Thursday, August 16, 1787. The State House in Philadelphia was hot, hot, hot. The delegates gathered to “form a more perfect union” were sweltering. Despite the oppressive heat, the windows remained closed and the heavy drapes remained drawn so as to maintain the seal of security under which these critical (and somewhat rebellious) deliberations were taking place.

The indefatigable Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), whose professed aim is "fighting hate and bigotry," and "tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups," has released another study of conspiracy theories and the people who believe in them. "'Patriot' Paranoia: A Look at the Top Ten Conspiracy Theories," by Alexander Zaitchik, is an artful blend of legitimate debunking and smear by association. Since periodic charges of conspiracy-mongering are a time-honored way of lumping real patriots with bona fide extremists of all stripes, we offer a point-by-point commentary on Zaitchik's carelessly-concocted catalogue of conspiracies.

The Telegraph’s Nile Gardner, a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst for the British newspaper, has compared the Obama Administration to the ancien régime of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. French savant Alexis de Tocqueville, famous for his penetrating studies of both the French monarchy and early American society, would likely be “less than impressed with the extravagance and arrogance … among the White House elites that rule America as though they had been handed some divine right to govern with impunity,” writes Gardner. Michelle Obama’s recent sumptuous trip to Spain is an act of indifferent profligacy worthy of Marie Antoinette — she who is alleged to have said, when informed that the poor of France had no bread, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!” (“Let them eat cake!”).

thomas moreThere is, if you will, an arresting scene in A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt’s magnificent play about Sir Thomas More. The scene concerns an arrest that does not take place at the home of More, the Lord Chancellor of England. An acquaintance named Richard Rich is acting suspiciously and members of the More household, and no doubt More himself, suspect he is spying on the Lord Chancellor and is prepared to betray him to his enemies — a suspicion borne out all too well by later events. Rich has no sooner left than More’s wife, daughter, and son-in-law all clamor for his arrest, a request More might grant but for the inconvenient fact that the man had broken no law.

The Rotunda at the University of Virginia announced last week that the university’s collection of the papers of James Madison are being digitized and added to the larger online library of the documents of our Founding Fathers. According to a press release posted on the Rotunda’s website: