Category Archive 'History'
21 Jul 2019

Comparison

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11 Jul 2019

More Reparations Needed

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Sahil Matani points out, tongue firmly in cheek, that, as it is now proposed to compensate hereditary victims of Slavery, it can easily be argued that the same principle ought to be applied even more broadly, going back in History even farther, and farther, and farther.

One glaring example is the great evil visited on the Anglo-Saxon population by the Normal Conquest of 1066. By any standard, the effect on indigenous English society was enduring devastation. Through war, invasion and genocide, the Anglo-Saxon ruling class was almost entirely replaced, control of the church and state surrendered to foreign adversaries, English replaced by Norman French as the language of government, and England’s entire political, social and cultural orientation shifted from Northern Europe to the continent for the next thousand years.

This matters because, just as the pain of colonialism continues to be endured by its descendants, the Conquest continues to have lasting effects. In his study of surnames and social mobility, economic historian Gregory Clark concluded that Norman surnames continue to be 25 per cent overrepresented at Oxbridge to this day relative to other indigenous English surnames. As Clark put it: ‘The fact that Norman surnames had not been completely average in their social distribution by 1300, by 1600, or even by 1900 implies astonishingly slow rates of social mobility during every epoch of English history.’ Not for nothing did Nonconformists and Whigs loudly oppose ‘the Norman yoke’ during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Cambridge University, which still drips with Norman money and influence, should now consider to what extent it needs to compensate its Anglo-Saxon victims. The Sutton Trust estimates that Oxbridge graduates earn £400,000 more during their lifetimes than graduates from other UK universities. These figures imply that descendants of the rapacious Norman invader class could be earning tens of thousands of pounds more than other graduates — an undeserved lifetime premium that has survived 31 generations. So, reparations must certainly be made. But who shall pay, and who shall receive?

It should be straightforward for a Royal Commission to trace the present-day descendants of Britain’s Norman usurpers through a combination of genealogical and administrative research as well as — inevitably — mandatory genetic testing. A small tax on the Lampards, Vardys and Gascoignes of the world, payable to the Bamfords, Bransons and Ecclestones, would be sufficient to catalyse healing for the open sores of the past.

What are the sums involved? By 1086, the Norman arrivistes had stolen almost a third of the 12.5 million acres of arable land in England, parcelling it into manorial estates. At a conservative estimate, that land is now worth £7,000 per acre — or £25 billion in total that the Normans owe Anglo-Saxons for the Conquest. France’s liability could, of course, be offset against our exit bill from the EU.

There will be inevitable quibbles, such as descendants of Normans claiming that they were not personally responsible. But this is feeble prattle. Countries typically honour treaties dating hundreds of years in the past, despite no one being alive who signed them. We pay debts accumulated by previous generations.

RTWT

03 Jul 2019

Pickett’s Charge

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Today is the 156th Anniversary of the Third Day of the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.


Crossing the Emmitsburg Road

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“Give them cold steel.” — Brigadier General Lewis Armistead (February 18, 1817–July 3, 1863)

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“Dr. Joseph Hold of the 11th Mississippi, Davis’ brigade, anticipated that the afternoon would be busy and set up his dressing station early in a shelter behind Seminary Ridge. . .When the cannonade opened and the Federals’ guns replied, stretcher bearers, crouching low, began bringing in the wounded. Among the first was an athletic young man with reddish golden hair, “a princely fellow,” the doctor called him, with a calm manner and a delightful smile, one of that gay, turbulent company that had left with the University Greys of Oxford to form Company A of the 11th Mississippi.

“The physician examined the left arm, cut off at the elbow, and offered encouragement.

“‘Why, doctor, that isn’t where I am hurt.’ The boy pulled back a blanket and showed where a shell had ripped deep across his abdomen, carrying away much that was vital. ‘I am in great agony,’ he said, still smiling. ‘Let me die easy, dear doctor.’

“But before the lad had drunk the cup containing the concentrated solution of opium, the doctor held up his right arm so he could write: ‘My dear mother. . .Remember that I am true to my country and my regret at dying is that she is not free. . .you must not regret that my body cannot be obtained. It is a mere matter of form anyhow. . .Send my dying release to Miss Mary. . .’ He signed, JERE S. GAGE, Co. A, 11 Miss. By that time, the letter was covered with blood.

“Then he raised his cup to a group of soldiers. ‘I do not invite you to drink with me,’ he remarked wryly, then with fervor, ‘but I drink a toast to you, the Southern Confederacy, and to victory’

* * *

“Then Pickett stood in front of his division and gave the final word ‘Charge the enemy and remember old Virginia.’ His voice was clear and strong as he spoke the order: ‘Forward! Guide center! March’ . . .

“‘I don’t want to make this charge,’ Longstreet declared emphatically. ‘I don’t believe it can succeed. I would stop Pickett now, but that General Lee has ordered it and expects it.’

“Further remarks showed he wanted some excuse for calling off the whole attack.

“But Longstreet and Alexander had lost control. As they talked, the turf trembled about them and the long line of grey infantry broke from the woods. First came Garnett’s Virginians, the general in front, his old blue overcoat buttoned tightly around his neck. Abreast was Kemper’s trim line marching majestically into the open fields, the fifes piping ‘Dixie,’ the ranks in nearly perfect alignment. Far to the left could be heard the drum rolls of the Carolina regiments – Pettigrew and Trimble were in motion. The hour of the generals had passed. The infantrymen from the Richmond offices and Pearisburg farmlands, the ‘greys’ from the halls of ‘Old Miss’ and the ‘flower of the Cape Fear section,’ had taken the Confederate cause into their hands.

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“The assaulting column consisted of 41 regiments and one battalion. . .Nineteen of the regiments were from Virginia, 15 from North Carolina, 3 each from Tennessee and Mississippi, and one regiment and one battalion from Alabama.

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“Garnett, with a big voice issuing from his frail body, road ahead of his line regulating the pace, admonishing his men not to move too rapidly. From the skirmish line, Captain Shotwell obtained one of the rare views of the Confederate advance: the ‘glittering forest of bright bayonets,’ the column coming down the slope ‘in superb alignment,’ the ‘murmur and jingle’ and ‘rustle of thousands of feet amid the stubble’ which stirred up a cloud of dust ‘like the dash of spray at the prow of a vessel.’

“In front of Pickett flew the blue banner of the Old Dominion with the motto, ‘Sic semper Tyrannis,” and the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy (the red battle flag with its blue cross not yet being in general use). The regimental flags flapped. A soft warm wind was blowing from the land they loved.”

–Glenn Tucker, “High Tide at Gettysburg.”

03 Jul 2019

Lee’s Gamble

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For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstance which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago.

—William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust, 1948.

26 Jun 2019

Norman Stone, 8 March 1941 –19 June 2019

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Richard J. Evans, in The Guardian, really unloaded on the conservative historian Norman Stone in an obituary.

was character assassination. As a judge of the Fraenkel prize in contemporary history some years ago, he told the astonished members of the jury that they should not award the prize to a historian of Germany whose politics he disliked because she was an East German agent – an allegation that was enough to rule her out of contention even though it was absolutely baseless and undoubtedly defamatory.

Shortly after the death in 1982 of his patron and mentor in Cambridge, EH Carr, the author of a multivolume History of Soviet Russia and influential works on historiography and international relations, Stone published a lengthy assault on his reputation, which included lurid details of his three marriages. When a colleague criticised this “outrageous” diatribe to his face, telling him that Carr “always said you were amoral”, Stone responded: “And he always said you were a bore” (probably an invention, though one cannot know for sure).

At a time when malice and rudeness were highly prized by some rightwing Cambridge dons, Stone outdid them all in the abuse he hurled at anyone he disapproved of, including feminists (“rancid”), Oxford dons (“a dreadful collection of deadbeats, dead wood and has-beens”), students (“smelly and inattentive”), David Cameron and John Major (“transitional nobodies”), Edward Heath (“a flabby-faced coward”) and many more.

Stone was undoubtedly clever. He could write entertainingly and could summarise complex historical circumstances in a few pregnant sentences, gifts which brought him a flourishing career as a journalist and commentator. He was a talented linguist who read and spoke more than half a dozen languages, including Hungarian. Yet his career was also dogged by character flaws that prevented him from fulfilling his early promise as a historian. …
Read the rest of this entry »

20 Jun 2019

“The Lonely Valley”

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Birdseye view of early Girardville.

Nice article on the foundation of the mining industry and the founding of towns in the Valley of the Mahanoy Creek, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania by Jake Wynn.

I grew up in Shenandoah. My father’s family had settled in Mahanoy City.

Out of wilderness came the wild towns of the Mahanoy Valley.

Ashland. Girardville. Mahanoy Plane. Gilberton. Shenandoah. Mahanoy City.

These communities and the patch towns that surrounded them suddenly appeared in the 1850s and 1860s out of pure wilderness. All built to mine black diamonds from the mountains surrounding the area in every direction. …

The Mahanoy Valley became home to a series of boom-towns in the 1860s and early 1870s. And with boom-towns come the inevitable problems of a population explosion. Lawlessness reigned in these years after the Civil War. These towns had major problems with violence and liquor in their early years. And they also became the seat of unrest directed toward the large mining interests that sought to absorb the patchwork of independent operators in the 1870s. Many of those hanged as Molly Maguires came from this narrow valley.

Developing the Mahanoy Valley came as a direct result of the Civil War and the sudden emergence of life in the wilds of the “Middle Field” created a situation as close to the “Wild West” as would ever be seen in the Keystone State.

Walter Winchell, back in the Prohibition Era, referred to Shenandoah as “the Only Western Town in the East.”

27 May 2019

Confederate Veteran Poses With Fighter Jet, 1955

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“Uncle Bill” Lundy claimed to be the last living Confederate Civil War veteran in Florida, and spent his 107th birthday at Eglin AFB, Florida in January 1955.

Rare Historical Photos:

It should be noted that Lundy’s actual age and military service have been heavily disputed over the years. William Lundy was allegedly born near Troy, in Pike County, Alabama, on January 18, 1848 (also reported at Coffee Springs, Coffee County). He is said to have enlisted in the last days of March 1864, at age 16; Company D (Brown’s), 4th Alabama Cavalry Regiment (Home Guard) at Elba; and to have been honorably discharged at Elba in May 1865, on account of the close of the war. He moved his family to Laurel Hill in 1890, where he and his wife, Mary Jane Lassiter, raised ten children. He was granted a Confederate soldier’s pension in Florida, no. 8948, of $600 per annum to be paid effective from June 12, 1941.

HT: Vanderleun.

21 Apr 2019

Easter

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Piero della Francesca, Resurrection, circa 1463, Museo Civico, Sansepolcro

From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:

Easter

Easter, the anniversary of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, is one of the three great festivals of the Christian year,—the other two being Christmas and Whitsuntide. From the earliest period of Christianity down to the present day, it has always been celebrated by believers with the greatest joy, and accounted the Queen of Festivals. In primitive times it was usual for Christians to salute each other on the morning of this day by exclaiming, ‘Christ is risen;’ to which the person saluted replied, ‘Christ is risen indeed,’ or else, ‘And hath appeared unto Simon;’—a custom still retained in the Greek Church.

The common name of this festival in the East was the Paschal Feast, because kept at the same time as the Pascha, or Jewish passover, and in some measure succeeding to it. In the sixth of the Ancyran Canons it is called the Great Day. Our own name Easter is derived, as some suppose, from Eostre, the name of a Saxon deity, whose feast was celebrated every year in the spring, about the same time as the Christian festival—the name being retained when the character of the feast was changed; or, as others suppose, from Oster, which signifies rising. If the latter supposition be correct, Easter is in name, as well as reality, the feast of the resurrection.

Though there has never been any difference of opinion in the Christian church as to why Easter is kept, there has been a good deal as to when it ought to be kept. It is one of the moveable feasts; that is, it is not fixed to one particular day—like Christmas Day, e. g., which is always kept on the 25th of December—but moves backwards or forwards according as the full moon next after the vernal equinox falls nearer or further from the equinox. The rule given at the beginning of the Prayer-book to find Easter is this: ‘Easter-day is always the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon or next after the twenty-first day of March; and if the full moon happens upon a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after.’

The paschal controversy, which for a time divided Christendom, grew out of a diversity of custom. The churches of Asia Minor, among whom were many Judaizing Christians, kept their paschal feast on the same day as the Jews kept their passover; i. e., on the 14th of Nisan, the Jewish month corresponding to our March or April. But the churches of the West, remembering that our Lord’s resurrection took place on the Sunday, kept their festival on the Sunday following the 14th of Nisan. By this means they hoped not only to commemorate the resurrection on the day on which it actually occurred, but also to distinguish themselves more effectually from the Jews. For a time this difference was borne with mutual forbearance and charity. And when disputes began to arise, we find that Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, when on a visit to Rome, took the opportunity of conferring with Anicetas, bishop of that city, upon the question. Polycarp pleaded the practice of St. Philip and St. John, with the latter of whom he had lived, conversed, and joined in its celebration; while Anicetas adduced the practice of St. Peter and St. Paul. Concession came from neither side, and so the matter dropped; but the two bishops continued in Christian friendship and concord. This was about A.D. 158.

Towards the end of the century, however, Victor, bishop of Rome, resolved on compelling the Eastern churches to conform to the Western practice, and wrote an imperious letter to the prelates of Asia, commanding them to keep the festival of Easter at the time observed by the Western churches. They very naturally resented such an interference, and declared their resolution to keep Easter at the time they had been accustomed to do. The dispute hence-forward gathered strength, and was the source of much bitterness during the next century. The East was divided from the West, and all who, after the example of the Asiatics, kept Easter-day on the 14th, whether that day were Sunday or not, were styled Qiccertodecimans by those who adopted the Roman custom.

One cause of this strife was the imperfection of the Jewish calendar. The ordinary year of the Jews consisted of 12 lunar months of 292 days each, or of 29 and 30 days alternately; that is, of 354 days. To make up the 11 days’ deficiency, they intercalated a thirteenth month of 30 days every third year. But even then they would be in advance of the true time without other intercalations; so that they often kept their passover before the vernal equinox. But the Western Christians considered the vernal equinox the commencement of the natural year, and objected to a mode of reckoning which might sometimes cause them to hold their paschal feast twice in one year and omit it altogether the next. To obviate this, the fifth of the apostolic canons decreed that, ’ If any bishop, priest, or deacon, celebrated the Holy Feast of Easter before the vernal equinox, as the Jews do, let him be deposed.’

At the beginning of the fourth century, matters had gone to such a length, that the Emperor Constantine thought it his duty to take steps to allay the controversy, and to insure uniformity of practice for the future. For this purpose, he got a canon passed in the great Ecumenical Council of Nice (A.D. 325), that everywhere the great feast of Easter should be observed upon one and the same day; and that not the day of the Jewish passover, but, as had been generally observed, upon the Sunday afterwards. And to prevent all future disputes as to the time, the following rules were also laid down:

    ‘That the twenty-first day of March shall be accounted the vernal equinox.’

    ‘That the full moon happening upon or next after the twenty-first of March, shall be taken for the full moon of Nisan.’

    ‘That the Lord’s-day next following that full moon be Easter-day.’

    ‘But if the full moon happen upon a Sunday, Easter-day shall be the Sunday after.’

As the Egyptians at that time excelled in astronomy, the Bishop of Alexandria was appointed to give notice of Easter-day to the Pope and other patriarchs. But it was evident that this arrangement could not last long; it was too inconvenient and liable to interruptions. The fathers of the next age began, therefore, to adopt the golden numbers of the Metonic cycle, and to place them in the calendar against those days in each month on which the new moons should fall during that year of the cycle. The Metonie cycle was a period of nineteen years. It had been observed by Meton, an Athenian philosopher, that the moon returns to have her changes on the same month and day of the month in the solar year after a lapse of nineteen years, and so, as it were, to run in a circle. He published his discovery at the Olympic Games, B.C. 433, and the cycle has ever since borne his name. The fathers hoped by this cycle to be able always to know the moon’s age; and as the vernal equinox was now fixed to the 21st of March, to find Easter for ever. But though the new moon really happened on the same day of the year after a space of nineteen years as it did before, it fell an hour earlier on that day, which, in the course of time, created a serious error in their calculations.

A cycle was then framed at Rome for 84 years, and generally received by the Western church, for it was then thought that in this space of time the moon’s changes would return not only to the same day of the month, but of the week also. Wheatley tells us that, ‘During the time that Easter was kept according to this cycle, Britain was separated from the Roman empire, and the British churches for some time after that separation continued to keep Easter according to this table of 84 years. But soon after that separation, the Church of Rome and several others discovered great deficiencies in this account, and therefore left it for another which was more perfect.’—Book on the Common Prayer, p. 40. This was the Victorian period of 532 years. But he is clearly in error here. The Victorian period was only drawn up about the year 457, and was not adopted by the Church till the Fourth Council of Orleans, A.D. 541.

Now from the time the Romans finally left Britain (A.D. 426), when he supposes both churches to be using the cycle of 84 years, till the arrival of St. Augustine (A.D. 596), the error can hardly have amounted to a difference worth disputing about. And yet the time the Britons kept Easter must have varied considerably from that of the Roman missionaries to have given rise to the statement that they were Quartodecimans, which they certainly were not; for it is a well-known fact that British bishops were at the Council of Nice, and doubtless adopted and brought home with them the rule laid down by that assembly. Dr. Hooke’s account is far more probable, that the British and Irish churches adhered to the Alexandrian rule, according to which the Easter festival could not begin before the 8th of March; while according to the rule adopted at Rome and generally in the West, it began as early as the fifth. ‘They (the Celts) were manifestly in error,’ he says; ‘but owing to the haughtiness with which the Italians had demanded an alteration in their calendar, they doggedly determined not to change.’—Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, vol. i. p. 14.

After a good deal of disputation had taken place, with more in prospect, Oswy, King of Northumbria, determined to take the matter in hand. He summoned the leaders of the contending parties to a conference at Whitby, A.D. 664, at which he himself presided. Colman, bishop of Lindisfarne, represented the British church. The Romish party were headed by Agilbert, bishop of Dorchester, and Wilfrid, a young Saxon. Wilfrid was spokesman. The arguments were characteristic of the age; but the manner in which the king decided irresistibly provokes a smile, and makes one doubt whether he were in jest or earnest. Colman spoke first, and urged that the custom of the Celtic church ought not to be changed, because it had been inherited from their forefathers, men beloved of God, &c. Wilfrid followed:

    ‘The Easter which we observe I saw celebrated by all at Rome: there, where the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul, lived, taught, suffered, and were buried.’ And concluded a really powerful speech with these words: ‘And if, after all, that Columba of yours were, which I will not deny, a holy man, gifted with the power of working miracles, is he, I ask, to be preferred before the most blessed Prince of the Apostles, to whom our Lord said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and to thee will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven” ?’

The King, turning to Colman, asked him, ‘Is it true or not, Colman, that these words were spoken to Peter by our Lord?’ Colman, who seems to have been completely cowed, could not deny it. ‘It is true, 0 King.’ ‘Then,’ said the King, ‘can you shew me any such power given to your Columba? ’ Colman answered, ’ No.’ ‘You are both, then, agreed,’ continued the King, are you not, that these words were addressed principally to Peter, and that to him were given the keys of heaven by our Lord?’ Both assented. ‘Then,’ said the King, ‘I tell you plainly, I shall not stand opposed to the door-keeper of the kingdom of heaven; I desire, as far as in me lies, to adhere to his precepts and obey his commands, lest by offending him who keepeth the keys, I should, when I present myself at the gate, find no one to open to me.’

This settled the controversy, though poor honest Colman resigned his see rather than submit to such a decision.

On Easter-day depend all the moveable feasts and fasts throughout the year. The nine Sundays before, and the eight following after, are all dependent upon it, and form, as it were, a body-guard to this Queen of Festivals. The nine preceding are the six Sundays in Lent, Quinquagesima, Sexagesima, and Septuagesima; the eight following are the five Sundays after Easter, the Sunday after Ascension Day, Whit Sunday, and Trinity Sunday.

EASTER CUSTOMS

The old Easter customs which still linger among us vary considerably in form in different parts of the kingdom. The custom of distributing the ‘pace’ or ‘pasche ege,’ which was once almost universal among Christians, is still observed by children, and by the peasantry in Lancashire. Even in Scotland, where the great festivals have for centuries been suppressed, the young people still get their hard-boiled dyed eggs, which they roll about, or throw, and finally eat. In Lancashire, and in Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire, and perhaps in other counties, the ridiculous custom of ‘lifting’ or ‘heaving’ is practised.

On Easter Monday the men lift the women, and on Easter Tuesday the women lift or heave the men. The process is performed by two lusty men or women joining their hands across each other’s wrists; then, making the person to be heaved sit down on their arms, they lift him up aloft two or three times, and often carry him several yards along a street. A grave clergyman who happened to be passing through a town in Lancashire on an Easter Tuesday, and having to stay an hour or two at an inn, was astonished by three or four lusty women rushing into his room, exclaiming they had come ‘to lift him.’ ‘To lift me!’ repeated the amazed divine; ‘what can you mean?’ ‘Why, your reverence, we’re come to lift you, ‘cause it’s Easter Tuesday.’ ‘Lift me because it’s Easter Tuesday? I don’t understand. Is there any such custom here?’ ‘Yes, to be sure; why, don’t you know? all us women was lifted yesterday; and us lifts the men today in turn. And in course it’s our rights and duties to lift ‘em.’

After a little further parley, the reverend traveller compromised with his fair visitors for half-a-crown, and thus escaped the dreaded compliment. In Durham, on Easter Monday, the men claim the privilege to take off the women’s shoes, and the next day the women retaliate. Anciently, both ecclesiastics and laics used to play at ball in the churches for tansy-cakes on Eastertide; and, though the profane part of this custom is happily everywhere discontinued, tansy-cakes and tansy-puddings are still favourite dishes at Easter in many parts. In some parishes in the counties of Dorset and Devon, the clerk carries round to every house a few white cakes as an Easter offering; these cakes, which are about the eighth of an inch thick, and of two sizes —the larger being seven or eight inches, the smaller about five in diameter— have a mingled bitter and sweet taste. In return for these cakes, which are always distributed after Divine service on Good Friday, the clerk receives a gratuity- according to the circumstances or generosity of the householder.

13 Mar 2019

Puritan Checklist

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Augustus Saint-Gaudens, The Puritan, Springfield, Massachusetts.

Rank historical figures by Puritan points:

HT: Tim of Angle.

10 Mar 2019

That the Civil War Was Fought to End Slavery Is a Myth

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ConradWiseChapmanFlagofSumt
Detail, Conrad Wise Chapman, The Flag of Sumter, Oct 20 1863

At Medium, Jonathan Clark explains that the Civil War was not really fought to end Slavery.

Viewing the Civil War as a crusade to end slavery is simply not correct; abolitionists never accounted for more than a sizeable minority in the North. The cause of war in 1861 wasn’t slavery. It was about the loss of millions in tax revenues.

RTWT

Lincoln ultimately annexed Abolitionism to the War in order to cover a war of conquest with a nobler justification and to make it harder for European countries to recognize or ally with the Confederacy.

“The Confederate soldier did not go to war to perpetuate slavery. Most of them never owned a slave, and our hero, Gen. Robert E. Lee, said that if he owned every one of the slaves in the South he would give them for the preservation of the Union. It was not for the slaves they fought, but for principle, for their homes and native land.”

–T.F. Goode , Confederate Banquet, January 19, 1893.

25 Feb 2019

The History of the Color Orange

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Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton, Flaming June, 1895, Museo de Arte de Ponce, Ponce, Puerto Rico.

My Modern Met:

The color orange has a long history that dates back centuries. The ancient Egyptians used a yellow-orange hue made from the mineral realgar in their tomb paintings. As with many minerals used to make pigments, realgar is highly toxic—it contains arsenic—and was used by the Chinese to repel snakes, in addition to being used in Chinese medicine.

Another related mineral, orpiment, was also used to make pigments. Just as toxic as realgar, it was also a highly prized trade item in Ancient Rome. Orpiment leans toward a golden yellow-orange and its resulting pigment, as well as that of realgar, was used in Medieval times in illuminated manuscripts.

Interestingly, in Europe, the color orange didn’t have a name until the 16th century. Prior to that time it was simply called yellow-red. Before the word orange came into common use in English, saffron was sometimes used to describe the deep yellow-orange color. This changed when orange trees were brought to Europe from Asia by Portuguese merchants. The color was then named after the ripe fruit, which carries through many different languages. Orange in English, naranja in Spanish, arancia in Italian, and laranja in Portuguese.

RTWT

A good color for starting conversations when worn on St. Patrick’s Day.

14 Feb 2019

St. Valentine’s Day, formerly the Lupercalia

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Jacopo Bassano, St Valentine Baptizing St Lucilla, 1575, oil on canvas, Museo Civico, Bassano del Grappa

The popular customs associated with Saint Valentine’s Day undoubtedly had their origin in a conventional belief generally received in England and France during the Middle Ages, that on 14 February, i.e., half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. Thus in Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules we read:

    For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
    Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.

For this reason the day was looked upon as specially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers’ tokens. Both the French and English literatures of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries contain allusions to the practice. Perhaps the earliest to be found is in the 34th and 35th Ballades of the bilingual poet, John Gower, written in French; but Lydgate and Clauvowe supply other examples. Those who chose each other under these circumstances seem to have been called by each other their Valentines.

In the Paston Letters, Dame Elizabeth Brews writes thus about a match she hopes to make for her daughter (we modernize the spelling), addressing the favoured suitor:

    And, cousin mine, upon Monday is Saint Valentine’s Day and every bird chooses himself a mate, and if it like you to come on Thursday night, and make provision that you may abide till then, I trust to God that ye shall speak to my husband and I shall pray that we may bring the matter to a conclusion.

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From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869: Feast Day: St. Valentine, priest and martyr, circ. 270.

ST. VALENTINE’S DAY

Valentine’s Day is now almost everywhere a much degenerated festival, the only observance of any note consisting merely of the sending of jocular anonymous letters to parties whom one wishes to quiz, and this confined very much to the humbler classes. The approach of the day is now heralded by the appearance in the print-sellers’ shop windows of vast numbers of missives calculated for use on this occasion, each generally consisting of a single sheet of post paper, on the first page of which is seen some ridiculous coloured caricature of the male or female figure, with a few burlesque verses below. More rarely, the print is of a sentimental kind, such as a view of Hymen’s altar, with a pair undergoing initiation into wedded happiness before it, while Cupid flutters above, and hearts transfixed with his darts decorate the corners. Maid-servants and young fellows interchange such epistles with each other on the 14th of February, no doubt conceiving that the joke is amazingly good: and, generally, the newspapers do not fail to record that the London postmen delivered so many hundred thousand more letters on that day than they do in general. Such is nearly the whole extent of the observances now peculiar to St. Valentine’s Day.

At no remote period it was very different. Ridiculous letters were unknown: and, if letters of any kind were sent, they contained only a courteous profession of attachment from some young man to some young maiden, honeyed with a few compliments to her various perfections, and expressive of a hope that his love might meet with return. But the true proper ceremony of St. Valentine’s Day was the drawing of a kind of lottery, followed by ceremonies not much unlike what is generally called the game of forfeits. Misson, a learned traveller, of the early part of the last century, gives apparently a correct account of the principal ceremonial of the day.

    ‘On the eve of St. Valentine’s Day,’ he says, ‘the young folks in England and Scotland, by a very ancient custom, celebrate a little festival. An equal number of maids and bachelors get together: each writes their true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men’s billets, and the men the maids’: so that each of the young men lights upon a girl that he calls his valentine, and each of the girls upon a young man whom she calls hers. By this means each has two valentines: but the man sticks faster to the valentine that has fallen to him than to the valentine to whom he is fallen. Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the valentines give balls and treats to their mistresses, wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves, and this little sport often ends in love.’

St. Valentine’s Day is alluded to by Shakespeare and by Chaucer, and also by the poet Lydgate (who died in 1440).

The origin of these peculiar observances of St. Valentine’s Day is a subject of some obscurity. The saint himself, who was a priest of Rome, martyred in the third century, seems to have had nothing to do with the matter, beyond the accident of his day being used for the purpose. Mr. Douce, in his Illustrations of Shakespeare, says:

    “It was the practice in ancient Rome, during a great part of the month of February, to celebrate the Lupercalia, which were feasts in honour of Pan and Juno. whence the latter deity was named Februata, Februalis, and Februlla. On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. The pastors of the early Christian church, who, by every possible means, endeavoured to eradicate the vestiges of pagan superstitions, and chiefly by some commutations of their forms, substituted, in the present instance, the names of particular saints instead of those of the women: and as the festival of the Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, they appear to have chosen St. Valentine’s Day for celebrating the new feast, because it occurred nearly at the same time.”

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February 14th, prior to 1969, was the feast day of two, or possibly three, saints and martyrs named Valentine, all reputedly of the Third Century.

The first Valentine, legend holds, was a physician and priest in Rome, arrested for giving aid to martyrs in prison, who while there converted his jailer by restoring sight to the jailer’s daughter. He was executed by being beaten with clubs, and afterwards beheaded, February 14, 270. He is traditionally the patron of affianced couples, bee keepers, lovers, travellers, young people, and greeting card manufacturers, and his special assistance may be sought in conection with epilepsy, fainting, and plague.

A second St. Valentine, reportedly bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) was also allegedly martyred under Claudius II, and also allegedly buried along the Flaminian Way.

A third St. Valentine is said to have also been martyred in Roman times, along with companions, in Africa.

Due to an insufficiency of historical evidence in the eyes of Vatican II modernizers, the Roman Catholic Church dropped the February 14th feast of St. Valentine from its calendar in 1969.

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