Get our newsletters

Charles Meredith: Thomas Jefferson came to mind


Thomas Jefferson came to my mind as I listened to President Trump’s daily TV briefing about the coronavirus pandemic. When a reporter asks an uncomfortable question, the president lashes out at the journalist instead of giving an answer. I believe that Trump uses the daily briefings instead of a political rally.

In 1787, the year that the American Constitution was written (but not ratified until 1788), Thomas Jefferson was the minister to France which was about to experience its own revolution. In 1789, Jefferson was asked about the importance of a free press to keep the government in check?

Jefferson replied, “If I had to choose between a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

On the eve of the French Revolution, Jefferson recognized that the French monarchy had divided the nation into contending classes where the government was like wolves who devoured the wealth of the people. The people were like sheep. Jefferson believed that unless checked by a knowledgeable citizenry, America would inevitably become a victim to similar wolves as well.

So I thought about Thomas Friedman’s column in the New York Times (April 8). Since Bernie Sanders has retired from the nomination battle and endorsed Joe Biden, leaving former Vice President Biden as the probable Democratic nominee, Friedman believes that Biden should name his entire cabinet at the convention. “It should include Democrats on the Bernie Sanders left to Republicans on the Mitt Romney right,” Friedman opined.

“The one giant contrast that Biden could draw with President Trump is the approach he would take to governing. Biden needs to show that he isn’t running to be president of the 48 percent (or less) as Trump is.

“Biden needs to appoint candidates who: (1) believe in science…not just about the coronavirus crisis but also around climate change, which is the next train coming at us; (2) have to be open to taking extraordinary measures to help the poor, the unemployed and the bankrupt get back on their feet; (3) have to believe that America thrives when there is a healthy balance between the public and private sectors; (4) have to want to extend health care to every American by strengthening Obamacare and adding a public option.”

We’ll see whether Joe Biden pays attention to Tom Friedman’s suggestion.

Meanwhile, did you read that more than 400 people sent in contributions to the Herald, now that half of its advertising support has vanished because of the shutdown of businesses throughout the region. Betsy and I contributed and we hope that you will do too.

(Just in case you wondered, I do not charge for my weekly columns.)

On another subject, my new friend Harry Branson happens to be an excellent photographer. He sent me a handsome 8-inch by 12-inch black and white photo of an abandoned farm on Keller’s Church Road. Thank you, Harry. Stay safe.

Finally, the other day, Michelle Samph a local Realtor showed me a photo of a metal plaque taken behind the baseball fence at Quakertown’s Memorial Park. She wondered whether it marked the site of the observatory that was used by volunteers to spot enemy airplanes during World War II?

No, but there’s a fascinating history around that structure. It was an elevated glass room, maybe 15 feet by 15 feet, about 20 feet above center right field (within 10 yards of the ice skating pond). I remember that glass room with silhouettes of German Messerschmidts and Japanese Zeroes hanging on the glass walls. Volunteers would man that room every day during the war, ready to identify and sound the alarm.

At the time, I was between 7 and 10 years old. I wondered how the enemy could reach Quakertown from Berlin and Tokyo, thousands of miles away? I never received an answer.

The organization was called the Grand Observer Corps and its observatory was used during the 1940s and 1950s. My mother was in charge of one of the groups that assembled with their binoculars, waiting for disaster to appear.

All of them were Ella Meredith’s pals: Ivy Erdman (wife of the president of the Quakertown Trust Co.), Gladys Feigley (wife of Dr. Harvey Fegley), Kay Clark and Vona Schucker (wives of artists Matt Clark and Jim Schucker), Alma Lamb (wife of the president of Endura), and Polly Leimbach (wife of a paper company mogul in Riegelsville).

What a group they were. After their shift in the late afternoons, they’d race to 203 Juniper St. for drinks.

To avoid them, my father built a ladder leading from our back porch to a room directly above it on the second floor next to their bedroom. There he would nap ’til the coast was clear and the house became quiet again.

Ah, what memories! I think that the name of our house on Juniper Street was hatched in those days … Vodka Manor.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.