CSotD: Holding a few rights to be self-evident

Clay Jones posts a cartoon in anticipation of this weekend’s holiday, raising an issue that, while hardly new, remains of interest.

He also conflates the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, which was written a dozen years later and has a completely different function. (And if you blow it up, you’ll see he conflates it with a lot of Twitter and Facebook wisdom.)

The Declaration was something of a manifesto and, had the Revolution failed, would be a curiosity. Similarly, Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses, nailed them to the church door and then succeeded in what Catholic school children were told was “The Protestant Revolution” and everyone else calls “The Protestant Reformation.”

The Declaration of Independence is somewhat better known, in that people have heard the opening paragraph and know none of the rest, while nobody quotes any of the 95 Theses, even out of context.

As for the Constitution, the 3/5 Compromise was about Congressional representation, not human worth.

There was also no mention of voting rights in the document until 1868, when the 14th Amendment offered equal racial protection, but with this important limitation (Section II):

Suffragists fought against inclusion of the word “male” in vain. Still, the Constitution did not forbid women to vote. It simply left it up to the individual states, the general judgment of historians being that the Southern States were scared enough of the prospect of their former male slaves voting, and letting all former slaves vote would have doomed ratification.


Anti-suffragists in Washington continued to hide behind states rights, as this 1914 Doane Powell cartoon from the Omaha Bee points out, and suffrage efforts split between efforts to amend the Constitution and efforts to lobby state legislatures.

A more egregious error is to say that the Founders limited the franchise to white, male, landowners. Jones doesn’t state that, but his inclusion of “gentlefolk” underlines the elite status of the Founders, which is true: These revolutionaries were neither Toussaint L’Ouverture nor Fidel Castro.

Then again, Jefferson, a slaveowner, wanted citizens to be literate and favored universal education, even founding the University of Virginia to extend education.

History is full of such contradictions, and understanding the past means working through a troublesome balancing act, not cherry-picking the parts that prove your point.

The bottom line is that the Declaration of Independence included everyone, because the intention was that they’d all be free of Britain whether or not they wanted to be, while the Constitution is more complex, because it was intended to apply to “everybody” but we had an extremely limited sense of what that word means.

To which I would point out that nearly every indigenous group seems to have a name for themselves that means “the people,” to the exclusion of outsiders.

Ethnocentricity is hardly an invention of white men, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep working on it.

History is a work in progress.

And, Bill Day suggests, we appear to be backsliding, his cartoon being a pointed edit to Norman Rockwell’s Post cover:


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Joe Heller)


(Andy Marlette – Creators)

I see an interesting distinction between these cartoons on the collapse of that condominium in Surfside, Florida, particularly in light of the discovery that the flaws in the building were known and that — to put it politely — residents had not been told of those flaws.

Heller lays out all the warning signs, which makes his approach more specific and critical than Marlette’s suggestion that moving into these places is a frightening gamble. Some of the labels on those Jenga sticks are things everyone moving to Florida should consider, some are specific to the project itself.

I suppose you could say that they also factor into Marlette’s “gamble” theory, because people take certain gambles when they live, for instance, in places prone to blizzards or tornados.

I’m honestly not sure which approach I prefer, though I do like Marlette’s “Sandcastle Condominiums” label.


Dave Granlund skips the metaphors and goes straight to that inspector’s report that never quite got to the people who lived there. 

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett told NPR’s Weekend Edition that the engineering report was likely not read at the time.

Which is an odd thing to say when you know you’re speaking into a microphone, though I suppose he’s not high on the list of people who were supposed to have read it.

I heard a story about the number of rescue workers headed for the scene. I hope they aren’t blown off the road by the swarms of attorneys.

Sigh. Moving there seemed like such a good idea!


Speaking of Lawyer Festivals

Kevin Siers celebrates some local news with national implications, as Juul has agreed to a settlement in one of, according to Reuters, 2,000 pending cases over their marketing of e-cigarettes.

When I was editing a kids’ publication over the past decade, we saw continuous, conflicting reports about vaping, with the most encouraging being that, if you already smoked, they might help you cut back and eventually quit. But the marketing, and the candy flavors, hardly seemed targeted at that 50-something who started smoking before smoking became uncool.

Vaping was cool. Except, y’know, for making you look like a trend-obsessed douchebag.

But that’s the thing about marketing to kids: How their parents and grandparents feel about it doesn’t much matter, and Juul was quite successful in luring them in.

Let’s see how successful they are in defending the 1,999 suits still pending.


I met Pedro X. Molina at a conference of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists not all that long after he’d managed, with the help of  Cartoonists Rights Network International, to get out of Nicaragua ahead of the death squads and emerge in Ithaca, New York, where he has continued to work on behalf of his country.

The offices of his publication have been raided back home, but that’s a funny thing about newspapers these days: They’re devilishly hard to stop, and Confidencial has continued as an on-line opposition publication in a nation that does not tolerate opposition.

Things are reportedly getting worse by the moment, but Molina is not only continuing to stir things up at home in absentia but to speak out internationally.

Here’s an interview worth reading.


(“Evidence of crime, according to the dictatorship.”)

9 thoughts on “CSotD: Holding a few rights to be self-evident

  1. Alas, whenever I see dice in a cartoon, I start auditing them to see if they’re “real” or just cartoon dice. One of Marlette’s is a cartoon die. I also scrutinize every chess board represented in fiction. Why? Look, if I started asking that, I’d just use up whatever time I have left.

    I encountered vaping five or six years ago at college in the printmaking lab. First there was a vague whiff, and I looked around and finally found that one of my classmates was quietly vaping, almost surreptitiously. He wasn’t holding it when he wasn’t actually using it, which seems a little different from my experience of smokers who tend to keep their delivery device in hand, and even gesture with it, perhaps. Maybe this generation already feels a little silly about smoking at all.

  2. Could be worse–I used to do typesetting. Now I notice double spaces between words (like that), kerning,* bullet lists that don’t line up, etc.


  3. Fred, I’m surprised that there I still see things like repeated word errors in this day and age–along the lines of the classic PARIS IN THE THE SPRING drawing. There are more typos than ever, even from sources that should know better.

    I worry that social media will desensitize me to errors in print, and my proofing skills will fall off.

  4. Kip, I’m guessing it’s part of cost-cutting; nobody cares about the odd typo except grammar N*zis.

    I just read a mystery from a professional publishing house (not self-published, IOW). Major mistake where one character refers to the same person as his uncle and as his cousin, when speaking to one person. I sent them an email but don’t expect any response.

  5. Several newspapers laid off their copy desks, which opens the floodgates for silly mistakes to get into print. I used to get calls from the desk from time to time, mostly for typos they wanted to double-check but once in a story about the Ivory Coast in which I said French troops were threatening protesters. The copy editor said, “You might want to rewrite this. They just opened fire.”

    My last line of defense was the backshop, but only because they liked me. They hated the newsroom and would let them sink on their own. But now that everything is print-to-plate and probably 20 miles away, that’s gone, too.

  6. @KIP WILLIAMS: Funny you should mention. Yesterday stltoday.com ran a “reprint” of the 1950 article about the USMNT beating England in the World Cup. Their WABAC machine developed a _serious_ case of the stutters.

    I’m starting to think the prevailing attitude is that proofreading is for losers.

  7. @Fred King: I see you put two spaces between “spaces” and “between” – it’s visible in the page HTML – but the renderer ignores things like that and has reduced it to one. (Elsewhere I see it overrides my geezer fingers’ preference for two after a period as well.)

    Ellen worked on the student paper at the University of Illinois before they converted from lead type; apparently one of the student leaders was viewed with disfavor by the backshop, since her name ofter turned out “Patsy Porker.”

  8. I wish there was a “Like” button. I never see WABAC spelled correctly these days.

    Back around 1971, my sister purchased a romance novel of some stripe with an interesting ‘stutter’–every place that should have had a double e had a triple e. It was pretty early yet for computers (as they were then) to be proofing anything, but apparently someone in the chain was capable of a mass find-and-replace.

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