Free Ships make Free

October 23, 2003



Free Ships make Free Goods

Free Ships make Free Goods? Or Jefferson, Worms, and Embargo?

Today I am wrapping up the early republic, and I am a little behind. I know that I have to get through the War of 1812 by the end of the class, and I know I want to talk about the trade troubles, and I know I need to cover the late 1790s because that is where interposition/nullification first gets articulated. But, I am still not entirely sure how I will get there.

Following Elkins & McKitrick I will organize class around the way that the US was not taken seriously by European powers and had to constantly struggle to keep from having its sovereignty ignored by the participants in the world war of 1791-1814.

And I will do this while tired. Last night we went to a my brother-in-law's gig. He had gotten a travelling fellowship for last summer, and last night he went out to dinner with the sponsors, thirty of their closes friends, selected deans and professors, his girlfriend, and us. After a nice (but overly rich) dinner the other fellowship person talked for 50 minutes (using the word "articulated" incorrectly over 23 times - I counted) BiL talked for about 12 minutes about industrial spaces along the seafront of the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas. It was good stuff - but we did not get home till after 10:00, to sleep until near 11:00, and the alarm went off at 6:00 as usual.

BiL is a good photographer. I liked a lot of his images, especially images showing the way that space was shared - shipyards, fishing boats, and people playing in the surf all within a quarter mile of seafront. European space is heavily layered, the other guy talked about walls as palimpests where one use is scraped off and another use made, but with traces of the former use still left behind. Just as you will find archways, filled in with brick, with a door and a window, BiL found harbours that had layers of use placed on top of one another. I find change over time fascinating. Then again, I am a historian and that is what I do.

The whole experience last night reminded me of the streetcar suburb that we live in - built in the 1920s with lots of bungalows all alike, and ever since then the houses have been modified and altered, the roads have been modified and altered, the people have passed through generations, and yet still the traces of all the earlier uses remain around us, shaping our space and informing our decisions.

I do think that when I talk about Sovereignty later today I will keep in mind the layers of decision, precedent and otherwise, and that I will emphasize some level of path dependency on the students. People made one set of decisions, and that led to others, and yet to others.

And, I get to talk about John Adams. Adams was fat, fussy, and vain - he was also remarkably balanced.

And so to finish prepping class

Posted by Red Ted at October 23, 2003 09:10 AM | TrackBack