John Dickerson

John Dickerson is a CBS senior national correspondent and Chief Political Analyst. He is also a Contributing Writer to The Atlantic and is co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

Marble Mouthed Founders

The founders would have been even more productive if they wrote clear sentences. George Washington recommending aide de camp David Humphreys wrote this:“I persuade myself you will find no confidence which you may think proper to repose in him, misplaced.” Can you imagine how a fellow who wrote a backwards-running sentence like this called out “charge” to his troops?

“Present your limbs in an ambulatory fashion and make movements toward the adversary that would not be misunderstood by a passer by as lacking zest!”

(This little whimsical observation came while creating the latest episode of Whistlestop on the founding of the presidency.)

UPDATE: I was unfair to the founders. Here’s a passage from James Madison, writing to George Washington in advance of the Constitutional Convention in which he elegantly, I think(!), outlines why they can’t take half measures. “Temporising applications will dishonor the Councils which propose them, and may foment the internal malignity of the disease, at the same time that they produce an ostensible palliation of it. Radical attempts, although unsuccessful, will at least justify the authors of them.”

1 thought on “Marble Mouthed Founders”

  1. Obviously something has been lost in translation from Old English to American. Was it not George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde or George Patton who said, ” England and the United States are two countries divided by a common language?” Try reading Faust in Old English! The headaches continued for months.

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