Oh Holy Night

Something for the weekend.  Oh Holy Night sung by Celtic Woman.  Written in 1847 by Adolphe Adam, the carol was for the French poem “Minuit, chrétiens” “Midnight Christians” written by Placide Cappeau who had been asked by a parish priest to write a Christian poem.  In 1855 Unitarian Minister created an English singing version, and it has been a favorite American Christmas hymn ever since. (more…)

Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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Published in: on December 9, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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December 8, 1941: Churchill Declares War on Japan


In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, and the attack of British possessions in Asia, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, wasted no time in recognizing that a state of War existed between the British and the Empire of Japan:

As soon as I heard, last night, that Japan had attacked the United States, I felt it necessary that Parliament should be immediately summoned. It is indispensable to our system of government that Parliament should play its full part in all the important acts of State and at all the crucial moments of the war; and I am glad to see that so many Members have been able to be in their places, despite the shortness of the notice. With the full approval of the nation, and of the Empire, I pledged the word of Great Britain, about a month ago, that should the United States be involved in war with Japan, a British declaration of war would follow within the hour. I, therefore, spoke to President Roosevelt on the Atlantic telephone last night, with a view to arranging the timing of our respective declarations. The President told me that he would this morning send a Message to Congress, which, of course, as is well known, can alone make a declaration of war on behalf of the United States, and I then assured him that we would follow immediately.

However, it soon appeared that British territory in Malaya had also been the object of Japanese attack, and later on it was announced, from Tokyo, that the Japanese High Command—a curious form; not the Imperial Japanese Government—had declared that a state of war existed with Great Britain and the United States. That being so, there was no need to wait for the declaration by Congress. American time is very nearly six hours behind ours. The Cabinet, therefore, which met at 12.30 to-day, authorised an immediate declaration of war upon Japan. Instructions were sent to His Majesty’s Ambassador at Tokyo, and a communication was despatched to the Japanese Chargé de Affaires at 1 o’clock to-day to this effect:


Published in: on December 8, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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December 7, 1941: A Date That Lives in Infamy


What a different world existed seventy-five years ago when the Empire of Japan launched the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.  This is underlined by the fact that there was only one live report of the attack.  Note that this live report over a long distance phone call from Honolulu to New York by an NBC radio affiliate.  is terminated by a telephone operator trying to place an emergency call.  Anxious Americans would have to wait for the newspapers about the event that had catapulted their nation into the largest War in human history.

Published in: on December 7, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Billy Mitchell Predicts Pearl Harbor Attack in 1924

“This officer is an exceptionally able one, enthusiastic, energetic and full of initiative (but) he is fond of publicity, more or less indiscreet as to speech, and rather difficult to control as a subordinate.”

From General John J. Pershing’s 1923 efficiency report on General William Mitchell




Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell did not suffer fools gladly.  Dismayed that his demands for the development of air power were ignored in the post World War I era, he became increasingly caustic in his comments against his superiors.  After the deaths of several airmen in 1925 flying obsolete equipment, he castigated the heads of the Army and Navy for an almost treasonable administration of the national defense.  Court-martialed, he was found guilty and suspended from the Army without pay for five years.  President Calvin Coolidge amended the judgment so that Mitchell would receive half pay.  Mitchell left the Army, his military career at an end.


In 1924 General Pershing, perhaps to keep Mitchell out of harm’s way, sent him out on an inspection tour of the Pacific.  In his notes of that tour, later reduced to a 323 page report, Mitchell took a look at the weakness of the US in the Pacific and the rising power of Japan.  He predicted war between Japan and the US, and a Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor and Clark Field in the Philippines: (more…)

Published in: on December 6, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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December 5, 1916: Wilson State of the Union Address



It is instructive to read the state of the union message of President Wilson to Congress a hundred years ago.  The main thing that most people remember about the second term of the Wilson administration  is US entry into World War I.  Yet there is nothing about the War in the state of the union address, no mention of the need for military preparedness, no hint that anything other than profound peace existed in the globe.  Of course Wilson had been re-elected on the slogan, “He kept us out of war.”  Mentioning the War now would fly in the face of what had been shouted up and down the country by Democrat speakers just a month ago.  Of course this also illustrates just how different History is when being lived through, rather than when being studied generations later.  Most Americans, like Wilson, hoped that the US could avoid becoming involved in the Great War.  The last thing they wished was to hear gloom about their prospects of staying out long term.  Thus a hundred years ago the nation concentrated on domestic matters and forgot about the War for a very little while.


In fulfilling at this time the duty laid upon me by the Constitution of communicating to you from time to time information of the state of the Union and recommending to your consideration such legislative measures as may be judged necessary and expedient, I shall continue the practice, which I hope has been acceptable to you, of leaving to the reports of the several heads of the executive departments the elaboration of the detailed needs of the public service and confine myself to those matters of more general public policy with which it seems necessary and feasible to deal at the present session of the Congress.

I realize the limitations of time under which you will necessarily act at this session and shall make my suggestions as few as possible; but there were some things left undone at the last session which there will now be time to complete and which it seems necessary in the interest of the public to do at once.

In the first place, it seems to me imperatively necessary that the earliest possible consideration and action should be accorded the remaining measures of the program of settlement and regulation which I had occasion to recommend to you at the close of your last session in view of the public dangers disclosed by the unaccommodated difficulties which then existed, and which still unhappily continue to exist, between the railroads of the country and their locomotive engineers, conductors and trainmen. (more…)

Published in: on December 5, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Francis Pharcellus Church, the Little Girl and Santa Claus



(I publish this each year before Christmas.  It evokes sweet memories of Christmases past when my children were young.)



Francis Pharcellus Church was a newspaper man to his marrow.  As a young man he had covered the Civil War for the New York Times and with his brother William he founded the Army and Navy Journal which dedicated itself to reporting news about the military forces of the United States, along with historical pieces on US military history, and opinion pieces about innovations or reforms in the military.  It is still being published today.

After the War he served as lead editorial writer on his brother’s newspapers the New York Sun.  He died in 1906 at 67, leaving behind no children.  Although he lived a full life, he would be all but forgotten today except for one incident.

In 1897 Virginia O’Hanlon was upset.  She was eight years old and some of her friends had been telling her that there was no Santa Claus.  Her father, Dr. Philip O’Hanlon, suggested that she write to the Sun and see what that newspaper had to say.  Virginia followed her advice and duly wrote the letter.  Mr. Church wrote the reply to the letter which appeared on September 21, 1897 in the New York Sun.


I am 8 years old.   Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.   Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’   Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?



VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.


Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.


Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.


You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.


No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood. (more…)

Published in: on December 4, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Something for the weekend.  One of the earliest Christian hymns still popularly sung, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is based upon the Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn in the Liturgy of Saint James of the Church in Jerusalem.  During the Oxford Movement in the Church of England in the nineteenth century, an Anglican minister Gerard Moultrie made an English translation of the Greek text.  The tune to which it is set, Picardy, is a French folk tune that dates back to at least the seventeenth century.  The hymn was set to the tune by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1906, and has proven immensely popular.

Published in: on December 3, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Grant’s War on the Klan

President Grant has a rather deserved reputation for being a poor president.  However there were bright spots to his term in office, and one of the brightest was the war he waged against the Klan.

Basically a domestic terrorist group that used violence and the threat of violence against blacks and Republicans in the South, the activities by the Klan had aroused a fury in the North by 1870.    With Grant taking the lead Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan act on April 30, 1871.  The text of the Act is here.  The Act gave broad powers to the Executive Branch to combat the Klan, including use of the military and suspension of the writ of habeus corpus.  (more…)

Published in: on December 2, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Abraham Lincoln


The very next day, somebody was discussing with him the difference between character and reputation, when he said,—with a look at me, as if to remind of what he had been talking about the day before,—perhaps a man’s character was like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of; the tree is the real thing.

Noah Brooks, newspaper correspondent and friend of Abraham Lincoln, recalling a statement by Lincoln

Published in: on December 1, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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