Practical Joker of the Founding Fathers

 

 

Throughout his life Benjamin Franklin enjoyed practical jokes and literary hoaxes.  Here from 1730 is a report, almost certainly written by him, about a completely illusory witch trial.  Franklin was 26 when he wrote this, only 38 years after the all too real Salem Witch Trials:

 

Burlington, Oct. 12. Saturday last at Mount-Holly, about 8 Miles from this Place, near 300 People were gathered together to see an Experiment or two tried on some Persons accused of Witchcraft. It seems the Accused had been charged with making their Neighbours Sheep dance in an uncommon Manner, and with causing Hogs to speak, and sing Psalms, &c. to the great Terror and Amazement of the King’s good and peaceable Subjects in this Province; and the Accusers being very positive that if the Accused were weighed in Scales against a Bible, the Bible would prove too heavy for them; or that, if they were bound and put into the River, they would swim; the said Accused desirous to make their Innocence appear, voluntarily offered to undergo the said Trials, if 2 of the most violent of their Accusers would be tried with them.

Accordingly the Time and Place was agreed on, and advertised about the Country; The Accusers were 1 Man and 1 Woman; and the Accused the same. The Parties being met, and the People got together, a grand Consultation was held, before they proceeded to Trial; in which it was agreed to use the Scales first; and a Committee of Men were appointed to search the Men, and a Committee of Women to search the Women, to see if they had any Thing of Weight about them, particularly Pins. After the Scrutiny was over, a huge great Bible belonging to the Justice of the Place was provided, and a Lane through the Populace was made from the Justices House to the Scales, which were fixed on a Gallows erected for that Purpose opposite to the House, that the Justice’s Wife and the rest of the Ladies might see the Trial, without coming amongst the Mob; and after the Manner of Moorfields, a large Ring was also made. Then came out of the House a grave tall Man carrying the Holy Writ before the supposed Wizard, &c. (as solemnly as the Sword-bearer of London before the Lord Mayor) the Wizard was first put in the Scale, and over him was read a Chapter out of the Books of Moses, and then the Bible was put in the other Scale, (which being kept down before) was immediately let go; but to the great Surprize of the Spectators, Flesh and Bones came down plump, and outweighed that great good Book by abundance. After the same Manner, the others were served, and their Lumps of Mortality severally were too heavy for Moses and all the Prophets and Apostles. (more…)

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Published in: on March 31, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Practical Joker of the Founding Fathers  
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Day by Day?

 

 

Recently at a library book sale I purchased two volumes Lincoln 1840-1846 (1939) and Lincoln 1809-1839 (1941).  Both volumes were written by Harry E. Pratt and published by the Abraham Lincoln Association of Springfield, Illinois.  These two volumes attempted to relate the events of Lincoln’s life day by day.  They joined two earlier volumes that accomplished the same task for the years 1847-1861.

The Abraham Lincoln Association still exists.  Go here to view their website.  The Association did pioneer work in the last century in studies about the Sixteenth President, particularly in assembling documents written by Lincoln and publishing them.  The publication of the eight volume work of the writings of Lincoln bankrupted the Association for a time.

The volumes about the day to day activities of Lincoln often focused upon legal documents filed with courts by Lincoln, and proved an effective weapon against the cottage industry of the forging of Lincoln legal documents.  I find the volumes make fascinating reading, perhaps because I am not only a Lincoln student, but also a lawyer. I have nothing but admiration for the hard work that went into compiling them and everyone who studies Lincoln is in the debt of Mr. Pratt and the two other authors of the series. (more…)

Published in: on March 30, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Day by Day?  
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New York Skyline Easter 1956

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3/29/1956 New York – Huge crosses, formed by lighted windows blaze above New York’s skyline as part of an Easter display in Manhattan’s financial district. This scene photographed from the roof of the Municipal Building features 150-foot-high crosses in the following buildings (L-R) the City Services Co.; City Bank – Farmers Trust Co.; and the Forty Wall Street Corp.  (United Press Telephoto)

Hattip to Instapundit.  This was the Easter in the year before my birth.  How quickly a culture can change.  Such a reflection can be a reason for pessimism or optimism depending on how we act today and in the days to come.  The future is ever constructed by those who take action in the present.

Published in: on March 29, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on New York Skyline Easter 1956  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Elihu Root

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About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists in telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop.

Elihu Root

Secretary of War and Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, US Senator from New York, founder of the Council on Foreign Relations, the life of Elihu Root is a demonstration of the fickleness of fame in history.  For all his numerous accomplishments, he is remembered today for a throw away quote he made about the practice of law in the 1880s.

Published in: on March 28, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable for Framing: Elihu Root  
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Screen Pilates: Lowell Gilmore

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson, Peter Firth and David Bowie may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here , here and here.

Actor Lowell Gilmore had the distinction of portraying Pilate three times:  The Living Christ twelve part series (1951). I Beheld His Glory (1952) and Day of Triumph (1954)

 

(more…)

Published in: on March 24, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Lowell Gilmore  
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Screen Pilates: David Bowie

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell, Leif Erickson and Peter Firth may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here, here and here.

 

Perhaps the oddest portrayal of Pilate is by David Bowie, who passed away recently, in the enormously controversial film, The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), which was based on the 1957 novel of the same name by Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis.  I have a hard time being offended by either the novel or the film because Kazantzakis’ take on Christ is so bizarre, and so contrary to the historical record, that it occurred to me that the novel was not really about Christ, but a totally fictional construct by Kazantzakis in which only the name of Jesus remains the same.  The scene at the top of the post where “Pilate” interrogates “Christ” (Willem Dafoe),  is typical:  the dialogue is completely made up and is conducted listlessly by both “Pilate” and “Christ”, rather as if they were participants in a college bull session that had gone on too late into the wee hours of the morning.  One expects one of them to say, “We better turn in, or we will never get up for class.” (more…)

Published in: on March 23, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Screen Pilates: Peter Firth

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King, Brian Mitchell and Leif Erickson may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here, here and here.

Veteran actor Peter Firth portrays Pilate as a worried man in the currently released movie Risen (2016), afraid that if the body of Christ cannot be found unrest from His followers will occur on the eve of a visit to Judaea by the Emperor Tiberius.  The visit of Emperor Tiberius is a fictional device to heighten the drama I assume.  At the time of the execution of Christ, Tiberius was in decadent retirement on the island of Capri.  The historical Pilate had good reason to fear the wrath of Tiberius, as he was a protégé of Roman strongman Sejanus, who Tiberius had executed on October 18, 31 AD, the year, likely, before Christ was put to death.  The Jewish philosopher Philo, an older contemporary of Christ born in 25 BC and who would live to 50AD, noted that Sejanus had helped foster anti-Semitic policies throughout the Empire, and that Tiberius had repudiated these policies upon the fall of Sejanus, and commanded that good relations with the Jewish communities throughout the Roman Empire be the policy of the Roman government.  This of course would have put Pilate on the spot, since he had a generally bad relationship with the Jews.  Much that is obscure about Pilate’s attitude toward Christ is made clear if Philo is accurate in his statement.  Why the screenwriters of Risen did not use these facts, rather than inventing a fictional visit of Tiberius, is beyond me. (more…)

Published in: on March 22, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Screen Pilates: Leif Erickson

 

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer, Dennis King and Brian Mitchell may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here , here and here.

Hill Number One (1951) was a well-done film of Family Theater Productions, a company founded by the late Father Francis Peyton, the famed Rosary Priest, who led Rosary Crusades around the globe.  Family Theater Productions produced some 700 films and television programs.  Hill Number One has a chaplain telling some GIs during the Korean War, when battles for hills were common, how Jesus took Hill Number One, Calvary, by Himself.  Leif Erickson, who later starred in the Western television series The High Chaparral (1967-71), portrays Pilate as a harsh soldier/administrator, completely baffled by the mystery of Christ.  A forgotten minor classic, this video makes excellent Holy Week viewing.  Watch for an early screen appearance by James Dean as the Apostle John.

Published in: on March 21, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Screen Pilates: Leif Erickson  
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All Glory, Laud and Honor

 

Something for the weekend.  Always a favorite on Palm Sunday, All Glory, Laud and Honor has a long history.  Theodulf was Bishop of Orleans under Charlemagne.  Running afoul of his son Louis, he was thrown into prison.   Theodulf wrote the hymn in 820 while incarcerated.  Released the same year, he died in 821 on his way to resume his ecclesiastical duties in Orleans.  The tune to which the hymn is sung was composed by Melchior Teschner in 1603.  The commonly used English translation was written by John Neale in 1851.

Published in: on March 19, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on All Glory, Laud and Honor  
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Laws for Wolves and Men

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

Kipling had a love, hate relationship with the law and authority in general.  He regarded law as necessary to the human condition, but he was too sharp an observer of the humanity not to notice that more than a few men in authority were fools, and that they manipulated laws to their advantage.  In our confused times we have individuals who are stridently against laws that support traditional morality, while calling for government micro management in other areas of life that would have astounded most of the tyrants in history who lived prior to the last century.  In his The Jungle Book (1894), Kipling sets forth a law code for a group, a wolf pack, that would at first blush seem completely lawless:

The Law of the Jungle
(From The Jungle Book)
by Rudyard Kipling


Now this is the Law of the Jungle —
as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk
the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,
and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.


Wash daily from nose-tip to tail-tip;
drink deeply, but never too deep;
And remember the night is for hunting,
and forget not the day is for sleep.
(more…)

Published in: on March 18, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Laws for Wolves and Men  
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