The Immortal Memory

The Battle of Trafalgar by J. M. W. Turner (oi...

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If you wish to accuse me of being a bit tardy, I will accede. This perennial post of mine, most years since the very first, should have been yesterday’s post. I simply forgot. So unlike in naval combat, in blogging late is better than never.


If you remember, I referred a while back to President Jefferson’s open letter regarding the return of Louisiana to France from Spain, where he commented that “on that day we shall have to marry ourselves to the British fleet and people”, and later commented “that from that day forward France shall end at her low water mark”. This is the day that France (and Spain) would forever lose control of the sea to Great Britain.

Today is the anniversary of a battle to rank with Salamis, with Waterloo, and with Yorktown. For today the English speaking peoples with their concepts of individual liberty and rights took control of the sea.

That battle is Trafalgar. The battle was fought off of the south-west coast of Spain between the British Squadron with 27 Ships-of-the-Line and the combined French and Spanish fleets with 33.

The Franco-Spanish fleet was under orders to sail for Brest to help accomplish the invasion of England, which was, by far, Napoleon’s most steadfast enemy.

Remember these were sailing ships, completely dependent on the wind. and at Trafalgar, there was very little. The French and especially the Spanish were short-handed and had to fill their ship’s companies with soldiers. The British on the other hand had been blockading the coast for years and had been drilled mercilessly. Their commander, himself, had not been off the flagship for more than two years.

Alfred Thayer Mahan in his classic The Influence of Sea Power upon History puts it this way: “Those distant, storm-tossed ships, never seen by the Grande Armee, were all that stood between it and world domination.

And so today, in 1805, the battle was joined. The British had the weather gage and a very unusual plan. Because of the light wind, they would divide their battle line in two, with each squadron approaching the Franco-Spanish line at an acute angle. With a well-trained enemy, this would have been nearly suicidal but, under these conditions it allowed the British to engage the entire fleet and win the battle in a single day.

The British were under the command of a man who had had his introduction to naval war in the American Revolution, he fought in several minor battles off Toulon, was integral in the capture of Corsica, was captain of HMS Captain at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. At the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, he lost his right arm, he won a decisive victory over the French at The Battle of the Nile and against the Danes at the Battle of Copenhagen.

At Trafalgar the British fleet went into battle with this signal flying from the flagship:

That flagship is, of course, the HMS Victory, which is now the oldest naval ship in regular commission in the world.


An aside, the second oldest, USS Constitution (and the oldest afloat) was launched on 21 October 1797. Over last weekend she sailed across Boston Harbor to Fort Independence on Castle Island where she fired a twenty-one gun salute, as she returned she also fired a salute at Coast Guard Sector Boston, the former Edmund Hartt’s Shipyard, where she was built. Here she is, afloat and underway

CASEY SCOULAR/U.S. NAVY


The Admiral in command is Horatio, Lord Nelson.

Or to give him his full name:

Admiral Lord Nelson

The Most Noble Lord Horatio Nelson, Viscount and Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson of the Nile and of Hilborough in the said County, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet, Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean, Duke of Bronté in the Kingdom of Sicily, Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, Member of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St Joachim

as it is inscribed on his coffin in St. Paul’s cathedral, for he was killed by a French marine during the battle.

The first tribute to Nelson was fittingly offered at sea by sailors of Vice-Admiral Dmitry Senyavin’s passing Russian squadron, which saluted on learning of the death.

King George III, upon receiving the news, is reported to have said, in tears, “We have lost more than we have won”.

And the Times reported:

We do not know whether we should mourn or rejoice. The country has gained the most splendid and decisive Victory that has ever graced the naval annals of England; but it has been dearly purchased.

For us, as Americans, much of the development of our country, the end of slavery, and the freedom of all American republics from, the Canadian Arctic to Tierra del Fuego owe their self-government to the victory by Lord Nelson and the continuing efforts throughout the nineteenth century of the Royal Navy.

Even today, we note that HMS Queen Elizabeth, the new British strike carrier is working up off the coast of North America, as she learns in cooperation with our navy, how to project force in the twenty-first century

And so tonight in the Royal Navy and the Commonwealth navies, and at least in some places in the United States Navy and even in other navies and places will be drunk the one naval toast that is drunk in total silence:

The Immortal Memory of Lord Nelson and those who fell with him”

The traditional music to follow the toast is: Rule Britannia.

 

“Be Brave. Be Water. Be Ready.” It Applies to Americans Too.

Ben Domenech, the publisher of The Federalist has an outstanding column on the Hong Kong protests.  It is a bit long but it also burrows down into the whole thing. It’s not very prone to excerpts, so I’m just going to suggest you read it. As the Hong Kongers say: “Be Brave. Be Water. Be Ready.” And for God’s sake don’t be a coward like LeBron James.

My other favorite from yesterday is from American Greatness, where Edward Ring visualized the Future that Trump portends. Here’s the opening:

Anyone who thinks President Trump’s victory is inevitable in 2020 is not paying attention. The entire weight of America’s profiteering elites is arrayed against him.

But what if he wins anyway? What if enough voters realize they’re being conned by the Democrats? What if enough voters decide they don’t want to feel like unwanted usurpers in their own nation? What if men and women of all ethnicities realize that despite the unrelenting avalanche of lies coming from the Left, America is a welcoming and inclusive nation and that the only way a society can stay healthy is by rewarding personal initiative?

What if a critical mass of independent voters were to conclude that, despite his pugnacity, President Trump cares about all Americans, and actually holds moderate, compassionate, common-sense positions? If these things happen, and they very well might, not only will President Trump get reelected, but control of the House of Representatives will return once again to the GOP. And if these sentiments sweep across the land, then politicians of both parties will realize it is time to stop fighting and get back to serving the American people.

Go ahead and read it and then come back, and we’ll talk a bit.

Quite the vision, isn’t it? Realistic? Perhaps not, but who can say. It reads as almost Pollyanish, embroiled as we are in the divisive culture wars. But who’s to say. In 1776, it was dead certain that Britain would regain its colonies, probably more certain than that the ChiComs will suppress the Hong Kongers. But it didn’t turn out that way, did it?

We often misapply the City on a Hill speech, but part of that is that we see beyond what Bradford could see. We can see how the American idea appeals all over the world. We have seen what free markets and free men and women can do. We saw a strip of dirt along the Atlantic Ocean, making a poor living as subsistence farmers turn into the greatest and freest and most powerful nation the world has ever seen both economically and militarily,   because of that freedom. And a bit of British gold to lubricate things, because of everyplace in the world, we were and are, the most like them with a trustworthy legal system.

Right now we have the divisiveness and vituperativeness of the left, as we have had (but worse) since Wilson a hundred years ago. This is why our greatest accomplishments – so far –  were in the nineteenth century. We have been swimming upstream against those who wish to shackle, for their own benefit, the people of the United States certainly, but actually all the world. Something for us all to remember, we are the ‘Keeper of the Flame’ of Liberty, if we go down, most likely all the world will follow us into a new dark age, made more sinister by the technology that free men developed. If we stand, the world has a chance.

You all know that I talk to many in Britain, like us, they have their eyeores, but when you really talk to them, they sound like the Hong Kongers, or Americans. I firmly believe that one of two things will happen there, Britain will exit the European Union, or Britain will destroy its left and destroy the European Union. God bless ’em. I said even before the referendum, that its significance is equal to July 4th, 1776, or maybe the Reformation.

In short, do I believe it will happen as Mr. Ring writes? Probably not. But if we stay the course, and continue to lead with our power and might, not only physically, but morally as well, we will win through, and others will follow us to Churchill’s broad sunlit uplands. You would be surprised how many Britons, and I suspect others, as well, read American blogs, for truthful information, of course, but also because of our thinking, and our willingness to speak.

Once again, I am reminded of the first lines of America’s first great anthem.

Let tyrants shake their iron rod
And slav’ry clang her galling chains;
We’ll fear them not. We trust in God;

Giants Were in the Earth

I think a quick detour into the culture war is needed. Not the one on the streets with Scoldilocks and Extinction Rebellion, both are mere symbols of a discredited left, hopefully soon to die. But real culture.

The Unit yesterday called my attention to an article by Victor Davis Hanson in Townhall. Even for him, it’s exceptionally good. It’s titled: Members of Previous Generations Now Seem Like Giants.

Many of the stories about the gods and heroes of Greek mythology were compiled during Greek Dark Ages. Impoverished tribes passed down oral traditions that originated after the fall of the lost palatial civilizations of the Mycenaean Greeks.

Dark Age Greeks tried to make sense of the massive ruins of their forgotten forbearers’ monumental palaces that were still standing around. As illiterates, they were curious about occasional clay tablets they plowed up in their fields with incomprehensible ancient Linear B inscriptions.

We of the 21st century are beginning to look back at our own lost epic times and wonder about these now-nameless giants who left behind monuments that we cannot replicate, but instead merely use or even mock.

Does anyone believe that contemporary Americans could build another transcontinental railroad in six years?

Think about that, they built a railroad in six years, from Omaha to San Francisco, using shovels, horses, gunpowder, and their backs. The most powerful machine they had was a steam locomotive that probably had less power than the last semi-truck you saw.

Then think about California this week, over a million people do not have electricity because PG&E is not allowed to trim trees but is required to pay for fires caused by not trimming trees and clearing underbrush.

In my youth, I knew men, and my own father was one of them, that built entire electrical distribution systems, in the midst of the depression, training farm boys to do the work, and working with mostly hand tools. Their work is one of the hidden reasons we won the Second World War, both because of the increased food available, and the reduced workforce necessary on the farms. One of his contemporaries built the entire Investor-owned gas and electric utility that serves Northern Indiana in that same time frame.

There were indeed giants in the earth.

Could we do any of these things now? Frankly, I doubt it. Yesterday someone commented that we are perhaps approaching the fourth turning. One hopes so. If you don’t know, the short form of that is this:

“Hard times create strong men.

Strong men create good times.

Good times create weak men.

And, weak men create hard times.”

Well, we, or at least you young folks, will see.

In the 1940s, young people read William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pearl Buck and John Steinbeck. Are our current novelists turning out anything comparable? Could today’s high-school graduate even finish “The Good Earth” or “The Grapes of Wrath”?

True, social media is impressive. The internet gives us instant access to global knowledge. We are a more tolerant society, at least in theory. But Facebook is not the Hoover Dam, and Twitter is not the Panama Canal.

Our ancestors were builders and pioneers and mostly fearless. We are regulators, auditors, bureaucrats, adjudicators, censors, critics, plaintiffs, defendants, social media junkies and thin-skinned scolds. A distant generation created; we mostly delay, idle and gripe.

“Who were these people who left these strange monuments that we use but can neither emulate nor understand?”

In comparison to us, they now seem like gods.

These men:

THE Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains, ” Be ye removèd” They say to the lesser floods ” Be dry.”
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd – they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill tops shake to the summit – then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden – under the earthline their altars are
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city’s drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to leave their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s days may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that !
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd – they know the angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet – they hear the Word – they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and – the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons !

Rudyard Kipling

That pretty much says it all, I think. But you should read the whole article.

 

Demagoguery and Populism

Law and Liberty is one of my favorite sites, as you’ve probably noticed.  They, like me but far better, tend to the underlying principles rather than the day to day atrocities of politics these days. Like reading Locke and Burke to understand conservatism, it gives one a base to judge daily happenings. I think that valuable. I also think it is what leads so many leftists astray, not having any base. It’s one thing to argue, say the British welfare state based on the context of the old poor law, it’s quite another to simply talk yell about how unfair it is to some identity politics grouping.

And so once again we go to Law and Liberty, this time to Charles  Zug on the differences and similarities between Demagoguery and Populism. Again it’s a fairly long article so you’re going to need to read it there to make complete sense of what I say. It’s worth the time.

In recent years—particularly since Brexit, Trump’s 2016 election, and the rise of figures such as Marine Le Pen and Victor Orbán—the terms populism and demagoguery have come to be used with increased frequency in political discourse. And yet, the concepts which these terms refer to remain unclear—as testified by the emergence of books (scholarly and general-audience) purporting to clarify what it is, precisely, that makes a demagogue and a populist. Adding to, or perhaps resulting from, this general lack of clarity is the fact that demagoguery and populism tend to be used interchangeably, often to describe those now-familiar political figures whose characteristic attributes include raging against neo-liberalism and globalization in the name of ordinary people, condemning “elites” of all stripes, and advocating a return to traditional local or nationalistic values, particularly as these regard religion, gender, and race.

The temptation to group these two concepts together is understandable, and in some ways, useful. Demagogues are often populists and populists frequently use demagoguery. Yet beyond their obvious similarities, these terms stand for distinct political concepts.

Practical Difficulties

Before saying what makes them different, however, it is worth observing the way populism and demagoguery are used in the context of real life politics. Because politicians and pundits so often weaponize these terms, public figures labeled “populists” and “demagogues” have a personal stake in denying either the appropriateness of the designation as it regards them, or the tenability of the very concept itself.

And yet there is no real problem with either of them. Populism is not quite a synonym but its meaning is really pretty close to democracy, while to demagogue essentially means to present to the people with passion. And yet, they have developed a bad reputation because of some bad actors, like Hitler and Mussolini. But nobody is going to say than Andrew Jackson wasn’t a populist demagogue, and he was a pretty good president.

For understanding why demagoguery and populism so often accompany one another, the American experience is particularly informative—though by no means exhaustive. The founders of the American political system recognized that the structure of a large polity housing a multiplicity of interests would incentivize discrete interest groups to assemble coalitions. This in turn would induce interest groups to deliberate among each other in ways they would otherwise not, so as to find the broadest and most stable bases of mutual support and therewith assurance of effective and enduring governance.

The founders also chose to lodge the regime’s ultimate (thought not its only) political authority, not in State and local governments as the Anti-Federalists would have done, but rather in national constitutional offices far removed from local constituents. Consequently, national office-holders were insulated from the pressures to which the leaders of small democracies had been notoriously subject. More importantly, the goals and priorities of national officeholders were reoriented away from the narrow and parochial concerns of their own communities towards the broader and more enduring concerns of the Union. To this end, James Madison in Federalist 10 anticipated that the effect of these national offices on public policy would be “to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations.”

I agree with him, and yet,  as the federal government has taken over more and more things that used to be in the purview of state and local government, who actually probably understood their constituents better than the faceless bureaucrats in Washington, it has gotten out of hand. What was an excellent idea, like all excellent ideas,  has come to be abused, and wants correcting. It’s a problem when you delegate to people who often self-describe as an ‘elite’, start to believe they know what I want or need better than I do.

I think we are going to be looking at aspects of this in the coming days, so remember what is in this article. I’m neither Locke nor Burke,  but I do have some idea of what ails us.

Looking over the Parapet

Some interesting news, for the first time in almost 50 years the British Royal Navy has two strike carriers at sea. The Queen Elizabeth is in the western Atlantic learning how best for her to operate strike aircraft and defend herself as the centerpiece of a carrier strike group. Now comes word that the Prince of Wales her sister ship has sailed for the first time from the Firth of Forth to begin her own workups, which likely won’t take as long as the QE because she is in the process of writing the book.

It should be noted that there is nothing afloat that is as powerful as these new ships, with the sole exception of US Nimitz class carriers and someday the new US Ford class. Bravo Zulu! More at The Thin Pinstriped Line. Oh, why not?

Just make sure you don’t let them fall under EU command.


Staying in Britain for the moment, for the first time ever, the Israeli Air Force is exercising over England along with the RAF, the USAF, The German Air Force, and the Italian Air Force.

Israel  sent several F-15s as well a Boeing  707s refueling planes and C130s and C130J’s

This is taking place over Lincolnshire and is known as Cobra Warrior, It is said that the RAF may take part in Israel’s Blue Flag exercise next year, which they have observed before.

Good job to all hands. More at Warsclerotic. I wanted to call those tankers C-135s since the use the flying boom that the USAF developed early in the cold war, but if you carefully at the picture you’ll notice that these aircraft have windows, KC135s co not.


If you pay much attention to either British history of British history on TV, you’ll know the name, David Starkey. He’s an excellent historian and an honest man. Here he explains the significance of Brexit and horrendous mess that May and Bercow have made. Do watch it.

You’ll not be surprised that I agree with him completely, and strongly commend him for doing this, because there is no way in hell that this would ever appear on the Fake News BBC.

Interestingly, towards the end, he speaks a good deal about the parallels between Brexit and the English Reformation under Henry VIII (his specialty, if I recall, is the Tudors). Well, maybe I’m about half as smart as I think, because I’ve always seen twp parallels in Brexit, one is the Reformation in England, and the other is the American Revolution.  Ever since the Anarchy in the thirteenth century, there has been a longing in the English to return to “the good old law”. In large measure that is what an8mated the American founders, and while we ended up starting over, not much of the good old law went into the discard.

My friends at The Conservative Woman suggest that this is also worth watching. They’re correct, so watch it too. (and it ‘s short).

Anniversaries

There were a couple of anniversaries yesterday, that are worth noting.

First, on 18 September 1947, the United States Air Force came into existence. Born out of the Army Air Forces, it had long been recognized that it should be a separate service. Even General of the Army/General of the Air Force (the only man to hold five-star rank in two services, and the only man to hold five-star rank in the Air Force) Henry H. (Hap) Arnold understood that separating in the preparation for and during World War Two was inadvisable. But with that war behind us, it was time to look to the future

And so following the Royal Air Force which became a separate service in 1918, it became so in America as well. The Navy looking at the British model strongly opposed the idea, noting that the RAF had taken over the fleet air arm. At a conference in Key West, it was agreed that the navy would keep its own air arm, as did the marines. And so now America has the two strongest air forces in the world.

As noted here right now the  Air Force faces challenges:

In strategic terms, the Air Force faces major challenges. As Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson put it this week, “What we know now from analysis” is that “the Air Force is too small for what the nation expects of us.” Wilson noted that the new National Defense Strategy says the military must “defend the homeland, provide a credible nuclear deterrent, win against a major power while encountering a rogue nation, all while managing violent extremists. Each of those missions relies heavily on America’s Air Force.”

Based on past performance, I’d guess they’ll come through for us, as they always have, but we really need to do better.

And so now, again looking to the future we have another new service aborning, mostly out of the Air Force, the Space Force. It’s probably a good idea, but it’s going to have to rely heavily on its older brother for a time, to get it all sorted out.

And so we owe thanks to the brave men and women whose bravery has kept us safe since 1947. Happy Birthday, Air Force, Keep ’em Flying and press on.

 


A few years before the establishment of the air force, there was a battle that was pretty important for    American history but perhaps even more important in English history. 881 years before the USAF King Harold Hardrada of Norway met King Harold Godwineson of England at Stamford Bridge. It’s quite a story, and my friend The Clerk of Oxford tells it better than I can.

Harold Hardrada’s army landing in England, in a 13th-century English manuscript
(CUL MS Ee.3.59, f.31)

On or around 18 September in the autumn of 1066, the king of Norway, Harald Hardrada, arrived on the coast of Yorkshire with a large army. In his company was Tostig, the brother of Harold Godwineson, king of England, who had joined forces with the Norwegians against his brother. Harold Godwineson himself was occupied elsewhere, on the south coast, having spent the summer awaiting a Norman invasion which had not – yet – come. Soon after their arrival the Norwegian forces won a battle at Fulford, near York, but were defeated a few days later by the English king at Stamford Bridge. In this battle, Harald Hardrada was killed. Accounts of the Norwegian invasion of 1066 in medieval English sources tend to be fairly brief, since it came to be overshadowed by the Battle of Hastings a few weeks later; but in Scandinavian history Harald Hardrada was a major figure, and so many Old Norse sources tell detailed and powerful narratives about the last days of his life. Written centuries after the events they describe, they are not really intended to be reliable sources for what actually happened in 1066; instead, they show us how later Norse writers thought about this period of history, which was (among other things) a turning-point in England’s relationship with the Scandinavian world.

One such is a text called Hemings þáttr, a narrative written in Iceland in the thirteenth century, which deals at length with the attempted Norwegian invasion of England, the Norman Conquest, and its aftermath. Following other Norse sources, it tells how Harald’s last days were marked by a cluster of omens which seemed to show the king that his death was approaching; Harald is shown embarking on the invasion with a sense of foreboding, increasingly confident that this will be his last expedition, the end of a magnificent career. He has been talked into it by Tostig, egged on to ambition by a bitter and vengeful man – Tostig is jealous of his brother, wants power for himself, and is trying to use the Norwegian king to get it. Harald knows Tostig is using him, knows he can’t be trusted, and yet agrees to support him. Almost before he has done so, the bad omens start: Harald’s men have threatening dreams, sailors report mysterious fires at sea and blood pouring out of the sky, a ghost rises up from a graveyard to prophesy that the king will fall. Worst of all, before setting sail, Harald has a vision of St Olaf, his martyred half-brother, who angrily chastises him for what he is about to do. Harald is shaken and Tostig, a wily ‘man of many words’, has to talk him round, telling him it’s just some ‘English witchcraft’ trying to frighten him. But the signs could not be clearer that this invasion will not end well.

By the time they reach the English coast, the relationship between the king and his English egger-on is strained. One thing that’s interesting about this part of the story is how precise the geographical references are, compared to the English sources; the Old Norse sources are much more specific about locating Harold and Tostig in particular places as they travel along the coast of Yorkshire, and Cleveland, Scarborough, and Ravenser are all mentioned by name. (Sometimes medieval Icelandic writers knew more about northern England than historians in the south of England did.)

Keep reading at the link. It’s quite the story, and well told. This battle, often overlooked, has in my mind at least ramifications that echo down to the present, stopping the revival of Cnut’s Scandinavian empire and weakening King Harold just enough for Duke William to beat him, sucking England into continental Europe for the next 500 years.

And yes, do buy her book, it’s one of my favorites. Here is the US Amazon link. I liked her writing enough to order it from Amazon UK before it was available here, and never regretted it.

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