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Chesterton in Nashville

Chesterton in Nashville

🗺️ Chesterton observes Nashville · Local news has a normal one · Police oversight · Numbers · Much more!

Good afternoon, everyone.

On G.K. Chesterton's 150th birthday, I figured it'd be a good time to dig back up one of our more popular essays on his visit to Nashville in 1921. It's a fun read.


In early 1921, the great English Catholic journalist G.K. Chesterton visited the United States at the height of his literary career on a lecture tour that spanned the majority of the East Coast and Midwest, covering 30 cities including New York, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Nashville. For four months, he and his wife enjoyed the highly anticipated tour, delivering 50 sold-out speeches and being swarmed by the press everywhere he went.

The following year, he published What I Saw In America, an essay collection documenting his experience of traveling through the U.S. that sold quite well in both the U.S. and England. My copy from 1922 is a fifth edition from December of that year, which suggests the book was flying off the shelves within the first four months of its publication.

While entire books could be written on the subjects he offhandedly mentions, Chesterton mentions Nashville four times in the book, and each mention warrants an examination as they speak to surprisingly concurrent issues, which isn’t surprising given the author’s reputation as the prophet of common sense.

When he first arrives in Nashville, he describes the atmosphere of the region as being comparatively more quiet and leisurely than the north. After settling in for the night in a hotel (presumably the Hermitage), he notices a faded painting looking down on him depicting President Andrew Jackson, “watchful like a white eagle,” and goes on to reflect on how the English do not fully appreciate his great role in disrupting the powers that be, by breaking the Second Bank of the United States in 1833.

“In the case of Andrew Jackson, it may be that I felt a special sense of individual isolation; for I believe that there are even fewer among Englishmen than among Americans who realize that the energy of that great man was largely directed towards saving us from the chief evil which destroys the nations today. He sought to cut down, as with a sword of simplicity, the new and nameless enormity of finance; and he must have known, as by a lightning flash, that the people were behind him because all the politicians were against him.”

He again mentions Nashville in the same essay while talking about “dead cities,” or cities that New Yorkers disregard as “a town that has had the impudence not to die.” Nashville is mentioned alongside Baltimore, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Boston as cities that are more traditionally European and lively than industrial havens like New York, circa 1921.

“Such people are astonished to find an ancient thing still alive, just as they are now astonished and will be increasingly astonished to find Poland or the Papacy or the French nation alive. And what I mean by Philadelphia or Baltimore being alive is precisely what these people mean by their being dead; it is continuity; it is the presence of the life first breathed into them and of the purpose of their being; it is the benediction of the founders of the colonies and the fathers of the republic. This tradition is truly to be called life; for life alone can link the past and future… I felt in America what many Americans suppose can only be felt in Europe.”

Chesterton briefly mentions Nashville again offhandedly in his essay The Extraordinary American, noting the similarities between America and England by saying, “People are just as likely to boast of an old building in Nashville as in Norwich.” 

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📺 Local News Has a Normal One Two eyebrow-raising news articles dropped yesterday: The first was Betsy Phillips' column for the Nashville Scene on the Morgan Wallen debacle, wherein she psychoanalyzes Wallen’s supposed self-destructive tendencies, traces the similar etymologies of “guest” and “host,” and ultimately argues that the city shouldn’t bend over backwards for people who take advantage of it. I agree with this last point, which forms the spine of her argument. The city absolutely shouldn’t kowtow to every swinging dick waving a dollar bill, especially if they’re unlikely to act in the city’s best interest. I just disagree that Morgan Wallen is one of these people. 

Phillips sees Wallen as a living embodiment of all that’s gone wrong with Nashville. “Hell,” she writes, “if anyone wants to propose just adding a line to the city budget for ‘pissing off Morgan Wallen,’ I’ll support it.” Echoing the sentiment expressed by Andrea Williams in her infamous Tennessean column labeling country music irredeemably racist, Phillips sees both Broadway and the broader country culture that spawned it as a hideaway for white supremacists. There is more going on here than just disapproving of Broadway debauchery and Morgan Wallen’s actions. It’s a mask for the vaguely anti-white, anti-conservative sentiment that predominates in progressive circles. Thank God they aren’t the only people writing about the city.

Meanwhile, Footman Phil is at it again. This time, he’s released an investigative piece in which he shows a woman a video on his phone and writes about her reaction to it. Williams’ latest fixation has been a Millersville police officer named Shawn Taylor — now the small town’s assistant police chief — whom he’s dubbed the “conspiracy cop.” I’m not defending Taylor here. The guy has spread harebrained theories about what really happened during the Covenant tragedy. But, Phil showing a person a video on his phone and then writing about their reaction? Now that’s good journalism. Funny even. DAVIS HUNT

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🚨 Wrestling With Police Oversight The Community Review Board, which replaced the now-defunct Community Oversight Board, held a special meeting yesterday to discuss a complaint filed with MNPD on May 22nd. According to board chair Alisha Haddock, the complaint, submitted by a former police officer, alleges that a group of high-ranking officials within the department helped to “craft” the recently passed law limiting the powers of the Community Oversight Board. 

“It will not be appropriate for the board to discuss the substance of a complaint that is the subject of an active investigation,” said Nicki Eke, an attorney from Metro Legal. “Discussing the substance of the complaint could be prejudicial to the investigation and could affect the integrity of the investigation.”

Haddock disagreed, noting that the board was only made aware of the complaint, and has a right to review it. Andrew Goddard, a board member and a former attorney, urged the members to heed Eke’s advice, while his colleague, Jill Fitcheard, pushed back. “I think that we have a fundamental responsibility to talk to this public who is here today about some of the allegations,” she told those in attendance. When addressing the necessity of the special meeting, Haddock reminded her colleagues that the former oversight board was mentioned in the complaint and it is their duty to explore litigation if the accusations are true.

There is still a significant amount of gray area regarding the memorandum of understanding between the police department and the new review board. According to the new law, the board no longer has the authority to independently investigate complaints, nor do they hold any subpoena power without the passage of a resolution. Though an MOU agreement has not been reached, the board may only review MNPD’s internal investigations upon request. It is worth noting that the new board is made up entirely of the old board members. You can read more about the proceedings here. MEGAN PODSIEDLIK

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🔢 By the Numbers  According to data released by the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp, Nashville tourists spent $29 million a day in 2023, setting a record of $10.56 billion in visitor spending. Of the nearly 17 million visitors who came through town, 64 percent were leisure travelers, while 36 percent were here for conventions and business. 

And a study by Gamblespot revealed that since 1992, Tennesseans have won the lottery 302 times and netted a total of $2.7 billion in winnings, putting it 20th in the rankings for states that have won the most cash. At the top of the list is Indiana with $6.5 billion, followed by Missouri with $5.4 billion and Pennsylvania with $4.7 billion. DAVIS HUNT


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View our calendar for the week here and our weekly film rundown here.

📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.

🎧 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.

👨🏻‍🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide and yearly festival guide.


🪕 George Clark Shifflett III & His Big Country Orchestra @ Station Inn, 8p, $20, Info

🎸 Bleachers @ Ryman Auditorium, 7:30p, $54+, Info
+ indie pop

🎙️ André 3000 @ The Blue Room, 6p & 9p, $164.02, Info

🎸 Another Michael @ DRKMTTR, 8p, $12, Info

🪕 Bluegrass Night @ The American Legion Post 82, 7p, Free, Info