Sorry for my tardiness to responding to comments, I was away. Those hoping for more HTMW posts will be disappointed because though I finished it before leaving I have nothing more to say about it. I picked up Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and Judith Harris’ The Nurture Assumption though and I should get Tom Wolfe’s Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers tomorrow. These will likely be the topics of my upcoming posts, but as I haven’t been reading my regular sites for a while there could be some more important things to talk about that I just don’t know about yet. For now here’s a good footnote from Democracy in America:

“During the War of 1812, a striking example of the excesses to which the despotism of the majority may lead occurred in Baltimore. At that time the war was very popular there. One newspaper, which was strongly opposed, incurred the wrath of the city’s inhabitants. A crowd assembled, smashed the presses, and attacked the homes of journalists. An attempt was made to call in the militia, but the troops failed to answer the call. To save the lives of the unfortunate victims of the public’s fury, it was decided that they should be taken to prison like criminals, but this precaution proved vain: during the night another crowd gathered; because officials had been unsuccessful in summoning the militia, the prison was stormed; one of the journalists was killed, and the others were left for dead. The perpetrators were tried but acquitted by a jury.

One day I asked a Pennsylvanian to “explain to me, please, how in a state founded by Quakers and renowned for its tolerance, freed Negroes are not allowed to exercise the rights of citizens. They pay taxes. Is it not right that they should vote?” – “Do not insult us,” he replied, “by thinking that our legislators would commit an act of such gross injustice and intolerance.” – “So, Blacks have the right to vote in your state?” – “Certainly.” – “Then why is it that in the electoral college this morning I did not see a single one?” – “That is not the fault of the law,” the American told me. “Negroes have the right to go to the polls, but they voluntarily abstain.” – “How extraordinarily modest of them!” – “Oh! It isn’t that the refuse to vote, but they are afraid of being mistreated if they do. The law here has no teeth if the majority refuses to support it. But the majority harbors strong prejudices against the Negroes, and our officials do not feel strong enough to guarantee the rights that the legislature has bestowed on them.” “What! Do you mean to say that the majority, which enjoys the privilege of making the law, also insists on the privilege of disobeying it?””

On an unrelated note, someone at the Advanced Physics forum has responded to my question about the weak nuclear force with a better explanation than I have ever come across here.