Dagger John and Honest Abe

Archbishop John Hughes (1797-1864) of New York, was a titan within the Catholic Church in America in the nineteenth century.  Overseeing with skill the explosive growth of the Church in New York, and helping lead generations of Catholic immigrants out of poverty,  he also found time to take part in the public affairs of his day, and was probably the best known Catholic churchman of his time.  He was also a very tough and fearless man.  After the anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia in 1844 he called on the mayor of New York, an anti-Catholic bigot, and informed him that if a single Catholic church were touched in New York, New York would be a second Moscow.  (The reference was to the burning of Moscow in 1812 during Napoleon’s occupation of the city.) Not a Catholic church was touched.  On another occasion when a threat was made to burn Saint Patrick’s cathedral the Archbishop had it guarded within hours by 4,000 armed Catholics.  No wonder his enemies and friends nicknamed him “Dagger John”! (more…)

Published in: on January 31, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Dagger John and Honest Abe  
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Reagan on FDR

(I posted this at The American Catholic on January 30, 2015, and I thought the History mavens of Almost Chosen People would enjoy it.)

Today is my bride’s birthday, a birthday she shares with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  On this day, I think the remarks of President Reagan on the centennial of FDR’s birth need to be recalled.  Reagan of course supported FDR when Reagan was a New Deal Democrat.  As a Republican he attempted to correct the mistakes of the New Deal, but he never lost his admiration for the leadership shown by Roosevelt, many aspects of which Reagan during his Presidency shared.  Here are an excerpt of Reagan’s remarks:


We’re all here today to mark the centennial of one of history’s truly monumental figures, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Historians still debate the details of his intentions, his policies and their impact. But all agree that, like the Founding Fathers before him, F. D. R. was an American giant, a leader who shaped, inspired, and led our people through perilous times. He meant many different things to many different people. He could reach out to men and women of diverse races and backgrounds and inspire them with new hope and new confidence in war and peace.

Franklin Roosevelt was the first President I ever saw. I remember the moment vividly. It was in 1936, a campaign parade in Des Moines, Iowa. What a wave of affection and pride swept through that crowd as he passed by in an open car—which we haven’t seen a President able to do for a long time—a familiar smile on his lips, jaunty and confident, drawing from us reservoirs of confidence and enthusiasm some of us had forgotten we had during those hard years. Maybe that was F. D. R.’s greatest gift to us. He really did convince us that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. (more…)

Published in: on January 30, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Reagan on FDR  
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Cardinal Farley and the Conclave of 1914



John Cardinal Farley of the Archdiocese of New York, was the only American cardinal to arrive in Rome in time to participate in the Conclave of 1914, making him the second American to participate in a conclave.  Born in 1842 in Ireland he was orphaned at the age of 7.  An uncle took him under his wing and saw to his education.  He emigrated to the United States in 1864, and in 1865 after graduating from Saint John’s College in New York City, he began his study for the priesthood at Saint Joseph’s Provincial Seminary and completed them at the North American Pontifical College in Rome.

Ordained in 1870, he became secretary to Archbishop John McCloskey in 1872.  From 1884-1902 he served as pastor of Saint Gabriel’s in Manhattan, while also serving as Vicar General of the Archdiocese from 1891-1902.  In 1895 he was made Auxiliary Bishop of New York.  In 1902 he was made Archbishop of New York.    Pope Pius X gave him a Cardinal’s cap in 1911.  In 1914 he was already in Europe at the time of the death of the Pope Pius X and was the only American cardinal to participate in the Conclave.  During World War I he annoyed many of the Irish in New York for his pro-Allied stance, his contempt for Prussian militarism overcoming his ancestral antipathy for the English.  Like most Irish emigrants to America he wore his patriotism on his sleeve and helped rally Catholics to support the war effort after the US entered the War in 1917.  He did not live to see the Allied victory in the Great War, dying on September 17, 1918. (more…)

Published in: on January 29, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Cardinal Farley and the Conclave of 1914  
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Mont Saint Michel

A Church which embraced, with equal sympathy, and within a hundred years, the Virgin, Saint Bernard, William of Champeaux and the School of Saint Victor, Peter the Venerable, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Dominic, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint Bonaventure, was more liberal than any modern state can afford to be. Radical contradictions the State may perhaps tolerate, but never embrace or profess. Such elasticity long ago vanished from human thought.

Henry Adams, Mont Saint Michel and Chartres (1904)

Published in: on January 28, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Mont Saint Michel  
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Jefferson Davis and the United States Camel Corp

Jefferson Davis, future President of the Confederacy was Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce.  Davis made many reforms in the Army, helping to modernize equipment, enlarge the size of the Army, improve instruction at West Point, and in general helped improve the US Regular Army.  One of his initiatives makes for an interesting footnote in American history.

Since the 1830s the idea had been discussed about the formation of a Camel Corp in the US Army for use in desert regions of the country.  Following the Mexican War and the acquisition of large desert regions in the southwest the idea was taken more seriously in Washington.  Secretary of War Davis got behind the idea, and on March 3, 1855 Congress appropriated $30,000.00 for the purchase of camels.  In January of 1856, some 21 camels were purchased in Turkey.  The camels arrived in Indianola, Texas on May 14, 1856.  A second shipment of 41 camels arrived in the US at Indianola on February 10, 1857.  (more…)

Published in: on January 27, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Jefferson Davis and the United States Camel Corp  
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Hero of the Maine

Monsignor Chidwick

The Maine

Night, February 15, 1898, the American battleship USS Maine lay at anchor in the harbor of Havana.  Although tensions were running high between the US government and Spain, the colonial power occupying Cuba, the night was calm.  Suddenly, at 9:40 PM,  a huge explosion devastated the forward section of the Maine, an external explosion setting off the powder in the magazines of the Maine.  Into this vision of hell on Earth strode the Catholic Chaplain of the Maine, John P. Chidwick.

Born in New York City on October 23, 1863,  John Chidwick graduated from Manhattan College with a BA (1883) and an MA (1885).  Ordained at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York in 1887,  he spent several years serving as a parish priest before being commissioned in 1895 as the third Catholic Chaplain in the history of the United States Navy.  He was eventually assigned to the Maine.  He rapidly became popular with the members of the crew, no matter their religion.  Friendly and outgoing, he did whatever he could to help the crew and was always available to listen to their problems.

When he arrived on deck on the night of the destruction of the Maine, Father Chidwick instantly gave a mass absolution.  He then sprang into action, rescuing wounded, giving first aid, and giving the last rites.  He seemed to be everywhere that grim night.  W. T. Culverius, who was serving on the Maine as a naval cadet and who later rose to the rank of Rear Admiral had this to say about Chaplain Chidwick :  On that dread night in 1898 when the MAINE was destroyed, Chaplain Chidwick was everywhere present.  He had a word of cheer to the injured which soothed their pain.  Without thought of himself he helped the helpless and he ministered to the dying who will welcome him now in that Great Ship’s Company above, where shipmates never part.”   It should be remembered that Chaplain Chidwick and the other men engaged in the rescue of their stricken crewmates had no way of knowing that at any moment further blasts might send them all to eternity.  Father Chidwick was one of the last men to leave the Maine that night. 266 sailors died in the sinking of the Maine and 89 survived.

The funeral of the dead of the Maine was held in Havana on February 17, 1898 in the Christobal Colon cemetery in ground donated by the Spanish government.  Father Chidwick conducted the burial service.



Published in: on January 26, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Hero of the Maine  
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Winter War 47

Something for the weekend.  Finlandia Hymn.  My Bride and I are off to Winter War 46, a war gaming and rpg convention that I have been attending since 1976.  Go here to read about it.  We usually pick up some new games from the vendors and more at the game auction.


For the daring, or the crazed, among you, go here to download the free game Unciv, a Civilization clone.


Published in: on January 25, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Winter War 47  
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January 24, 1916: Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad Co

The hardest thing in the world to understand is income taxes.

Albert Einstein


After spending a good part of yesterday working on my Federal income tax, I think that perhaps a national day of mourning would be an appropriate commemoration.  One hundred years ago, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the income tax. The vote was 8-0 with Justice McReynolds abstaining. Go here to read the text of the decision. Ironically, Associate Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who would soon resign from the Court to be the Republican Standard Bearer for President in 1916, had opposed the income tax amendment as Governor of New York in 1910.  (more…)

Published in: on January 24, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on January 24, 1916: Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad Co  

Jim Lehrer: Requiescat in Pace

Jim Lehrer died today at age 85.  He was a throwback to a better time in journalism.  After graduating from the University of Missouri, he served three years as a Marine Corps infantry officer, an experience he viewed as extremely valuable in teaching him about the world.  He will always be remembered as half of the McNeil-Lehrer news hour on NPR.  It was a favorite show of mine and the co-anchors did seem to attempt to give an objective factual account of the events of the day, a lost art now in Journalism.  He and his one and only wife were just shy of their 60th anniversary.  I will miss him.  May he now be covering the big stories in the Kindgom of Love Eternal.



Published in: on January 23, 2020 at 9:20 pm  Comments Off on Jim Lehrer: Requiescat in Pace  
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January 23, 1863: Expedition of First South Carolina Volunteers

First South Carolina Volunteers

The first black regiment organized with the blessing of the Federal government, the First South Carolina Volunteers consisted of former slaves from the coast of South Carolina, most of whom spoke the Gullah dialected.  The commander of the regiment was Colonel Thomas Higginson, a Unitarian Minister and abolitionist, who had been one of the Secret Six backers of John Brown for his Harper Ferrys raid.  Here is his report of the expedition of the regiment that began on January 23, 1863:

ON  BOARD STEAMER  BEN DE FORD, February 1, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report the safe return of the expedition under my command, consisting of 462 officers and men of the First Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, who left Beaufort on January 23, on board the steamers John Adams, Planter, and Ben De Ford:

The expedition has carried the regimental flag and the President’s proclamation far into the interior of Georgia and Florida. The men have been repeatedly under fire; have had infantry, cavalry, and even artillery arrayed against them, and have in every instance come off not only with unblemished honor, but with undisputed triumph. (more…)

Published in: on January 23, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on January 23, 1863: Expedition of First South Carolina Volunteers  
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