The Doxology

Something for the weekend.  Thanksgiving weekend seems an appropriate time for The Doxology.  Written in 1674 by Thomas Ken, it is the last stanza that is usually performed, a heartfelt call for the worship of God.  The Doxolgy is usually performed to the tune of Old Hundredth.  It has been a popular hymn in America since it was written. (more…)

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Published in: on November 26, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Doxology  
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General Wainwright’s Thanksgiving Prayer

After General Douglas MacArthur, over his fiery objections, was ordered to leave Bataan during the Japanese conquest of the Philippines, Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright was left in command, putting up a heroic fight until forced to surrender his starving, diseased ridden force.  Wainwright was the only American general to be captured by the Japanese and he endured the hell on earth that was Japanese prison camps, where some 37% of Allied prisoners died of starvation and the brutality of their captors.  Wainwright insisted on sharing the privation of his men, and risked his life many times to intervene on behalf of his fellow prisoners with their captors.

After he was liberated, he was a walking skeleton.  Douglas MacArthur gave him the signal honor  of featuring prominently in the surrender ceremony by which Imperial Japan capitulated.  

After he returned home he was promoted to four star rank and retired to a successful business career.  He received the Medal of Honor as a tribute to the heroic leadership he displayed during the battle for Bataan.  In the fall of 1945 he wrote the following Thanksgiving Prayer: (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on General Wainwright’s Thanksgiving Prayer  
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Remembrance of Turkeys Past

As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and as we recall our blessings and thank God for each and every one, let us also remember the humble turkey and the various disasters that result when that proud bird is not treated with the care that it deserves, dead or alive.    Oldtimers like myself will recognize the above video as part of the famous “Turkey Drop” episode from WKRP, a sitcom from the Seventies.

 

Of course Turkey Disasters are not, unfortunately, restricted to the realm of fiction.    Deep frying a turkey poses various risks.

Here we have a case of the flaming avian:

 

 

William Shatner warns of the dangers of deep frying turkeys:

(more…)

Published in: on November 23, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Remembrance of Turkeys Past  
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Thanksgiving 1863

If a nation ever needed Divine assistance it was our own America during the Civil War.  Riven in two, the nation must have seemed on a path to destruction by many of those who lived through that terrible trial.  Abraham Lincoln, as he led the United States through that struggle, increasingly found his mind turning to God.  This Proclamation was written by Secretary of State Seward, but the sentiments are no doubt ones in which Lincoln fully joined.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward, Secretary of State (more…)

Published in: on November 22, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thanksgiving 1863  
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Winston Churchill: Thanksgiving 1944

We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.

Sir Winston Churchill

America has had fewer firmer friends among foreign leaders than the Great Commoner, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister who heroically led Great Britain to victory in World War II.  Half American courtesy of his mother, Churchill was often regarded as having a brash American style according to more staid English politicians.   The first person to be granted honorary American citizenship by an Act of Congress, Churchill had a life long fondness for his maternal native land.  During World War II he was ever grateful for America as an ally which saved Great Britain.  Here is what he wrote about his reaction to the news of Pearl Harbor:

No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! Yes, after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran; after the threat of invasion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat war — the first Battle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand’s breadth; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my responsibility in dire stress, we had won the war. England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire would live. How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end, no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. Once again in our long Island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious. We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals. Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force. The British Empire, the Soviet Union, and now the United States, bound together with every scrap of their life and strength, were, according to my lights, twice or even thrice the force of their antagonists. No doubt it would take a long time. I expected terrible forfeits in the East; but all this would be merely a passing phase. United we could subdue everybody else in the world. Many disasters, immeasurable cost and tribulation lay ahead, but there was no more doubt about the end.

Silly people — and there were many, not only in enemy countries — might discount the force of the United States. Some said they were soft, others that they would never be united. They would fool around at a distance. They would never come to grips. They would never stand blood-letting. Their democracy and system of recurrent elections would paralyze their war effort. They would be just a vague blur on the horizon to friend or foe. Now we should see the weakness of this numerous but remote, wealthy, and talkative people. But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch. American blood flowed in my veins. I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before — that the United States is like “a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.” Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.” (more…)

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Winston Churchill: Thanksgiving 1944  
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Thanksgiving 1908

Theodore Roosevelt, that force of nature that was once President of these United States, was a deeply religious man.  He attended church faithfully his entire life.  (He was Dutch Reformed, but he often attended Episcopal services with his wife.)  He opposed putting the national motto “In God We Trust” on currency, for fear it would cheapen the  noble sentiment, as would be the case, in his view, if it were used on postage stamps or in advertisements.  He was opposed to all religious bigotry as he would state immediately after the campaign of 1908 when the Unitarian Willam Howard Taft came under fire for his religion:

“I did not answer any of these letters during the campaign, because I regarded it as an outrage even to agitate such a question. … To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular Church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any Church, is an outrage against the liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life. … I do not for one moment believe that the mass of our fellow-citizens, or that any considerable number of our fellow citizens, can be influenced by such narrow bigotry as to refuse to vote for any thoroughly upright and fit man because he happens to have a particular religious creed. … I believe that this Republic will endure for many centuries. If so, there will doubtless be among its Presidents Protestants and Catholics, and very probably at some time, Jews. … In my Cabinet at the present moment there sit side by side Catholic and Protestant, Christian and Jew, each man chosen because in my belief he is peculiarly fit to exercise on behalf of all our people the duties of the office. … In no case does a man’s religious belief in any way influence his discharge of his duties, save as it makes him more eager to act justly and uprightly in his relations to all men.”

A frequent reader of the Bible, Roosevelt once opined that a thorough knowledge of it was more valuable to a person than a college education.

His Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1908 rejoices in the material well being of the country, but notes that there is far more to life than piling up material possessions.  He would have vigorously dissented from the idiotic bumper sticker:  “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  Here is the text of the Proclamation: (more…)

Published in: on November 20, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thanksgiving 1908  
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Gettysburg Address: November 19, 1863

Johnny Cash in the above video does a superb job of reading the Gettysburg Address.  Go here to read my analysis of the Gettysburg Address.  Winston Churchill, certainly the greatest orator of the English language in the last century, deemed the Address, “The ultimate expression of the majesty of Shakespeare’s language.”  Lincoln’s masterpiece of concision packed with thought will endure as long as our American republic does, and the truths it contains will endure far beyond that time period. (more…)

Published in: on November 19, 2011 at 11:29 am  Comments (1)  
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Turkey in the Straw

Something for the weekend.  The weekend before Thanksgiving seems appropriate for Turkey in the Straw, an American folk song which dates from the 1820s.

Published in: on November 19, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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November 18, 1861: Jefferson Davis Reports

On November 18, 1861, Jefferson Davis issued a report to the Confederate Congress on the progress of the War.  It is a fascinating document.  It details how he perceived the War at this early stage.  Here is the text of the report, interspersed with comments by me:

Richmond November 18th 1861

The few weeks which have elapsed since your adjournment have brought  us so near the close of the year that we are now able to sum up its  general results. The retrospect is such as should fill the hearts of our people with gratitude to Providence for His kind interposition in their behalf. Abundant yields have rewarded the labor of the agriculturist,  whilst the manufacturing industry of the Confederate States was never so prosperous as now. The necessities of the times have called into  existence new branches of manufactures, and given a fresh impulse to the activity of those heretofore in operation. The means of the Confederate States for manufacturing the necessaries and comforts of life within  themselves increase as the conflict continues, and we are gradually  becoming independent of the rest of the world for the supply of such  military stores and munitions as are indispensable for war. The  operations of the army soon to be partially interrupted by the  approaching winter have afforded a protection to the country, and shed a lustre upon its arms through the trying vicissitudes of more than one  arduous campaign, which entitle our brave volunteers to our praise and  our gratitude.

The Confederacy would expand its industrial plant enormously during the War, but it could never compete with the industrial might of the Union.  The crop of 1861 was indeed bountiful, and it did small good for the Confederacy since Davis had decided on an informal cotton embargo which it was assumed would convince Great Britain to recognize the Confederacy since the British textile industry relied upon cotton from the South.  It was a ghastly mistake.  With the Union blockade in its infancy, most of the cotton crop of 1861 could have been shipped to Europe and earned much-needed hard currency for the purchase of badly needed supplies and weapons.  Instead, what cotton was not used for domestic purposes in the Confederacy in 1861, simply sat in warehouses and on docks.  This policy was one of the main blunders of the Davis administration in 1861. (more…)

Published in: on November 18, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 18, 1861: Jefferson Davis Reports  
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General Washington and The Lord of Hosts

We live in an age where scoffing at religion and believers in God is all the rage.  In some ways the Eighteenth Century was like this time period.  In the Age of Enlightenment more than a few people scoffed at Christianity and some openly embraced atheism.  It was considered witty and daring and fun by the avant garde, especially in Europe.  It seemed much less humorous at the tail end of the century when the French Revolutionary regime for a time persecuted Christians and slaughtered them for their faith.  This type of hostility was much less in evidence in Eighteenth Century America.  Even those, for example Thomas Jefferson, who had doubts about the divinity of Christ, praised His teachings and had no doubt as to the existence of God.

George Washington, the commanding American figure of his day, was a very conventional Christian.  He attended church regularly, said his prayers and read his Bible.  His faith was as much a part of him as his love of his wife, his love of Mount Vernon and his ability to lead men through sufferings in the War of Independence that most of us today would find simply unimaginable.  Pious without being sanctimonious, Washington had no doubt that the fate of America in the Revolution was firmly in the hands of God.

We see this belief in the General Order he issued to the Continental Army on March 6, 1776:

Thursday the seventh Instant, being set apart by the Honorable the Legislature of this province, as a day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation, “to implore the Lord, and Giver of all victory, to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness’s, and that it would please him to bless the Continental Arms, with his divine favour and protection”—All Officers, and Soldiers, are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverance, and attention on that day, to the sacred duties due to the Lord of hosts, for his mercies already received, and for those blessings, which our Holiness and Uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through his mercy to obtain. (more…)

Published in: on November 17, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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