Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Great Exhibition

Today marks the 170th anniversary of the opening, by Queen Victoria, of the Great Exhibition held in Hyde Park, London, in 1851. It was the first international expo of its type, and was notable, among other things, for being housed in the Crystal Palace. Prince Albert was much involved in planning the exhibition, and the Queen, in her diary entry for the opening day, applauds him highly for the exhibition’s success.

The Great Exhibition, officially called the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, took place in Hyde Park, London, from 1 May to 15 October 1851. Prince Albert was heavily involved with the organisation, as was Henry Cole, a civil servant and inventor best known for introducing Christmas cards.

In the late 1840s, Cole, with Prince Albert’s backing, won a royal charter for the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and organised several exhibitions for celebrating modern industrial technology. Soon, though, he perceived the possibility of opening a future exhibition to international participants. Queen Victoria approved a Royal Commission, under the presidency of Prince Albert, to manage such a project for 1851.

The Crystal Palace, designed by Joseph Paxton drawing on his experience of building greenhouses for the sixth Duke of Devonshire, was constructed to house the exhibition. (It was later moved to Sydenham in south London, an area which became known as Crystal Palace. The building itself, though, was destroyed by fire in 1936.) Some six million people visited the Great Exhibition and it was deemed a huge success, not least financially with the profits being used to found the now-famous Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Here is an extract from Queen Victoria’s diary for the day of the opening, freely available on a website dedicated to her journals. (See also The crown hurt me.)

1 May 1851
‘This day is one of the greatest and most glorious days of our lives, with which, to my pride and joy the name of my dearly beloved Albert is forever associated! It is a day which makes my heart swell with thankfulness ... The Park presented a wonderful spectacle, crowds streaming though it - carriages and troops passing, quite like the Coronation Day, and for me, the same anxiety. The day was bright, and all bustle and excitement. At half past 11, the whole procession in 9 state carriages was set in motion. Vicky and Bertie were in our carriage. Vicky was dressed in lace over white satin, with a small wreath of pink wild roses, in her hair, and looked very nice. Bertie was in full Highland dress. The Green Park and Hyde Park were one mass of densely crowded human beings, in the highest good humour and most enthusiastic. I never saw Hyde Park look as it did, being filled with crowds as far as the eye could reach. A little rain fell, just as we started; but before we neared the Crystal Palace, the sun shone and gleamed upon the gigantic edifice, upon which the flags of every nation were flying.

We drove up Rotten Row and got out of our carriages at the entrance on that side. The glimpse through the iron gates of the Transept, the moving palms and flowers, the myriads of people filling the galleries and seats around, together with the flourish of trumpets, as we entered the building, gave a sensation I shall never forget, and I felt much moved ... In a few seconds we proceeded, Albert leading me having Vicky at his hand, and Bertie holding mine. The sight as we came to the centre where the steps and chair (on which I did not sit) was placed, facing the beautiful crystal fountain was magic and impressive. The tremendous cheering, the joy expressed in every face, the vastness of the building, with all its decorations and exhibits, the sound of the organ (with 200 instruments and 600 voices, which seemed nothing), and my beloved Husband the creator of this great ‘Peace Festival’, uniting the industry and arts of all nations of the earth, all this, was indeed moving, and a day to live forever. God bless my dearest Albert, and my dear Country which has shown itself so great today ... The Nave was full of people, which had not been intended and deafening cheers and waving of handkerchiefs, continued the whole time of our long walk from one end of the building, to the other. Every face was bright, and smiling, and many even had tears in their eyes ... One could of course see nothing, but what was high up in the Nave, and nothing in the Courts. The organs were but little heard, but the Military Band, at one end, had a very fine effect ...

We returned to our place and Albert told Lord Breadalbane to declare the Exhibition opened, which he did in a loud voice saying “Her Majesty commands me to declare the Exhibition opened”, when there was a flourish of trumpets, followed by immense cheering. Everyone was astounded and delighted. The return was equally satisfactory - the crowd most enthusiastic and perfect order kept. We reached the Palace at 20 minutes past 1 and went out on the balcony, being loudly cheered. That we felt happy and thankful, - I need not say - proud of all that had passed and of my beloved one’s success. Dearest Albert’s name is for ever immortalised and the absurd reports of dangers of every kind and sort, set about by a set of people, - the ‘soi-disant’ fashionables and the most violent protectionists - are silenced. It is therefore doubly satisfactory that all should have gone off so well, and without the slightest accident or mishap.’

This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 1 May 2011.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Heart aches for the mothers

’How dreadful to be left in one’s old age dependent upon strangers, and broken down in health, God help me that I may never be left thus friendless; I feel as if I could not turn any one away and especially a mother, my heart aches for the mothers.’ This is from the extensive diaries of thrice-married Emmeline Wells, a Mormon and women’s rights advocate who died 100 years ago today.

Emmeline Blanche Woodward was born in 1828 in Petersham, Massachusetts, her parents seventh child. Her father died when she was four, and her mother remarried before moving to North New Salem. She was schooled at New Salem Academy. As advised by her mother, she heeded the Latter-day Saint missionaries and, aged 14,, was baptised a member of the Mormon Church. Over the following eight years, she married and migrated to Nauvoo, Illinois, gave birth to and lost an infant son, was abandoned by her young husband, married Newel K. Whitney as a plural wife (in a ceremony performed by Brigham Young), crossed the plains to Utah (then Deseret), gave birth to two daughters, and became a widow! 

Emmeline took up teaching, but in 1852 - still only 24 - became the seventh wife of Daniel H. Wells, a friend of her late husband’s and a prominent citizen who eventually became mayor of Salt Lake City. He established her in a two-story home with a garden, where she had three daughters. According to biographies, she never regretted or doubted her participation in polygamy. When the Utah War broke out in 1857, Emmeline Wells moved south to Provo, where she continued to teach, and in 1859 gave birth to her fourth daughter. By the 1860s, she was involved in church and public service, but it was her skill as a writer that brought her notice, with articles on women’s rights for the magazines Women’s Exponent and Women’s Journal. From the late 1870s, she became to take active role in the national suffrage movement; and for 30 years she represented Utah women in national suffrage associations. In 1899, she traveled to London to speak as a US representative to the International Council of Women. 

In 1912, Emmeline Wells received an honorary degree from Brigham Young University, and she lived to see the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which brought voting rights to women in 1920. She died on 25 April 1921. According to the Utah History Encyclopaedia, she was ‘known for her executive talents, her superb memory, and her indefatigable energy’, and ‘served as liaison between Mormon and non-Mormon women’ helping to ‘dispel much of the hostile criticism of her people’. On her 100th birthday, representative Utah women of all faiths and political persuasions posthumously recognised her achievements by placing a bust of her in the rotunda of the state capitol building, the only woman so honoured. Further information is also available at Wikipedia, Alexander Street and The Church Historian’s Press.

Wells left behind some 47 volumes of diaries spanning the years 1844 to 1920, There is substantial gap in the diary entries between 1846 and 1874 - though it is considered possible diaries from this period have been lost. The diaries today are held at Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. They have recently been edited and made freely available online by the Church Historian’s Press - see Deseret News.

The publisher states: ‘The diaries of Emmeline B. Wells provide a window into the life of one of the most influential Latter-day Saint women in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the diaries she is both historymaker, as she meets with presidents and works with national suffrage leaders, and historian, as she documents noteworthy events, daily interactions with her family and members of her community, and her adversities and faith. The diaries are a record of her perceptions and philosophies, and they are valuable not only to historians but also to those simply curious about this remarkable woman and the time in which she lived.’

Here are several examples, with original (lack of) punctuation but page references and footnote numbers removed.

10 August 1874
‘The upper porch is nearly finished, the men cut off lots of branches while I was away and made me feel dreadful, I never intended anything of the sort, Mell & Em. went down to Mary Ann’s, Lizzie Heisel went to Lile’s today - I am not feeling well and am so low-spirited tomorrow is my husband’s trial towards evening Mrs. Nancy Dixon came here and said she was destitute of a home, I told her to stay until I could see what could be done for her in our Society; how dreadful to be left in one’s old age dependent upon strangers, and broken down in health, God help me that I may never be left thus friendless; I feel as if I could not turn any one away and especially a mother, my heart aches for the mothers, Mr. Wilson came and spent the evening also Richard [J.] Taylor;’

23 August 1874
‘Mary Jo [Ayers Young]’s baby died this morn. we are none of us very well today – in the evening Will was here Mell. went with Lile to the Methodist Church; Mr. Bryant came home with her; Jo. [Joseph W.] Taylor, Rudd, Clawson, Harry [Henry B.] Emery, Rulon, Heber and several other of the young folks were here; enjoyed themselves very much indeed;

Wm. [Dunford] was here drunk both Saturday night and Sunday very much to my annoyance; indeed on Sunday he made me quite sick; when will it all end; I am so worn out with these kind of things;’

3 November 1874
‘This is the day Mr. Hendrie spoke of as one on which he had made an engagement to be at home I was busy writing a note to my husband relative to Mellie’s marriage when aunt Zina came in and Mell was terribly annoyed in consequence and we had something of a scene, however I could not write afterwards and even now when almost a week has elapsed and many stirring incidents have since transpired I feel as if I could scarcely resume my pen May God help me to overcome every weakness and be complete master of myself. having in subjection every impulse and feeling guided and controlled by the Spirit of God, We got a dozen new glasses from the co-op’

11 December 1874
‘This is Onie’s birthday she is five years old, I have been busy preparing my piece for the paper, called on Mrs. Richards’ coming home about four o’clock my friend came to meet me and walked a block with me said he should go to Bingham on Saturday; What can be the cause of the feeling of nearness which is in my heart for him, it is an enigma to me I have tried every way in the world to put this feeling from me; Em. went to the party in the Assembly-Rooms with Junie[;] Lou. went to [Hiram B. and Ellen] Clawson’s and staid all night, Annie and I were very lonely and I was not well my nerves were over-strained; I have been weeping for a day or two more than is usual with me; I pray and struggle against it with all my strength;’

2 May 1875
‘Wrote all day had Belle here, Em. went up to Belle’s and staid all day, in the evening Mr. Hendrie came and staid until late half-past twelve; it seemed refreshing after such an interval of time since he had been in our midst. If he could only realize the necessity of obeying the Gospel how happy we should all be. I cannot describe to any one my feelings in regard to these things.

This Mr Hendry so often referred to was very much in love with my sister Emmie An extremely nice man, educated wealthy good family but not a member of the Church. Mother idolized Emmie and desired her happiness but belief caused difficulties.

29  January  1881
'A very dull day. The Chinamen’s new year. Quite a demonstration of fire-works. “no wash, no iron, no workee.” Sister Pratt and I called on Maggie [Margaret Young] Taylor to invite her to Br. R’s. got the pictures in the locket. Dr. Ferguson is worse. Louisa [King Spencer] had a dinner for her mother and invited all the near relatives. <I was present.> Louie went to Ogden. Sep came down to stay over Sunday. rec’d a letter from Mrs. Brayman of Wisconsin’

13 April 1881
‘This is Emeline’s birthday she is twenty-four I gave her Jean Ingelow’s Poems. I was very weary could scarcely sit up came home and was much distressed. How lonely it is not to have any one to go to in the hour of trouble. Poor little Louie I cannot burden her, she is not well herself and I must not add to her misery’

27 April 1887
‘Today Dot has been very sick indeed, and her mother has had double duty to perform, running from room to room It does seem melancholy to hear the girls Louie in one room and Dot in another groaning with pain, mustard plasters have been used for both and several other remedies but with very little effect, The nurse Mrs. Kelly is not much good, she helps lift and turn Louie and does a little rubbing, but she has no tact what ever for the sick room The Dr. talks every day about aspirating or tapping but I have not consented as yet.’

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Repington’s wander-year

One hundred years ago, an ex-soldier and ex-war correspondent Charles à Court Repington, found himself in Budapest, admiring the Danube and the view from the British High Commission, enjoying the opera (The Evening Star by Meyerbeer) and dining with the Italian military commissioner. The details come from a diary he kept on a ‘wander-year’ round Europe determined to acquaint himself with the new personalities and new ideas which ‘the great war-storm’ had thrown up. Repington is credited with coining the term ‘First World War’.

Charles à Court was born at Heytesbury, Wiltshire in 1858, but did not take on the name Repington until 1903, following the requirement in a will that led to his inheriting the Amington Hall Estate. He was schooled at Eton College and then attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. In 1878, he joined the British Army’s Rifle Brigade as commissioned infantry officer. He married Melloney Catherine Scobel in 1882. They had two daughters who survived infancy, but the marriage foundered on Repington’s frequent infidelities. Later, he had a long-term affair with Mary North, until her divorce; thereafter, they lived together for the latter part of Repington’s life, having one daughter together.

After serving in Afghanistan, Burma and Sudan, he entered the Staff College at Camberley, and subsequently was appointed military attaché in Brussels and The Hague, leading to a promotion as Lieutenant-Colonel. He served as a staff officer during the Second Boer War in South Africa 1899-1901, and was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George during the conflict. On returning to London, he took a position as a military correspondent with the Morning Post (1902-1904), and The Times (1904-1918). His reports as a war correspondent from the scene of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905 were later published as a book entitled The War in the Far East. During the war, he relied on his personal contacts in the British Army and the War Office for his information and for permission to visit the Western Front during the early stages of the conflict in late 1914, at a time when most journalists were prohibited.

One of Repington’s most important early scoops led to the so-called ‘shell scandal’ in May 1915. The British Expeditionary Force Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French, suggested to Repington that a shortage of artillery ammunition was the reason for the failure of the British attack at Neuve Chapelle in March that year. The furore arising from Repington’s report in The Times led to the ultimate removal of French (replaced by Sir Douglas Haig) and the downfall of the last Liberal government. Repington resigned from the newspaper in early 1918 on a point of principle, and rejoined the Morning Post. Shortly afterwards he was charged and found guilty of offences (disclosing secret information in his articles) under the Defence of the Realm Act. He was found guilty, and fined for his actions. He is thought to have been the first person to use the term ‘First World War’ - on 10 September 1918 in a conversation noted in his diary. After the end of the war, Repington joined the staff of The Daily Telegraph. He died in 1925. See Wikipedia,, Spartacus Educational or the Rippington Family website for further information.

In his last years, Repington published two volumes of his war diaries: The First World War 1914-1918 (available to read at Internet Archive). In 1921, he took a year long journey around Europe, and subsequently published his diary of the trip. His short preface explains: ‘When the Peace Treaties, with one exception, were ratified and in full operation, I felt the need of a wander-year in order to acquaint myself with the new personalities and new ideas which the great war-storm had thrown up to the surface of affairs in continental Europe. It was useless to content oneself with archaic notions when all was changed, if one wished to keep abreast with the times, and there was no better way to discover what was happening than to go and see for oneself. [. . .] I offer this diary as a small contribution to the knowledge of people and events in the world of to-day in the hope that it may aid my readers to judge for themselves the proper direction of foreign policy in the future.’

And exactly a century ago, Repington was in Budapest. Here is his diary entry of that day as found in After the War; London-Paris-Rome-Athens-Prague-Vienna-Budapest-Bucharest-Berlin-Sofia-Coblenz-New York-Washington; a Diary (Constable & Co., 1922 - also freely available online at Internet Archive).

15 April 1921
‘The Danube is a nobler river than the Moldau, but Budapest has a strong resemblance to Prague, with its heights and palaces on one bank and the lower part of the town on the other. Went up to our Legation. Hohler has been and still is seriously ill with ’flu and bronchitis. Saw Athelstan-Johnson, the First Secretary, and looked over the Legation - I beg its pardon, the Headquarters of the British High Commission - which has a beautiful view over the river from the heights close to the old cathedral. Very comparable with Sir G. Clerics view from his terrace over Prague, but the Legation here is much smaller. A charming place of an old-world type with arched and vaulted roofs and an inner court. Left a card and note on Count Albert Apponyi who is away. Lunched with A.-J. in his house and we discussed European politics. He thinks that the old nobles party here is losing ground, and that the various countries round hate each other too much to combine. He would approve of the final break-up of Austria, part going to Czechs and Serbs and part to Germany and Hungary. I said that I did not see the continued existence of Czecho-Slovakia on these terms and that Italy would not like Germany on her borders.

He told me that Lord Bertie’s correspondence was lodged at Welbeck in two strong boxes and that it would not be published for fifty years. I asked if it included the private letters written to the F.O. and were they not very Rabelaisian? Yes, he said they were. Bertie had copies of them all, for he was a bureaucrat and had kept everything. I grumbled because we should never see these gems. A.-J. said that they were a most faithful and accurate representation of Bertie’s time in Paris during the war.

Went on to see Brigadier-General Gorton, my old friend of past Intelligence days, now at the head of our Military Mission here. The French press seems to be quite off the rails in belittling the Little Entente and in boosting a Karl Kingdom here and in Austria. I am amazed that they seem quite off the Czechs. The Frenchmen ought to travel a bit and they would see how the land lay. I saw Mr. Barber of our Commercial Branch, Mr. Humphreys being away, and am to come in and gain a little trade wisdom from him tomorrow. Went to the opera with the Gortons at б p.m. A good house and a competent orchestra. “The Evening Star,” by Meyerbeer. I have never heard it before. Very well done. Went on afterwards to dine at about 9.15 with the Gortons and General Bellini, the Italian Military Commissioner, and his wife. I asked the Italian General whether Italy’s natural frontier on the Alps appeared to him worth the passing over of the Tyrol to Germany, as seemed to me likely to happen eventually. He thought it was worth even having Germany on the border for Italy to gain the natural frontier. Doubt whether Sforza will agree with this opinion. Am afraid that our own people at home are too much immersed in their Martha-like worries to understand where all this affair is leading. The abandonment of Austria is the beginning of a great future disturbance which will entail the ruin of the Benès scheme and of Czecho-Slovakia, and the eventual spread of German dominion over not only Austria, but Hungary, which is too hard beset by Roumanians and Jugo-Slavs not to seek refuge in a German, or in fact in any combination which is against the Roumanians.’

Friday, April 9, 2021

Indonesia’s first prime minister

‘However little the common people understand, feel the need for democratic rights and for representative government, there is a potential in this kind of humanism, to make education of the people, and material and spiritual happiness of the people, into the principles and aims of such a government.’ This is from the prison diary of Sutan Sjahrir, the first prime minister of Indonesia, who died 55 years ago today. He was an idealistic intellectual who put his country’s interests before his own. Though he fell out of favour under the Sukarno regime, and ended his life in exile, there has recently been more interest in his life and legacy. 

Sjahrir was born in 1909 in Padangpandjang, Sumatra, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia]. His father was the chief public prosecutor in Medan and advisor to the Sultan of Deli. Sjahrir received a Dutch education in Sumatra and Java and attended the Law Faculty at the University of Leiden. While in the Netherlands, he was a member of a socialist student group and, briefly, secretary of the student group Perhimpoenan Indonesia (Indonesian Association). Before finishing his degree, he returned, in 1931, to the Dutch East Indies where he helped set up the Indonesian National Party (PNI), and also became involved in its newspaper, Daulat Rajat. Both he and his activist friend Mohammad Hatta were imprisoned in the Cipinang Penitentiary Institution by the Dutch in 1934 for nationalist activities, and exiled to Boven Digul region, then to the Banda islands.

During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, Sjahrir chose to withdraw from public life but became involved with the resistance movement. At the height of the chaos and violence during the so-called Bersiap period of the Indonesian revolution just after the war ended, Sjahrir published an epoch-making pamphlet - Our Struggle. This was well received by militant nationalists, and led to President Sukarno appointing him prime minister in late 1945. Sjahrir negotiated the Linggadjati Agreement, under which the Dutch acknowledged Indonesia’s authority in Java and Sumatra; but his conciliatory policies fell out of favour, and in 1947 he was forced out of office. 

Subsequently, Sjahrir became a member of the Indonesian delegation to the United Nations. In 1948, he formed a Socialist party, Partai Sosialis Indonesia (PSI), which opposed the Communist Party, but it failed to win popular support and was banned by Sukarno in 1960 because of its support for a rebellion in Sumatra and its opposition to the president’s policies. In 1962, Sjahrir was arrested on charges of conspiracy. He was held without trial until 1965, when he was allowed to travel to Switzerland for medical treatment following a stroke. However, he died on 9 April 1966 while still in Switzerland. 

According to Wikipedia, in 2009, the Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda commended Sjahrir’s legacy: ‘He was a thinker, a founding father, a humanistic leader and a statesman. He should be a model for the young generation of Indonesians. His thoughts, his ideas and his spirit are still relevant today as we face global challenges in democracy and the economy.’ Further information is also available at Encyclopaedia Britannica and Sol Tas’s Souvenirs of Sjahrir.

In his final years, Sjahrir kept a diary - a prison diary. A few extracts in English can be found in Sjahrir: Politics and Exile in Indonesia by Rudolf Mrázek (Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1994), available to preview at Googlebooks or Amazon. The publisher says this work is ‘both a study of an individual and the social conditions that shaped him.’ Mrázek comments briefly on the diary: ‘There was a certain youthfulness about what Sjahrir wrote during his last years - something like a fresh beginning about his texts from prisons and the hospital after 1962, and before he was paralyzed. Sjahrir seemed, also, more than during the 1950s, to take pleasure in reading. He opened his books with eagerness: “I do not know yet what is in this book,” he noted more than once in the prison diary he kept.’

Here are several extracts from Sjahrir’s diary as quoted by Mrázek

6 May 1962 [Madiun prison]
‘Together with this notebook, which I shall use for recording my days, they sent me from the outside two volumes of collected works by Marx and Engels, as 1I had requested; also a book by Ralph Linton on anthropology and a book by Karl Wittfogel on Oriental Despotism.

First, I look at the writing of Marx and Engels. Clearly, the articles in those two volumes are written by a pen which twenty or thirty years ago powerfully influenced my thinking, my feeling, my views and, because of that, the direction my life has taken. It is as if I am meeting again with very dear friends from the past [sahabat-sahabat karib lama], but being aware, at the same time, that the world had changed and my views, too. I know that reading these texts again will cause a great reckoning with an old love [tjinta lama], a new reckoning with the influences in my life which belong to the past, but maybe, also to this very moment. I am sure that much good awaits me as I am about to encounter this again. I have postponed this reading in order to postpone the reckoning, because I felt sure that this would become a very personal [persoonlijk] matter to me.’

September 1962
‘To my wife and equally to myself, it is, indeed, amazing that the State could behave to me in the way I am now experiencing. I never have, and I never will expect recognition, and, least of all honors, from my nation and people. . . But I have also never dreamed that the State, the nation and the people might suspect me of being unfaithful or not faithful enough [tidak atau kurang setia] to my State, nation and people. This is the same, as my wife says, as suspecting me of being unfaithful or not faithful enough to myself, unfaithful or not faithful enough, through my life, to my aspirations and to my consciousness; as if I abandoned the view of life, which I held for the past fifty years, as if, at present, as I am coming closer to my grave, I had no view of life at all.’

October 1962
‘The character of this book is very different from that of Ogburn. Weber is a kind of scholar of the 19th century, a universal man of letters [pudjangga universil] like Goethe, Nietzsche, or others, who lived only to read and write down their extraordinary explanations of the world, that is, men who possessed an unusual capacity to learn and to remember from the time when they were children. In the 20th century one perhaps would not meet men like that, because the specialization in scholarship has advanced so much that it is impossible to follow all the directions. What is impressive is that much of what Max Weber wrote is still true for today, and that it is, thus, the essential and fundamental [pokok dan dasar] truth.

I am very much attracted to this writing. As if it had been written for the time we are now living in, although it was written around 1920. The style is truly appealing, in spite of the fact that it is a translation. I decided to read all the writing by Max Weber in the original. In spite of the fact that the style of his writing is that of classical German, [growing out of] Latin or Greek, with very long sentences, I find it even more interesting than, for instance, the writing of Marx, even more spirited, even more lively.’

26 March 1963
‘I myself learned many big lessons from the general elections, so that later . . . I agreed that we should move back to the Constitution of 1945, in which certainly the position of the Executive is pushed forward and takes on a quality of leadership that rather surpasses that of the day-to-day powers of Parliament, [but] which also gives the Executive enough space and time to work. As is the case with the US Constitution, the [Indonesian] Constitution of 1945 is succinct enough to be perfected later in accordance with further experiences. . . It appears that Feith did not think about this, as his book bears a title “The Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Indonesia.” ’

3 June 1963
‘My memories and my thoughts turn and fly home, to my children, whom I wish to be more happy in a future, and better than me. I hope they will grow into edel human beings, which means honest, straight, lovingly disposed to all other human beings, and not proud of rank or distinctions. Certainly I hope that their brains will also be sharp, sharper and better trained than mine, but what I have said above can be best summarized with this most important word edel.’

June 1963
‘If I were to write about this period, the frame would be different, and also the events and the ideas, which I would emphasize, would very much differ from what is emphasized in this book. . . For the time being, in fact, “democracy” for us can not mean a technique of governing, and a citizenlike way of life, but mainly the guarantee against tyranny and despotism. . . This [democracy], actually, can be achieved through enlightened [verlicht] humanistic despotism or humanistic dictatorship. However little the common people understand, feel the need for democratic rights and for representative government, there is a potential in this kind of humanism, to make education of the people, and material and spiritual happiness of the people, into the principles and aims of such a government. So far as such a government truly behaves like a father of the people, like the people’s own flesh and own blood, also the preparedness of the people to exercise its sovereignty [kedaulatan], and to have a government based on democratic techniques, may grow.’

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Days before Custer’s Last Stand

Mark Kellogg, a roving reporter considered the first Associated Press correspondent to die in the line of duty, was born 190 years ago today. He died young, along with General Custer and over 200 US soldiers at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Remarkably, though, a short diary he had been keeping while travelling with Custer survived, and is now considered a primary historical source for details of the days preceding the infamous battle - known by some as Custer’s Last Stand.

Kellogg was born in Brighton, Ontario, Canada, on 31 March 1831. He was one of ten children, and his family moved several times before settling in La Crosse, Wisconsin. There, Kellogg learned to operate a telegraph and worked for both the Northwestern Telegraph Company and the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company. He married Martha Robinson in 1861 and they had two daughters. During the American Civil War, he was assistant editor for the La Crosse Democrat newspaper. After Martha died, in 1867, he left his daughters with an aunt, and began drifting around the Midwest, taking up local newspaper reporting jobs. In the early 1870s, he moved to Bismarck, North Dakota, where he helped editor Clement A. Lounsberry found The Bismarck Tribune.

In 1876, when Lounsberry learned that a military column - including the 7th U.S. Cavalry Regiment commanded by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer - would soon leave Fort Abraham Lincoln for the Montana Territory, he agreed to accompany Custer and provide news coverage. However, at the last minute his wife fell ill, so Kellogg took his place. Kellogg sent several dispatches back to The Bismarck Tribune before, on 25 June, being killed along with Custer and over 200 soldiers at the (now infamous) Battle of Little Bighorn. When Lounsberry learned of these events, he worked through the night to produce a special edition of the Tribune which would prove to be the first full account of the battle. As a newspaper stringer whose reports on route with Custer were picked up around the country, Kellogg is considered the first Associated Press correspondent to die in the line of duty. Further information is available at Wikipedia, HistoryNet and The Duluth News Tribune.

Some of Kellogg’s diary (37 sheets dated up to 9 June) survived, and are held today by the State Historical Society of North Dakota. They are considered one of the primary historical sources for information on the days preceding the battle. Images of every page can be viewed online at Digital Horizons along with a full transcription (which, however, is not always accurate when compared to the text in the images). Here are several extracts (with one or two minor corrections/edits to the transcription provided online).

26 May 1876
‘Broke camp 5:30 A.M. crossed run on bridge. Marched 4.2 miles to another feeder of Big Heart, put in bridge, thence to another feeder of Big Heart, going into camp at 2:30 P.M. marching 12 4/10 miles. Scouts from Lincoln on road at 3 A.M. with a mail. Weather hot and dry, first day of real heat yet experienced. Good grass, and water, no wood. Marched over considerable cactus growth today & some red gravel beds seen, first indications of approach to Bad Lands. Gen Custer, pioneering at front all day. Lays all the camps, & attends in person to much of detail of march. [. . .] 

Antelope plenty, no signs of other game - No Indian signs for past three days. Mail brought news by telegraph to Gen Terry, of Cabinet changes. Some astonishment expressed because of appointment of Don. Cameron, as Secy of War. Hardly expected in military circles. Past 2 days we have marched between the Stanley trail west of 73. It is an excellent route thus far. Sent. Should properly be called Terrys Trail’

1 June 1876
‘Reveille at 3 A.M., looked out found 2 inches on ground & snowing hard. Has snowed nearly all day. Have not moved. 7 P.M. snowing harder than ever wind blowing fr N.W. growing colder. Stock feeling the storm

Very dull in camp, some card playing, no incident wood plenty, & fires kept burning all around, but few Sibley stoves, at HD Qrs & 3 or 4 officers tent. Yesterday 8 miles W.L. Mo. camp. Saw a coal strata on fire, looked like whole side mountain on fire vein about 4 ft thick. Lignite cropping out all along.’

5 June 1876
‘Broke camp usual time Marched mostly a South Course 10.4 miles, struck Stanleys return 72 trail again descended into Bad Lands crossed Cabine Creek at 11 AM, Marched 20.2 miles & camped, grass fair, water ditto, no wood, used dried sagebrush for cooking. Worse road have had & worst country. Chief products sagebrush, cactus & rattlesnakes. Antelope very plenty. No Indian signs today. Been ahead with Reynolds. Killed 2 Black tailed deer & 2 Antelope. Tonights camp on open plains. Hd Qrs on hill top, handsome and convenient camp, but for lack of wood. 2 mules died last night. Saw 1st Buf. signs today, tracks fresh, since snow.’

6 June 1876
‘Broke camp and under march at 4.30 A.M. Weather clear, cool, breezy. March 10.4 miles to near head O. Fallons Creek crossed and marched 22.3 miles where we crossed fork again and went into camp at 4.45 P.M. having marched miles. Had some difficulty in finding crossing Country along creek flat, very broken, and soil soft. Are making new trail entirely. Marching been generally excellent today. Reynolds guiding discretionanly [sic] Timber heavy all cottonwood, plenty fair water, grazing not good. Sage brush & cactus principal growth today.

First Buffalo Killed today. Two privates Troop H, out hunting yesterday not returning last night, fears they had been captured by hostiles; but they reached column about 10 A.M. all night got lost, & belated in bad land region, which we are yet in. Priv. McWilliams Troop H, accidentally shot himself with a revolver today; ball took effect calf leg ran down tendon, and lodged just under skin top of foot, flesh wound lay him up a month. Marched through Prairie dog village containing 700 or 800 acres. Little fellows surprised & barked top of voices. Saw while with advance today deserted wood hovel, evidently put together without use of axe, Rough, dry logs piled together with broken limbs and stick placed in then mudded. A mere hovel. Some white men wintered there evidences of horse, & well beaten path in front extending some distance each side of structure. Saw 1st wind puff today.’

7 June 1876
‘Under March 4:45 A.M. Weather misty, clouds heavy threatening rain. Marched today 32 miles & camped on Powder River. Cavalry Gen Custer, at 3.30. Gen T. and head of column 5 P.M. & the rear of Col. at 8 P.M. Terribly rough country. Gen C- with Col Weirs troops, used as videttes, scouted ahead & succeeded finding a passable trav route over a country would seem impractical, up, up, down, down, zig zag, twisting turning &c Gen C. rode 50 miles, fresh when arrived. Told Terry last eve, would succeed finding trail & water horse in P. River. 3.0 P.M. today, succeeded at 3.30 P.M. Most attractive scenery yet. Spruce & Cedar on Buttes, marched on “hogs back” highest Buttes in country for mile or two, if teams went either side roll down hundreds feet. Only route could be found in this direction. Saw, what seemed like Ancient ruins. Buffalo seen today, none taken, order no firing. This camp excellent, wood, water, grass plenty. Timber all Cottonwood of smallish or medium size. Every one tired out, & stock completely so. Several mules & few horses played dropped out of teams today. Some breakage to wagons slight damages. Remarkable march. We are 26 miles in direct line from camp on. OFallon Creek last night. Have marched thus far 32.3 miles. Its 20 miles from here to mouth P. River. Fish’

Saturday, March 27, 2021

When you win

’It is an amazing rush of emotion that flows through your whole body when you win. I certainly don’t get that feeling in anything else I do in life. It’s an overwhelming feeling of joy, a physical sensation that is almost sexual.’ Happy birthday David Coulthard - 50 today. At the time of his retirement as a Formula 1 racing driver in 2008, he had competed in the most races and amassed the highest points total of any other British driver. He won his first F1 Grand Prix in 1995, and then two in 1997. The following year, 1998, the media made him favourite to win the championship, and he kept a diary of his efforts to do so. 

Coulthard was born on 27 March 1971 in Twynholm, southwest Scotland, into a family with a racing history: his grandfather had competed in the Monte Carlo Rally, and his father was a Scottish karting champion. He went to school locally, did well at O-Levels, but was increasingly drawn into the racing world. From the age of 11, he was racing karts, and by the age of 18 he was racing cars. He was the first recipient of the McLaren/Autosport Young Driver of the Year award. In 1991, he signed with Paul Stewart Racing to compete in the British Formula 3 series, taking five victories and finishing second in the Championship. Several further jobs followed before, in 1993, he joined Williams Grand Prix Engineering team as their official test driver. After the death of Ayrton Senna in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, Coulthard himself was given the chance to race.

In 1995, Coulthard remained with Williams, winning his maiden Grand Prix in Portugal, but then, for 1996, he switched to McLaren-Mercedes alongside Mika Häkkinen, scoring his first win for McLaren in Melbourne at the start of 1997. In all, he scored 12 of his 13 grand prix wins and 51 of his 62 podium finishes with McLaren, and, after supporting team-mate Häkkinen to the drivers’ championship in 1998 and 1999, he finished runner-up to Michael Schumacher in 2001. In 2005, he moved to the newly formed Red Bull Racing team. By the time he retired from Formula 1, in 2008, he had notched up 535 points, making him then the highest scoring British driver of all time.

Coulthard switched to working for the media, a pundit for the BBC and then Channel Four; but he also returned to racing as an active driver in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters series in 2010-2012, piloting a 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class for Mücke Motorsport. In 2018, he was appointed spokesperson and advisory board member of the forthcoming W Series, a racing championship for women based on Formula 3-homologated Tatuus T-318 chassis. According to his own website, Coulthard ‘now uses his talents in the business arena from starting a number of successful businesses to ambassador roles to guest speaking’. According to Wikipedia, Coulthard was engaged to Karen Minier, a Belgian Formula 1 correspondent for French TV channel TF1, in 2006, and they had a child in 2008. He lives in Monaco, but has homes in London, Belgium and Switzerland; also, he owns several luxury hotels in Britain. Additional further information is available at RaceFans

In 1998, Simon & Schuster published David’s Diary - The quest for the Formula 1 1998 Grand Prix Championship by David Coulthard with Gerald Donaldson. See Goodreads for several reviews. Here are two extracts.

25 April 1998
‘In morning practice I was quickest, by eight tenths of a second over Mika, even though I spent much of the session working with different set-ups to try to reduce the understeer I had been experiencing while turning into the corners.

After the first qualifying runs I was fastest. Then, when we changed the set-up to reduce the understeer so I could attack the corners harder, Mika nipped ahead. For my third run we returned my car to its original settings. Three quarters of the way through the lap I was a couple of tenths slower than Mika’s time, so I threw everything I had into the final sector and finished up on pole by a tenth of a second over Mika.

It was my second pole in succession and very satisfying to get it. There was an element of relief to it because I had made it hard work for myself. Near the end, I knew Mika had improved, and that it was always going to be tight. So it was a good feeling to go out and do what I had to do, and react positively to the pressure of qualifying.’

26 April 1998
‘In the warm-up I was fastest by a considerable margin and felt very content with the car in race trim. The spare car was set up for me this weekend and I even had time to check it out for a few laps. Mika wound up fourth quickest after losing time with boiling brake fluid. I had a similar problem but chose not to come in and have the brakes bled the way he did.

To me, this was an indication that Mika was not as settled in his mind as I was. In a situation like this both drivers are thankful, in a way, that they are suffering with the same problem. It's easier to deal with in your mind when you know fate hasn’t singled you out. But it seemed like a push too hard. There was no need to be on the limit at every corner and as I had not won a race yet it would be foolish to risk making a mistake. I just quietly eased away.

The early laps went by without incident and then on lap 17 I was informed over the radio that Mika was out of the race. I didn’t see his car anywhere on the circuit so I presumed he had retired in the pits, which meant it was unlikely he had an engine failure. A few laps later I was instructed to short shift - shift gears earlier than usual at a lower rpm.

I never questioned why the team wanted me to do this, though ! suspected it had something to do with whatever Mika’s problem had been. I didn’t want to have to worry about it. When your team mate has a mechanical failure you have to be prepared for a similar problem in your car, but there is very little you can do about it other than follow the team’s instructions. You don’t want any unnecessary information. As it turned out Mika had a gearbox problem, but there seemed to be nothing wrong with mine.

Everything continued to go fairly smoothly and on lap 44 peeled off into the pits to make my second stop. I came in slowly to avoid overheating the brakes and the guys put in the fuel and changed the tyres with their usual efficiency. When I regained the circuit I immediately saw in my mirrors a red Ferrari. I then wondered at the wisdom of being so cautious on the entry to the pits, because I wasn’t sure if the Ferrari behind me was being driven by Michael or Eddie Irvine, who had been running second and third.

Since I was quite busy trying to get the most out of my new tyres I didn’t want to ask over the radio which Ferrari was behind me. When you’re concentrating hard a conversation can be distracting and any information you receive may not be immediately absorbed. So I focused on keeping the gap to the Ferrari and when I came around after the first lap my lead had actually increased. At this point I became more relaxed because If I could open up the gap with a full load of fuel and new tyres I was obviously in good shape.

It was Michael in the following Ferrari. He made a pit stop, after which he began to close up on me quite quickly. To counteract this threat Dave Ryan came on the radio and said I should go back to normal shifting. It was funny, because Dave said I needed to do a certain lap time to maintain the gap to Michael, and when I came around again I had actually gone a tenth of a second quicker than instructed. I felt like going on the radio and apologizing.

It was important to let Michael know that he could chase me all he wanted but if he got too close I could still go quicker than him. If you are chasing someone and they start to open up a bigger gap it can be demoralizing and they tend to back off. That’s what Michael did and he settled for second place.

On the final lap I spoke to the team over the radio, saying my usual thing when I am about to win: ‘Here I come!’ All the guys were leaning over the pit wall as I crossed the finish line and I jinked over close and gave them a bit of a victory wiggle.

It is an amazing rush of emotion that flows through your whole body when you win. I certainly don’t get that feeling in anything else I do in life. It’s an overwhelming feeling of joy, a physical sensation that is almost sexual.

This victory was especially satisfying because it was so timely. I had to come here and do exactly what I did. It is important not to allow people a comfort zone. That gives them extra confidence, so I had to take pole and lead from the start. When you’re under such pressure you have to take yourself back to the core of your self belief and motivation. You have to keep reminding yourself that you have what it takes to do the job. When you get proof of that, with a w it can put you on a roll.

In the post-race interviews I made a point of saying that my result was the best response to the earlier criticism, and to the rumours that my future in the team was not secure. It brought me to within three points of Mika in the championship, which meant the team would continue to focus on us both. If Michael had retired, it would have been perfect, but I was still three points ahead of him.

There was no partying or celebrating after the race because I was actually feeling unwell. I had a very sore stomach, probably from something I ate, and had to lie down for a couple of hours in the back of the team motor home. Heidi and I didn’t leave the circuit until late and it was well after midnight when we got home to Monaco. The next day I was involved in a Mercedes ‘A’ Class promotion with Mika and Ron near Nice, and that night we went to Barcelona to begin a week’s testing.’

Friday, March 12, 2021

Hammy is dead

‘As bad a thing happened this morning as ever could happen. Hammy is dead, and we lose a splendid soldier and I a very good friend. [. . .] One bullet hit him in the forehead, and he died almost immediately. He never spoke or opened his eyes.’ This is from the war diary kept by young Billy Congreve, born 130 years ago today. He quickly rose to the rank of brigade-major, was Mentioned in Dispatches, earned a DSO but was then killed in action aged by 25. So bravely had he fought, though, that he was soon awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.

William La Touche ‘Billy’ Congreve was born on 12 March 1891 at Burton Hall, Cheshire. He went to Summerfelds School in Oxford and then Eton, before attending a crammer in London and, finally, joining the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in 1909. In 1911, he obtained a commission in the 2nd Light Rifle Brigade and, in the same year, was posted to the 3rd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade in Tipperary where he spent three years. By early 1913 he had been promoted to lieutenant. With the outbreak of the war, his battalion was sent to France where he was appointed to the staff position of Aide de Camp to major-general Hubert Hamilton. In the summer of 1915, he was made a captain.

That autumn, Congreve’s 3rd Division was involved in the huge operation around Hooge which failed badly and resulted in great loss of life. Nevertheless, for his actions, he was awarded the Military Cross. Further promotion followed, to brigade-major to the 76th Brigade, and further honours. In February 1916, he was awarded the Legion of Honour Croix de Chevalier, in May the DSO, and in June he was Mentioned in Despatches. Also in June, he returned to Britain on leave and married his long-time girlfriend Pamela Cynthia Maude before returning to the front line. A few weeks later, in July, he was killed by a sniper. But for his many acts of gallantry he was awarded the highest honour of all, a (posthumous) Victoria Cross. Further information is available at Wikipedia, Nestonpast and VC online.

Congreve kept a detailed diary for much of his war service, though in the months before his death the entries had become rather scanty. It was edited by Terry Norman and first published by William Kimber in 1982 as Armageddon Road: A VC’s Diary, 1914-1916. More recently, in 2014, it was republished by Pen & Sword Military with a foreword by Nigel Cave. Several pages can be previewed at Googlebooks or Amazon.

In his foreword Cave provides this overview: ‘The diary provides a fascinating mixture of material, revealing his close and affectionate family life, his heart felt reaction to the loss of friends, his almost forensic analysis of many of the actions in which he was involved - accompanied, in many cases, by very fine sketch maps, critiques of some of the commanders, battalions and formations, his sense of humour and an insight into a young officer who in rather less than two years served as an ADC to several divisional commanders, was a G Ops staff officer and finally, the job that he prized above all the others, that of a brigade major. He provides a useful commentary from one who was more “in the know” than most other officers, supplemented by close contact with his father who was, in the same time period, General Officer Commanding a brigade.’

Here are several extracts from the first months of the war.

4 September 1914
‘Still waiting. A week ago tomorrow we were shifted from Cambridge to here - Newmarket - as being a better camping place and where we eventually entrain if we ever do.

Much has happened on the Continent; the result being that the Germans are within thirty miles of Paris. We heard from the 1st Battalion that they have had a bad time of it. They were hurried up to the front (near Mons), slept the night in a wet cornfield and, at 6 p.m., were engaged. All morning they were marching, countermarching and fighting and, at 5 p.m., found themselves divided into two halves. One half of the battalion took up a position in a sunken road under heavy shrapnel and machine-gun fire. At 5.30 there was a council of war held by Sam Rickman to all officers and company sergeants. There were three possible things they could do: 1. To surrender; 2. To die where they were; 3. To try and get back.

They naturally decided on the latter course. Leaving everything but rifles and swords, they went across three-quarters of a mile of fire-swept ground, but lost heavily. Sam is believed to have a mortal stomach wound. Coryton, Lane and de Moleyns were also hit - of course none of them knew where the other half of the battalion had got to. So far we have no other news of them and nothing has come out in the newspapers.

Cis, John and Maggie turned up at Cambridge for the weekend and good it was to see them. Cis is off on Red Cross work to Belgium this week. I have kept John and he is living in my bivouac - as happy as the day is long. He comes out with ‘Wumps’ on our field days. Godders takes him on the machine-gun limber, and everyone spoils him.’

13 September 1914
‘We were kept on board till yesterday morning, when we went in and disembarked, a longish job, as the quay was a long way below us. I and others made several journeys into town and laid in vast stores of eatables. Many times was I asked for my silver cap badge as a souvenir. There were a lot of our wounded in the town. I saw Musters of the 60th who was hit in the chest by a shrapnel bullet. Luckily for him, it hit a bone and glanced off. He was in the retreat and never saw a German the whole time. The marching, he said, was awful: twenty-five miles a day and in very hot weather. About 4.30 we started to entrain in pouring rain.

I managed to sleep all right last night, and about 6 a.m. we reached Tours where we had breakfast. I ran up and got some boiling water out of the engine and made some chocolate for Godders and I - jolly good it was. All day we have been rolling along. About 5.30 this evening, we passed Paris.

All the way up we have seen French soldiers in their blue coats and red trousers, and at the halts we had great talks with them. They seem very intelligent fellows and I take it were all reserves of some type. It was amusing to see the scramble for the train when it suddenly started. Luckily it was so cumbersome a show that one could let it go for a hundred yards and still catch it. Everywhere we were given apples and cigarettes by the people. The country was pretty at first and it was hard to believe war even existed, except that one saw sentries everywhere guarding the line. There was a constant demand for souvenirs and a lot of men are now minus their cap badges.’

1 October 1914
‘What might have been a rather serious accident took place yesterday afternoon. The Norwegian minister in Paris got leave from GHQ to come over here and to be shown round. Instead of coming to us to ask his way, he must needs go off on his own, apparently thinking that he could drive his car right up to the trenches. He went up through Brenelle to carry out this plan and set off across the plateau towards the river. He was half-way over when the Germans spotted the car and opened on it with ‘crumps’.

The first shell made the chauffeur pull up! They began to try to turn the car, and that was as far as they got, for ‘crumps’ began to arrive in quantities and they fled to the shelter of some neighbouring haystacks, leaving the car to its fate. They saw the chauffeur get hit as he was getting out of the car; whether he was killed or not they did not know. Eventually and with great good fortune they got back to General Wing’s HQ unhurt, but covered with mud and dust and bits of haystack. The Royal Artillery sent them on down here and the Duke of Marlborough (who is doing King’s Messenger) happening to be with us, took them back in his car.

The minister, a fat middle-aged gentleman, was awfully pleased with himself, but was scared lest it should get into the papers, in which case the Germans would say that Norway had broken her neutrality! We calmed his fears, picked straw and mud out of his hair, and sent him off to GHQ with his two ADC’s and the Duke, after we had given them tea.

I then took a car and two chauffeurs up to see what I could do to their car, expecting to find it smashed to pieces. We waited till dusk and then walked out to it. The car was intact, but the chauffeur dead, and every piece of glass in the car was smashed to atoms - big, strong plate glass. It was a lovely brand-new Panhard limousine, and beyond the glass, a few bits off the paint and a small hole in the petrol tank, there was no great damage which, considering the number of ‘crump’ holes around it, was a marvel. Inside the car was a good mixture of glass and mud which we cleared out and, while the hole in the tank was being mended, I finished off the old boy’s luncheon basket - chicken there was, and great fat pears, also a huge supply of cigarettes and tobacco for the men in the trenches! There were also heaps of matches. Before he left, the ‘minister’ said that I might keep all this ‘pour les braves soldats’, so I did so, and sent the car on to GHQ under the second chauffeur, who shed tears.’

14 October 1914
‘As bad a thing happened this morning as ever could happen. Hammy is dead, and we lose a splendid soldier and I a very good friend. He and Thorpe were out to the north of Vieille Chapelle; he had gone to see personally why our left wing was hung up. They were dismounted and standing on the road when a salvo of shrapnel burst right over them. One bullet hit him in the forehead, and he died almost immediately. He never spoke or opened his eyes. There were several other officers there besides Thorpe, yet nobody else was hit.

We brought his body back here tonight in a motor ambulance. We had to wait till night, as the road was still being shelled. During the day I had a rough coffin made and a grave dug under the walls of the old church here. At 7.15 p.m., when the ambulance arrived, we put him into it just as he was, wrapped in a blanket. I had to take the spurs off his poor feet though, as they would not fit, and then we nailed on the lid. I then put a guard around him with fixed bayonets and left him.

At 8.30 we all assembled. There was a representative from each unit and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien turned up also. Poor Lindsay, Hammy’s servant, kept breaking down. It was a pitch-dark night and had been raining hard all day, so there was mud everywhere and a cold wet ‘feel’ in the air. The rifle and machine-gun fire was very heavy, and it sounded but a few yards away, so loud was it and so still the night. Stray bullets now and then knocked up against the church and gravestones, but somehow nobody bothered about them.

Just before the chaplain arrived the firing almost ceased, but while the short service was being read it commenced again, louder and nearer than ever, so loud indeed that the chaplain’s voice could hardly be heard.

The scene was the strangest and most beautiful I have ever seen. The poor church battered by shells, the rough wooden coffin with a pewter plate nailed on the lid on which we had stamped his name, a rough cross of flowers made by the men, the small guard with fixed bayonets and the group of twenty or thirty bareheaded officers and men. Above all, the incessant noise, so close, sometimes dying down only to seem to redouble itself a few minutes later. A ghastly sort of light was given by a couple of acetylene lamps from a car. It was soon over, and then each officer and man stood for a moment by the grave, saluted, and went back to his work. 

Sir Horace, in that rather wonderful voice of his, said: ‘Indeed, a true soldier’s grave. God rest his soul.’ Nobody else spoke. I wanted to cry. I stayed and saw the filling in of the grave, and now I must see to putting up a cross.’

Monday, March 1, 2021

Settling in California

Today marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Juan Crespí, a Spanish missionary and explorer. He is remembered today not only for taking part in the expedition that led to the first settlements ever made in the present-day state of California, but for keeping a journal - now historically important - of the journey.

Crespí was born in Majorca, Spain, on 1 March 1721. He entered the Franciscan order at the age of 17. Junipero Serra was his teacher of philosophy at the Convent of San Francisco. When Serra decided to become a missionary in New Spain, Crespí and another missionary Francisco Palóu agreed to join him - they arrived in Vera Cruz in 1749. In 1767, Crespí went to the Baja California Peninsula where he was put in charge of the Misión La Purísima Concepción de Cadegomó. Two years later, he joined an expedition led by Gaspar de Portolá to occupy San Diego and Monterey. The expedition continued up the coast, and the following year the Mission San Carlos Borromeo was founded (in present-day Carmel-by-the-Sea), Crespí served as chaplain of the expedition to the North Pacific conducted by Juan Pérez in 1774. He died in 1882. A little further information is available at Wikipedia and Spartacus Educational.

While there is sparse biographical information available online about Crespí, he left behind a detailed and informative diary kept during his 1769-1779 expedition. This was used by H. E. Bolton for his 1927 biography of Crespí, and has been mined by other historians as a valuable first hand source of information about his expeditions. However, the diary was only published for the first time in an unexpurgated edition, edited by Alan K. Brown, in 2001: A Description of Distant Roads Original Journals of the First Expedition Into California, 1769-1770 (San Diego State University Press). Crespí’s journals have a chequered past, according to Brown, which he unravels in his introduction, alongside plenty of historical context. Here is part of his preface.

‘Overdue for publication by two hundred years and more, these are the genuine journals kept by the missionary explorer Juan Crespí in 1769 and 1770 during the Spanish-American expedition that searched overland for the long-lost harbor of Monterey, and, after many hardships permanently established the first settlements ever made in the present-day state of California. The author, through the ongoing entries in his journals, carefully documented this whole progress and his own participation in it. Equally important, or perhaps even more at the present day, is the description of the native landscape and its inhabitants that he produced through his eye for detail and his extraordinary diligence in keeping the record.

This edition and translation, taken from manuscripts in the original author’s own handwriting, represents a first publication of much of the texts. The versions previously available to historians, scientists, and the reading public were deeply curtailed and adulterated by others than the original author, so much so that it is fair to say that his name has been falsely attached to the traditional editions and translations. Those very well known pseudo-Crespí texts are still often consulted and cited as though they were genuine, a circumstance that unfortunately has been allowed to feed upon itself for more than half a century.’

And here are a few extracts of Crespí’s diary from Brown’s edition.

18 March 1769
‘I set out from this spot early in the morning, but at about two or three leagues past Yuvai. one of the mules which was carrying my effects gave out and lay collapsed upon the trail, unable to go on. It was necessary for the soldier who had been accompanying me to stav behind with some Indians, in order to see whether the might bring it on after resting it, and for me to leave in order to reach the old mission of Santa Maria called Calamofué. I went onward with my own two Indian boys whom I have with me, in company with some other Indians belonging to the missions who are following me; I went the whole day at a good pace, stopping for a while only to eat a bite at midday, and I came about ten o’clock at night to the aforesaid mission of Calamofué, where I met a courier from Santa Maria mission, sent by Reverend Father Preacher Fray Fermin Lasuen, with the vestment and everything else needed in order to be able to say Mass her on the following day, Palm Sunday, as I had requested of him from back at his own mission of San Borja. As it was so late at night upon my reaching here, I told them to make me some chocolate and retired to rest, for I was truly worn out.’

3 May 1769
‘Invention of the Most Holy Cross. I said Mass here at this spot, and it was heard by all of this Expedition, and we lay resting in order for our beasts to approve the occasion of the fine grass here, and for the country to be scouted in the meanwhile to see whether they might find a watering place, in order for us to continue. On reaching this spot, close to one of the aforesaid pools we came across a village, who as soon as they saw us ran off to the hill and commenced shouting at us a great deal, seeming by their gesturing to be telling us to turn back; they were all naked and heavily beweaponed. Several times our commander called to them to come down to the camp without fear, but they never showed themselves nearby. I took the north altitude and made it 32 degrees 14 minutes.’

12 May 1769
‘We set out early in the morning from the small Saint Pius valley here, following a northward course veering a bit north-northwestward, along the shore and guided by some heathens belonging to this spot who had offered themselves as guides. They accompanied us a part of the way and left us. It was a march of a bit over three hours, over country that was all very easy going, crossing some gorges though not such difficult ones as those before were. We must have made three leagues, and came to a heathen village upon a tableland that looks to be an island, as it is surrounded by a gorge wherever not laved by the sea. As soon as they saw us, the heathens tried to have us stop close to their village, upon the aforesaid tableland. We thought it better, however, to cross to another one upon the other side of the gorge, where there was grass at the edge of the sea. The village here has, in the gorge, a middling-sized pool of good water that they supply themselves from. Though they might have done so, they refused to water our beasts there, in order not to do anything to spoil these poor souls’ watering place, inasmuch as our beasts had drunk their fill before setting out. The whole village, men, women, and children, came over to the camp at once, without a single weapon, nowise unruly, not wearing paint and not in any way like the last people all of them very friendly and cheerful. As though they had always dealt with us, they spent the entire day sitting down along with us, telling us with great pleasure of the ships, which they said were close by now. The four islands called Los Cuatro Coronados lie about opposite this spot. I named this place The little pool of the village of    Santos Martires Nereo y Sus Companeros, The Holy Martyrs Nereus and Companions. The same spot was ailed La Carcel de San Pedro, Saint Peter’s Prison, by the Reverend Father President.’

Monday, February 22, 2021

First school for freed slaves

‘We heard him with amazement and disgust that grew more and more apparent, and when he said he had had a negro whipped, Ellen and I rose and left the table.’ This is Laura Matilda Towne, daughter of a well-to-do Pittsburgh family, who spent most of her adult life on the Sea Island of St Helena administering - by setting up a school and nursing - to the needs of slaves freed in the Civil War. She died 120 years today, but soon after her diaries and letters were published and these provide a first hand account of her passionate abolitionist views and actions.

Towne was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1825. She was the fourth child of John and Sarah Robinson Towne. Her father came from Topsfield, Massachusetts, her mother from Coventry, England. Her mother died when she was quite young, and John Towne went back to Boston, where his children were educated. Later the family moved to Philadelphia, where the oldest son had settled. There they developed a growing commitment to the idea of abolishing negro slavery, partly as a consequence of the fiery sermons by William Henry Furness, minister of the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. She studied homeopathic medicine and probably attended the short-lived Penn Medical University. She taught in charity schools in various northern towns and cities in the 1850s and 1860s.

Early in 1862, Towne responded to a call for volunteers to help a large population of former slaves who had been liberated in the Union capture of Port Royal and others of the Sea Islands of South Carolina. Soon after arriving on St Helena Island she was teaching, nursing, and helping to direct the distribution of clothing and other goods. By September, she and her friend Ellen Murray had established the Penn School (which proved to be the first school founded in the Southern United States specifically for the education of African-Americans). Subsequently, it also offered training for future teachers. Apart from her voluntary work running the school, Towne also served as a public health office, legal adviser and a children’s advocate. She lived on the island, with Murray, for 40 years, though her final years were marred by recurring bouts of malaria. She died of influenza on 22 February 1901. Further information is available from Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the South Carolina Encylopedia.

Once relocated to St Helena, Towne was an avid writer, of letters and a diary. Extracts from the diary along with her letters were edited together, by Rupert Sargent Holland, into chronological order and published by Cambridge in 1912 as Letters and Diary of Laura M. Towne written from the Sea Islands of South Carolina 1862-1884. The work is freely available online at Internet Archive. Here are several extracts.

23 May 1862
‘Ellen is coming at last. I felt sure no one could stop her. Mr. McKim is also to come as Philadelphia agent, and I am free.

We have been for three days going to various plantations, once to Mr. Zacha’s at Paris Island, once to Mrs. Mary Jenkins’, Mr. Wells’ and to Edgar Fripp’s, or to Frogmore, Mr. Saulis’; also to Edding’s Point and one other place. At the three places of Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Fripp, and Edding, the wretched hovels with their wooden chimneys and the general squalor showed the former misery. One woman said the differences in the times were as great as if God had sent another Moses and a great deliverance - that it was heaven upon earth and earth in heaven now. They all seemed to love Mr. Wells. We saw there one woman whose two children had been whipped to death, and Mr. Wells said there was not one who was not marked up with welts. He had the old whip which had a ball at the end, and he had seen the healed marks of this ball on their flesh - the square welts showed where it had taken the flesh clean out. Loretta of this place showed me her back and arms to-day. In many places there were ridges as high and long as my little finger, and she said she had had four babies killed within her by whipping, one of which had its eye cut out, another its arm broken, and the others with marks of the lash. She says it was because even while “heaviest” she was required to do as much as usual for a field hand, and not being able, and being also rather apt to resist, and rather smart in speaking her mind, poor thing, she has suffered; and no wonder Grace, her child, is of the lowest type; no wonder she is more indifferent about her clothes and house than any one here. She says this was the crudest place she was ever in.

The happiest family I know here is old Aunt Bess’s Minda and Jerry and herself. They are always joking and jolly but very gentle. When I go there at night to dress Bess’s foot I find her lying upon her heap of rags with the roaches running all over her and little Leah or some small child asleep beside her. Jerry got me some of the pine sticks they use for candles. They hold one for me while I dress the foot.

It is very interesting to observe how the negroes watch us for fear we shall go away. They are in constant dread of it and we cannot be absent a single day without anxiety on their part. It is very touching to hear their entreaties to us to stay, and their anxious questions. They have a horrible dread of their masters’ re-turn, especially here where Massa Dan’l’s name is a terror.

They appreciate the cheapness of our goods and especially of the sugar at the Overseer house, and are beginning to distrust the cotton agents who have charged them so wickedly.

The scenes in the cotton-house used to be very funny. Miss W. would say to some discontented purchaser who was demurring at the price of some article, “Well, now, I don’t want to sell this. I believe I won’t sell it to-day. But if you want to take it very much at a dollar and a half, you may have it. Oh, you don’t? Well, then, I can’t sell you anything. No, you can’t have anything. We are doing the best we can for you and you are not satisfied; you won’t be contented. Just go - go now, please. We want all the room and air we can get. You don’t want to buy and why do you stay? No, I shall not let you have anything but that. I don't want to sell it, but you may have it for a dollar and a half,” etc., etc.

This is one of many real scenes. The people are eager, crazy to buy, for they are afraid of their money, it being paper, and besides, they need clothes and see finer things than ever in their lives before. Except when they are excited they are very polite, always saying “Missus” to us, and “Sir” to one another. The children say, “ Good-mornin’, ma’am,” whenever they see us first in the day, and once I overheard two girls talking just after they had greeted me. One said, “I say good-mornin’ to my young missus [Miss Pope] and she say, I slap your mouth for your impudence, you nigger.’ ” I have heard other stories that tell tales.

The white folks used to have no cooking-utensils of their own here. They came and required certain things. The cooks hunted among the huts and borrowed what they needed till the family went away, of course straining every nerve to get such cooking as should please. “I would do anything for my massa,” Susannah says, “if he would n’t whip me.”

On May 7, as Mr. Pierce stepped off the boat at Hilton Head and walked up the pier, a Mr. Nobles, chief of the cotton agents here, came forward saying that he had a letter for him. Then he struck him upon the head, felled him, and beat him, saying that Mr. P. had reported him to the Secretary of the Treasury and had got a saddle and bridle of his. Mr. Pierce got up with difficulty and took only a defensive part. Some soldiers took Mr. Nobles off. Mr. Pierce had really mentioned this man and his agents, which was his duty as guardian of these people, for they were imposing upon the negroes shamefully. They, of course, hate this whole Society of Superintendents, etc., who will not see the negroes wronged. So Mr. P. has had his touch of martyrdom.

The Philadelphia consignment of goods - in all $2000 worth - would have done immense good if it had come in season. The people of these islands, whom Government does not ration (because there is corn here) had nothing but hominy to eat, were naked, were put to work at cotton, which they hated, as being nothing in their own pockets and all profit to the superintendent, who they could not be sure were not only another set of cotton agents or cotton planters; and so discontent and trouble arose. Mr. Pierce said to them that they should be fed, clothed, and paid, but they waited and waited in vain, trusting at first to promises and then beginning to distrust such men as were least friendly to them.

The first rations of pork - “splendid bacon,” everybody says - was dealt out the other day and there has been great joy ever since, or great content. If this had only come when first ordered there would have been this goodwill and trust from the first. They even allow the removal of the corn from one plantation to another now without murmuring, and that they were very much opposed to before.’

18 June 1862
‘Ellen had her first adult school to-day, in the back room - nine scholars. I assisted.

The girls were much interested in seeing the people come, with their flat baskets on their heads, to the corn-house, to “take allowance,” and then sit down in the sand, and old and young fall to shelling the corn from the cob with a speed that was marvellous, the little babies toddling about or slung on the backs of their mammies, or lugged about by the older sisters, not able to stand straight under their weight. It was very picturesque.’

22 July 1862
‘Our guns have come! Captain Thorndyke brought over twenty and gave Nelly instructions. Commodore Du Pont was here this afternoon. The people came running to the school-room - “Oh, Miss Ellen, de gunboat come!” I believe they thought we were to be shelled out. Ellen, Nelly, and I went down to the bluff and there lay a steamboat in front of Rina’s house, and a gig was putting off with flag flying and oars in time. Presently a very imposing uniformed party landed, and, coming up the bluff, Commodore Du Pont introduced himself and staff. We invited him in. He said he had come to explore the creek and to see a plantation. They stayed only about ten minutes, were very agreeable and took leave. Commodore Du Pont is a very large and fine- looking man. He invited us all to visit the Wabash and seemed really to wish it.’

31 August 1862
‘Aunt Phyllis wanted to go to church and is too feeble to walk, so Captain Hooper, aide-de-camp to General Saxton, gave her his seat in the carriage and jumped on behind himself. Harry stopped the horses. “Massa, my massa, don’t do dat!” he pleaded. Then he scolded and begged, and begged and scolded, while Aunt Phyllis sat still, saying she never rode in a “cheer” before. Captain Hooper was obdurate, and Harry had to drive on in deep dejection of mind and mortification of spirit.

To-night a Mr. Simmons, I think, who had been fighting in the Southern army upon compulsion, and who now belongs to the Maine regiment here, talked of his experiences when fighting his country. We heard him with amazement and disgust that grew more and more apparent, and when he said he had had a negro whipped, Ellen and I rose and left the table.’

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The travelling Mr Bargrave

‘A stately artificiall River runns through the Toune: but at all these places were we forcd to pay Toll, for our Selves & horses: rating our horses heads at a greater price then our own:’ This is from the 17th century diary of Robert Bargrave, an English merchant who travelled and traded throughout the Levant and Mediterranean. He died in Smyrna en route to Constantinople, and his death was reported some 360 years ago today.

Bargrave was born in Kent, possibly at the family home, Eastry Court, Eastry, near Sandwich, in 1628, second son of the dean of Canterbury. He studied at Clare College, Cambridge, and Corpus Christi, Oxford. He seems to have been admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1640, at the unusually young age of twelve, along with his elder brother, but this may have been to take part in the inn’s dramatic entertainments, says the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB). From 1647 until 1656, he worked as a merchant trading in the Levant and other Mediterranean locations. Much is known about this period in his life since he kept a detailed diary of four journeys: from England to Turkey 1647-1652; from Turkey to England 1652-1653; from England to Spain and Venice 1654-1656; from Venice to England 1656. Around 1653, he married Elizabeth Turner of Canterbury, and they had four children.

From early 1656 Bargrave was employed as personal secretary to Heneage Finch, earl of Winchilsea. When the earl was made ambassador to Constantinople, Bargrave went too, as the Levant Company’s secretary requiring him to serve as chancellor of the company’s factory and also to deputise for Winchilsea in his absence. On route to Turkey, in the Plymouth, Winchilsea’s party stopped at Lisbon, Algiers, and arrived at Smyrna in mid-December 1660. Bargrave fell ill, and was left behind when the Plymouth sailed for Constantinople on 7 January. According to the ODNB, his death was reported to Winchilsea on 9 February 1661 by the English consul at Smyrna, Richard Baker: ‘Your servant mr Bargrave is dead & buried at Santa Venáranda whither wee all accompanied him; his wife most disconsolate & to be admired for her love & care of him’.

Although brief extracts from Bargrave’s diary had been published in a variety of earlier scholarly works, the first fully annotated edition (with un-modernised language and spelling) was only published as recently as 1999, by the Hakluyt Society, edited by Michael G. Brennan: The Travel Diary of Robert Bargrave, Levant Merchant 1647-1656. The Society had, in fact, been preparing the work for publication in the 1940s, but the project lapsed. 

Again according to the ODNB: ‘Bargrave’s diary records his extensive experiences of commercial and diplomatic affairs, as well as his encounters with émigré royalists, and his relatives John Bargrave and John Raymond, who together compiled the invaluable guidebook published under the latter’s name as An Itinerary . . . Made through Italy (1648). Interspersed with these travel records are examples of Bargrave’s own poetry, including a masque with musical settings and dance steps, and his general observations as a tourist.’ Here are several extracts from Bargrave’s diary.

17 September 1652
‘Sep : 17: Leaving Thrace, we enterd into Bulgaria & rid to a village calld Dervènt=Cue: where we find the Inhabitants to be of the Grecian Relligion, & theyr Speech a confusd mixture of Turkish, Sclavonian & Greek:’ 

20 September 1652
‘Sept, the :20: we reachd (though with much difficulty) Yenèe Cue, a pretty small village seated beside a pleasant brooke: wherein we bathd our selves, and learnd our pediculous Companions to swimm: The Land hereabout is indeed very pleasing, resembling Parke - or Forrest - Grounds: at night by a Courteous Turkes Invitation, we repaird to his house; where he enterteind us with a Supper, & our horses with Hay, Gratis:’

21 September 1652
‘Sept, the :21 : we spent the first of the Day, in mending our Carts: the Vexation whereof is such, as I shall for ever putt them in my Letany, & give in Caution against them to all, whose Necessity may not force theyr using them; yet in the Afternoon (with Trouble enough) we travelld about fower howers, & pitchd at a most delicious Fountain on the way side.’

22 September 1652
‘September the :22: We sett out at break of Dawne; but having soon lost our way (& the Caravan too) in a Mist, we rid at range, till our hunger drove us in for a Bait at a Bulgares Cottage: hence we took our way to Carnabàtt; a handsom Toune, seated by a delicat Plaine, & washd with a pleasant River: neer which is as shady a large Grove of low Trees, as I have seen; so lovely, as if Nature had sett them for a Patterne of Plantation, to pose Art with: & here we found our Carravan; with whom we quartred, on the way side about an hower distant from Carnabatt –’

29 September 1652
‘September the :29:th we left Bulgaria, & entred a Country calld Dobrugia, which has lost its Christian name (unless it bee Silistria (as its chief City is still Called) And gotten this Turkish one; signyfying = Wellfare = from the great fruitfullness thereof: we rod about :12: howres to a Toune calld Bazargèe upon a délicat plaine & fertile Soile, scarse the :10:th part whereof is manur’d, through the paucity of Inhabitants; whose paines (though themselves are Turkes) are devourd by the Tiranny of theyr Governours. this Roud is very subject to Robberies; insomuch that in many places are to be seen Memoriall Pillars or heaps of Stones, over the bodies of Men there murdred & buryed.

30 September 1652
‘September the we went onn to a village calld Cavlaklèr;5 along the continued plaine, affording scarse a Tree & Stone within View: the Land clad with Grass wonderfully thick, having neither Men to manure it nor Cattle to eat a considerable part of it, although they have indeed great nombers of Bullocks & horses, scarse distinguishable from wild. The Inhabitants are so slothfull, that if they have sufficient for to Day & themselfs, they let Tomorrow & others take theyr Fortune: Water is bad & Searcy, & wine not to be had; because none but Turkes dwell in the Country: Wood they have none nor other burning then beasts Dung mixt with Straw, & dried; which would make bad Coals to broile Rashers on, if theyr Relligion would permitt them Bacon By the way we see a sort of Birds calld Тói (which I have neither mett nor heard of in Other parts) somewhat of the Shape & Colour of Turkies, but verie much greater: of which opportunity not letting us tast, we took it on Credit, that they be admirable meat: but could we have persuaded them to stand our Gunns, they had done a more opportune Favour; while even in a land of Plenty, we suffered very great want.’

17 February 1653
‘February the :17th: we came to Linghen; which with three other Tounes belong to the Prince of Orange; the Land extending about ten Legues in length, & two in breadth. Linghen was formerly a fortified Toune, but being taken by the Spanyards & retaken by the Hollanders, they demolishd the workes: & here termes Westfalia: -‘

21 February 1653
‘February the :21. we reachd to Emms Foort, a City well fortified, large handsom and cleane, having streight long Streets, delicatly pavd: but that which most contributed to our Prospect, was the stately even Rhoads to and from the City, curiously planted on each side with Abele=Trees, as also diverse other planted Walkes, leading out of the Rhode to Pleasant Villa’s, which are seated round about in land richly manurd, and chiefly with Tobacco, hence we advanc’d yet farther to Nearden, a Toune much larger then Emms Foort; the Streets broader, the buildings fairer, very uniforme, exceeding cleane: A stately artificiall River runns through the Toune: but at all these places were we forcd to pay Toll, for our Selves & horses: rating our horses heads at a greater price then our own:’

22 February 1653
February the :22d: - We went by water to Amsterdam, on an artificiall River, broad and deep, and cutt by a line about fower miles length from Nearden; the Rhoad goes along by the river, so that our boat was drawen by a Horse, as is the Custome through=out the low Countryes: The Land round=about us is every where bespotted with pretty Villaes and Guardens, so neatly contriv’d, & handsomely adornd, that together with the view of the City, of the Seae, & the litle Woods of Shipps neer it, they make up a most noble Prospect.’

Saturday, February 6, 2021

A burst of gun fire

‘Left the hotel at the usual side entrance and headed for the car - suddenly there was a burst of gun fire from the left. S.S. Agent pushed me onto the floor of the car & jumped on top. I felt a blow in my upper back that was unbelievably painful. I was sure he’d broken my rib. The car took off. I sat up on the edge of the seat almost paralyzed by pain.’ This is Ronald Reagan - born 110 years ago today - recording in his diary the attempt made on his life just a couple of months after he’d been elected president for the first time. His diary, though not rich in philosophical or psychological depth, is remarkable for having been written every day he was in office, and for the wide range of subjects, political and personal, that he records. 

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on 6 February 1911 in Tampico, Illinois, to a salesman of Irish Catholic descent. He attended high school in Dixon and then Eureka College where he studied economics and sociology, played American football, and acted in school plays. On graduating, he became a radio sports announcer. However, a screen test in 1937 won him a contract in Hollywood, and a successful acting career followed. In 1940, he married fellow actor Jane Wyman (twice previously married) with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1948 (Jane would go on to marry twice more to the same man!), and Reagan married Nancy, also an actor, in 1952. They, too, had two children.

From 1947 to 1952, and from 1959 to 1960, Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, during which time he testified in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. From 1954 to 1962, he hosted the weekly television drama series The General Electric Theater, and he toured the US as a public relations representative for General Electric, giving pro-business talks speaking out against too much government control and wasteful spending. By this time, a youthful enthusiasm for Democratic politics had turned into support for Republican policies. In 1964, he gave a well-received televised speech for Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and two years later, in his first race for public office, Reagan won the governorship of California; he was reelected to a second term in 1970. 

On his third attempt, in 1980, Reagan won the Republican presidential nomination. He went on to defeat President Jimmy Carter by a large margin, and a clear majority of the popular vote. Two months after his inauguration as president, he survived an assassination attempt. At home, he undertook policies to reduce the federal government’s reach into the daily lives of citizens and to cut taxes to spur growth (dubbed ‘Reaganomics’). Increased military spending and deregulation of business were other priorities. With regard to foreign policy, he called the Soviet Union ‘the evil empire’, and fuelled the Cold War with aid to anticommunist movements in many parts of the world. In 1983, he launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a plan to develop space-based weapons. That same year, he authorised an invasion of Grenada after a coup by Marxist rebels. During Reagan’s second term (1985-1989) when he was reelected by a landslide, he forged a diplomatic relationship with the reform-minded Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, and challenged him to dismantle the Berlin Wall.

In 1994, Reagan revealed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He died in 2004, was given a state funeral in Washington, D.C., and  buried on the grounds of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum (which had been opened in 1991). Further information on Reagan is readily available at Wikipedia, The White House,, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Encyclopaedia Britannica, or The Miller Center.

Reagan has the distinction of being one of a handful of American presidents who kept a detailed diary in office ( even when in  hospital recovering from an assassination attempt).  In 2005, Nancy Reagan gave permission for the five volumes of her husband’s thick, maroon, leather-bound diary books to be transcribed. The Reagan Library Foundation partnered with HarperCollins (which is said to have paid over a million pounds for the rights) to have them published in 2007 as The Reagan Diaries (edited by Douglas Brinkley). According to Wikipedia an edited version of the diaries reached No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. A review can be read at The Nw York Times website. The actual diaries are on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The full text (coupled with the so-called White House Diary - a daily schedule of meetings and events attended) is available on the library’s website and is the source of the following extracts.

11 February 1981
‘High spot a Nat. Security Council meeting. We have absolute proof of Soviet & Cuban activity in delivering arms to rebels in El Salvador - Also their worldwide propaganda campaign which has succeeded in raising riots & demonstrations in Europe & the U.S. Intelligence reports say he [Castro] is very worried about me. I’m very worried that we cant come up with something to justify his worrying.’

8 April 1981
‘My day to address the Bldg. & Const. Trades Nat. Conf. A.F.L.-C.I.O. at the Hilton Ballroom - 2 P.M. Was all dressed to go & for some reason at the last min. took off my really good wrist watch & wore an older one.

Speech not riotously received - still it was successful.

Left the hotel at the usual side entrance and headed for the car - suddenly there was a burst of gun fire from the left. S.S. Agent pushed me onto the floor of the car & jumped on top. I felt a blow in my upper back that was unbelievably painful. I was sure he’d broken my rib. The car took off. I sat up on the edge of the seat almost paralyzed by pain. Then I began coughing up blood which made both of us think - yes I had a broken rib & it had punctured a lung. He switched orders from W.H. to Geo. Wash. U. Hosp.

By the time we arrived I was having great trouble getting enough air. We did not know that Tim McCarthy (S.S.) had been shot in the chest, Jim Brady in the head & a policemen Tom Delahanty in the neck.

I walked into the emergency room and was hoisted onto a cart where I was stripped of my clothes. It was then we learned I’d been shot & had a bullet in my lung.

Getting shot hurts. Still my fear was growing because no matter how hard I tried to breathe it seemed I was getting less & less air. I focused on that tiled ceiling and prayed. But I realized I couldn’t ask for Gods help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. Isn’t that the meaning of the lost sheep? We are all Gods children & therefore equally beloved by him. I began to pray for his soul and that he would find his way back to the fold.

I opened my eyes once to find Nancy there. I pray I’ll never face a day when she isn’t there. Of all the ways God has blessed me giving her to me is the greatest and beyond anything I can ever hope to deserve.

All the kids arrived and the hours ran together in a blur during which I was operated on. I know it’s going to be a long recovery but there has been such an outpouring of love from all over.

The days of therapy, transfusion, intravenous etc. have gone by - now it is Sat. April 11 and this morning I left the hospital and am here at the W.H. with Nancy & Patti. The treatment, the warmth, the skill of those at G.W. has been magnificent but it’s great to be here at home.

Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try to serve him in every way I can.’

18 April 1981
‘A nice quiet day - no emergencies, slept in late but still managed an afternoon nap. Wrote a draft of a letter to Brezhnev. Dont know whether I’ll send it but enjoyed putting some thoughts down on paper. 9 P.M. and we’re off to bed.’

19 April 1981
‘A beautiful Easter morning. In the afternoon Rev. Louis Evans & his wife called and brought us communion. They made it a most meaningful day.

Watched some T.V. in bed and saw Gloria Steinem take me over the coals for being a bigot and against women. Either she is totally ignorant of my positions which I doubt or she is a deliberate liar.’

12 February 1983
‘Found out some of our people stayed in West Wing all night rather than try to go home. Near 5 P.M. temperatures in the 40’s. Snow has been melting but still too deep to see any lawn. George B. & Bud McFarlane came by to tell me Neimeri of Sudan cites a reliable source that Khadafy is planning air action against Sudan to coincide with insurgent attacks from the South. We have A.W.A.C.S. planes available over Egypt to vector Egyptian planes if this proves reliable. George and Obie Shultz coming to dinner & we’ve run a movie.’

15 February 1983
‘Meeting with Repub. Cong. leadership. Our 2 Georges reported on their trips to Europe & Asia. They were roundly praised by all present. Then we got into a budget discussion & how the ec. was doing. It was a really upbeat meeting. Had an intelligence briefing on the Palestinian situation. It was pretty sobering. There are hundreds of thousands - indeed mils. scattered throughout the Middle East. All look upon Israel & the West bank as their natural homeland. There are already 1,700,000 of them in that area. Did a Q&A in the family theatre preparing for press conf. tomorrow night. Home to wood shed for that exam. Almost forgot - Geo. Shultz sneaked Ambassador Dobrynin (Soviet) into the W.H. We talked for 2 hours. Sometimes we got pretty nose to nose. I told him I wanted George to be a channel for direct contact with Andropov - no bureaucracy involved. Geo. tells me that after they left, the ambas. said “this could be an historic moment.” ’

30 March 1986
‘The weather was in & out but I managed to ride every day although one day was in fog, one in light rain & one in a strong wind but with sunshine. All in all it was a good trip and Barney, Dennis & I got in some trail clearing etc.

During our stay got a night time call re the bombing of the Disco in W. Berlin where 50 or so of our servicemen were wounded & killed. Evidence is adding up that the villain was Kadaffy although that hypocrite went on T.V. to say “it was a terrorist act against innocent civilians & he wouldn’t do such things.”

Roy Miller came up one day with our income tax forms. We really need tax reform!! Final day, Ron & Doria came up - that was our rainy day ride.

Sun was coming out today - Sunday of course because we had to leave. Ride home uneventful & here we are in the W.H.’

4 April 1986
‘No ranch chores today. Dressed up in our town clothes & helicoptered (1 hr. & 20 min’s.) down the Coast to a place between Newport & Laguna to the beautiful home of retired Gen. & Mrs. William Lyon. A reception & lunch for about 50 people - prospective donors & donors to the Presidential Library. A meeting 1st with architect of Library - it’s going to be magnificent. Then a receiving line & photos - some mix & mingle & lunch. I spoke briefly then back in the chopper & back to the ranch about 4 P.M.’

See also Poindexter, Reagan and Bush