The Grand Experiment

So I haven’t really found a good market for short/flash historical fiction, and the publishers that I do know weren’t particularly interested in my story, “The Grand Experiment”. It’s a speculative piece set in the Revolutionary period wherein a subset of the forefathers decide that rudimentary computational science would be best for a fledgling democracy to best compromise free will and freedom with the needs for all to find common grounds for a functioning government. So here it is, “The Grand Experiment”:

Hamilton frothed as the temperamental man-kettle boiled over again. “No, sir! It is inconceivable that you offer such a theory for this purpose! It is moreover incredible that your credibility ever allowed you so deep into the American affair that you should be here speaking this nonsense!”

Madison puffed lightly from the pipe tip and eyed his contemporary. “I think the good sir has let his passions again best him. It is lucky his passions refused to fight for the Red Ensign.”

Hamilton’s eyes flickered hotly in the hearth fire’s light as he stepped toward the relaxed gentleman. “Sir! If you would have nothing but contempt and outrageous theories to offer this council, then do us the courtesy of letting that door bid you good day!”

John Jay slapped his palms against the circular table separating them and launched to his feet. “Gentlemen! Be it as it may that we do not always agree, we are nonetheless the ones best positioned to influence the future! Our good friend Mr. Franklin provided us this theory, and he has always been quite selective in choosing which European ideas and developments to share with us for our own purposes. I do mean with no feigned acquiescence or uncertain spirit that we should take his words earnestly and incorporate them into our designs. No nation or government before our time has attempted such a new beginning as ours.” He paused for a warm sip of rum. “Blood was shed, gentlemen. Our neighbors, our brothers, our sons and fathers lost their lives to ensure this land could birth a new form of government. Men did not die for tepid survivors to foolishly raise an infant nation on the same withered principles that failed their forebears.”

Hamilton locked his hands together as a measure of control, responding with increasing crescendo, “I respect your opinion, as I always have, but this is not a simple academic matter that may be or even should be swayed by the mathematical inklings of English scholars in Cambridge!”

“This is no simple academic matter!” Madison declared, emptying the pipe of ash. “If we truly mean to create a beacon of freedom that draws the spite of monarchists and tyrants and the praise of the thinking free man, then we must pursue a course that engenders self-reflection and growth! And, dear sir, no matter how the Furies coax our spirits, none of the gentlemen in the upcoming conferences have the infinite foresight to ensure the beacon remains lit in perpetuity.”

John nodded toward Madison. “Indeed, and we three are even less prophetic. We should not discount these mathematical theories. Instead, we should embrace them as Heaven-sent pronouncements of Western philosophy. If we insist with all our energies on the sustained empowerment of two political parties, the computational requirements to resolve any issue shall be present and uninterrupted.”

Hamilton buried his chin into his linen kerchief. “I do not wish to use a theory to abuse the people of a representative democracy that cannot think beyond a simple dichotomy of opinion. As the nation grows so shall its people, and while we pretend to know our limitations, we seek to impose restrictions on all future generations based on a Parisian mathematical trinket and the whimsies of English intellectuals! Binary computation! It is an absurdity! I will not be less than blunt about this. You gentlemen fail to see the philosophically treasonous Trojan that the naïve Mr. Franklin imports! You would strangle our future with the philosophies of men of comfort who owe allegiance to the Crown we just shed!”

John looked toward Madison, who was shaking his head while reaching for his pouched tobacco. “James? How will you answer this charge?”

Madison licked his teeth while tapping the tobacco gently into his pipe. “First, I will ask the honorable Mr. Hamilton to recall where most of our philosophies were birthed. Second, I agree that we do not understand the nation’s potential growth, either in land, its philosophies, scientific achievements, or in its peoples. I offer this idea not as a means of restriction but of liberation, freeing future governance from today’s assumptions that Mr. Hamilton correctly implied are likely incomplete and in error. I reviewed Mr. Franklin’s notes. The theories appear sound. A two-party system allows for each educated man to input their answer, or computation if you will, of any given issue into the mass. Then the mass, our body politic, may, per the theory, receive those inputs and output a solution born of thousands to hundreds of thousands of intelligences. Such a solution must necessarily be correct.”

John nodded approvingly, sipping again at his half-glass of rum while Madison paced the room.

“Additionally, so long as a method remains to return such issues for population computation, then we ensure such solutions are continuously revised over the generations. Thus, we will allow for only the most preferred and most correct forms of society to exist, and we prolong the longevity of our nation. This, my good sir, is the grand experiment. We shall allow for this nation not simply to have a system of self-government but also a system of self-computation. No nation or government before us has ever implemented such mathematical theory to create a perfect system. I do agree with your concern of restrictive dichotomous governance. Your concern is sound and valid.” Hamilton snorted, but Madison failed to pause. “This system, however, is not restrictive as it continuously harnesses the energies and education of the many over time. If you can think of an issue that cannot be ultimately resolved by the cumulatively calculated yay or nay of the minds of a whole nation, you are a far more formidable strategist than I have previously given credit.”

John stole their attention by sharply setting his empty glass down. “Alexander. Do you agree to move forward with the intentions for this two-party computational system? As a matter of decency, we will not prohibit creating other parties, but we will ensure their marginalization to prevent calculational interference, as Mr. Franklin refers to it.”

Hamilton fell back into his chair and eyed Madison. “Gentlemen, I hope for the sake of all that you are correct. Mr. Jay, you have my grudging agreement.”   

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