Politics Magazine

Giants on the Earth

Posted on the 12 August 2011 by Erictheblue

Sunk, courtesy of W. Jackson Bate, in Dr. Johnson's London, it is hard to resist the notion that there were formerly giants on the earth, and that we do not ourselves measure up.  When Dr. Johnson was in the middle of his long life, the population of Great Britain was around 6 million, about the same as present day Massachusetts.  These six million included, besides Dr. Johnson, the philosopher David Hume, the author and statesman Edmund BurkeEdward Gibbon (author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire), and Adam Smith (author of The Wealth of Nations).  Meanwhile, on our side of the Atlantic, the population of the American colonies was around 2.5 million, and we all know some of their names: Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Jay, Hamilton, Washington.  I haven't mentioned John Adams, who was good enough to deserve a PBS miniseries, and would have looked good, or maybe perplexed, between Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann on a stage in the middle of Iowa.  Pray, don't even contemplate what Edmund Burke might think upon discovering himself linked to those mollusks by the term conservative

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