Handel’s Advent Messiah

Something for the weekend.  The Advent portions of Handel’s Messiah.  The above video is the Overture.

Next we have “Comfort Ye” which is a messianic text from Isaiah 40.

“Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to
Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her
iniquity is pardoned. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness,
prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for
our God. ” (more…)

Published in: on December 22, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Handel’s Advent Messiah  
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December 13, 1918: Wilson Arrives in France

President Wilson arrived in France a century ago to participate in the Paris Peace Conference.  He received a rapturous reception from the citizens of France but a cooler reception from Clemenceau and the other Allied leaders.  British economist John Maynard Keynes, an acerbic critic of the Treaty of Versailles, summed up the high expectations for Wilson in the minds of many Europeans:

When President Wilson left Washington he enjoyed a prestige and a moral influence throughout the world unequalled in history. His bold and measured words carried to the peoples of Europe above and beyond the voices of their own politicians. The enemy peoples trusted him to carry out the compact he had made with them; and the Allied peoples acknowledged him not as a victor only but almost as a prophet. In addition to this moral influence the realities of power were in his hands. The American armies were at the height of their numbers, discipline, and equipment. Europe was in complete dependence on the food supplies of the United States; and financially she was even more absolutely at their mercy. Europe not only already owed the United States more than she could pay; but only a large measure of further assistance could save her from starvation and bankruptcy. Never had a philosopher held such weapons wherewith to bind the princes of this world. How the crowds of the European capitals pressed about the carriage of the President! With what curiosity, anxiety, and hope we sought a glimpse of the features and bearing of the man of destiny who, coming from the West, was to bring healing to the wounds of the ancient parent of his civilisation and lay for us the foundations of the future.

No mortal could have possibly lived up to such high hopes, and President Wilson certainly did not, as future posts will explore.


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December 12, 1944

Dewey Defeats Truman



Go here to view the issue of the Chicago Tribune, or rather the Chicago Daily Tribune as it was known then, on December 12, 1944.  The date is not chosen because it was important but because it was not.  One can learn a lot by a time period by closely examining the newspapers of the day.  What stands out to me:

1.  First, the paper was a whole three cents.

2.  War news predominates, no surprise.

3.  A cartoon shows the Russian Bear facing off against the British lion with FDR ordering that soothing music to be played, and the caption “European Power Politics”.  The coming Cold War was emerging, with most Americans not realizing the role that the US would play.  A story notes the fighting between the Brits and Communist Greek guerillas, with another story urging US intervention by Greek-Americans.  Another story notes that the Russians have again ousted a four man US military mission in Bulgaria.

4.  The ads aren’t that different from ads in papers today.

5.  A story notes that Congressman Fish wants to have Governor Dewey removed as GOP party chief in the wake of Dewey’s November loss to FDR. Rather amazing that Dewey got a second shot to run for President in 1948. (more…)

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December 9, 1863: Mutiny at Fort Jackson

Corps d'Afrique

Fort Jackson, one of two forts guarding the Mississippi route to New Orleans, seemed to have a predilection for mutinies during the Civil War.  In 1862 the Confederate garrison mutinied after it was placed under siege by the Union.  On December 9, 1863 a mutiny occurred by the black troops of the Fourth Regiment Infantry of the Corp d’Afrique, caused by the brutal whipping of two drummer boys by Lieutenant Colonel  Augustus W. Benedict, who had engaged in ill treatment of his men prior to this incident.  About half the regiment mutinied.  No one was killed, but the disturbance lasted from the afternoon until 7:30 PM.  In the aftermath a military commission was appointed to investigate the mutiny, and punish the guilty.  Benedict was cashiered from the service.  The ringleaders of the mutiny were sentenced to punishments ranging from 30 days confinement to execution.  Go here to read an account of the mutiny which occurred in the New York Times.  Here is the report of the commission: (more…)

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Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Something for the weekend.   Hark the Herald Angels Sing.  Written by Charles Wesley in 1739, the hymn we enjoy today developed and changed over a century with input from many hands.  No hymn I think better exemplifies the sheer joy that the coming of Christ should awake in the hearts of all Christians. (more…)

Published in: on December 8, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Hark the Herald Angels Sing  
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Edgar Rice Burroughs and Pearl Harbor

Today is the 77th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  Burroughs was living in Hawaii at the time, and wrote a first hand account of the attack.  An ardent patriot, the 66 year old Burroughs was too old to see military service in World War II, but he did the next best thing by being a war correspondent and spending the War covering the troops as they advanced island by island.  His account of Pearl Harbor: (more…)

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David Lloyd George


Those insolent Germans made me very angry yesterday. I don’t know when I have been more angry. Their conduct showed that the old German is still there. Your Brockdorff-Rantzaus will ruin Germany’s chances of reconstruction. But the strange thing is that the Americans and ourselves felt more angry than the French and Italians. I asked old Clemenceau why. He said, “Because we are accustomed to their insolence. We have had to bear it for fifty years. It is new to you and therefore it makes you angry”.

David Lloyd George, May 6, 1919

The Welsh Wizard had made his mark on English politics by bringing into law, with the help of his cabinet colleague Winston Churchill, domestic and economic reforms that were deemed quite radical at the time.  Until World War I he had expressed little to no interest in the military or in foreign policy.  It is therefore highly ironic that he has gone down in history primarily as the last Liberal Prime Minister who led Great Britain to victory in World War I and then negotiated the Treaty of Versailles that helped set the stage for the next world war.


The Welsh Goat (Another nickname for David Lloyd George due to his proclivity for extramarital affairs.  This is commemorated in a music hall song:  “Lloyd George knew my father, but he is more likely to have known your mother, your wife, your daughter, your friend’s wife or your daughter’s friend.”) had a deep suspicion of the growing power of the United States, and a desire to follow the traditional British balance of power foreign policy of making sure that no land power in Europe dominated the Continent, while maintaining British naval supremacy.  He wished to punish Germany, but did not wish to destroy it as an essential part of the balance  of power in Europe that the British wished to recreate.

Published in: on December 5, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on David Lloyd George  
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December 4, 1918: Woodrow Wilson Sails for France


Woodrow Wilson sailed for France a century ago, ironically in the SS George Washington, a German passenger liner interned in New York City at the outbreak of World War I.  He was the second US President to travel abroad during his first term in office, the first being, of course, Theodore Roosevelt who took a trip to Panama in 1906.

Wilson by going to Paris was largely isolating himself from events in the US.  The first trans-Atlantic telephone call would not occur until 1927.  Radio was very much in its infancy.  Transatlantic telegraph cables were the sole effective means of keeping in contact with Washington.

It had been suggested by his advisors to Wilson that he include Republican Elihu Root, Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt, as part of the diplomatic team accompanying Wilson, to give the negotiations a bipartisan flavor.  Wilson had used Root to head a diplomatic mission to the Provisional Government in Russia that held power between the abdication of the  Tsar and the October Revolution.  Now, however, Wilson rejected Root as being too reactionary.  In truth, Wilson planned to run the Paris negotiations personally, and he did not want any competition from a man with as big a public reputation as Root.  The American presence in Paris was going to be a one man show, and that man was Wilson.

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Requiescat In Pace: George H. W. Bush


Former President George Bush has died at age 94.  I am deeply ambivalent about his role as a major player in our national life, and I think we are too close to his Presidency in time to have much perspective as to it.  However, what has always personally fascinated me about Bush is his service during World War II.  Enlisting in the Navy during World War II on his 18th birthday, he became the youngest naval aviator in 1942.  As a carrier pilot in the Pacific during the War he flew 58 combat missions.  On one of his missions he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross:

“For heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight as Pilot of a Torpedo Plane in Torpedo Squadron FIFTY ONE, attached to the U.S.S. San Jacinto, in action against enemy Japanese forces in the vicinity of the Bonin Islands, on September 2, 1944. Leading one section of a four-plane division in a strike against a radio station, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Bush pressed home an attack in the face of intense antiaircraft fire. Although his plane was hit and set afire at the beginning of his dive, he continued his plunge toward the target and succeeded in scoring damaging bomb hits before bailing out of the craft. His courage and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Reserve.” 

Like many men who survived in combat he wondered why he had been spared and what God had planned for him.  I have a friend who is 98, and part of that select fraternity of survivors who saw action as carrier pilots in the Pacific in World War II.  His matter of fact accounts have always struck me with how easy it was to die outside of enemy action.  The technology was just barely there to conduct combat carrier operations over the watery wastes of the Pacific, and it was very easy to die due to mechanical problems, simply getting lost or crashing during carrier landings, particularly at night.  When I made the obvious statement on one occasion that it took a very brave man to do what he had done, he denied it.  He said simply that the country had a job that needed to be accomplished, and that he and his shipmates simply did their duty to the best of their ability.

Bush is the last of the presidents to have seen combat service in World War II, and with his passing, and the passing of the men he served with, a special spirit is passing from our national life.  God willing, may we see it again in our hour of need.

Published in: on December 3, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Requiescat In Pace: George H. W. Bush  
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