Like Father, Like Son

On July 4, 1835 Junius Brutus Booth, founder of the Booth theatrical family, sat down and penned a letter to President Andrew Jackson.  Booth and Jackson knew each other and were friends, which makes the letter quite odd indeed.  The text of the letter:

To His Excellency, General Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, Washington City,

You damn’d old Scoundrel if you don’t sign the pardon of your fellow men now under sentence of Death, De Ruiz and De Soto, I will cut your throat whilst you are sleeping. I wrote to you repeated Cautions so look out or damn you. I’ll have you burnt at the Stake in the City of Washington.

Your Master, Junius Brutus Booth.

You know me! Look out!

Booth was one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of his day, and he often gave unforgettable performances.  However, he was often noted for his off stage escapades, usually fueled by copious amounts of alcohol.  I have little doubt that when he penned this missive Booth was quite drunk.  De Ruiz and De Soto had been convicted of piracy.  Many Americans had asked for clemency for the men.  De Soto did receive a Presidential pardon on July 6, 1835 after an interview with De Soto’s wife and defense attorney with Jackson.  In 1832 De Soto had saved the lives of 70 Americans aboard the burning ship Minerva in 1831 and that made him a sympathetic figure to the American public and Jackson.  De Ruiz and the other men convicted of piracy were hung.  Go here for the details of the piracy trial. (more…)

Published in: on August 31, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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August 30, 1861: Fremont Orders Freeing of Slaves of Rebels in Missouri

John C. Fremont led a life of considerable achievement and seemed to  many of his contemporaries a man of destiny.  However, in the Civil War his destiny eluded him.  An engineering officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers, his personal charm led to his marriage in 1841 to Jesse Benton, a woman of considerable ambition and the daughter of the legendary Senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Bent.  Now politically well connected, Benton achieved fame and the title The Pathfinder, by leading settlers along with scout Kit Carson over the Oregon Trail.  In the 1830’s Fremont had taken part in various topographical mapping expeditions into the West and this served him in good stead in determining the best routes for the pioneers.  His exploits were steadily followed in the eastern papers, and Fremont became a national celebrity.  During the Mexican War, Fremont played a major role in the conquest of California, although he displayed much energy but little military skill.  After the war he served as military governor for California, and, after California was admitted to the Union, Fremont served briefly as a US Senator for the state.

Although he was of Southern birth, Fremont was an ardent foe of slavery and became the first Republican candidate for President in 1856.  Obtaining a third of the vote, and 114 electoral votes, Fremont proved that the new Republican party was a serious contender in national politics.  His electoral slogan of “Free Men!  Free Soil! Fremont!”, resounded throughout the North, Fremont winning all of the Northern states except Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana, demonstrating that if the North was unified, it could elect a President.  Fremont suffered in the election by false allegations that his father was a French aristocrat and that Fremont was a Catholic.  (Fremont’s father was a middle class Frenchman, who fought for the Royalists in France and who immigrated to America.  Fremont was an Episcopalian.)  The Democrats also made hay of the fact that Fremont had been born out of wedlock, and that at the time they started their romance, his mother had been married to a man not his father.  Salacious political gossip is not an invention of the Twenty-First century. (more…)

Published in: on August 30, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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First President to Fly

The first president to fly was of course Theodore Roosevelt, a man who loved a dangerous challenge.   When he flew at Kinloch Field, Saint Louis, Missouri on October 11, 1910, flying was still highly dangerous.  His pilot that day was Arch Hoxsey, one of the great pioneers of aviation, who would die in a plane crash at Los Angeles on December 31, 1910, the day after reaching a world record height by flying to 11,474 feet.  Hoxsey, as did Roosevelt, lived his life according to this maxim of Roosevelt: (more…)

Published in: on August 29, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Dedicated to the Fighting Patriots of Goshen College

“Pacifists are the last and least excusable on the list of the  enemies of society. They preach that if you see a man flogging a woman  to death you must not hit him. I would much sooner let a leper come near  a little boy than a man who preached such a thing.”

                                                     G.K. Chesterton

I just hope the version with lyrics below will not be deemed too militaristic: (more…)

Published in: on August 28, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier

Something for the weekend.  A fine version of Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier by James Taylor, a song that has echoed down the centuries through all of America’s wars. (more…)

Published in: on August 27, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Coriolanus

(I origninally posted this at The American Catholic.  I assume that the history mavens of Almost Chosen People will not mind a one day detour into Roman history.)

 

 

Though the great houses love us not, we own, to do them right,

That the great houses, all save one, have borne them well in fight.

Still Caius of Corioli, his triumphs and his wrongs,

His vengeance and his mercy, live in our camp-fire songs.

Thomas Babbington Macaulay

The above film is being released on December 2, 2011 here in the US, and I am greatly looking forward to it.  Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s plays that is not performed as regularly as other plays of the Bard, which is a shame, because it is a powerful play about love and hate.  Gnaeus Marcius is a Roman patrician who fought in Rome’s wars shortly after the expulsion from Rome of the last of the Tarquin Kings and the foundation of the Roman Republic, conventionally dated at 508 BC.  Our ancient sources in regard to his career are plentiful, including Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Livy, Appian and Plutarch.  Unfortunately these writers wrote 450-600 years after the time of Coriolanus, and early Roman history is almost impossible to distinguish myth from fact. (more…)

Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Three Ring Government

Well, I must say that whenever I have had involvement with government on the state or federal level, I have thought that a circus was surely running things!

The French author and philosopher Montesquieu, leaning heavily on Aristotle and the Greek historian of the Roman Republic Polybius, in his The Spirit of The Laws (1748) helped popularize the notion of a mixed government: executive, legislative and judicial, providing a safeguard to liberty.  As our history has shown, it is hard for the components to stay in balance. (more…)

Published in: on August 25, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Gunga Din

The sixth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.   The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here and here.

Kipling is usually regarded, and often dismissed, as the poet laureate of British Imperialism.  A close examination of his poetry and stories reveals a good deal more complexity than that.  A prime example of this is Kipling’s poem Gunga Din, written in 1892:

You may talk o’ gin and beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin’ of ‘Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.
He was “Din! Din! Din!
You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
Hi! slippery hitherao!
Water, get it! Panee lao!
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.”

The uniform ‘e wore
Was nothin’ much before,
An’ rather less than ‘arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag
An’ a goatskin water-bag
Was all the field-equipment ‘e could find.
When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ‘eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted “Harry By!”
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ‘im ’cause ‘e couldn’t serve us all.
It was “Din! Din! Din!
You ‘eathen, where the mischief ‘ave you been?
You put some juldee in it
Or I’ll marrow you this minute
If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!”

‘E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An’ ‘e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,
‘E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.
With ‘is mussick on ‘is back,
‘E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made “Retire”,
An’ for all ‘is dirty ‘ide
‘E was white, clear white, inside
When ‘e went to tend the wounded under fire!
It was “Din! Din! Din!”
With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green.
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front-files shout,
“Hi! ammunition-mules an’ Gunga Din!”

I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ‘a’ been.
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.
‘E lifted up my ‘ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ‘e guv me ‘arf-a-pint o’ water-green:
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
It was “Din! Din! Din!
‘Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ‘is spleen;
‘E’s chawin’ up the ground,
An’ ‘e’s kickin’ all around:
For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!”

‘E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
‘E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ‘e died,
“I ‘ope you liked your drink”, sez Gunga Din.
So I’ll meet ‘im later on
At the place where ‘e is gone –
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen;
‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din! (more…)

Published in: on August 24, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Civil War Tourism: Missouri

With the Civil War Sesquicentennial, a boom in Civil War tourism is underway.  Of course, Civil War tourism has been a constant feature of American life since 1865, with Civil War veterans themselves taking the lead in the process.  Normally, a civil war such as America experienced in the 1860s would be a wound for a nation that would never heal.  In our nation it became an odd source of national pride, patriotism and an opportunity to make a buck.  America, what a country! (more…)

Published in: on August 23, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Ron Paul and the Civil War

Congressman Ron Paul is running for President again, and I assume his views on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln haven’t altered since this interview which took place in 2007.  I will leave to other venues debates as to Ron Paul and his stance on current issues.  I would merely note that in regard to the Civil War he appears to be immensely ignorant. (more…)

Published in: on August 22, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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