Sunday, May 3, 2015
In 2017, Pen and Sword will publish my second non-fiction work, Tales from the 18th Century Old Bailey. The book will offer a peek into the annals of the most famous criminal court in the world, in what must arguably be the most tumultuous century in British history. In an era when the Bloody Code sent thousands of men and women to the gallows and saw children transported to the far side of the world for what seem now like the most trivial of wrongdoings, an appointment with the judges of the Old Bailey was the last thing any self-respecting miscreant wanted to receive!Share
From bloody murder to impulsive shoplifting via not so dandy highwaymen and the real stories behind Mother Clap’s Molly House, a microcosm of Georgian society passed through the Old Bailey as tragic prostitutes and murderous hangmen alike found themselves standing before the bench. (Read more.)
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Walking down the hallway, you spot a stranger coming from the other direction. In attempt to avoid awkwardness, you look down at your phone and pretend like you are checking your texts. I’m guilty of this scenario. In reality, it is so much more pleasant and less awkward to put your phone down, smile at the stranger, and ask him how his day is going. Or even a simple hello will do. YOUR smile has the capacity to not only brighten the day of others, but to also brighten your own day. Manners show respect, whether it be a smile, a quick greeting, or a simple “please” and “thank you”. (Read more.)Share
Friday, May 1, 2015
Although he initially seemed to rally, fate had other plans in mind for the monarch and Louis suffered an agonising death, his body blackened and rotting with the infection. After being placed in his coffin and covered with alcohol and linens, the king's remains were interred in the Basilica of Saint Denis, his near six decade reign coming to a painful and unhappy end. (Read more.)Louis XV repented on his deathbed for the public scandal he had given, confessing to the blind and holy priest Abbé Maudoux, who later became Marie-Antoinette's confessor. (From Léon de la Brière's Madame Louise de France, p.66) Share
President Barack Obama responded to the Baltimore riots with a heartfelt bout of self-righteous hectoring.
Supposedly, we all know what’s wrong with Baltimore and how to fix it, but don’t care enough. The president seems to believe that if only we all had the wisdom and the compassion of Barack Obama, Baltimore would already be on the mend. Not only is this attitude high-handed and insulting, it rests on a flagrantly erroneous premise.
Obama doesn’t have the slightest idea how to fix Baltimore. While parts of his diagnosis are sound — communities like West Baltimore obviously lack for fathers and business investment — his solutions fall back on liberal bromides going back 50 years.
ShareObama said, cuttingly, that this Congress won’t approve “massive investments in urban communities.” Dating back to the Kerner Commission in the aftermath of the riots of the 1960s, the left’s go-to solution to urban problems has been more social programs. Since then, we’ve gotten more social programs — and just as many urban problems.
Exhibit A is Baltimore itself. The city hasn’t been “neglected.” It has been misgoverned into the ground. It is a Great Society city that bought into the big-government vision of the 1960s more than most, and the bitter fruit has been corruption, violence and despair.
All you need to know about the confused ineffectuality of the city’s leadership was evident in the purposefully inadequate initial response to the mayhem, apparently on the theory that a little rioting is OK.
And why not? The left has a soft spot for rioters. As soon as the windows start breaking, it rolls outs its intellectually rancid excuse-making for the destruction of property.
As police cars burned and businesses were ransacked, progressives declared nonviolence “a ruse” (Ta-Nehisi Coates); hailed looting as “a legitimate political strategy” (Salon); and called the senseless rampage part of a series of, sententiously all-caps, “UPRISINGS” (Marc Lamont Hill).
The lesson is that when the revolution comes, you best not own or operate a small business, or especially a CVS (drugstores, apparently, are notorious enemies of the people).
To its credit, Baltimore called in the National Guard (i.e., “militarized” its police) and stopped the looting. This is better than the alternative. The deeper problem is that much of Baltimore is a disaster even when no one is rioting.
The city has been shedding jobs and people for decades, including in the 1990s when the rest of the country was booming.
We don’t know all the facts surrounding Freddie Gray’s tragic, and highly suspicious, death. But as a general matter, it is easy to believe that the Baltimore police are corrupt, dysfunctional and unaccountable — because most of the Baltimore government is that way. Mayors and police commissioners get convicted of crimes.
This is a failure exclusively of Democrats, unless the root causes of Baltimore’s troubles are to be traced to its last Republican mayor, Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin, who left office in 1967. And it is an indictment of a failed model of government.
Baltimore is a hostile business environment and high-tax city, with malice aforethought. “Officials raised property taxes 21 times between 1950 and 1985,” Steve Hanke and Stephen Walters of Johns Hopkins University write in The Wall Street Journal, “channeling the proceeds to favored voting blocs and causing many homeowners and entrepreneurs — disproportionately Republicans — to flee. It was brilliant politics, as Democrats now enjoy an eight-to-one voter registration advantage.”
To counterbalance the taxes, they note, developers need to be lured to the city with subsidies, and the developers, in turn, contribute to politicians to stay in their good graces. This makes for fertile ground for the city’s traditional corruption.
Baltimore’s preferred driver of growth has been government. Urban experts Fred Siegel and Van Smith write in City Journal that Baltimore has “emphasized a state-sponsored capitalism that relies almost entirely on federal and state subsidies, rather than market investments.” The model makes for some high-profile development projects, but trickle-down crony capitalism hasn’t worked for everyone else.
For those left behind, Maryland has one of the most generous welfare systems in the country, according to Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute. (Read more.)
After the assassination of President Lincoln on April 14, 1865, the Black Diamond was assigned picket duty on the Potomac River. Her job was to patrol the Potomac, keeping an eye out for the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, if he attempted to cross the river. On the night of April 23, the world was unaware that Booth and his conspirator David Herold had already crossed the Potomac and were that night sleeping in the cabin of William Lucas in King George County, Virginia. The Black Diamond lay at anchor about a mile south of St. Clement’s Island.Share
It was a clear night but there was no moon. The Black Diamond was said to have had only had one light showing. Somehow, it wasn’t seen in the darkness. At around 10 o’clock p.m. on April 23, the Massachusetts and its 400 passengers collided with the Black Diamond and her twenty crew.
What follows is a newspaper account of the incident recalled by Corporal George Hollands in 1914. Hollands was one of the soldiers aboard the Massachusetts who had spent time at Andersonville prison. His account provides a vivid description of the tragedy:
“…About 10 o’clock at night, when we were all cuddled down for a night’s sleep, part on the upper deck and part below — myself and my bunkmates were stretched out on the lower deck — we heard an awful crash and felt a sudden jar. We all sprang to our feet, pulled on our coats and ran up on deck to see what the trouble was. All was confusion and excitement, as we discovered we had crashed into the side of another boat, striking her amidship.I ran to the bow of our boat, as most of the others had done, and found her bow was settling fast. The Captain was shouting to us to go aft, so as to keep her bow out of the water as much as possible. In the meantime we were shouting to the boat we had run into — the Black Diamond — to come to our assistance. She circled around and came up alongside of us, and about 150 jumped from the Massachusetts to the deck of the Black Diamond. I was among the first to board her, and I ran immediately to the man at the wheel and asked him if the boat was all right. He said: “No; she is sinking.” I then made up my mind that we had “jumped out of the frying-pan into the fire.” I immediately turned to go toward the stern of the boat, and in going I stumbled onto a stepladder which had been torn from the hurricane deck.I grabbed up the ladder and was about to jump overboard with it — scores of the boys had already jumped overboard to avoid the suction of the boat as she went down — when all of a sudden the thought came to me that the river was not deep enough to engulf the masts and all, so I threw down the ladder, grabbed one of the guyropes and began climbing up toward the mast.I soon landed my foot on the yard-arm and got my arms around the mast, and about that time the boat struck bottom, with her deck only about two feet under water. I found three or four of the crew among the rigging, so they evidently were of the same mind as I concerning the depth of the river.
We clung to our positions all night, and could hear the cries for help in all directions from the boys who had jumped overboard.A drummer boy of the 16th Conn. had been washed overboard and had grasped hold of the keel of the boat, or something else, and was hanging on for dear life and calling for help. One of the crew up in the rigging got hold of a rope and time and time again threw it to where the boy was, telling him to grab for it. The boy couldn’t get hold of it. Every now and then a wave would wash over him and strangle him, and as he would emerge from it he would call for the rope. He finally became exhausted and cried out to us that he could hold out no longer. He told us his name, but I have forgotten it. [George W. Carter] He said he was a drummer of Co. D, 16th Conn., and asked us to inform his mother that he was drowned. He bade us goodby, and as the next wave washed over him he loosened his hold and sank beneath the waves.We clung to our position until daylight, when we were discovered and picked up by a small United States gunboat or revenue cutter and transferred to our old boat, the Massachusetts, which, with one wheel out of commission and part of her bow carried away, had floated about in the vicinity during the night and picked up those she could of our comrades who had jumped overboard.After we were safe onboard the Massachusetts made her way slowly down the river, and about 11 o’clock a.m. she sighted a large steamer lying at anchor. She steered for her and ran alongside, and we were immediately transferred to the larger boat…”As recalled by Hollands, in the moments after the collision many aboard the Massachusetts thought that it was their ship that was going to sink. The panicked soldiers, who had already experienced hardship and fear far beyond their years, jumped into the river with anything that would float. Many, like Hollands, sought sanctuary on the Black Diamond. However, the impact of the Massachusetts had struck the Black Diamond in the boiler and she quickly took on water. It was said the Black Diamond sank in about three minutes. (Read more.)