Brevity Worked Well

In Colonial America’s founding fathers declared our independence by dipping a whittled goose quill  into an inkwell and scratching forth our freedoms.  The making of paper was a complicated process in those days. Printer used either hemp, rags or wood pulp and boiled and ground down the mess until they could screen and dry a sheet or two.  Needless to say, it was in limited supply.  A more readily available commodity was a softer animal skin (parchment) which paired nicely with the quill by preserving its sharpened nib. Still, when pen took to paper, it was done after much deliberation.

The key, in those days though, was to be brief.  The message needed to be conveyed before the nib gave out, the ink ran out or the space on the paper gave out.  The Founding Fathers may have gotten more than 144 characters but they still had limits.  Their limits served them well as they took their time to think through the message, to choose their words with care, to indelibly inscribe the values of their cause and create a country.  Four score and seven years later, urban myth says that Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope.  Wherever he wrote it it lasted 2 minutes and lingers in our minds 150 years later.  Early leaders musings were not the random digital inflammatory ramblings, twitched out in the middle of the night by 45 that angrily greets us most mornings. Their writing gave a country hope.

The U.S Supreme Court continues the ceremonial use of the quill.  We might well be served to expand its use to the two other branches of our government.


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