The Reading List

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

My continuing study of a bonded society has taken me to three likely, if unforeseen, places.


1) Shearer Davis Bowman's Masters & Lords: Mid 19th-Century U.S. Planters and Prussian Junkers.

2) The Oxford History of Modern Europe: German History 1770-1866 by James J. Sheehan.

3) The Federalists Papers. I'm trying to read one article a day. Right off the back, being a big fat, latte-drinking, wine-sipping, effete liberal, I love this:

For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution. And yet, however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we have already sufficient indications that it will happen in this as in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. 

An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty. An over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. 



On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

Gotta love Alexander Hamilton swinging Ymir's Breath +5 vs demagouges; save vs. spell or Shut The Fuck Up.

Anyway, my interest in the Federalists Papers is pretty obvious. My interest in Germany comes from my research into the Shenandoah area of Virginia, and the Valley Germans who came down through Pennsylvania. Many of them (not all) were anti-slavery. I'm hoping to get some sense of who they were. The detour into Germany won't be for long. 

That said, I've mentioned a few times that my first love was European history. It's nice to be back home if only for a bit.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2011/06/the-reading-list/240396/