This morning, I am out in Chestertown, Maryland blogging at the “Play it Again, Sam Coffee Shop” and catching up with thing. My email at my office is out again, so now I am catching up on reading — stuff on paper rather than electronic bits.
One of the take-away gifts the Atlantic Monthly gave us after its excellent pre-party before the State of the Union address is a commemorative booklet of old Atlantic Monthly articles titled “Celebrating the American City.”
Regrettably, the collection of essays does not appear to be available in any other form than a tangible booklet form and is not on the internet. I am hoping that staff at The Atlantic read this and figure out a way to share these interesting essays from the past with the many Americans who were not able to attend the pre-State of the Union reception hosted at the Library of Congress. (pretty please?)
If you are into cities, particularly many decades old essays about them, the collection is wonderful. They include:
The Genesis of Boston (October 1935) by S. Foster Damon
Washington: The City of Leisure (December 1900) by A. Maurice Low
Chicago (July 1892) by Edward G. Mason
Seven Weeks in the Great Yo-Semite (June 1864) by Fitz Hugh Ludlow
New York After Paris (October 1906) by Alvan F. Sanborn
Here is the final bit of the essay by A. Maurice Low on the city of Washington, written 101 years after George Washington’s death and read 107 years after it was published.
It is clear how inspiring Washington was in 1900 in this snippet of Low’s commentary on the monument to America’s first president:
I look up once more at the monument to Washington.
It stands now veiled in a sea of silvery light, the Potomac, but a hand’s breadth away, a ribbon of uncut velvet, shimmering in blue and silver, until it fines down and is lost in the green of the Virginia hills, — the monument majestic in its size, colossal in its proportions, beautiful in its stern simplicity.
It stands there like a sentinel keeping watch over the city it so jealously loves; it stands there part of the genius of George Washington, a fragment of his creative force.
By day, warned by the sun, softened by the iridescence of the prismatic colors, it is the Washington of youth and faith and ambition.
By night, bathed in fantastic shadow, forbidding, cold, unapproachable, it is the Washington who has put ambition behind him; who has done his work; who, secure in the affections of his countrymen, can look with serene vision to the future.
Inseparably, it links the Washington of the past with the Washington of today.
It takes time to see the legacy of a president, but it’s clear that Bush 43’s eight year tenure ranks among the most botched presidencies in our history.
Even considering the attacks of 9/11, it is profoundly disturbing to see a great nation that had emerged in such good shape after the end of the Cold War fritter away its prestige, moral credibility and military competence — it’s very considerable mystique — so recklessly.
It is easy to imagine that George Washington — who George Bush reportedly reads about in various biographies — would be ‘pissed’ about the state of America today.
— Steve Clemons
P.S. — Note to the publisher and editor of The Atlantic Monthly, you should consider posting these excellent essays on your website — even for temporary access. SCC