The singing voice of Great Britain during World War II, Dame Vera Lynn is one hundred years old. The Sweetheart of the Forces, she was tireless in her performances for the troops during World War II, and the veterans of that conflict have always held her in high esteem. Contrary to the usual dismal history of the entertainment industry, she enjoyed a life long love affair with her one and only husband until he died in 1998. Throughout her long life she has championed disabled servicemen and disabled kids. She is a living refutation of the falsehood that the good die young.
If we work upon marble, it will perish; if we work upon brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble to dust; but if we work on men’s immortal minds, if we impress on them with high principles, the just fear of God and love for their fellow-men, we engrave on those tablets something which no time can efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.
Daniel Webster, May 22, 1852
Something for the weekend. Stand Up For Uncle Sam My Boys sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences. A pro-Union song written in 1861 by that tireless writer of Civil War tunes George F. Root. Sadly its patriotism may seem over the top to modern audiences. Not so to most of the fighting men on both sides during the Civil War who liked their songs about the War to be lively and very patriotic.
- When you go home, tell them of us and say
- For their tomorrow, we gave our today.
- Inscription on the Memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Division at Kohima
Hattip to Ace of Spades. As we go about our daily lives it is good to remember that we stand on the shoulders of giants. One of those giants is a 23 year old sailor who died 73 years ago:
Loyce Edward Deen, an Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class, USNR, was a gunner on a TBM Avenger. On November 5, 1944, Deen’s squadron participated in a raid on Manila, where his plane was hit multiple times by anti-aircraft fire while attacking a Japanese cruiser. Deen was killed.The Avenger’s pilot, Lt. Robert Cosgrove, managed to return to his carrier, the USS Essex. Both Deen and the plane had been shot up so badly that it was decided to leave him in the plane.
It is the only time in U.S. Navy history (and probably U.S. military history) that an aviator was buried in his aircraft after being killed in action.
Matter! Matter! Why, everybody’s gone crazy! What is the matter with all of you? Here’s this convention going headlong for Roosevelt for Vice President. Don’t any of you realize that there’s only one life between that madman and the Presidency? Platt and Quay are no better than idiots! What harm can he do as Governor of New York compared to the damage he will do as President if McKinley should die?
Ohio Senator Mark Hanna at the Republican Convention of 1900
I have been rolling around in my brain the thought that as President Donald Trump reminds me of Theodore Roosevelt. At first glance the two New Yorkers seem entirely dissimilar with Roosevelt the scholar turned politician who led the charge up San Juan Hill having little in common with the blue collar billionaire. However, in their shared endless energy, their desire to attack intractable problems, their appeal to restoring America greatness, their willingness to make enemies of the powers that be, etc. they do strike me as quite similar and unlike most other Presidents. Stephen Beale at The American Conservative makes the case for Trump being in the same mold as The Colonel:
Roosevelt—a career politician who sought military service, an avid outdoorsman who hunted elephants and explored the Amazon, and an intellectually curious historian who dabbled in anthropology and zoology—might seem an unlikely model for Trump.
But in terms of policy, the parallels are legion.
On trade, Roosevelt was—like most Republicans then and Trump now—a proud protectionist. “Thank God I am not a free-trader. In this country pernicious indulgence in the doctrine of free trade seems inevitably to produce a fatty degeneration of the moral fibre,” Roosevelt wrote in an 1895 letter to his friend Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.
Roosevelt was also a committed immigration restrictionist. In 1903, after radical socialists had bombed Haymarket Square in Chicago and assassinated his predecessor, Roosevelt signed into law a ban on anarchists—including those who professed radical political views, even if they didn’t have any actual terrorist affiliation. Four years later, another law excluded “idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons,” prostitutes, those with certain medical conditions, such as epileptics, and polygamists, or even those who believed in polygamy. Notably this last provision was wielded against Muslim immigrants.
Roosevelt famously railed against “hyphenated Americanism” and declared that America was not a “mosaic of nationalities.” In language that rings as distinctly Trumpian today, Roosevelt demanded total allegiance and nothing else from American citizens, native and naturalized alike: “A square deal for all Americans means relentless attack on all men in this country who are not straight-out Americans and nothing else.”
Roosevelt built up the military, specifically the Navy, which he showed off to the world as the “Great White Fleet.” Both presidents have a defining public works project. For Trump, it’s the border wall. For Roosevelt, it was the Panama Canal. As with Trump, Roosevelt ruffled international feathers with his proposal, even sparking the secession of Panama from Columbia.
As an undergraduate student at Harvard, Roosevelt had fallen under the influence of Hegelian philosophy, which holds to an evolutionary view of history. He came to believe that the old view of a limited government entrusted with the protection of natural rights was outmoded. Instead, Roosevelt championed an exalted view of executive power that was limited only by what the Constitution explicitly said it could not do. As he put it in his autobiography:
I declined to adopt the view that what was imperatively necessary for the Nation could not be done by the President unless he could find some specific authorization to do it. My belief was that it was not only his right but his duty to do anything that the needs of the Nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the Constitution or by the laws. Under this interpretation of executive power I did and caused to be done many things not previously done by the President and the heads of departments.
More than anyone since Lincoln, Roosevelt expanded executive power, laying the foundations for the modern presidency. He sought to govern by executive order as much as possible, issuing a whopping 1,081 orders—nearly six times as many as his predecessor and still the fourth highest overall in the history of the U.S. presidency. (His cousin FDR holds the record at 3,721. Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge rank second and third at 1,803, and 1,203, respectively.)
I have always loved this scene from Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). Few things are more enjoyable for a trial attorney than a cross examination that is tearing up the opposition case! Of course in real life in the video above the prosecutor would be on his feet constantly objecting: Argumentative! Assumes facts not in evidence! Mr. Lincoln is using a document that has not been admitted into evidence! If Mr. Lincoln is going to testify let him be sworn in! Etc. Of course this was done at a time when most judges tended to give a great deal of lee-way to counsel in their questioning of witnesses, especially in a frontier court and the jury might assume with frequent objections that the prosecutor was attempting to keep the truth from them and vote not guilty as a result. In any case it is a great scene.
Adlai Stevenson, who would go on to be Vice-President of the United States, when he was young saw Lincoln in action in cross-examination: (more…)
A bit of naval history was made a hundred years ago when twenty year old Loretta Perfectus Walsh enlisted in the Navy as a Yeoman F, becoming the first woman to be a member of the US military. Some 13,000 women would serve in the Navy as Yeomen, or Yeomanettes as they were often unofficially called, during World War I as clerical personnel, freeing up men for sea duty. Walsh served her four year tour and tragically died of tuberculosis at age 29 in 1925. She was buried in Saint Patrick’s Cemetery in Olyphant, Pennsylvania. Her tombstone bears the following inscription:
Loretta Perfectus Walsh
April 22, 1896–August 6, 1925
Woman and Patriot
First of those enrolled in the United States Naval Service
World War 1917–1919
Her comrades dedicate this monument
to keep alive forever
memories of the sacrifice and devotion of womanhood
On March 17, 1917, President Wilson met with his Cabinet to consider the question of whether the US should enter the Great War. Fortunately for historians of this period, Secretary of State Robert Lansing drafted a detailed memorandum of the meeting:
The Cabinet Meeting of today I consider the most momentous and therefore, the most historic of any of those which have been held since I became Secretary of State, since it involved, unless a miracle occurs the question of war with Germany and the abandonment of the policy of neutrality which has been pursued for two years and a half….
The corridors of the State Department and Executive Office swarmed with press correspondents seeking to get some inkling of what would be done from passing officials. It was through these eager crowds of news-gatherers that I forced my way at half-past two Tuesday afternoon under a bombardment of questions, to which I made no reply, and entered the Cabinet room where all the other members had arrived.
Three minutes later the President came in and passed to his place at the head of the table shaking hands with each member and smiling as genially and composedly as if nothing of importance was to be considered. Composure is a marked characteristic of the President. Nothing ruffles the calmness of his manner or address. It has a sobering effect on all who sit with him in council. Excitement would seem very much out of place at the Cabinet table with Woodrow Wilson presiding. (more…)
(I posted this on Saint Patrick’s Day at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)
When Caesar’s sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.
GK Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse
It is easy to lose sight of the historical Saint Patrick in all the fun and frolic of Saint Patrick’s Day. He was a man of the fifth century and what a disastrous century it was for Patrick’s time and place. The Western Empire was going down under wave after wave of barbarian invasion, pagan when they were not loosely converted Arian heretics. Civilization was manifestly dying and Catholicism seemed to be faced with extinction, as it would almost entirely be extinguished in Patrick’s homeland of Britain in the terrible decades to come. Patrick’s capture by Irish pirates and being held as a slave was typical of the fate of many Christians as the law and order of the old Empire became a fading utopian dream. In these circumstances Patrick could have been forgiven for running and hiding in a cave as a Christian hermit, convinced that it was his fate and the fate of his generation to see the End Times predicted in Revelations.
Instead Patrick, after his escape from servitude, was filled with a burning zeal to convert the Irish, fired by a dream:
I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.”
Obtaining such education as could be had on the Continent, he was ordained, given the powers of a bishop, and sent back to the land of his slavery and labored night and day to bring the Irish into the light of Christ. By the end of his life he could truly say that he had found Ireland entirely pagan and now it was mostly Christian. His mission was one of pure Christian optimism in the face of disaster when most rational men would have told him that what he was doing was all for naught. Instead, in the ages to come, Ireland became the fabled land of saints and scholars, where western civilization was maintained in the darkest of centuries and where the true sons and daughters of Saint Patrick, Catholic missionaries, brought the light of Christ back to lands which had forgotten Him. It was a grand story, and no miracle attributed to Saint Patrick can surpass what he accomplished in cold historical fact.
To understand what Saint Patrick was up against, and the true miracle of what he accomplished, read below a letter of his in which he discussed the massacre of Catholic converts: (more…)