Robert E. Lee’s Greatest Victory

Sunday, July 16, AD 2017

 

He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression; and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy and a man without guile. He was a Caesar without his ambition; Frederick without his tyranny; Napoleon without his selfishness; and Washington without his reward.

Benjamin H. Hill on Robert E. Lee

 

 

“It’s a warm spring Sunday at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. As the minister is about to present Holy Communion, a tall well-dressed black man sitting in the section reserved for African Americans unexpectedly advances to the communion rail; unexpectedly because this has never happened here before.

The congregation freezes. Those who have been ready to go forward and kneel at the communion rail remain fixed in their pews. The minister stands in his place stunned and motionless. The black man slowly lowers his body, kneeling at the communion rail.

After what seems an interminable amount of time, an older white man rises. His hair snowy white, head up, and eyes proud, he walks quietly up the isle to the chancel rail.

So with silent dignity and self-possession, the white man kneels down to take communion along the same rail with the black man.

Lee has said that he has rejoiced that slavery is dead. But this action indicates that those were not idle words meant to placate a Northern audience. Here among his people, he leads wordlessly through example. The other communicants slowly move forward to the altar with a mixture of reluctance and fear, hope and awkward expectation. In the end, America would defy the cruel chain of history besetting nations torn apart by Civil War.”

From “April 1865:  the Month that Saved America

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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, July 16, AD 2017

And, after that, the chunky man from the West,
Stranger to you, not one of the men you loved
As you loved McClellan, a rider with a hard bit,
Takes you and uses you as you could be used,
Wasting you grimly but breaking the hurdle down.
You are never to worship him as you did McClellan,
But at the last you can trust him.  He slaughters you
But he sees that you are fed.  After sullen Cold Harbor
They call him a butcher and want him out of the saddle,
But you have had other butchers who did not win
And this man wins in the end.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

“I appealed to Lincoln for his own sake to remove Grant at once, and, in giving my reasons for it, I simply voiced the admittedly overwhelming protest from the loyal people of the land against Grant’s continuance in command. I could form no judgment during the conversation as to what effect my arguments had upon him beyond the fact that he was greatly distressed at this new complication. When I had said everything that could be said from my standpoint, we lapsed into silence. Lincoln remained silent for what seemed a very long time. He then gathered himself up in his chair and said in a tone of earnestness that I shall never forget: ‘I can’t spare this man; he fights.‘”

Alexander McClure recalling a meeting with President Lincoln shortly after the Battle of Shiloh

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Fortnight For Freedom Day: Freedom is Not Just a Big Word

Monday, July 3, AD 2017

But before he started he looked over the judge and jury for
a moment, such being his custom. And he noticed the glitter in their eyes was twice as strong as before, and they
all leaned forward. Like hounds just before they get the fox, they looked, and the blue mist of evil in the room
thickened as he watched them. Then he saw what he’d been about to do, and he wiped his forehead, as a man
might who’s just escaped falling into a pit in the dark.
For it was him they’d come for, not only Jabez Stone. He read it in the glitter of their eyes and in the way the
stranger hid his mouth with one hand. And if he fought them with their own weapons, he’d fall into their power;
he knew that, though he couldn’t have told you how. It was his own anger and horror that burned in their eyes; and
he’d have to wipe that out or the case was lost. He stood there for a moment, his black eyes burning like
anthracite. And then he began to speak.
Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

 

 

 

 

 

The video at the top of this post is a scene from the classic movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), based upon the short story by Stephen Vincent Benet, in which Daniel Webster bests Satan in a jury trial to save the soul of New Hampshireman Jabez Stone.   In this scene Daniel Webster addresses a jury of the damned, all villains of American history.  I have always thought this speech one of the most eloquent statements of what it means to be an American.

In regard to Freedom it reminds us that it is just not a word:  Freedom is not just a big word — “it is the bread and the   morning and the risen sun”.

Go here to read the passage in the Stephen Vincet Benet’s short story.  Below is the scene as written in the screenplay:

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How the West Was Won

Saturday, December 31, AD 2016

Western Wagons

They went with axe and rifle, when the trail was still to blaze,
They went with wife and children, in the prairie-schooner days,
With banjo and with frying pan—Susanna, don’t you cry!
For I’m off to California to get rich out there or die!

We’ve broken land and cleared it, but we’re tired of where we are.
They say that wild Nebraska is a better place by far.
There’s gold in far Wyoming, there’s black earth in Ioway,
So pack up the kids and blankets, for we’re moving out today!

The cowards never started and the weak died on the road,
And all across the continent the endless campfires glowed.
We’d taken land and settled but a traveler passed by—
And we’re going West tomorrow—Lordy , never ask us why!

We’re going West tomorrow, where the promises can’t fail.
O’er the hills in legions, boys, and crowd the dusty trail!
We shall starve and freeze and suffer. We shall die, and tame the lands.
But we’re going West tomorrow, with our fortune in our hands.

Stephen Vincent Benet

Something for a New  Year weekend.  The theme  song from the movie How the West Was Won (1962).  The death of Debbie Reynolds drew my attention to this film, which featured her in a starring role.  The film itself is an uneven work, but it has a magnificent score which captures something of the spirit of the pioneers.    The settlement of the West, from the Appalachians to the Pacific, is perhaps the defining event in the history of our nation and it receives too little historical comment.  Thomas Jefferson thought it would take one hundred generations to settle the land beyond the Mississippi.  Instead, from the ending of the American Revolution to the census of 1890 which proclaimed that the frontier no longer existed, barely five generations had passed, and there were a handful of Americans at the end still living who had lived through almost all of it.  This epic tale is perhaps too large for the historians and thus today I have picked out two poems written by Stephen Vincent Benet that convey a small fragment of the passion, grandeur, tragedy and wonder  of it all.

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Civilization VI Optimism

Tuesday, May 17, AD 2016

 

 

As faithful readers of this blog know, I like to play historically based computer strategy games.  One of my favorite series has been the Civilization games by Sid Meier.  The first one reached my house on Christmas Eve 1991, the first Christmas of my twin sons, and my bride and I quickly became entranced by it.   In between playing with our infants and introducing them to the joys of Christmas, we took turns charting the courses of society through 6,000 years of history.  For a young married couple fascinated by history, it was the ideal Christmas present.

Over the past quarter century we have purchased each new version of it.  I was struck by the optimism of the announcement trailer.  It is a historical optimism I share and it is splendidly set forth in Daniel Webster’s closing argument to the jury of the damned in The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet:

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3 Responses to Civilization VI Optimism

  • I’ve only ever played Civ IV, but I’ve played it a lot.

    The thing I wanted to see was for them to replace the difficulty settings with the option of playing different leaders. Instead of playing Washington at Noble or Emperor or whatever, why not be able to play Washington, Hayes, and Buchanan? Instead of choosing between three successful leaders of Russia, why not include a couple of the real dogs?

    I thought that would make the big games more fun, if you were given the option of playing against random-quality opponents. Imagine how different it would be looking across the Channel at James II or Victoria.

  • And back to the point of your post: I’ve never before seen a video game ad that made my tears well up.

Grant: Man of Contradictions

Sunday, October 4, AD 2015

Fate has a way of picking unlikely material,
Greasy-haired second lieutenants of French artillery,
And bald-headed, dubious, Roman rake-politicians.
Her stiff hands were busy now with an odd piece of wood,
Sometime Westpointer, by accident more than choice,
Sometime brevet-captain in the old Fourth Infantry,
Mentioned in Mexican orders for gallant service
And, six years later, forced to resign from the Army
Without enough money to pay for a stateroom home.
Turned farmer on Hardscrabble Farm, turned bill-collector,
Turned clerk in the country-store that his brothers ran,
The eldest-born of the lot, but the family-failure,
Unloading frozen hides from a farmer’s sleigh
With stoop-shouldered strength, whittling beside the stove,
And now and then turning to whiskey to take the sting
From winter and certain memories.
It didn’t take much.
A glass or two would thicken the dogged tongue
And flush the fair skin beneath the ragged brown beard.
Poor and shabby–old “Cap” Grant of Galena,
Who should have amounted to something but hadn’t so far
Though he worked hard and was honest.
A middle-aged clerk,
A stumpy, mute man in a faded army overcoat,
Who wrote the War Department after Fort Sumter,
Offering them such service as he could give
And saying he thought that he was fit to command
As much as a regiment, but getting no answer.

So many letters come to a War Department,
One can hardly bother the clerks to answer them all–
Then a Volunteer colonel, drilling recruits with a stick,
A red bandanna instead of an officer’s sash;
A brigadier-general, one of thirty-seven,
Snubbed by Halleck and slighted by fussy Frémont;
And then the frozen February gale
Over Fort Henry and Fort Donelson,
The gunboats on the cold river–the brief siege–
“Unconditional surrender”–and the newspapers.

Major-General Grant, with his new twin-stars,
Who, oddly, cared so little for reading newspapers,
Though Jesse Grant wrote dozens of letters to them
Pointing out all the wonders his son had done
And wringing one dogged letter from that same son
That should have squelched anybody but Jesse Grant.
It did not squelch him.  He was a business man,
And now Ulysses had astonished Galena
By turning out to be somebody after all;
Ulysses’ old father was going to see him respected
And, incidentally, try to wangle a contract
For army-harness and boom the family tannery.
It was a great surprise when Ulysses refused,
The boy was so stubborn about it.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

 

 

I am glad to announce that Dale Price is back to regular blogging at Dyspeptic Mutterings.  I am glad to announce that because I have ever stolen borrowed blogging ideas from him.  Here is his review of H.W. Brand’s bio of Grant:

 

The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace is an excellent biography of one of America’s most consistently-underrated historical figures. 

University of Texas history Professor H.W. Brands does a fine job of illuminating Grant’s early life and struggles, not only with the bottle but with his failings as a provider–both despite his best efforts. As he does so, Brands presents the determined character that enabled Grant to overcome these failures and rise to become the most beloved general since Washington, and the most popular President of the 19th Century (at least in terms of electoral success).

The description of Grant’s military tenure during the Civil War is very solid, demonstrating that he was the best strategic thinker on either side, and no slouch as a tactician. Brands points out–correctly–that Grant’s casualty rates were lower as a proportion of men in combat than Lee’s despite being on the offensive much more often. That said, I still think Lee was slightly better as a tactician, especially considering that the quality of leadership in the Army of Northern Virginia declined drastically over time, and that of the Army of the Potomac increased with the rise of men like Sheridan and Ord.

None of that was a particular surprise to me, given my other reading. The real eye-opener for me was Brands’ revisionist (and I use that term advisedly) assessment of Grant’s two terms as President. Far from the failure “everyone knows” it to be, Grant’s Presidency had a remarkable number of achievements: the Fifteenth Amendment, the squelching of the attempt to corner the gold market, the settling of claims against England stemming from the giving of commerce raiders to the Confederacy and, most crucially, Grant’s dedication to civil rights for freedmen. In enforcing the Ku Klux Klan Act and related civil rights legislation and appointing determined attorneys general like Amos Akerman (who had been a Colonel for the Confederacy!), Grant was the President most devoted to civil rights and racial equality until the arrival of Lyndon Johnson. Furthermore, Grant presented the most humane policy toward the Indian tribes by an American president up to his time.

Where this reassessment (slightly) fails is in providing a thorough explanation of *why* Grant’s reputation as President went to and remains mostly in the dustbin at this late date. To be sure, Brands’ treatment of 1872-1880 is not all praise–Grant is rapped for his too-restrictive handling of the Panic of 1873, America’s first industrial depression, which cast a shadow over much of his tenure. Though, in Grant’s defense, his restrictive approach to increasing the money supply was well-within the mainstream of 1870s economic thought.

Interestingly enough, the economic doldrums did not damage his personal popularity much (as opposed to damaging the GOP)–he came close to winning a nomination for a third term in 1880, and almost certainly would have won that election, too. 

All in all, the coverage of Grant’s presidency is an eye-opener which should act as a welcome rebuttal to the Good General/Bad President canard that unjustly haunts him.

Finally, Brands deftly handles Grant’s last battle–a race against time to finish his memoirs as he was dying of throat cancer. As he did through his military career, Grant won this battle through dogged determination, dying a few days after he finished them, ensuring that his wife and family would be well-provided for. The Mutt-and-Jeff friendship that arose between Grant and Mark Twain is also well-drawn. Brands also includes a hilarious anecdote of Twain’s one “battle” on behalf of the Confederacy in 1861 that left me–and my wife–laughing out loud. I am morally certain Twain would approved.

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Litany for Dictatorships

Tuesday, April 21, AD 2015

 Stephen Viincent Benet

The home raids on conservatives in Wisconsin, go here to read about them, brought this Stephen Vincent Benet poem that he wrote in 1935 to mind.  If more people do not stand up when government is run by gangsters this could happen here:

 

For all those beaten, for the broken heads,
The fosterless, the simple, the oppressed,
The ghosts in the burning city of our time…

For those taken in rapid cars to the house and beaten
By the skillful boys with the rubber fists,
-Held down and beaten, the table cutting the loins
Or kicked in the groin and left, with the muscles jerking
Like a headless hen’s on the floor of the slaughter-house
While they brought the next man in with his white eyes staring.
For those who still said “Red Front” or “God save the Crown!”
And for those who were not courageous
But were beaten nevertheless.
For those who spit out the bloody stumps of their teeth
      Quietly in the hall,
Sleep well on stone or iron, watch for the time
And kill the guard in the privy before they die,
Those with the deep-socketed eyes and the lamp burning.

For those who carry the scars, who walk lame – for those
Whose nameless graves are made in the prison-yard
And the earth smoothed back before the morning and the lime scattered.

For those slain at once.
For those living through the months and years
Enduring, watching, hoping, going each day
To the work or the queue for meat or the secret club,
Living meanwhile, begetting children, smuggling guns,
And found and killed at the end like rats in a drain.

For those escaping
Incredibly into exile and wandering there.
For those who live in the small rooms of foreign cities
And who yet think of the country, the long green grass,
The childhood voices, the language, the way wind smelt then,
The shape of rooms, the coffee drunk at the table,
The talk with friends, the loved city, the waiter’s face,
The gravestones, with the name, where they will not lie
Nor in any of that earth.
Their children are strangers.

For those who planned and were leaders and were beaten
And for those, humble and stupid, who had no plan
But were denounced, but were angry, but told a joke,
But could not explain, but were sent away to the camp,
But had their bodies shipped back in the sealed coffins,
“Died of pneumonia.” “Died trying to escape.”

For those growers of wheat who were shot by their own wheat-stacks,
For those growers of bread who were sent to the ice-locked wastes.
And their flesh remembers the fields.

For those denounced by their smug, horrible children
For a peppermint-star and the praise of the Perfect State,
For all those strangled, gelded or merely starved
To make perfect states; for the priest hanged in his cassock,
The Jew with his chest crushed in and his eyes dying,
The revolutionist lynched by the private guards
To make perfect states, in the names of the perfect states.

For those betrayed by the neigbours they shook hands with
And for the traitors, sitting in the hard chair
With the loose sweat crawling their hair and their fingers restless
As they tell the street and the house and the man’s name.
And for those sitting at the table in the house
With the lamp lit and the plates and the smell of food,
Talking so quietly; when they hear the cars
And the knock at the door, and they look at each other quickly
And the woman goes to the door with a stiff face,
      Smoothing her dress.
“We are all good citizens here. We believe in the Perfect State.”

And that was the last time Tony or Karl or Shorty came to the house
And the family was liquidated later.
It was the last time.
We heard the shots in the night
But nobody knew next day what the trouble was
And a man must go to his work.
So I didn’t see him
For three days, then, and me near out of my mind
And all the patrols on the streets with their dirty guns
And when he came back, he looked drunk, and the blood was on him.

For the women who mourn their dead in the secret night,
For the children taught to keep quiet, the old children,
The children spat-on at school.
For the wrecked laboratory,
The gutted house, the dunged picture, the pissed-in well
The naked corpse of Knowledge flung in the square
And no man lifting a hand and no man speaking.

For the cold of the pistol-butt and the bullet’s heat,
For the ropes that choke, the manacles that bind,
The huge voice, metal, that lies from a thousand tubes
And the stuttering machine-gun that answers all.

For the man crucified on the crossed machine guns
Without name, without ressurection, without stars,
His dark head heavy with death and his flesh long sour
With the smell of his many prisons – John Smith, John Doe,
John Nobody – oh, crack your mind for his name!
Faceless as water, naked as the dust,
Dishonored as the earth the gas-shells poison
And barbarous with portent.
      This is he.
This is the man they ate at the green table
Putting their gloves on ere they touched the meat.
This is the fruit of war, the fruit of peace,
The ripeness of invention, the new lamb,
The answer to the wisdom of the wise.
And still he hangs, and still he will not die
And still, on the steel city of our years
The light falls and the terrible blood streams down.

We thought we were done with these things but we were wrong.
We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.
We thought the long train would run to the end of Time.
We thought the light would increase.
Now the long train stands derailed and the bandits loot it.
Now the boar and the asp have power in our time.
Now the night rolls back on the West and the night is solid.
Our fathers and ourselves sowed dragon’s teeth.

Our children know and suffer the armed men.

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One Response to Litany for Dictatorships

  • Brilliant connect Mr. McClarey.

    The darkness will ALWAYS be overcome by the light! It’s time is fleeting and it knows it. In it’s short time it will work feverishly to convince the sleeping multitudes that good is bad. That dark is light. But as time passes these lovers of darkness will be overwhelmed by the sincerity and mildness of children. Children with the Light of God will win.
    They will be accompanied by invisible souls, aborted children, and the darkness that resides in the hearts of evil men and women will be confronted by these children of light. “..the boar and the asp have power in our time.”

    But that time will be shortened!

    Pray the Holy Rosary every day.
    In the end Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart will triumph! New forms of oppression will be annihilated!
    Jesus I Trust in You.

The Last Stand of the Black Horse Troop

Saturday, April 11, AD 2015

Something for the weekend.  I Am a Rebel Soldier sung by Waylon Jennings.  Stephen Vincent Benet in his epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, follows, in part of his poem, a Confederate Georia cavalry unit in the Army of Northern Virginia, the Black Horse Troop.  On the way to Appomattox they met their destiny guarding the rear of their expiring Army.  I have always thought this was a fitting tribute to the men of that Army who endured to the end.

Wingate wearily tried to goad
A bag of bones on a muddy road
Under the grey and April sky
While Bristol hummed in his irony
“If you want a good time, jine the cavalry!
Well, we jined it, and here we go,
The last event in the circus-show,
The bareback boys in the burnin’ hoop
Mounted on cases of chicken-croup,
The rovin’ remains of the Black Horse Troop!
Though the only horse you could call real black
Is the horsefly sittin’ on Shepley’s back,
But, women and children, do not fear,
They’ll feed the lions and us, next year.
And, women and children, dry your eyes,
The Southern gentleman never dies.
He just lives on by his strength of will
Like a damn ole rooster too tough to kill
Or a brand-new government dollar-bill
That you can use for a trousers-patch
Or lightin’ a fire, if you’ve got a match,
Or makin’ a bunny a paper collar,
Or anythin’ else–except a dollar.

Old folks, young folks, never you care,
The Yanks are here and the Yanks are there,
But no Southern gentleman knows despair.
He just goes on in his usual way,
Eatin’ a meal every fifteenth day
And showin’ such skill in his change of base
That he never gets time to wash his face
While he fights with a fury you’d seldom find
Except in a Home for the Crippled Blind,
And can whip five Yanks with a palmleaf hat,
Only the Yanks won’t fight like that.

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3 Responses to The Last Stand of the Black Horse Troop

  • And with these things, bury the purple dream
    Of the America we have not been,
    The tropic empire, seeking the warm sea,
    The last foray of aristocracy
    Based not on dollars or initiative
    Or any blood for what that blood was worth
    But on a certain code, a manner of birth,
    A certain manner of knowing how to live,
    The pastoral rebellion of the earth
    Against machines, against the Age of Steam,
    The Hamiltonian extremes against the Franklin mean,
    The genius of the land
    Against the metal hand,
    The great, slave-driven bark,
    Full-oared upon the dark,
    With gilded figurehead,
    With fetters for the crew
    And spices for the few,
    The passion that is dead,
    The pomp we never knew,
    Bury this, too.

  • It is a crime Tom that a great poet like Stephen Vincent Benet is almost completely forgotten today.

  • Don, I am greatly indebted to you.

    I had no idea of who Stephen Vincent Benet was until you posted this here. I found the entire poem online here (http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0700461.txt) and read about half of it – I will read it in its entirety later. I did some more research on him and found he had written By the Waters of Babylon. I was stunned! I had read that short story when I was nine or ten, and while it made an immense impression on me I did not recall the title or the author. I now have it on my kindle – thanks to you.

D W Griffith’s Abraham Lincoln

Monday, March 9, AD 2015

Abraham Lincoln, who padded up and down
The sacred White House in nightshirt and carpet-slippers,
And yet could strike young hero-worshipping Hay
As dignified past any neat, balanced, fine
Plutarchan sentences carved in a Latin bronze;
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

Film pioneer DW Griffith is chiefly remembered today for the 1915 film Birth of a Nation which was the film version  of the 1905 novel The Clansman, a paean by Thomas F. Dixon to the Ku Klux Klan which, in his view, freed the South from carpetbagger and negro rule.  As history the film is rubbish, but from its technical aspects it is an important development in the art of filmmaking.  In response to his critics DW Griffith made the film Intolerance  in 1916 which condemned religious, if not racial, bigotry.

In 1930 he made the first sound film biography of Lincoln.  Several silent film bios of Lincoln had been made, but having Lincoln speak was going to be an added challenge. Walter Huston, the father of actor-director John Huston, portrayed Lincoln.  Tall and lanky, Huston looked a bit like Lincoln, but his deep resonant tones helped establish in the public mind that Lincoln had that type of voice, rather than the high pitched voice that the historical Lincoln possessed.

The film script was co-written by Stephen Vincent Benet, a poet who in 1928 wrote the epic Civil War poem John Brown’s Body.   The film takes considerable liberties with the life of Lincoln, but, like Benet’s historical poetry, it has a good feel for the period and gives overall a powerful impression of Lincoln.  It is well worth the viewing even today, after so many Lincoln films.  It is interesting that this son of a Confederate colonel opens the film with a scene aboard a slave ship and that the film is a celebration of the man who defeated the cause his father fought for.

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February 12, 1865: Lincoln’s Last Birthday

Thursday, February 12, AD 2015

Lincoln Pardon

Lincoln was a long man.
He liked out of doors,
He liked the wind blowing
And the talk in country stores

He liked telling stories,
He liked telling jokes.
“Abe’s quite a character,”
Said quite a lot of folks.

Lots of folks in Springfield
Saw him every day,
Walking down the street
In his gaunt, long way.

Shawl around his shoulders,
Letters in his hat.
“That’s Abe Lincoln.”
They thought no more than that.

Knew that he was honest,
Guessed that he was odd,
Knew he had a cross wife,
Though she was a Todd.

Knew that he had three little boys
Who liked to shout and play,
Knew he had a lot of debts
It took him years to pay.

Knew his clothes and knew his house
“That’s his office, here.
Blame good lawyer on the whole,
Though he’s sort of queer.

“Sure, he went to Congress, once,
But he didn’t stay.
Can’t expect us all to be
Smart as Henry Clay.

“Need a man for troubled times?
Well, I guess we do.
Wonder who we’ll ever find?
Yes–I wonder who.”

That is how they met and talked,
Knowing and unknowing,
Lincoln was the green pine.
Lincoln kept on growing

Stephen Vincent Benet

 

 

 

One hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln turned 56, the last birthday he would know in this life, Lincoln having just slightly over two months to live.

Like most adults in the Nineteenth Century, Lincoln never had any celebrations for his birthdays, no cake, no gifts, no ceremony.  February 12, 1865 was just another day for him, filled with the endless burdens and grinding work of being President in a time of civil war.  Yet, during one point in his day, I would wager that Lincoln probably thought momentarily of his long ago childhood.

He wrote out a “pardon” for some misbehaving students.  The note said:  “Let these boys return to their school upon the condition stated by them, and remain so long as they do not misbehave.”

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God of Our Fathers

Saturday, November 29, AD 2014

Something for the weekend.  God of Our Fathers.  Written in 1876 to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it reminds each American how fortunate we are to live in this land.

 

God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast;
Be Thou our ruler, guardian, guide and stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never-ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

America is a wonderful place, even when we acknowledge her flaws.  I think one of the best tributes to America is contained in Stephen Vincent Benet’s The Devil and Daniel Webster, when he describes Daniel Webster addressing the Jury of the Damned:

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American History and Political Correctness

Saturday, August 23, AD 2014

“the difference between the old and the new education being) in a word, the old was a kind of propagation – men transmitting manhood to men; the new is merely propaganda.”

CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man

My son and my daughter when they were in high school both took advanced placement American history, earning A’s.  (Yeah, they heard quite a lot about American history from me as they were growing up!  “Dad, I only asked for three dollars!  What does Washington’s strategy during the Yorktown campaign have to do with it?”)  They enjoyed the classes and thought they were worthwhile.  I am glad they took the courses prior to the new framework for teaching the courses was initiated.  Larry Krieger is a retired American history teacher.  He specialized in teaching advanced placement American history, and was recognized in 2004 and 2005 by the College Board, the company that produces the courses, as the best teacher of advanced placement American history, and he has written several books to help students prepare for the course.  He has been leading the charge against the changes that the College Board is implementing in their American history course:

The Framework’s unbalanced and biased coverage of the Colonial era represents a radical departure from its existing topical outline and from state and local curriculum guides. While students will learn a great deal about the Beaver Wars, the Chickasaw Wars, the Pueblo Revolt, and King Philip’s War, they will learn little or nothing about the rise of religious toleration, the development of democratic institutions, and the emergence of a society that included a rich mix of ethnic groups and the absence of a hereditary aristocracy. The Framework blatantly ignores such pivotal historic figures as Roger Williams and Benjamin Franklin and such key developments as the emergence of New England town meetings and the Virginia House of Burgesses as cradles of democracy.

The absence of coverage on the development of religious toleration is a particularly egregious flaw. Freedom of religion is one of America’s greatest contributions to world civilization. Yet, inexplicably the Framework omits the Pilgrims, mentions the Quakers once, and fails to discuss the importance of religious dissenters such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams and the consequences of the First Great Awakening.

Thomas Jefferson described New England town meetings as “the best school of political liberty the world ever saw.” Jefferson was right. We encourage parents, teachers, and students to attend local meetings and ask school and political officials if the new College Board AP U.S. History Framework is aligned with their locally mandated courses of study. If it is not, then the public has a right and a responsibility to demand that the College Board rescind the new Framework and adopt a more appropriate course of study.

 

UNIT 3: 1754 – 1800

At the present time, a five-page outline provides AP U.S. History teachers with a clear chronological list of topics that they should cover in their courses. This traditional outline conforms to the sequence of topics approved by state and local boards of education. In contrast, the new redesigned Framework provides a detailed 98-page document that defines, discusses, and interprets “the required knowledge of each period.” The College Board has thus unilaterally assumed the authority to replace local and state guidelines with its own biased curriculum guide. These biases can be clearly seen in how the Framework emphasizes, deemphasizes, and omits selected topics in the period from 1754 to 1800.

The Framework begins this critical period of American history with a full page devoted to how “various American Indian groups repeatedly evaluated and adjusted their alliances, with Europeans, other tribes, and the new United States government” (page 32). The Framework then generously grants teachers the flexibility to discuss Pontiac’s Rebellion and Chief Little Turtle (page 32).

While the Framework emphasizes “new white-Indian conflicts along the western borders (page 36) and “the seizure of Indian lands” (page 37), it all but ignores George Washington’s life and indispensible contributions to American history. Although Washington was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” he merits only one random Framework reference: “Although George Washington’s Farewell Address warned about the dangers of divisive political parties and permanent foreign alliances, European conflict and tensions with Britain and France fueled increasingly bitter partisan debates throughout the 1790s” (page 34).To put this glaring omission into perspective, imagine how South Africans would respond if an unelected agency issued a history of their country that contained just one reference to Nelson Mandela.

The Framework’s decision to all but omit George Washington extends to his command of the Continental Army. Most state and local curriculum guides require teachers to discuss the significance of Valley Forge and the battles of Saratoga and Yorktown. Instead, the College Board Framework completely ignores all Revolutionary War battles and commanders. Veterans and their families will by dismayed to discover that this is not an oversight. In fact, the College Board ignores military history from the Revolutionary War to the present day.  Students will thus not learn about the valor and sacrifices of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Army of the Potomac, the Rough Riders, the doughboys, the GI’s, and the servicemen and women who fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

The Framework’s superficial coverage of the Revolutionary War is typical of this poorly organized unit. For example, the Framework devotes just one sentence to the Declaration of Independence (page 34). John Adams later wrote that “the Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.” While the College Board Framework invites teachers to discuss “the architecture of Spanish missions” (page 34), it does not invite teachers to fully explore the republican ideals that motivated America’s founders. Confused students may wonder what cause motivated the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the soldiers at Valley Forge, and the framers at Independence Hall to sacrifice their lives, their fortunes, and their “sacred honor.” For example, Richard Morris risked his life and sacrificed his fortune to promote the cause of freedom.

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8 Responses to American History and Political Correctness

  • Truth! Liberals (superannuated, 1960’s pot-heads and VC sympathizers with graying pony-tails) took control (now we have Federal government mandates) of, and transformed, education. Now, it’s indoctrination not education.
    .

    It’s far too easy to be a post-modern academic. The answer to every contemporary or historical (generally distorted, exaggerated or fabricated) crisis/event/movement is one or more of the following: Christianity, class, Dick Cheney, gender, George W. Bush, global warming, race, Sarah Palin, sexual orientation, WHITE MEN . . .
    .

    I have a 1965 AP, high school American History text. If any of you wants the truth about US history, I can look it up.

  • God is three Persons. The person of Jesus Christ is a sovereign citizen of the world. The Person is due “due process of law” under the Constitution.
    .
    When the Supreme Court, in Engel v. Vitale (1962) told the atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, that she could “go her own way”, the Court interpreted the Constitition’s “tolerance”. Of itself, atheism is unconstitutional since atheism does the Constitution violence. “…or prohibit the free exercise therof.” Atheism prohibits all freedom of religion thereof.
    .
    The imposition of atheism in public schools to minor children, a captive audience, is unconstitutional. Atheism or the removal of public prayer in public school needs to be put on the ballot in each and every town.
    .
    Yes, the children in public school are minors whose civil rights are held in trust for them by God, by their parents and finally by the state. However, no parent or adult is barred from entering any class room to moderate, observe and challenge any violation of the students’ civil rights. (Planned Parenthood has already entered the public school classroom to indoctrinate through the United Nations)
    .
    God is the endower of civil rights. Children praying to God are exercising their civil rights to freedom and acknowledging that their civil rights are held in trust for them by God. To prohibit this act of trust in God is to deny the child his civil rights, his human soul and his freedom, all of his freedom.
    .
    This freedom is not happening in our culture. The sovereign personhood of every individual is violated. The Person of God, the citizen, is violated, the soverign personhood of the atheist is violated and there is hell to pay. Actually, the court has sent us all to hell. Time to put the public acknowledgement of our freedom in society to the ballot. Oh, that was done in 1788.
    .
    Perhaps, the Supreme Court might like to read the Constitution before it it changes the Constitution without ratification by the states.

  • Our oldest starts Kindergarten on Monday, and more and more I’m seeing how vigilant we will have to be as parents to see she and her sisters get a good and accurate education in all subjects. I pray we’ve made the right decision this year to send her to our local parish school. Many of the local Catholic high schools use AP and IB curricula just like the public schools. It will be very hard to avoid this tripe for anyone who doesn’t want to home school.

  • Good comment by T. Shaw. Mary De Voe and Mrs. Zummo are also correct. Liberals have to revise history because as Pope Leo XIII pointed out in his encyclical Libertas, they are the ones who cry, “I will not serve.” There is a liberal who runs a pro-nuclear energy blog (very odd given that the overwhelming majority of liberals are reflexively anti-nuclear energy). Everything he writes about nuclear engineering is correct. But when he writes about history or politics, his entire paradigm is so skewed that he cannot tell the true from the false, a condition that Bill Wilson in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous identified with alcoholism. Oh no, this man is no alcoholic (at least to the best of my knowledge). But it is the “ISM” (I, Self and Me) that is the fatal disease. The ISM is the same for liberalism and it is for alcoholism.

  • KC Johnson has written on this topic. He remarked a judicial opinion which made use of a 1977 American history text as a reference. This was necessary, per Johnson, because the sort of political and institutional history that the court needed to reference is hardly being written anymore. It’s all a race-class-gender gasbag philharmonic. (The study of colonial-era aboriginal populations is much more a department of archaeology and anthropology than a department of history).

  • The College Board needs to be hit in the head with a board – a good, solid 2×4. My oldest is in first grade. The school district he attends – and I pay through the nose for – is supposedly highly rated. Property taxes are so high it ran the local Catholic grade school out of business.

    I can only imagine how the College Board has fouled up world history. At any rate, my kids will learn about history from ME. I will point them to the sources that are reliable. They will learn the truth about Islam, the Reconquest, the Deformation – as it reformed nothing, the heroic battles fought by the Knights of Malta, Lepanto and Vienna. They will learn that the Spanish conquistadores put an end to Aztec human sacrifice and the Church evangelized most of this Hemisphere. They will learn that , despite the stupid anti-Catholicism that was found throughout the Colonies, that the War for Independence would not have been won without
    Catholic help from France and Spain.

    I suspect I could teach history better than most so called present day educators. Given that my ex sister in law is a schoolteacher and did not know that Puerto Rico is a part of the United States, I’m sure there are other things she doesn’t know.

    I remember the “new math” of the early 1970s. That was a disaster.

  • Never said better: “Truth! Liberals (superannuated, 1960′s pot-heads and VC sympathizers with graying pony-tails)…” (T. Shaw, 8/23/2014) And here, in the leftist-super-populated SF Bay Area, many gaggles of super-annuated pot- and gray-pony-tailed-heads with perpetually grimacing upside-down smiles. One would think these people who are generally quite well-off and who totally control the levers of power in this state would be happy—yet they are not. Could it be they only have their materialistic “big sleep” to look forward to?
    .
    And have care lest you dare burst their thin little balloon of progressive fable and 60’s self-hypnosis. Not long ago, our quirky little family sat down to a cafe-lunch at the beautiful Palace of Legion of Honor art museum in SF. It was a beautiful sun-splashed day on the patio (not always common in summertime SF) ; people chatting, relaxing. So, as the food came out, my autistic brother instantly started the Catholic grace before meals (well, of course!), so I mean a full sign of the cross, etc and Gloria Patri at the end. We joined in, quietly. Unknown to me, but spotted by Mrs. Phoenix, behind me, at least two patrons at another table grimaced, faces turning dark, and at once got up and moved to the far end of the patio to get away from us. That sign-of-the-cross hocus pocus stuff definitely ruined the grey-pony-tails’ day.

  • “That sign-of-the-cross hocus pocus stuff definitely ruined the grey-pony-tails’ day.”

    I bet they didn’t have garlic on their table!

Lee’s Greatest Victory

Sunday, January 19, AD 2014

He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression; and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy and a man without guile. He was a Caesar without his ambition; Frederick without his tyranny; Napoleon without his selfishness; and Washington without his reward.

Benjamin H. Hill on Robert E. Lee

 

 

“It’s a warm spring Sunday at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. As the minister is about to present Holy Communion, a tall well-dressed black man sitting in the section reserved for African Americans unexpectedly advances to the communion rail; unexpectedly because this has never happened here before.

The congregation freezes. Those who have been ready to go forward and kneel at the communion rail remain fixed in their pews. The minister stands in his place stunned and motionless. The black man slowly lowers his body, kneeling at the communion rail.

After what seems an interminable amount of time, an older white man rises. His hair snowy white, head up, and eyes proud, he walks quietly up the isle to the chancel rail.

So with silent dignity and self-possession, the white man kneels down to take communion along the same rail with the black man.

Lee has said that he has rejoiced that slavery is dead. But this action indicates that those were not idle words meant to placate a Northern audience. Here among his people, he leads wordlessly through example. The other communicants slowly move forward to the altar with a mixture of reluctance and fear, hope and awkward expectation. In the end, America would defy the cruel chain of history besetting nations torn apart by Civil War.”

From “April 1865:  the Month that Saved America”

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8 Responses to Lee’s Greatest Victory

  • This is the kind of man we men all need to be like. God help me!

  • Pingback: SUNDAY EDITION | God & Caesar
  • 150 years later:
    Greedy, hateful American leaders are moronically rattling many chains of national and global destruction. No such poem could be inspired by them.

    ” … In the end, America would defy the cruel chain of history besetting nations torn apart by Civil War.”

    From “April 1865: the Month that Saved America”

    Racial hatred has been the besetting curse of America. Robert E. Lee made a step that day to end it. Something for all Americans to recall on the 207th birthday of General Lee.

    “The man was loved, the man was idolized,

    The man had every just and noble gift.

    He took great burdens and he bore them well,

    Believed in God but did not preach too much,

    Believed and followed duty first and last

    With marvellous consistency and force,

    Was a great victor, in defeat as great,

    No more, no less, always himself in both,

    Could make men die for him but saved his men

    Whenever he could save them was most kind

    But was not disobeyed was a good father,

    A loving husband, a considerate friend. ”

    Stephen Vincent Benet

  • It’s a moving story. But it seems not everyone has the same take on it.

    http://www.civilwarmonitor.com/front-line/fantasizing-lee-as-a-civil-rights-pioneer

    I suspect the witness it cites was seeing the event through his own racist lens, but I would be interested to hear your take on this counterpoint to your article. BTW, it cites this blog.

  • “I suspect the witness it cites was seeing the event through his own racist lens”
    No doubt, and I do not believe that was Lee’s lens. He said in the immediate aftermath of the war that he rejoiced in the ending of slavery, a practice he condemned in private correspondence prior to the War. He was in favor of enlisting black soldiers during the War and granting freedom to them and their families. He supported a bill after the War for public schools for blacks in Virginia. As President of Washington College after the War he routinely expelled students who attacked blacks. Lee was no abolitionist, and certainly no civil rights pioneer, but he looked upon the ending of slavery with no regrets and he had no use for those who would revel in racial hatred.

  • The tyrant, the pedagogue, the little dictator and the self-aggrandizing despot will use hatreds of any kind to build and perpetuate their fiefdoms and miniscule empires, both feeding and feeding on the fears of his tiny-minded minions.

    Would that there was a way to delete these detestable creatures and remove their stain from the public landscape. However, I’d wager that for every one that’s removed, three more would crop up. It’s the selfish, hateful nature of fallen Man that gives these wrethced howlers momentum, and unfortunately there is no shortage of that.

  • Benjamin H Hill was the great great grandfather of one of my law partners, B. Harvey Hill. Harvey, now retired, was perhaps the most gifted corporate lawyer I have ever known. It is regrettable that he is also a lapsed Catholic.

  • I have a positive opinion of Lee. “Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no guile”, comes to mind. His trepidations regarding the abolition movement were prescient, considering the disastrous outcome of the war, 620,000 deaths, the ruin of many lives and the devastation of a portion of our country the effects of which remain to this day. His statement, “The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically,” should be understood in terms of the state of things in Africa at the time.

The Many Faces of Abe

Sunday, October 27, AD 2013

One of the many things that I find fascinating about Lincoln is how different he looked in most of his photographs.  All but one of the Lincoln photographs were taken during the last eleven years of his life, and they are an interesting study in contrasts.  This is especially intriguing since the subject of a photograph in Lincoln’s day had to sit absolutely still for at least 18 seconds, and I would think this would tend to flatten out any emotions that the subject was feeling at the time which might have altered his features.

I have studied Lincoln now for almost a half century and the complexity of the man is perhaps his most salient feature, and that shines through in his pictures.  A man known for his humble birth, but who hated the life of poverty and drudgery that he worked so hard to escape from.  Famous for reading before the embers of a fire place as a child, he read little as an adult beyond newspapers and a few choice books, but what he read he retained with a bear trap like grasp. A teller of humorous tales who was afflicted with deep melancholia.  No formal education to speak of, but the finest writer of prose ever to sit in the White House.  A deeply logical man who loved Euclid, he could understand the passions, the loves and the hates, that almost destroyed his nation.  A humane man who abhorred bloodshed, he presided over the bloodiest war in our history.  Viewed with suspicion by the abolitionists of his day, it was his fate to destroy slavery that had existed in what would be the United States for a quarter of a millennia.  Turn Lincoln over in your mind and new facets of the man spring up.

Stephen Vincent Benet in his epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, captured some of the many Lincolns that appeared in the photographs:

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7 Responses to The Many Faces of Abe

  • Thanx for this, Donald. I notice that during Lincoln’s years as a young lawyer his suits look expensive yet ill-fitting, then they improve. I can’t help but wonder if that was when he got married.
    Mary Todd comes in for a lot of abuse but I’m sure she’s the one who made sure he was presentable when he left the house — or at least combed his hair for the photographer.

  • I shudder to think what Lincoln would have looked like without Mary. Like many wives she picked out her husband’s wardrobe and made sure he was at least somewhat presentable to the world. Mary does not get nearly enough credit for her taking care of her husband as well as she did.

  • Donald, I am not as thorough a student of history as you apparently are. Yet, I see a similar nobility in Davis and perhaps a little more so than both in Lee. Briefly in passing about myself, a positional Yankee but I am divided in sentiment.
    Most respectfully,
    The Walsh.

  • Jefferson Davis had much that was great about him. A brave man as his command of the Mississippi Rifles at Buena Vista indicated, he came close to success several times in his against the odds struggle to win independence for the Confederacy. He never asked for pardon for himself after the War while encouraging Southern young people to forget the past and to be good citizens of the United States.

    As for Lee, the post linked below indicates how I feel about him:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/02/13/marse-robert/

  • Donald: Thank you for your consideration of my humble opining. I, a weak and sinful man, sustained by unshaken faith alone, stand in awe of my betters, Lincoln, Lee and many others including perhaps you my unmet friend. ~The Walsh

  • “including perhaps you my unmet friend.”
    You have to remember that I am an attorney William. I therefore take an 80% penalty when compared to any non-attorney! 🙂

  • And, I, merely Irish, am at least genetically in the same boat. ‘Tis great fun. Praise God.

The Army of the Potomac

Tuesday, October 22, AD 2013

Army of the Potomac

Army of the Potomac, advancing army,

Alloy of a dozen disparate, alien States,

City-boy, farm-hand, bounty-man, first volunteer,

Old regular, drafted recruit, paid substitute,

Men who fought through the war from First Bull Run,

And other men, nowise different in look or purpose,

Whom the first men greeted at first with a ribald cry

“Here they come!  Two hundred dollars and a ka-ow!”

Rocks from New England and hickory-chunks from the West,

Bowery boy and clogging Irish adventurer,

Germans who learnt their English under the shells

Or didn’t have time to learn it before they died.

Confused, huge weapon, forged from such different metals,

Misused by unlucky swordsmen till you were blunt

And then reforged with anguish and bloody sweat

To be blunted again by one more unlucky captain

Against the millstone of Lee.

 

 

Good stallion,

Ridden and ridden against a hurdle of thorns

By uncertain rider after uncertain rider.

The rider fails and you shiver and catch your breath,

They plaster your wounds and patch up your broken knees,

And then, just as you know the grip of your rider’s hands

And begin to feel at home with his horseman’s tricks,

Another rider comes with a different seat,

And lunges you at the bitter hurdle again,

And it beats you again–and it all begins from the first,

The patching of wounds, the freezing in winter camps,

The vain mud-marches, the diarrhea, the wastage,

The grand reviews, the talk in the newspapers,

The sour knowledge that you were wasted again,

Not as Napoleons waste for a victory

But blindly, unluckily–

until at last

After long years, at fish-hook Gettysburg,

The blade and the millstone meet and the blade holds fast.

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The Army of Northern Virginia

Tuesday, October 22, AD 2013

Furling the Flag

 

 

 

Army of Northern Virginia, fabulous army,

Strange army of ragged individualists,

The hunters, the riders, the walkers, the savage pastorals,

The unmachined, the men come out of the ground,

Still for the most part, living close to the ground

As the roots of the cow-pea, the roots of the jessamine,

The lazy scorners, the rebels against the wheels,

The rebels against the steel combustion-chamber

Of the half-born new age of engines and metal hands.

The fighters who fought for themselves in the old clan-fashion.

Army of planters’ sons and rusty poor-whites,

Where one man came to war with a haircloth trunk

Full of fine shirts and a body-servant to mend them,

And another came with a rifle used at King’s Mountain

And nothing else but his pants and his sun-cracked hands,

Aristo-democracy armed with a forlorn hope,

Where a scholar turned the leaves of an Arabic grammar

By the campfire-glow, and a drawling mountaineer

Told dirty stories old as the bawdy world,

Where one of Lee’s sons worked a gun with the Rockbridge Battery

And two were cavalry generals.

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4 Responses to The Army of Northern Virginia

  • I wish more people would comment on this post. What, not enough Southerners reading this blog?

  • It is a beautiful tribute to the ragged boys in gray MR. My Union sympathies are beyond question, but I also agree with the Union officer who wrote home that Southerners were enduring hardships for their cause that had to be seen to be believed, and I further agree with Grant who said in his memoirs that never did men fight harder, certainly in American history, than did the Confederates.

  • This blog calls itself “American” Catholic, not “Northern” Catholic or “Yankee” Catholic. In my opinion, it wouldn’t hurt to have more pro-CSA voices on this blog (politically incorrect as they are). There were Catholics fighting on both sides of the conflict, after all.

  • MR, get us a person who is an orthodox Catholic, who writes well, is willing to write on a regular basis, and who is willing to defend the Lost Cause, but not slavery of course, and we will give consideration to adding him or her to the roster. Currently I am the only contributor who has a strong interest in the Civil War and who writes on the topic on a regular basis, and I am Union blue in my sympthies, although I would note that has not stopped me from saluting Confederate courage in many posts, including this post, and that I debate pro-Confederate commenters on a regular basis in the comboxes.

Justice Hathorne

Monday, February 25, AD 2013

He pointed his finger once more, and a tall man, soberly clad in Puritan garb, with the burning gaze of the fanatic, stalked into the room and took his judge’s place.

“Justice Hathorne is a jurist of experience,” said the stranger. “He presided at certain witch trials once held in Salem. There were others who repented of the business later, but not he.”

“Repent of such notable wonders and undertakings?” said the stern old justice. “Nay, hang them–hang them all!” And he muttered to himself in a way that struck ice into the soul of Jabez Stone.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named, and we have examined the lives of each of them including the “life” I made up for the fictional the Reverend John Smeet.

The judge who presided over the case was Justice John Hathorne.  Born in August of 1641, Hathorne was a merchant of Salem, Massachusetts.  Hathorne prospered as a merchant with trading ventures to England and the West Indies.  He owned land around Salem and in Maine.  With economic power he combined political power, being Justice of the Peace in Essex County, and a member of the legislative upper chamber which combined the roles of legislature and high court.  In 1692 Hathorne was one of the men who questioned the accusers and accused and was in favor of bringing the accused to trial.  He was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts as one of the judges of the Special Court of Oyer and Terminer that heard the trials.  Hathorne always voted to convict.

Subsequent to the trials he saw service in the militia in King William’s War, taking part in 1696 in the siege of Fort Nashawaak in what became New Brunswick in Canada and rising to the rank of Colonel. He was eventually appointed to the Superior Court.  He died on May 10, 1717.

Following the Salem witch trials, there was a wave of revulsion at the verdicts.  Few doubted at that time that witches did exist, but many attacked the fairness of the trials, especially the concept of “spectral evidence” which allowed the accusers to testify as to what demons purportedly told them about the accused.  Many people found this admission of supernatural hearsay to be not only fundamentally unfair but preposterous and feared that the accusers had been simply settling old family feuds with the accused.

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