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A call for wisdom, White House edition

[ by Charless Cameron — frankly, waiting for a return to wisdom, or at least something closer to it ]

In the White House there’s an inscription over the mantel of the State Dining Room which reads:

I Pray Heaven To Bestow The Best Of Blessings On This House And All that shall hereafter Inhabit it. May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof.

That’s from our first president, John Adams, in his letter to his wife, Abigail, but it resonates down to our day.

How do we recognize wisdom?

I don’t believe we can legislate that only the honest and wise can attain the presidency, though we might do well to have Robert Bolt‘s Thomas More in A Man for all Seasons at the head of the Justice department — Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor of England who famously said, answering Roper who said he’d cut down all the laws to offer the Devil no protection:

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.


Thomas More was, no doubt a man with his own flaws, and the flaws of his times. Flaws, okay.

Where is a true sense of justice? Of honor? Of integrity? Where is a man for all seasons?

3 Responses to “A call for wisdom, White House edition”

  1. Scott Says:

    Just nitpicking, but our first president was George Washington, not John Adams. Adams was second.

    And that was an amazing movie.

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Oy, that’s not nitpicking, that’s a serious correction, revealing the weakness of my Brit education and subsequant lack of intelligent learning. If you’d had asked me a week ago, I’d have known Washington, and Adans would have been a very periphrtal figure, but my spur of the moment thinking overwrote that on this occasion, focused as I was on Asdams’ quotation, with surprising ease. Thanks for the correction.

  3. Grurray Says:

    Welcome back Charles, and happy birthday. You were sorely missed.
    I was reading Blake awhile ago, I think because of one of your posts, and I came across this bit-
    “Unorganized innocence: an impossibility. Innocence dwells with wisdom, but never with ignorance,”
    Blake is reported to have written in the margins of the Four Zoas in response to his questions,
    “How is it we have walk’d through fires and yet are not consum’d?
    How is it that all things are chang’d, even as in ancient times?”
    Questions that were posed after Blake’s usual fantastical imaginings of a previous question, ‘what’s the price of experience?’
    It sounds to me like a clue of where to follow the scent. Outward experience is costly, but we still somehow make it through the trials. Shielding us from being consumed is, ironically, remaining innocent – in the Blake sense of internal, perceptual innocence – before the principles and ideals all those laws are planted upon.

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