Ragged Old Flag

Something for the weekend.  The incomparable Johnny Cash reading his  Ragged Old Flag.

Published in: on July 31, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ragged Old Flag  
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Jane Austen’s Fight Club

English novels were all the rage in America during the time period covered by this blog.  I have always found them a bit dull myself.  However, based upon this video, I must have missed some interesting items when I couldn’t keep awake reading Sense and Sensiblity!

Published in: on July 30, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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James Buchanan and the Compromise of 1860

James Buchanan in his state of the Union message to Congress of December 3, 1860, attempted to end the secession crisis by proposing three constitutional amendments:

This is the very course which I earnestly recommend in order to obtain an “explanatory amendment” of the Constitution on the subject of slavery. This might originate with Congress or the State legislatures, as may be deemed most advisable to attain the object. The explanatory amendment might be confined to the final settlement of the true construction of the Constitution on three special points:

1. An express recognition of the right of property in slaves in the States where it now exists or may hereafter exist.

2. The duty of protecting this right in all the common Territories throughout their Territorial existence, and until they shall be admitted as States into the Union, with or without slavery, as their constitutions may prescribe.

3. A like recognition of the right of the master to have his slave who has escaped from one State to another restored and “delivered up” to him, and of the validity of the fugitive-slave law enacted for this purpose, together with a declaration that all State laws impairing or defeating this right are violations of the Constitution, and are consequently null and void. It may be objected that this construction of the Constitution has already been settled by the Supreme Court of the United States, and what more ought to be required? The answer is that a very large proportion of the people of the United States still contest the correctness of this decision, and never will cease from agitation and admit its binding force until clearly established by the people of the several States in their sovereign character. Such an explanatory amendment would, it is believed, forever terminate the existing dissensions, and restore peace and harmony among the States.

Looking closely at the amendments, we see why no Compromise in the mold of 1820 or 1850 was possible in 1860.

The first proposed amendment, was passed by the 36th Congress two days before the inauguration of Lincoln and ratified by two of the states.  It read as follows:

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following article be proposed to the several States as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which, when ratified by three-fourths of said Legislatures, shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution, viz: “ARTICLE THIRTEEN, No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

Lincoln gave his unenthusiastic endorsement of this amendment in his First Inaugural with the following words:   “holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”  This was merely a repeat of his oft-stated position in the campaign that he had no power under the Constitution to interfere with slavery in the states.  When it became quickly obvious that this amendment would not bring the seceding states back into the Union, it immediately became a historical curiosity, sometimes referred to as the “ghost amendment”. (more…)

Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 6:17 am  Comments (1)  
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My wife and I currently are watching North and South, a mini-series from the mid eighties about two families, the Hazards of Pennsylvania and the Mains of South Carolina, from 1842-1865.  The mini-series is historical junk food, and could be best described as Dallas does the Civil War.   However as fairly mindless entertainment with some historical flavoring it isn’t bad.  The miniseries did make an effort to get the period dress correct, and one of the best examples is in the sequence at the battle of Churubusco in 1847 during the Mexican War.  Although the Alamo has had many film recreations, the Mexican War has rarely been treated on film in this country. (more…)

Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Churubusco  
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The Secrets of Irish Music

Throughout the period of American history coverered by this blog, it is striking how influential Irish music was on American music.  Regular commenter, at my other blog, The American Catholic,  cminor, at her blog The Minor Premise, reveals to us how Irish ballads come to be:

The Evolution of an Irish Ballad

Being the surmises of a musical amateur who has lately spent entirely too much time online trying to track down folk music lyrics.

Gen. 1. The Irish take on the British in a battle somewhere on Irish soil. Being seriously outnumbered, they are defeated utterly with great loss of life. Anonymous Irish balladeers compose lyrics honoring the courage of the dead, with individual verses devoted to units from each county involved and to fallen leaders. The result is about 40 verses long, though only six or seven are actually remembered by anyone after the debut.
[Alt. Gen. 1. A minor Irish nobleman takes to the hills after a dustup with British occupiers. Anonymous balladeers compose a mercifully brief ditty depicting the outlaw as a romantic hero and emphasizing his revolutionary cred and sheer heartthrobbiness.]

Gen. 2. The simplified lyric becomes a popular drinking song. (more…)

Published in: on July 27, 2010 at 5:15 am  Comments (3)  

Battle of Bunker Hill

The Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775, was a very important battle.  It was a shot in the arm to American morale, and well it should have been.  Raw American militia had stood and faced two charges from the cream of the Royal Army and only retreated due to lack of ammunition.  In exchange for 450 American casualties, of which 140 were killed, the Americans inflicted 1,054 casualties, including 226 dead.  (more…)

Published in: on July 26, 2010 at 5:28 am  Comments (3)  
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The Great Darkness

May 19, 1780 was a memorable one in the history of New England.  Darkness descended for several hours in New England and parts of New York.  The cause of the darkness has been blamed on everything from volcanoes to dust storms.  The most commonly accepted explanation today is that the darkness was caused by forest fires.  An excellent overview of the Dark Day and its possible causes is presented by John Horrigan here.

Darkness in the middle of the day of course caused quite a bit of alarm, with more than a few people thinking that the Day of Judgment had arrived.  In the Connecticut legislature a motion to adjourn was proposed and passed.  Members of the Council of Safety of the legislature wanted to go to their homes.  Senator Abraham Davenport would have none of it.  “The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”  John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized this archetypal stubborn Yankee with this poem: (more…)

Published in: on July 25, 2010 at 5:48 am  Comments Off on The Great Darkness  
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Stonewall Jackson’s Way

“And Thou knowest O Lord, when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove thy servant, Stonewall Jackson.”

(Part of the benediction given by Father D. Hubert, who served as a chaplain during the war with Hay’s Lousiana Brigade, at the unveiling of the statue and monument to Stonewall Jackson on May 10th, 1881 in New Orleans.)

Something for the weekend.  Stonewall Jackson’s Way, sung by the endlessly talented Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.

Of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, nicknamed Stonewall by General Barnard Bee at the battle of Bull Run, it was said he lived by the New Testament and fought by the Old.  Certainly throughout his life he was a convinced Christian.  As a young man he would attend services of various Christian denominations.  In Mexico, during his service in the Mexican War, he attended mass, although sadly he did not convert to Catholicism.  Instead he eventually became a Presbyterian.  His Bible was his constant companion, and he would often speak of God and theological matters in private conversation.

Jackson in his professional life was a soldier.  Just before the Civil War he was a professor of natural and experimental philosophy (science) and artillery instruction at the Virginia Military Institute.  As a teacher he made a good soldier.  His lectures were rather dry.  If his students seemed to fail to grasp a lecture, he would repeat it the next day, word for word. 

His home life was a mixture of sorrow and joy.  His first wife died in childbirth along with their still-born son, a tragedy that would have crushed many a man less iron-willed than  Jackson.  His second marriage, like his first, was happy, but heartache also haunted it.  A daughter died shortly after birth in 1858.  A second daughter was born in 1862, shortly before Jackson’s own death in 1863.

He and his second wife established and taught a Sunday school for black slaves.  At the time it was against the law in Virginia to teach slaves to read, but apparently that is precisely what Jackson and his wife did.   One of the last letters he ever posted was his regular contribution he mailed off throughout the war for the financial support of the Sunday school for slaves he and his wife had founded.

During the war he rose to fame as Stonewall Jackson.  His valley campaign in 1862 in the Shenandoah Valley where he outmarched and outfought numerous Union armies, each larger than the force he led, is still studied in military academies around the world as a classic example of how a weaker force, using mobility and surprise, can defeat vastly superior forces. (more…)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

At Almost Chosen People we stay current on all the latest hot controversies in American History.  None perhaps are hotter than Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter.  Who knew that the Great Emancipator was also the Great Vampire Eradicator?  Or was he?  Our team of crack investigators have uncovered the below video in which Seth-Grahame-Smith, the author of Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter admits that his book is fiction!  What a scandal!  Or is this a mere attempt to throw people off the trail from learning the truth behind the myth of Lincoln?  Paranoid minds want to know!

Published in: on July 23, 2010 at 5:33 am  Comments Off on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter  
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Federalist 35 – Hamilton

We have finally almost reached the end of the first part of the Federalist Papers.  There are two more essays that deal with the issue of taxation, and in number 35 Hamilton describes how placing a limitation on the federal government’s taxing power would lead to great abuse of that power.

if the jurisdiction of the national government, in the article of revenue, should be restricted to particular objects, it would naturally occasion an undue proportion of the public burdens to fall upon those objects. Two evils would spring from this source: the oppression of particular branches of industry; and an unequal distribution of the taxes, as well among the several States as among the citizens of the same State.

Suppose, as has been contended for, the federal power of taxation were to be confined to duties on imports, it is evident that the government, for want of being able to command other resources, would frequently be tempted to extend these duties to an injurious excess.

If you confine the government’s sources of revenue, then the government will bleed that particular industry dry.  This will lead to the development of a black market, thus only exacerbating the problems.  It is better, therefore, to permit a broader range of tax powers so that the government doesn’t focus its attention too greedily on any one industry.  Perhaps Hamilton did not countenance the government attempting to suck everyone dry. (more…)

Published in: on July 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm  Comments Off on Federalist 35 – Hamilton  
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