Abide With Me

Something for the weekend.  No hymn seems to me more appopriate for a Palm Sunday weekend than Abide With Me, a song that reminds us that we all must die and that death is only a new glorious beginning for those who die in Christ.  The song was written in a magnificent act of faith by Henry Lyte, a suuporter of the Oxford Movement, as he lay dying of tuberculosis in 1847.

In the movie A Bridge Too Far, wounded survivors of the British First Airborne Division are shown singing the song as they await capture by the Wehrmacht at the conclusion of Operation Market-Garden.


Published in: on March 31, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Abide With Me  
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Rear Admiral Pavel Dzhons


In 1959 the film John Paul Jones starring a young Robert Stack in the title role, gave the old sailor the Hollywood treatment.  However, in this case Hollywood cannot be solely blamed for the numerous historical inaccuracies in the film.   Scholarship on Jones was badly skewed by Augustus Buell in a two-volume “scholarly biography” which appeared in 1900.  Buell was a charlatan who made up many incidents about Jones and then invented sources to support his fabrications.  Buell was not completely exposed until Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard professor of history, and an Admiral in the Navy, wrote his definitive biography of Jones. Here is a list of the fabrications of Buell compiled by Morison.  Morison’s book appeared after the movie, which is to be regretted.

One of my favorite sequences in the film begins at 1:45 in the video clip with Jones in Russia.  With the ending of the Revolution he was without employment.  In 1788 he traveled to Russia to take up a command in the Russian fleet.  Jones was willing to do so under the two conditions that he would retain his American citizenship and his commission as an American naval officer.  Tsarina Catherine the Great appointed Jones a Rear Admiral in the Russian Navy and sent him off to take command of the 24 gun flagship Vladimir fighting against the Turks in the Black Sea.  While in Russia Jones went by the name of Pavel Dzhons.  Jones quickly proved that he retained his prowess as  a fighting sailor, repulsing the opposing Turkish naval squadron.  However, jealous Russian naval officers preferred false charges of misconduct against Jones, and he was relieved of command and ordered to report to Saint Petersburg for further orders.  Awarded the Order of Saint Anne, Jones left Russia in July 1788, disgusted at the intrigue that ended what would be his last taste of naval combat. (more…)

Published in: on March 28, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Rear Admiral Pavel Dzhons  
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Truman Doctrine Speech


On March 12, 1947 Harry Truman gave a speech to a joint session of Congress which has gone down in history as the Truman Doctrine Speech.  Alarmed by the Soviet imposition of Communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe and Soviet support for Communist guerillas in Greece, Truman recognized that the United States was in a new type of conflict with the Soviet regime and he was determined that the US would prevail.  This speech set the policy which would lead to the creation of the Marshall Plan later in the year, and culminate with the creation of Nato in 1949.  Harry Truman, machine politician from Missouri, laid the ground work for eventual US victory in the Cold War forty years later, and it all began with this speech.  Here is the text of President Truman’s address to Congress: (more…)

Published in: on March 27, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Truman Doctrine Speech  
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For Greater Glory: Viva Christo Rey!

Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.  I have been waiting for this movie for over a year and now it is finally being released on June 1, 2012.  For Greater Glory (formerly entitled Cristiada).  The must see movie for 2012 for me, and perhaps all Americans who cherish religious freedom.  At a time when the Obama administration is engaging in actions in regard to the HHS contraceptivee mandate that many Americans view as an infringement on religious liberty, a film is being released this election year detailing the struggle of Mexican Catholics in the last century against a bitterly anti-Catholic regime.  Most of the time in life coincidences are merely coincidences, but sometimes I suspect they are sent by God for His purposes.  In any case it appears to be a worthy movie to retell the heroic story of Mexican Catholics and their fight for the Church and freedom.

The story of the Cristeros is the tale of the attempt by the Mexican government to crush the Catholic Church.  Mexico had a long history of anti-clerical political movements prior to the revolution of 1910.  However, the Mexican Revolution brought to the fore radical elements that pushed through the Constitution of 1917 with its anti-clerical articles 3, 5, 27 and 130.  In his encyclical Iniquis Afflictisque, the first of three encyclicals he wrote condemning the persecution of the Church in Mexico, Pius XI described the war against the Church waged by the Mexican government: (more…)

Ides of March

(Oringally posted at The American Catholic.  I think the history and Shakespeare mavens of Almost Chosen People will enjoy it.)

This was the noblest Roman of them all:

All the conspirators, save only he,

Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;

He, only in a general honest thought

And common good to all, made one of them.

Mark Antony referring to Brutus in Julius Caesar

I think it would have amused the Romans of Caesar’s generation if they could have learned that the assassination of Julius Caesar would eventually receive immortality through a play written more than 16 centuries after the event by a barbarian playwright in the Tin Islands that Caesar had briefly invaded.  It would have tickled their well developed concept of the ludicrous, judging from Roman comedy. (more…)

Published in: on March 25, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (7)  
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The High Chapparal

Something for the weekend.  The theme song to my favorite television western of the Sixties, The High Chapparal.  Broadcast on NBC from 1967-1971.  Set in the Arizona territory in the 1870’s the series was well acted by regulars Leif Erickson, Cameron Mitchell, Mark Slade, Linda Cristal and Henry Darrow.  The scripts were literate with a more realistic feel than was common at the time.  Here is a longer rendition of the theme song: (more…)

Published in: on March 24, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The High Chapparal  
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Ronald Reagan: For God and Country

The things that you find on YouTube.  Ronald Reagan in a training film for Army chaplains, For God and Country (1943).  Much higher production values than the average training film, and I found it moving.  Reagan was assigned to the 1rst Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Corps.  During the War it made some 400 training films for the Army.

Published in: on March 23, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ronald Reagan: For God and Country  
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The Russo-Union Alliance: A Marriage of Convenience

Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it, “all men are created equal except negroes.” When the Know-nothings get control, it will read, “all men are created equal except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.” When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty–to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, letter to Joshua F. Speed, Aug. 24, 1855

SHADOWED so long by the storm-cloud of danger,

Thou whom the prayers of an empire defend,

 Welcome, thrice welcome! but not as a stranger,

 Come to the nation that calls thee its friend!

Bleak are our shores with the blasts of December,

 Fettered and chill is the rivulet’s flow;

Throbbing and warm are the hearts that remember

 Who was our friend when the world was our foe.

Look on the lips that are smiling to greet thee,

 See the fresh flowers that a people has strewn

 Count them thy sisters and brothers that meet thee;

 Guest of the Nation, her heart is thine own!

Fires of the North, in eternal communion,

 Blend your broad flashes with evening’s bright star!

God bless the Empire that loves the Great Union;

Strength to her people! Long life to the Czar!

So Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1871 in honor of the visit of Grand Duke Alexei, fourth son of Tsar Alexander II, as a good will ambassador to the US.  He encountered in the Northern states a vast reservoir of good will towards Russia for its steadfast support of the Union during the Civil War.  Russia and Great Britain were enmeshed in the cold war known as the Great Game for control of Central Asia.  The Russians viewed the United States as a power traditionally hostile to Great Britain and viewed the Civil War with alarm as a possible diminution of the power of the United States, along with a potential Anglo-Confederate alliance if the South achieved independence.  From the beginning the Russian government publicly proclaimed its support for the Union and its opposition to any attempt by other powers to intervene in the conflict.

Lincoln at the outset of the War told the Russian ambassador to the US:

“Please inform the Emperor of our gratitude and assure His Majesty that the whole nation appreciates this new manifestation of friendship. Of all the communications we have received from the European governments, this is the most loyal.” (more…)

Published in: on March 21, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Attack Ads 1796


Students at Williams College this year are taking part in an experimental course on the history of American presidents from Washington and Lincoln by producing political attack ads.  Go here for a report on this novel way of learning about American history. (more…)

Published in: on March 20, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Attack Ads 1796  
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Report to Dinwiddie



At the battle of the Monongahela on July 9, 1755, the French and their Indian allies inflicted a humiliating defeat on the British expedition under Major General Edward Braddock.  Colonel George Washington, after the wounding of Braddock, although not being part of the chain of command since he was serving as an aide to Braddock and being technically outranked by every officer in Braddock’s force due to Washington only holding Virginia militia rank, effectively took command of the army, established a rear guard under himself, and allowed the army to stage an orderly retreat.  This was an astounding performance of a man of only 23 with limited military experience.  For years afterwards Washington would be known as the hero of the Monongahela until destiny allowed him the opportunity to earn much greater laurels.

On July 18, 1755 Washington wrote a report of the defeat to Dinwiddie.  It is an early specimen of the type of reports that Washington would submit to Congress during the Revolutionary War two decades later, and it bears the features that Washington always displayed in his reports:

1.  Concise:  Washington had a talent for being able to render complex events into very few words.  The brevity of his reports speak to his ability to sift the important from the superfluous.

2.  Modesty:  Although Washington was the hero of the day, no one could detect that from his report.  Washington assumed that others would judge him from his actions, and wasted no words in self promotion or self-defense.

3.  Warts and all:  Washington was always blunt.  In the report Washington does not attempt to mitigate the gravity of the defeat and notes that the frontier is now defenseless except for the shattered Virginia militia which were unequal to the task.

4.  Honorable mentions:  Washington always believed in reporting the courage and good performance of others, and he does so in his report, most notably for the Virginia military who carried the burden of the fight.

Here is the text of Washington’s report: (more…)