Burke on Marie Antoinette

The blog seems to be on a Burke kick, which is fine by me.  I have always thought that Burke’s comments on Marie Antoinette are important in highlighting his view of the world.  Here are his comments:

“It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy. 0h, what a revolution! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor, and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.

But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unbought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness. ” (more…)

Published in: on December 20, 2009 at 7:02 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

It Came Upon The Midnight Clear

Something for the weekend.  Written in 1849 by Edmund Sears, a pastor of a Unitarian Church in Weston, Massachusetts, this carol has long been a favorite in America.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Published in: on December 19, 2009 at 5:46 am  Comments Off on It Came Upon The Midnight Clear  
Tags: ,

Edmund Burke and the American Revolution

In some quarters, Edmund Burke is counted as a supporter of the Americans during the Revolutionary War.  He was certainly a friend of America, and he opposed many of the policies of the British government that he felt were driving the colonists to rebellion.  But Burke did not necessarily support the colonists’ drive to free themselves from British rule.  Precisely because he felt a deep fraternal bond with the Americans, Burke hoped that the colonists would think twice before commencing what would be a bloody and unfortunate war.  This post examines some of Burke’s public sentiments on the conflict in an attempt to get a better sense of his attitudes about the conflict between the mother country and her colonies.

Burke was an early critic of the policies that angered the American colonists.  In 1769 he published a pamphlet that blames the British government for creating policies that stirred the conflict.  He notes that taxes for raising revenue had not been levied under the colonists, and they had grown accustomed to this state of affairs.  When the government decided to tax the colonists, this let loose an angry torrent. (more…)

Published in: on December 17, 2009 at 8:03 pm  Comments Off on Edmund Burke and the American Revolution  
Tags: ,

Edmund Burke’s Views on America

I wanted to do a post regarding Edmund Burke’s role in the American Revolution, but in reading his speeches and writings from this era I was also struck by how perceptive Burke’s understanding of the American pysche was.  So I decided to write two separate posts.  The next will focus on Burke’s thoughts on the conflict itself, but here I’d like to take a look at some of the observations Burke had about America’s development.

I refer to two sources for Burke’s writings on America: An Account of the European Settlements in America, a history of the colonization of America, and his Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies delivered in the House of Commons on March 22, 1775.  The former is an excellent little summary of the colonial period.  Burke’s attention to historical detail shines through in this work.  In it, Burke discusses the religious conflict within Britain, and how it would shape the views of America’s first colonists.  He discusses how the hard-line dissenters – those who most sharply veered from the traditional Church – went abroad during the reign of Queen Mary and returned with a different set of values. (more…)

Published in: on December 15, 2009 at 3:35 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Gibson Tackles the Civil War

Actually it wouldn’t be that much more inaccurate than some other movies that have been made about the Late Unpleasantness!

Published in: on December 15, 2009 at 6:09 am  Comments Off on Gibson Tackles the Civil War  
Tags: ,

Army of Northern Virginia

Last week we looked at Stephen Vincent’s poem about the Army of the Potomac in his magnum opus John Brown’s Body.  Here are his comments about the Army of Northern Virginia.


Army of Northern Virginia, fabulous army,
Strange army of ragged individualists,
The hunters, the riders, the walkers, the savage pastorals,
The unmachined, the men come out of the ground,
Still for the most part, living close to the ground
As the roots of the cow-pea, the roots of the jessamine,
The lazy scorners, the rebels against the wheels,
The rebels against the steel combustion-chamber
Of the half-born new age of engines and metal hands.
The fighters who fought for themselves in the old clan-fashion.
Army of planters’ sons and rusty poor-whites,
Where one man came to war with a haircloth trunk
Full of fine shirts and a body-servant to mend them,
And another came with a rifle used at King’s Mountain
And nothing else but his pants and his sun-cracked hands,
Aristo-democracy armed with a forlorn hope,
Where a scholar turned the leaves of an Arabic grammar
By the campfire-glow, and a drawling mountaineer
Told dirty stories old as the bawdy world,
Where one of Lee’s sons worked a gun with the Rockbridge Battery
And two were cavalry generals. (more…)

Published in: on December 14, 2009 at 7:01 am  Comments Off on Army of Northern Virginia  
Tags: , , ,

Soldier’s Prayer


I asked God for strength that I might achieve, I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.

I asked God for health, that I might do greater things, I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy, I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men, I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life, I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among men, most richly blessed.

Found on the body of a Southern soldier 1861–1865

Published in: on December 13, 2009 at 6:54 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Something for the weekend.  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen sung by the unforgettable Nat King Cole.  First published in 1833, the lyrics go back to the fifteenth century.  The carol quickly became popular in both Great Britain and in the US.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

In Bethlehem, in Jewry,
This blessed Babe was born
And laid within a manger
Upon this blessed morn
The which His Mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

“Fear not then,” said the Angel,
“Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan’s power and might.”
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

The shepherds at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind:
And went to Bethlehem straightway
The Son of God to find.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

And when they came to Bethlehem
Where our dear Saviour lay,
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His Mother Mary kneeling down,
Unto the Lord did pray.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Published in: on December 12, 2009 at 5:05 am  Comments Off on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen  

A Word to the Wise

My friend Rick Lugari brought this to my attention, and I pass it along to our male readers as an act of Christian charity.   This is beyond the scope of the American history we normally cover in this blog, but this is an important message!

Published in: on December 11, 2009 at 6:39 am  Comments Off on A Word to the Wise  

Alexander Hamilton and the building of the American economy

Here is an excellent column from Business Week detailing how Alexander Hamilton built the American economy.  It’s a very well-written piece, and worth reading in full.  I’ll only excerpt a bit that relates to my series of posts on the Federalist Papers.

Hamilton didn’t create America’s market economy so much as foster the cultural and legal setting in which it flourished. A capitalist economy requires certain preconditions to take root. It must establish a rule of law through enforceable contracts, respect private property, create a trustworthy judiciary to arbitrate legal disputes, and offer patent protections to promote invention. The abysmal failure of the Articles of Confederation to provide this stable business climate was one of Hamilton’s main incentives for espousing a new Constitution.

That is something to keep in mind when reading Hamilton’s contributions to the Federalist Papers, as it certainly serves as the prime motivation for his support for the Constitution.

H/t: Shawn at Rerum Novarum.

Published in: on December 10, 2009 at 1:10 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,