Category Archive 'History'
28 Nov 2019

The Real Story of 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.

28 Nov 2019

A Proclamation

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

22 Nov 2019

That’s Important!

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The Crimson reports on the latest vital and totally relevant administrative initiative up there at the little commuter school of the Charles.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow announced the creation of a University-wide initiative to address and further research the school’s ties to slavery in an email sent to Harvard affiliates Thursday.

Bacow selected Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin to be the head of a new University-wide faculty committee that will lead the initiative. The University has designated $5 million for the program, according to Bacow’s email.
“It is my hope that the work of this new initiative will help the university gain important insights about our past and the enduring legacy of slavery — while also providing an ongoing platform for our conversations about our present and our future as a university community committed to having our minds opened and improved by learning,” Bacow wrote.

Bacow wrote that the Radcliffe Institute will work closely with library and museum staff to host both programs and academic opportunities related to the issue.

“By engaging a wide array of interests and expertise, as Radcliffe is uniquely suited to do, this initiative will reflect the remarkable power of bringing together individuals from across Harvard in pursuit of a common purpose,” he wrote.

Other faculty on the 12-person committee include former Law School Dean Martha L. Minow and former Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds.

Bacow’s announcement comes as the University continues to grapple with its ties to slavery. In March, Connecticut resident Tamara K. Lanier filed a lawsuit against Harvard alleging the University unlawfully owns and profits off photos of enslaved people who she says are her ancestors.

Earlier this month, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda penned a letter to Bacow demanding reparations from Harvard for its historical ties to slavery.

In his letter, Bacow also wrote about efforts that former University President Drew G. Faust spearheaded several years ago like installing memorials commemorating enslaved individuals at Wadsworth House and Harvard Law School, and creating a faculty committee to study the University’s ties to slavery.

In February 2016, former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith announced that faculty leaders of the 12 undergraduate houses would be renamed “Faculty Deans” — a shift away from the former term “House Master,” which some students associated with slavery.

A month later, the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — agreed to remove the Law School’s controversial seal, which featured the crest of a slaveholding family. The decision came after pieces of black tape were found over the portraits of black Law School professors in November 2015 and months of student protests.

The initiative announced Thursday will focus on researching further the connections Harvard has to the slave trade and to abolition movements, Bacow said in his email.

“Harvard has a unique role in the history of our country, and we have a distinct obligation to understand how our traditions and our culture here are shaped by our past and by our surroundings — from the ways the university benefitted from the Atlantic slave trade to the debates and advocacy for abolition on camp,” Bacow wrote.

After all, hey! it’s only been a mere 236 years since Massachusetts abolished Slavery in 1783!

The great discovery of our Enlightened Age is the principle that the Universe revolves around left-wing sob stories.

11 Nov 2019

Martinmas aka Armistice Day, later Veterans Day

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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.

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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.

An annual post.

05 Nov 2019

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.

03 Nov 2019

Face of Viking Shieldmaiden Reconstructed

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British scientists have reconstructed the face of a female Viking warrior who suffered a head wound and was buried with weapons.

Daily Mail:

Scientists have re-created the face of a female Viking warrior who lived more than 1,000 years ago.

The woman is based on a skeleton found in a Viking graveyard in Solør, Norway, and is now preserved in Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History.

While the remains had already been identified as female, the burial site had not been considered that of a warrior ‘simply because the occupant was a woman’, archaelogist Ella Al-Shamahi told The Guardian.

But now British scientists have brought the female warrior to life using cutting-edge facial recognition technology.

Scientists reconstructed the face of the female warrior who lived more than 1,000 years ago by anatomically working from the muscles and layering of the skin

And scientists found the woman was buried with a hoard of deadly weaponry including arrows, a sword, a spear and an axe.

Researchers also discovered a dent in her head, which rested on a shield in her grave, that was consistent with a sword wound.

It is unclear whether the brutal injury was the cause of her death however it is believed to be ‘the first evidence ever found of a Viking woman with a battle injury’, according to Ms Al-Shamahi.

She added: I’m so excited because this is a face that hasn’t been seen in 1,000 years… She’s suddenly become really real.’

RTWT

14 Oct 2019

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 2019

The New Normal

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Alexander Belisle, July 4th Parade #2.

Kevin D. Williamson:

The trauma of 9/11, the divisions of the Iraq War, and the fearful disorientation of the financial crisis left Americans agitated and anxious — but not in a way that put them in the mood for another return to normalcy. The pendulum began to swing madly: The trauma of the Bush years begat the Obama presidency; the radicalism of the Obama presidency begat Trump; the radicalism of Trump (which is not, for the most part, a matter of policy) begat . . . much that is undesirable: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “resistance,” and the mainstreaming of socialism as a basic current of the Democratic party; Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in a crazypants radicalism arms race over whether we should confiscate the accumulated savings of the affluent at a rate of 2 percent a year or at a rate of 8 percent a year; a turn toward a politics of implacable hatred and demagoguery in both of the major political parties.

It is sobering to realize that there are young Americans serving in Afghanistan today who had not been born on September 11, 2001, who have only known post-9/11 politics and a post-9/11 America, with all the angst and paranoia that goes along with them. This profoundly abnormal period in our history is their normal, the only world they have ever known. For them, there is no return to normalcy and no possibility of it. “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” These young Americans were not around to hear all those fine speeches about how turning away from our national ethos of liberty and citizenship, turning toward fear and hatred and turning against each other, would mean, in the inescapable phrase of the time, that “the terrorists have won.”

RTWT

22 Sep 2019

Etymologies of Common Terms

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18 Sep 2019

America When My Family First Arrived Versus Today

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Clifford A. Brown, at Ricochet:

Collecting Taxes

About $6.23 [$147 in 2016 dollars]: The amount of state and local government taxes collected per person in 1880.

About $4,951: The amount of state and local government taxes collected per person in 2016.

Note that these are not federal tax dollars, but the real growth in the scope of state and local government. In part, federal taxes could not be compared across the same interval as “per person” because the federal income tax was not ratified until 1913. This points to all of us, collectively, voting over and over again for more and more government at every level, in contradiction to the basic assumptions expressed by both sides of the debate back in 1787-1789. We may truly get the government for which we vote!

RTWT

Add the roughly 40% of your income you pay to the Federal Government if you are even moderately successful in life. And don’t forget to add in your own currently $67,000 share in the Federal Debt.

20 Aug 2019

Vonolel, General Roberts’ Charger

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The best example of what was called a Nejdi horse that comes to my mind is ‘Vonolel’–the horse of General Roberts. Here is a letter that General Roberts has written to Homer Davenport in 1907 and a photograph showing Lord Roberts mounted on the Vonolel, c. 1881

“ENGLEMERE, ASCOT, BERKS,
4th March, 1907.
Dear Sir,—I have been a long time replying to your letter of the 22d of November, in which you asked for information about the Arab horse I had in my possession for many years. I have deferred doing so until I could send you a photograph of the horse; this I have been able to discover quite lately. I bought the horse in Bombay in 1877. He was a pure-bred Nedj Arab and was then five years old, and had quite recently been landed from Arabia. The following year I took him to Afghanistan, where he was with me for two years in extremes of heat and cold, and very often with difficulty about proper food for him, but while other horses fell off in condition from not getting forage, the little Arab maintained his throughout. I kept him all the time I was in India and in 1893 brought him to England. He attracted great attention at the late Queen’s jubilee in 1897; he died two years afterward, and is buried in the garden of the Royal Hospital, Dublin, in which I reside while commanding in Ireland. During the twenty-two years he was in my possession he travelled with me over fifty thousand miles and was never sick or sorry. He measured exactly 14 hands 2 inches.
Believe me,
Yours very truly,
ROBERTS, F. M.”

———————–

Kipling’s tribute to Lord Roberts: “Bobs” (an excerpt):

If you stood ’im on ’is head,
Father Bobs,
You could spill a quart of lead
Outer Bobs.
’E’s been at it thirty years,
An-amassin’ souveneers
In the way o’ slugs an’ spears—
Ain’t yer Bobs?

What ’e does not know o’ war,
Gen’ral Bobs,
You can arst the shop next door—
Can’t they, Bobs?
Oh, ’e’s little but he’s wise;
’E’s terror for ’is size,
An’—’e—does—not—advertize—
Do yer, Bobs?

Now they’ve made a bloomin’ Lord
Outer Bobs,
Which was but ’is fair reward—
Weren’t it, Bobs?
So ’e’ll wear a coronet
Where ’is ’elmet used to set;
But we know you won’t forget—
Will yer, Bobs?

———————–


The grave of Vonolel, the famous and bemedalled horse.

Many people walking the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham will pass a small grave without noticing, and yet this grave is perhaps the most unusual grave in Dublin itself. In the grounds of the Hospital, one finds the final resting place of ‘Vonolel’, twenty-nine years old on passing, but a veteran of conflict.

In the parade celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, General Roberts led the colonial contingents in the procession on his grey ‘Vonolel’, the only horse to be awarded campaign medals for the Afghan Campaign and the March to Kandahar.

    “When the Queen awarded medals to her officers and men who has taken part in the Afghan campaign and in the expedition to Kandahar, she did not forget Vonolel. Lord Roberts hung round the animals neck the Kabul medal, with four clasps, and the bronze Kandahar star. The gallant horse wore these medals on that day in June when the nation celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee”

So read The Irish Times of October 21, 1899.

Much more information on the horse can be gathered from an earlier piece however, dating from January of the same year, when Vonolel was still living. In it, it was noted that Vonolel had come to England “having been practically all over the world with his master”. He was described as “..a type of the highest class of Arab charger” and it was noted that “he traces his descent from the best blood of the desert.”

13 Aug 2019

Thomas Hardy’s Tree in St. Pancras Churchyard

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Kuriositas has an interesting

In the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, hundreds of old gravestones circle an ash tree. Of course, these were not how they were originally laid out. So, how did they get to this, their final resting place, as it were? And who was responsible?

Long before he became famous for novels like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (like any other aspiring writer) had to find employment with which to pay his way through the world. His chosen field was to be architecture.

However, it is unlikely that the would-be author could guess what one of his firm’s projects would demand of him. He probably didn’t sign up for architecture to then be sent to excavate a graveyard. Yet, like many a young man finding his path, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

During his five years with the Covent Garden based architect Arthur Blomfield (1862-67) the railway system of the British Isles was undergoing a huge burst of growth. The lines in and around London were, in particular, demanding more room to carry people in and out of the capital.

It was during this time that an older part of St Pancras Churchyard was designated for almost total obliteration in order to make way for a new railway line. The Bishop of London gave the contract for this work to Blomfield who passed responsibility on to his young student, Hardy. Yet these objects in the way of progress could not be cleared like slums. Even progress occasionally must respect what came before and the removal and relocation of so many middle class graves would almost certainly have caused an uproar if it was not done properly..

The coffins were removed from the site with circumspection and care and were reburied elsewhere (the Victorian English had a horror of cremation). There was no need to move the headstones. Yet although the graves were old and unvisited it would not have been respectful to simply dump the headstones in to the Thames.

The process would have taken a great deal of time and young Hardy, who was 25 when he was given this commission would have spent the best part of a year overseeing the work. Perhaps his experiences in St Pancras church yard later informed some of the bleaker passages in his novels.

Some of the headstones were placed in a circular pattern around a young ash tree in the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church, far enough away from the site of the railway for them never to have to be disturbed again. Over the decades the tree has, inevitably grown and parts of the headstones nearest the tree have disappeared in to its growth.

RTWT

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