30 December 2010

On My Recommended Reading List

Someone who has become an email acquaintance of mine recently sent me a book to assist me with preserving my metal detecting finds and other historical artifacts which I possess. Don Williams is senior conservator of the Smithsonian Institution and was kind enough to send me a personalized copy of a book he co-authored: Saving Stuff ~ How to Care for and Preserve Your Collectibles, Heirlooms, and Other Prized Possessions. The book is chocked full of useful information and I've already gleaned some great tips on taking care of all my "old stuff." I would recommend it to anyone interested in taking care of collectibles of all types. Don inscribed the flyleaf with the following:
"To Richard with heartfelt thanks for having the guts to be an honest historian. Blessings, Don Williams."
While I don't really consider myself a historian in the professional sense, I appreciate Don's kind words and gesture. In reading a recent post of his, I discovered we have kindred sentiments in some areas. Don recently wrote:

"I have endured many blessings in life, including that somehow I managed to avoid getting the curiosity beaten out of me at an early age while navigating government indoctrination camps . . . I was a mediocre student through much of my secondary schooling, essentially tuning out formal academics and doing only what I needed to move on while focusing on those things which interested me. There was so much fascinating stuff beyond the drivel being pushed in the classroom. Why were we reading a somnolistic civics textbook when there were The Federalist Papers (and even better, The Anti-Federalist Papers) to read? And history? A fascinating subject that takes great effort to be made unpalatable, but institutional “learning” gulags are up to that task. As I get older I only get more out of step with the popular culture all around me. I love learning, and I delight in passing along what I have learned."

I could have written those words myself. You can read more of Don's thoughts at this most interesting blog: blog.lostartpress.com

29 December 2010

Recommended Blog

An oversight on my part - but will soon be added to my WBTS blog roll:

Thanks Michael.

27 December 2010

Christmas & American Exceptionalism

When America had a President who understood our history - and our potential. How refreshing.

24 December 2010

Wishing You A Merry Christmas

"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, must lead, but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change." ~ Ebenezer Scrooge

"But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die." ~ Ezekiel 18:21

"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." ~ Matthew 1:21

Late on Christmas Eve this year, I will do as I have done consistently since my children were small. After our traditional Christmas Eve supper of fried oysters, ham, pumpkin pie, and apple cider, (Just a tad “hard”) I will sit down with whoever will join me (Usually one or two of my daughters) and watch one of the many screen adaptations of Charles Dickens’ (1812-1870) literary classic, A Christmas Carol. The version I most often watch, and probably one of the most popular and best done, is the 1951 film, A Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sims as Ebenezer Scrooge and Mervyn Jones as Bob Cratchit.

Christian purists may scoff at such an activity on this holiest of Christian holidays but Dickens’ story of a hateful, selfish, old man’s transformation into a joyful, generous old man offers a wonderful opportunity to contemplate the transforming affect that the Incarnation has had upon society. It is interesting to note that while Dickens would not be considered a true follower of Christ by Biblical standards, it is undeniable that the miraculous story of Christ’s birth made a dramatic impact upon this prolific author.

Dickens’ classic Christmas story certainly espouses a Christian worldview. The beginning of the Victorian period in Britain had seen a decline in the celebration of Christmas. This was due to two factors. The lingering Puritan influence of Oliver Cromwell’s rule had discouraged the celebration of the holiday and the industrial revolution then gripping England permitted little time for holiday festivities. But Dickens’ story, published in 1843, rekindled both Britain’s—as well as America’s—desire to celebrate the holiday in grand fashion. And while much of the story is not explicitly Christian, the novel does focus on the Christian holiday and the biblical concepts of charity, repentance, and forgiveness.

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire (England) on February 7, 1812. He moved to London in 1822 where he would reside most of his life. During Dickens’ formative years, Dickens’ father often brought the family to the brink of economic disaster by his extravagance and poor management of the family finances. For a time, young Dickens’ had to leave school and work in a factory due to his father’s confinement to debtor’s prison. This was an influential experience in Dickens’ life and one sees his sensitivity to the underclass and what he considered the oppressed all through his writings.

Another powerful influence on Dickens was the Christ-centered revival that took place in England during the 1830’s. The Christian activism that sprang from this revival took root in Dickens’ political philosophy. At the center of much of this reform movement was the Christian statesman William Wilberforce, whose faith, hard work, and evangelical zeal eventually led to the abolition of slavery in the British Isles (1833). Wilberforce also led the efforts for prison reform and relief for the poor. Much of Wilberforce’s work and thought would manifest itself through Dickens’ characters and stories. While there is plenty of room for critical analysis of Dickens’ works, as well as his theology (Dickens attended an Anglican Church, but most would consider some of his beliefs Unitarian), the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his miraculous transformation is filled with allusions to biblical principles and Christian allegories. Though Dickens’ theology rejected the need for Christ alone for salvation, he could not escape the beautiful and unparalleled truths contained in the Incarnation. It is evident from the story line in A Christmas Carol that Dickens was well versed in the Biblical principles and need for redemption.

First we see the utter depravity and selfishness of mankind expressed in the character of Scrooge. Dickens’ description of Scrooge is vivid:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn't thaw it one degree at Christmas.
In an opening scene in Dickens’ story, we see Scrooge’s nephew cheerily enter the old miser’s counting-house and greet him with, “A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!”
“Bah, Humbug!” is Scrooge’s gruff reply.

A few moments later two men enter Scrooge’s office soliciting funds for “the least of these my brethren” or in the words of Dickens, the “Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.” Scrooge denies their request of benevolence and suggests it would be better if the poor wretches die “and decrease the surplus population.” Scrooge aptly lives up to Dickens’ description. His comment also reminds us that modern American culture’s disdain for what it considers the weak and valueless or, what the founder of Planned Parenthood and the architect of modern birth control and abortion, Margaret Sanger, called “human waste,” is nothing new.

We also see the persecution of the righteous in the character of Bob Cratchit. A church going, hard working (If not very bright) father who labors faithfully for Scrooge and whose only joy comes in the love of his wife and children. Cratchit’s universally loved but crippled son, Tiny Tim, exemplifies Christian contentment and charity in his prayer request for Scrooge, “God bless us every one!” as his father proposes a toast to the man who has just “sacked” him on Christmas Eve.

Scrooge’s conscience is “awakened to righteousness” as he is visited on Christmas Eve by four apparitions. First, the “ghost” of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley and then, “the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas yet to come.” One can see the workings of the Holy Spirit depicted by these visitors as one by one they bring Scrooge face to face with his sins of greed and selfishness.

Marley bemoans the course he chose in life as he admonishes Scrooge: “Business’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

The allusion to Christian themes is obvious. In the end, Scrooge comes to himself, repents of his selfish ways and makes restitution to his fellow man. Dickens most certainly linked Scrooge’s transformation to the new birth:

He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk -- that anything -- could give him so much happiness.
While Ebenezer’s “conversion” was to human goodness rather than to Jesus Christ, Dickens had to resort to Christian principles and metaphors to make his point. Despite Dickens’ unorthodox beliefs, he could not escape the impact of Christ’s birth—and neither can anyone else. While ironic and sad, Dickens’ humanistic quest for redemption is an admission of his need and illustrates what we so often see in our family, friends, and acquaintances at this time of year—being drawn to the warmth and love of Christ, but ultimately grasping at the false and deceptive humanistic trappings of the Christmas season. Perhaps this Christmas God can use us to show them that redemption can only be found in that One born in the manger who ultimately died on the cross so that we could be saved from our sins. Mankind is Christ’s business. Mankind should be ours.

Merry Christmas from
Huckleberry Hollow, Virginia!

20 December 2010

American Exceptionalism Is Not A Myth

There was a time in America when young people were taught that being #1 was a good thing, and that anyone could grow up to be president, which is the #1 position of power in the world.  Now America is led by a president who bows down to the world and apologizes for America's power, while criticizing powerful and successful Americans at home, scorning them as "fat cats," and saying that "at a certain point, you've made enough money."
American Exceptionalism is a frequent topic here as well as a frequent target by the left. Traditionalists affirm, the left attacks the affirmation. We have the liars, the deniers, the enemies - all determined, like our incredibly shrinking President, to whittle America down to size. While claiming to be "neutral" about the topic of AE, these self-loathing globalists, who seem to always find virtue in dictators and oppressive regimes, find very little to praise about America prior to the 1960's. 

You can read more of the piece quoted above here at the American Thinker.

19 December 2010

The Priestly Caste Has No Clothes

"More and more, the left urges us to buy the notion that academia is indispensable to informed societies and to national power in science and technology.  In fact, academia is a heavy burden, in every sense of the word, upon modern society.  Over the last century, colleges (nearly all of which are now instead "universities") have devolved from places of serious study and intellectual inquiry into vast, generally malign, priestly castes.  Rote memorization of correct dogma has replaced genuine thinking.  Evolution by natural selection, for example, is an iron law of anthropology, despite gaping holes which have grown wider and more serious over time.  Any mind free enough to challenge the dubious theory of Darwin faces the lash, as Ben Stein showed so well in his film.  Global warming, another convenient myth of corrupt academia, squelches publication of doubters and schemes secretly to hide conflicting evidence." (More here.)

And don't forget, some in academia even want dissenters jailed. Note here and here

16 December 2010

The Tea Party - Quintessentially American & Patriotic

Today, in 1773, patriots disguised as Indians dumped crates of tea into Boston Harbor to protest the Tea Act. This event became known as the "Boston Tea Party." Many Americans believe its time to "party" again. I've never attended a Tea Party rally, nor a meeting, and I am not a "member" of the recent grassroots movement which has become known as the "Tea (Taxed Enough Already) Party" but I am a proud supporter of the movement's' guiding principles and goals.

"Virginia Tea Party Patriots (VTPP) is a statewide tea party federation of local, non-partisan patriot groups established to advance and strengthen the Founding principles and God-given rights predicated in the U.S. and Virginia Constitution. Our mission is to encourage and facilitate citizen participation in the political process and empower all citizens with a voice and influence in demanding Constitutional governance."

The genesis of this truly grassroots citizens and quintessentially patriotic American movement was CNBC's Rick Santelli's brilliant, passionate, unrehearsed speech on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. As Santelli correctly points out, the modern TP movement is legitimately connected to our founding fathers and their fight for freedom and liberty.

Santelli's speech was one of those pivotal moments that come to us unexpected, but one which will very likely be looked upon in the future as a watershed moment in American history. Since this is the anniversary of the original Tea Party, watching Santelli deliver his history lesson on economics today is a fitting way to commemorate the event. Santelli's speech has been referred to as "the shout heard 'round the world." A true classic.

What Caused The Civil War?

The Causes of The Civil War JPG"As one reflects upon the problem of causation one is driven to the conclusion that historians will never know, objectively and with mathematical precision, what caused the Civil War. Working with fragmentary evidence, possessing less than a perfect understanding of human behavior, viewing the past from the perspective of their own times, finding it impossible to isolate one historial event to test its significance apart from all others, historians must necessarily be somewhat tentative and conjectural in offering their interpretations."- Kenneth M. Stampp in the Introduction of "The Causes of The Civil War"

(The late Professor Stampp was a former president of the American Historical Association and, until his death last year, was considered a leading scholar on the Civil War.)

15 December 2010

Does Academia Support Freedom Of Conscience?

FIRE and You: Together Changing Campus Culture from FIRE on Vimeo.

Yes, We Were Founded As A Christian Nation

In precept and principle. Even the Library of Congress acknowledges as much:

". . . many of the colonies that in 1776 became the United States of America were settled by men and women of deep religious convictions who in the seventeenth century crossed the Atlantic Ocean to practice their faith freely."

And . . .

". . . the nation's first major religious revival in the middle of the eighteenth century injected new vigor into American religion. The result was that a religious people rose in rebellion against Great Britain in 1776, and that most American statesmen, when they began to form new governments at the state and national levels, shared the convictions of most of their constituents that religion was, to quote Alexis de Tocqueville's observation, indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions." [Emphasis mine.]

And . . . 

"Congress appointed chaplains for itself and the armed forces, sponsored the publication of a Bible, imposed Christian morality on the armed forces, and granted public lands to promote Christianity among the Indians."

And . . .

"The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the 'public prosperity' of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a 'spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens,' Congress declared to the American people, would 'make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people.'"

Not founded as a Christian Nation? You gotta be kiddin' me.

More here.

Also, doubters should explore these posts and the recommended links.

14 December 2010

The Study of History

"The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false." ~ Paul Johnson

Citizen Legislators

A former colleague at the Washinton Times just shared this with me:

Congressional Reform Act of 2010 [Carried over, I hope, to 2011]

1. Term Limits -12 years only, one of the possible options below:
  A. Two Six-year Senate terms
  B. Six Two-year House terms
  C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms
  D. No Tenure / No Pension.
2. A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

3. Congress (past, present and future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11. [or 2012]
The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

13 December 2010

Virginia Makes History Again

"Today’s ruling is a clear affirmation that President Obama’s health care law is unconstitutional. The efforts of [Virginia] Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli have raised legitimate concerns and ensured that the people of the Commonwealth will have their rights protected against this unconstitutional law. Ultimately, we must ensure that no American will be forced by the federal government to purchase health insurance they may not need, want, or be able to afford."

More here.

09 December 2010

Public High School Hosts Communist Awards Ceremony

More anecdotal evidence:

“Not that long ago Americans openly rejected socialism and communism,” Jim Hoft writes. “Now the communists are holding awards ceremonies and concerts in public high schools and openly honoring state labor leaders.”

My grandfathers are spinning in their graves. They risked their lives to fight communists. Now we invite them into our schools. Hat tip to The Blaze

08 December 2010

Metal Detecting Post #18

Pictured here is my latest Civil War related find while metal detecting near a Shenandoah Valley battlefield. It is a stirrup strap buckle from a CW era saddle. I was also pleased to find out this week that I've been selected to participate in the very popular "Diggin' in Virginia" WBTS relic hunt. "Diggin' In Virginia (DIV) is an invitational hunt dedicated to the ideals of friendship, fun, and the proper recovery/identification of historical artifacts." I actually got invited to both spring 2011 digs. I'll most likely only attend one of them though. I'm looking very forward to this event.

Some interesting posts coming up . . . hopefully some more photos and/or videos of relic hunts and finds - assuming the weather will cooperate. Also, I plan to post a video that I've been wanting to do for some time now - a tour of my home office. Several readers have expressed interest in this and a desire to see my "command post" and "nerve center" from where I blog and write. I plan to put this together over the next week or two and post it on Christmas Eve. The video will likely be posted in several "episodes" as YouTube has, I believe, a 10 minute limit per upload. I'll be doing this as much for my children as readers of this blog and I will be discussing various items in my office and their connection to my family history and our "sense of place." I think readers here will find it interesting.

06 December 2010

He SHALL Reign!

Even in food courts . . .

Merry Christmas.

What An Embarassment

This guy gets more wrong about the history of the United States than any President in recent memory:

Members of Congress on Monday called on President Obama to issue a public correction after he incorrectly labeled E pluribus unum the U.S.'s motto in a speech last month, rather than "In God We Trust." The lawmakers, members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, also said the president was making "a pattern" of dropping the word "Creator" when he recites the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence.  "By misrepresenting things as foundational as the Declaration of Independence and our national motto, you are not only doing a disservice to the people you represent you are casting aside an integral part of American society," the representatives said in a stern letter asking for him to correct the speech.

But, the academic historians love him. The silence from academia on the President's habitual errors and omissions regarding American history is deafening. More here.

The Enemy My Friend?

Daniel N.Rolph, PhD, Historian & Head of Reference Services for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, recently contacted me to tell me about a piece he had posted at his blog. Dr. Rolph is author of the excellent book, My Brother's Keeper: Union and Confederate Soldiers' Acts of Mercy During the Civil War which in my opinion explains, in part, some of the motivation behind the "reconciliation perspective" of the WBTS. There's much more to that view than what most academic historians today write about. Here's an excerpt from Dan's recent blog post, The 'Other' American Civil War: The Enemy My Friend?

"The ball struck the corner of his belt-plate and passed through his body, inflicting a mortal wound. His mind was perfectly clear, anf for one-half hour we were alone, undisturbed, and we wept and prayed together, invoking the Infinite Mercy of God to forgive us both."

Of this incident, and others like it, Dr. Rolph notes:

"Such at times was the American Civil War. It is not only a subject devoted to 'blood and guts,' heroic actions in battle, atrocities, or animosities between 'Yankees' and 'Rebels.' Oftentimes, as recorded by the very men who served within America's worst national conflict, it was also a time of faith, charity, and brotherly-love, even for those participants whose politics were diametrically in opposition to one another."

This is a great piece and worth your time to read. Check it out at Dan's blog, HSP's Hidden Histories.

You might also be interested in a couple of guest posts that Dan contributed a while back here and here at Old Virginia Blog.

03 December 2010

Southern Americana

A marriage of low-tech & high-tech. Gotta love the Colonel.

02 December 2010

George Washington Forgets . . .


"More recently another group of anti-Federalist descendants has coalesced around the right to carry a gun. Home schoolers also have anti-Federalist instincts."

George Washington being channeled by historian Thomas Fleming.

Metal Detecting Post #17

This is a follow up to previous posts (including this one) about the late, legendary Civil War relic hunter, Tom Dickey and his method of defusing live CW artillery shells. Fascinating and great1974 vintage video - a bit funny too. I love his classic Southern drawl. One of my relic hunting acquaintances recently told me of an unexploded Hotchkiss shell found during the last spring plowing here in the Shenandoah Valley not too far from my home. Be careful out there.

01 December 2010

A Member Of Jefferson Davis' Confederacy

Confederate soldier's Bible makes its way back home to Lynchburg:

The obituary of Confederate veteran Dewitt Clinton Guy in the Lynchburg Daily Virginian of Jan. 7, 1889 noted: “He was true to his colors and never apologized for the part he took in the lost cause.”

That final notation also confirms that Guy still considered himself “a member of Jefferson Davis’ Confederacy.”

(Hat tip to Kenny Rowlette of the National Civil War Chaplains Museum in Lynchburg, Virginia)