Maine Town Loses Fight to Recover Rare Copy of Declaration of Independence

Check out this article from Fox News about a Maine town’s efforts to recover a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence

Shortly after the signing of the Declaration in 1776, copies were printed up as broadsides, only 250 in number, then distributed to towns throughout Massachusetts (Maine was then part of that state).  One of them ended up in the hands of the town clerk for Wiscasset, Maine, and was turned up by an auctioneer in the estate of a daughter of the clerk in 1994 — one of only 11 copies of the original broadside known to survive.  It eventually was sold to a Virginia man for $475,000 in 2001.  The state of Maine subsequently claimed ownership, arguing it was Wiscasset’s copy and therefore a public document, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against them Friday.  

As an aside, let me add that the Greensboro Historical Museum owns an outstanding facsimile copy of one of these broadsides of the Declaration (virtually indistinguishable from the original), which I was fortunate enough to see while in the employ of the Museum archives some years ago.

This story also reminded me of North Carolina’s recent successful fight to recover our state’s copy of the Bill of Rights, which had been stolen by an Ohio soldier during the Civil War.  If interested, check articles here and here.    

Greensboro Public Library of course has a number of books about the Declaration of Independence, including The Declaration of Independence:  A Global History by David Armitage; America Declares Independence by Alan Dershowitz; American Scripture:  Making the Declaration of Independence by Pauline Maier; and Garry Wills’ Inventing America : Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

Yes, Slumdog, a Film Well-named

I have to admit I wasn’t too impressed by this year’s Oscar winner for best picture. 

Though the director’s craftsmanship was evident and admirable, Slumdog Millionaire came across to me as a work which was contrived for appeal to an American audience.  The Taj Mahal, call centers, beggars, filth everywhere, when the average American thinks of India these are the images which come to mind — and the movie was rife with them; what’s more, superimposed upon all these stereotypes, we find an American-style game show! 

India is an ancient country with a rich cultural fabric, and we would do well to learn more about it.  Surely it is more than urban squalor with an overlay of “Coca-Cola colonialism” as portrayed in this film.

But don’t take my word for it.   For more reviews, which are mostly very positive, take a look at Slumdog’s Yahoo Movies page.

If you’d like to learn more about India, Greensboro Public Library may have some books for you.  Try some of these recent titles:  Imagining India:  The Idea of a Nation Renewed by Nandan Nilekani (on order); In Spite of the Gods:  The Strange Rise of Modern India by Edward Luce; India by Nicki Grihault; The Argumentative Indian:  Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity by Amartya Sen; Sacred Waters:  A Pilgrimage up the Ganges River to the Source of Hindu Culture by Stephen Alter; The Light Within:  A Travel Log of India by Joseph L Anderson; and The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone:  Reflections on India, the Emerging 21st-century Power by Shashi Tharoor.

Winter Series Art Exhibit at Central Library

In 2008, the Homeless Prevention Coalition of Guilford County released totals from their annual “Point in Time” count of the homeless. Guilford County had a total of 981 persons counted. That total was down from 2007’s count which showed a total of 1014, but numbers are expected to be higher for the 2009 count due to the economy and current housing troubles.

For several years, the Central Branch of the Greensboro Public Library has worked with a program to help come to the aid of the homeless and hungry in Greensboro. The program is called Food Not Bombs, and according to their website, “was formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980 by anti-nuclear activists. Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to nonviolent social change. Food Not Bombs has no formal leaders and strives to include everyone in its decision making process. Each group recovers food that would otherwise be thrown out and makes fresh hot vegetarian meals that are served in outside in public spaces to anyone without restriction.” Each Monday night, folks gather outside the Central Library on Church St., or inside if the weather is bad, and are served meals.

In order to better serve this community, a dialog began with library staff members and the homeless and in 2007 the Winter Series started. This program gave these patrons a chance to let staff know what their needs are. As a result, on Monday nights, along with the meals, there have been movie nights, meetings with local government officials, health screenings, and most importantly, understanding.

The Central Library is currently featuring an art exhibit with pieces by some members of the local homeless community. Paintings, jewelry, poetry, walking sticks, and drawings are on display at the Central Library at 219 N. Church St. The display will remain up through the month of March. Please check out http://winterseries.wetpaint.com/for a full account of the past Winter Series. For more information contact Jennifer Worrells at Jennifer.worrells@greensboro-nc.gov.

Former UNC President William Friday Undergoes Heart Surgery

One of North Carolina’s finest, Dr. William Friday (b. 1920), underwent heart surgery at UNC Hospitals on Tuesday.  He is said to be doing well.

As a 20th century leader of the University standing second in accomplishments perhaps only to Frank Porter Graham (1886-1972) — who served as the first president of the Consolidated University of North Carolina and was also briefly a U.S. Senator — Friday served as president of the University of North Carolina System from 1956-86, overseeing an expansion which by 1971 would include 16 member institutions.  His gentle, easy manner is familiar to virtually all North Carolinians through his long-running talk show on public television, North Carolina People.     

If you’re interested in reading more about Bill Friday, some years ago William A. Link, who used to be a history professor at UNC-Greensboro, wrote William Friday:  Power, Purpose, and American Higher Education.  You can also find a brief biography of Friday in Biography Reference Bank or search for an entry on him in the electronic edition of William S. Powell’s Dictionary of North Carolina Biography in NetLibrary via NCLive.

More on Shipwrecks and Treasure

In just a brief update to my post on the HMS Victory and books we have on famous shipwrecks, here’s an article from MSNBC (with photographs) on more storied wrecks — some of which bore magnificent treasures of gold, silver and jewels.  Included is North Carolina’s own Queen Anne’s Revenge, the reputed flagship of Blackbeard the Pirate.

Keynes and the Stimulus

Late Friday night, Congress passed the $787 billion stimulus bill we’ve heard so much about the last few weeks.  It’s still not exactly clear what this will mean for folks here in North Carolina and more particularly Greensboro, but this article from the News and Record indicates the state can expect to receive about $6.1 billion. 

I don’t know much about economics, but I have seen John Maynard Keynes’ (1883-1946) name bandied about quite a bit lately by economists discussing the stimulus — for example, on Paul Krugman’s blog.  

Keynes, an Englishman, was one of the great economists of the 20th century.  He took issue with the laissez faire concept of capitalism, feeling strongly that capitalist economies were not self-regulating and at least sometimes required government intervention; as the current economic crisis has led to strong support for government action, Keynes has very much become the “great economist” of the moment and the authority for many contemporary economic thinkers.      

By coincidence, while on my lunch break the other day, I walked in the Bargain Box uptown, looked through the books, and found several volumes which I bought, including a copy of John Strachey’s Contemporary Capitalism (1956).  To be honest, I really just bought Strachey’s book because it had the ownership signature of Edwin M. Yoder — he used to be a reporter at the old Greensboro Daily News, and later went to the Washington Star and Washington Post (at the Star, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 1979).   But, as it turns out, Strachey was a Keynesian and the book includes a pretty good synopsis of Keynes’ proposals on how government can regulate a capitalist economy.

These proposals include lowering interest rates, based on the notion that cheaper money will encourage entrepreneurial enterprise, and deficit financing, whereby increased government purchasing stimulates business output, improves market sentiment, etc.

But the third Keynesian proposal is where we find ourselves now with the stimulus bill’s public works program.  “The third remedy,” Strachey writes, “is concerned with the possibility of the State itself undertaking direct entrepreneurial functions. . . .  For clearly another way of getting more money into circulation, and so increasing total demand, alternative to leaving more money in the hands of tax-payers, is to put more money into people’s hands by employing them upon public works of one kind or another.  Keynes did not primarily mind what kind of public works these were:  almost anything would do so long as it put more money into people’s hands.”            

Keynes also suggested a fourth idea:  that sometimes wealth needed to be redistributed from the rich to the poor, on the assumption that during an economic slide the poor were more likely to spend and thus stimulate the economy, while the rich tended to hoard. 

Greensboro Public Library does not own a copy of Strachey’s book.  But even better, we have Keynes’ own General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.  And we also have several books about Keynes and his ideas:  The Age of Keynes by Robert Lekachman; Essays on John Maynard Keynes, edited by Milo Keynes; John Mynard Keynes:  A Personal Biography of the Man who Revolutionized Capitalism and the Way We Lived by Charles H. Hession; John Maynard Keynes by Robert Skidelsky; The Life of John Maynard Keynes by Roy Forbes Harrod; The Shadow of Keynes:  Understanding Keynes, Cambridge, and Keynesian Economics by Elizabeth S. and Harry G. Johnson; and Macroeconomics After Keynes:  A Reconsideration of the General Theory by Victoria Chick.

If you’d like to read a briefer biography of Keynes, please try our Biography Reference Bank.  And to follow articles about the economic crisis, you can use CQ Researcher or Facts on File.

30,000 Additional Troops to Afghanistan?

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, speaking before a town hall meeting at Fort Drum, New York, on February 9th, indicated that no more than 30,000 additional troops will be sent to Afghanistan, bringing total deployment to around 60,000.  See this MSNBC article.  Given President Barack Obama’s pledge to lay more emphasis upon military operations there (as opposed to Iraq), Americans can expect to hear more about the fighting in Afghanistan in coming months. 

Since the war in Afghanistan began following the September 11th attacks, the library has picked up quite a few titles on this country and the tragic conflict which has gone on there unabated for decades.  One of our most recent titles is Invisible History:  Afghanistan’s Untold Story by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a general work on this troubled country’s history and politics.  And for more in this vein, see also A Brief History of Afghanistan by Shaista Wahab and Barry Youngerman.   

Our recent works on the U.S. operations in Afghanistan include:  Walking the Precipice:  Witness to the Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan (on order) by Barbara Bick; The Great Gamble:  The Soviet War in Afghanistan by Gregory Feifer; The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan, edited by Robert D. Crews and Amin Tarzi; Descent into Chaos:  The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid; A General Speaks Out:  The Truth About the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong; Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front, in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families, edited by Andrew Carroll; and The War I Always Wanted:  The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War a Screaming Eagle in Afghanistan and Iraq by Brandon Friedman. 

The Great Gamble:  The Soviet War in Afghanistan by Gregory Feifer deals with the former Soviet Union’s occupation and defeat there in the 1980s.

Also, please remember that you can keep abreast of current events like the war in Afghanistan in Facts on File.