rule of the people.

Since that time, the concept has been broken into two categories, “pure democracy” and “representative democracy.” In pure democracy, every constituent member of the body politic would have an equal voice in decision making. As should be evident, such a political organization can only occur in small groups. I have arbitrarily imagined such democracies to be possible in groups of 100 or fewer constituents.

The benefit of representative democracy is that the voice of the people, which would be equal in the pure democracy, can be expressed through their representatives. This appears to be a necessary adjustment to the Athenian mode based simply on numbers.

The several governments of the United States of America are all based on the proposition that the voice of the people is heard though the words and actions of their representatives. Whether the representative is elected to a school board, a city council, a county commission, a state legislature, or the Congress of the United States, the same proposition is assumed to hold.

As to the relevant accuracy of the proposition I ask the question “What percentage of the people feel that they have the ear of their representative on the school board, or the city council, or the county legislature, or the Congress of the United States.

The issue is, for me, the question of how democratic our system of representation is. I am busily engaged in ferreting out a more democratic system of representation. I may have to take a cattle prod to some of our sacred cows that really have little to do with underlying democratic principles. If you read the material I present, please mull it over and let the possibilities germinate in your thinking.

Introduction

Let me tell you something about myself. I came from humble but honest and dedicated beginnings. Branches of the families I am descended from were justifiably proud of what they achieved. I intend to share some stories from the lives of my ancestors. It is my hope that those stories will encourage the readers to explore the history of their own families. Even though we are not always aware of the influence the past has on us, it is always there.

I was a depression era baby. I was also a WWII child. My experiences during those years helped shape my ethos and created a sense of communal responsibility in me.

Guidance from my family, my commanders in the Air Force, and my university professors have all contributed to making me the person I have become. Those influences continue to impress the need to work for a better society in me. I will be sharing some of those stories.

This introduction would not be complete without sharing some of my accomplishments. Please forgive me or not giving equal time, or any time at all, to my failures. Let me just admit to having failures and let it go at that.

My early adult life was spent in the United States Air Force. I was inducted in May of 1956. I liked the Air Force which probably explains my staying for 20 years. I spent those years in the Air Weather Service. During that time I had the following assignments as a weather observer:

  • 1956-1958 McChord AFB, Washington State.
  • 1958-1962 Naha Air Base, Okinawa
  • 1962-1963 Offutt AFB, Nebraska
  • 1963-1966 Naha Air Base, Okinawa

From 1966 to 1969, I served as an instructor in the Basic Weather School at Chanute AFB, Illinois.

From 1969 to 1972 I was a Weather Station Supervisor at Kadena AB, Okinawa

Beginning in 1972 and ending with my retirement in 1976, I was Air Force Technical Advisor to the 182nd Weather Flight, Texas Air National Guard, Kelly AFB and Camp Mabry, Texas.

Education has always been important to me. I began work on my Bachelor’s degree in 1965 at the University of Maryland, Far East Division. I received my BA in psychology at Our Lady of The Lake University of San Antonio in 1976, two months after I retired from the Air Force. I received the Ph.D. in sociology from the Texas Woman’s University in August 1992.

My major field of study was social organization with an emphasis on the family and community.  I also consider myself both a social philosopher and an eclectic theoretical sociologist.  My research focused on Childhood Socialization and the effect of differential family structure and process on the socialization of children and neighborhood as a support network for the urban and suburban family.

I was called to the office of teacher by the Community of Christ at the young age of 15 and have been ministering ever since.  I have been responsible for mission work and preaching, also serving as a church school teacher and administrator, congregational pastor and counselor.  I was called to the office of elder in 2009 in which office I have served since.

I taught in institutes of higher education in Texas, Kansas and Missouri for 17 years, achieving professorial status at both DeVry and Park University. The courses I taught included:

  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Social Problems
  • Principles of Behavior Management
  • Adolescent Psychology
  • Research Methods
  • Social Change
  • Human Behavior Through the Life Course
  • Sociology of Childhood
  • Minority Relations
  • Urban Sociology

During and after my university teaching career I developed and presented seminars on:

  • Child-Centered Parenting
  • Couples Consensus
  • Personal Development. 

I have been active in community service wherever I lived. 

  • I served on the City of Independence, Missouri Human Relations Commission, dealing with issues of prejudice, discrimination and status relations for seven years, chairing the commission for two years.
  • I served on the Issues Selection Committee of Kansas City Consensus, Kansas City, Missouri.
  • I developed the Heartland Center for Community Development, a Storehouse Corporation of the Kansas City Stake, Community of Christ Church, preparing the Articles of Incorporation, bylaws and program outlines in Family Advocacy, Mediation, Volunteer Management and Neighborhood Organization.
  • I organized, trained and supervised lay counselors for Central Missouri Stake of the Community of Christ Church.
  • I was a charter member of the Lytle, Texas Volunteer Ambulance Association, certified Class B ambulance attendant, working as a volunteer medical attendant/driver.
  • I pastored the Danville, Illinois mission of the Community of Christ Church for three years.

I want to continue the practice of being active in service to my community by means of this blog.