The Words of our (Founding) Fathers

There’s an article in the Washington Post, “In the Course of Human Events, Still Unpublished.” It’s about how the papers of the founding fathers of the United States are still not available except in physical form, and the scholarly practice that keeps them there.

Many of the founding fathers’ letters have been transcribed and made available over the years, and the original documents can increasingly be found online. But it is the painstaking annotation of these thousands of documents — their detailed explanation — that takes so long. Scholars check and double-check each reference and then try to explain each one and put it in context. A page of the massive annotated tomes can contain a snippet of a document and then a long footnote of explanation.

It seems to me that, while useful, footnotes and explanations inevitably reflect the time in which they’re written. The writings of those brilliant men usually speak for themselves. There’s certainly context and explanation that adds to it, but for heaven’s sake, get the originals out there. They’re far more important than the footnotes.

3 Replies to “The Words of our (Founding) Fathers”

  1. Adam, I agree. While the language may be a bit hard to understand what they say and the intent behind it is usually very clear. We don’t need “scholars” to give us their (usually biased) opinion. Let us read them for ourselves and make up our own minds as to what they mean. But if that happened we might just discover that lots of what is being pushed down our throats about them and their intent isn’t true. Imagine that.

  2. Adam, I agree. While the language may be a bit hard to understand what they say and the intent behind it is usually very clear. We don’t need “scholars” to give us their (usually biased) opinion. Let us read them for ourselves and make up our own minds as to what they mean. But if that happened we might just discover that lots of what is being pushed down our throats about them and their intent isn’t true. Imagine that.

  3. Here’s a nutty idea. Do both. The neat thing about digital stuff is that just because an uneducated lout like me has access to something, doesn’t mean that those who are paid by the footnote lose the ability to do what they need to as well.

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