Wednesday, July 23, 2014

APUSH Research Paper: Gilded Age Regulatory Failure and the Betrayal of the Jeffersonian Ideal

     Throughout the late 18th and early 19th century, the United States of America reached a previously unmatched level of economic prosperity. Free from government intrusion and unburdened by red-tape regulation, the economy was allowed to proceed to new heights. New systems of production and efficiency were being integrated into the workplace, the factory system was evolving, and many of the world’s richest men were building their fortunes. Business, was, in short, booming. However, this prosperity failed to reach a large portion of Americans. Beneath the alluring veneer of the American capitalist system lay a rotting foundation, a corruption of the values on which the nation was based. Business concerns trumped human concerns, labor was commoditized and its organization was vehemently opposed. In a gross distortion of the Jeffersonian ideal of independence, workers were dependent upon the so-called “captains of industry.” Monopolies and trusts were allowed to set prices to eliminate competition. Efforts by the federal government to prevent such actions were rendered ineffective for multiple reasons. Through the laissez-faire system, Supreme Court decisions, and overly vague laws, attempts at regulation during the Gilded Age, or lack thereof, failed, representing the failure of the federal government to uphold the values upon which it was built.
 To truly understand the actions, or lack thereof, of government in regards to business and regulation, one must first recognize the central dogma behind early-American governance: laissez-faire capitalism. The United States of America was founded upon the legendary guarantee to life, liberty, and property, and as such sought to protect the rights of all of its constituents to such entities. Free markets, it was believed, were the products of free men. Laissez-faire capitalism and the popular Jeffersonian view of America necessitated that man, and by extension his property, be free from the unnecessary burdens and subservience inherent in government action (Laissez-faire, 1). Property was the ultimate expression of liberty. Material possessions not only offered a method of personal expression but also served as a manifestation of one’s independence. He who owned his property controlled his destiny. To confiscate property or to regulate it would represent the government crushing the rights of a citizen to self-expression and his liberty. As such, large-scale attempts to regulate trade and rein in business were largely non-existent.

       The corollary explaining the relationship between liberty and property extended quite nicely into the world of finance and the aggrandizement of wealth. In the Gilded Age, the market, as mentioned above, was experiencing a period of unmatched prosperity. Government action was therefore unnecessary. In the event of a the market would adjust under the influence of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” (Nederman, 1). The most prominent example this mindset can be found in interaction between the federal government and monopolies. Built in a time of nonexistent antitrust laws, monopolies were the preeminent product of the economic climate. Monopolies were seen as naturally developing and to break up or hinder the growth of such large conglomerates would be an attack on the personal freedom and property of the owner and its constituents. However, by failing to regulate such large corporations and unquestionably embracing the laissez-faire mindset, the United States effectively abandoned the small local companies and individuals that were unfortunate enough to be competing with such large entities. Left without a viable alternative in the marketplace, American consumers were therefore dependent upon the monopolies for the production of various widgets, most notably oil, steel, and sugar. Regardless, regulation was avoided, leaving the small-business owner and the consumer at the mercy of large, profit-oriented corporations.

     Another reason Gilded Age policy failed is that Monopolies and trusts were notoriously difficult to regulate. However, in light of the Jeffersonian ideal, their assault upon national values and the American ethos of independence, especially regarding property and reasonable degrees of economic freedom, was arguably more appalling. An excellent example is the first truly “big business” in the history of the United States, the railroad industry. Railroads, supported by government subsidy and land grants, were notorious for price-gouging and for cooperation between companies. Furthermore, the companies often utilized rebates and bulk-shipping discounts to cater towards larger, more profitable ventures (Smith, 1). Because smaller lines were often unable to afford giving such large discounts and remain solvent, larger railroad pools obtained great fortunes exerting newfound influence upon clients. The small farmers were left without an alternative to bring their goods to market. However, much larger businesses, most notably John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, received discounts and more favorable shipping (Tarbell, 267–269, 274–277, 287–288, 292). Again, a dependency emerged under a government supposedly supporting the values of independence and freedom. Despite their natural opposition to the values of independence and self-sufficiency, as a dependent, alternative-less consumer-base was conducive to larger profits, any efforts to rein in big business were rebuffed and ultimately fruitless, the railroads being a prominent example.

     On a strictly legal level, the first legislative attempts at regulating such practices were generally ineffective as trusts, by nature, existed outside of the public eye. Through interlocking directorates and the exploitation of legal loopholes, trusts were comprised of seemingly independent companies though all of which were ultimately controlled by a select group of individuals (Roosevelt, 2). However, the Sherman Antitrust Act, though it did dramatically increase the regulatory scope and strength of the federal government, was largely ineffective. It failed to define what constituted a restraint in trade. Consequently, only eighteen antitrust lawsuits were filed from 1890-1901, four of which were actually filed against labor unions. Among the aforementioned railroads, under the Interstate Commerce Act, from 1887-1911 only sixteen were brought to trial. The federal government won only one case (Regulation, 7). Furthermore, the failure to effectively regulate big business could also stem from corruption of the legislature, as one observer stated that “Rockefeller did everything with the Pennsylvania legislature except refine it.” (Lloyd, 4) Business had surpassed government as the true controller of the nation, leaving the nation dependent and thriving in a negligent system.

     Government action of the time indicated a strong bias towards business interests rather than human concerns. A key example can be found in the reactionary approach towards organized labor. During the Gilded Age, workers were being hired in droves in order to increase production. However, rather than the independent and somewhat expressive work found throughout the previous century, labor was reduced to a series of wrote motions; workers were little more than a cog in a machine—as satirized by actor Charlie Chaplin in his film Modern Times. Tasks were standardized, the production was timed and expedited, and quotas were drafted. Humanity had no place in the factory (Manifesto of the Industrial Workers of the World, 1). Unfortunately, the vital role workers played was not well compensated. Workers were paid poorly because wages were brought down by the rapid influx of desperate immigrants. They often lived in tenement housing owned by their respective employers. Left with little spending money, as workers were forced to pay rent to employers and shop at company stores, many members of American society found themselves in abject poverty. As described in the Manifesto of the Industrial Workers of the World:

His (the worker’s) wages constantly grow less as his hours grow longer and monopolized prices grow higher. Shifted hither and thither by the demands of profit-takers the laborer's home no longer exists. In this helpless condition he is forced to accept whatever humiliating conditions his master may impose. He is submitted to a physical and intellectual examination more searching than was the chattel slave when sold from the auction block (Manifesto of Industrial Workers of the World, 1)

 This was quite clearly a corruption of the Lowell system made famous a century before. Such depravity was best shown by photojournalist Jacob Riis in his exposé on American urban life How the Other Half Lives. With no minimum wage to fall back upon and given the proliferation of child labor entire families were left dependent upon their employers. Living in urban slums without access to clean air, water, let alone personal property, the extortion of labor was a gross abandonment of the right to property and liberty (Byington, 1). Even Jefferson himself stated in his inaugural address said:

A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities (Jefferson, 3).

     The governmental policies of the Gilded Age failed to uphold the Jeffersonian standards, focusing only upon one part—the lack of regulation—of the statement, rather than the humanitarian and demand for equality woven into the remaining portions.

     With mouths to feed and bills to pay, many individuals sought to form trade unions in order to receive better wages and working conditions (Manifesto of the Industrial Workers of the World, 1-2). Despite a noble cause, the federal government rarely, if ever, came to support organized labor in strikes. At individual companies, workers were forced to sign yellow-dog contracts to prevent unionization, and many strikes were met with swift and merciless retribution (Homestead Strike, 1). Henry Clay Frick was notorious for his tolerance, or lack thereof, of organized labor. At the Homestead Steel Works plant he ran, the Amalgated Association of Iron and Steel Workers requested a raise for its members. Despite a growing market for steel, Frick offered neither better working conditions nor a significantly higher salary. After weeks of tense negotiations, Frick, after being given license by Andrew Carnegie, locked his employees out of the plant. Pinkertons armed with rifles were sent to the strike site immediately after to break the strike. The situation escalated and quickly turned violent, forcing Pennsylvania Governor Robert E. Pattison to call out the state militia, which quickly broke the strike (Homestead Strike, 1). A company that furnished Navy ships to protect American liberty abroad had turned its back on its most disenfranchised citizens.

     The situation was not unique to Homestead, though the strike in Pennsylvania was certainly among the most violent. However, many strikes were broken before they could even begin. The Sherman Antitrust Act was frequently turned against the people it was trying to protect. As conspirators in the restraint of trade, unions, particularly strike members, were found to be in violation of the Act. The strike, the fundamental weapon of labor, the only path to earning better wages and working conditions, as depicted by Frederick Graetz (Image 1) had been stripped away (Lowe, 1). Labor was dependent upon the management once again.

     The first truly large-scale effort by the federal government during the Gilded Age was the Interstate Commerce Commission Act. Passed in 1887, it was designed to end the discriminatory practices of railroads described in the above. The ICCA was weakened by the Supreme Court in Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway Company v. Illinois, which prevented states from regulating the railroads. Furthermore, the act was hampered by pro-trust attorneys general as only sixteen lawsuits against companies were actually filed from 1887-1911(“Federal,” 7). The regulatory commission formed by the Act was unable to enforce rate restrictions without court approval until 1906 and could not criminalize short-haul discrimination, which had been crippling small farmers for decades, until 1903(“Federal,” 7). The most basic tenets of the Act were unenforceable and inefficient. Though certainly an important step for the United States, the ICCA was ineffective at regulating the railroads until the Gilded Age had given way to the Progressive Era, where new laws like the Hepburn act modified and amended the law in portions.

     Another hallmark of Gilded Age policy, the aforementioned Sherman Antitrust Act, was passed in 1890. However, it was often used for purposes contrary to the intentions of its creator. It was vague and unspecific—the central part states that every “contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is hereby declared to be illegal” (Sherman Antitrust Act, 1), without actually defining a trust, conspiracy, or restraint of trade. As stated above, labor unions were often the target of federal prosecution for participating in the ambiguously-titled restraint of trade, as seen in Loewe v. Lawlor (1908) (Loewe, 1). Furthermore, the bill was eviscerated by Supreme Court rulings. In Knight Company, E. C., UNITED STATES v. 156 U.S. 1 (1895), the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the American Sugar Refining Company had not formed a trust or restricted trade despite controlling 98% of all domestic sugar production. The decision also declared that manufacturing was not within the regulatory scope of the Act, thus beginning the largest consolidation movement among manufacturing and railroad companies the nation had ever seen (Knight Company, E.C., UNITED STATES, 1). The subsequent loophole formed prompted political scientist Edward S. Corwin to refer to the nation’s regulatory code as a “twilight zone.” (“Federal,” 7)  Even if the Sugar Trust had been found in violation of the Act, only the property in question, in this case four refineries, would have been seized by the United States. The individuals involved would be faced only with a misdemeanor and no more than a $5,000 fine—a pittance compared to potential profits (Sherman Antitrust Act, 1). The law was hollow. The attempt at regulation had failed yet again.

     The Gilded Age was an era of unmatched economic prosperity and development. However, underneath the glamor of big business and mechanization was a gross distortion of American values. The Jeffersonian ideal of personal property and liberty had been distorted in order to support a system that stole life and liberty from the workers and gave property to the managers. America had lost its innocence. The idyllic laissez-faire capitalist system had shown its truly gruesome features of corruption, “gentleman’s agreements,” manipulation, and monopoly. The federal government could not, or in some cases would not, curtail such private-sector excesses.  When efforts were made, namely in the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission Act, the laws were either too vague or too inefficient for effective regulation. The courts stripped the rights of unions while simultaneously crippling the regulatory power of the government. The United States of America had built its factories and refineries upon foundations of liberty, freedom, and equality. In the Gilded Age, however, those foundations had withered away, setting the stage for a decade of turmoil.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Final Paper of School Year

Just something interesting I thought I should post. It was the last major paper of the school year, some of it, namely the reflection at the end, was repurposed into the rambling below. It is a bit long, the title is a shoehorned Eminem track, and the introductory paragraph is weak, for that I apologize, but it is a genuine paper.

The Monster Inside of His Head
     Mankind has had a troubled history with knowledge. From its humble origins in the biblical creation myths, the first humans are warned of the consequences of seeking too much truth. The consequences for betraying that command were unparalleled, leaving the early humans to wander the world regretting their sins. Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein falls into a similar situation.  The young Victor is free to engage in human relationships and study his interests. He is, in short, allowed to be human. His goals are subservient, if not necessarily dependent upon, his intrinsic humanity. However, as his fascination with natural philosophy grows, he begins to sacrifice his humanity to reach his newfound ultimate end: the reanimation of a body. What was once a conquest into uncharted scientific territory becomes a maniacal journey to satisfy an unquenchable internal ambition. While forming his creature, Victor Frankenstein undergoes a transformation from a well-intentioned seeker of knowledge to a being far less human than his own creation.

     Victor Frankenstein’s interest in natural philosophy, though certainly frowned upon, is largely responsible for the Creature’s creation. However, before rejecting the product of his endeavors, Frankenstein sees his efforts, particularly while at university, as part of a larger adventure into a realm not yet understood. He seeks to blaze a new trail for the world to follow, saying before his experimentation that “So much has been done, more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation,” (47). Before Victor recognizes the truly grim nature of his future undertakings, his labor is merely a means to an end. His discoveries and the knowledge gained from them are the ultimate goal. Despite the lofty and undeniably ambitious tone of his proclamation, Victor makes it clear that the end to which his actions direct themselves is the gathering of understanding, not selfish fame. As he states before, “The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember.” (22-23) His actions are a manifestation of an intrinsic curiosity with which all humans are imbued and his excitement at early successes are understandable. However, the natural curiosity seems to be slowly transforming into an inflated sense of purpose, the task overcoming the initial goals of the experiment.

     Despite (relatively) humble beginnings, Frankenstein’s “project” begins to take upon a far more sinister bent. In what should be a self-expressive activity that represents a valid personal interest and a truly noble intent, Victor eventually sacrifices his humanity and curiosity to complete his task. His creation consumes him. He is a slave to an entity that does not yet exist.  His only reason for living is no longer the seeking of truth by means of self-expression and friendships but the completion of the task. The means have become their own end. To reach his newfound, perhaps unknown, goal, Victor isolates himself. His body is no longer a manifestation of himself but merely a mistreated vehicle to complete a task. Victor himself admits that he “…had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.” (42) As stated by Raymond Bradford, “…Victors process of creation parallels Marx’s doctrine…by suggesting that when individuals prostitute life activity for other ends….Victor alienates himself from…himself, and from his friends, family, and colleagues.” (2) Before his creature is even created, Victor is already under its influence. He has sacrificed his humanity at the twisted altar--- the operating table.
“Frankenstein wants to be creator, to become as a god….What is the goal for all of us: to become immortal for having done something, or to become immortal in the real sense, to stitch together the real fabric of life and create that life?”

     The author of the above statement makes the interesting point that Frankenstein’s true intent was not to unleash a being set upon destroying his life but to bring forth a new creation upon the world—for good or for ill. Though certainly selfish, Victor’s goals are quite clear in that his primary aim is knowledge, not merely the completion of the task itself. It is important to note however, that the reasoning behind the experiment were far more important than the means to do so. The work is a manifestation of Victor’s humanity and intrinsic curiosity rather than a mindless form of servitude to a then-unborn master. This devotion also shows that Victor has a tendency to commit himself entirely to a cause, first to achieve figurative immortality and later to achieve its corporeal counterpart. But it is very possible that both the author and Victor fail to recognize that the “real fabric of life” is not of bodily origins. It is set of ideals, personal relationships and empathy that Victor ultimately forgoes as he progresses through the novel. His labor was not merely an action to be remembered by but also an abandonment of the true, if not understood or recognized by the doctor, virtues of the experiment: to replicate humanity in all its forms. He failed, just not where the reader may first think. Shelley makes a statement in her story that a person is more than the sum of its different parts, that independent thought and emotions are distinctly human qualities. Qualities that Victor failed to see in his creation and failed to understand upon its animation. He serves the creature before its birth, but his hatred towards it shows his lack of humanity, setting the stage for his eventual maniacal quest.

     Victor’s curiosity gives way to a form of slavery. As mentioned above, what was once a study into the nature of human creation becomes a soulless form of unconscious suicide. Appalled by his “atrocity,” Victor isolates himself from his friends and family as he himself states that “I saw an insurmountable barrier between me and my fellow men,” (151). Much like the Creature, he lacks a fundamental part of what it truly means to be human: friendship. He also spurns distinctly human qualities of compassion, respect, and love, when addressing his “son,” simply because it is ugly. But he allows it to control him nonetheless, a process best described by Bradford when he states that “Workers fashion alien, independent powers in which they fail to see themselves.” Such a statement rings eerily true for Victor’s situation. He fails to see that his flaws are more clearly manifested in the creature. He finds a degraded moral compass in his “monster” but largely fails to find the same quality in himself. He laments the Creature’s propensity to violence, but never sees his own sins. He finds a gruesome exterior upon his creature, but cannot see how it represents the true nature of his own rejected humanity. The Creature is an outward manifestation of Victor Frankenstein’s inner world. And Frankenstein never gave it the compassion it deserved, nor even showed it the noble qualities humanity is known to have.

     Upon its animation Victor has been consumed by his creation in thought and in action. Victor begins his journey, as stated above, seeking knowledge to replicate and sustain human life. His relationships fade away and the brilliance that made such creation possible gives way to a justified paranoia. His compassion for his progeny was stillborn. The fabric of humanity discussed above was torn apart by Victor’s blind ambition to a task; the same ambition would force him to chase after the Creature along a road to nowhere, causing one critic to state that “As a recognizable human world recedes and the Creature becomes a progressively more enthralling superpower, Frankenstein joins in the frenetic dance of death…by now wholly the Creature's creature…pursuing the naked form of his desire in a fantastic nowhere that is his own”
The wreckage of his past continues to haunt him. The Creature by then had begun controlling his creator in an effort to finally confront him.

     Given his undeniably cruel treatment of the Creature, it certainly seems plausible that Victor would seek to destroy him. However, his reasoning to do so gradually changes from a desire for safety, though the Creature had as of then not yet presented an immediate threat, to a fearful and destructive psychosis forcing him to quite literally go to the end of the Earth. The quest to the North Pole is not the first time Victor allowed his ambition and the task to overcome his good judgment. Victor forgoes rational thinking first in even attempting to create the Creature and does so to an even greater extent in his immediate abandonment of it. Though his search for figurative and literal immortality was shrouded in a guise of knowledge and a search for scientific truth, by the end of Victor’s life he is quite clear in that his ultimate end is only the destruction of the Creature. There is no humanitarian aim in his final search. There was not a human to follow them either; only an object held hostage by hatred, a monster chasing a different form of himself.

     Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a warning against putting the task above the means. It is a warning that individuals can and will sacrifice their humanity—personal friendships, bodily heath, and familial compassion—to reach a corrupted goal. It is a testament to the unintended consequences an uninhibited thirst for knowledge. Victor begins his journey as a well-intentioned man set upon solving the eternal mystery of creation. His curiosity and study are representations of his true interests and allow the man to better understand himself and his surroundings. He ends it as a slave to the product of that very journey. What was once a path to rebirth becomes a road to destruction. He willingly gives away his freedom, his will, and his very life to a gross distortion of his original goal. But most importantly, he spurns his chance at redemption. He fails to show human qualities to the most downtrodden and rejected member of society—if one could even refer to the Creature as a member. And in that, the final nail in the real Victor Frankenstein’s coffin is put in place. After that, all that remained was a monster left alone to wander the earth chasing a stillborn dream, with nobody by his side. The man he began the story as is by then long gone. And no procedure could ever bring him back. 

     It’s hard to honestly evaluate myself. It really is. I’d love to say how over the course of the year I’ve seen a change in my writing and my approach to it. A purely basic analysis of my writing “process,” or entire lack thereof, shows that I still bang out my ramblings on my bed despite my desk being two feet away, that I still do not use spellcheck on any of my papers (it forces me to get it right the first time), and that I still am relying upon the diagramming I learned four years ago to construct my sentences. I’m still not a fan of proofreading. But that isn’t to say I haven’t grown. I’m sure I’ve improved somewhere, somehow. Maybe that development is found in the way I tear myself apart after I print my drafts out, how I know I’ve done something wrong and store it in the proverbial bank to avoid in the future. These failures aren’t indictments of the class. They certainly aren’t meant to be. In this class, I’ve learned to not only use the text to form my argument but also to support it as well. I’ve moved from using quotes that purely sound “cool,’ to ones that advance my thesis and make the central tenets of my argument more clear.
     First, I am a thinker. I open a vein and spill whatever spews out onto the keyboard. Then I see if it is coherent. Being a writer comes in at a distant second. I guess you could call me lazy in that way. It would be a fair description. I’ve always been a good writer. At least that’s what my teachers have always told me. Even in this class, I’ve gotten a chain of 19s broken at two links: 17s on Dorian and Beowulf, and weakened at a few 18s. But I’ve never seen myself as a writer in its most literal form. Writing is an art. I’m obviously not an artist. But that doesn’t mean I’m too afraid to try my shaky hand on the canvas.
     But that doesn’t mean that all of my thoughts are purely my own. I have used and will continue to synthesize the thoughts and underlying themes of a novel in order to better write my papers. I’ll still struggle with using quotes, though. It certainly won’t be due to a lack of trying. Nonetheless, I’ve at least begun to use them, especially considering I rarely, if ever, used more than the minimum amount in essays from English I and II.
     I can come up with a good conclusion but it’s the four paragraphs preceding it that trouble me. I’m wordy. I’m a big fan of dependent clauses and subordinating conjunctions.  I jump around from idea to idea. I have a tendency to rant. I put my thoughts onto a page. And that’s it. Blame my ADD (yay for meta-humor and poorly ordered sentences!). I’ve always hoped that I would have an “aha moment,” a sudden influx of ability and prescience that allows me to pinpoint what I want to say and exactly how I want to say it. It hasn’t happened yet. Though, I sure as hell wish it did. I’m all too frequently left to dance around an idea that I understand but cannot express. It’s happening to me right now. I’m chasing a being of my own creation. And it’s taunting me with its own existence. The sentence is there. I just cannot reach it. I don’t want to tell myself “That sounds cool, go with that,” every time I write an essay. I don’t want to be staring at my mind through a window. I’ve been kicked out of my own Eden. Maybe it’s because my SAT scores between critical reading and writing, what I want to say and what I actually do end up saying, are 80 points apart. Maybe it’s because I have so much to and so few drafts—and even this one is drawing to an unfortunate close—to say it. I’m always thinking of things to write about: my own “Estella story,” my awkward mix of cockiness and self-doubt, and even my bouts with my own stupidity. But this class has helped me find ways to avoid that situation. I can theorize ideas and take stylistic and thematic precepts from other authors to help me reach my final destination.
     It’s frustrating that I don’t get to share these experiences because writing, for me, has become more and more frequently a cathartic experience. To paraphrase myself, I find the sterile confines of my papers intoxicating. I can be who I want to be and say what I want to say, not necessarily be who I am or say what I actually can say. Nontheless, writing takes work. It’s not easy. Someday, as I venture onward to my last essays at this school, I will be defeated, probably because I’m lazy and don’t proofread much. Maybe I’ll find someone who helps me see another side of the process, helping me rebel against an entity I cannot beat alone, and improve that way. Maybe I’ll revert back to one of the mindless masses and thrive in my idiocy. I might even end up being the enemy to fight against. Will I chase myself to the bitter end? Probably. Right now, however, I’m chasing some beautiful fantasy that I probably wasn’t born to ever capture. I was never born to write. I wasn’t born into high-brow literary culture. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. That’s what I’ve learned this year. Literature has introduced me to characters that have each embodied a certain trait or ideal that most people can find in themselves. I am no different. From Lord Henry to Julia and Winston and certainly to Pip, I’ve learned a little bit about myself and from their respective creators, a little more about how to write. I’ve utilized their collective intelligence to help me better myself, something I didn’t know how to do a year ago. Thank you.
“Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” 
Charles DickensGreat Expectations