Happy 4th of July! (Observed)

A collection of public domain images of the American Revolutionary War, together in a montage.

Each year we celebrate the 4th of July (also known as Independence Day) by watching parades, grilling food, and watching baseball. We celebrate it because in 1776 leaders took a brave and radical course of action by declaring independence from the premiere power of the day—Great Britain.

This was no small thing to do. The British were powerful and would respond by trying to crush the rebellion. Every person who signed the document knew their very lives were at stake. And some did pay a price when they were captured. The War for Independence was not easy and faced great obstacles. It was no sure thing at all the rebellion would succeed. It did succeed only because of the determination of those fighting to be free of British rule. They wanted to govern themselves and not serve a country that did not respond to their grievances. The American War for Independence would inspire others to do the same.

But why did they rebel? The Declaration of Independence lays out the case to the world. This is not a snippet but the complete document. Forgetting history though has consequences. Not long ago, a survey of young people educated through high school and college were asked what the Declaration of Independence was. Some thought it was The Communist Manifesto (1848). While that document has had an impact as well, the difference could not be more striking.

Declaration of Independence (1819) by John Trumbull (1756-1843).
Public Domain

The American Revolution brought forth a constitutional republic that guarantees citizens many rights. It also limited the powers of government to protect those citizens. Governments inspired by the Communist Manifesto and its supportive writings resulted in Communist dictatorships. These dictatorships cared not for liberty but were oppressive regimes that imprisoned anyone who disagreed with their policies, seized all lands reducing farmers to serfs, and banned any religious activity that did not conform to state policies. These regimes brutalized their citizens in the name of the “revolution” while the American War for Independence was fought for citizens to have power to govern themselves.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.


Remembering History: France Surrenders to Germany

Hitler (hand on side) and German high-ranked nazis and officers staring at WWI French marshall Maréchal Foch’s memorial statue before entering the railway carriage in order to start the negotiations for the 1940 armistice at Rethondes in the Compiègne forest, France. The armistice will only be signed the next day (June 22), Hitler being absent, by General Keitel on the German side and by General Huntziger on the French side. Screenshot taken from the 1943 United States Army propaganda film Divide and Conquer (Why We Fight #3) directed by Frank Capra and partially based on news archives, animations, restaged scenes and captured propaganda material from both sides.
Public Domain

Earlier this week was an anniversary, and not a happy one, for France.  On 21 June 1940 near Compiègne and in the same railway car Germany surrendered in 1918, France officially surrendered to Nazi Germany. For Adolf Hitler and his fellow Nazi leaders, this erased the shame of 1918 and the imposition of the Versailles Treaty. Hitler sat in the same chair that Marshal Ferdinand Foch had sat in 1918 to accept the German surrender in World War I.

France at the outset of the war was considered to have the best professional army in continental Europe. Aside from trained soldiers, they had tanks and heavy artillery. And, of course, the famous Maginot Line. This was a series of fortifications near the German border meant to deter an invasion force. The hills and woods of the Ardennes were considered impenetrable in the north but there was a caveat as General Philippe Petain noted. You had to destroy the invasion force before it exited that area. France and Germany had officially been at war since 3 Sep 1939 when France, allied with England, offered support to the Polish government.

French forces briefly entered the Saar on 7 September but withdrew after meeting a very thin line of German defense on the undermanned Siegfried line. With most of its forces concentrated in Poland at the time, Germany did not have the capacity to stand up to France’s 98 divisions and tanks that were being c0mmitted. However French hesitation and wanting to avoid total war had them withdraw forces starting on 17 September and done a month later. It began a time called the Phoney War where both Germany and France were armed and ready but nothing was happening. Hitler had hoped he could make peace with England and France but that was not to be.

On 10 May 1940, Germany attacked France. German armoured units made a push through the Ardennes, and then through the Somme valley to surround the allied units in Belgium. British, Belgian and French forces were pushed to the sea. British forces were evacuated at Dunkirk, which is an exciting tale of its own.  During the six-week campaign Germany conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands. German troops marched unopposed into Paris on 14 June. By 18 June with the collapse of both the French government (which had fled) and the military, negotiations began between French and German military officers.

At the meeting on 21 June, Hitler read the preamble and like Marshal Foch left to leave Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht to handle the details. There were several objectives that the Germans wanted and got. They wanted French North Africa and the French Navy out of the war. Also, they wanted to deny the British use of French territories since they could not possibly defend them. Occupied France was 3/5ths of the country which included the key ports on the French Channel and Atlantic and to the Spanish border. The Free Zone was administered by a newly formed French government in Vichy with Marshal Petain as its president.

Map of Vichy France
Rostislav Botev

Vichy France, as it became known, was authoritarian and reversed the policies of previous administrations. The media became tightly controlled, anti-Semitism was propagated, and labour unions put under strict controls. Vichy France kept French territories and the navy under French rather than German control. With the German army elsewhere, unoccupied France was generally free from military control. However due to its neutrality forbidden to assist nations at war with Germany. Despite it being unoccupied, Vichy had to conform to German policies including identifying foreign nationals, deporting stateless persons, and of course assisting Germans in locating and ultimately deporting French Jews to murdered in the death camps.

Aftermath

Three days after the signing of the treaty, the armistice site was destroyed on Hitler’s orders. The railway car was sent to Germany as a trophy of war. A monument depicting the French victory over the Germans was destroyed. The only thing left standing was the large statue of Marshal Foch. Hitler ordered it left there to stare out over a wasteland. The railway carriage would later be destroyed by the SS in 1945.

An exact copy of the original railway car was made. French manufacturer Wagons-Lits donated a car from the same series to the Armistice Musuem (in Compiègne) in 1950. Identical and was part of Foch’s private train during the 1918 signing. Remains of the original car were dug up using German POW’s. The railway car is parked beside the display of those remains.

Titanic Steward Letter To wife up for auction

Poignant last letter of Titanic steward to wife reveals fears about ‘jinxed’ liner (Express, 20 June 2020)

A letter written by a steward on Titanic in which he told how he feared the doomed voyage would not be its “crowning trip” is tipped to fetch £18,000 at auction. Edward Stone penned the prescient note on White Star Line-headed paper to his “darling wife” Violet shortly before the liner left Queenstown in Ireland bound for New York on April 11, 1912. He also referred to a near-miss with another liner, SS New York, in Southampton earlier which almost curtailed its maiden voyage. Edward, 30, a second-class cabin steward, told Violet: “I don’t think this will be the crowning glory.”

Titanic steward Edward Stowe mailed the letter to his wife from Queenstown (now Cobh).  His body was recovered and interred in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The letter and the envelope that it came in were preserved and is now being auctioned off by a relative. The auctioneer is Henry Aldridge. At the time of this writing, word has not been received how much was raised at the auction over the weekend.

Happy Father’s Day

Father and son on a Sunday afternoon, 1943.
Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress, digital id#fsa 8d19170)

Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June in the United States. The movement to recognize fathers began in a West Virginia church in 1908. The sermon that day asked to remember 362 men who had perished in a mine explosion the previous December and many of the men were fathers. In 1909 Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington tried to establish an equivalent of Mother’s Day for male parents. She had been raised by a widower and believed the recognition was due. She promoted it so well to local churches, service organizations, and government officials that Washington State celebrated Father’s Day on June 19,1910. The movement to recognize fathers spread slowly but in 1924 President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day. Since then most states now recognize the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day but it is not a public holiday (neither is Mother’s Day).

Father’s Day is also celebrated in many countries. In Europe and most Spanish speaking countries it is celebrated on St. Joseph’s Day on March 19. St. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers.

Someday (Susanna Hoffs)

Today is The Summer Solstice

The sun rising over Stonehenge on summer solstice(2005) Photo:Andrew Dunn (Wikimedia)
The sun rising over Stonehenge on summer solstice(2005)
Photo:Andrew Dunn (Wikimedia)

Today is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. For those below the equatorial line, it is the Winter Solstice. The June Solstice usually takes place between June 20-22.  For both the UTC and local time of the solstice, go here.

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, it usually is the longest day of sunlight as the North Pole tilts directly towards the sun. Which translates into more sunlight particularly the further north you live. For those more closer to the North Pole (Alaska, parts of Canada, and Scandinavian countries)the sun literally never sets during this time of year. Of course the reverse is true in the Southern Hemisphere. They get less sunlight on the June Solstice and the closer you are to the Antarctic Circle means less sunlight or total night. For them, it is the Winter Solstice.

The coming of summer is usually a time for celebration in many cultures. Festivals in Northern Europe celebrate summer and the fertility of the Earth. Bonfires are lit and homes are decorated to mark the festival. Many cultures honor the sun in some fashion. Modern day pagans and druids also celebrate the day with their own festivals and many go to Stonehenge in England to witness the first rays of summer.

Friday Titanic News

Photograph of iceberg taken by chief steward of Prinz Adalbert on morning of 15 April 1912 near where Titanic sank. At the time he had not learned of the Titanic disaster. Smears of red paint along the base caught his attention. The photo and accompanying statement were sent to Titanic’s lawyers, which hung in their boardroom until the firm dissolved in 2002. Public Domain

Photograph of The Iceberg That ‘Most Likely’ Sunk Titanic Surfaces 108 Years After Disaster (TimesNowNews.com, 15 June 2020)

The image of the iceberg was taken by the captain of another ship just two days before it struck the Titanic. Captain W. Wood, who served on board the SS Etonian, captured the huge iceberg on his camera. He got the photo developed when he reached New York and sent the print to his great-grandfather. Along with the photo, Wood also sent a letter that stated that this was the iceberg that sank the Titanic. “I am sending you a sea picture, the Etonian running before a gale and the iceberg that sank the Titanic. We crossed the ice tracks 40hrs before her and in daylight so saw the ice easily and I got a picture,” Wood wrote in the letter.

Photo: Public Domain (Library and Archives Canada / PA-122236)

Op-Ed: Recovering Titanic’s Radio Would Create a Dangerous Precedent (Maritime Executive, 14 June 20)

From an archaeological perspective, recovering the radio will involve further damage to the memorial site for very limited gain with regard to scientific and cultural knowledge. We already know the make, model and history of this radio. So motivation for the salvage appears to lie in the radio’s economic potential as a tourist attraction and through a possible future sale. As archaeologists we understand there are times when intrusive and destructive interventions are required. But such acts need to be carefully considered in light of their impact on our shared global heritage. Once such actions take place they cannot be undone. A court ruling for such a culturally significant site that goes against advice from NOAA and counter to the principles of UNESCO, risks suggesting that the principles of shared heritage and selective intervention can be easily negated through simplistic arguments of degradation and profit.

Titanic Hero’s Whistle, Other Artifacts, Up For Auction (Fox News, 11 June 2020)

A whistle that belonged to a hero of the Titanic disaster is up for auction in the U.K., along with a host of other artifacts. The whistle is among a trove of items that belonged to Harold Lowe, a fifth officer on the Titanic. “Harold Lowe was without doubt one of the heroes of the Titanic disaster,” explained auctioneer Andrew Aldridge of U.K. auction house Henry Aldridge & Son in a statement emailed to Fox News. The archive has been in the possession of Lowe’s direct descendants.

Judge Gavel
George Hodan
publicdomainpictures.net

Feds Oppose Summer 2020 Salvage Mission at Titanic Wreck Site (Courthouse News Service, 9 June 2020)

In a memo supporting the motion to intervene meanwhile, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kent Porter points to an international agreement with the United Kingdom that the United States signed into law two years ago, saying it “precludes penetrating the wreck for salvage purposes, or if any activity would physically disturb the hull, artifacts or human remains.” Porter says any salvage activities are subject to federal regulation “RMST did not and has not sought an authorization from the secretary of commerce for this or any of the other activity set forth in its Research Design,” the 22-page memo states.

UPDATE: NOAA CHALLENGES TITANIC COURT RULING

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Public Domain

US challenges planned expedition to retrieve Titanic’s radio (ABC News, 9 June 2020)

The U.S. government will try to stop a company’s planned salvage mission to retrieve the Titanic’s wireless telegraph machine, arguing the expedition would break federal law and a pact with Britain to leave the iconic shipwreck undisturbed. U.S. attorneys filed a legal challenge before a federal judge in Norfolk, Virginia, late Monday. The expedition is expected to begin by the end of August. The Atlanta-based salvage firm RMS Titanic Inc., said it would exhibit the telegraph while telling the stories of the operators who broadcast the sinking ship’s distress calls.

TITANIC NEWS 7 JUNE 2020

Irish Diver Rory Golden To Advise Expedition To Locate Titanic’s Radio The Sunday Times, 7 June 2020 (subscription required)

Irish deep sea diver Rory Golden is providing expertise to a new expedition to the Titanic which aims to recover the Marconi radio from the wreck. The ship’s wireless Marconi telegraph was instrumental in saving more than 705 passengers from the freezing Atlantic waters when the Titanic sank after striking an iceberg in April 1912 with the loss of almost 1,500 lives

The Heroic Stories Of The Forgotten Victims Of The Titanic
New York Post, 6 June 2020

In the summer of 1912, weeks after the Titanic sank with her furnace-stoker husband, William, on board, his impoverished widow, Emily Bessant, heard a knock at the door of her tiny row house in Southampton, England. As family lore goes, it was a rich gentleman offering to send Emily’s eldest daughter, Gladys, to private school. He explained that William had helped him to a lifeboat amid the chaos on the fated ship. “It was a story handed down to us younger generations,” William’s great-granddaughter Julie Cook told The Post. “We can’t prove that it was true because Gladys supposedly declined, but it helped ¬everyone believe, in their grief, that William died a hero.”

Titanic Exhibit Delayed Until 2021

WHBY, 3 June 2020

People will have to wait a year to learn about the state’s connections to the Titantic at the Oshkosh Public Museum. Spokeswoman Tammy Malewski says they’re going to delay a special exhibit until July of 2021.
She says about 700 people went through the museum every day, when they had Titanic artifacts on display in 2006. Museum officials are concerned about how to handle that potential demand, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Titanic Court Ruling ‘Disrespects The Dead’
The Southern Star, 1 June 2020

GOLEEN lawyer has said he’s extremely disappointed at the decision by a US judge to allow a salvage operation on the Titanic this summer. Michael Kingston, a London-based maritime expert said the 1,500 people who lost their lives when the ship sank in 1912 deserve more respect. The salvage operation will cut into the wreckage to try to recover a Marconi telegraph.

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