Finding Inspiration in Old Documents

The next document I wrote on was a speech by Carl Schurz before the Massachusetts legislature in the pre-civil war years. The subject of the speech was True Americanism. Although Schurz was from Wisconsin at the time, he travelled to Massachusetts to address the legislature on an issue then before them. He contrasted America to the Roman Empire. I found the speech uplifting and inspiring. I immediately thought of how this could be worked into a Documenting America column, and wrote the piece. Once again it was deemed worthy by the local paper, and was published.

After this came two letters, one from James Madison to George Washington, then Washington’s reply, during the Articles of Confederation era (1783-1789). Madison was concerned that the colonies were going astray from the ideals upon which the Revolution was based, and were not living up to the Treaty of Paris. Washington concurred. I found these letters to have inspiring and informative information, so wrote a pair of articles and they were published.

The program for guest editorials allowed only one per quarter, appearing in the Sunday Op-ed section. About this time the editor who was a friend from church moved away, to Washington state, and continuance of the guest editorial program was in question. I decided to back off this for a while and concentrate on other areas of writing interest. I now wonder if I made a mistake, and should instead have continued to write the columns, and do the research for self-syndication. More on that in my next post.

The Premise Behind "Documenting America"

The people of the United States of America don’t know their history. This fact has been proved over and over by surveys, man-on-the-street interviews, and scientifically structured studies. Too many of our citizens are ignorant—and choose to remain ignorant—of the forces and people, the trends and the decisions, that built upon each other to forge this great nation.

If they would just read—read the documents that tell us about our past. I’m not talking about the well-known documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address. Our nation has been papered with an incredible number of documents, from diaries to letters to presidential proclamations to Supreme Court decisions to sermons to newspapers to pamphlets to editorials to too many to name.

My newspaper column, Documenting America, pulls documents from America’s past, analyses them, and ties them to some current event or issue. Using a mixture of document excepts, analysis, and interpretation, with each column readers will learn a little bit of American history they didn’t know (or long ago forgot), think about how what is in that document affected the building of our country, and consider whether and how those principles still apply. As much as possible, I try to end with an upbeat thought.

In this blog, I will discuss the process of how the column came together, what’s coming up in future columns, and possibly some additional analysis of a document featured in a past column.

I Blog, Therefore I Am

Herein I enter the Blogosphere, with my personal blog that will, hopefully, deal with my writing life as it develops, as well as other interests. With time, I may find that splitting this into different blogs is the better way to go. A separate blog for writing, for genealogy, for politics, for Christian interests. We’ll see how this goes.

At first, I will write some posts about my proposed newspaper column, Documenting America. This may be the first work I am able to get published. The Benton County Daily Record published four of these in 2003-2004 in the guest editorial program, which tells me it is probably a viable concept.

Later, I’ll talk about my fiction ideas, still later some non-fiction ideas, and of course poetry. Should anything I write appear to be nearing publication, I’ll talk about it more.

This blog will be the first piece of my web presence, later to be joined by a home page, specific, non-blog pages for specific items, and hopefully message boards for specific documents. Of course, at present all of this is pie-in-the-sky, but better to get the basics going now and build everything slowly as success demands. If nothing else, making frequent posts will be writing practice and discipline buildings. Having the blog to feed might just help me break the computer game habit. Possibly I’ll even add some engineering stuff.

Time to add a post I prepared a few weeks ago about Documenting America.

Author | Engineer