Neither has slept well for a Fortnight, amid the house-rocking Ponderosities of commercial Drayage, the Barrels and Sledges rumbling at all Hours over the paving-Stones, the Town on a-hammering and brick-laying itself together about them, the street-sellers’ cries, the unforeseen coalescences of Sailors and Citizens anywhere in the neighboring night to sing Liberty and wreack Mischief, hoofbeats in large numbers passing beneath the Window, the cries of Beasts from the city Shambles, — Philadelphia in the Dark, in an all-night Din Residents may have got accustom’d to, but which seems to the Astronomers, not yet detach’d from the liquid, dutiful lurches of the Packet thro’ th’ October seas, the very Mill of Hell.
“Worse than London by far,” Mason brushing away Bugs, rolling over and over, four sides at five minutes per side, a Goose upon Insomnia’s Spit, uncontrollably humming to himself an idiotic Galop from The Rebel Weaver, which he attended in London just before Departure, instead of Mr. Arne’s Love in a Cottage, which would have been wiser. Smells of wood-smoke, horses, and human sewage blow in the windows, along with the noise. Somewhere down the Street a midnight Church congregation sings with a fervency unknown in Sapperton, or in Bisley, for that matter. He keeps waking with his heart racing, fear in his Bowels, something loud having just ocurr’d … waiting for it to repeat. And as he relaxes, never knowing the precise moment it begins, the infernal deedle ee, deedle ee, deedle-eedle-eedle-dee again.
When I read this passage in Thomas Pynchon’s novel Mason & Dixon (page 292), I shuddered, because I imagine this could well be the kind of life most people in this country will be living again in not too many decades if the “conservative,” anti-education, anti-progress, pro-corporation have their way.
They are willing to not just violate the law but set themselves above it in order to destroy once and for one of the most important founding principles of this country — “all men are created equal” — by denying the rights of working people to a living wage and a safe workplace.
“Pennsylvania Politics? Its name is Simplicity. Religious bodies here cannot be distinguish’d from Political Factions. These are Quaker, Anglican, Presbyterian, German Pietist. Each prevails in its own area of the Province. Till about five years ago, the Presbyterians fought among themselves so fiercely, that despite their great Numbers, they remain’d without much Political Effect, — lately, since the Old and New Lights reach’d their Accommodation, all the other Parties have hasten’d to strike bargains with them as they may, — not least of these the Penns, who tho’ Quaker by ancestry are Anglican in Praxis, — some eve say, Tools of Rome. Mr. Shippen, upon whom you must wait for each penny you’ll spend, is a Presbyterian, the City Variety, quite at ease as a member of the Governor’s Council. As for the Anglicans of Philadelphia, the periodick arrival in Town of traveling ministries such as the Reverend MacClenaghan’s have now split those Folk between traditional Pennites, and Reborns a-dazzle with the New Light, who are more than ready to throw in with the Presbyterians, against the Quakers, — tho’ so far Quakers have been able to act in the Assembly as a body, and prevail, — “
This is what it was like in the 1760s, before the United States Constitution established a barrier — the Founding Fathers thought — between Church and State. Are we going back to this?
Is it already too late to save the dream that America once was?