Lincoln and Liberty Too

The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon,

The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician,

State-character but comparative failure at forty

In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars,

Honesty rare as a man without self-pity,

Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind,

And a self-confidence like an iron-bar:

This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck,

Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches

Which make the monumental booming of Webster

Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body




Something for the weekend.  Lincoln and Liberty Too, the most stirring campaign song in American history, seems appropriate for the weekend before a Presidential election. Lincoln used to say that Henry Clay was his ideal of a statesman and for me Abraham Lincoln has always filled that role.  Presidents come and Presidents go, but Washington and Lincoln remain, the fixed stars of the better angels of our natures.



HURRAH for the choice of the nation!
Our chieftain so brave and so true;
We’ll go for the great Reformation—
For Lincoln and Liberty too!

We’ll go for the son of Kentucky—
The hero of Hoosierdom through;
The pride of the Suckers so lucky—
For Lincoln and Liberty too!

Our David’s good sling is unerring,
The Slaveocrats’ giant he slew;
Then shout for the Freedom-preferring—
For Lincoln and Liberty too!

They’ll find what, by felling and mauling,
Our rail-maker statesman can do;
For the People are everywhere calling
For Lincoln and Liberty too.

Then up with our banner so glorious,
The star-spangled red-white-and-blue,
We’ll fight till our flag is victorious,
For Lincoln and Liberty too!

Published in: on October 31, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln and Liberty Too  
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Forgotten Hero of World War I


Dale Price at Dyspeptic Mutterings has a great post on General Hunter Liggett, one of the bright lights of our involvement in World War I:


The fighting in Korea is usually referred to as “the Forgotten War,” a reference to how little of an impression it has made on the American historical consciousness. Outside of M*A*S*H*, the cultural markers of that War are non-existent.

But I would argue that America’s involvement in the First World War has made even less of an impression. It resonated at the time, but the wrangles over Versailles, the League of Nations and repayment of loans issued by America soured the nation quickly.

It became the war America wanted to forget–and it must be admitted that our nation did a pretty good job of it.

The only Americans from the conflict who pierce the cloud of willful forgetting are Sergeant Alvin York, General John Pershing and, most poignantly, the Unknown Soldier. 

Which is truly unfortunate, since it was, in terms of actual casualties per day of combat, America’s bloodiest war.

In April 1917, the United States brought into modern, mechanized warfare a first class navy, the Browning automatic rifle, the Springfield M1903 and a flood-tide of enthusiastic fighting men.

To say that America was criminally-unprepared to fight in the Great War is an understatement. 

And her officer corps’ experience consisted of frontier policing, brief fighting in the Spanish-American War and the bloody counter-insurgency in the Philippines. The Army War College, an effort to systematically train officers along European General Staff lines, was not quite 16 years old when the War began.

And the process of promoting Army officers by merit instead of seniority was not quite 30 years old.

In the aftermath of the declaration of war on the Central Powers, America had to engage in a crash mobilization program, expanding an army from the low five figures to over four million by the end of the War.



Pershing became America’s Generalissimo, which was helpful from the standpoint of administration and a steely determination to forge an American fighting force. But amongst his flaws were playing favorites, micromanagement, and being an at best indifferent tactician.

This would lead to a crisis in America’s bloodiest campaign, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Pershing, retaining command of the First Army as well as being the overall American commander, was flatly-overwhelmed by the task. Small gains and large casualties were the result of the American assault on the formidable terrain. Exhausted, Pershing kicked himself upstairs and appointed Hunter Liggett to replace him.

Liggett was not a favorite of Pershing’s, but the latter was smart enough to recognize the merits of the stocky, unassuming veteran. Despite some initial continuing micromanagement by Pershing, Liggett was able to reorganize and refit the exhausted First Army. He also ordered the air arm of the AEF to provide more close support and air cover for American attacks. After a two week breather, he out-generaled the German commander by turning a flank in the strength of the German lines. From that day forward, the American armies were continually on the move, breaking out of the Argonne. At the time of the Armistice, American troops were a day’s march away from cutting the major German rail line supplying the Kaiser’s forces being rolled up by British and Commonwealth forces to the west. 

Go here to read the rest.  The completely undeserved oblivion that has swallowed General Liggett calls to mind General Sherman’s acerbic observation of military fame:

I think I understand what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers.

Published in: on October 30, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Forgotten Hero of World War I  
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American Dialects and Accents

A fascinating look at this subject circa 1958.  Mass communication and entertainment, ever growing attendance at college, mass military service during the World Wars and much of the Cold War and increasing migrations across state lines, have all played a role in reducing regional speech patterns,  It is interesting to look back 62 years ago and see the stage of this ongoing process at that time.  Compare and contrast in the below contemporary video where most of these people, almost all likely college educated, strike me as basically speaking in an almost identical accent:

Published in: on October 29, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  

The Ball Player Named After One President and Portrayed By Another




Published in: on October 28, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Ball Player Named After One President and Portrayed By Another  
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Rush Limbaugh and Mom

(I posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the readers of Almost Chosen People might find it of interest.)


All men die is one of the hard facts of our human condition.  That we die is completely out of our control.  Whether we die with grace is usually under our control.  My mother died of cancer.  She battled the second recurrence of cancer that stole her life for a year and a quarter.  Cancer took her life by inches.  I never heard her breathe one word of complaint, fear or self-pity.  Instead she prayed, joked and endured.  All her life Mom was teaching me, usually when I didn’t realize it.  At the end of her life she gave me a master’s course in courage, love and how to end our trek through this vale of tears well.  It was hard watching her die, but it was also a privilege.  Mom had lived a good and faith filled life, loved by her family and friends and I saw the fruit of it in her utter fearlessness as she confronted death.

I have listened to Rush Limbaugh, as the law mines allowed, since 1988.  I appreciated his politics, wit and flamboyance.  I also liked the amount of money he raised for charity, something that most people are unaware of.  Now, like the great showman he is, Rush is making an exit that will leave his audience crying for an encore that will not come.  I pray for his recovery, and, if that is not consistent with God’s will, that he receive the salvation that Christ shed His blood on the Cross to bring to our Fallen race.

Published in: on October 27, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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The Special Courage of Captain Pratt

The things you find on the internet.  In 1963-1964 CBS ran a series called The Great Adventure, dramatizing in each episode an event in American history.  The above episode aired on February 14, 1964 and featured a dramatization of the actions of Captain Richard Henry Pratt, an Army officer in the 19th century who championed the assimilation of Indians into mainstream American culture.  The founder of Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pratt was once viewed as a hero who spent much of his life championing the entry of Indians into mainstream American life through assimilation, an ardent foe of racial segregation.  With the rise of Identity Politics he is often now depicted as engaging in cultural genocide against Indians.  He was neither the savior of the Indian nor a demon, but rather a man of his time and place doing his best, within the confines of his culture, for people quite alien to him.

The television show, as they all in time become, is now a time capsule from the time in which it was produced.  The period commercials give the feel for a day now 56 years in the past.

Published in: on October 26, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Special Courage of Captain Pratt  
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Dante Explains the Divine

Consider your origin;
you were not born to live like brutes,
but to follow virtue and knowledge.

Dante Alighieri, Canto XXVI, lines 118-120, Inferno

(I posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the Dante mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

A great video on Dante’s Divine Comedy which the two participants proclaim as perhaps the greatest work of human art.  That of course is a matter of opinion, but for me it will always be the greatest poem, and the best guide to understanding the human condition that I have found outside of Scripture.

The Church has recognized this work of one of most brilliant of her sons.

IN PRAECLARA SUMMORUM, an encyclical in praise of Dante was issued on April 21, 1921 by Pope Benedict XV to mark six centuries since the death of the great Florentine poet.  Dante of course had been the mortal enemy of Pope Boniface VIII, one of the bolder rascals ever to sit in the chair of Peter.  It should be noted, however, that after Pope Boniface had been captured and physically assaulted by French troops, a shocked Dante compared the incident to the slapping of Christ before the Sanhedrin, Dante always being a loyal, if occasionally outspoken, son of the Church.  Dante had a rocky relationship with the Church after his death.  The Divine Comedy would sometimes be attacked by critics in the Church, but the main target of adverse opinion  was De Monarchia in which Dante called for the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor over all of Italy.  That work was placed on the papal list of proscribed literature from 1554 until 1881, when Papal secular rule was a dead issue.  The Divine Comedy on the other hand was long hailed, and continues to be, as the best poetic treatment of Catholicism’s view of the afterlife, and the enduring masterpiece of vernacular Italian which Dante, in no small part, helped shape.  The Divine Comedy makes excellent reading at any time, especially during Lent, although I would recommend an edition that is annotated since there are many obscure references to contemporary events for Dante that are now seven centuries in the past, and unknown now except to extreme history nerds such as myself.  For those like myself who cannot read Italian, a translation is a must, and there are plentiful translations, both in poem and in prose.

My love affair with Dante began when I was in Junior High, a half century ago.  Each Saturday I would go to the Good Will store in Paris, Illinois.  Paris did not have a book store, but second hand books could be purchased at Good Will, a quarter a hard back and a dime a paperback (which was good since my allowance was a buck a week) and there I made my first acquaintance with authors like Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Dante.  The volume of Dante I first purchased was Purgatorio in paperback.  Fortunately for me it was well annotated and I was stunned by it.  In the words of one of Dante’s other works it opened the door to a new life for me and I happily scampered through.

On Friday I purchased a 1948 edition of The Divine Comedy, Pantheon Books, translation by Lawrence Grant White, and with 60 Gustave Dore illustrations.  Fortuitously the video above was released on October 20, 2020.  This will be the first of a series of posts I intend to write this year and the next to observe seven hundred years since the death of Dante.  Dante the man departed this vale of tears;  Dante the author is deathless as a valuable guide post here below to help us on our way to God.

Published in: on October 25, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Dante Explains the Divine  
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Semper Fidelis


Something for the weekend.  Semper Fidelis (1888), by John Philip Sousa, the official march of the Marines.

I have gotten a lot of joy out of Sousa over the years after first being introduced to him courtesy of Popeye cartoons on television when I was a small child:

Published in: on October 24, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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October 23, 1935: A Mobster Cheats Satan


Come now, and let us reason together, said the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Isaiah 1:18

 “The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone. For respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.”

Oscar Wilde

Arthur Simon Flegenheimer was born into a Jewish family of German immigrants in New York City on August 6, 1902, the Feast of the Transfiguration.  Early in his life his father abandoned the family, and life was harsh for Arthur, his mother and his younger sister.  He dropped out of school in the eighth grade to help support the family.  He quickly fell into a life of crime and by age 18 was serving a prison sentence.  He was paroled on December 8, 1920, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Going to work for Schultz Trucking, he swiftly returned to crime.  Among his gangland colleagues he adopted the nom de crime of Dutch Schultz.  Gangster Joey Noe hired him in 1928 to work as a bouncer at a small speakeasy, Hub Social Group.  Impressed by his brutality and ruthlessness, Noe took Schultz into partnership and soon he became wealthy owning with Noe a chain of speakeasies.  The Noe-Schultz gang quickly became a power in Manhattan, the sole non-Italian gang to rival the five Italian crime organizations that would later merge as the founding five families of the American Mafia.

The expansion into the upper west side of Manhattan, brought Noe and Schultz into conflict with Irish-American gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond.  War breaking out between the gangs, Joey Noe was gunned down and died on November 21, 1928.  Schultz was crushed by the loss of his friend and mentor.

Holding his own among the murderous New York gangs, Schultz pioneered the numbers racket at the end of Prohibition and also extorted “protection” money from restaurants.  In the summer of 1935 he was successful in beating a tax evasion prosecution.  During his trial he had portrayed himself as an honest business man, and he engaged in numerous charitable activities.  Secretly he began to study Catholicism, convinced that for some unfathomable reason Jesus had spared him from prison.

On October 23, 1935 Schultz was gunned down by Murder, Inc., the gangland Commission having ordered the murder, fearing that Shultz would attempt to murder New York prosecutor Thomas Dewey in revenge for his prosecution of Schultz, and bring the wrath of the law down on their heads.

Taken to a hospital, certain he was to die, Schultz begged to die as a Catholic.  Father Cornelius McInerney was summoned, gave Schultz some simple instruction in the Faith, baptized him and gave him the Last Rites. As  Schultz went into surgery, Father McInerney stayed at the hospital and comforted the three women in the life of Schultz, his mother, his sister and his wife.  Schultz died after the surgery on October 24.  He was given a funeral mass and buried at Gate of Heaven cemetery. (more…)

Published in: on October 23, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 23, 1935: A Mobster Cheats Satan  
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First Vice Presidential Debate

The first Vice Presidential debate occurred forty-four years ago on October 15, 1976, and like all subsequent Vice Presidential debates it was soon forgotten.  Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this debate now is that both the participants are still alive, with Bob Dole being 97 and Walter Mondale 92.  Both men would go on to end their political careers with unsuccessful Presidential runs, with Walter Mondale coming briefly out of retirement in 2002 to suffer the humiliation of losing a Senate race in his home state of Minnesota.

Published in: on October 22, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on First Vice Presidential Debate  
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