National Songs and Poetical Pieces

The book referenced below, Hugh Williams, ed., National Songs and Poetical Pieces Dedicated to the Queen and her Countrywomen (London: Hetherington, 1839), illustrates just how informative and fun primary sources can be. For instance, I was completely unaware of Nils von Schoultz (1807-38), a military officer of Finnish-Swedish origin who served in Poland against the Russians and who eventually ended up in the United States, became interested in the Canadian cause, and led a small force that invaded Canada in the wake of the failed Rebellions of 1837. These border skirmishes are designated the Patriot War, and I confess that I did not know about them either, although it makes complete sense that certain Americans would look with favor on the Canadian rebels and try to help them. Von Schoultz was a participant in the Battle of the Windmill in November 1838, during which time his force, having failed to take the town of Prescott, occupied a stone windmill at nearby Newport for four days before surrendering to the British (and Americans – apparently the United States government did not support this freelance invasion). Von Schoultz was put on trial, at which he expressed remorse for his actions and, contrary to the advice of his lawyer, future Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, pleaded guilty. As a consequence he was hanged at Kingston’s Fort Henry on December 8, 1838, at the age of 31. 

But that’s a somewhat neutral account, gleaned from the font of all knowledge. Here is how National Songs puts it:

There is a proud gratification in contemplating brilliant illustrations of the sprit of liberty, however melancholy, when clouded by the frowns, not of fortune, for liberty must eventually triumph, but of the hitherto overbalancing power of despotism.

Tyranny has recently added to its blood-stained catalogue, one of the brightest characters that ever humanity produced, freedom inspired, or history recorded. Where the Russian miscreant failed, English despots too well succeeded.

Neil S. Von Shoultz was a native of Poland, of prepossessing appearance and mild manners. His father was a major of a regiment at Cracow. His unfortunate and gallant son was compelled to emigrate to the United States in 1836, where congenial impulses for the suffering Canadians, led him to an untimely end, at the age of thirty-one.

He undertook an expedition for their liberation, and in command of a small body of American citizens, and Canadian refugees, gained a signal victory over a superior British force, at Prescott, U.C., on the 13th of November, 1838. The English afterwards returned to the charge with overwhelming reinforcements, and hemmed in, massacred and captured what remained of the small and exhausted band, previously cut off from all communication with the opposite American shore, by the conniving authorities of the United States, in opposition to the wishes of an indignant border population. The deceived, but not discomfited Schoultz, fought his way through the ranks of the enemy, but having become exposed to the horrors of a Canadian winter, without food or shelter, was eventually taken prisoner, and met with that sort of reward which successful tyranny had ever allotted to revolutionary prowess. He was tried at Kingston, on the 8th of December, 1838, by court martial, composed possibly of vagabonds whom he had lately put to disgraceful fight, or of their associates; and the HERO of PRESCOTT, under the matter-of-course sanction of Colburne and Arthur, was immediately put to death in cold blood.

“Colburne” is Sir John Colborne, acting Governor General of British North America; “Arthur” is Sir George Arthur, Lt. Gov. of Upper Canada. That’s a rather different perspective, eh?! The text goes on to excoriate President Martin van Buren for selling out these “true friends of liberty,” contrary to the supposed political principles of the great American Republic. It’s a reminder how, in the early nineteenth century, the conflict between “liberty” and “order” transcended national boundaries and even the Atlantic Ocean. The Congress of Vienna was not successful at putting that genie back in its bottle. 

I’m amused to discover that the author blames the “Canadian winter” for Schoultz’s defeat! Apparently it’s not just Russia’s greatest general

Then there are three separate poems that praise the “tricoloured flag.” According to one of them, the flag of Revolutionary France, a vertical tricolor of blue, white, and red, made tricolors symbolic of “liberty”:

Hail emblem of Liberty, spirit of light,
Thou sheerest my heart, and thou gladdest my sight
Thou beacon of hope to the good and the brave,
Thou foe to the tyrant, thou friend to the slave.
Ere long Britain’s sons shall awake from their trance,
And hail thy bright form like Republican France;
And the time draws nigh, when thy banner unfurl’d
Shall wave in proud triumph all over the world.
Hail tri-coloured flag!
Hail tri-coloured flag!

Note, though, that by the 1830s, tricolors did not necessarily represent republicanism. For instance, Louis-Philippe, France’s “citizen-king” who came to power in 1830, readopted the revolutionary tricolor to represent his regime, and the Belgians, whose state was born in the same year as the result of a rebellion against the Dutch, adopted a vertical tricolor of black, gold, and red, even though Belgium was a monarchy from the start.

But according to this collection, the flag adopted by British fans of “liberty” had a different set of colors. In the poem “The Tri-Colour!”, we read:

“Hark! hark! ’tis the trumpet of LIBERTY sounds,
As the tricolor flag is unfurl’d;”
With joy at its notes “every bosom resounds,”
While the echo is heard o’er the world.
Her cause is as pure as the deep azure sky,
It cheers like the bright sunny ray, –
Refreshing and lively as nature’s green dye,
Ever gentle, unchanging, and gay.

In other words, the British tricolor is to be blue (“azure”), white (“bright”), and green. One sees a fuller explication of this idea in the introduction to the poem “Freedom’s Tri-Coloured Banner,” which poem was:

Composed on the occasion of the Writer’s presenting the Metropolitan, Merthyr, Pontypool, and Carmarthen Associations each with the first projected Tri-coloured banner – composed of green, white and blue, symbolical of the aspect of nature – the green earth, the solar light, and the ethereal blue. A banner with colours as predominant as EQUAL RIGHTS are universal; and now about to supersede the blood-stained standards of the old world, of ancient and modern tyranny, and so form the emblem of freedom, of fraternity and happiness to the rising millions!

A footnote to the poem suggests that the stripes are to be:

horizontal, and in the following proportions: – grass green below, two ninths of depth; white, centre, four-ninths, and the rest deep sky blue. 

Furthermore:

The standard Radical flag will bear for its motto Universal Liberty along the center… with the Sun gilded on the upper staff quarter.

So of course I had to mash one up:

But I have not been able to find any other evidence for this flag, or any variants thereof, on the Internet. Note that it’s different from what Flags of the World claims was Flag of the English Republic:

Wikipedia.

And note that in both cases the stripes are horizontal, not vertical. This too is not necessarily republican, viz. the contemporary flags of the Netherlands and Russia, which were both horizontal tricolors representing monarchies, although horizontal stripes do allow for words and slogans to be written on them.

I would be curious to know just how popular Chartism (and/or English Republicanism) was in the 1830s. Did it command the sympathies of a majority of the working class? Or was it like the more recent anti-WTO or Occupy movements – something that got a certain amount of attention, but that was ultimately ignored by most people? 

The Empire Writes Back

I mentioned below that there was always a strain of anti-British, republican sentiment among the denizens of British North America. The most glaring expression of this occurred in 1837-38, when simultaneous rebellions broke out in Upper and Lower Canada, led by William Lyon Mackenzie and Joseph Papineau respectively.* In contrast to the republican experiment of the United States, the British had set up colonial administrations that attempted to replicate the social conditions of rural England, with a local “aristocracy” holding power and everyone else minding their station. Needless to say, as the nineteenth century wore on, this setup became less and less tolerable to ordinary people, and by 1837 a significant number of them had had enough of the “Family Compact” and “Château Clique,” derogatory nicknames for the regimes that ran Upper and Lower Canada. These rebellions were not successful, although they did inspire a number of reforms

When studying the history of your own country, you can become somewhat myopic. That is, you assume that since this is your history, it’s only interesting to you and your fellow citizens, and only really influenced the subsequent events in your own country. But people forget that local happenings often have an international impact. This was especially true within the British Empire, in which events in the metropole affected the colonies… and events in the colonies could reverberate throughout the empire. Apparently the Rebels of 1837 had a lot of British fans, particularly among the Chartists, that is, supporters of the People’s Charter of 1838, who thought that the Great Reform Act of 1832 had not gone far enough. Chartists demanded universal male suffrage, the secret ballot, proper salaries (and no property qualifications) for MPs, constituencies of equal population size, and annual elections. It is worth noting that eventually every one of these demands, except the last, was met – although not without the threat of serious violence always lurking in the background. 

From Stephen Basdeo, I was pleased to learn about the Chartist song “On, On! Ye Brave Canadians!“, written by one “S.R.G.” and published in London in 1839. I reprint it, and the author’s explanatory note, in their entirety:

On, on! ye brave Canadians, with Freedom’s flag unfurl’d,
Shout hatred to Usurpers, to the despots of the world;
Long may ye stand, ye gallant band—make ramparts of your slain,
And drive the hireling scoundrels to their Island Hell again.

Up, up! ye honest riflemen, bold freemen of the States,
And aid your brothers in the strife their Mother Hag creates;
Bring over hempen-neckerchiefs for every bully’s neck,
And string or shoot them one and all, from Huron to Quebec.

The millions of the British Isles are with ye, heart and soul—
But, oh! their country’s destinies are wrench’d from their control;
They’d rather that Britannia’s flag should down to dust be hurl’d,
Than be, as ’tis, protection to the tyrants of the world.

Up!—French and British—both are men—both children of one sire,—
And both alas! are buried to their chins in British mire!
Then, on! ye brave Canadians, despite their martial law,
Nine glorious cheers for LIBERTY and three for PAPINEAU!

There is no country on the face of the earth where despotisms prevails with more horrible atrocity than in Canada. We can well conceive the sort of sympathies entertained by the Melbourne and Russell government, when they permitted that splendid colony to be devastated by inhuman fiends, whose names shall be consigned to eternal infamy, as samples of the cannibal spirit of aristocratic domination. May our beneficent CREATOR grant that the British People may yet prove the liberators of the brave, bleeding, and prostrate Canadians!

Other poems in the collection include “A Rhyme for Canada” (“The rifle is heard, and the flag is unfurl’d, A land to be free is a boon to the world”), “The Canadian Exile’s Invocation to his Country,” and “Canadian Ode to Liberty”:

When the proud land of Britain would sternly maintain
Over far distant lands her tyrannical reign;
When she sends forth her slaves to destroy Freedom’s sons,
May each slave that she sends prove a mark for their guns.

It’s always flattering to learn that your country is more consequential than you thought. I note that a proposed British republican flag was simply an inverted Patriote flag. (Although I don’t endorse all these sentiments. I would not describe the Upper Canadian government as a “despotism” ruling with “horrible atrocity,” for instance.)

* Canada’s contribution to the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War took the name “Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion,” or “Mac-Paps.”

Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders.

Did Luther really say all these words, as he defended himself at the Diet of Worms, which concluded 500 years ago yesterday?

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures and by clear reason (for I do not trust in the pope or councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.

These are famous words indeed, but there is some question as to whether he actually said the boldfaced part. Some transcripts have them, others do not, and one theory is that they were added afterwards to burnish Luther’s image as a courageous dissenter from the Papal party line. But another way of looking at it is that Luther really did say them, because 

When Luther finished his main response, the room erupted into noisy cheers or jeers, depending on whose side the people were on. Luther quickly was hustled out of the room, with people yelling things such as, “To the fire with him!” I think the room remained quiet enough for the official notetakers to hear his main comments, but at the conclusion it was too noisy for anyone besides those closest to him to hear him say, “Here I stand.” This, too, is the conclusion of other scholars. Others, however, choose to suggest the words were added by friends to his statement. I find it difficult to imagine that on such a momentous occasion these key words would be merely a result of pious afterthought.

Yes, the original blog post is from Concordia Publishing House, and thus not entirely unbiased – but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. The next step: proving that Luther really did nail the 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg!

P.S. Apologies for my absence of late. I shall try to resume blogging at a more regular pace. 

Manners Maketh Man

Some pearls of wisdom from Giovanni della Casa, Galateo (c. 1555), trans. Robert Peterson (1576), reprinted in The Portable Renaissance Reader, eds. James Bruce Ross and Mary Martin McLaughlin (1953). 

***

There is no doubt, but who so disposes himself to live, not in solitary and desert places, as hermits, but in fellowship with men and in populous cities, will think it a very necessary thing to have skill to put himself forth comely and seemly, in his fashions, gestures, and manners. 

We say, then, that every act that offends any of the common senses, or overthwarts a man’s will and desire, or else presents to the imagination and conceit matters unpleasant, and that likewise which the mind does abhor, such things I saw be naught, and must not be used. 

I like it ill to see a gentleman settle himself to do the needs of nature in presence of men, and after he has done to truss himself again before them. Neither would I have him (if I may give him counsel), when he comes from such an occupation, so much as wash his hands in the sight of honest company, for that the cause of his washing puts them in mind of some filthy matter that has been done apart. 

And much worse I like it, who reach some sinking thing unto a man to smell until it, as it is many a man’s fashion to do with importunate means, yes , thrusting it unto their noes, saying, “Foh, see I pray you, how this does stink,’ where they should rather say, “Smell not unto it, for it has an ill scent.” 

We must also beware we do not sing, and specially alone, if we have an untuneful voice, which is a common fault with most men; and yet, he that is of nature least apt unto it, does use it most. 

When you have blown your nose, use not to open your handkerchief, to glare upon your snot, as if you had pearls and rubies fallen from your brains, for these be slovenly parts, enough to cause men, not so much not to love us, as if they did love us, to unlove us again. 

When a man talks with one, it is no good manner to come so near, that he must needs breathe in his face; for there be many that cannot abide to feel the air of another man’s breath, albeit there come no ill savor from him. 

They do very ill that now and then pull out a letter out of their pocket to read it, as if they had great matters of charge and affairs of the commonwealth committed unto them. But they are much more to be blamed, that pull out their knives or their scissors, and do nothing else but pare their nails, as if they made no account at all of the company, and would seek some other solace to pass the time away. 

Let not a man so sit that he turn his tail to him that sits next to him, nor lie tottering with one leg so high above the other that a man may see all bare that his clothes would cover. 

It ill becomes a man when he is in company to be sad, musing, and full of contemplation. And albeit it may be suffered perchance in them that have long beaten their brains in these mathematical studies, which are called (as I take it) the liberal arts, yet without doubt ti may not be borne in other men. For even these studious fellows, at such time, when they be so full of their muses, should be much wiser to get themselves alone.

In speech a man may err many ways. And first in the matter itself, that is in the talk, which may not be vain or filthy. For they that do hear it will not abide it; as you talk they take no pleasure to hear but rather scorn the speech and the speaker both. Again, a man must not love any question of matters that be too deep and too subtle, because it is hardly understood of the most. And a man mush watchfully foresee that the matter be such as none of the company may blush to hear it, or receive any shame by the tale. Neither must he talk of any filthy matter, albeit a man would take a pleasure to hear it; for it ill becomes an honest gentleman to seek to please but in things that be honest.

Neither in sport nor in earnest must a man speak anything against God or His saints, how witty or pleasant soever the matter be. Wherein the company that Giovanni Boccaccio has brought to speak in his novels and tales has erred so much that methinks every good body may justly blame them for it. 

And they do as much amiss, too, that never have other things in their mouth than their children, their wife, and their nurse. “My little boy made me so laugh yesterday; hear you, you never saw a sweeter babe in your life. My wife is such a one, Cecchina told me; of truth you would not believe what a wit she has.” There is none so idle a body that will either intend to answer or abide to hear such foolish prittle-prattle. For it irks a man’s ears to hearken unto it. 

There become again so curious in telling their dreams from point to point, using such wonder and admiration withal, that it makes a man’s heart ache to hear them, and especially because they be such kind of people as it is labor lost to hear, even the very best exploits they do when they be most awake and labor most to show their best. 

It is not enough for a man to do things that be good but he must also have a care he does them with a good grace. 

Samuel Pepys and the Plague

From the Conversation, “Diary of Samuel Pepys shows how life under the bubonic plague mirrored today’s pandemic” (hat tip: William Campbell):

In early April, writer Jen Miller urged New York Times readers to start a coronavirus diary.

“Who knows,” she wrote, “maybe one day your diary will provide a valuable window into this period.”

During a different pandemic, one 17th-century British naval administrator named Samuel Pepys did just that. He fastidiously kept a diary from 1660 to 1669 – a period of time that included a severe outbreak of the bubonic plague in London. Epidemics have always haunted humans, but rarely do we get such a detailed glimpse into one person’s life during a crisis from so long ago.

There were no Zoom meetings, drive-through testing or ventilators in 17th-century London. But Pepys’ diary reveals that there were some striking resemblances in how people responded to the pandemic.

For Pepys and the inhabitants of London, there was no way of knowing whether an outbreak of the plague that occurred in the parish of St. Giles, a poor area outside the city walls, in late 1664 and early 1665 would become an epidemic.

The plague first entered Pepys’ consciousness enough to warrant a diary entry on April 30, 1665: “Great fears of the Sickenesse here in the City,” he wrote, “it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve us all.”

Pepys continued to live his life normally until the beginning of June, when, for the first time, he saw houses “shut up” – the term his contemporaries used for quarantine – with his own eyes, “marked with a red cross upon the doors, and ‘Lord have mercy upon us’ writ there.” After this, Pepys became increasingly troubled by the outbreak.

He soon observed corpses being taken to their burial in the streets, and a number of his acquaintances died, including his own physician.

By mid-August, he had drawn up his will, writing, “that I shall be in much better state of soul, I hope, if it should please the Lord to call me away this sickly time.” Later that month, he wrote of deserted streets; the pedestrians he encountered were “walking like people that had taken leave of the world.”

Read the whole thing

Herodotus Vindicated!

From the Guardian (hat tip: Ace of Spaces):

Nile shipwreck discovery proves Herodotus right – after 2,469 years

Greek historian’s description of ‘baris’ vessel vindicated by archaeologists at sunken city of Thonis-Heraclion

Dalya Alberge

In the fifth century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus visited Egypt and wrote of unusual river boats on the Nile. Twenty-three lines of his Historia, the ancient world’s first great narrative history, are devoted to the intricate description of the construction of a “baris”.

For centuries, scholars have argued over his account because there was no archaeological evidence that such ships ever existed. Now there is. A “fabulously preserved” wreck in the waters around the sunken port city of Thonis-Heracleion has revealed just how accurate the historian was.

“It wasn’t until we discovered this wreck that we realised Herodotus was right,” said Dr Damian Robinson, director of Oxford University’s centre for maritime archaeology, which is publishing the excavation’s findings. “What Herodotus described was what we were looking at.”

In 450 BC Herodotus witnessed the construction of a baris. He noted how the builders “cut planks two cubits long [around 100cm] and arrange them like bricks”. He added: “On the strong and long tenons [pieces of wood] they insert two-cubit planks. When they have built their ship in this way, they stretch beams over them… They obturate the seams from within with papyrus. There is one rudder, passing through a hole in the keel. The mast is of acacia and the sails of papyrus…”

Robinson said that previous scholars had “made some mistakes” in struggling to interpret the text without archaeological evidence. “It’s one of those enigmatic pieces. Scholars have argued exactly what it means for as long as we’ve been thinking of boats in this scholarly way,” he said.

More at the link, including images. The baris appears in book 2, chapter 96 of The Histories.

Anne Good and Madeline Gray ’18

On February 14, Associate Professor of History Anne Good and alumna Madeline Gray ’18 presented their research on “Mrs. Knight’s Receipt Book, 1740,” at the February Community Gathering. The Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning funded a trip to the Folger Shakespeare Library in November, where they examined Mrs. Knight’s book in person. It contained more than recipes for food – humorism was alive and well in the eighteenth century, and many home remedies based on this theory were also included. Attendees, however, were treated to gingerbread treats made according to the book.

Antebellum Newspapers

From Georgia Public Broadcasting (hat tip: Jeff Bishop), news of something interesting:

Georgia Newspapers From Before The Civil War, Now Online

Georgia newspapers spanning the years from the end of the colonial period to the start of the Civil War have been made publicly available via the internet.

The Digital Library of Georgia and the Georgia Newspaper Project digitized almost 54,000 pages of newspapers published before 1861 with the help of a grant from the R.J. Taylor Foundation. The papers range from the Royal Georgia Gazette, first published in 1779; the full run of the Cherokee Phoenix, the voice of the Cherokee Nation prior to Indian Removal; to some early African American papers.

Not to mention the Cherokee Advance, the Cartersville Express, and the Cassville Standard, other papers from around these parts. Check it out.

Gerald of Wales

Enjoyed a good discussion on Gerald of Wales’s History and Topography of Ireland in HIS 323 this past week. Geraldus Cambrensis (c. 1146-c. 1223) was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales, studied at Gloucester and Paris, was ordained a priest, acted as an agent of the archbishop of Canterbury in Wales, and then became a royal chaplain to King Henry II. In 1185, Gerald was chosen to accompany Henry’s son John, who had been named Lord of Ireland, on his first expedition there. The Topographia Hibernica was the result. His descriptions of natural phenomena, and especially his credulity about marvels and freaks of nature, remind me of Herodotus, but this book has a specific agenda – essentially, to justify Henry’s claim to Ireland. He specifically mentions the claim in 92, referencing Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain:

As the British history relates, the king of the Britons, Gurguintius, son of the noble Belinus and grandson of the famous Brennius, when returning from Denmark, which his father had formerly conquered, and which, when it had rebelled, he himself had again brought into subjection, found at the Orkney Islands a fleet which had brought Basclenses there from Spain, Their leaders approached the king, and told him whence they had come and the reason for their coming, namely to settle in a country of the West. They were urgent in their request that he should give them some land to inhabit. Eventually the king, on the advice of his counsellors, gave them that island that is now called Ireland, and which was then either entirely uninhabited or had been settled by him. He also gave them pilots for their expedition from among his own fleet.

From this is is clear that Ireland can with some right be claimed by the kings of Britain, even though the claim be from olden times.

Secondly, the city of Bayonne is on the boundary of Gascony, and belongs to it. It is also the capital of Basclonia, whence the Hibernienses came. And now Gascony and all Aquitaine rejoices in the same rule as Britain.

The kings of Britain have also a newly established double claim. On the one hand the spontaneous surrender and protestation of fealty of the Irish chiefs – for everyone is allowed to renounce his right; and on the other, the favour and confirmation of the claim by the Pope.

For when Jupiter started thundering in the confines of the western ocean, the petty Western kings were frightened by the thunder and averted the stroke of the thunderbolt by sheltering from it in a peace.

Do you find this convincing? The double claim from olden times seems a bit of a stretch. It is true that many Irish kings submitted to Henry, and Pope Alexander III confirmed Henry’s position as Lord of Ireland. (As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, it would have been great if Henry II had properly followed up on this grant and exercised good lordship over Ireland – for starters, not outsourced it to the feckless John.)

The rest of the work follows the usual imperialist script of praise for the land coupled with the disparagement of the people who live there. For instance, “The land is fruitful and rich in its fertile soil and plentiful harvests. Crops abound in the field, flocks in the mountains, and wild animals in the woods” (2). The country “is well supplied with beautiful lakes, full of fish and very large” (4). And not only are there no venomous snakes in Ireland, there are no poisons at all! The land is so pure that poisonous reptiles brought to Ireland die instantly, and Irish boot thongs can be employed elsewhere as antidotes to poison (21-22, 24). The climate is the most temperate of all countries, and there is little need for doctors, given how healthy the air is (26). 

But the people! Some of them are good. There are a few saints, who perform miracles (61-62, 64-65, 68). The clergy are in many points praiseworthy (and should have more power than monks) (104, 106). They are excellent musicians (94), and can throw projectiles accurately (93). But one woman of Limerick had a beard and a mane down her back (53), and a man of Wicklow looked like a man, but had the extremities of an ox, i.e. hooves for hands and feet, and two holes directly on his face where his nose should be. He was likely the product of bestiality between a man and a cow, because in Glendalough another man-cow was born of a similar union (54). In Connacht, a woman entrusted with keeping one of the king’s prize goats ended up fornicating with it (56). Indeed, bestiality and incest are particular vices of the Irish. Furthermore:

• they are not carefully nursed after birth
• their clothes are made in a barbarous fashion
• they do not use saddles or spurs when riding horses
• they go naked and unarmed into battle
• they are a wild, inhospitable people, still mostly pastoralists
• they have no idea about city living
• they don’t realize the potential of their fields for crops
• they don’t mine any of the metals or minerals that abound in Ireland
• they don’t weave flax or wool, and in general do no work at all (93)
• they are ignorant of the rudiments of the faith (98)
• they don’t keep their word, and will physically attack you when they can (99, 101)
• great numbers of them are blind by birth, lame, maimed in body, or suffering some natural defect. This is what you can expect from a people “adulterous, incestuous, unlawfully conceived and born, outside the law, and shamefully abusing nature herself in spiteful and horrible practices” (109).

The only solution, therefore, is to colonize the place, to take advantage of its natural riches and to improve the habits of its benighted inhabitants.

Some of the students in HIS 323 noted the similarity in between this book and the rhetoric surrounding Manifest Destiny in nineteenth-century America, especially the notion that the natives don’t keep their word. I would say that the book not entirely useless as a source – the Irish pastoral lifestyle probably did strike the English as rough and backward, and I would not be surprised if the taboo against bestiality was weaker in Ireland than in England, i.e. it might not have been just something that Gerald made up. The Irish style of horseback riding is confirmed by the Statutes of Kilkenny, and the fact that Gerald is willing to give credit to the Irish for whatever good qualities they have makes his criticism of them somewhat believable.

However, you can tell he’s definitely accentuating the negative. Moreover, the legitimacy of English rule is an entirely separate question. Even if the Irish were as bad as Gerald says, the English could have done much better as rulers of the place than they actually did.

(Quotations from Gerald of Wales, The History and Topography of Ireland, trans. John J. O’Meara [Penguin, 1982])

1968

Yes, it’s by Pat Buchanan, and yes, it’s Vdare.com, but I found his personal reminiscence of serving as Nixon’s aide during the 1968 election campaign to be fascinating.

On the night of Jan. 31, 1968, as tens of thousands of Viet Cong guerrillas attacked the major cities of South Vietnam, in violation of a Lunar New Year truce, Richard Nixon was flying secretly to Boston. At 29, and Nixon’s longest-serving aide, I was with him. Advance man Nick Ruwe met us at Logan Airport and drove us to a motel in Nashua, New Hampshire, where Nixon had been preregistered as “Benjamin Chapman.” The next day, only hours before the deadline, Nixon filed in Concord to enter the state’s Republican primary, just six weeks away.

On Feb. 2, The New York Times story “Nixon Announces for Presidency” was dwarfed by a giant headline: Street Clashes Go On in Vietnam; Foe Still Holds Parts of Cities; Johnson Pledges Never to Yield.” Dominating the page was the photograph of a captured Viet Cong, hands tied, being executed on a Saigon street by South Vietnam’s national police chief, firing a bullet into his head from inches away. Eddie Adams’s photo would win the Pulitzer Prize.

America’s most divisive year since the Civil War had begun.

Read the whole thing.