There were parts of summer I hated growing up. From fourth through eighth grade, playing in the Cinderella Softball League meant practicing next to a sewage treatment plant. Every day I ran after grounders in a swampy valley that was buggy in addition to stinking to high heaven. I had all kinds of pollen allergies, but we were relatively poor and the relatively poor didn’t medicate these things. I endured by swatting away mosquitos with my mitt and rubbing my red eyes with my other hand. (I wasn’t the world’s greatest athlete.)
Though I grew up in a small city, I had plenty of access to what we called “the sticks.” I loved forests but had no overriding passion for rural America—probably because in Western New York rural meant poor. But thanks to novels, stories, and paintings, I had fallen in love with the summer landscapes of pre-industrial America by the time I got to college. Read more
On this date in 1789, the new Congress under the new U.S. Constitution met for the first time. This is a rather sad anniversary to recount—sad because this was the point at which the history of our legislative government might’ve played out in different ways, many of them worse but maybe a few better than what we have now. It’s also sad because New York City had been selected as capital of the new republic—an honor deserved and yet retained for all of twenty-four months.
That America’s first session of Congress failed to achieve a quorum seems just what you’d expect. It took weeks for the House’s 65 members to get their tail feathers into town. George Washington was almost two months into his election and awaiting inauguration. That Congress finally made the quorum on April 1 is all too rich. On April Fool’s Day, it elected its first Speaker, Representative Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, today affectionately known as The Gerrymander State. Read more