Joan of Arc – Maid of Heaven – Joan of Arc & Robert E. Lee

Joan of Arc – you have heard her name, do you really know her story? The famous sword of Robert E. Lee contains one of St. Joan of Arc’s famous quotes: “Aide toi, Dieu t’aidera” – which means “aid yourself and God will aid you.”

Source: Joan of Arc – Maid of Heaven – Joan of Arc & Robert E. Lee

At last! Provenance for this. Sometimes rendered – and often quoted to me by my mother – as “the Lord [or God] helps those who help themselves,” it does not appear in the Scriptures, but is (or used to be) a fairly common axiom. I had not realized that it was from St. Jean d’Arc (Joan of Arc). Nor did I realize the Robert E. Lee connection! As the linked essay recounts:

There are many similarities between St. Joan of Arc and Robert E. Lee, the two most obvious being that they were both great generals and they both possessed incredible faith in God. How appropriate, then, that Robert E. Lee’s famous presentation sword, the one that he wore during his meeting with Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, is engraved on one side with one of Saint Joan’s most famous quotes and spiritual truths:

“Aide toi et Dieu t’aidera”

(“Aid yourself and God will aid you”)

But there is more, which makes this especially meaningful to me, personally: this account confirms what I thought I understood: that the sword General Lee was wearing when he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse – a moment which must have been among the most, if not the very most, painful moments of his life – was the “Maryland Sword”:

This particular sword was a gift from an admirer who lived in Maryland. It was presented to him in 1863. It is said to have been commissioned in Paris by Louis-Francois Devisme. The giver of the gift has been lost over the years but the sword has been preserved and refurbished to its original state. The sword is forty and one-half inches in length, possessing a lion’s head on the pommel and has an ivory grip. The blade is inscribed, “Gen. Robert E. Lee CSA from a Marylander 1863.” The scabbard is of blued steel. Both pieces are flawless and priceless. Its beauty is something to be seen to be appreciated.

That the Sword of General Lee, the Maryland Sword, is also in a sense a Sword of St. Joan of Arc raises the hair on the back of my neck – but in a good way, a very good way! The essay’s author continues:

My thoughts are how many times Lee as a Christian in gazing upon the words [“Aide toi Dieu t’aidera”] did he think about the saying and use it as motivation to continue? During adversity, surrender and even death, those words inscribed upon that sword must have been recalled and shared with others.

I doubt it not. Amen, and amen!

Sadly, according to reports, some within “Take ’em down NOLA” – the main group behind the removal of four Confederate monuments from the city, which is dedicated to the removal or renaming of all “symbols of white supremacy,” so-called – are targeting not only Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, but the “Maid of Orleans”: Joan of Arc herself (*). Will idiocy never end? The lunatics, it seems, are running the asylum!

(* Jean d’Arc does not appear on this, supposedly “official,” list, but reports suggest that she may be on an unofficial list of “Take ’em down NOLA” targets. Sadly, I would not be a bit surprised!)

QOTD: “Equality” and modern elites

“The society ruled by modern equality is not a society without elites but a society in which elites recognize no traditional or moral responsibilities.”

— Philippe Bénéton

In defence of blood sports – Epigram

Blood sports. An unethical, unsustainable stain on the landscape. Blasting defenceless animals out of the sky. Sounds harsh right…?

Source: In defence of blood sports -Epigram

More on field or so-called “blood”-sports, from a British perspective:

It is not a question of human rule and dominion but a case of stewardship. I am deeply concerned about the environment – I wouldn’t splash out on free range eggs or endure the seven hour train journey instead of a flight home if I didn’t – but providing species as a whole are conserved I won’t lose sleep over the death of an individual animal.

And if anything, shooting offers a more honest relationship between man and beast than the average consumer could ever hope to have with their beef lasagne (or was it horse?)… When you eat game meat you know where the animal has come from, how it was killed and that it enjoyed a free and wild life – something that cannot be said for much of the meat coming through our industrial abattoirs and supermarkets.

Indeed!

I am reminded of one of the great Aldo Leopold’s essays in his seminal A Sand County Almanac, “Wildlife in American Culture,” where he notes the value of hunting, as inculcating both knowledge and respect for the food chain – much diminished if the only thing we are “hunting” for is the best price on styrofoam-and-plastic-wrapped supermarket meats – and what he calls “split-rail value,” or anything that reminds of of our national (or more broadly, cultural) origins and evolution.

Hunting, and related disciplines like fishing, trapping, etc., are not the only ways to inculcate these values, of course, but they are particularly poignant and visceral means of doing so. They allow the practitioner to be a participant in what is sometimes called “the circle of life,” rather than a mere observer of it, in a way which no other activity save agriculture can do. And of course, farming (or gardening) and hunting are two activities which have always been very closely linked, in human history.

The whole question of field sports is made out to be a class issue. It isn’t. It is a city vs countryside issue.

I am sure the majority of those 80% who condoned the fox hunting ban were city dwellers with little appreciation of the tradition hunting carried for hundreds of years. ‘Just because it’s a tradition doesn’t mean it’s right’ I hear you say, so let’s look at it another way.

To people in the city, who have never come close to anything wilder than a cat, the concept of an aggressive fox seems alien, but in the countryside, foxes are vermin. Straight up. They terrorise lambs causing real damage to farmers. Growing up in the countryside, foxes were not some fluffy creature. They were the stuff of nightmares, crawling into the chicken run and butchering the lot for fun.

Unfortunately many people, both here and abroad, have grown up with a more-than-a-little “Disney-fied” version of how the natural world works. I have spent years working and teaching in environmental, outdoor, and conservation education, and I can assert with 100% confidence that predator (including foxes, coyotes, and even those adorable “masked bandits,” raccoons – ever seen one ticked off? they’re not adorable then!) numbers need to be controlled, to limit the spread of disease and protect domestic animal populations.

And prey animals (“game animals,” to us) need to have their numbers controlled, also – especially in the absence of “top predators” like wolves, bear, and mountain lions – to avoid overpopulation, resulting in starvation, disease, etc. In a totally natural environment, absent the influence of human beings, of course, that would not be necessary; nature would maintain the balance – but the means it would use, namely the aforementioned tools of predation, starvation, and disease, are hardly cute and cuddly. Again, this is not “Bambi,” this is the real world.

Again, those who are opposed to field sports like hunting (“shooting” and “stalking,” in British parlance), trapping (more of an economic activity than a sport, per se), and mounted foxhunting tend to have an excessively romanticized, fictionalized view of the world. It is particularly ironic when those opposed to field sports are willing to eat packaged meat! Such animals frequently live much worse lives, and suffer less humane deaths, than those hunted ethically (poaching, of course, cannot be defended under any circumstances).

Finally, from a philosophical viewpoint, the reality is that we are not separate from Nature, either above or below it; we are part of Nature. We may have abilities of self-reflection, cognition, and communication that are greater than our fellow-creatures, but we are still what Leopold called “plain members and citizens of the land community.” And we are, biologically and evolutionarily, predatory omnivores, like raccoons, opossums, and bears. Pretending otherwise is dishonest, and does both us and our fellow-citizens of the land community a disservice.

Unless we evolve the capacity to photosynthesize, we will be dependent upon killing something – whether animal or plant – to survive. And what many people do not realize is that vegetable production, even organic vegetable production, is not benign. Many animals are displaced or killed to plant, cultivate, harvest, and protect those fields of greens, roots, and other veggies. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, please be clear-eyed enough to realize that this choices does not remove or immunize you from the deaths of animals, it merely makes those deaths less visible.

(Just as “Leave No Trace” camping relies heavily on extractive industries to produce the synthetic materials, stove fuels, etc., that replace more traditional camping techniques… but I digress.)

We cannot escape from our mutual interdependence on the rest of the natural world, and we cannot escape from the fact that a portion of that interdependence requires us to kill in order to survive. We may as well – in my view – do so in a way which is ethical, and which teaches us other lessons about the proper way to interact with the rest of the rest of the natural world, and with each other.

“Outrage” as Theresa May confirms a fox hunting vote

The League Against Cruel Sports said there was ‘no justification’ for scrapping the law against hunting with dogs. Theresa May announced her plans for a vote at the Tory manifesto launch.

Source: Outrage as Theresa May confirms a fox hunting vote

As a former car-follower with the Carrollton Hounds, you will find no “outrage” from me at this news! Indeed, I find it outrageous that it was banned in the first place. I deeply appreciate the history and heritage of foxhunting in the UK and America – where the sport got its start in my home state of Maryland:

“The earliest record of the importation of hounds to this country was on June 30, 1650, when Robert Brooke arrived in Maryland with his family, 28 servants and his hounds. By the early 1700’s, mounted foxhunting was spreading rapidly in Maryland, Virginia and probably other colonies. Hounds were also used for other forms of hunting. Early planters with sporting English blood imported red foxes from England in 1730 and celebrated the event at Chestertown, Maryland” (Masters of Foxhounds Association & Foundation – “History of American Foxhunting“).

Lest anyone get all up-in-arms over the alleged “cruelty” of the sport, let me note that here in the U.S., the fox (in the case of red foxes, an “import,” anyway) is rarely killed, while in Britain, mounted hunts have historically served a useful purpose in limiting the numbers of foxes, which otherwise can become quite a pest.

To my mind, the ban on mounted foxhunting with dogs in Britain is part and parcel of the “politically correct” agenda to suppress history, heritage, and traditional activities, as well as attitudes, that seems currently to be on the ascendant throughout the West, and which it is part of this blog’s intention to help counteract.

Stars and Bars and Union Jack – How the British Nearly Supported the Confederacy

An excellent article – book review, actually, of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War, by Amanda Foreman – by Kev Lee on Britain’s role in the War Between the States:

Was it a civil war twice over? Not only did the “war between the states” divide the American people, it sundered the larger English-speaking community stretching across the Atlantic. The conflict was followed with consuming interest by the British, it affected them directly, many of them fought in it — and it split them into two camps, just as it did the Americans.

Now that Americans are taught that the war was a noble conflict waged by Lincoln and the forces of light against misguided and contumacious Southerners, it’s especially valuable to be reminded that this was far from how all the English saw it at the time. To be sure, almost no Englishman defended slavery, long since abolished in the British Empire. The British edition of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” had sold an astonishing million copies, three times its American sales, and the Royal Navy waged a long campaign against the slave trade: during Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s visit to the White House in March 2009, President Obama was presented with a pen holder carved from the wood of one of the ships that conducted that campaign.

But while some English politicians, like the radical John Bright and the Whig Duke of Argyll, ardently supported the North, plenty sided with the Confederacy. They even included W. E. Gladstone, on his long journey from youthful Tory to “the people’s William,” adored by the masses in his later years. Apart from sympathy with the underdog, many Englishmen believed that the South had a just claim of national self-determination.

As Obama remembered to say at Buckingham Palace recently, a large part of the American population claims ancestry from British immigrants, great numbers of them arriving throughout the 19th century. Plenty of those took part in the war, and they were joined by more volunteers who came just for the fight, on one side or the other. The extraordinary cast portrayed in “A World on Fire,” by Amanda Foreman — who is also the author of “Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire” — extends from men who fled England to escape poverty to aristocratic Union officers like Major John Fitzroy de Courcy, later Lord Kingsale, a veteran of the Crimea, not to mention Colonel Sir Percy Wyndham, a soldier of fortune whose knighthood was actually Italian. Some, like the Welshman Henry Morton Stanley, even managed to fight for both sides.

Then there were the reporters, like Frank Vizetelly of The Illustrated London News and, most notably, William Howard Russell of The Times of London, who had become famous covering the Crimean War and reporting on the activities of Florence Nightingale. (In an odd conjunction, Foreman says that “Russell was the ideal choice. . . . Overeating and excessive drinking were his chief vices.” This is sometimes said of journalists, but rarely by way of commendation.)

What for American readers will be a more riveting — because unfamiliar — tale comes whenever Foreman turns from the patriotic gore to her true subject of the British and the war. While guns blazed, another battle was being waged, for English hearts and minds, at both the elite and popular levels. From Fort Sumter on, the London government was in a quandary, and so was Lord Lyons, who had the bad luck to be sent as minister to Washington shortly before the war began (the British representative was not yet an ambassador, of whom there were then very few, although not just three, as Foreman thinks).

Lyons carried out his difficult task with patience and courtesy. On the one hand, Southern politicians threatened that if London did not recognize the sovereignty of the Confederate States, the cotton trade would be cut off, driving England to economic collapse and revolution. On the other, the Union administration warned that such recognition could lead to war. In the event, London toyed with recognizing independence, and angered the North quite enough by acknowledging the South’s belligerent status.

Both sides had agents hard at work in England. Charles Francis Adams, scion of a famous Boston dynasty, was sent as American minister to the Court of St. James’s. He did as well as he could, although it didn’t help that he hated small talk, drinking and dancing, and that, as his son Henry said, “he doesn’t like the bother and fuss of entertaining and managing people who can’t be reasoned with,” which might be considered a definition of any diplomat’s job.

What nearly did take Washington and London to war was the principle of freedom of the seas. To make his case in London, Jefferson Davis dispatched two Confederate commissioners in November 1861 aboard the Trent, a British mail packet. But the electrifying news came that crewmen from the U.S.S. San Jacinto had boarded the ship near Cuba and seized the two.

“Have these Yankees then gone completely crazy?” Friedrich Engels asked his colleague Karl Marx, who himself wrote a good deal about the Civil War. Taking “political prisoners” in this way, Engels thought, was “the clearest casus belli there can be. The fellows must be sheer fools to land themselves in war with England.”

Despite this provocation, war did not follow. Other Confederate envoys reached London, and many Englishmen remained susceptible to the Southern claim. An unlikely British best seller was “The American Union,” written by James Spence, a Liverpool businessman who had traveled widely in America. Although he was scarcely disinterested — Liverpool had prospered in the slave trade and then by cotton — he argued plausibly that North and South were so different that enforced union was futile. And he held, not so implausibly either, that since slavery was doomed in any case, it was better that it should be ended without violence. This was taken up by John Delane, the editor of The Times, who maintained that the war was a contest for Southern “independence” against Northern “empire.”

Still the Union blockade of the South continued, and many English ships continued breaking it or trying to; Wilmington, N.C., to Bermuda was one favorite route. Meanwhile, the Confederate government clandestinely commissioned warships from English shipyards. Most famous of these was the Alabama, built by Laird & Sons. The intended purpose of the ship was obvious, as Adams’s Liverpool consul told him, and as the London government belatedly admitted. But the Alabama escaped from under official noses in July 1862 to begin a devastating career raiding Northern ships, to the fury of Washington.

As if that rage weren’t enough, Lyons had to deal with the problem of British subjects caught up in the fighting. Both sides treated prisoners of war harshly. Of the 26,000 Confederate soldiers held over the course of the war at Camp Douglas near Chicago, more than 6,000 died, and at one point the prisoners there included 300 who claimed to be British subjects. They pleaded for Lyons’s intervention, but there was little he could do. One of the prisoners was the deplorable Stanley, who adroitly solved the problem by switching gray uniform for blue, unconcerned with politics: as he said, “there were no blackies in Wales.”

A succession of Southern victories further encouraged English sympathy for the South. In late 1862 Lord Hartington, subsequently a cabinet minister, and nearly prime minister, visited both North and South (it was surprisingly easy to cross from one to the other), at first proclaiming his neutrality. But in Virginia he met Jefferson Davis, as well as the modest and agreeable Robert E. Lee, and was persuaded that the South was fighting virtuously for her rights. Hartington couldn’t pretend that blacks were flourishing, but then “they are not dirtier or more ­uncomfortable-looking than Irish laborers” (an unhappy comparison so soon after the great famine, and from a man whose family owned huge estates in Ireland).

In its later stages, the war saw Southern terrorist conspiracies initiated from Canadian soil, which further inflamed the North. But English sympathy for the South lingered up until Lee surrendered at Appomattox in April 1865. Then, within days, came the shattering news that Lincoln had been assassinated. All at once, “newspapers that had routinely criticized the president during his lifetime,” Foreman writes, “rushed to praise him.” There were some wonderfully hypocritical about-faces, one from The Times, but best of all from Punch. Having just included Lincoln with Napoleon III in a gallery of April Fools, the magazine now hailed him as “a true-born king of men.”

Not the least absorbing part of Foreman’s story comes after the war. Stanley was hired by The New York Herald and set off on his African journey to find Dr. Livingstone, before returning to England, a seat in Parliament and a knighthood. That fascinating figure Judah Benjamin, the Jewish lawyer who served as Confederate secretary of state, fled to London, where he became a barrister and published “Benjamin on Sales,” a commercial law textbook that made him rich.

No American politician was now more vehemently Anglophobic than Senator Charles Sumner, who continued to denounce England, and whose verbal violence delayed a settlement of the Alabama dispute. His great rival, William Henry Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state, also turned up the heat, demanding the Bahamas in recompense for the Alabama’s depredations, although he had further designs on Canada, as so many Americans did.

In the end, the Alabama question was settled admirably, by jaw-jaw rather than war-war, as Churchill might have said, when an arbitration tribunal meeting in Geneva awarded large damages against Great Britain. The London government paid without complaint, inaugurating a period of comparative harmony, until ­Anglo-American war nearly broke out again in 1895 over an obscure Venezuelan boundary dispute.

Such eyewitnesses provide a wealth of vivid description — and here is the one drawback of this thoroughly researched and well-written but exceedingly long book. The presence of so many Englishmen means that Foreman can too easily slip away from “Britain’s crucial role” to a general history of the war and its every battle. But there truly is no shortage of such histories, and we have all often enough vicariously supped full of the horrors of Antietam and Fredericksburg.

Altogether Foreman’s remarkable book should be a caution against one foolish phrase. A relationship, no doubt — but “special”?

Those of us with Confederate sympathies often wonder what might have happened had Britain’s government of the time not allowed itself to be swayed by the blandishments of Lincoln’s so-called “Emancipation Proclamation” (which did not, in fact, emancipate a single slave in areas under Union control, including the four slave states that remained part of the Union), and come in on the side of the Confederacy…