Letter to the Editor: Dangers to democracy 



To the Editor: 

Art Paine’s viewpoint in last week’s Islander about the dangers of the vitriol and civil unrest being stoked by pundits of the Right-wing media like Rush Limbaugh was both timely and courageous. 

I have an ancestor called John Jay. As a boy I noticed framed pictures of him in my grandmother’s house in Northeast Harbor. I guess until recently I never thought much about him. He was an American statesman, patriot, diplomat and Founding Father of the United States, and, with Ben Franklin, a signatory of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 ending the war with England. He served as the second governor of New York and the first chief justice of the United States.  

I had always thought of him as a rather high-minded intellectual with little hands-on experience of life in the streets. But as one of the founders of our system of democracy, he was more familiar with the dangers to democracy posed by popular uprisings than I had realized. A historian and retired judge recently sent me an anecdote that sheds him in a different light. 

little-known fact about John Jay is that in April of 1788 he was caught up in a local riot in New York. In attempting to physically help Governor Clinton quell the riot and provide a safe haven for those being attacked, he was hit in the head by a rock and badly injured. (Since he was bedridden for a lengthy period, it is believed that this is why he could not do more to help Hamilton and Madison draft the Federalist papers.) 

It’s fair to say that John Jay would have understood the dangers to which Mr. Paine alludes. He would have been appalled by the divisive direction our nation is currently headed in. He would have been disgusted by a President happy to leave children in detention centers and watch our country go up in flames to promote his own popular image. And he would have endorsed Mr. Paine’s definition of what it means to be “un-American” and the meaning of treasonable behavior. 

Bill Patten 

Hall Quarry 

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