On Vacation 2011

Family on Vacation

I am on vacation this week with my family.  My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent.  I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example:  Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or there is an alarming outbreak of common sense in the government, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.

Among other activities we will be attending the Gen Con Convention in Indianapolis, a pilgrimage the McClarey clan makes each year to renew our uber-Geek creds.  If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled.  If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are.  Last year’s attendance was in excess of 30,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events.  A good overview of Gen Con is here.  Below is a Gen Con video from 2010 which gives a nice feel of the convention.

My wife and daughter participate in the live action dungeon at Gen Con.  Here is a trailer for True Dungeon 2011:

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Published in: on July 31, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Waltzing Matilda

Something for the weekend.  A first rate video explaining the rollicking song Waltzing Matilda to those of us who do not speak Australian.  :) (more…)

Published in: on July 30, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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What Would The Founding Fathers Think?

This week I posted on another blog I write for, The American Catholic, a recent post I wrote here about Alexander Hamilton and the National Debt.  In the comments to that post, the following question was asked of me:

Don,

What do you suppose Hamilton would have said about whether we should raise the debt ceiling?

In many ways that was an unanswerable question.  Taking someone from one historical era and asking what they would say about some current controversy involves too many imponderables:  our imperfect knowledge of the past and of most historical figures;  judging the stance of a historical figure on an issue arising usually in vastly changed times and circumstances;  the difficulty of attempting to understand the mental processes of someone based upon the records that they and others left behind them;  etc.  However, fools rush in where angels wisely fear to tread, and I gave the following response: (more…)

Published in: on July 29, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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July 28, 1861: Death of Sullivan Ballou

 

 

Thirty-two years old in 1861, Sullivan Ballou was already well-established in life.  Married with two sons, he was a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and had served as speaker of that body.  When Lincoln called for volunteers, he did not hesitate, and enlisted as a Major with the Second Rhode Island infantry.  At the battle of Bull Run he received what would prove to be a mortal wound.  His right leg was amputated and he succumbed to his wounds on July 28, 1861.  Before the battle of Bull Run he wrote to his wife a timeless letter of love and hope for the future beyond the grave:

July the 14th, 1861
Washington D.C.

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.
 Sullivan

His wife never remarried.  She died in 1917 and was buried beside her husband.

 

Published in: on July 28, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Federalist 49 – Madison

In Federalist 49, James Madison tackles the problem of encroachments of one department of the government on the others.  In this essay he directly confronts a proposal put forward by Thomas Jefferson in the Notes on the State of Virginia.  In critiquing Jefferson’s proposal, Madison employs rhetoric that sounds like it could have been issued from the pen of Edmund Burke.  In fact this essay predates Thoughts on the Revolution in France by three years, so perhaps it was Burke who would later imitate Madison.  I mainly jest, but here is the document which demonstrates better than any other the philosophical differences between Jefferson and Madison.

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Published in: on July 27, 2011 at 12:45 pm  Comments Off  

A Republic, If You Can Keep It

The Founding Fathers, as a group, were a band of very wise men.  Perhaps the wisest was Benjamin Franklin, a rare combination of genius and solid common sense.  He also had that attribute of truly wise people:  the sense to hide his intellect to some extent behind a fog of good humor.  How fortunate for America that throughout his life he placed his intellect at the service of his country, a country he understood at an early date embraced all of the colonies in British America. (more…)

Published in: on July 27, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Hardluck Ironclad: USS Cairo

 

A book I purchased recently, Hardluck Ironclad, by Edwin C. Bearss, a distinguished Civil War historian,  was written in 1966 and detailed the history of the Union gunboat Cairo that was sunk during the Civil War, and his ultimately successful efforts to begin to raise her from the Yazoo River.  The video above covers this effort.

The centennial observation of the Civil War began an effort across the nation to recover our Civil War past, and the recovery of portions of the Cairo is a prime example of the successes and limitations of that effort. (more…)

Published in: on July 26, 2011 at 5:29 am  Comments Off  
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July 25, 1861: Crittenden-Johnson Resolutions Passed by Congress

1861 in the Civil War was largely a fight for the Border States of Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland, and the future state of West Virginia.  Each side knew that the outcome of the War might well depend on the ultimate control of this vast area.  Border state unionists were often pro-slavery and their concerns had to be taken into account by the Lincoln Administration.   The most powerful politician in Kentucky was Congressman John J. Crittenden, a man as old as the Constitution, he was a passionate Unionist, but pro-slavery.  The War had bitterly divided his state and his family:  one son would serve as a Union general and another son would serve as a Confederate general.  He understood that Unionists in his state were more than willing to fight to preserve slavery, but they wer unwilling to fight against slavery.  In tandem with future president Andrew Johnson, then a Senator from Tennessee, the only member of the Senate from a Confederate state to refuse to resign from Congress following the secession of his state, he crafted resolutions to be passed by the House and the Senate making clear that the purpose of the War was to preserve the Union and not to destroy slavery.  Congress duly passed the resolutions on July 25, 1861,  with only two votes against in the House, but it was only a brief victory for those Unionists who were pro-slavery.   Two weeks later, Abraham Lincoln signed the Confiscation Act allowing the seizure by the Federal government of slaves of rebels as contraband of war.   Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania engineered the repeal of the resolutions in 1861.  The war for the Union would also be a war against slavery.  Here are the texts of the resolutions: (more…)

Published in: on July 25, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Washington’s Order Against Profanity

I am pleased to announce that Almost Chosen People has a very low level of cussing on its pages as certified here by the Blog and Website Cuss-O-Meter!

We live in a vulgar age of debased standards, and one example of this is the prevalence of unimaginative swearing.  Compare and contrast Blagojevich, impeached and removed Governor of Illinois, convicted felon and soon to be the fouth governor of Illinois to be sent to the slammer in the past four decades with this fine example of imaginative swearing from Macbeth:  “The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!  Where got’st thou that goose look?”  If one must swear, be imaginative about it!

To mask the fact that swearing today is unimaginative verbal filler, the shock value is upped with the all purpose F-Bomb.  I have written about the prevalence of the F-Bomb in contemporary American society here.  Today we live in the midst of a constant storm of profanity that has lost the ability to shock, but merely adds to the shabby quality of so much of modern life.

George Washington had a temper which he worked hard to control all his life.  He would occasionally swear when he gave vent to his anger, a vice he detested in himself and in others.  He made this clear in an order against swearing which he issued to the Continental Army on August 3, 1776: (more…)

Published in: on July 24, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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The Irish Volunteer

Something for the weekend.  The Irish Volunteer.  A mainstay of the Union armies in the eastern theater during the Civil War were Irish Americans who volunteered in huge numbers to fight.  This song was popular among the men who fought so gallantly on many a field for their adopted nation. (more…)

Published in: on July 23, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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