For this month’s shipment, I got two books: Machiavellian Democracy, by John P. McCormick; and Canadian Notabilities Volume I, by John Charles Dent.
First, let’s talk about Canadian Notabilities. First of all, it is a work in the public domain that you can read online for free. I’m excited because I knew from my test runs that sooner rather than later I would receive a public domain book. There are tons of these on Amazon—in fact there appear to be nine separate editions of this book alone, available for purchase anywhere from $0 (free ebook) to $88.99 (unadorned paperback)!
I’m not sure what the original publication date was for this book, but the author only lived from 1841-1888, so I assume it was published in the mid-19th century. It’s a collection of short biographies of notable people from then-recent Canadian history.
I just got it tonight so haven’t read it yet, but the first page is pretty interesting! It’s setting up the story of Thayendanegea, AKA Joseph Brant, a Mohawk leader from the late 18th century. I was ready to read some pretty racist stuff, but at least the first paragraph is strikingly modern in its treatment of First Nations:
Most of us have grown up with very erroneous notions respecting the Indian character […] We have been accustomed to regard the aboriginal red man as an incarnation of treachery and remorseless ferocity, whose favourite recreation is to butcher defenceless women and children in cold blood. A few of us, led away by the stock anecdotes in worthless missionary and Sunday School books, have gone far into the opposite extreme, and have been wont to regard the Indian as the Noble Savage who never forgets a kindness, who is ever ready to return good for evil, and who is so absurdly credulous as to look upon the pale-faces as the natural friends and benefactors of his species. […] The fact is that the Indian is very much what his white brother has made him. The red man was the original possessor of this continent, the settlement, of which by Europeans sounded the death-knell of his sovereignty. The aboriginal could hardly be expected to receive the intruder with open arms […] It would have argued a spirit of contemptible abjectness and faintness of heart if the Indian had submitted without a murmur to the gradual encroachments of the foreigner […] The first and most hideous butcheries were committed by the whites. And if the Indians did not tamely submit to the yoke sought to be imposed upon their necks, they only acted as human beings, civilized and uncivilized, have always acted upon like provocation.
The other thing I want to note about this book is how weird its page layout is:
The margins are very thin, and the text is big — but the end result is that while it’s easy to read the big letters, it’s actually tiring to move your eyes left and right over the page.
Machiavellian Democracy is a book that foregrounds the democratic leaning in Machiavelli’s political writings (while his name is synonymous with self-interest, his actual philosophy is far more diverse than popular imagination gives him credit for). From the description of the book:
Inspired by Machiavelli’s thoughts on economic class, political accountability and popular empowerment, McCormick proposes a citizen body that excludes socioeconomic and political elites and grants randomly selected common people significant veto, legislative, and censure authority within government and over public officials.
A randomly selected legislative body? In what will be a surprise to no one reading this tumblr: THAT is something that I can get behind.
(Also, from the amount that was spent and the prices of these books, I’m pretty sure there should be another shipment coming to me, but it might be on back order or something. I have no way of really knowing without spoiling the surprise. Hmmm.)