Remember General Trimble!

Monday, July 17, AD 2017

The battle was over and we had won it handsomely. General Ewell moved about uneasily, a good deal excited, and seemed to me to be undecided what to do next. I approached him and said: “Well, General, we have had a grand success; are you not going to follow it up and push our advantage?”

He replied that General Lee had instructed him not to bring on a general engagement without orders, and that he would wait for them.

I said, “That hardly applies to the present state of things, as we have fought a hard battle already, and should secure the advantage gained”. He made no rejoinder, but was far from composure. I was deeply impressed with the conviction that it was a critical moment for us and made a remark to that effect.

As no movement seemed immediate, I rode off to our left, north of the town, to reconnoitre, and noticed conspicuously the wooded hill northeast of Gettysburg (Culp’s), and a half mile distant, and of an elevation to command the country for miles each way, and overlooking Cemetery Hill above the town. Returning to see General Ewell, who was still under much embarrassment, I said, “General, There,” pointing to Culp’s Hill, “is an eminence of commanding position, and not now occupied, as it ought to be by us or the enemy soon. I advise you to send a brigade and hold it if we are to remain here.” He said: “Are you sure it commands the town?” [I replied,] “Certainly it does, as you can see, and it ought to be held by us at once.” General Ewell made some impatient reply, and the conversation dropped.

Major General Isaac R. Trimble

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures.
Brutus, Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3
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Ides of March: Cato the Younger

Wednesday, March 15, AD 2017

And, in general, Cato thought he ought to take a course directly opposed to the life and practices of the time, feeling that these were bad and in need of great change.

Plutarch, Life of Cato the Younger

 

 

 

I think it would have amused the Romans of Caesar’s generation if they could have learned that the assassination of Julius Caesar would eventually receive immortality through a play written more than 16 centuries after the event by a barbarian playwright in the Tin Islands that Caesar had briefly invaded.  It would have tickled their well developed concept of the ludicrous, judging from Roman comedy.

Caesar was assassinated because he had established himself as absolute ruler of Rome as Marius and Sulla had done before him.  Once again the Senate was to be reduced to a rubber stamp.  However, unlike the brief periods of one man rule engaged in by Marius and Sulla, Caesar, a much abler man, was clearly aiming to turn Rome into a monarchy to be ruled by him alone, and his successors after him.  The Republic, dying for the last half century, was now dead and Caesar was the undertaker.  However, some Romans refused to accept this fact.  Foremost among them was Cato the Younger.  A living anachronism, Cato longed for the Republic that his ancestor Cato the Elder had lived in a century and a half before, and stood against those who sought to hurry on the death of the Republic.  Fate has allowed only one speech of Cato to survive, his powerful brief oration that convinced the Senators to impose the death penalty on the Cataline conspirators.  In this speech we see Cato’s love of the Republic and his clear eyed awareness that it was unlikely to survive the corrupt generation among whom he lived.  Cato understood that the Republic was a lost cause, but he viewed this lost cause as worth fighting for and dying for.  Here is the text of his speech:

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7 Responses to Ides of March: Cato the Younger

  • Lord Acton describes the fall of the Republic and the Augustan Principate very well: “The Roman republic laboured to crush the subjugated nations into a homogeneous and obedient mass; but the increase which the proconsular authority obtained in the process subverted the republican government, and the reaction of the provinces against Rome assisted in establishing the empire. The Cæsarean system gave an unprecedented freedom to the dependencies, and raised them to a civil equality which put an end to the dominion of race over race and of class over class. The monarchy was hailed as a refuge from the pride and cupidity of the Roman people; and the love of equality, the hatred of nobility, and the tolerance of despotism implanted by Rome became, at least in Gaul, the chief feature of the national character.”

  • The American Republic also has died. Can anyone assign a date for the head stone? The slow death spiral likely began the day the Constitution was ratified and accelerated.

    Interestingly, I was reading (for banking and economic history) an old (before the reds seized public education) AP high school American History textbook. The book stated that under the (failed) Articles of Confederation Congress with the Northwest Ordinance of1 787 had solved the problem of empire (which had bedeviled the UK in the 1760’s and 1770’s) by establishing the mechanisms to admit territories into the United States as permanent equals to the original states.

  • “The slow death spiral likely began the day the Constitution was ratified and accelerated.”

    You make Cato the Younger T. Shaw seem like an incorrigible optimist.

    The Brits would hit upon the solution of self-governing Dominions in the 19th Century. The problem for the Brits is that the technology did not exist to have a unified global country in the great days of the British Empire. Of course with the rise of nationalism in the 19th century such a state was rendered impossible. Divergent interests of course would still have been a problem even without lack of technology or nationalism. Australia always has to keep a close eye on China and Japan while such Asian concerns, in the absence of British control of India, Hong Kong, Burma, Malaya and Singapore, are not even of tertiary concern to the Brits.

  • “Unprecedented freedom” made me think, MPS about the seeds of Jewish thought planted in the previous few
    hundred years by dispersion and captivity through esp the thoughts of the prophet Daniel the Maccabees – hey – even Jonah and Esther 😊
    You Daniel may have influenced Cyrus and the Maccabees certainly sent emissaries to Rome on behalf of religious freedom

  • I am an optimist. At my age, I’m elated every morning I wake up and most everything still works. Hope is one of the Cardinal Virtues. My true home is not the here-and-now. I simply ignore illegal executive orders, unconstitutional laws, unjust regulations, and liberty-denying court diktats. For example, for me LGTB means Liberty, Gold/Guns, Trump, and Booze. If I were not an optimist, why would I buy Lottery tickets.

    Another “victory” for the (failed) Articles of Confederation was the bond of union it created when the landed (about half of the states owned parts of the Northwest Territories) states ceded to the national government the Northwest Terr., and non-landed (about equal in number) were provided equal benefits from future sales of the lands (to pay the Revolutionary War debts). The states would need to stay with the Union in order to reap their shares of the benefits from land sales.

  • Anzlyne wrote, “[T]he Maccabees certainly sent emissaries to Rome on behalf of religious freedom”

    The Romans understood the power of religion; “Separatim nemo habessit deos neve novos neve advenas nisi publice adscitos” – Let no one have gods by himself, neither new nor introduced, unless publicly acknowledged, says the Law of the XII Tables of 500 BC. However, virtually all beliefs were tolerated; as Gibbon says, “The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.” What the authorities viewed with deep suspicion was any kind of sect, demanding the obedience of its members.

    We have a bronze tablet containing the Sc de Bacchanalibus, of 186 BC, suppressing the Bacchanalian cult and it is very revealing. “No one shall appoint either man or woman to be master or to act as master; no one, either man or woman, is to be an officer (to manage the temporal affairs of the organization); nor is anyone of them to have charge of a common treasury; they shall not form conspiracies among themselves… make mutual promises or agreements, or interchange pledges.” Drunken orgies in honour of a god were no problem; being part of an organization exercising authority over its members was to be “rem capvtalem faciendam censvere” – adjudged a capital offence.

    This fear only intensified under the Empire. After the great fire in Nicomedia, the Emperor Hadrian would not allow his friend Pliny to form a volunteer fire brigade; he feared it might become a political club. Christians were persecuted, not for their beliefs, but for their membership of a “collegium illicitum,” an illicit corporation, by authorities who condemned, as a state within the state, every inner group or community, class or corporation, exercising authority over its members.. “Non-denominational Christians,” had they existed (they didn’t), the Romans would have viewed with unconcern.

  • T. Shaw
    “The American Republic also has died. Can anyone assign a date for the head stone? The slow death spiral likely began the day the Constitution was ratified and accelerated.”
    The American Republic lives in our Founding Principles: THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE and our CONSTITUTION. Respect for the sovereign person. Jesus Christ is a sovereign person who has been maligned and evicted from the public square. This will change.

Ides of March: Two Antonies

Tuesday, March 15, AD 2016

 

 

 

 

I think it would have amused the Romans of Caesar’s generation if they could have learned that the assassination of Julius Caesar would eventually receive immortality through a play written more than 16 centuries after the event by a barbarian playwright in the Tin Islands that Caesar had briefly invaded.  It would have tickled their well developed concept of the ludicrous, judging from Roman comedy.

The late Charlton Heston played Antony twice in films: in 1950 at age 27, the videos at the beginning of this post are from the 1950 film, and in 1970 at age 47:

Mark Antony was 39 at the time of the events depicted.  Plutarch tells us what happened:

And therefore, when Caesar’s body was brought to the place where it should be buried, he made a funeral oration in commendation of Caesar, according to the ancient custom of praising noblemen at their funerals. When he saw that the people were very glad and desirous also to hear Caesar spoken of, and his praises uttered, he mingled his oration with lamentable words, and by amplifying of matters did greatly move their hearts and affections unto pity and compassion. In fine, to conclude his oration, he unfolded before the whole assembly the bloody garments of the dead, thrust through in many places with their swords, and called the malefactors cruel and cursed murderers. With these words he put the people into such a fury, that they presently took Caesar’s body, and burnt it in the market-place with such tables and forms as they could get together. Then, when the fire was kindled, they took firebrands, and ran to the murderers’ houses to set them afire, and to make them come out to fight.

At this time Antony had a well deserved reputation as a wastrel and a well deserved reputation as a military man from his service under Caesar, but he had no reputation as an orator.  However, Antony’s paternal grandfather had been the foremost orator in Rome in his time, so there was a family tradition which Brutus and other conspirators would have done better to take into consideration before granting Antony a forum at Caesar’s funeral.

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One Response to Ides of March: Two Antonies

Ides of March: Continuing Fascination

Sunday, March 15, AD 2015

CASSIUS

Stoop, then, and wash. How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown!

BRUTUS

How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport,
That now on Pompey’s basis lies along
No worthier than the dust!

CASSIUS

So oft as that shall be,
So often shall the knot of us be call’d
The men that gave their country liberty.

 

 

 

I think it would have amused the Romans of Caesar’s generation if they could have learned that the assassination of Julius Caesar would eventually receive immortality through a play written more than 16 centuries after the event by a barbarian playwright in the Tin Islands that Caesar had briefly invaded.  It would have tickled their well developed concept of the ludicrous, judging from Roman comedy.

In the above video William Shatner gives a pretty poor rendition of the Mark Antony speech.  Charlton Heston, below, shows him how it should be done:

 

 

It is strange the fascination that the assassination of Caesar, more than twenty centuries ago, continues to exert.  Popular historian Barry Strauss has just released a book on the assassination of Caesar, to join the ranks of the many volumes on the subject that came before.  (Strauss is a first rate historian, and I have purchased this book although I have not yet read it.)  Why should this assassination remain of interest?  I think the clue is Dante placing Brutus and Cassius, the chief assassins, in the maws of Satan in his Inferno.  Dante was a partisan of the Empire, and thus the murders of Caesar, the man who gave the dying Republic its final, fatal blow and set the stage for the Empire, were worthy to be placed in the mouths of Satan, along with Judas who betrayed Christ.

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30 Responses to Ides of March: Continuing Fascination

  • It is surely one of the ironies of history that Jean-Paul Marat should have written in his newspaper, “The People’s Friend,” the wish that all citizens “carry in their bosoms the dagger of Brutus.”

    After Charlotte Corday’s arrest for fatally stabbing that self-styled Tribune of the People in his bath, a copy of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives was found in her lodgings, bookmarked at the lives of Dion and Marcus Brutus. No doubt she had studied it with pleasure and profit on the long stage-coach journey from Normandy to Paris.

    Lamartine wrote of her, “In the face of murder, history dares not praise, and in the face of heroism, dares not condemn her. The appreciation of such an act places us in the terrible alternative of blaming virtue or applauding assassination.”

  • This event had to happen to make Gaius Octavius the “Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus” and prepare the Roman world for the coming of the Christ Child.
    .
    Note the phrase “Divi Filius” in the title for Augustus. It means “son of a god.” But who is the true Son of God?
    .
    Irony abounds greatly in all this. Some Roman senators by murder tried to restore freedom and the Republic, but instead they got Imperium ruled by a politically acclaimed Divi Filius. The real Filius Die ironically was born during the reign of this politically acclaimed Divi Filius, and it was He and His work which eventually led to the triumph of true freedom over a dictatorial empire.
    .
    Ironically the real Son of God, like Julius Caesar, was betrayed by a close friend. But when He died came freedom, whereas when Caesar died came Imperium.

  • Opps, make Filius Die into Filius Dei – fat fingered the keyboard.

  • Seeing Shatner makes me picture Caesar bleeding on the Senate floor while Bones (Caius Aclespius?) declares, “He’s dead, Jim.”

  • What is interesting is Shakespeare’s take on it. Brutus attempts to appeal to the nobler sentiments of the people, and is confident that his oratory which appeals to their patriotism, addressed as it is to ‘Romans, countrymen and lovers’ will convince them of the logic of his arguments. It appears to have done so, and he then becomes over-confident and leaves the field to Antony who cleverly inverts the opening to ‘friends, Romans, countrymen’ and then cynically works on the sentimentality and cupidity of the mob.

    Brutus is indeed honourable, but naïf; Antony is manipulative and cynical. His chilling words after the plebs have departed on their murderous rampage are: ‘Now let it work – Mischief, thou art afoot, take now what course thou wilt!’ The first victim of popular justice is an innocent poet who happens to share a name with one of the conspirators.

    The very first scene of the play has Flavius and Murellus castigating the people for their fickleness.

    Brutus believes that the Republic he believes in is based, in theory at least, on the general will of the people. Shakespeare’s message is that the people cannot be relied on. How right he was.

  • “Shakespeare’s message is that the people cannot be relied on. How right he was.”

    Shakespeare’s true sentiments of course will never be known. He was a subject of Bad Queen Bess and being in favor of a Republic would not have been the safest of political persuasions at that time, especially someone like Shakespeare dependent upon court patronage.

  • Shakespeare’s view of society was shared by most in the sixteenth century and can be inferred by the words he puts into Ulysses’ mouth in ‘Troilus and Cressida’:

    ‘The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre
    Observe degree, priority, and place,
    Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
    Office and custom, in all line of order.

    Take but degree away, untune that string,
    And, hark, what discord follows! Each thing meets
    In mere oppugnancy’

    It is of course the authentic Catholic view (whether or not Shakespeare was a Catholic is still disputed) and is echoed in Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem ‘Tom’s Garland’. Violent disorder was prevalent in Shakespeare’s day and he would have observed the London mob in action.

    ‘Bad Queen Bess’, like ‘Bloody Mary’ is the sort of epithet that merely indicates the prejudice of those who use it. Elizabeth I, like her contemporary Catherine de Medici was a ‘politique’ – she was not interested in religious persecution for its own sake. English history has managed to free itself from four centuries of Protestant propaganda, and the last thing we need is for Catholics to weigh in on the other side.

  • “Bad Queen Bess’, like ‘Bloody Mary’ is the sort of epithet that merely indicates the prejudice of those who use it. Elizabeth I, like her contemporary Catherine de Medici was a ‘politique’ – she was not interested in religious persecution for its own sake.”

    Rubbish. Her anti-Catholic laws speak for themselves. Her claim that she did not seek mirrors into men’s souls was tripe. She viewed the Catholic Church as a threat to her throne and the best that Catholics could hope for was to hear Mass from a priest on the run from her spies.

    As for Shakespeare, the argument has been made that he was a republican in his sentiments:
    https://books.google.com/books?id=EAuvCFM2S34C&pg=PA603&lpg=PA603&dq=shakespeare+was+a+republican&source=bl&ots=tBfc14FHVC&sig=eJ4JCaNTHnYF_41Y_t16UhfJibg&hl=en&sa=X&ei=_yMGVYfiNOG0sAS09oFw&ved=0CCkQ6AEwBDgK#v=onepage&q=shakespeare%20was%20a%20republican&f=false

    Since he was living in Tudor England under a tyrant who clapped members of Parliament into the Tower for speaking their mind, I submit that it is impossible to guess his true sentiments since he was most definitely not a free man.

    “At the opening of the 1593 Parliament Elizabeth warned that freedom ‘to saye yea or no to bills’ did not include licence ‘as some suppose to speake … of all causes’, nor ‘to frame a forme of relligion, or a state of government’, adding that ‘no king fitt for his state will suffer such absurdities’.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Wentworth

  • The anti-Catholic laws I referred to:

    “The Penal Laws began with the two Statutes of Supremacy and Uniformity by which Queen Elizabeth, in 1559, initiated her religious settlement; and her legislation falls into three divisions corresponding to three definitely marked periods:
    •1558-70 when the Government trusted to the policy of enforcing conformity by fines and deprivations;
    •1570-80 from the date of the excommunication to the time when the Government recognized the Catholic reaction due to the seminary priests and Jesuits;
    •from 1580 to the end of the reign.
    To the first period belong the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity (I Eliz. 1 and 2) and the amending statute (5 Eliz. c. 1). By the Act of Supremacy all who maintained the spiritual or ecclesiastical authority of any foreign prelate were to forfeit all goods and chattels, both real and personal, and all benefices for the first offence, or in case the value of these was below 20 pounds, to be imprisoned for one year; they were liable to the forfeitures of Praemunire for the second offence and to the penalties of high treason for the third offence. These penalties of Praemunire were: exclusion from the sovereign’s protection, forfeiture of all lands and goods, arrest to answer to the Sovereign and Council. The penalties assigned for high treason were: •drawing, hanging and quartering;
    •corruption of blood, by which heirs became incapable of inheriting honours and offices; and, lastly
    •forfeiture of all property.
    These first statutes were made stricter by the amending act (5 Eliz. c.1) which declared that to maintain the authority of the pope in any way was punishable by penalties of Praemunire for the first offence and of high treason, though without corruption of blood, for the second. All who refused the Oath of Supremacy were subjected to the like penalties. The Act of Uniformity, primarily designed to secure outward conformity in the use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, was in effect a penal statute, as it punished all clerics who used any other service by deprivation and imprisonment, and everyone who refused to attend the Anglican service by a fine of twelve pence for each ommission. It should be remembered that the amount must be greatly multiplied to give their modern equivalent.
    Coming to the legislation of the second period, there are two Acts directed against the Bull of Excommunication.:
    •13 Eliz. c.1, which, among other enactments, made it high treason to affirm that the queen ought not to enjoy the Crown, or to declare her to be a heretic or schismatic, and
    •13 Eliz. c. 2, which made it high treason to put into effect any papal Bull of absolution, to absolve or reconcile any person to the Catholic Church, or to be so absolved or reconciled, or to procure or publish any papal Bull or writing whatsoever.

    The penalties of Praemunire were enacted against all who brought into England or who gave to others Agnus Dei or articles blessed by the pope or by any one through faculties from him.

    A third act, 13 Eliz. c. 3, which was designed to stop Catholics from taking refuge abroad, declared that any subject departing the realm without the queen’s licence, and not returning within six months, should forfeit the profits of his lands during life and all his goods and chattels. The third and most severe group of statutes begins with the “Act to retain the Queen’s Majesty’s subjects in their obedience” (23 Eliz. c. 1), passed in 1581. This made it high treason to reconcile anyone or to be reconciled to “the Romish religion”, prohibited Mass under penalty of a fine of two hundred marks and imprisonment for one year for the celebrant, and a fine of one hundred marks and the same imprisonment for those who heard the Mass. This act also increased the penalty for not attending the Anglican service to the sum of twenty pounds a month, or imprisonment till the fine be paid, or till the offender went to the Protestant Church. A further penalty of ten pounds a month was inflicted on anyone keeping a schoolmaster who did not attend the Protestant service. The schoolmaster himself was to be imprisoned for one year.

    The climax of Elizabeth’s persecution was reached in 1585 by the “Act against Jesuits, Seminary priests and other such like disobedient persons” (27 Eliz. c. 2). This statute, under which most of the English martyrs suffered, made it high treason for any Jesuit or any seminary priest to be in England at all, and felony for any one to harbour or relieve them. The penalties of Praemunire were imposed on all who sent assistance to the seminaries abroad, and a fine of 100 pounds for each offence on those who sent their children overseas without the royal licence.

    So far as priests were concerned, the effect of all this legislation may be summed up as follows: For any priest ordained before the accession of Elizabeth it was high treason after 1563 to maintain the authority of the pope for the second time, or to refuse the oath of supremacy for the second time; after 1571, to receive or use any Bull or form of reconciliation; after 1581, to absolve or reconcile anyone to the Church or to be absolved or reconciled. For seminary priests it was high treason to be in England at all after 1585. Under this statute, over 150 Catholics died on the scaffold between 1581 and 1603, exclusive of Erizabeth’s earlier victims.

    The last of Elizabeth’s laws was the “Act for the better discovery of wicked and seditious persons terming themselves Catholics, but being rebellious and traitorous subjects” (35 Eliz. c. 2). Its effect was to prohibit all recusants from removing more than five miles from their place of abode, and to order all persons suspected of being Jesuits or seminary priests, and not answering satisfactorily, to be imprisoned till they did so. The hopes of the Catholics on the accession of James I were soon dispelled, and during his reign (1603-25) five very oppressive measures were added to the statute-book. In the first year of his reign there was passed the “Act for the due execution of the statute against Jesuits, seminary priests, etc.” (I Jac. 1, iv) by which all Elizabeth’s statutes were confirmed with additional aggravations. Thus persons going beyond seas to any Jesuit seminary were rendered incapable of purchasing or retaining any lands or goods in England; the penalty of 100 pounds on everyone sending a child or ward out of the realm, which had been enacted only for Elizabeth’s reign, was now made perpetual; and Catholic schoolmasters not holding a licence from the Anglican bishop of the diocese were fined forty shillings a day, as were their employers. One slight relief was obtained in the exemption of one-third of the estate of a convicted recusant from liabilities to penalties; but against this must be set the provision that retained the remaining two-thirds after the owner’s death till all his previous fines had been paid. Even then these two-thirds were only to be restored to the heir provided he was not himself a recusant.”

    Bad Queen Bess is a mild term for her considering the above.

  • I’m waiting for Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Caesar. It’s sure to be the last word on the second or maybe third greatest conspiracy in history.
    .
    Depending on how you rate the landing on the moon, of course.

  • Don, you must surely be aware that in 16th century Europe religious toleration was the exception rather than the norm. As far as I am aware, the only state that practised it was the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795). St Thomas More regarded religious uniformity as essential to the integrity of the state.

    There is no point in your adumbrating 16th century statutes which prove nothing unless they are put in context. Mary Tudor burned Protestants and her half-sister had Catholics executed for treason; I’m not arguing in favour of either, but the underlying rationale was the same – they threatened (or seemed to threaten) the body politic. The situation, both internal and external, in the 1580s is sufficiently well known and I shall not insult your intelligence by pointing it out.

    That you dismiss arguments with which you disagree as ‘rubbish’ does not incline me to take you seriously as an historian. You have considerable knowledge, but see history in polemical terms. Your take on the American Revolution bears this out.

    I hold no brief for the Tudors (Welsh usurpers) but Elizabeth was probably the best of them. American conservatives like yourself find themselves in a quandary; they have to define themselves in terms of a revolution and a republic yet both of these are difficult to square with conservative political thought.

    ‘Rubbish’ , I hear you cry. But think on it, the point may have more validity than you are prepared to admit.

  • American conservatives like yourself find themselves in a quandary; they have to define themselves in terms of a revolution and a republic yet both of these are difficult to square with conservative political thought.

    That would be because Progressives, socialists, communists and other assorted collectivist types mis-appropriated “liberal.”

  • “Don, you must surely be aware that in 16th century Europe religious toleration was the exception rather than the norm.”

    Indeed, along with other terrible infringements upon human liberty.

    “There is no point in your adumbrating 16th century statutes which prove nothing unless they are put in context.”

    Indeed, and Catholics under Bad Queen Bess were treated as criminals if they dared follow the religion of their fathers. That is the context. It was her religious policies that forced Catholics to look for foreign assistance, and who can blame them. It is interesting that many Catholics did stay loyal to her, which just goes to show that some people will salute whatever regime is in power, no matter how they are treated. Roper in his life of Saint Thomas More, written during the reign of Queen Mary, mentions that Saint Thomas More predicted that there would come a time when Catholics in England would pray for the tolerance that Henry VIII was then denying heretics.

    in regard to the Tudors, the best of a very bad lot, and the smartest of them, was Henry VII.

  • ‘Bad Queen Bess’, like ‘Bloody Mary’ is the sort of epithet that merely indicates the prejudice of those who use it.
    🙂
    What rankles me about this statement John, is that there is, after all, absolute Truth. Ultimately opinion and prejudice about reality don’t matter, and it is perfectly fine to acknowledge “Good” and “Evil” or in this case, “Bad”.
    I can understand wanting to be dispassionate about the study of history, and detached, but- we do only study history Because we are interested in Life, necessarily marked by Good and Evil.

  • Maybe this is just my take on the movie, but in “Gladiator” (with Russell Crowe), didn’t Commodus’ sister basically resurrect the Republic, with the help of the Senate (Derek Jacobi) at the very end ? My impression is that such was her intention at least. I found it fascinating “revisionist” history — meant to appeal to a “r”epublican society and audience ? I was amazed the powers that be in Hollywood allowed such sentiment to be portrayed.

  • Gladiator was an immensely entertaining movie, but had little to do with History. Commodus’ assassination opened a cycle of civil wars that ended with the triumph of Septimus Severus as Emperor. With his reign the Empire became largely a military dictatorship, with the legions making and unmaking emperors, often with dizzying speed, as the chaotic third century in the Roman Empire would demonstrate.

  • Donald R McClarey wrote, “With his reign the Empire became largely a military dictatorship…”

    The empire was a military dictatorship from its inception, although Augustus and his immediate successors were rather good at concealing the fact. The Commander-in-Chief of the army (which is what the word Emperor (Imperator) means, exercised a universal, despotic authority and his instrument of government was the army.

    What changed was the rôle of the Prætorian Guard within the army itself.

  • “The empire was a military dictatorship from its inception”

    Not really. Under the Principate the Army was a factor, but rarely a decisive one. With the exception of the Year of the Four Emperors, the Army largely had no control over who became Emperor, Claudius after Caligula being the last adult male in the imperial family and Nerva succeeding Domitian after a court, not Army, plot succeeded in assassinating Domitian. I view the Principate as coming to an end with the civil wars following Commodus.

  • Given the harsh laws explained above, how the recusant English, Welsh and Scottish Catholic families survive?

  • “The empire was a military dictatorship from its inception”
    Not really. Under the Principate the Army was a factor, but rarely a decisive one.

    See how well Augustus disguised the cold hard facts of power?

  • CAM asks, “Given the harsh laws explained above, how the recusant English, Welsh and Scottish Catholic families survive?”
    Enacting laws is one thing and enforcing them quite another. In Scotland, only a single priest, Saint John Ogilvie SJ was martyred. He was arrested in Paisley and executed in Glasgow.
    North of Stirling, people were Catholic, Episcopalian or Presbyterian by clans and septs and the courts were heritable jurisdictions of the chiefs. Outside the few cities – Aberdeen and Inverness – government was forced to work through shifting alliances with these chiefs.
    During the reigns of Charles I and Charles II, the government was only too anxious to enlist the aid of the Catholic clans against the Covenanters.
    The fact that, in 1716, Bishop Thomas Nicholson was able to open a seminary at Scalan, near Glenlivet in Banffshire, on the Duke of Gordon’s land for the training of Gaelic-speaking priests for the Highland mission shows how brazenly the laws were set at defiance.
    The British government treated the Highland clergy with unexampled savagery after the failure of the ’45. Of the priests who had accompanied the Prince, Rev Mr Colin Campbell of Morar was murdered on the filed of Culloden, shot down by Hessian mercenaries, whilst trying to rally the fugitives for one last charge. Rev Mr Allan MacDonald, rector of the seminary at Scalan, near Glenlivet was imprisoned for a year in a military garrison and then ordered to leave the country. Scalan itself was burned on the orders of the Duke of Cumberland, as a “nest of traitors.” Rev Mr Aeneas McGillis of Glengarry was put to the horn (outlawed) and fled the country. Of those who had stayed at home, but had “prayed for the Pretender,” Rev Mr Neil McFie of the Rough Bounds, Rev Mr Alexander Forrester of Uist and Rev Mr James Grant of Barra were bundled on board ship and deported to France, without the formality of a trial. Rev Mr William Harrison of the Rough Bounds was later captured carrying Jacobite dispatches and similarly deported.

    Bishop Hugh had to rebuild the Church more or less from scratch. Himself the son of Alexander MacDonald of Morar and of Mary, daughter of Ranald MacDonald of Kinlochmoidart, he recruited mostly among the Highland gentry; ordained ad titulum patrimonii sui and unpaid, they stayed with relatives, or with influential friends, and served their native place. Thus we have Alexander MacDonald of the Scotus family living in Knoydart; Austen MacDonald of Glenaladale in Moidart; Allan MacDonald of Morar’s family living in the Morar area; James MacDonald, son of John MacDonald of Guidall in the Rough Bounds, and so on. Bishop Hugh was succeeded by his nephew, John MacDonald.

  • He tamed the Army so well that there was no dispute that Tiberius would succeed him, and after Tiberius, Caligula and after the assassinated Caligula, Claudius. It took the murderous incompetence of Nero to shake the system of Augustus, and even then the Army was quickly relegated once again to its subordinate role from Vespasian to Commodus.

  • Unless they were extremely wealthy or lucky they didn’t. Some immigrated to colonies. It was a very long and tough time until the repeal of the laws on inheritance and owning property with the Catholic Relief Act of 1778. Even so, it was over half a century until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.

  • You say Principate, I say military monarchy; you say Dominate, I say military autocraty. The difference between the Severans and their Julio-Claudian and Flavian predecessors is that the former never felt the need to disguise the basis of their regime.

  • Before 193 the Emperors controlled the legions. After 193 the legions often controlled the emperors.

  • Donald R McClarey wrote, “It was a very long and tough time until the repeal of the laws on inheritance and owning property with the Catholic Relief Act of 1778.”

    In Scotland, many Catholics refused to take the oaths under the Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791 until the death of the Cardinal Duke of York on 13 July 1807. The Sherriff Court books show a great increase in people taking the oath in the autumn of that year.

    The laws against Catholics owning or inheriting land had long been a dead letter, thanks to the ingenuity of conveyancers. Their methods included manipulation of the feudal law: the insertion of a mid-superior, where land was held of the Crown, the use of precepts of clare constat from the superior to avoid the process of service of heirs by a brieve from the Chancery, and the assignation of open (i.e. unexecuted) procuratories of resignation and precepts of sasine.

    In addition, they employed strict settlements to ensure that no one ever acquired a greater interest than a liferent, hedged around with irritancies and resolutive conditions and that the land was encumbered with family charges, in the form of tacks or leases, ground annuals and heritable bonds. Indeed, not a few Protestant landowners availed themselves of these devices to prevent their heirs changing the course of descent and generally to keep it free of their acts and deeds and diligence of creditors.

  • After 193 the legions often controlled the emperors.

    If by often you mean 235-285, sure. 375-476 in the West, too, I suppose. But that to my mind just reinforces the link between military command and political rule. Tacitus and the whole secret of empire thing, you know?

  • The legions lacked the ability to make and unmake emperors during the principate with the exception of Nero, and most of the principate emperors were not soldiers with the exceptions of Vespasian,Titus and Trajan. The soldier days of Tiberius were long behind him by the time he became Emperor.

  • The legions lacked the ability to make and unmake emperors during the principate[.]
    .
    What the legions lacked was an awareness of their ability to make and unmake emperors (Tacitus’s secret of empire). So a better way to express the point you made might be that during the period of the principate, the emperors were sufficiently secure in their control of the legions that, for the most part, ambitious generals could not leverage their control the legions to turn them against the emperors.
    .
    Augustus was never much of a soldier, true, but he made sure that the legions were commanded by relatives who were, e.g. his step-sons Tiberius and Drusus, and his son-in-law Agrippa. Tiberius’s soldiering days weren’t that far behind him, as he came out of retirement to put down the Pannonian revolt in AD 9. Also, there’s a school of thought that holds part of the reason the empire passed to Nerva was because he more or less immediately designated Trajan his heir. The implication of course being that if Trajan hadn’t been in the line of succession, he would have seized the Empire. I’m not fully familiar with that argument, however. Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius both had more military experience than your comment would suggest.
    .
    Finally, I think you’re underestimating the significance of the tendency of the empire to fall into civil war every time the succession broke down. Arguably, Nero’s greatest demonstration of incompetence was in taking his own life. The eastern legions might have backed him against Galba and Vitellius if he’d shown some grit. Civil war was avoided in AD 96, sure, but that’s the exception that proves the rule. Civil War broke out in 191 with the assassination of Commodus, and again in AD 235 with the assassination of Severus Alexander. The period 235-285 is more or less one of continuous civil war as ambitious generals rise and fall (you’re only as good as your last victory). Diocletian restores order in what is indisputably a military dictatorship run by a military junta. And while he attempted to effect an elaborate settlement of the empire, it almost immediately broke down upon his retirement in AD 305. It was another twenty years before Constantine controlled the entirety of the empire.
    .
    The larger point being that control of the army was the basis of political power throughout the Imperial period, principate, dominate and tetrarchy. I’m thinking we more or less agree on that, but we’re emphasizing different aspects of that reality. Which is why I think M. P.-S. is largely correct in describing the empire as a military dictatorship, albeit one in which the early dictators felt it prudent to wear business suits togas instead of uniforms the military cloak.

  • Thank you for the explanations on Scottish and English recusants.
    I may be off topic but the following is an important date in the history of The Church in the US: March 25, 1634 the Ark and the Dove, with 3 Jesuits and Catholic English and a few Scots, landed on St. Clements Is, MD wherein a Mass for the Feast of the Annuciation was celebrated. There was religious freedom to a degree in that the Catholic colonists could practice IF they were inconspicuous and left the Protestant colonists alone. The oldest churches in So Marylalnd are Catholic, not Episcopalian. and the Carmelite monastery is still occupied with an increasing number of 3rd Order layman.
    .

Ides of March: The Noblest Roman of Them All

Saturday, March 15, AD 2014

This was the noblest Roman of them all:
All the conspirators, save only he,
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He, only in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.

Mark Antony on Brutus

Julius Caesar, Act 5, Scene 5

I think it would have amused the Romans of Caesar’s generation if they could have learned that the assassination of Julius Caesar would eventually receive immortality through a play written more than 16 centuries after the event by a barbarian playwright in the Tin Islands that Caesar had briefly invaded.  It would have tickled their well developed concept of the ludicrous, judging from Roman comedy.

The Roman Republic had been visibly dying for generations before Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger was born into this vale of tears in 85 BC, amidst one of the Roman Civil wars that were becoming the new norm, with the Republic awaiting with trepidation the eventual return of Sulla from Greece after he defeated Mithridates, and the slaughters that he would doubtless inflict on his enemies.  This was the world Brutus was born into:  a world in which he was taught the glories of the Republic as a boy, but as he grew into manhood he could see old Roman morality being forgotten, a growth of decadence fueled by ever more wealth from foreign conquests, endless amounts of slaves flooding into Italy from the same foreign conquests, factions in the Senate engaging in what amounted to a cold civil war between bouts of hot civil war, the Roman Republican government teetering on the brink of permanent military dictatorship.

Ironically the man who would establish the permanent military dictatorship, Julius Caesar, was ever his friend and mentor, Caesar being the long time lover of his mother Servilia.  Nevertheless, from his first entry into the Senate, Brutus aligned with the Optimates ” the best”, against the Populares, “the people” .  The names are really beside the point between these two factions.  By the late Republic, political and military power had become one and the same, and pretty wrappers of claims to loyalty to the Republic or to the People usually were merely masks to hide naked ambition.  However, that was not the case with Brutus, who, like his uncle Cato the Younger, was a true idealist who wished to preserve the Republic.

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17 Responses to Ides of March: The Noblest Roman of Them All

  • How much, one wonders, was Brutus influenced by the story of his famous ancestor, L Junius Brutus, who had played a leading rôle in the expulsion of the kings and the founding of the republic and whose bronze statue on the Capitol he must have seen so often.
    Did the words of Brutus’s famous oath echo in his ears: never to suffer any man to rule over Rome?

  • History was quite the vogue in the time of Brutus, and I would be surprised if were not frequently being remind of his ancestor, the founder of the Republic.

  • If Brutus was willing to kill his friend and mentor to preserve his Republic, then what should you and I be willing to do to preserve ours? I do not want to kill.

  • from his first entry into the Senate, Brutus aligned with the Optimates ” the best”, against the Populares, “the people” . The names are really beside the point between these two factions. By the late Republic, political and military power had become one and the same, and pretty wrappers of claims to loyalty to the Republic or to the People usually were merely masks to hide naked ambition.

    Why does that sound familiar?

    The life of Brutus might be regarded as one long act of futility, his devotion to a Republic manifestly in its death throes doing nothing to stop the inevitable death of the Republic. However, his example would inspire men and women across the centuries who lived under despotisms, and whenever liberty arose again, the name of Brutus was usually on the lips of those who contended for it.

    That might be the final irony of his life, given that the liberty Brutus and the other conspirators sought to preserve was the freedom of the oligarchs to continue to vie with one another for mastery over all that wealth flowing from the spoils of conquest.

  • Ernst Schreiber wrote, “[T]he liberty Brutus and the other conspirators sought to preserve was the freedom of the oligarchs to continue to vie with one another for mastery over all that wealth flowing from the spoils of conquest.”

    The Romans were a people who hated work, despised commerce and lived by plundering and enslaving their neighbours. To be successful at this (and they were very successful) it was necessary to cultivate certain very real virtues: courage, perseverance, self-control, prudence, discipline, constancy in misfortune, devotion to the community. Patriotism meant hatred of foreigners – indeed, the very word “foreigner” (peregrinus) is a late one, in Latin, as Cato observes; before the end of the Second Punic War (218 – 201 BCE), they simply made do with hostis or servus – enemy or slave.

    Liberty meant sharing in the government, that is overseeing the sharing of the spoils and the most honourable as well as the most lucrative professions were those of the soldier, the politician and the jurist.

    As Lord Acton says, “The Roman republic laboured to crush the subjugated nations into a homogeneous and obedient mass; but the increase which the proconsular authority obtained in the process subverted the republican government, and the reaction of the provinces against Rome assisted in establishing the empire. The Cæsarean system gave an unprecedented freedom to the dependencies, and raised them to a civil equality which put an end to the dominion of race over race and of class over class. The [Augustan] monarchy was hailed as a refuge from the pride and cupidity of the Roman people and the love of equality, the hatred of nobility, and the tolerance of despotism implanted by Rome became, at least in Gaul, the chief feature of the national character.”

  • “That might be the final irony of his life, given that the liberty Brutus and the other conspirators sought to preserve was the freedom of the oligarchs to continue to vie with one another for mastery over all that wealth flowing from the spoils of conquest.”

    To many Romans the Republic meant much more than that and Brutus was among their number. To Brutus it meant liberty:

    “After reflecting on this, Cassius made Brutus his first visit since the quarrel above mentioned,13 and when they were again on a friendly footing, asked him whether he had made up his mind to attend the meeting of the senate on the Calends of March; for it had come to his ears, he said, that Caesar’s friends would then move to have him made king. 4 When Brutus answered that he should not attend, “What, then,” said Cassius, “if we should be summoned?” “It would at once be my duty,” said Brutus, “not to hold my peace, but to defend my country and die in behalf of liberty.””

    That is from Plutarch’s life of Brutus written about a century and a half after Brutus died and long after the establishment of the Empire. Many of the Optimates were mere self seekers, but not Brutus nor his uncle Cato. They fought for liberty under the Republic and the mos maiorum, the ways of their ancestors.

  • Donald M McClarey wrote, “Many of the Optimates were mere self seekers, but not Brutus nor his uncle Cato.”

    I would add Cicero, who deserves to be remembered above all for his 14 Philippicae, delivered between September 44 and April 43. He must have known they could well cost him his life as, in fact, they did. Mark Anthony, one recalls insisted that the hands that wrote the Philippicae should be nailed, along with Cicero’s head, to the rostrum in the Forum.

  • Brutus committed suicide rather than working to restore the Republic that he loved. Quitter.

  • The Romans were a people who hated work, despised commerce and lived by plundering and enslaving their neighbors [at which they were very successful].

    In my humble opinion, and with great respect, I believe you have cause and effect backwards. Because of the existence of slavery, the Roman oligarchs hated work and despised commerce. The guy to read is Aldo Schiavone, The End of the Past: Ancient Rome and the Modern West. Sorry I can’t provide a link right now –computer’s acting up.

  • “Brutus committed suicide rather than working to restore the Republic that he loved. Quitter.”

    No Mary he understood that with the Senate armies defeated the wheel of history had turned and the Republic was one with Nineveh and Tyre.

  • “No Mary he understood that with the Senate armies defeated the wheel of history had turned and the Republic was one with Nineveh and Tyre.”
    .
    And Socrates became an accomplice to his own death by imbibing the hemlock with his own hand. Jesus did nothing to cause or bring about his death. Christ was as innocent as a lamb.

  • The following words are from what seems to be a tangentially contemporary Brutus. This is copy/pasted from a piece in a comment found on Zero Hedge today which title concerned Turkish news from its Brutus.

    “President Museveni of Uganda 24 February 2014-

    It seems the topic of homosexuals was provoked by the arrogant and careless Western groups that are fond of coming into our schools and recruiting young children into homosexuality and lesbianism, just as they carelessly handle other issues concerning Africa.

    Initially, I did not pay much attention to it because I was busy with the immediate issues of defense, security, electricity, the roads, the railways, factories, modernization of agriculture, etc.

    When, eventually, I concentrated my mind on it, I distilled three problems:

    1. those who were promoting homo-sexuality and recruiting normal people into it;

    2. as a consequence of No. 1 above, many of those recruited were doing so for mercenary reasons – to get money – in effect homosexual prostitutes; these mercenary homosexual prostitutes had to be punished;

    3. Homosexuals exhibiting themselves; Africans are flabbergasted by exhibitionism of sexual acts – whether heterosexual or otherwise and for good reason. Why do you exhibit your sexual conduct? Are you short of opportunity for privacy – where you can kiss, fondle (kukirigiita, kwagaaga) etc.?

    Are we interested in seeing your sexual acts – we the Public? I am not able to understand the logic of the Western Culture. However, we Africans always keep our opinions to ourselves and never seek to impose our point of view on the others. If only they could let us alone.

    It was my view that the above three should be punished harshly in order to defend our society from disorientation. Therefore, on these three I was in total accord with the MPs and other Ugandans. I had, however, a problem with Category 4 or what I thought was category 4 – those “born” homosexual.

    I thought there were such people – those who are either genetic or congenital homosexuals. The reason I thought so was because I could not understand why a man could fail to be attracted to the beauties of a woman and, instead, be attracted to a fellow man. It meant, according to me, that there was something wrong with that man – he was born a homosexual – abnormal.

    I, therefore, thought that it would be wrong to punish somebody because of how he was created, disgusting though it may be to us. That is why I refused to sign the Bill. In order to get to the truth, we involved Uganda Scientists as well as consulting Scientists from outside Uganda.

    My question to them was: “Are there people that are homosexual right from birth?”. After exhaustive studies, it has been found that homosexuality is in two categories: there are those who engage in homosexuality for mercenary reasons on account of the under – developed sectors of our economy that cause people to remain in poverty, the great opportunities that abound not withstanding; and then there are those that become homosexual by both nature (genetic) and nurture (up-bringing).

    The studies that were done on identical twins in Sweden showed that 34% – 39% were homosexual on account of nature and 66% were homosexual on account of nurture.

    Therefore, even in those studies, nurture was more significant than nature. Can somebody be homosexual purely by nature without nurture? The answer is: “No”. No study has shown that. Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality, then society can do something about it to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the Bill.

    Since Western societies do not appreciate politeness, let me take this opportunity to warn our people publicly about the wrong practices indulged in and promoted by some of the outsiders.

    One of them is “oral sex”. Our youth should reject this because God designed the human being most appropriately for pleasurable, sustainable and healthy sex. Some of the traditional styles are very pleasurable and healthy. The mouth is not engineered for that purpose except kissing. Besides, it is very unhealthy. People can even contract gonorrhea of the mouth and throat on account of so-called “oral sex”, not to mention worms, hepatitis E, etc.

    The Ministry of Gender and Youth should de-campaign this buyayism imported from outside and sensitize the youth about the healthy life style that is abundant in our cultures.

    We reject the notion that somebody can be homosexual by choice; that a man can choose to love a fellow man; that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. Since my original thesis that there may be people who are born homosexual has been disproved by science, then the homosexuals have lost the argument in Uganda.

    They should rehabilitate themselves and society should assist them to do so.”

  • “And Socrates became an accomplice to his own death by imbibing the hemlock with his own hand.”

    To carry out the sentence of death imposed by the government of Athens. He was urged not to do this by many of his students and to attempt to escape from jail. He refused to do so because he believed that when one is a citizen of a polity one must obey the laws of the polity. I disagree with Socrates on this point, but that was his reason for drinking the hemlock.

  • Perhaps Socrates didn’t mean it at all.

  • “he (Socrates) believed that when one is a citizen of a polity one must obey the laws of the polity. I disagree with Socrates on this point, but that was his reason for drinking the hemlock.”
    .
    So, Socrates believed that it was honorable to commit suicide to uphold the laws of Athens because of his citizenship, and Socrates committed suicide to prove it. Suicide being an intrinsic evil, a greater evil than any polity

Ides of March: Brutus

Thursday, March 15, AD 2012

This was the noblest Roman of them all:

All the conspirators, save only he,

 Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;

He, only in a general honest thought

And common good to all, made one of them.

Mark Antony referring to Brutus in Julius Caesar

I think it would have amused the Romans of Caesar’s generation if they could have learned that the assassination of Julius Caesar would eventually receive immortality through a play written more than 16 centuries after the event by a barbarian playwright in the Tin Islands that Caesar had briefly invaded.  It would have tickled their well developed concept of the ludicrous, judging from Roman comedy.

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