Category Archive 'History'
13 Dec 2017

The Humanities and the Modern University

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Yale in Winter

Justin Stover contemplates the diminished role of the Humanities in the modern University, but he takes a very long view, shrugging off the rise of fads and ideologies. He believes that, in the long run, both the Humanities and the University will not only survive, but continue to perform the same function of building and credentialing Western Society’s elite that they have always done.

We began with the crisis of the humanities and ended with the survival of the university itself. This is no accident. The heart of the university is the arts, understood broadly. For the first centuries of the institution’s existence, every student had to traverse the arts curriculum before they could go on to achieve an employable degree in law, medicine, or theology. At any given time, the arts faculty and students would have formed by far the largest bloc in any university. The fact that students are still awarded BAs and MAs is a distant echo of their centrality. The arts they taught were in theory the seven liberal arts, although in practice primarily grammar (which included almost everything we would now call literary studies) and logic. But the formulation of the seven liberal arts permits a wide mandate covering most of what we consider the humanities—everything connected with the understanding of what’s written down—as well as the first and last letters in STEM, mathematics in all its branches, the physical and natural sciences. …

The contemporary university is a strange chimaera. It has become an institution for teaching undergraduates, a lab for medical and technological development in partnership with industry, a hospital, a museum (or several), a performance hall, a radio station, a landowner, a big-money (or money-losing) sports club, a research center competing for government funding, often the biggest employer for a hundred miles around, and, for a few institutions, a hedge fund (“with a small college attached for tax purposes,” adds one wag). Unbundling may well happen. If it does, where will the university be found amid the wreckage? …

We cannot attribute the present decline to some change in historical circumstance. Writing a commentary on Virgil is just as useless now as it was in the year 450. The reality is that the humanities have always been about courtoisie, a constellation of interests, tastes, and prejudices which marks one as a member of a particular class. That class does not have to be crudely imagined solely in economic terms. Indeed, the humanities have sometimes done a good job of producing a class with some socioeconomic diversity. But it is a class nonetheless. Roman boys (of a certain social background) labored under the grammaticus’s rod because their parents wanted to initiate them into the wide community of Virgil readers—a community which spanned much of the vast Roman world, and which gave the bureaucratic class a certain cohesion it otherwise lacked. So too in the Middle Ages: it is no accident that what we might think of as the scholastic and the courtly are so often linked. Reading Virgil, commenting on Aristotle, participating in quaestiones disputatae, writing chansons de geste and romances—these made scholars, bachelors, masters, and doctors alike, set apart as an international community embedded in but separate from the international community of the Church, the religious orders, and the waxing national powers. …

It remains true today. Deep down, what most humanists value about the humanities is that it gives them participation in a community in which they can share similar tastes in reading, art, food, travel, music, media, and yes, politics. We might talk about academic diversity, but the academy is a tribe, and one with relatively predictable tastes. It does not take a particularly sharp observer to guess whether a given humanist might be fond of some new book reviewed favorably in the LRB or some new music discussed enthusiastically on NPR. The guess might not always be right, but if even odds are offered our observer could get away with a tidy sum. If the bet were on political affiliation, the payoff would be almost guaranteed.

As teachers, what humanists want most of all is to initiate their students into that class. Despite occasional conservative paranoia, there is not some sinister academic plot to brainwash students with liberal dogma. Instead, humanists are doing what they have always done, trying to bring students into a class loosely defined around a broad constellation of judgments and tastes. This constellation might include political judgments, but is never reducible to politics. It is also very susceptible to change. For two hundred years or more, European universities were deeply enmeshed in the pernicious stupidity of Ramism, with Ramist professors installed across Europe in any number of the humanistic disciplines. Eventually the fad dissipated, and today, the celebrated method of Petrus Ramus holds little more than antiquarian interest. We should not assume that the current modes and fashions of the academic class are permanent. But if they are to change, that change will come from the inside.

A must-read.

06 Dec 2017

Feast of St. Nicholas

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St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, d. 6 December 345 or 352

St. Nicholas was reportedly born in the city of Patara in Lycia in Asia Minor, heir to a wealthy family. He succeeded an uncle as bishop of Myra.

Nicholas left behind a legend of secret acts of benevolence and miracles (in Greek, he is spoken of as “Nikolaos o Thaumaturgos” — Nicholas the Wonder-Worker).

One of the saint’s prominent legends asserts that, in a time of famine, he foiled the crime of Fourth Century Sweeney Todd, an evil butcher who kidnapped and murdered three children, intending to market their remains as ham. St. Nicholas not only exposed the murder, but healed and resurrected the children intact.

Nicholas is also renowned for providing dowries for each of three daughters of an impoverished nobleman,who would otherwise have been unable to marry and who were about to be forced to prostitute themselves to live. In order to spare the sensibilities of the family, Nicholas is said to have secretly thrown a purse of gold coins into their window on each of three consecutive nights.

St. Nicholas’ covert acts of charity led to a custom of the giving of secret gifts concealed in shoes deliberately left out for their receipt on his feast day, and ultimately to the contemporary legend of Santa Claus leaving gifts in stockings on Christmas Eve.

St. Nicholas evolved into one of the most popular saints in the Church’s calendar, serving as patron of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, prostitutes, pawnbrokers, children, and students, Greeks, Belgians, Frenchmen, Romanians, Bulgarians, Georgians, Albanians, Russians, Macedonians, Slovakians, Serbians, and Montenegrins, and all residents of Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Barranquilla, Campen, Corfu, Freiburg, Liverpool, Lorraine, Moscow, and New Amsterdam (New York).

His relics were stolen and removed to Bari to prevent capture by the Turks, and are alleged to exude a sweet-smelling oil down to the present day.

28 Nov 2017

Germany, Failing Again?

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James Madison” thinks the same old German flaws are leading once again to the same old disaster.

Germany does one thing exceptionally well. It can harness its natural tendency toward rigor bordering on arrogance, self-preservation, and an abiding need for social conformity to achieve unparalleled economic dominance in the region. But, because it is consumed by fears – fears arising from its exposure lying at the nexus of the east and west along the wide Northern European plain – it cannot control its urge to overcompensate. Whether it is provoking war against France in 1870, baiting Austria into confronting Russia leading to WWI, or allowing a megalomaniac to seize power and neighbors to create buffer states in WWII lest they threaten, Germany keeps repeating the same mistake. It always eventually turns its industrial power into a tool to exploit others in an effort to protect itself.

After WWII, Germany adopted a kind of “never again” mentality driven first by reconstruction and later by contrition. The German Constitution, the Basic Law, was designed to avoid a repeat of Hitler, Weimar, and Hohenzollern rule which led to economic expansion, exploitation, and calamity. It also structured its government to stop communism, avoid religious division, and prevent class warfare.

The Basic Law is designed to be clear and obtuse, central and diffused, and strong but weak. Thus, with no clear Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, or “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” to define itself, everything eventually boiled down to local matters, local politics, and local interests. Economics dominates in Germany – followed by lifestyle. The green movement flourished in Germany when scientists falsely reported the Black Forests were being denuded with acid rain – so there is that too. Green money and green forests or an amorphous concept of social responsibility, therefore, define an undefined social contract, with jobs coming first, vacations second, and social justice and the environment in there somewhere.

By the 1990s, Germany recovered fully from the devastation of WWII and was faced with the enormous cost of integrating the East. Faced with the necessity of converting the low-skill, low-wage East Germans into a productive resource, it developed a political-union-management plan to temper wages in the western side of the country, invest in automation and low-end production in the East, and in the process trim and redesign its production model. The key result was more job flexibility than most Europeans were willing to accept at the time. This led to rapid transformation and a remaking of German production. Germany increased its quality and lowered its relative costs. With the Soviets out of the way, military spending was trimmed and redirected to pay for retraining, social costs, and funding economic efficiencies. This was a win-win politically since reductions in defense spending fed the ever-present anti-war sentiment of a nation that has always struggled to control its fears.

At the same time, the Euro currency entered in 1999 and diluted the relatively high cost of the German Mark and German efficiency. Suddenly, a blending of Germany’s productive workforce with the extremely unproductive, low-skill Mediterranean and growing eastern EU countries in one currency shielded and boosted German competitiveness. The Euro’s arrival meant Germany could hide behind a currency that did not fully value its costs. Its products and companies began to experience better fortune. The timing was perfect. China and the other BRICS needed machine tools, equipment, and technical know-how. Germany would export its way to pay for East-West integration and create itself as a world trade power.

By now the politicians were fully on board – including the left Socialist Democratic Party under Gerhard Schröder. They were delivering a new Reich, one that would dominate in the marketplace with high technology, luxury, and world-class products. German companies dominated segments of China’s, Brazil’s, India’s, and Russia’s auto and fabrication markets. To smooth things out, much talk of green energy, policies, and global accords was tossed about. Germany was in a fugue of green that would eventually lead its politicians to pull the plug on nuclear after the nation hysterically failed to fully understand the Fukushima incident. Nevermind, Germany would pretend to be green while it turned more brown – burning coal to generate power and subsidizing solar and wind everywhere at great cost to the average German. Electricity costs would rise substantially – non-competitively.

Germany’s economic success, however dominant, was not unique. It could be mimicked. In fact, much of its transformation was patterned after Japanese methods. So to address this, German politicians began working to ensure German standards and technology were adopted or imposed by using the growing power they accumulated within the EU. The phony German diesel engine debacle (only German diesel engines could meet the new German-written EU standards) or the German obsession (silly fad) with renewable energy resulted. With over 20 percent of German jobs (over 10 percent due to VW alone), corporate profits, and exports dependent upon creating a global auto footprint, all of Germany rallied around the phony “clean diesel” technology – deceptively and fraudulently represented as cleaner than it actually was. EU skies in Madrid, Milan, and Paris turned gray with diesel pollution that was not possible using the new German clean diesel. In 2015, they got caught. Something was rotten in Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Strasbourg.

With the promise of a better tomorrow, Germany began to encounter additional bumps. Russia turned revanchist, forcing hard choices about sanctions over Ukraine, choices moralistic Germany belatedly accepted. China did not adopt western democratic ideals with free markets, in fact, it became more repressive. Human rights issues had to be overlooked by Angela Merkel on her trade visits to China. German export markets in Brazil and India were built upon rather primitive economic foundations that eventually caught a downdraft. The rise of Turkish and Hungarian nationalism and authoritarianism presented conflicts between economic interests and a German aversion to authoritarian rule.

Finally, its look-the-other-way tolerance in exchange for the opportunity to “sell, sell, sell” arrived at a beggar-thy-neighbor strategy which eventually sold and banked Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal into near or actual insolvency. There were other cases of German goods being sold to dictators and winding up where they should not be. Germany, rather than being seen as a responsible citizen, a trusted partner, and source of trade and technology, was seen as a ravenous exploiter. Even sales of its military hardware – items it was not purchasing sufficiently to defend itself or Europe – saw an uptick in sales. German might be the leader of Europe – but it was a leader that lacked both the high ground and the high road.

It was clear as far back as 2006 when oil prices were skyrocketing that Russia planned to rearm. Despite this, Germany continued to disarm and unarm. And by 2015, Britain saw the EU for what it was becoming – a Franco-German alliance with deep interests in telling local merchants in Barcelona to do things the way they were done in Bavaria. The EU regulations set how many paper towels could be used in a public bathroom or which diesel cars met EU standards (answer: German). Germany was calling the shots in public and behind the scenes whether you lived in Leyden or Leicester. The EU could not challenge the one nation that generated all the positive export balance for the EU in total. The EU needed Germany and Germany knew it. It alone still manufactured things that could be sold around the world.

Yet, Britain and France paid for the nuclear forces, they alone funded the limited means to project military force, and they alone held some real soft power to influence the United States – the only power that still mattered if the EU was to hold sway. It was evident looking back that even the Clinton and Obama administrations barely deferred to Germany. She was a non-factor.

The great German waltz suffered its last blow when Germany turned away from sincere concerns about social harmony and cohesion and Angela Merkel opened her borders to flocks of young, unskilled males roaming in from the Middle East to enter the country as refugees. This horde was encamped with government cooperation and little national debate or reflection – and they remain in German-funded schools and transition programs to this day. Underlying this somewhat disastrous decision to accept about a million new citizens from Syria, Iraq, etc., is a stark reality that Germany — if it is to continue to be a workshop for VW’s, Airbus’s, and machine tools — needs workers. The population reproduction has lagged behind replacement levels and no one wants to clean sewers, bathrooms, or pick up garbage. Thus, an economic policy driven by a demographic problem led to a rushed rationalization of an immigration policy that quickly became unpopular.

Nationalist sentiments – the vilest and most detested sentiments in post-WWII Germany – have surged forth. And the nation is now locked in a political impasse over forming a new parliamentary coalition to rule – a little over a month ago the Christian Democrats (Angela Merkel’s center-right party) experienced their worst election since 1949! No coalition is forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Germany’s economy is strong. The nation is weak. It is even perhaps unstable. It is in some respects isolated – from Britain (Brexit), France (reluctantly pro-EU expansion), the Mediterranean EU countries, the more demanding, intolerant, and authoritarian Eastern EU, a resurgent Russia, and its old protector, the United States – which is now a political card played to demonstrate moral superiority. Its old fears of exposure on the Northern European plain nestled between nations who do not trust each other or worse, do not trust Germany, will emerge again. That which unites Germany’s regions and people, their natural proclivity toward a kind paranoia and fear, also destroys it. Will it continue to overplay, overextend, overcompensate? Can it pull itself back a bit, realign, and find a national consensus? Can it arm itself, protect itself, and become a trustworthy ally?

The answer is simply that since its creation as a balance of power between imperial Russia and France, Germany is too small, too large, too aggressive, too passive, and too weak to lead. And when others, or Germany itself, attempts to do so, sooner or later she oversteps and things start to spin out of control. Germany is its own, and quite often the world’s, worst enemy.

RTWT

23 Nov 2017

Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving1

Mike Franc, at Human Events in 2005, identified the real reason for celebration at the first Thanksgiving.

Writing in his diary of the dire economic straits and self-destructive behavior that consumed his fellow Puritans shortly after their arrival, Governor William Bradford painted a picture of destitute settlers selling their clothes and bed coverings for food while others “became servants to the Indians,” cutting wood and fetching water in exchange for “a capful of corn.” The most desperate among them starved, with Bradford recounting how one settler, in gathering shellfish along the shore, “was so weak … he stuck fast in the mud and was found dead in the place.”

The colony’s leaders identified the source of their problem as a particularly vile form of what Bradford called “communism.” Property in Plymouth Colony, he observed, was communally owned and cultivated. This system (“taking away of property and bringing [it] into a commonwealth”) bred “confusion and discontent” and “retarded much employment that would have been to [the settlers’] benefit and comfort.”

Just how did the Pilgrims solve the problem of famine? In addition to receiving help from the local Indians in farming, they decided allow the private ownership of individual plots of land.

On the brink of extermination, the Colony’s leaders changed course and allotted a parcel of land to each settler, hoping the private ownership of farmland would encourage self-sufficiency and lead to the cultivation of more corn and other foodstuffs.

As Adam Smith would have predicted, this new system worked famously. “This had very good success,” Bradford reported, “for it made all hands very industrious.” In fact, “much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been” and productivity increased. “Women,” for example, “went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn.”

The famine that nearly wiped out the Pilgrims in 1623 gave way to a period of agricultural abundance that enabled the Massachusetts settlers to set down permanent roots in the New World, prosper, and play an indispensable role in the ultimate success of the American experiment.

A profoundly religious man, Bradford saw the hand of God in the Pilgrims’ economic recovery. Their success, he observed, “may well evince the vanity of that conceit…that the taking away of property… would make [men] happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.” Bradford surmised, “God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them.”

The real story of Thanksgiving is the triumph of capitalism and individualism over collectivism and socialism, which is the summation of the story of America.

23 Nov 2017

A Proclamation

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As published in the Massachusetts Centinel, Wednesday, October 14, 1789

21 Nov 2017

Painting of Washington’s Tent by L’Enfant Discovered

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Washington Post:

Philip Mead was online late one night in May, looking for possible artifacts from the American Revolution, when a painting up for auction caught his eye and got his heart racing.

The chief historian at the American Revolution Museum had spied an unsigned watercolor from 1782. It was a panorama of an army encampment, and to his expert eye seemed to feature the only known wartime depiction of the tent George Washington used as his command center during the Revolutionary War.

The tent is the marquee exhibit at the museum, which opened in April. And, thanks to Mead’s sharp eye, the museum now owns the painting that will anchor an exhibition next year.

Mead said the discovery seemed almost “too good to be true.”

“I’ve had this level of excitement only a handful of times in my 30 years of looking for this stuff,” Mead said.

When Mead saw the painting, he immediately emailed the image to Scott Stephenson, the museum’s vice president of collections, exhibitions and programming.

“My heart leapt into my throat when I realized what this painting was,” Stephenson said.

They had to quickly line up donors to bid on the piece, which was going up for auction just days after they spotted it. They were concerned maybe they weren’t the only people to spot the rare work, and they weren’t 100 percent sure the painting was exactly what they had hoped.

“Our motto is you must kiss every frog in case it is a prince,” Stephenson said.

In this case, it was a prince.

With only one other bidder, they landed the painting easily, for $12,000. Once in hand, the museum’s curatorial team was able to conclude the painting shows the Continental Army’s fall encampment at Verplanck’s Point, New York, and was created by Pierre L’Enfant, the French-born engineer best known for laying out the nation’s capital.

Before he created the blueprint for Washington, D.C., L’Enfant served in the Continental Army. He was wounded at the Siege of Savannah, taken prisoner at the surrender of Charleston and upon his release went back to serve George Washington for the remainder of the war.

The painting depicts hundreds of military tents arrayed across a rolling Hudson Valley landscape. Perched on a hilltop rising about the scene on the painting’s left side is Washington’s field headquarters, including the telltale tent.

RTWT

11 Nov 2017

Martinmas aka Armistice Day, later Veterans Day

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–from last year–

WWI came to an end by an armistice arranged to occur at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The date and time, selected at a point in history when mens’ memories ran much longer, represented a compliment to St. Martin, patron saint of soldiers, and thus a tribute to the fighting men of both sides. The feast day of St. Martin, the Martinmas, had been for centuries a major landmark in the European calendar, a date on which leases expired, rents came due; and represented, in Northern Europe, a seasonal turning point after which cold weather and snow might be normally expected.

It fell about the Martinmas-time, when the snow lay on the borders…
—Old Song.

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From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:

St. Martin, the son of a Roman military tribune, was born at Sabaria, in Hungary, about 316. From his earliest infancy, he was remarkable for mildness of disposition; yet he was obliged to become a soldier, a profession most uncongenial to his natural character. After several years’ service, he retired into solitude, from whence he was withdrawn, by being elected bishop of Tours, in the year 374.

The zeal and piety he displayed in this office were most exemplary. He converted the whole of his diocese to Christianity, overthrowing the ancient pagan temples, and erecting churches in their stead. From the great success of his pious endeavours, Martin has been styled the Apostle of the Gauls; and, being the first confessor to whom the Latin Church offered public prayers, he is distinguished as the father of that church. In remembrance of his original profession, he is also frequently denominated the Soldier Saint.

The principal legend, connected with St. Martin, forms the subject of our illustration, which represents the saint, when a soldier, dividing his cloak with a poor naked beggar, whom he found perishing with cold at the gate of Amiens. This cloak, being most miraculously preserved, long formed one of the holiest and most valued relics of France; when war was declared, it was carried before the French monarchs, as a sacred banner, and never failed to assure a certain victory. The oratory in which this cloak or cape—in French, chape—was preserved, acquired, in consequence, the name of chapelle, the person intrusted with its care being termed chapelain: and thus, according to Collin de Plancy, our English words chapel and chaplain are derived. The canons of St. Martin of Tours and St. Gratian had a lawsuit, for sixty years, about a sleeve of this cloak, each claiming it as their property. The Count Larochefoucalt, at last, put an end to the proceedings, by sacrilegiously committing the contested relic to the flames.

Another legend of St. Martin is connected with one of those literary curiosities termed a palindrome. Martin, having occasion to visit Rome, set out to perform the journey thither on foot. Satan, meeting him on the way, taunted the holy man for not using a conveyance more suitable to a bishop. In an instant the saint changed the Old Serpent into a mule, and jumping on its back, trotted comfortably along. Whenever the transformed demon slackened pace, Martin, by making the sign of the cross, urged it to full speed. At last, Satan utterly defeated, exclaimed:

Signa, te Signa: temere me tangis et angis:
Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor.’

In English—

‘Cross, cross thyself: thou plaguest and vexest me without necessity;
for, owing to my exertions, thou wilt soon reach Rome, the object of thy wishes.’

The singularity of this distich, consists in its being palindromical—that is, the same, whether read backwards or forwards. Angis, the last word of the first line, when read backwards, forming signet, and the other words admitting of being reversed, in a similar manner.

The festival of St. Martin, happening at that season when the new wines of the year are drawn from the lees and tasted, when cattle are killed for winter food, and fat geese are in their prime, is held as a feast-day over most parts of Christendom. On the ancient clog almanacs, the day is marked by the figure of a goose; our bird of Michaelmas being, on the continent, sacrificed at Martinmas. In Scotland and the north of England, a fat ox is called a mart, clearly from Martinmas, the usual time when beeves are killed for winter use. In ‘Tusser’s Husbandry, we read:

When Easter comes, who knows not then,
That veal and bacon is the man?
And Martilmass beef doth bear good tack,
When country folic do dainties lack.’

Barnaby Googe’s translation of Neogeorgus, shews us how Martinmas was kept in Germany, towards the latter part of the fifteenth century

‘To belly chear, yet once again,
Doth Martin more incline,
Whom all the people worshippeth
With roasted geese and wine.
Both all the day long, and the night,
Now each man open makes
His vessels all, and of the must,
Oft times, the last he takes,
Which holy Martin afterwards
Alloweth to be wine,
Therefore they him, unto the skies,
Extol with praise divine.’

A genial saint, like Martin, might naturally be expected to become popular in England; and there are no less than seven churches in London and Westminster, alone, dedicated to him. There is certainly more than a resemblance between the Vinalia of the Romans, and the Martinalia of the medieval period. Indeed, an old ecclesiastical calendar, quoted by Brand, expressly states under 11th November: ‘The Vinalia, a feast of the ancients, removed to this day. Bacchus in the figure of Martin.’ And thus, probably, it happened, that the beggars were taken from St. Martin, and placed under the protection of St. Giles; while the former became the patron saint of publicans, tavern-keepers, and other ‘dispensers of good eating and drinking. In the hall of the Vintners’ Company of London, paintings and statues of St. Martin and Bacchus reign amicably together side by side.

On the inauguration, as lord mayor, of Sir Samuel Dashwood, an honoured vintner, in 1702, the company had a grand processional pageant, the most conspicuous figure in which was their patron saint, Martin, arrayed, cap-Ã -pie, in a magnificent suit of polished armour; wearing a costly scarlet cloak, and mounted on a richly plumed and caparisoned white charger: two esquires, in rich liveries, walking at each side. Twenty satyrs danced before him, beating tambours, and preceded by ten halberdiers, with rural music. Ten Roman lictors, wearing silver helmets, and carrying axes and fasces, gave an air of classical dignity to the procession, and, with the satyrs, sustained the bacchanalian idea of the affair.

A multitude of beggars, ‘howling most lamentably,’ followed the warlike saint, till the procession stopped in St. Paul’s Churchyard. Then Martin, or his representative at least, drawing his sword, cut his rich scarlet cloak in many pieces, which he distributed among the beggars. This ceremony being duly and gravely performed, the lamentable howlings ceased, and the procession resumed its course to Guildhall, where Queen Anne graciously condescended to dine with the new lord mayor.

10 Nov 2017

US Marine Corps Birthday

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Khe San

Founded November 10, 1775.

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Maj. Gen. John A. Lejeune’s Birthday Message

RPS ORDERS
No. 47 (Series 1921)
HEADQUARTERS U.S. MARINE CORPS
Washington, November 1, 1921

759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name “Marine”. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

(2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and is the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as “Soldiers of the Sea” since the founding of the Corps.

JOHN A. LEJEUNE,
Major General Commandant

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The Magic of “a Few Good Men”

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The Old Corps

Tun Tavern, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 10th 1775

Captains Nicholas and Mullens, having been tasked by the 2nd Continental Congress to form 2 battalions of Marines, set up the Corps’ first recruiting station in the tavern.

The first likely prospect was, in typical recruiters fashion, promised a “life of high adventure in service to Country and Corps”. And, as an extra bonus: If he enlisted now he would receive a free tankard of ale….

The recruit gladly accepted the challenge and, receiving the free tankard of ale, was told to wait at the corner table for orders.

The first Marine sat quietly at the table sipping the ale when he was joined by another young man, who had two tankards of ale.

The first Marine looked at the lad and asked where he had gotten the two tankards of ale?

The lad replied that he had just joined this new outfit called the Continental Marines, and as an enlistment bonus was given two tankards of ale.

The first Marine took a long hard look at the second Marine and said, ” It wasn’t like that in the old Corps.”

An annual post.

05 Nov 2017

Guy Fawkes: Needed Now More Than Ever

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Guy Fawkes arrested in the cellar of Parliament with the explosives.

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason, and plot;
There is no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!’

Early in the morning of November 5, Guy Fawkes crept, torch in hand, into the cellar beneath the House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster. In that cellar, he and his fellow conspirators had previously placed a cache of 1800 pounds ((36 barrels, or 800 kg) of gunpowder. Just as he was about to ignite the barrels, blowing himself and the House of Lords to Kingdom Come, the torch was snatched from his hand by a man named Peter Heywood.

Fawkes was arrested and taken before the privy council where he remained defiant. When asked by one of the Scottish lords what he had intended to do with so much gunpowder, Fawkes answered him, “To blow you Scotch beggars back to your own native mountains!”

So went the attempted Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

The intention of the plotters was to use the explosion, timed to coincide with the opening of Parliament, to kill King James I and eliminate much of the ruling Protestant aristocracy. They also intended to kidnap the royal children, then raise the standard of revolt in the Midlands with the object of restoring the freedom to practice Catholicism in England.

09 Oct 2017

Columbus Day

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Christopher Columbus (detail), from Alejo Fernández, La Virgen de los Navegantes, circa 1505 to 1536, Alcázares Reales de Sevilla.

In his magisterial biography, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, 1942, Samuel Elliot Morrison observes:

[Christopher Columbus did] more to direct the course of history than any individual since Augustus Caesar. …

The voyage that took him to “The Indies” and home was no blind chance, but the creation of his own brain and soul, long studied, carefully planned, repeatedly urged on indifferent princes, and carried through by virtue of his courage, sea-knowledge and indomitable will. No later voyage could ever have such spectacular results, and Columbus’s fame would have been secure had he retired from the sea in 1493. Yet a lofty ambition to explore further, to organize the territories won for Castile, and to complete the circuit of the globe, sent him thrice more to America. These voyages, even more than the first, proved him to be the greatest navigator of his age, and enabled him to train the captains and pilots who were to display the banners of Spain off every American cape and island between Fifty North and Fifty South. The ease with which he dissipated the unknown terrors of the Ocean, the skill with which he found his way out and home, again and again, led thousands of men from every Western European nation into maritime adventure and exploration.

The whole history of the Americas stem from the Four Voyages of Columbus; and as the Greek city-states looked back to the deathless gods as their founders, so today a score of independent nations and dominions unite in homage to Christopher the stout-hearted son of Genoa, who carried Christian civilization across the Ocean Sea.

An annual post.

07 Oct 2017

“With Supposed Change of Species”?

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The Philadelphia medical dictionary: containing a concise explanation of all the terms used in medicine, surgery, pharmacy, botany, natural history, chemistry, and materia medica. 1817.

07 Oct 2017

Battle of Lepanto

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Tony Stafki, The Battle of Lepanto

(In the contemporary painting above: “The Catholic ships form a cross and the Muslim ships form a cresent. – The standard of the Holy Cross which was blessed by Pope Pius V can be seen on Don Juan of Austria’s ship which is leading the charge. – Papal ships (St. Peter’s keys) – The miracle of the wind: just before the armies met the wind completely switched in favor of the Catholic ships. – Devils can be seen amongst the Muslim ships (they were summoned from hell by the Muslim leader). The devils have peacock feathers as swords, a manifestation of their pride. – Our Lady of Victory with a sword in one hand ready to crush the devils and the other hand outstretched to the Muslim souls. – St. Michael leading the Angels – There are small white lights by the oars on the Muslim ships representing the souls of the Catholic prisoners.”)

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October 7, 1571, the fleet of the Holy League, an alliance of the kingdoms of Spain, of Sicily and of Naples, of the Republics of Venice and of Genoa, of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, of the Duchy of Savoy, of the Papal States, and of the Sovereign and Military Order of St. John, decisively defeated the Ottoman Empire’s main battle fleet in five hours of fighting at Lepanto at the northern edge of the Gulf of Corinth.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quixote, was shot twice in the chest and once in the left arm in the course of the battle.

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Rev. Fr. Luis Coloma, The Story of Don John of Austria, trans. Lady Moreton, (New York: John Lane Company, 1912), pp. 265-271:

The Turkish fleet came on imposing and terrible, all sails set, impelled by a fair wind, and it was only half a mile from the line of galliasses and another mile from the line of the Christian ships.

D. John waited no longer; he humbly crossed himself, and ordered that the cannon of challenge should be fired on the “Real,” and the blue flag of the League should be hoisted at the stern, which unfurled itself like a piece of the sky on which stood out an image of the Crucified. A moment later the galley of Ali replied, accepting the challenge by firing another cannon, and hoisting at the stern the standard of the Prophet, guarded in Mecca, white and of large size, with a wide green “cenefa,” and in the center verses from the Koran embroidered in gold.

At the same moment a strange thing happened, a very simple one at any other time, but for good reason then considered a miracle: the wind fell suddenly to a calm, and then began to blow favorably for the Christians and against the Turks. It seemed as if the Voice had said to the sea, “Be calm,” and to the wind, “Be still.” The silence was profound, and nothing was heard but the waves breaking on the prows of the galleys, and the noise of the chains of the Christian galley slaves as they rowed.

Fr. Miguel Servia blessed from the quarter-deck all those of the fleet, and gave them absolution in the hour of death. It was then a quarter to twelve.

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Lepanto by G.K. Chesterton

Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri’s knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunset and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees,
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,—
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.
And he saith, “Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done,
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces—four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not ‘Kismet’; it is he that knows not Fate ;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey in the gate!
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth.”
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)

06 Oct 2017

Las Vegas: Worst Shooting in US History?

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13 Sep 2017

For Sale: Possible Tourist Attraction in 6400 Acres

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Stonehenge sold in 1915 for £6,600, with a pretty decent house thrown in. Today, they get almost 1.4 million visitors a year, many of whom pay the full £16.50 admission price.

From the archives of Country Life.

Obviously you and I were unable to bid, not yet having been born. My father was one-year-old, so he, too, was out of luck. But what were my useless grandparents doing?

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