Political Advice From Rudyard Kipling

A bit off topic, but I have been writing a series on the poetry of Rudyard Kipling and I thought some of our Almost Chosen People readers might wish to view the results.  This will be the first in an on-going series.  Kipling’s poems have always been at least as popular in this country as in Great Britian, so perhaps it is not so off topic as it might appear at first glance.

I have always been a great fan of the poetry of Kipling.  It is fun to recite and often has a fair amount of wisdom.  Too often Kipling is simply written off as a pro-imperialist poet and relegated to the past along with the British Empire.  He was certainly a loyal Brit and an advocate of the Empire, but there was much more to him than that.  Refusing honor after honor, including being poet laureate of Great Britain, he always retained his independence to give loving criticism to his country.  For example, in 1897 at the time of the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria, he wrote the poem Recessional which envisioned a time when Great Britain would have lost its Empire and its power:

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet.
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Kipling realized that power was never an end itself and that Great Britain would be judged by God and History not by how much power it amassed, but by what the British did with their power.

 First up in this series which will analyze the poetry of Kipling is a fairly obscure poem but one which I think has valuable lessons for politicians.  The poem was written in 1911 and is entitled Norman and Saxon: (more…)

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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CivAnon: There is Help

With the arrival of Civilization V,

 nirvana for historical computer strategy gamers like me, some organization has to exist to aid those who become helplessly addicted to it.  Some of the signs of addiction: you sit down on Friday night at 10:00 PM to play a few turns, and the next thing you know it is 3:00 AM…Monday morning;  your family begins to post photographs of you around town on billboards;  a tornado is headed toward your home and you instantly seize the Civ V game box and race into the basement;  your spouse files a lawsuit against Firaxis, the company behind Civ V, for alienation of affections;  you think seriously about naming your next child Sid Meier, reasoning that she will grow to love it. (more…)

Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Sequoyah and His Talking Leaves

Indians were long fascinated by the “talking leaves” of the white settlers which allowed them to communicate across vast distances.  In 1821, Sequoyah, known also by the English name of George Guess or Gist, gave to the Cherokees their own talking leaves.  Completely self-taught, a silver-smith by trade, he devised an 86 letter alphabet representing each syllable in the Cherokee language.  Within a few years, the Cherokee Phoenix, the first Indian newspaper,  was being published using Sequoyah’s alphabet.  Sequoyah, through perseverance, overcame initial resistance, and his alphabet was adopted by the various branches of the Cherokee people and rescued the Cherokee language from the oblivion that awaited so many Indian tongues. (more…)

Published in: on September 28, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Civilization V is Here

 One of my hobbies, besides writing blog posts and annoying people for fun and profit, is the playing of rather elaborate strategy games.  I began playing these games circa 1971 when I wheedled a copy of Luftwaffe from my parents for Christmas that year.  The next year for Christmas I received a copy of Panzerblitz, and I have been playing and collecting strategy games since that time.

My wife and I acquired our first computer in 1987, a commodore 64.  Since that time almost all of my playing of strategy games has been on the computer.  Christmas Eve 1991 was a memorable one in the McClarey household.  It was the first Christmas Eve we spent with our newborn twin sons, and our copy of the computer strategy game Civilization arrived in the mail.

In between playing with our infants and introducing them to the joys of Christmas, we took turns charting the courses of society through 6,000 years of history.  For a young married couple fascinated by history, it was the ideal Christmas present. (more…)

Published in: on September 27, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid

I think it likely that more rubbish has been written about Jesse James than any other minor figure in American history.  Films, books, comic books, plays, all have celebrated this cold blooded murderer and bandit.  Portrayed as a robin hood, stealing from the rich for the poor, or an upholder of chivalry and Southern honor in post Civil War Missouri, James was none of these things,but rather a professional thief who found it convenient to try to gain public sympathy through sensationalist press coverage in Missouri and around the nation. (more…)

Published in: on September 26, 2010 at 5:29 am  Comments Off  
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The Minstrel Boy

Something for the weekend.  The Minstrel Boy.  The patriotic Irish song was written by Thomas Moore in honor of his friends killed in the Irish rising of 1798.  The video above is from the incredibly good movie Rough Riders, with some of the Rough Riders singing the song before charging up Kettle Hill on July 1, 1896.

The song is sung just after the death of Captain Bucky O’Neill who, the son of Irish immigrants, had made The Minstrel Boy the song of his company.

Theodore Roosevelt describes the death of O’Neill:

“The most serious loss that I and the regiment could have suffered befell just before we charged. O’Neill was strolling up and down in front of his men, smoking his cigarette, for he was inveterately addicted to the habit. He had a theory that an officer ought never to take cover – a theory which was, of course, wrong, though in a volunteer organization the officers should certainly expose themselves very fully, simply for the effect on the men; our regimental toast on the transport running, ‘The officers; may the war last until each is killed, wounded, or promoted.’ As O’Neill moved to and fro, his men begged him to lie down, and one of the sergeants said, ‘Captain, a bullet is sure to hit you.’ O’Neill took his cigarette out of his mouth, and blowing out a cloud of smoke laughed and said, ‘Sergeant, the Spanish bullet isn’t made that will kill me.’ A little later he discussed for a moment with one of the regular officers the direction from which the Spanish fire was coming. As he turned on his heel a bullet struck him in the mouth and came out at the back of his head; so that even before he fell his wild and gallant soul had gone out into the darkness.”

Bucky O’Neill is portrayed in the film by Sam Elliot who gives his usual fine perormance. (more…)

Published in: on September 25, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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John Adams Meets King George III

The meeting of former rebel John Adams and the monarch he denounced as a tyrant is one of the more curious events in American diplomacy.  I am sure that neither man ever expected to meet the other, nor did either look forward to the meeting when it came, but both did their duty for their countries.  Here is John Adams’ report written on June 2, 1785 to Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Jay: (more…)

Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Ben Franklin and the Glass Armonica

It is astonishing the range of the brilliance of Benjamin Franklin.  Perhaps the most charming example of this range is the mechanical Glass Armonica which Franklin invented in 1761.   Genius is a term too often tossed around, but with Franklin his restless intellect, endlessly given to practical innovation, is clearly deserving of the appellation.

Published in: on September 23, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Wyatt Berry Stapp

In 1847 Wyatt Berry Stapp was busily organizing a volunteer company of mounted volunteers to serve in the Mexican War in Warren County, Illinois.  Among his recruits was a young man named Nicholas who was familiar with raising horses.  Captain Stapp liked what he saw in the young man and he was pleased when the men chose Nicholas to be senior sergeant in the company.

The company landed with Scott’s army at Veracruz on March 19, 1847.  In the numerous battles Scott fought before taking Mexico City and winning the war, Captain Stapp and Sergeant Nicholas both distinguished themselves, with Captain Stapp receiving a brevet promotion to Colonel and Sergeant Nicholas a brevet promotion to Captain.  Nicholas received a leg wound and was invalided back to Illinois. (more…)

Published in: on September 22, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Lee Suggests A Peace Offensive

Prior to invading the North during the Gettysburg campaign, General Robert E. Lee wrote to President Davis suggesting that the Confederacy reach out to the growing peace movement in the North.  He emphasized that the Confederates should not shun the portion of the peace movement that wanted the Union restored peacefully.  This letter of course demonstrates the grand strategy behind the incursion into Pennsylvania.  Defeat the Army of the Potomac decisively north of the Potomac, and anti-war forces in the North  would have received a shot in the arm.  As it was, the Gettysburg campaign coincided with anti-draft riots in New York.  If Gettysburg had been a  Union defeat instead of a victory, I can easily imagine anti-draft riots spreading to other Northern cities.

Lee’s peace offensive in such circumstances may well have set in motion forces that would have overwhelmed Lincoln’s carrying on of the war, or made his re-election in 1864 an impossibility.  Lee was a soldier of genius, but as this letter indicates, he also was very shrewd outside of the purely military realm.  One wonders how the Confederacy would have fared if Lee, instead of Davis, had been President of the Confederacy .  Lee’s letter of June 10, 1863 to Davis: (more…)

Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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