Time-Lapse… Frederick Douglass (1834) to Henry Garnett (1865)…

November 24, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

As I continue to slowly devour every word of the autobiography, “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass”, I was recently moved to as close to tears as I come as I pondered his retelling of the crushing hopelessness he felt after having been beaten to a whisper of death:

“I have often, in the deep stillness of a summer’s Sabbath, stood all alone upon the banks of that noble [Chesapeake] bay, and traced, with saddened heart and tearful eye, the countless number of sails moving off to the mighty ocean. The sight of these always affected me powerfully. My thoughts would compel utterance; and there, with no audience but the Almighty, I would pour out my soul’s complaint in my rude way with an apostrophe to the moving multitude of ships.”

‘You are loosed from your moorings, and free. I am fast in my chains, and am a slave! You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip. You are freedom’s swift-winged angels, that fly around the world; I am confined in bonds of iron. O, that I were free! O, that I were on one of your gallant decks, and under your protecting wing! Alas! betwixt me and you the turbid waters roll. Go on, go on; O, that I could also go! Could I but swim! If I could fly! O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute! The glad ship is gone: she hides in the dim distance. I am left in the hell of unending slavery. O, God, save me! God, deliver me! Let me be free!–Is there any God? Why am I a slave? I will run away. I will not stand it. Get caught or get clear, I’ll try it. I had as well die with ague as with fever. I have only one life to lose. I had as well be killed running as die standing. Only think of it: one hundred miles north, and I am free! Try it? Yes! God helping me, I will. It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave. I will take to the water. This very bay shall yet bear me into freedom. The steamboats steer in a northeast course from North Point; I will do the same; and when I get to the head of the bay, I will turn my canoe adrift, and walk straight through Delaware into Pennsylvania. When I get there, I shall not be required to have a pass: I will travel there without being disturbed. Let but the first opportunity offer, and come what will, I am off. Meanwhile I will try to bear the yoke. I am not the only slave in the world. Why should I fret? I can bear as much as any of them. Besides I am but a boy yet, and all boys are bound out to someone. It may be that my misery in slavery will only increase my happiness when I get free. There is a better day coming.’

I shall never be able to narrate half the mental experience through which it was my lot to pass, during my stay at Covey’s. I was completely wrecked, changed, and bewildered; goaded almost to madness at one time, and at another reconciling myself to my wretched condition.”

All bound by the common thread of having been given the breath of life by the same Creator, how could one “brother” treat a fellow sojourner with such abject cruelty? This goes beyond black and white as the relationship between slave an owner has played out similarly since the dawn of time, however, will it never end? Would ”The Almighty” hear his cry?

Fastforward approximately 30 years. Frederick Douglass is now free, residing in the North, and is living a life of gratitude expressed by his exhaustive efforts for the cause of abolition. Slaves are on the cusp of being emancipated, and for the first time in the history of the United States, a former slave of African descent, Rev. Henry Garnett, was permitted to preach (a common occurrence for whites) at The Capital. The article below regarding this event was printed in the New York Tribune, dated February 13, 1865. There would still be many obstacles to overcome before former slaves (or their descendants) would be viewed as “equal under the law”, and some might (rightfully) argue additional progress still needs to be made, but in this moment in time, with the Frederick Douglass quote fixed firmly in my mind and weighing heavy on my heart, I am grateful for the hope provided by the gains which have been made through time.

 

A “Thankful” Heart Is Great Medicine…

November 17, 2022 by · 2 Comments 

A wise man was once inspired to pen: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Solomon, Prov. 17:22). While many can attest to the wisdom and accuracy of this proverb, there is no doubt joy and gratitude are joined at the hip – or perhaps more appropriately said, at the heart. In this regard…

I have always been struck to the bone by reading about or seeing images of families, friends, and at times entire communities gathered together giving thanks to their Creator while enduring severe hardship. Many a President has issued Proclamations for a Day of Thanksgiving, Humiliation, and Prayer in the midst of war or soon after a severe calamity had befallen the nation. Yet, surrounded by what would appear to be great distress, somehow they were able to reach down into their innermost selves to find enough joy (not happiness or pleasure) to ignite thankful hearts. I don’t know about you, but such expressions of gratefulness are humbling, yet soothing to the soul.

The two rare Winslow Homer prints found side-by-side in the Frank Leslie’s Illustrated for Dec. 23, 1865 are shown below. In case their captions are too small to be easily read, they are: “Thanksgiving Day–Hanging Up the Musket” and “Thanksgiving Day–The Church Porch“. The Civil War had come to an end eight months prior and the guns of war (notice the dates) were being retired to their perches above the very place where Christmas stockings would soon be hung. What a relief to finally have the war at their backs! However, in case one might conclude its impact would soon dissolve into a distant memory, the corresponding illustration showing the gathering of the community for Thanksgiving worship reveals the fallout which would last a lifetime… for those who still had lifetimes to give. How they still found the strength to join together for the giving of thanks as a marvel.

That’s the kind of inner strength I want for my family and me. Perhaps you do as well. Perhaps it starts with regularly taking time to smell the roses while acknowledging the Source of the daily blessings which so often come our way. Happy Thanksgiving.

Note: JSTOR posted a related article featuring an excerpt by Christopher Kent Wilson which provides additional background regarding the Homer prints.

Separation of Church & State – Catholic concern in early 1800’s…

November 14, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

On April 23, 1804, The Order of Ursuline Nuns from New Orleans penned a letter to then President Thomas Jefferson. In their letter, they expressed concerns about their property being confiscated. The letter said in part: “they [those within the Order] cannot but be anxious to know that the property which is to enable them to fulfil these duties will be secure to them”.  Just seven months later, Jefferson replied with the following:

“To the Soeur Therese de St. Xavier farjon Superior, and the Nuns of the order of St. Ursula at New Orleans:

I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institution by the former governments of Louisiana. the principles of the constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority. whatever diversity of shade may appear in the religious opinions of our fellow citizens, the charitable objects of your institution cannot be indifferent to any; and its furtherance of the wholesome purposes of society, by training up its younger members in the way they should go, cannot fail to ensure it the patronage of the government it is under. be assured it will meet all the protection which my office can give it.

I salute you, holy sisters, with friendship & respect.

Th: Jefferson”

The POLITICAL OBSERVATORY, November 17, 1804, carried the entire letter with Jefferson’s signature.

Ironically, within the next 30 years, a very different story was recorded. The October 11, 1834, NILES’ WEEKLY REGISTER, had multiple pages of coverage of the August 11 and 12, 1834 Ursuline Convent riots in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Wiki states these riots were, “fueled by the rebirth of extreme anti-Catholic sentiment in antebellum New England.”

Perhaps the Nuns of 1804 had a prophetic gift enabling them to foresee troubles to come.

 

Veterans – War’s end is rarely met with the end to their battles…

November 10, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Once the battle is over and the smoke has cleared, the life of a veteran has not always been rosy and gay. Quality healthcare, needed family benefits, receipt of back pay, sufficient re-entry counselling, quality care for wounded warriors, ongoing honor for their service, etc. have often been less than desirable, and far below the need. This isn’t to say strides over time have not been made, but like many societal issues, much work still needs to be done.
One step in the right direction took place in 1942 and was reported in The New York Times for June 23rd. It told of FDR signing the G.I. Bill of Rights and was accompanied by a nice photo of the signing.

Thankfully, the trek did not end here and continues to this day. The following link will take you to a chronological journey through issues with content related to veterans (you may need to select the individual issue’s link to see/read the content):

Reports Related to Veterans

One small step backward for humanity(?)… One giant leap forward for A.I.!

June 20, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Dystopian movies featuring A.I. as the antagonist abound. The thought of a world in which a soulless “entity” is in the lead role with humanity at its behest is terrifying. How will the relationship between A.I. and humans play out over time is anyone’s guess, but with all the benefits artificial intelligence brings to the table, I feel a little like “a moth to a flame”, and it bugs me.

Why the angst? We recently came across a Los Angeles Times dated May 12, 1997, which had coverage of the historic(?) chess match between Gary Kasparov, the reigning world champion at the time, and “Deep Blue”, an IBM supercomputer. The strings of o’s and 1’s ruled the day, defeating Kasparov in the deciding game in 19 moves. I wonder if many moons from now, when/if A.I. decides to write its own developmental timeline, if this achievement will be listed as one of significance?Note: In case anyone is wondering, upon its victory, “Deep Blue” was NOT crowned the new World Champion of Chess.

Memorial Day – How many generations does it take to… (?)

May 27, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Generation 1 – The Call to Sacrifice

The oppressed are willing to sacrifice their very lives to throw off oppression – and many of them do, giving their last breath for the sake of their children and their children’s children.

Generation 2 – Picking Up the Pieces

Those recently freed from oppression begin to reap the rewards of their new freedom, but many scars remain – particularly those caused by the loss of loved ones.

Generation 3 – Enjoying Freedom’s Bounty

The sacrifices of the past are still discussed, but the wounds are largely well-healed, and the benefits born of the sacrifice of others is fully embraced.

 

[an unspecified number of generations – usually not many]

 

Generation End (Minus 2) – Freedom Is & Always Will Be

Freedom is so commonplace, it begins to be taken for granted. The oppression and sacrifices of the past are long forgotten.

Generation End (Minus 1) – Heads in The Sand

Freedom, is it really all that important? Comfort and ease is what we want. Sacrifice? For what! A blind eye is turned to the new oppressors at the gate.

Generation End – The Demise!

Where did our freedom go? Why are we being oppressed?? How did this happen???

 

Memory – it’s indispensable. A simple internet search for “lest we forget”, “those who fail to remember”, or similar will return a plethora of warnings about the consequences which go hand-in-hand with not remembering the lessons, sacrifices, blessings, etc. of the past.

As an example, it would be hard to argue that the Jews/Israelites, through time, have been one of the most oppressed people-groups on the planet – a chain of horror which began with their enslavement in Egypt. One would have thought their eventual “deliverance” by the hand of God would have set them up for eternity, yet, just a few generations after their new-found freedom was realized, they found themselves enslaved once again. Why? “The Israelites failed to remember the LORD their God who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side (Judges 8:34).”

While each generation needs to take personal responsibility for “remembering”, one cannot remember that which one never knew. Therefore, we, as the current generation, must take ownership of teaching ourselves, keeping what we learn in the forefront of our minds, and then teaching the next generation – lest they never know.  Will this take considerable effort? Sure, but the sacrifice of time and energy pales in comparison to the sacrifices of the past.

To this end, perhaps the following will be useful:

Previous Memorial Day Themed Posts

Memorial Day Themed Newspapers

PS  I am grateful for the men and women who have given their lives so my family, friends, and neighbors, whether we be politically or philosophically divergent or parallel, can enjoy the freedoms which fall under the umbrella of “inalienable Rights which are endowed to each one of us by our Creator”.

 

A woodcut masthead is worth a thousand words… Slavery…

May 16, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

A few weeks back my favorite person posted: Take a Closer Look … The Delicate Details of Woodcut Prints… 

Such prints are truly amazing. However, as is the case with (most?) works of art, to some degree they tell a story. One such story is that of “Slavery – The Cry for Emancipation”, as told through the masthead of The Liberator. While we have many historic newspapers containing articles chronicling the path from the horrors of slavery, through emancipation, then on to suffrage and beyond, few rival what is communicated through this most-amazing, intricate, illustration which was present at the top of nearly every issue. At a distance its beauty speaks to the eyes, but a close-up view shouts to the heart: ENOUGH!

See for yourself:

National Day of Prayer… Love our neighbors… Newspapers provide perspective…

May 5, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

As we reflect on the political, religious, racial, socio-economic, etc., etc., etc. diversity of the citizens of the United States on this National Day of Prayer, one cannot ignore what appears to be our ever-increasing polarization and wonder if our days are numbered. Is it possible to learn to appreciate our differences… to be kind… to play nice? When we were just sprouting, many of us were taught the Biblical mandate to love our neighbors – albeit a difficult task, at least we could wrap our minds around the concept.

However, Jesus, in His famous Sermon on The Mount, upgraded this calling to a height eclipsing human reason:

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”

Is this really possible? Can we actually learn to love those who violently oppose us – who would wish us harm? God tells us that with Him, ANYTHING is possible. He also provides considerable encouragement when He states: “You often do not have because you do not ask.”

Reading news from the day it was first reported through historical first-hand accounts as found in Rare & Early Newspapers provides incredible perspective. Our shared heritage was built upon diversity. Did we make mistakes, have passionate disagreements, and even come to the brink of our demise? Absolutely! However, through it all we managed to stay together – to be a melting pot unlike any the world had ever experienced. Was this… is this a God-thing? One thread woven throughout our history has been the calls by our leaders (Presidents, Governors, etc.) to seek God through prayer – often given as Proclamations for a Day of Thanksgiving, Humiliation, and Prayer. The truth is, prayer has been woven throughout the fabric of our nation from the start.

So, on this agreed upon, country-wide, National Day of Prayer…

Dear Lord,

We, as a nation, need Your help. Please give us the ability too see others through Your eyes and to love those with whom we fervently disagree. We understand the truth in President Lincoln’s words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We realize there are many from outside our borders who are actively fomenting such division, and rather than steeling ourselves against such attacks, we too often respond as mere pawns.  Help us to unite against such nefarious intentions. Help us to appreciate our common Source – that we are all made in Your image, our common citizenry, and the abundance of our shared experiences – birth, death, and a ton of joys and sorrows in between. Help us to play nicely with one another – to seek common ground whenever possible, and to agree to live peacefully with our differences. While humanly absurd, please give us Your strength to love one another. We grasp this is a You-size quest and therefore come to You with child-like humility – pleading for You to do that which we cannot do ourselves. We, as a nation, need Your help. Thanks in advance.

Amen

The following is a post from the past which, in my opinion, is worth a second look:

America – pulling a nation back together…

blog-11-14-2016-jfk-jr-photoMy Fellow Americans: Devastating hurricanes, Pearl Harbor, 9-11, the end of WWII, Lindbergh’s 1st flight across the Atlantic – while there is much that divides us, there have been times throughout our history when both triumphs and tragedies have inspired us to lay down our weapons and to unite as one. While these times of mutual good will are typically short-lived, they often act as a reset to help center us on that which binds us together. We need such a time!

It is was with the current atmosphere of angst as a backdrop that I was moved by an under-the-radar prayer found buried on page 11 of an issue reporting the assassination of President JFK. His death, airmailed via television directly into the living room of nearly every home in America, brought together Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike and unified us around shared grief.  May a day come when such unity of spirit flourishes without the inspiration of deep sorrow, tragedy, or war. As another assassinated President once said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand (Abraham Lincoln).” It is time for us to lay down our weapons. Much is at stake.blog-11-14-2016-prayer-jfk

Snapshot 1844 – Voter Fraud… “death by a thousand cuts…”

April 8, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Political scientist Robert Dahl defines a free and fair election as one in which “coercion” is comparatively uncommon.

Did voter fraud occur in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election? Of course. To think otherwise would be naive. Some degree of fraud has likely occurred in most, if not all elections which involve an imperfect people. This may seem a bit jaded, but I’m actually encouraged by the degree to which most elections in America have been “free and fair”. Still, complaints regarding election fraud have been documented throughout our history. True? In some cases, yes. Enough to impact the final outcome? It’s hard to know.

One such cry came from Louisiana in 1844, and was recorded in the National Intelligencer dated Nov. 30, 1844 (originally printed in the New Orleans Bee). Truth be told, fraud cannot be stopped. However, for the sake of the confidence of the electorate (i.e., to preserve a free and fair election), every intention must be made to keep it to a minimum – while not inhibiting citizens from voting. Balancing both is no small task – but is worth our ongoing effort.

 

Insight into the mind of Tesla…

April 4, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

I am always dumfounded by the breadth of brilliance some well-known inventors of the past possessed.  Leonardo da Vinci, who is credited with the invention of the parachute, the barreled cannon, the Helical aerial screw, the winged flying machine, diving equipment & the self-propelled cart, also painted the Mona Lisa.  How can one not stand in awe? Let’s face it, inventors are often trend setters who give the world around them inspiration as well as practical solutions for common problems.

On Oct. 14, 1893, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN featured an article by Nikola Tesla which caught my attention.  We think of Tesla as one of the 2-3 most famous “explorers” who contributed to our current-day electrically powered world.  However, in this article, he is using his study of the eye to further his insight into electrical currents.  Below is a fitting quote from the article by this genius from the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

“The day when we shall know what ‘electricity’ is, will chronicle an event probably greater and more important than any other in the history of the human race.” Much ground has been covered in this regard since he made this statement, but most would agree we have yet to arrive.

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