Burke v. Paine

 

The things one finds on the internet!  A debate between Edmund Burke, the foremost critic of the French Revolution, and Thomas Paine, an ardent defender of the French Revolution.  Filmed in 1974, the setting of this imaginary debate is a dinner party of playwright Richard Sheridan.  The arguments largely are taken from Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) and Paine’s answering pamphlet, The Rights of Man (1791).  Ironically Paine later would narrowly miss being executed by French Revolutionaries.  Elected to the National Convention he argued against the execution of the King stating instead that he should be exiled to the United States.  His moderate politics, at least moderate in the context of the French Revolution, made Paine a marked man by the radical Jacobins.  Arrested in December 1793 he narrowly missed execution, saved by the fall of Robespierre.

Published in: on February 9, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ronald Reagan: January 28, 1986: The Future Doesn’t Belong to the Faint Hearted

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

                                              President Ronald Reagan, January 28, 1986

As regular readers of this blog know, I am honored to share my birthday, February 6, with the greatest president of my lifetime:  Ronald Wilson Reagan.  Last Saturday was my 59th birthday and the one hundred and fifth for President Reagan.  One aspect of his Presidency was the power of his oratory:  Mr. Reagan being a master of giving voice to sentiments with verbal images that could move and inspire his listeners.  One of the best short samples of his skill, is the speech that he gave on the day of the Challenger disaster.  Reagan, obviously filled with grief himself, did not allow his speech to be a mere lament.  While honoring the dead he pointed to the future, and told the hard truth that loss and disaster are the inevitable price to be paid for exploration and new frontiers.  Here is the text of his speech: (more…)

Published in: on February 8, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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But We Have Forgotten God

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

 

As we approach Lent in this Year of Mercy it is striking to me how most who call themselves Christians have lost any sense of sin.  Christ seems to be perceived as a divine Pal, with a dog like eagerness to embrace us just the way we are.  Such a deity would seem to resemble Barney the Dinosaur more than the God of the Bible.  Forgotten is the need for sorrow for sins, repentance for sins and amendment of life.  Our ancestors tended to think much differently.  Consider Proclamation 97 of Abraham Lincoln calling for a national day of prayer and humiliation to pray for forgiveness of national sins.  Here is the text of the proclamation:

 

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
(more…)

Published in: on February 7, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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The Foggy Dew

Something for the weekend:  The Foggy Dew, written by Canon Charles O’Neill, a parish priest, in 1919 and set to the tune of a popular love song.  We are just a bit over two months before the centennial commemoration of the Easter Rising in Ireland on April 24, 1916.  A militarily hopeless venture, it was easily crushed by the British.  Yet, astonishingly, this doomed quixotic episode began the events that within five years would bring to an end in most of Ireland of almost a thousand years of English rule.  History is usually so much more dramatic, and unlikely, than fiction.

 

 

Published in: on February 6, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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TR and Spelling Reform

TRSpelling

I suppose that few people would disagree that the spelling of words in the English language is a mess.  Trying to impose rules, with myriads of exceptions, on a language that grew with no consensus as to spelling, has bedeviled generations of school children and foreigners attempting to learn the language alike.

Whenever a problem existed, Teddy Roosevelt optimistically assumed that a solution could be found.  Thus in 1906 as President he became a champion of what he called spelling reform, backing the efforts of the organization called The Simplified Spelling Board, founded early in 1906, which was funded by Andrew Carnegie.

On August 27, 1906 Roosevelt wrote to the head of the US Printing Office:

Oyster Bay, August 27, 1906

To Charles Arthur Stillings

My dear Mr. Stillings:

I enclose herewith copies of certain circulars of the Simplified Spelling Board, which can be obtained free from the Board at No. 1 Madison Avenue, New York City. Please hereafter direct that in all Government publications of the executive departments the three hundred words enumerated in Circular No. 5 shall be spelled as therein set forth. If anyone asks the reason for the action, refer him to Circulars 3, 4 and 6 as issued by the Spelling Board. Most of the critcism of the proposed step is evidently made in entire ignorance of what the step is, no less than in entire ignorance of the very moderate and common-sense views as to the purposes to be cahieved, which views as so excellently set forth in the circulars to which I have referred. There is not the slightest intention to do anything revolutionary or initiate any far-reaching policy. The purpose simply is for the Government, instead of lagging behind popular sentiment, to advance abreast of it and at the same time abreast of the views of the ablest and most practical educators of our time as well as the most profound scholars—men of the stamp of Professor Lounsbury. If the slighest changes in the spelling of the three hundred words proposed wholly or partially meet popular approval, then the changes will become permanent without any reference to what officials or individual private citizens may feel; if they do not ultimately meet with popular approval they will be dropt, and that is all there is about it. They represent nothing in the world but a very slight extension of the unconscious movement which has made agricultural implement makers write “plow” instead of “plough”; which has made most Americans write “honor” without the somewhat absurd, superfluous “u”; and which is even now making people write “program” without the “me”—just as all people who speak English now write “bat,” “set,” “dim,” “sum,” and “fish” instead of the Elizabethan “batte,” “sette,” “dimme,” “summe,” and “fysshe”; which makes us write “public,” “almanac,” “era,” “fantasy,” and “wagon,” instead of the “publick,” “almanack,” “aera,” “phantasy,” and “waggon” of our great-grandfathers. It is not an attack of the language of Shakespeare and Milton, because it is in some instances a going back to the forms they used, and in others merely the extension of changes which, as regards other words, have taken place since their time. It is not an attempt to do anything far-reaching or sudden or violent; or indeed anything very great at all. It is merely an attempt to cast what sleight weight can properly be cast on the side of the popular forces which are endeavoring to make our spelling a little less foolish and fantastic.

Sincerely yours,

Theodore Roosevelt

Go here for a list of words whose spelling he wished to simplify. (more…)

Published in: on February 5, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Nation Makers

nation-makers1

American artist Howard Pyle did a series of paintings on the American Revolution in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Pyle had a striking style, combining both romanticism and realism in his paintings.  My favorite of the series is the above painting that depicts an American line of infantry advancing at the battle of Brandywine.  Led by their officer, the common soldiers are dressed in rags, but clearly determined and ready to fight.  A ragged American flag gives a splash of color as it towers over the men below it.  The light of the sun seems to be breaking through a cloudy sky.  The painting is brilliantly entitled The Nation Makers, reminding us that this nation came into being largely through the courage of private soldiers.  Most of them, if they survived and did not die of illness or in battle, would end the War poorer financially then they began it, being paid in worthless currency.  They fought their War usually wearing the ragged remnants of uniforms, often barefoot and living off wretched rations.  Many of them were teenagers, no doubt homesick and frequently worried that no one outside of their fellow soldiers really cared about the sacrifices they were making for the nation they were desperately attempting to bring about.  If they were lucky they left the Army without their health being broken by wounds, illness, or the endless privations they endured daily through the long years of the War. (more…)

Published in: on February 4, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  

February 3, 1900: William Goebel Assassinated

 

Only one governor in the history of the United States has been assassinated, which is remarkable over two hundred and forty years of history and the number of men who have served as governors.  The very unlucky man was William Justus Goebel.  A Democrat, Goebel had an abrasive personality.  He was not a glad-hander, greeting only his closest friends.  His features were described as reptilian.  Nonetheless, his championship of populist economics as a Democrat gave him the political heft to win a State Senate seat in Kentucky.

In 1895 he had a shootout with a political opponent, former Confederate General John Lawrence Sanford.  Goebel had referred to Sanford as Gonorrhea John in a newspaper article.  Witnesses were not sure who fired first.  Sanford’s bullet passed through Goebel’s coat and ripped his trousers.  Goebel’s bullet hit Sanford’s head, Sanford dying five hours later.  Placed on trial, Goebel claimed self-defense and was acquitted.

Goebel ran for Governor as a Democrat in 1899.  He was opposed by Republican William Taylor and John Y. Brown, a former Democrat governor, who ran as the candidate of a faction of the Kentucky Democrats.  Taylor won the election, beating Goebel by 2,383 votes.  The Democrat controlled General Assembly invalidated enough votes to allow Goebel to win.  Republicans were incensed and the state seemed to be heading for civil war.  William Taylor was sworn in pending a judicial determination of who won.

On January 30, 1900 Goebel, while walking near the State Capitol in Frankfort, came under fire from persons unknown.  Five or six shots were fired from the State Capitol with one seriously wounded in the chest.  The next day Goebel was sworn in as governor, dying on February 3, 1900.  The Kentucky Court of Appeals eventually ruled that the General Assembly had acted legally in having Goebel sworn in. (more…)

Published in: on February 3, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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It’s Groundhog Day!

Ah, Groundhog day, that loopiest of all American observances, dating back to 1886 or 1887.  While I am doubtful of the predictive powers of a woodchuck’s shadow, (Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, indicating an early spring according to Groundhog Day lore.)  who couldn’t hold in high esteem a species that has bitten some nosey politicians on earlier Groundhog Days? (more…)

Published in: on February 2, 2016 at 5:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mercy Street

 

PBS is currently running a show, Mercy Street, set in a Union hospital in Alexandria in 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign.  The medical aspects of the show seem true to the period.  As is the case with most television series set in the past, there are too many soap opera elements, and the dialogue sometimes seems to owe far more to the 21rst century than the 19th century.  A nurse is shown sleeping with a doctor, a relationship that appears to be an open secret in the hospital, and which, historically, would not have been tolerated once it became public knowledge.  On the other hand, a doctor who is clearly supposed to be a “good guy character” comes from a slave holding Maryland family, and is interested in preserving the Union while caring less about slavery, a common opinion in the North in 1862, but far from palatable today.  The show thus makes efforts to be historically accurate, although those efforts appear to be subordinate to the program being entertaining.  Mercy Street I think is an effort to make an American version of a British period series.  The first three episodes have been broadcast and three more will be televised for this season.  Go here to read more about the show.

Published in: on February 1, 2016 at 11:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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Risen

(I posted this at The American Catholic, and I thought the film mavens of Almost Chosen People might find it interesting.)

 

Risen (2016) opens in theaters on February 19 and looks like it could be a good film for Lent.  I have long thought that there must have been some sort of official inquiry into the Crucifixion based upon the Roman historian Tacitus writing circa 100AD about Pilate condemning Christ.   He may have been referring to official Roman records.  Tacitus had no sympathy for the Christians and no knowledge of their ceremonies, which makes it highly doubtful that he gained his knowledge from a Christian source as to the trial and Crucifixion of Christ.  Pilate had every motivation to prove that Christ had not risen from the dead as did the Sadducees who controlled the Temple.  Their historical silence may be an indication that what they found out, if they conducted post Resurrection inquiries, was very much not to their liking.

Published in: on January 31, 2016 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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