Will and Obedience — NEWMAN LECTURES

PORTRAIT OF ENGLISH CARDINAL JOHN HENRY NEWMANA reminder to us all which we should heed.

“If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”John xiii. 17

THERE never was a people or an age to which these words could be more suitably addressed than to this country at this time; because we know more of the way to serve God, of our duties, our privileges, and our reward, than any other people hitherto, as far as we have the means of judging. To us then especially our Saviour says, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”

Now, doubtless, many of us think we know this very well. It seems a very trite thing to say, that it is nothing to know what is right, unless we do it; an old subject about which nothing new can be said. When we read such passages in Scripture, we pass over them as admitting them without dispute; and thus we contrive practically to forget them. Knowledge is nothing compared with doing; but the knowing that knowledge is nothing, we make to be something, we make it count, and thus we cheat ourselves.

Continue with Will and Obedience — NEWMAN LECTURES.

The Ethical Historian

Dr. Suzannah Lipscholbm

Dr. Suzannah Lipscholmb

As many of you know, I am a history buff, I am not a historian. When you read here, you know that you are getting my opinions and analysis, not documented history, although I do take reasonable care to try to be accurate. I do read a lot of history. Much of what I read troubles me greatly, it reeks of personal prejudice much more than it shows an honest deployment of the facts.

If we look, for example, at the execrable output of Howard Zinn, we see an outlook wherein the English-speaking people, especially the Americans, never did a good thing in the last four hundred years. This in a world that owes almost all of its freedom, including the freedom to publish this tripe, to those same people.

Seems sort of trivial doesn’t it? But the thing is, if we don’t use the past, and its lessons, to guide us in the future, what do we use? Politics? Prejudice? The short-term good of the party, or our buddies? Pretty much the only long-term guide to the way forward that we have is the past, and if that is distorted, it will distort our view of the future.

I’ve long since outgrown being a fan of many public personages, but there some people who you may have heard of, because of their work, that I have found to be a reliable guide, especially in their specialties.

One of these is Dr. Suzannah Lipscomb. I first ran across her work through British friends, she’s a Tudor specialist, and an outstanding one I think. She also thinks quite deeply about her profession. Do I always agree with her? No, but I always respect her opinion.

And in this article, I agree with her completely, for the reasons I spoke of above, and for many others, including personal integrity. Here (excerpted) is what she has to say about professional ethics in historians.

Historians should adhere to a rigorous code of professional practice if they are to avoid the kinds of careless mistakes that bring their professional integrity into question

[…]

Some were errors that historians had picked up from each other without checking the primary evidence. For example, a crop of Tudor historians from Elton onwards have noted that in the month of December 1546 Henry VIII’s Privy Council met at the London home of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, sometimes given as ‘Somerset House’ (though Hertford wasn’t yet Duke of Somerset). The reason this is important is because it is claimed that this indicates that Hertford, as the leader of a reformist faction at court, was consolidating his power. This misinformation derives from the Holy Roman ambassador, François Van der Delft, but a quick look at the minutes of the Privy Council shows that between December 8th, 1546 and January 2nd, 1547 the Privy Council met at Ely Place in Holborn, the town house of Thomas Wriothesley, Lord Chancellor and not one of the leaders of the supposed reformist faction. Such an unchecked error makes a crucial difference to a reading of the last months of Henry VIII.

[…]

Even more invidious than simple error was the way that evidence was, at times, misused: cited out of context in a way that distorted the reading; used to confirm pre-existing biases; or treated with increasing certainty without additional corroboration. ]…]

Historians are humans; we make mistakes. But some of these instances are just bad history and we need practices that safeguard against human error. I thought I would presumptuously suggest a Code of Conduct for how historians should use evidence:

  • Use evidence to support your interpretation and seek to understand that evidence correctly.
  • Do not wilfully present evidence out of context, especially not in such a way that the lack of context will render the meaning of the evidence different, unclear or manipulable.
  • Do not cite evidence from sources that you elsewhere discount.
    At best, do not waste a reader’s time on unsubstantiated sources.
    At least flag up evidence that is drawn from such sources; do not use it silently.
  • Triangulate; search ardently for evidence that might undermine, as well as corroborate, your hypothesis.
  • Avoid assumption creep: do not allow assertions to move from ‘possibly’ to ‘probably’ to ‘definitely’; do not build more elaborate layers of interpretation on a foundation that is rocky.
  • Do not rely on the secondary assertions of other historians; ad fontes! Go back to the original sources.
  • Guard against confirmation bias; interrogate the ‘facts’ anew and bring a fresh analysis to them; do not mould the facts to your interpretation.
  • Root out and resolve any internal inconsistencies in your argument.
    Cite sources so that they can be traced, with page numbers, archival call numbers and publication details.
  • Our professional integrity as historians relies on our adherence to standards such as these.

Suzannah Lipscomb is Convenor for History and Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the New College of the Humanities.

As is usually the case, in excerpting this, much of the supporting evidence disappeared, so I highly recommend reading the entire article at A Code of Conduct for Historians | History Today.

The article also lists some her recent work, I liked them all, you may as well.

A Lesson in the Common Law

4532829274_324ec3f1e1_z[I am pleased to tell you that All Along the Watchtower is again a public blog, and if you have not been reading there please do come on our journey with us. I have a post up there (either now or soon, depending on the schedule) today which touches on some of the same themes (The Common Law) as this post does, so enjoy it.]

One again in the last few weeks, America has given the world a lesson in why the English Common Law is the only fit system of governance for free men. And yes, I am referring to Ferguson, Missouri. And specifically the use made of the Grand Jury, by Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCullough, who has been elected by very wide margins (if he was opposed at all) in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. He is a Democrat, and yet I have friends who are consider some Tea Party Republicans liberal, who say, he may be the best prosecutor in the country. Think about that for a while.

It struck me that like so much of The Common Law, the Grand Jury exists only in the United States anymore, not only in the Federal Courts, but in all 50 States. England itself abolished it in 1936. So maybe a primer is in order, it seems to be here as well.

I’m going to base much of this on Wikipedia, I, like you, am fully cognizant of all the veracity problems with the source, and yet this seems reasonably accurate, and is at least readable. And so, a bit of history:

The first instance of a grand jury can be traced back to the Assize of Clarendon, an 1166 act of Henry II of England. In fact, Henry’s chief effect on the development of the English monarchy was to increase the jurisdiction of the royal courts at the expense of the feudal courts. Itinerant justices on regular circuits were sent out once each year to enforce the “King’s Peace”. To make this system of royal criminal justice more effective, Henry employed the method of inquest used by William the Conqueror in the Domesday Book. In each shire, a body of important men was sworn (juré) to report to the sheriff all crimes committed since the last session of the circuit court. Thus originated the modern grand jury that presents information for an indictment. The grand jury was later recognized by King John in Magna Carta in 1215 on demand of the nobility.

I find it fascinating how many of the rights that I treasure in 2014 go back so far in our history, in this case to Henry II, in 1166, only a century after The Conquest, and that it was part of an effort to break the legal autonomy of the Barons, who my reading indicates were quite corrupt. I also note that King John was forced in Magna Charta to recognize the existing right, it was already, 800 years ago, customary. It is also the origin of the term circuit court. In a note that saddens me greatly, Dan Hannan, MEP has noted that when there was a search on for a term to apply to a local elected law enforcement official, Sheriff ( deriving from Shire-Reeve) was disallowed as too American. Perhaps we are not the only people who could stand to study our history a bit more.

There is quite a lot more at the linked article.

I doubt there has ever been a more politically conscious society than America from the beginning, likely it has also been one of the most literate societies. Yes, this led to trouble with the Stamp Act. But the two best-selling books in colonial America tell much about us, I think. The number one best seller was The Holy Bible (as it still is), likely the King James Version. That I expect you could have easily guessed, but I doubt you will the second. That was Black’s Law Commentary. To borrow a phrase from my Lutheran heritage that seems appropriate: The Two Kingdoms, incarnate.

For us, the Grand Jury comes into our jurisprudence through the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, to wit.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

And thus here, like in Magna Charta, it is enshrined, not as a tool of the prosecutor, but as a fundamental right of an innocent man accused of a crime. Further it is officially, a secret proceeding, under the control of the foreman, elected by the members of the jury. It’s deliberations are recorded, usually by court reporters, and are sealed. The only other outsider allowed, is the prosecutor, who presents the evidence, and provides the jurors with the possible bills of indictment. [In this case they ran from premeditated murder to manslaughter.] This is as close as it can get to being by the people, no lawyers, no press, no pressure, testimony is subject to the laws of perjury, and so forth.

What results from this is the same level of proof required for an American police officer to legally search your car, it’s called probable cause, and if found, will result in an indictment. As you listen to the uproar, do remember that many of the commenters on American TV are lawyers, and they too have a corporate viewpoint.

George Will once wrote that:

The business of America is not business. Neither is it war. The business of America is justice and securing the blessings of liberty.

That is exactly correct, and in an American context that means for every downtrodden, broken, man or woman, of any race at all.

You see American justice, is not efficient. It is noisy, contentious, subject to influence, corruption and all the rest of the things you have heard and said. It is also the most just in the world. Why? Not least because it is not efficient, if you want efficient government, you’ll end up with a fascist country, they are far more efficient, they are also very hard on individual liberty, except for the elite (maybe). It is also conservative, actually that is not the word, the word is orthodox.

As always though, “Hard cases make bad law”

Men of Honor: Forces of Disorder

3rd Infantry Division (United States)

[Am I back? I don’t know,  we’ll find out together. But I happened to glance up at my TV last week, and something struck me, and I want to share it with you]

Last week many of us were semi watching the far overblown coverage of the confrontations/riots/ whatever in Ferguson, Missouri. One of the things we saw was an attempted (judicial) lynching of a law enforcement officer, who was simply doing, according to his beliefs, his job. As always, I’m sure there are some legitimate grievances-on both sides. That’s not my point here.

What I happened to see was the stand-off at the Ferguson Police station, if memory serves, although in truth it hardly matters.

In the street was the usual rabble,many of them concealing their identity, like the cowards they are, behind those contemptible Guy Fawkes masks. They recall the man who set off anti-Catholic feelings in England that were so strong that they are still remembered today.

Now do understand that much of English anti-Catholicism was more political than religious, there was a widespread fear that the Catholics would obey the Pope instead of the King. Likely it was untrue, that is also irrelevant. The closest modern equivalent is likely the way some of us feel about the Moslems (especially the militants) in our midst.

In short, an obvious reference to those who would destroy our civilization.

And there also was the Missouri National Guard, standing at port arms under arms, in good order and discipline, as always. Disciplined defenders of civilization and America. Most of us would say, “The Best in the World”, with justifiable pride in those who represent us.

But something else I noticed, on the right sleeve of an army uniform a soldier is entitled to wear the patch of a unit he served honorably in, in combat. And so it was here, on the right sleeve of one of those young men, who has pledged his very life to us, if necessary, was the patch of the 3ID

3d Infantry Division

 

The third infantry division is one of the army’s most famous units. It earned its nickname in the Great War as ‘The Rock of The Marne” for its valor. The rest of its record is comparable. It is also the unit that performed the run up “Thunder Road” in Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and have no doubt served in both Iraq and Afghanistan since. One of our best.

And there was that patch on the shoulder of that young soldier, once again defending civilization, this time at home in Missouri from a rabble that would destroy it.

But there’s something else here as well, that goes to the very root of who we are. That insignia, if you look at it in the mirror, it is no longer the US 3ID, it is something else.

It is the coat of arms of Lancelot du Lac himself, legendary Knight of King Arthur.

The motto of the US Army is:

This We’ll Defend

Townie

Like you all, I love it when my friends surprise me, and Rachael really did me yesterday morning. She’s been writing very wonderful Haiku lately, and I always enjoy them but, I do miss her fiction. Or at least she says they’re fiction, somehow they ring true for me, and I thought this one might for you as well.

It seems to me that it would speak to almost any of us who grew up in an old house, with the proviso that an old house in this part of America is practically new in Rachael’s part of England. Enjoy!!

Sometimes I still harbour the idea of cultivating the genteel and ordered rural existence I have read about, but it always gets scuppered. If it isn’t by being kept awake by the sociable Death Watch beetles as they tap out amorous messages to one another through the timber framed walls, it’s the delighted squeaks of rats shamelessly having sex in the thatch while the vicar raises his voice in embarrassment as we sip Earl Grey from china teacups and nibble on cucumber sandwiches. With the crusts off, of course. But what I have found most important in the absence of a companion, is an adequate supply of hot water bottles.

542bb-sheep-covered-in-snow-in-003

I am lying in my king size bed with two freshly filled luxury specimens bought by a friend who had taken pity on me last Christmas, and I am gloating. It’s the only place in this house that’s even remotely above freezing. From the tiny mullion window that pokes out from beneath the eaves of the thatch, I watch Edward my next door neighbour leading his two mares into their meadow. They have made it clear they think it’s a rotten idea. They toss their heads and skitter sideways; not in that happy rather frisky way horses sometimes do, but as if something unpleasant is imminent. It has taken them less than ten seconds to make up their minds about the cold white stuff that’s just blanketed everything. I know, and my next door neighbour knows they’ll be complaining at the gate within minutes wanting to be let back in the warm. His hens aren’t impressed with the snow, either. They peer one by one out of the opening in the chicken house, then executing a nifty on-the-spot twizzle, scoot back to the stinking fug of the nesting boxes. Edward will be rather cold out there, and I am feeling smug because I am not – I am warm as toast.

The truth is, it’s time. To throw in the towel, that is. Call it a day. Quit while I’m ahead. Moving to the country was a very nice idea, but the lenses have finally fallen out of my rose coloured specs and I’m not even going to bother looking for them. It’s mostly about the weather really. When did we last have a proper summer? And speaking of roses, the leaves of the Blush Noisette I planted to grace my front porch have turned completely black and fallen off for the second year running, and the few blooms struggling to open drooped shamefully and sprouted powdery mildew that looked suspiciously like a serious case of dandruff. Even the tulips wilted pale in the orchard and gave up. The lawn did grow some fine looking weeds though…

 

Continue reading Townie | Changing Skin and other stories.

Like most of you, I have no experience with thatched roofs although I suppose the sod roof on the old prairie soddies wouldn’t be all that different. Other than that it sounds like life on one of our older farms, doesn’t it? And I know her well enough to know that her garden is spectacular and done with love.

It also, for some reason made me think of this.

Veteran’s Day

I sat down last night to write a post for Veteran’s Day, and I couldn’t think of a single new thing to say. So this is from a couple of years ago, with a few additions, nothing has really changed, has it? That’s mostly because, I suppose, that nothing is really new. Our guys and girls are out there taking care of business, as usual. Our veterans are here amongst us, being taken lousy care of by the VA, just as it has been for a century, and above all, we are very, very proud of them, as we always have been. Simply the best of America. Thank you!! George Orwell reminds us:

We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

Now, as we observe Veteran’s Day, there is no one to take our salute. Florence Green, a member of the Women’s Royal Air Force, died on 4 February 2012 two weeks short of her 111th birthday, at King’s Lynne. She was the very last veteran of World War I.

And now they’re all gone, the doughboys, Tommies, the Diggers, the Canucks, and the Kiwis. And the men of the Second World War are following swiftly.

These are the men that have kept us free. For this holiday is about brave men, yesterday we talked about how the Unknown British Warrior was awarded the American Medal of Honor. Today I’ll note that five Americans, ranging from Ordinary Seaman to Lieutenant Colonel have won the Victoria Cross, plus the Unknown Soldier buried at Arlington, by order of the King.

The Great War, of course, is when the United States made its debut as the great world power. From our entry in 1917 until today is fairly termed “The American Century” for as the Pax Britannica ended in 1914 and chaos ensued between the wars as we hid in our continent and from 1945 the Pax Americana has been in place.

It could be fairly said that the wars of the 20th Century were the “Wars of Freedom”, for more people have been freed from tyranny by the United States and our allies than at any other time in history.

The legend of American bravery is known worldwide, from the Marine sergeant, who lead the charge at the battle of Belleau Wood, who led the charge with the command, “Come on you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever.”( Noting that it is now “Bois de la Brigade de Marine“, in their honor) to General McAuliffe’s response to the German demand to surrender at Bastogne, “Nuts” to the Admiral Nimitz’s comment on Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Thus has been remarked the common bravery of American troops in every case in all the wars of these Planetary soldiers.

As probably every one reading this knows, the average American idolizes American soldiers, they have gone from being the unwanted stepchildren of the revolution, because of the mistrust engendered by the occupying British regulars, to by far the most trusted of American institutions, trusted by over  80% of Americans. They have earned it, and earned it the hard way by blood, toil, tears, honor, integrity, and sweat from Lexington Green to Afghanistan they have become legend, at one and the same time, “America’s Army” and the “Army of the Free”. The Armed Forces are the best of America. If you were to ask the common people of anyplace they have been, you will find their fans, maybe not the government, but the people remember.

If you don’t happen to know, those streamers on the service flags are called battle streamers, each of them remembers a battle going back to Lexington Green. It has been a contentious life we have lived, and freedom always has enemies.

But they have done other things, they are often the first humanitarian aid anywhere in the world after a natural disaster, the mapping of the United States was done by the Army, your GPS system is courtesy of the Air Force and the Internet you’re reading this on was started by the US Department of Defense.

But let us not make the mistake many do, it’s not technology that wins wars, it’s men, and now women as well, women like these:

What do you think goes through the minds of women in the parts of the world that don’t offer women equal rights when these women show up in their midst as American officers and warriors? Think maybe some get the idea that women are equal to men.

I’d say things like this have done more to advance women’s rights than all the feminists yelling in the last fifty years. It was the same when the military integrated in 1948, that’s where it was all proved, although we already knew it, really, blacks have served bravely and well ever since Crispus Attucks was killed at the Boston Massacre.

But you know, it’s always had a cost, often a very high cost, and a wise people don’t forget that, no matter the technology, it has to be operated by people and by brave people, from the rifleman to the man who may have to turn the key to unleash Armageddon itself. And in American history, the military has never failed us, even when we and our political leadership has not been worthy of them. Many of us use as a catchphrase a rewording of the last line of our national anthem, instead of  “the Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave“, we are wont to say “The Land of the Free because of the Brave.”

We are also quite content, while not resting in our quest, to be known by the friends we keep.

But sometimes the brave are lost and then we honor our fallen countrymen, as they deserve. Bill Whittle a few years ago had something to say about American Honor, and I’d like you to read it.

On October 7th, 2002, I returned to Los Angeles from Arlington National Cemetery where we’d interred my father, 2nd Lt. William Joseph Whittle, who died from what may have been sheer joy during a fishing trip in Canada.

My dad served in the US Army in Germany, from 1944 through 1946. He was an intelligence officer, and was responsible for recording the time of death of the convicted War Criminals at Nuremburg after the war. He saw them hanged — he stood there with a stopwatch. He was 21 years old.

My father spent two years in the U.S. Military. He spent a lifetime in the corporate world. After twenty years as a world-class hotel manager, turning entire properties from liabilities into assets, he was let go without so much as a thank-you dinner or a handshake. Twenty years of service. He was a four-star general in the corporate world for two decades, and that was his reward.

Monday afternoon, at 1 pm, I stood underneath the McClellan arch at ANC. There were 13 family members there. There were also 40 men in uniform. I was stunned.

They took my dad’s ashes, in what looked like a really nice cigar box (what a little box for such a big man, I thought at that moment), and placed it in what looked like a metallic coffin on the back of a horse-drawn caisson. His ashes were handled by other twenty-one year old men, men as young as he had been, men whose fathers were children when my dad was in uniform. Everything was inspected, checked, and handled with awesome, palpable, radiating reverence and respect.

As we walked behind the caisson, the band played not a dirge, but a march… a tune that left me searching for the right adjective, which I didn’t find until the flight home. It was triumphal. It was the sound of Caesar entering Rome; the sound of a hero coming home. It was the only time during the service that I really began to cry.

Continue reading Honor

This is part of that Honor

But make no mistake when we live out Kipling’s poem we dishonor ourselves, nor them:

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy how’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.