Released December 2021
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Some may be tempted to think that politics at the dawn of the 20th century was not only a more innocent or benevolent endeavor than in the year 2020, but also somehow—perhaps paradoxically—more crude in its execution. Such thinkers may be surprised by John Jay Chapman’s analyses and criticisms of the political machinery of his day. Replace his references to Tammany Hall with discussions of Super-PACs and you could easily assume he was writing today instead of 120 years ago.
Here’s Chapman, writing in 1900:
—It is the ambition of the agitator to use the machinery of government to make men more unselfish.
—The illusion that it is wise or necessary to suppress our instinctive love of truth comes from an imperfect understanding of what that instinctive love of truth represents, and of what damage happens both to ourselves and to others when we suppress it.
“Anybody who reads Chapman’s political writings—notably Practical Agitation—can see that as an observer of democracy at work, Chapman rivals Henry Adams and Brooks Adams in his analysis and surpasses them in the vividness of his direct experience. . . .[T]he deed at Coatesville after the lynching there of a black man makes Chapman the pioneer of our era of civil rights, his place in it not merely that of activist but of hero.”
—Jacques Barzun, French-American Historian
This new book aims to present Chapman’s still-relevant observations to today’s readers. I’ve added a Foreword and Afterword as bookends to his chapters, and included two related essays of his that speak to issues of civil rights that he may well have thought would have been resolved by now.
In presenting this book for the 21st century, I looked for a visual element that would reflect its continued relevance. The political cartoons of Sam Olmsted proved the perfect component.
Sam Olmsted is a political cartoonist and writer based in New Orleans. As a native of Washington D.C., Sam grew up in the proximity of politics but never took an active role in the political world. In recent years, Sam was energized by political change and used cartoons as a way to share his hopes, thoughts, and criticisms about our society, institutions, and leaders with others. Sam reaches thousands of people on a weekly basis with daily political cartoons posted on Instagram and other digital outlets under the handle @HonestPolitician.
Audiobook Now Available:
In addition to the print-on-demand book and Kindle ebook on Amazon, the audiobook version is now available on Audible.com, Amazon, and iTunes.