Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Marie-Antoinette in a Straw Hat

Here is a portrait of Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France, by Joseph Ducreux, now at the Royal Palace Museum of Turin. I am guessing it was a gift for the Queen's sister-in-law Clotilde of France, Queen of Sardinia and Piedmont.


Paris Diary

 From The European Conservative:

Under Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo and her Red-Green coalition, saving the environment has meant uprooting trees on Place de la Contrescarpe; cutting down a sprawling wisteria that shaded the diners at Chez Plumeau on Place du Calvaire in Montmartre (and before them, in the 19th century, the guests at the modest Auberge Coucou, in the days of Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso). It has also meant destroying countless city parks, some designed under Napoléon III, by refusing to water them; and forbidding weeding on the wastelands thus created.

The mayor—a crafty machine politician (a possible presidential candidate next year with barely a chance of even making it to the second round), and a one-time close protégée of François Hollande—was re-elected by 17% of registered voters last year against a split opposition during the COVID crisis. She can only stay in power if her Green allies are allowed to wage their ideological war on bourgeois beauty under the sadly familiar newspeak of ‘inclusiveness,’ ‘climate-friendly policies,’ ‘direct democracy,’ and other weasel words. She has embraced it all to burnish an image of Green champion that plays well in The New York Times and The Guardian (whose correspondents she always has time for).

 This enables media coverage to ignore the downside of such horrors as the Jeff Koons installation of ‘tulips’ near the Grand Palais (a monumental bouquet of multicoloured plastic-tinted aluminium flowers held tight by a somewhat obscene pink fist) or the destruction of the elegant Lalique crystal fountains of the Place Marcel Dassault at the intersection of Avenue Montaigne and Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The fountains, which were wilfully allowed to break down over recent years, were once surrounded by some of the most beautiful flowerbeds in the world (they were the labour of love of the Gaullist councillor Françoise de Panafieu, appointed by Jacques Chirac and his successor Jean Tibéri). But they were placed by a €6.3 million abomination of steel tubes that look like 13-metre-tall, Swarovski crystals-encrusted leaking pipes, pointlessly revolving over a spare expanse of sad, sad grass. (Read more.)


Five Legendary Lost Cities

 From Ancient Origins:

In 1906, the Royal Geographical Society, a British organization that sponsors scientific expeditions, invited Fawcett to survey part of the frontier between Brazil and Bolivia.  He spent 18 months in the Mato Grosso area and it was during his various expeditions that Fawcett became obsessed with the idea of lost civilizations in this area. In 1920, Fawcett came across a document in the National Library of Rio De Janeiro called Manuscript 512.  It was written by a Portuguese explorer in 1753, who claimed to have found a walled city deep in the Mato Grosso region of the Amazon rainforest, reminiscent of ancient Greece.  The manuscript described a lost, silver laden city with multi-storied buildings, soaring stone arches, wide streets leading down towards a lake on which the explorer had seen two white Indians in a canoe.  Fawcett called this the Lost City of Z.

In 1921, Fawcett set out on his first of many expeditions to find the Lost City of Z, but his team were frequently hindered by the hardships of the jungle, dangerous animals, and rampant diseases.  Percy’s final search for Z culminated in his complete disappearance.  In April 1925, he attempted one last time to find Z, this time better equipped and better financed by newspapers and societies including the Royal Geographic Society and the Rockefellers.  In his final letter home, sent back via a team member, Fawcett sent a message to his wife Nina and proclaimed “We hope to get through this region in a few days.... You need have no fear of any failure.”  It was to be the last anyone would ever hear from them again. (Read more.)

On Atlantis, also from Ancient Origins:

The recent study not only decisively placed Atlantis in the Mediterranean Sea, but, it concluded with the discovery and identification of a submerged prehistoric island that in every way matches Plato's Atlantis. While in the past finding Atlantis was thought to be more difficult than winning the lottery, now there is a tangible site where all the physical characteristics of the given description match. The topography, the given chronology, the volcanic geology, the flora and fauna in that period, the island's destruction by a great flood, the presence of an unknown prehistoric civilization in the area, and DNA evidence all point to a genuine discovery.

More specifically, the study shows that around 9600 BC, when according to Plato Atlantis was above water, the modern Cyclades Islands were connected by the Cyclades Plateau, a flat terrain (now 400 feet below sea level,) that formed the body of a huge island. When this prehistoric island is compared to Plato's Atlantis, it immediately becomes evident that this must have been the land Plato was talking about. Its northern region was comprised of mountains that reached the shores. Below the mountainous region there was an oblong valley measuring 555 Km 2. Below the oblong valley there was a smaller valley, 2/3 the size of the oblong valley that measured 370 Km 2. This was the primary island. Nine kilometers away from the primary island, and precisely as Plato depicted, lies the island of Santorini, a circular island with a flooded core and a small island in its center (Santorini, an island within an island setting, a sea volcano with a collapsed center, prior to the volcanic eruption of 1600 BC had a single opening on its outer ring that allowed ships to enter its watery caldera). (Read more.)


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

A Brief History of Depression Glass

 From Apartment Therapy:

As the pandemic taught many people firsthand, little inexpensive indulgences can help to keep morale up, and that’s exactly the role Depression Glass played almost a century ago. Pieces came in a riot of hues, including pink, amber, jadeite (Martha Stewart’s favorite), royal ruby, and even uranium green. Color not only disguised the lesser quality of the glass, but it also provided a little bit of extra cheer. “Color was very important in Depression Glass because those were such dark days,” Dixie Davis, the president of the Arizona Depression Glass Club, told The Arizona Republic in 1986. “L.E. Smith made black glass. But my mother never let dark colors in our house. She thought color perked us up.”

Colored dishware may have also helped to make plain, meager meals look more appetizing. With economic strife often comes lackluster dishes, but even beans and bread looked almost restaurant-worthy on pink glass plates. “In the present era, with glass so pronounced a vogue, it is not difficult for the homemaker to have the dining table as refreshing in appearance as in substance,” the Lincoln Journal Star reported in 1931. “Color of glass serving dishes can lend zest to otherwise plain viands and aid in making them appeal to the appetite.” (Read more.)



The Smug Self-satisfaction of the Met Gala

 From The Spectator:

The point of the event, where tickets sell for a suitably jaw-dropping $30,000, is nominally to raise money for selected good causes, and to mark the opening of the museum’s major costume exhibition. Yet every year, the invited celebrities become more absurd, and their outfits more demonstrative and performative. It’s less cutting-edge fashion than a desperate exercise in one-upmanship, as has-beens, never-beens and genuine stars jostle alongside each other, all seeking to attract the greatest attention on the red carpet.

Sartorial faux pas can be excused, on the grounds that few of the guests are seeking to keep a low profile. Credit must therefore go to the actor Adrien Brody, whose classic tuxedo ensemble stood out as remarkable because it was simply a well-tailored, well-cut suit, rather than a childish exercise in ostentation. But if you wanted the latter, there was plenty on display. The perpetually sulky-looking Cara Delevingne wore an outfit saying ‘Peg The Patriarchy’, and commented that it was about ‘sticking it to the man’.

This is the same Cara Delevingne, I presume, whose father Charles is a multimillionaire property developer; whose great-grandfather Hamar Greenwood, Viscount Greenwood, sent the Black and Tans into Ireland; and whose maternal grandfather is English Heritage chairman Sir Jocelyn Stevens. That is an awful lot of patriarchy in one family, and an awful lot of sticking it to the man. I fear for Ms Delevingne’s stamina, but bottoms up.

And so it continues. Much of the absurdity of the Met Gala lies in the disparity between celebrity perceptions of themselves and banal reality. Witness, for instance, Kim Kardashian spending an eternity having make-up painstakingly applied, only to take to the red carpet with a fetish mask over her face. (Read more.)


The Ceremonial Centre of the Nazca

 From Heritage Daily:

Cahuachi is a large ceremonial complex built by the Nazca, located in the basin of the Rio Grande in the Central Andes of Peru. The Nazca emerged as a distinct archaeological culture around 100 BC from the preceding Paracas culture, having settled in the valley of the Rio Grande de Nazca drainage, and the Ica Valley. The culture is characterised by its pre-fire slip polychrome pottery, that demonstrates a shift from the Paracas post-fire resin method. The Nazca are most widely known today for the Nazca lines, a series of giant linear features and geoglyphs, and the construction of large underground aqueducts called “puquios” to provide water in the arid environment. (Read more.)


Monday, September 20, 2021

Marie-Antoinette's Bracelets

From Daiji World:

A set of 112 diamonds, originally belonging to Queen Marie-Antoinette of France (1755-1793), will go under the hammer on November 9. Presented in their current form, the 112 diamonds are set as a historic pair of bracelets, estimated to sell for between as massive $2,000,000-4,000,000 or Rs 14.7-29.4 crores. They will be auctioned under the live Magnificent Jewels Auction in Geneva by the auction house Christie's.

In 1776, Marie Antoinette had been Queen of France for two years and was already recognised as the queen of elegance and style. According to the auction house, the same year she bought these two diamond bracelets for 250,000 livres, a huge sum at the time.

According to Count Mercy-Argenteau, Austria's Ambassador to France, they were paid partly in gemstones from the Queen's collection and partly with funds the Queen received from King Louis XVI, says Christie's. The Ambassador later took office in Brussels and in January 1791, received a letter from Queen Marie-Antoinette, then a prisoner in the Tuileries in Paris, after the French Revolution overthrew the monarchy.

"It announced that a wooden chest would be sent to him for safekeeping. Mercy-Argenteau stored it unopened for the next couple of years. In October 1793, Marie Antoinette was guillotined and in February next year, Emperor Francis II of Austria ordered the chest to be opened in Brussels and an inventory to be made."

"It read as ‘Item no. 6 – A pair of bracelets where three diamonds, with the biggest set in the middle, form two barrettes; the two barrettes serve as clasps, each comprising four diamonds and 96 collet-set diamonds'. Madame Royale, the surviving daughter of the late queen, received these jewels in January 1796 upon her arrival in Austria," said the auction house.

In a 1816 portrait, Madame Royale is wearing a pair of diamond bracelets consistent with the Brussels inventory. Madame Royale died childless on in 1851. Her will stated that the entirety of her jewellery collection – including Marie Antoinette's jewels – was to be divided among her three nieces and nephews. (Read more.)


More HERE.

Madame Royale in 1816



 From Crisis:

Confucianism clearly is not a religion; it is but a dedication to the sayings of a wise man, a wisdom rooted primarily in natural law. And yet, it was perceived as a threat by the Red Guard, who saw all culture as a threat to the new culture, that is, the teachings of Chairman Mao. They desecrated the tomb of Confucius and burned his books. And now, with its Confucius Institutes creeping into all the right places, the Chinese Communist Party would have us believe that they seek only a renewal of Chinese culture. But the world’s greatest purveyors of monoculture are less than convincing.

The first dictionary definition of monoculture is that of the cultivation of a single crop on a farm or in a region or country, and the second is that of a single, homogeneous culture without diversity or dissension. In regard to the second, one is soon led to admit the absolute brilliance of the demonic, for only they would or could lead an assault on diversity in the name of diversity. 

Everywhere we turn we see this phenomenon at work. Women weightlifters make the roster of weightlifters more diverse, while laying waste to the natural diversity of maleness and femaleness. Extreme exercise makes men more virile, while the same makes women stop ovulating and lays waste to that lovely subcutaneous fat layer that softens their curves. Simply put, extreme exercise makes women more virile. How is that more diverse? (Read more.)


Timothy Matlack, Scribe of the Declaration of Independence

From Journal of the American Revolution:

On October 25, 1774, the First Continental Congress resolved to send a formal address to the king asking for his royal attention to “the grievances that alarm and distress his Majesty’s faithful subjects in North America.”[8] Secretary Charles Thomson assigned the urgent task of engrossing two copies of the address to Timothy Matlack. Matlack had these ready to sign the next day, the last day of Congress. In January 1775, the first copy was laid before the House of Commons and the second copy laid before the House of Lords. Both were promptly ignored.

The Second Continental Congress convened on May 10, 1775, and five days later Samuel Ward of Rhode Island noted, “The Secretary allowed to employ Timothy Matlack as clerk under an oath of secrecy.”[9] On June 15, Congress appointed George Washington to be general and commander-in-chief of the army of the United Colonies, and Matlack penned the formal commission. Besides being busy in Congress, Matlack was also a rising local leader: that summer, he was elected to Philadelphia’s powerful committee of inspection. This was one of the bodies that formed across the colonies, by order of the first Congress, to enforce the boycott of British goods. Matlack was also named secretary of the committee of militia officers.

In December 1775, Congress took steps to build a naval fleet for “the Defence of America.” The marine committee’s secretary, the ubiquitous Timothy Matlack, worked on specifications for a fleet of gunships. He was also employed by the committee of claims. On January 20, 1776, the member from New Jersey, Richard Smith, noted that, “Some Powder was ordered for the Companies of Maxwell’s who are ready to march to Canada and Tim. Matlack was directed to furnish them with Ball and Flints. Tim is a Commissary and Clerk in Chief to our Committee of Claims.”[10] Smith was amazed that “this person who is said was once a Quaker Preacher and is now Col. of the Battalion of Rifle Rangers at Philadelphia.” (Matlack was not a preacher, of course, but just a member of the Society of Friends.) Early that month the city had added two more battalions to its militia brigade for a total of five. Matlack had been elected colonel of the fifth battalion of riflemen. A year later, he and his men would find themselves facing British regulars on a frozen battlefield.

Also in January 1776, Matlack was named an officer of Philadelphia’s committee of inspection. His promotion came at a critical moment. By now, some in Congress thought autonomy was inevitable. The next step, they realized, was an assertion of separation from Great Britain. Thomas Paine’s widely disseminated pamphlet Common Sense shifted a large swath of the population in the same direction. But a unanimous declaration of independence by Congress would require striking the Pennsylvania Assembly’s instructions to its delegation to “utterly reject” any such proposal. Defying heavy pressure, Assembly leader John Dickinson said he had no intention of removing his prohibition. Yet Matlack’s committee of inspection was gaining power by force of the militia and the people at large. In late February, his board announced a convention that would authorize new Assembly seats and write new instructions. Philadelphia’s elite was shocked by this volley. Joseph Shippen complained:“Tim Matlack and a number of other violent wrongheaded people of the inferior class have been the Chief Promoters of this wild Scheme; and it was opposed by the few Gentlemen belonging to the Committee—but they were outvoted by a great majority.”[11] (Read more.)


Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Old Rectory, East Woodhay

 From Country Life:

The Old Rectory in East Woodhay lies on the upper slopes of a hill with a lovely open view over a small valley, with copses and meadows to the north-west. It was built on the site of an earlier and rather handsome gabled parsonage that, in 1828, was deemed beyond repair and swiftly pulled down to make way for a smart new rectory designed by the Mayfair architect Henry Harrison (about 1785–1865) in a Regency Gothic style.

It is not clear when the walled garden was built, but it slopes towards the south-west and catches the warmth of the sun within its fine, knapped-flint walls. A perfectly sited bench invites one to sit, inhaling the scent of Rosa ‘Cécile Brünner’ planted as a climber, with ‘Generous Gardener’ on the wall behind. Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and ‘William Shakespeare’ thrive in the generous beds opposite. (Read more.)


Time to Make Reparation if You Voted for Biden

God is not mocked. From Crisis:

Biden lurched leftward throughout 2019 and 2020 to the point that, by November 2020, a pro-life Catholic could not in good conscience justify voting for him. Sure, such a pro-life Catholic might not like Donald Trump and couldn’t muster the will to pull the lever for him either. But if the pro-life issue mattered to you and was genuinely the non-negotiable, top-priority issue that it should be for a faithful Catholic, then you could not defend casting a ballot for Biden. What he was intending to do for abortion, and the positions he had already adopted, was too much—morally unacceptable. Thereafter, you could hope and pray that as president he wouldn’t be as awful as his statements suggested.

Well, since placing his hand on that Bible and swearing the oath of office on January 20, 2021, Biden has been that awful and worse. And last week, he staked an especially egregious stance for a Catholic, least of all for the Catholic leader of the free world. To repeat: the “whole of government.” Wow.

We know where this leaves Joe Biden. It leaves him in a dark place. But where does it leave those pro-life Catholics (as well as committed pro-life Protestants) who voted for him?

It leaves them with a serious responsibility. They need to make reparation for their vote that made possible Biden’s reprehensible positions on abortion. They cannot blithely sit back making excuses for what he’s doing, shrug, or say that at least Biden doesn’t send out mean Tweets like Trump did. They need to call the White House, write letters, contact Congress, go to social media, and simply do something. They need to help ameliorate a situation they helped make possible.

Do I think they’ll do this? No, I don’t. I say that, regrettably, from experience. I’ve advised this same response for decades to pro-life Catholic Democrats who reflexively voted for pro-choice Democrats strictly because they had a “D” in front of their party affiliation. I’ve seen it again and again, from Catholic grandmas to Catholic union workers. They were pro-life on Sunday, but voted for the pro-choicer on Tuesday. 

I had many a conversation pleading with them to use their voice to keep their beloved Democratic Party from shifting further to the extreme. They typically gave me a blank stare or barked something about “rich” Republicans. As they did, their party moved to a point where you can count on one hand the number of pro-life Democrats in Congress. They aided and abetted that.  (Read more.)

From Live Action:

San Francisco’s Catholic Archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, penned an op-ed in the Washington Post this past week in which he decried the Catholic response to Texas’ new heartbeat law, going so far as to suggest that prominent Catholics who publicly support the slaughter of the preborn should be threatened with excommunication.

In his editorial, the Archbishop, who serves as the bishop for pro-abortion House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, expressed dismay that so many of the most outspoken abortion supporters also call themselves Catholic. “As a faith leader in the Catholic community, I find it especially disturbing that so many of the politicians on the wrong side of the preeminent human rights issue of our time are self-professed Catholics,” he wrote.

He also mentioned the summer’s earlier uproar, in which many people expressed outrage at the idea that pro-abortion politicians should be denied communion. “We were accused of inappropriately injecting religion into politics, of butting in where we didn’t belong,” he said. “I see matters differently.”

Archbishop Cordileone went on to liken today’s fight against abortion to the fight against racism decades ago, calling to mind the actions of New Orleans Archbishop Joseph Rummel, who worked tirelessly to resist racism and segregation within his churches and community despite backlash from many pro-segregation white Catholics. While Rummel urged those Catholics to put aside their racist views, he also used his leadership role to ultimately threaten excommunication to those who persisted in clear opposition to anti-racist Church teaching.

READ: Rasmussen poll: More Americans support Texas Heartbeat Act than oppose it

“Was that wrong? Was that weaponizing the Eucharist?” writes Cordileone. “No. Rummel recognized that prominent, high-profile public advocacy for racism was scandalous: It violated core Catholic teachings and basic principles of justice, and also led others to sin.”

Archbishop Cordileone believes that the approach to the fight against abortion should be similar to the one Rummel used:

In our own time, what could be a more egregious ‘denial of the unity and solidarity of the human race’ than abortion? Abortion kills a unique, irreplaceable human being growing in his or her mother’s womb. Everyone who advocates for abortion, in public or private life, who funds it or who presents it as a legitimate choice participates in a great moral evil.

Since the Roe decision, more than 60 million lives have been lost to abortion. Many millions more have been scarred by this experience, wounded victims whom society ignores.

Abortion is therefore the most pressing human rights challenge of our time. Can we pastors speak softly when the blood of 60 million innocent American children cries out for justice? When their mothers are condemned to silence, secretly suffering the injuries of the culture of ‘choice’?

Cordileone says that the appropriate response to the scourge of abortion is to support mothers and children in crisis, not to encourage them to abort. “The answer to crisis pregnancies is not violence, but love, for both mother and child,” he wrote. “This is hardly inappropriate for a pastor to say. If anything, Catholic political leaders’ response to the situation in Texas highlights the need for us to say it all the louder.” (Read more.)


From Catholic Culture:

To say that the Church teaches when human life begins is to allow the possibility that someone outside the Catholic communion—someone who does not feel himself bound by the authority of the magisterium—could disagree. It is a suggestion that this is religious belief, a sectarian position that other reasonable people might not embrace.

And that, of course, is precisely what pro-abortion apologists want people to believe: that opposition to abortion is based solely on a religious belief. That non-Catholics might allow the killing of unborn humans, just as non-Hindus might slaughter cows, with a clear conscience. If you can persuade enough people that an unborn human life is somehow not a human life, then you may be able to sidestep the condemnation that the Catholic Church—and every other moral authority—attaches to the deliberate killing of innocent human beings.

Forty-eight years and 62 million deaths after Roe v. Wade, Catholic prelates should know enough to avoid obvious rhetorical pitfalls—to give pro-abortion politicians the help they need to keep a spurious argument in circulation.

When President Biden said that he doesn’t agree with people who “think” that human life begins at conception, he exposed the weak flank of his position. (He also exposed the malleability of his principles, since a decade ago he told the world that he did accept that fact.) Anyone moderately familiar with the terms of this debate should pounce.

Let’s focus the debate on that moment of conception. Ask the scientists, ask the doctors to explain what this thing is, growing in a woman’s womb. Is it alive? Absolutely. What kind of life is it, then? Trust the science, President Biden. Trust the science, Cardinal Gregory. (Read more.)


The Numerical Strength at Valley Forge

 From Journal of the American Revolution:

To come to an understanding of how many men actually arrived at Valley Forge on December 19, 1777, we need to look back to December 3, 1777, when the previous monthly strength report was competed for the army. For this analysis all fifteen present-for-duty columns for officers and men were combined with “sick present” men and “on command” men to assess the bulk of the soldiers that comprised the main army. This gives 22,824 men in seventeen infantry brigades, five independent regiments, and the Pennsylvania and Maryland militia.[11] The December 3 strength report does not include Daniel Morgan’s independent corps, the four regiments of light dragoons, or any of the army’s artillery.

The light dragoons are included on the December 31 return with 497 men at Valley Forge which suffices as their strength four weeks earlier.[12] After casualties at Saratoga and the long march south to rejoin Washington’s army, Daniel Morgan joined the main army with 300 men, a conservative estimate. A December 22 artillery return located in the Timothy Pickering papers lists 754 men present.[13] Therefore, 760 is a reasonable representation of their strength at the beginning of the month. When these units missing from the December 3 strength report are added to the 22,824 men delineated on the report, the army had approximately 24,381 in its camps at Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, on December 3, 1777. If we accept the “traditional” number of 11,000 troops marching into Valley Forge, what happened to 13,000 men of Washington’s army over those sixteen days? Maybe nothing.

Certainly, casualties were inflicted on the army at Whitemarsh, Matson’s Ford, and other minor skirmishes over that time span. But those casualties only totaled approximately 300 men in these relatively minor actions.[14] That brings army strength down to 24,081 prior to December 19. Do we really believe over 13,000 men simply deserted or vanished in sixteen days?

Only a few 1777 weekly reports compiled for the Continental army remain in existence today; fortunately, the December 22 report—the first and closest one for determining the number of troops that entered Valley Forge—is among those few.[15] Much like the routine monthly army returns, the template of columns and rows on the December 22 weekly report consists of twenty-one columns where numerical strength was tabulated: fourteen columns within an “Officers Present” section, a Rank & File section subdivided into six columns of present and absent categories, culminating into an aggregated “Total” for only these foot soldiers. The present-for-duty numbers do not include other men present in camp: those listed as “sick present” and “unfit for duty wanting shoes.” Both must be included in the army’s total presence during an encampment. There is also no accounting of sick officers that were present with the army when it marched into Valley Forge. Lastly the December 22 report enumerated infantry only; there is no accounting of artillery or cavalry personnel—numbers that would significantly add to the army’s strength.

Of special importance is the “On Command” column of all weekly and monthly reports which tallies soldiers detached from their respective regiments and brigades for temporary service where additional manpower was required. Examples of this include assistance to the commissary and quartermaster departments, additional servants for officers, or household duties such as butchers or bakers. The calculation of fifty-eight percent of the “on command” force as readily available in an emergency was formulated in May, highlighting that most of these special-duty assignments were conducted within camp boundaries.[16] A much higher percentage of soldiers in the “On Command” column in the December 22 report at least marched into camp with the army before being dispersed to their respective duties. Given that the two brigades under Lord Stirling were not included in this column, it can be assumed that from the remaining thirteen brigades (approximately eighty-five percent) nearly all the reported “On Command” soldiers entered Valley Forge on December 19.

The weekly strength report for December 22, 1777 enumerates 11,026 officers and men present for duty at Valley Forge just three days after their arrival.[17] While this number approaches the “traditional” 11,000 men that entered Valley Forge, a close analysis of that number quickly sends up red flags for the careful researcher. This report was never cited in any nineteenth, twentieth or twenty-first century literature; the rounded “11,000” officers and men initially tallied in this report is purely coincidental to the 11,098 privates determined from Washington’s letter to Congress. (Read more.)


Saturday, September 18, 2021

Ancient Sculpture at Wilton House

From Apollo Magazine:

 The Earl of Pembroke turned to large-scale collecting relatively late in life, after a political career which straddled the 1688 revolution and saw him serving as Lord High Admiral and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He already had a reputation for the scale and quality of his coin collection, but after his retirement from public life, perhaps not long before 1720, he started to accumulate sculptures for Wilton House. There appear to have been regular new arrivals at Wilton over the next 10 years. Later sources, drawing on the earl’s own account, give the impression of a lucid collecting strategy based on rational criteria: only curiosities illustrative of history and literature; no duplicates, except for classical gods shown with differing iconographies or funerary altars and urns providing specific historical information; nothing except token examples from Egypt, Etruria, or south Italy; and as far as possible only works of the ‘best Ages’ (chiefly Greece in the fifth and fourth centuries BC, presumably). (Read more.)


Roe Will Go

 From First Things:

Let me offer a prediction, free of any face-saving hedge: Next year, the Supreme Court will hold that there is no constitutional right to elective abortions. In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case pending before the court, it will return the issue to the states for the first time in forty-nine years. It will do so explicitly, calling out by name, and reversing in full, the two major cases that confected and then entrenched a constitutional right to elective abortion: Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). And the vote will be six to three.

Why do I think so? I have no inside information. I know most of the Justices, but I would never ask what they intend to do in a case, and I’m sure none would tell me if I did. But it’s widely thought, and I myself believe, that six of the Justices believe Roe and Casey to be grossly unfaithful to the Constitution and unjust. None will want to entrench those precedents. The question observers debate is whether some of the six might prefer merely to chip away at those precedents. The reasons for this gradualist approach would be to avoid making the Court seem politically motivated and to avoid drawing the Court further into political fights (by, for example, empowering a push for court-packing).

Never mind that Dobbs may be the best chance the Court ever gets to fully reverse Roe and Casey. Forget, too, that it took decades to get a Court like this, years for a case this clean to work its way up the legal system, and nine months for the Court to decide to take it. Apart from all that, a halfway ruling in Dobbs—one that upholds Mississippi’s law but stops short of overruling Roe and Casey—would not avoid politicization. Indeed, it would backfire spectacularly. And it would not be worth the costs. All this follows from four points that are clear to anyone who has spent time with this case and with the broader issue of abortion’s legal status. Hence my prediction.

First: If “politicization” means making the Court seem driven by politics rather than law, Roe and Casey are the ultimate causes of politicization. And having this Court stick by those precedents (when, as seen below, they are squarely at issue) would only heighten the impression that the Court is doing politics, not law. For the public knows that the Court is majority originalist and that originalism cannot be squared with Roe and Casey. So if the Court maintained those precedents against a head-on challenge, no one in the nation would doubt that it had done so for fear of the political fallout. And this signal that the Court is susceptible to political blackmail would only deepen the problem.

Second: Though other cases might have left room to uphold an abortion regulation without fully overruling Roe and Casey or resorting to made-up rationales, this case does not. Any such ruling would have to rest on reasoning that was groundless, vague, or entrenching of some sort of abortion right. It would either exacerbate the Court’s reputation for politicized decision-making, multiply its forays into the political warzone, or extend the damage done to our legal and political order by Roe and Casey’s survival.

Third: Developments this summer make it clear that a failure to overturn Roe and Casey outright would do more than increase those precedents’ immediate harms. It would shatter the conservative legal movement. Scores of filings in Dobbs suggest that the conservative legal movement now sees this case as the ultimate test of this Court’s position on reversing Roe, which is in turn the ultimate test of the Court’s commitment to constitutionalism. Anything less than reversal of Roe would be a wholesale defeat for the conservative legal movement. It would put wind into the sails of critics who have in recent years claimed that the conservative legal establishment is faking a commitment to restoring the courts to principled constitutional reasoning, and is really only interested in securing judgeships for its cronies. (Read more.)


George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring

 From Journal of the American Revolution:

Historians have long been fascinated by the intelligence efforts undertaken by enthusiastic amateurs. In more than a dozen books, researchers have tried to sort out who was involved and exactly what their roles were. The biggest mystery was the identity of Culper Junior, the chief spy in Manhattan in the later years of the war. Most of the spy ring operatives identified themselves or were identified after the war, but not Culper Junior. So when Long Island historian Morton Pennypacker revealed him to have been Robert Townsend of Oyster Bay in 1930 and then proved it with document analysis nine years later, it generated considerable attention.

Interest in the Patriots’ intelligence network soared when the AMC television series Turn: Washingtons Spies aired for four seasons between 2014 and 2017. Unfortunately, it took great liberties with the facts. These included having the ring created in 1776 rather than two years later, depicting Setauket as a neighborhood of stately stone homes rather than wooden structures, having the hamlet occupied by regular army redcoats rather than Loyalist troops, portraying Abraham Woodhull’s minister father as a Tory socializing with the occupiers rather than showing the reality of him being a Patriot sympathizer badly beaten by soldiers trying to find and arrest his son and, most ludicrously, having Woodhull and the happily married and older Anna Strong engage in a secret affair. But the series did get people reading and talking about espionage during the war. (Read more.)


Friday, September 17, 2021

Wallpaper Murals

 From BHG:

Wallpaper is a striking way to introduce color and pattern to your home, but the latest trend in wallcoverings goes even bigger and bolder. Murals featuring large-scale art are popping up across living areas, dining rooms, powder rooms, and more. Many depict scenic landscapes, delicate floral or botanical motifs, and other larger-than-life designs that deliver drama and depth to walls.

The key difference between murals and other types of wallpaper lies in the nature of the pattern. While traditional wallpaper typically features a seamlessly repeating print, murals portray a specific scene, such as a moody mountain setting or a colorful array of tropical plants. Perhaps the most popular theme for murals, scenes of nature offer a way to bring the outdoors in, which has become increasingly sought-after over the past year. For example, York Wallcoverings, the oldest and largest wallcovering producer in the U.S., has seen a 200% increase in demand for murals compared to last year, notes Carol Miller, the brand's content marketing manager. (Read more.)


Beijing's Man on the Inside

 From Mark Steyn:

Having taken twenty years to lose the last war, the Pentagon has decided to fast-track things and pre-lose the next war:

Twice in the final months of the Trump administration, the country's top military officer was so fearful that the president's actions might spark a war with China that he moved urgently to avert armed conflict.

In a pair of secret phone calls, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army, that the United States would not strike, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward and national political reporter Robert Costa...

"General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay," Milley told him. "We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you."

In the book's account, Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they'd established through a backchannel. "General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you ahead of time. It's not going to be a surprise."

So America's "top general" secretly pledged to the ChiComs that he'd give 'em a head's up if his soi-disant commander-in-chief was planning anything...

There are phrases to describe countries where the military isn't under the control of elected officials, and "republic of self-governing citizens" isn't one of them.

As I've said multiple times in recent weeks, key American institutions from the CDC to the NBA act as if the Chinese have already won. The Pentagon has apparently joined them. You don't need to penetrate Thoroughly Modern Milley: He's his own Fang Fang.

Given that the interest on America's debt has largely funded the expansion of the ChiComs' military (including what's now the world's largest surface fleet), Milley's offer to further hobble his own side seems a little superfluous: the Pentagon are the Washington Generals and Beijing are the Wuhan Globetrotters. (Read more.)

From The Post-Millennial:

According to the Post, Milley leaned on his longstanding relationship with Li, saying "General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you ahead of time. It's not going to be a surprise." It was revealed additionally that the Joint Chief's of Staff enacted a "top-secret action" to prevent President Donald Trump from performing his job as Commander-in-chief.

It was Trump's military advisory General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who allegedly "was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election." Milley's resignation has been called for by at least 90 retired generals. (Read more.)

More HERE.


The Return of the “Care Cloth” at the Traditional Nuptial Mass

 From The New  Liturgical Movement:

The velatio nuptialis is an ancient tradition of the Catholic Church, well established since at least the fourth century. During the nuptial blessing, which is said between the Canon and Communion, a white cloth (pallium) is held over the couple. St. Ambrose, fourth-century bishop of Milan, writes, “It is fitting that the marriage be sanctified by the imposition of the veil and the blessing of the priest.” The white cloth signifies the bright cloud, which is at once a sign of God’s protection accompanying the chosen people wandering in the desert (Ex. 13:20–22), the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary (Lk. 1:35), and the bright cloud of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor (Lk. 9:28-36; 2 Pt. 1:17–18). It also signifies that the couple becomes one flesh through marriage. In France, the poêle, which is another word for the veil, is also used to honor the Blessed Sacrament on the feast of Corpus Christi, which appropriately connects the wedding of the couple to the wedding feast of Christ and the Church, represented and effected by the Blessed Sacrament. While the velatio nuptialis experienced widespread use in the Middle Ages in the Roman Rite, it fell out of use almost everywhere outside of France, although the tradition is seeing a slow revival(Read more.)


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Mary Queen of Scots: A Renaissance Queen

 From The Mary Queen of Scots Project:

 There are few known physical relics of Mary. At her execution in Fotheringhay Castle, a fire was burning, and her clothing was immediately consigned into it. The English state was determined to suppress the memory of Mary, any proliferation of material relics, and her mortal remains were swiftly buried. However, over the longer term these Elizabethan measures proved ineffective against the perpetuation of her memory.

Instead – what has achieved huge currency are the objects associated with her, her jewellery and tapestry-work (often of dubious provenance), the beds she slept in, the gifts she made, the things she might have touched; and mementoes, particularly jewellery, created to memorialise her.  

In this process Mary herself was active: throughout her life she gave presents to seal alliances, in the royal tradition of gift-giving, often objects with her own image which acted as physical representations of Mary in her bodily absence. As she approached her death, these gifts were made consciously to project that presence beyond her mortal life, to secure a lasting reputation as a royal martyr. We have some of these objects here at National Museums Scotland. (Read more.)


The Meaning of the FDA Resignations

 From Jeffrey Tucker at Brownstone Institute:

The vaccine push has been particularly divisive, with President Biden actively encouraging “anger” at those who don’t get the jab, even as he refuses to acknowledge the existence of infection-induced immunities. In several cities, people who refuse vaccines are being denied active participation in civic life, and a populist movement is rising up that scapegoats the refuseniks as the only reason that the virus continues to be a problem.

All these measures were deployed in waves of controls. It all began with event cancellations and school closures. It continued with travel bans, most of which are still in place. Sanitization and plexiglass were next. Masks were rolled out and then mandated. The principle of forced human separation governed social interactions. Capacity limits indoors were a common feature. The US example inspired many governments around the world to adopt these NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions) and take away the liberties of the people.

At each stage of control, there were new claims that we’ve finally found the answer, the key technique that would finally slow and stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Nothing worked, as the virus seemed to follow its own course regardless of all these measures. Indeed there was no observable difference anywhere in the world based on whether and to what extent any of these measures were deployed.

Finally came the pharmaceutical interventions, voluntary at first but gradually mandatory, just as with each previous protocol began as a recommendation until it was mandated.

At no point in these 19 months have we seen a clear admission of failure on the part of government officials. Indeed, it’s mostly been the opposite, as the agencies double down, claiming effectiveness while citing no data or studies, while social media companies backed it all by taking down contrarian posts and brazenly deleting accounts of people who dare cite dissenting science.

The vaccine was the biggest gamble of all simply because the program was so expensive, so personal, and so wildly oversold. Even those of us who opposed every other mandate had hopes that the vaccines would finally end the public panic and provide governments a way to back out of all the other strategies that had failed. (Read more.)

Lost Monastery of Cookham

 From Medievalists:

The location of the 8th-century monastery in the village of Cookham, on the banks of the Thames, was a mystery until now, despite being well known from contemporary historical sources. Written records show it was placed under the rule of a royal abbess: Queen Cynethryth, the widow of the powerful King Offa of Mercia.

Now, archaeologists at the University of Reading and local volunteers excavating in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church – one of the rumoured locations of the monastery – have made a breakthrough discovery. The team has uncovered the remains of timber buildings which would have housed the inhabitants of the monastery, alongside artefacts providing insights into their lives.

“The lost monastery of Cookham has puzzled historians, with a number of theories put forward for its location,” explains Dr Gabor Thomas, the University of Reading archaeologist who is leading the excavation. “We set out to solve this mystery once and for all. The evidence we have found confirms beyond doubt that the Anglo-Saxon monastery was located on a gravel island beside the River Thames now occupied by the present parish church.

“Despite its documented royal associations, barely anything is known about what life was like at this monastery, or others on this stretch of the Thames, due to a lack of archaeological evidence. The items that have been uncovered will allow us to piece together a detailed impression of how the monks and nuns who lived here ate, worked and dressed. This will shed new light on how Anglo-Saxon monasteries were organised and what life was like in them.”

A network of monasteries was established on sites along the route of the Thames to take advantage of what was one of the most important trading arteries in Anglo-Saxon England, enabling them to develop into wealthy economic centres. The stretch of the Thames in which Cookham falls formed a contested boundary between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex, so the monastery here had particular strategic and political importance. In spite of this historical background, the exact location of the monastery has been long debated. (Read more.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

“War is the Tomb of the Montcalms”

 From Nobility:

After arresting the invasion by land, Montcalm had to face the attack of the naval forces. During the siege of Quebec by Wolfe, Montcalm with Lévis won a first victory at Montmorency Falls, with a loss of 450 to the English (31 July, 1759). But the final act was drawing nigh, which was to seal the fate of New France. On 13 Sept. the enemy stealthily scaled the Heights of Abraham, and at early morn was ranged in battle. Montcalm, thunderstruck by the unexpected tidings, hurried from Beauport and arrayed his troops. Though about equal in numbers, they were doomed to defeat for several reasons, including surprise, hardship, privation, fatigue, and a disadvantageous position. Both generals fell, Wolfe dying on the battle-field, and Montcalm the next morning. This battle, considered in its results, was one of the greatest events of the eighteenth century. It saved Canada from the French Revolution and heralded the dawn of American Independence. (Read more.)



The Non-Critical Thinker’s Manifesto

 From Crisis:

I trust in the deposit of faith that our Savior has given us through His Holy Church, but that trust is certainly not blind; I have studied and prayed my entire life to cement that trust. Blind trust is the ticket to short-term rewards—an intellectual line of credit: you do the thinking for me; I’ve got a life to live. By this means, we create intellectual debts that cannot be repaid. In the business of life’s decisions, if you’re not investing, you’re a parasite endangering yourself and others.

Blind trust is what people often engage in when they vote with their feet. Why stay and work hard to improve something—a marriage, a family, a business, a faith community—when it’s so much easier and so much more ego-plumping to simply declare your troubles someone else’s fault and reassign your blind trust to a new target. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a change is necessary, but it should never be a blind change of menu or venue; it needs to be the result of critical thinking.

The Holy Father points to blind trust as the fertile breeding ground for a clericalism that enabled the clergy sex-abuse scourge (and in the next breath, he plays the clerical card by deeply insinuating that an attack on him is a satanic attack on the Church—but that is a subject for another day). Blind trust has been enabling a Marxist takeover of our education systems. Many among us have attention spans far too short to be critical thinkers—to be concerned about things that we can simply entrust to others. Most non-critical thinkers are nice folk—unpretentious, unsuspecting, trusting, kind—but they are malignantly naïve and a danger to themselves and civilization.

Of course, none of us can get through life without trusting someone to do something. Not only is there nothing wrong with trusting someone, it is unavoidable. But to do so uncritically, like doing anything in life uncritically, is an error, and quite possibly, a grave error.

Following the teachings of an autocrat is an act of blind trust. The claims of Muhammad, Jim Jones, and Joseph Smith could not attract critical thinkers. They were all autocrats: self-proclaimed prophets, their own witnesses—their only witnesses—and they led flocks of uncritical thinkers, who in turn created larger flocks through violent coercion. A throng of emotional, uncritical thinkers is a formidable foundation for the next dark age.

And no, the pope is not an autocrat; his authority is only in the realm of faith and morals and only within the bounds of the deposit of faith; going uncritically outside of those bounds can get him anathematized (at least, posthumously), as it did Pope Honorius I. Furthermore, no pope creates his own position or nominates himself, and we are called to follow him humbly, but not uncritically. Humility and meekness should never be confused with being uncritical. To be meek is to be teachable, and only critical thinkers are truly teachable. The non-critical thinker can be indoctrinated, but he cannot be taught.

Decades of non-critical thinking have created our odd era, one of those eras that will oft be recalled, by the critical thinkers of the future, with the epitaph, Did they really…? (Read more.)

Interpersonal Communication Skills

 From Conover:

Cooperating, or working well with others, is an important part of interacting with people in the workplace. Even though each employee might have their own individual tasks and goals, the entire staff or team has the same goal. That goal is to help the organization be successful. This common goal is why cooperation is so important in the workplace. Cooperation involves the sharing of ideas and the ability to listen to, respect, and respond appropriately to other people. Having your students work in groups with each other on projects is one way to develop cooperation.

Respect is key for any successful workplace and any successful employee. People show respect for others by being polite and using their manners. They listen to one another and respect each other’s opinions, even when they disagree. Having respect for one another allows employees to work well together. Helping your students develop respect for each other is simple. If you treat them with respect they will learn it directly from you. (Read more.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Wars of Scottish Independence

 From Historic UK:

Following the killing of an English sheriff by William Wallace, revolts broke out in Scotland and on 11th September at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Wallace defeated English forces led by John de Warenne. The following month the Scots raided northern England...Wallace was appointed Guardian of Scotland in March; however in July Edward invaded again and defeated the Scottish army, led by Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. Following the battle Wallace went into hiding...Further campaigns by Edward in 1300 and 1301, led to a truce between the Scots and English. (Read more.)

 Is this the face of Robert the Bruce? From LJMU:

Scientists and historians have joined forces to create detailed virtual images of what could be the head of Robert the Bruce, reconstructed from the cast of a human skull held by the Hunterian Museum. The realistic images are the outcome of a collaboration between historians from the University of Glasgow and craniofacial experts from Liverpool John Moores University.

One image depicts the subject in his prime, a large and powerful male head that would have been supported by a muscular neck and stocky frame – a match for the super-athletes of today. This was a privileged individual who enjoyed the benefits of a first-class diet, and whose physique would have equipped him for the brutal demands of medieval warfare.

Robert Bruce, hero-king of Scots from 1306 until his death in 1329 aged around 55, was no stranger to the battlefield. He waged war to wear down his Scottish opponents and the English regime in Scotland, culminating in the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. To legitimise his kingship and free his kingdom, Bruce also campaigned in northern England and Ireland. 

However, the second image reveals that strength co-existed with frailty. The skull exhibits likely signs of leprosy, disfiguring the upper jaw and nose. Historians believe Bruce suffered from an unidentified ailment, possibly leprosy, which laid him low several times during his reign, and probably killed him. In Ulster in 1327, he was said to be so weak that he could only move his tongue.

The project to put a face to the Hunterian skull was led by Dr Martin MacGregor, a senior lecturer in Scottish history at the University of Glasgow. Dr MacGregor was inspired by the discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III of England beneath a car park in Leicester in 2012. Dr MacGregor requested the expertise of Professor Caroline Wilkinson, Director of LJMU’s Face Lab and a world-renowned craniofacial identification expert, to carry out the facial reconstruction of Robert the Bruce. Professor Wilkinson was also responsible for the facial reconstruction of Richard III. (Read more.)


Biden’s Abortion Fig Leaves

 From The Catholic Thing:

Like all the pseudo-devout “Catholic” hypocrites before him – the Cuomo Clan, Geraldine Ferrara, Ted Kennedy, etc. – Old Joe once used to beguile his audiences with the sophism that he accepted Church teaching that human life begins at conception and so was “personally opposed” to abortion but couldn’t impose that on the country. Now, he says he doesn’t believe even that – “respects” those who do, but is quite willing to impose the abomination of abortion even on states seeking to reject it.

A little clarity is in order.

First of all, the Church does not teach that human life begins at conception; science does. You can read it in any textbook of embryology. Having lectured us ad nauseam for a year about the need to “follow the science,” if Biden were sincere he should take his own advice. Because the Church takes science seriously, she teaches that life in the womb is to be held sacred and inviolable.

Second, those same pro-abortion politicians have never hesitated to say that their Catholic convictions impel them to oppose capital punishment – and to seek to abolish it.

For years now, the hierarchy has been embroiled in a debate regarding the application of canon 915, which holds that those “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” are not to be admitted to Holy Communion. No one can doubt that a public official who professes to be Catholic and yet promotes the abortion agenda is living in a state of “grave sin.”

Some bishops, however, have tried to duck controversy with a fig leaf of their own by suggesting that withholding the Holy Sacrament would cause an even more serious problem, “weaponizing the Eucharist,” as they put it. The real story, however, is that the manifestly unworthy politico is the one who is “weaponizing the Eucharist” by daring to approach the altar, thus ignoring Paul’s warning that those who “eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” (1 Corinthians 11:29)

Not a few of those same bishops have strenuously opposed the advancement of a document of the episcopal conference on “Eucharistic consistency.” Let’s hope those hierarchs now recognize their foolishness.

To be specific, we should take a look at Biden’s actual situation. Since Biden lives at the White House, the Archbishop of Washington could invoke canon 915. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, however, clearly stated that he has no intention of doing so. And in response to Biden’s recent remarks, Gregory could only mutter that the president is “not demonstrating Catholic teaching.” (Read more.)


Family History of Depression

 From PsyPost:

A new neuroimaging study provides evidence that the neural mechanisms underlying social cognition are altered among those with a familial history of major depressive disorder. The findings have been published in the journal Depression & Anxiety.

“I am interested in the study of theory of mind, that is the ability to infer the hidden mental states, such as feelings, preferences or goals of other people, and was curious about whether people suffering from depression have a change in their theory of mind cognition, which has mixed results in the research thus far,” said study author Lindsey Tepfer, a PhD student at Dartmouth College.

“Some studies have found evidence for altered theory of mind among individuals with depression, while others have not. Moreover, given the high heritability of depression, I wanted to explore whether people with a family history of depression might show symptoms of altered theory of mind as well, perhaps serving as an early sign that they will ultimately experience a depressive episode.” (Read more.)

Monday, September 13, 2021

The King’s Menagerie: The Sun King’s Animal Kingdom at Versailles

From France Today:

From the Palace of Versailles, King Louis XIV commanded not only the kingdom of France but also the kingdom of animals. In the world-famous gardens, he created an extraordinary menagerie of beasts, a living, breathing allegory for the Sun King’s power over all he surveyed.

Many noble French households collected exotic animals in order to impress their visitors: Charlemagne and Louis IX both kept elephants at court; while the Duke of Anjou not only owned an elephant, but lions, camels, and monkeys. Some kept their collection of beasts frighteningly close to home – Francis I slept with a snow leopard at the foot of his bed. (Read more.)


How the English fell in love with Versailles. From Country Life:

English visitors also admired Versailles for the opportunities it provided to watch the royal family dine in public and attend Mass in the royal chapel (Fig 7). Also in 1749, a naval officer called Augustus Hervey, despite having recently been fighting France, wrote in his diary that he derived ‘uninterrupted pleasure’ from watching the royal family’s dinner, following the royal hunt, going to supper with French friends, and admiring the fireworks at ‘that pile of magnificence and grandeur’, Versailles (Fig 5). He ‘received such an idea of the grandeur of the French court that I had a very pitiful opinion of our own at Saint James’s, nor have I ever altered my opinion, though later so much in it and so long of it’. (Read more.)


The Collapse of Intellectual Freedom in the West

 From Robert Tombs at The Spectator:

And now? A far more insidious ideology — if it can be called an ideology — is extending a deadening grip not only over the educational system, but over our whole cultural life, and this time especially in the English-speaking world whose attachment to intellectual freedom has proved feeble. We tend to call it ‘wokeness’ or something similar because it is a loose collection of theories and attitudes. Some call it cultural Marxism, but unlike classical Marxism it lacks basic coherence and rigour. This fragility probably explains the reluctance of its partisans to accept debate: better to close it down. It certainly explains the anger they show when they are challenged by reason and evidence.

What makes ‘wokeness’ formidable is certainly not intellectual cogency or even numerical strength. Rather, it is the willingness of institutions —international corporations, globalised universities, civil services, museums, the media, schools, civil services, local government, and even churches — to give in to, or worse, to exploit it. Paying lip-service to wokeness is an insurance policy that seems to cost little and offer much: a fig-leaf for the privileged, a PR strategy for institutions, a path to personal advancement, a source of profit, a shield against criticism, a token of virtue, and an instrument of power.

Does it matter? Wokeness feeds off free-floating individualism that accepts few ties with or responsibilities towards the wider community and its norms. Indeed, the authority, legitimacy and even the reality of such a community — whether a local community or the wider nation — are implicitly or explicitly denied. There is only an oppressive structure containing conflicting groups.

History is one of the battlefields. At first sight trivial, conflicts over statues and public monuments — what the French aptly call ‘lieux de mémoire’ — aim to undermine our sense of trust, solidarity and pride in the past, both civic and national. As the nineteenth-century philosopher Ernest Renan put it in a famous lecture, the social capital of a people is its ‘shared possession of a rich heritage of memories’ which creates ‘present consent, the wish to live together and develop that heritage.’ Who benefits from the destruction of the heritage?

Woke activists sometimes assert that ‘facing up’ to a past presented as overwhelmingly and permanently shameful and guilt-laden is the way to a better and more ‘inclusive’ future. But the real effect — perhaps the true aim — of their actions is nihilistic destruction. Tendentious and even blatantly false readings of history are creating or aggravating divisions, resentments, and even violence. For that reason, a group of British, Irish, American, Canadian and Australian historians have formed a group called History Reclaimed to employ reason and scholarship against divisive distortions of history. As was once the case with Marxist orthodoxies, I trust that argument and evidence — ‘bourgeois objectivity’ — will in time have an effect. But even if the wokest of the woke close their ears, we are confident that reasonable people will welcome careful and balanced examination of our shared past, especially where it is most contested. (Read more.)

From Robert Tombs at History Reclaimed:

Over the past year or so, there has been a concerted campaign in British institutions – museums, universities, local authorities, the civil service and more – to propagate a new narrative of history. The campaign is fundamentally negative about Britain and its past. It seems to want to impose – so far with some success – a new orthodoxy centred on slavery and imperialism. (Anyone unaware of the extent of this activity should consult  Policy Exchange’s ‘History Matters’ project, which publishes a comprehensive regular bulletin.)  Similar campaigns are taking place in Australasia and North America.

The campaign has its roots in academic theory, especially from the United States, and its recent histrionic manifestations have clearly been fuelled by imports from abroad. The Rhodes Must Fall campaign in Oxford originated in South Africa, and the Black Lives Matter campaign, of course, came from the United States. Both reflect characteristic and old-established tensions in those countries. Yet these campaigns are being presented as somehow related to central facts about our own history and society.

The general ‘narrative’ goes like this: Britain’s wealth and power came from the exploitation of slaves and colonies, and this has left a legacy of ‘systemic racism’ in the 21st century that must be compensated for, including by acknowledging inherited collective guilt, and making various forms of reparation. So obviously distorted and contrary to the evidence is the narrative, so patently synthetic the show of indignation, that a cynic might conclude that it is simply a ruse to gain the advantages of victimhood by privileged members of relatively underprivileged groups — that is, upwardly mobile people from ethnic minorities in the public sector, the academy and the arts.

The campaign would make little or no progress here were it not for the eager participation of public institutions, which rush to appease or anticipate any real or imagined grievance. I won’t speculate about motives: readers will have their own ideas. Instead, I am going to look at only two of many examples. One is Jesus College, Cambridge. The other is the Victoria and Albert Museum. I am not suggesting that they are uniquely dishonest or destructive: rather, that despite being two highly prestigious cultural institutions, they display very clearly the widespread double standards on which the agitation depends.

Jesus College has suddenly become highly sensitive to historic connections with Africa – while seemingly untroubled by its lucrative present-day connection with the Chinese regime, the patron of its tame China Centre. In a painless gesture to deflect criticism, the college has decided to return a bronze cockerel to the present ‘royal court of Benin’. The cockerel was seized as a prize during a punitive expedition by the British in 1897. It was later presented to the college, whose coat of arms it vaguely resembles.

The V&A has developed a comparable sensitivity. Its director, former Labour MP and sometime history lecturer Tristram Hunt, recently wrote an article in Prospect magazine announcing that the museum intended to highlight connections with slavery and imperialism in its collections. In his article, he focuses on two exhibits: a 15th-century European casket, and gold and silver items from the Asante royal regalia. The casket was once in the possession of a Jewish slave owner, who donated it to the museum, and this tenuous connection with slavery will now be highlighted by the museum to show how ‘slave profits have seeped into the V&A galleries’. In the Asante regalia, Hunt sees only ‘imperial trophy hunting’ and ‘exercises of colonial violence’, which will also be highlighted by the museum. (Read more.)