Archive for the ‘History’ Category

An ironic motif

I was contemplating Lynnewood Hall’s progress into decay and noticed the hourglass in the sculptural design in the pediment:
I wish that architecturally significant buildings were not as much of an endangered species as they are in the US.

Lynnewood Hall was added to the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia’s 2003 list for most endangered historic properties and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. It is cited in Cheltenham Township’s Comprehensive Plan as one of the township’s cultural and historical resources, and in the township’s Open Space Plan as a priority for preservation, warranting a conservation easement.

A sister property, Whitemarsh Hall, the Edward T. Stotesbury mansion, in Wyndmoor, PA was demolished in 1980.  Another house, Ardrossan, has been made into a housing estate, while preserving the mansion.

While these are the size of wings of some European palaces, they are significant to US culture, but somehow that history has been made egalitarian. The homes of “robber barons” are not to be saved. This is unlike the European estates which are intended to last for the ages (whether they do is yet to be seen).

I have been told to read James T. Maher’s, The Twilight of Splendor for an explanation of why these estates have been ravaged by time.


See also: Horace Trumbauer.



Anybody notice a similarity between Military Historian Richard Holmes and Mr. Peabody?


Mr.-Peabody-Sherman-5 Richard-Holmes

It’s even more apparent if you see Holmes in person.

The Sources of US history

The United States, and the Western Hemisphere for that matter, did not spring up tabula rasa, but have roots in European History. In the Case of the United States and Canada, that history is closely tied to English, Scottish, and to some extent French History. The two strongest roots being English and Scottish in the US (Canada and Louisiana have closer ties to the French history). The problem is that Scottish history is pretty much neglected in the US, which is a shame.

Not that I wasn’t somewhat aware of Scottish contributions to North American History. My friend, Neil Oliver, forced this into my attention with his excellent works on Scottish history. What is really hammering the point home though is that I am reading Arthur Herman’s How the Scots Invented the Modern World. Herman’s book is an enjoyable read and a very edifying work on Scottish history from the Reformation forward. What I particularly like about it is how he links Scottish and World history, with an emphasis on North American.

Of course, there is a comment about John Witherspoon moving to New Jersey to take the job at Princeton that I found quite amusing:

Reading the handwriting on the wall, Witherspoon accepted an offer from the American Colonies he had declined befor: to become president of the College of New Jersey in Princeton. In that guise, he will reappear in the next chapter…But in 1768, his departure marked the final triumph of the Moderates and their vision for an enlightened Church of Scotland.

Of course, the Next chapter would be the American War for Independence and John Witherspoon was a fundamentalist of the extreme right wing variety who was highly influential in the Independence movement. Naturally, I thought that Scotland did not have much of a loss when it sent Witherspoon to the Colonies. That move was far more detrimental to North American politics in many different ways. Of course, Witherspoon, as were others in the North American Independence movement were far more influenced by Scottish than English history. One commentor has mentioned that the rebellious nature of US politics comes from the Scots, Scots/Irish, Irish, and Border Country than English politics. This would be because of the unsettled nature of those people during this period. After all, the last actual battles on British soil took place during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.

Whether I am totally in agreement with that last comment needs to be seen.

But, it stands for certain that many of the concepts that are present in US history have roots in the history of Britain, whether English or Scottish. In my opinion, Scottish history is far too neglected in the North American curriculum. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in this topic read the books below.

Neil Oliver, A History of Scotland
Arthur Herman, How the Scots Invented the Modern World

Was Anne of Cleves really a dog?

Nein, it iss zat Catherine Howard who iss a real bitch. Ach, you meant "dog" as ugly voman! HeHe!

One nice thing about the TV series the Tudors is that it takes me from my usual alternative history scenarios about North American history to thinking about British history.  In this case, Anne of Cleves, whom I think there is a lot of historical misinformation.  On the other hand, there were two dangerous things to be in Henry VIII’s England, one of his wives or one of his friends.  Being one of his friends was dangerous since he was like a mad dog, especially when crossed.

In the case of Henry VIII, believe it or not, he was an insane romantic.  Despite Charlie Brooker’s theories in How TV Ruined Your Life about TV lying to you about love, Old King Harry had his weird ideas that came from Romances.  In Anne’s case, he thought he would show up in disguise and she would immediately recognise him as her true love.  Instead she couldn’t figure out who the fuck this crazy Englander was and started ripping him a new arsehole auf Deutsch, which was a disappointment for Harry that I don’t think he got over.

The pairing may have cost the matchmaker his head (at least I think it does in the series).  Henry began to diss poor Annie in pretty much every way he could.  Eventually the marriage was annulled and she was called the King’s beloved sister.  Harry and Anne went on to have a platonic relationship.

Anyway, the upshot of this is that Anne was called all sorts of nasty things about her looks after Henry’s ill fated first meeting: such as calling her his “Flanders Mare”.  But other contemporary descriptions aren’t as nasty. Anne was described by the French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, as tall and slim, “of middling beauty, and of very assured and resolute countenance”. It is said that she was dark haired, with a rather swarthy complexion, appeared solemn by English standards, and looked old for her age.

I seriously doubt we are going to hear any English descriptions that will be too flattering of Anne’s beauty since Henry didn’t like to be contradicted, and was rather possessive of his women. It’s that homicidal jealous streak that cut down on Henry’s marriage prospects with most of the eligible European Noblewomen saying they would rather die than marry Henry knowing full well they would might get “the cut” if they did. Anyway, there are some speculations that Anne may have been attractive out there. In fact, I think one historian has posited that she may have been the most attractive of his wives.

One can only guess.

Henry should have listened to this advice:

Oh yeah, this was meant in the metaphorical sense of the term “dog” as ugly woman as opposed to be being some form of canid.

The Destruction of Blair Mountain

For some reason, US Citizens are more than willing to see their history being plowed over.  In the case of Blair Mountain, not only will a historic site be destroyed, so will an entire mountain.  Obviously, Blair Mountain is a mountain and its located in West Virginia.  More importantly, Blair Mountain was the site of the largest Civil rebellion since the Civil War when Miners and the Mine owners clashed in actual armed battle.  Between 10,000 and 15,000 coal miners confronted an army of police and strikebreakers backed by coal operators for five days in late August and early September 1921  The Battle ended only after approximately one million rounds were fired and the US Army intervened by presidential order.

The current “battle” is between Coal interests and those who would preserve this area.  The Battle of Blair Mountain site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 30, 2009.  Coal Interested contested the designation of the Blair Mountain site and the site was delisted.  Once again, the Big Coal interests demonstrate that they don’t care about the public.  In the comment letter submitted by battlefield archeologist Dr. Harvard Ayers dealt with the records of ownership of battlefield properties and included a legal opinion on title holders by John Kennedy Bailey, real estate attorney of Charleston. After extensive review of the tax, deed, and death records at the Logan County, West Virginia, courthouse, Ayers and Bailey concluded that five of the objectors of record submitted by Mr. Reid-Smith were not legitimate owners. Two were dead, two were Life Estates, and one had sold their property. Of the 10 of 57 properties that he researched in depth, he also discovered 13 additional owners not found by the cursory search of the West Virginia Attorney General’s office. The upshot of this research was that the count shifted to 25 objectors and 37 non-objectors, which would overturn any attempt to de-list the battlesite.

A petition from a long list of some of the nation’s most prominent scholars, historians and archaeologists–including the president of the Society for Historical Archaeology, the former president of the American Historical Society, officers of the Appalachian Studies Association–made a direct appeal to WV Gov. Joe Manchin:

“The Blair Mountain Battlefield is a unique historic and cultural treasure that deserves recognition and protection… No doubt much remains to be discovered, and scholars must be able to continue to study this important chapter in American history..We are concerned that the recent attempt to delist Blair Mountain from the National Register may be a first step toward strip-mining the mountain for coal production, which will destroy the historic site. The National Park Service found that the battlefield is both significant and intact, and we believe it must be preserved for future generations.”

In 2005, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts declared:

“The UMWA has always believed the Blair Mountain battle site should be preserved, and I began publicly calling for it back in the 1980’s. We believe a monument should be erected at the site explaining what happened there, and that the road running through the site should be renamed Blizzard Highway, in honor of Bill Blizzard, the miners’ leader at Blair Mountain. We support preserving the land immediately around the battle site, because we believe it’s important for future generations to stand on that ground, and understand the importance of what happened there. This is also a personal issue for me and thousands of others from coal mining families who have relatives and ancestors who fought at Blair Mountain. What they did is a source of pride and inspiration to our families, and helps give us the strength to carry on their fight for justice. We will never forget it, nor should America.”

Before the ink was dry on the National Registry, lawyers representing three out-of-state coal companies, including Massey Energy, somehow managed to round up new “objectors” to the Registry status, and asked the WV Division of Culture and History to issue a recount of the objectors vs. non-objectors. According to their own company report, “Jackson Kelly’s lawyers aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty…”  For those not in the know, Massey Energy Co.’s sprawling Upper Big Branch mine was the location where an underground explosion blamed on methane gas killed 25 coal miners in the worst U.S. mining disaster in more than two decades.

Anyway, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Class War is alive and kicking in the US, but the American public can be easily distracted with wedge issues. The Working class can be deluded into believing they are “middle class” and made to believe that their interests lie with the rich and powerful. It’s a shame that the struggles of the workers for their rights have not only been forgotten, but the worker’s rights have been successfully rolled back.

Blair Mountain should be preserved for both its historic significance and its being the last vestige of scenic beauty. The De-listing of the Blair Mountain Battlefield must be reversed!

Please write a letter asking that the Blair Mountain Battlefield site be relisted on the Historic Register using the model from the Friends of Blair Mountain Site and spread the word to your friends that they should ask that this site is relisted.

And sign the petition here

See also:

Neat Quote

Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.
James Madison

He also said
Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; have in general been as short in their lives as they are violent in their deaths.
Federalist #10

Posted 16/01/2010 by lacithedog in democracy, History, James Madison

More Boston Tea Party!

I found an article by Thom Hartmann called The Real Boston Tea Party was Against the Wal-Mart of the 1770s That pointed out:

The real Boston Tea Party was a protest against huge corporate tax cuts for the British East India Company (BEIC), the largest trans-national corporation then in existence. This corporate tax cut threatened to decimate small Colonial businesses by helping the BEIC pull a Wal-Mart against small entrepreneurial tea shops, and individuals began a revolt that kicked-off a series of events that ended in the creation of The United States of America.

It is a less humours version of what I reprinted in the Glenn Beck and the Ghost of the Boston Tea Party post.

You can read more of Thom’s article here or here

The revolutionaries had put the East India Company in its place with the Boston Tea Party, and that, they thought, was the end of that. Unfortunately, the Boston Tea Party was not the end; within 150 years, during the so-called Gilded Age, powerful rail, steel, and oil interests would rise up to begin a new form of oligarchy, capturing the newly-formed Republican Party in the 1880s, and have been working to establish a permanent wealthy and ruling class in this country ever since.