Texas Liberal

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Life & History Consists Of Broad Themes—It Is Not A Series Of Fragments

The painting above is Twilight In The Wilderness.

It was painted by Frederic Edwin Church in 1860.

Here is what it says about this painting in the book American Art and Architecture by Michael J. Lewis—

Church did not fragment his colors into intense local passages but subordinated them to an overall chromatic scheme…As with a musical composition, there is a dominant key signature against which contrasting harmonies resonate.   

That’s right!—Life is a few broad themes. Individual events take place within the broad themes. These broad themes last through time.

In the 1796 Presidential election, John Adams won nine states and Thomas Jefferson won seven states.

All nine states Mr. Adams won in ’96 were carried by John Kerry in 2004.

Of the seven states won by Mr. Jefferson, George W. Bush won six of them in ’04. ( Pennsylvania was the only state to switch, as it were, from Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Kerry.)  

As a general matter, the Adams’ states were in the North and the Jefferson states were in the South.

These regions of the country had different patterns of initial settlement. In the early years of the nation they had different institutions and different cultures to a greater extent than seen today.

The 2004 results would suggest, with admittedly some simplification, that despite the passage of 208 years, initial differences between the regions have formed broad general themes that have exercised some control of American political history.

Which, I’m sure, is just the point Mr. Church was getting at in his painting.

A great book to learn about the early years of the United States is American Colonies–The Settling Of North America by Alan Taylor. 

Frederic Edwin Church lived 1826-1900. Here is some information about Mr. Church

The above links to Mr. Adams, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Bush are from the first-rate presidential resources at the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.  

March 13, 2008 - Posted by | Art, Books, Colonial America, History, Political History | , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. That’s a fascinating post!

    Comment by Roland Hulme | March 13, 2008

  2. Thank you.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | March 13, 2008


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