Friday, May 18, 2007

A-Ham & the People

We've just been re-reading A-Ham's 1781-1782 "Continentalist" essays and we find the following, from his second number in that series, telling, disturbing, and slightly confusing:

"The particular governments will have more empire over the minds of their subjects than the general one, because their agency will be more direct, more uniform, and more apparent."

We wonder, A-Ham, at your choice of words: how can a state have "empire" over the minds of others? And, why in 1781 do you call Americans "subjects" rather than "citizens?" The idea of a government having "empire" over its subjects makes us think of very nasty propaganda techniques. We are not pleased that you assume this relationship between the government, communication, and the people.

We get your point though: local governments have more influence over people because people feel more of a direct connection to them. The national government is an abstraction--something that a very smart scholar named Benedict Anderson will call an "imagined community" in the 20th century--while the local governments are "more apparent," and thus, the people will feel more connected to them. Yes, we get that.

But, what we cannot quite wrap our head around is how the word "empire" is used here. We have not seen others use this word in this way and we wonder if it is unique to you, or if other monarchists like yourself also use "empire" when they could easily use "influence" or "persuasion."

We are very interested in persuasion, afterall.


GayProf said...

I don't think anybody would consider ol' Alex to have a lot of respect for the people's mental competence.

Do you prefer slave-owning Jefferson?

Mercy O. Warren said...

Dear gayprof,

Whether or not Tommy had slaves and whether or not M.O.W. prefers Tommy to A-Ham is kind of off-topic.

My point was that I think that A-Ham's use of the word "empire" to describe persuasion or influence or rhetoric is very interesting, a little disturbing, and a little confusing.

I've not seen anyone else use empire to describe persuasion before and I find it to be an interesting use of that word.

Have you seen empire used thusly?