We didn’t post a reminder, but we did mention it in the post for flag-flying in April: Did you fly your flag for Easter?
Did you notice whether anyone else on your block did?
We didn’t post a reminder, but we did mention it in the post for flag-flying in April: Did you fly your flag for Easter?
Did you notice whether anyone else on your block did?
Teachers, you may want to get copies of the poems for your U.S. history and literature classes.
I like to go through the poem again on the anniversary of the event, with students taking one verse each. It builds vocabulary (try it, you’ll see), and it gives an opportunity to discuss how history threads run long; this poem was written in 1860, when the “hour of darkness and peril” was a different war, not against Britain, and not concentrated along the nation’s Atlantic coast.
You may want to note that the Boston Marathon is traditionally run on Freedom Day in Massachusetts — the day that commemorates the ride of the patriots’ warning that Gen. Gage’s army was on the move, and of the battles at Lexington and Concord, the next day.
April 18 and 19. Do the dates have significance?
Among other things, April 19 is the date of the firing of the “shot heard ’round the world,” the first shots in the American Revolution. On April 19, 1775, American Minutemen stood to protect arsenals they had created at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, against seizure by the British Army then occupying Boston.
American history does not have a rude bridge at Concord commemorated, without the ride of the patriots the night before to warn the colonists. Though its history may run aft agly, “Paul Revere’s Ride” celebrates particular characteristics of Americans who make history.
Plus, April is National Poetry Month. What have we done to celebrate poetry?
What have we done to properly acknowledge the key events of April 18 and 19, 1775? Happily, poetry helps us out in history studies. Or, it can do.
Was there a time when poetry inspired a nation to save itself?
In contrast to my childhood, when we as students had poems to memorize weekly throughout our curriculum, modern students too often come to my classes seeming wholly unaware that rhyming and rhythm are used for anything other than celebrating materialist, establishment values obtained sub rosa. Poetry, to them, is mostly rhythm, certainly not for polite company, and never for learning.
Poetry has slipped from our national curriculum, dropped away from our national consciousness. No national test adequately covers poetry, not in English, not in social studies — certainly not in math or science.
That is one small part of the reason that Aprils in the past two decades turned instead to memorials to violence, and fear that violence will break out again. We have allowed darker ideas to dominate April, and especially the days around April 19.
You and I have failed to properly commemorate the good, I fear. We have a duty to pass along these cultural icons, as touchstones to understanding America.
So, reclaim the high ground. Reclaim the high cultural ground.
We must work to be sure our heritage of freedom is remembered, lest we condemn our students, our children and grandchildren to having to relearn these lessons of history, as Santayana warned.
LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower, as a signal light, —
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”
Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison-bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade, —
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay, —
A line of black, that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed on the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock,
When be came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British regulars fired and fled, —
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, —
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled;
Here once the embattled farmers stood;
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream that seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We place with joy a votive stone,
That memory may their deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
O Thou who made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free, —
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raised to them and Thee.
Other connections for history and rhetoric classes? Remember that Emerson’s poem came first, in 1837, at the dedication of the monument to the Minutemen at Concord Bridge. Remember that Longfellow’s poem was published first in 1861; Longfellow was not commemorating the history so much as making a polemical point, that American patriots rise to threats. On the eve of the American Civil War, America faced threats that needed rising to.
Is Longfellow’s poem appropriate for 2019? Do we face any threats that need rising to, from patriots who worry about the America that will be when, “like our sires, our sons are gone?”
More, and Resources:
It’s a Twitter thread from David Rothkopf. It’s not hopeful, but it’s important to read and digest.
Rothkopf is CEO of the Rothkopf Group, a high-level consulting firm on international and world problems, based in Alexandria, Virginia.
Rothkopf continued his Tweet thread (I won’t post all the Tweets here, just the main content):
The Attorney General sneered at the Congress and placed himself imperiously above its questions. He continued to arrogate onto himself what portions of the Mueller Report–paid for by the people, essentially in its totality to the Congress to do its duty–we would see.
He asserted again that he was the final arbiter of whether obstruction of justice by the president had taken place. He even went so far as to imply that law enforcement authorities carrying out their duty to protect America were somehow “spying”, perhaps illicitly…
on the Trump campaign. (Ignoring that the reasons for the investigation in question were not only sound…but the core reason…that Russia had sought to aid the Trump campaign in the election had been proven again by Mueller.)
At the same time, the Secretary of the Treasury and the head of the IRS determined to violate a law that required in no uncertain terms for them to provide the president’s tax returns to the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee.
to those who break the law, encouraging a crime and abetting it. We learned that they considered an egregious abuse of power that would involve releasing illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities controlled by Democrats.
We saw the president complain that our military would not rough up immigrants. We saw him continue the charade of an emergency at our southern border which was an excuse for him illegally divert government resources to an unnecessary, racist, vanity project.
The president repeatedly called law enforcement officers who investigated him traitors, guilty of treason–a crime that carries with it the death penalty. We discovered that the president considered appointing his grossly unqualified daughter to be head of the World Bank.
It is the stuff of the world’s most dysfunctional governments. But rather than generating a response from within our system commensurate with the threat, nothing occurred. The GOP leaders in the Senate circled round the president and supported his abuses.
In so doing, they sent a message that they would never challenge him much less convict him of the myriad crimes he has committed. The checks and balances our system was built upon are gone. Worse, the courts are being packed with Trump cronies–often unqualified.
Agencies are being left to appointed caretakers some outside the normal chain of succession, many unconfirmed for their current posts by the Senate. Political opponents tip-toed around these crimes daring not to appear “too extreme.”
This is how democracies die. The rule of law is slowly strangled. The unthinkable becomes commonplace. The illegal becomes accepted–from violations of the emoluments clause to self-dealing to Federal election law crimes to serial sexual abuse.
What once was black and white blurs into grey. Right and wrong, old principles, enduring values, fade from memory. Authoritarians arrive in our midst not in tanks but in bad suits and worse haircuts.
I have long thought our system was better than this–more resilient. But candidly, I’m no longer sure. I remain hopeful…hopeful that the next election cycle can redress this manifold wrongs. But it will not be easy. It will be too close. Trump may be with us for six more yrs.
Why? Because we allowed ourselves to become inured to the unthinkable. We are dying the death of a thousand cuts. Right now, this week, the president and his band of thugs are winning. They have become unabashed in their attacks on the law.
They are daring someone to enforce it. But what if…what if the courts rule against them but they ignore it? What if the Treasury Secretary has violated a law and no one arrests him. What if the president steals and canoodles with enemies and he goes unpunished?
Their crimes will only grow more egregious and their ways will only grow more ingrained in our system. Their violations will in fact become the system itself. Corruption will be the norm-greater corruption,to be sure,since it it was corruption that got us here in the first place.
Here is how some others responded on Twitter.
What do you think? Comments are open.
William Henry Harrison died on April 4, 1841, 31 days after his inauguration as president of the United States.
Perhaps during the cold and rainy inauguration in which Harrison delivered the longest speech in inauguration history, perhaps from a well-wisher, Harrison caught a cold. The cold developed into pneumonia. Perhaps the pneumonia killed him.
Or, perhaps he caught typhoid fever from the notoriously bad water at the White House in 1841. Modern historians and medical specialists suspect Harrison had some form of typhoid, and not pneumonia from a cold. It’s likely his physicians at the time did everything just wrong to treat typhoid, much as George Washington’s physicians probably killed him 42 years earlier.
Any way it went down, Vice President John Tyler succeeded to fill 47 months of Harrison’s 48-month term.
Harrison won fame pushing Indians off of lands coveted by white settlers in the Northwest Territories. Harrison defeated Tecumseh’s Shawnee tribe (without Tecumseh) at the Battle of Tippecanoe, then beat Tecumseh in a battle with the English in which Tecumseh died, in the War of 1812.
Schoolchildren of my era learned Harrison’s election slogan: “Tippecanoe, and Tyler, too!” Schoolchildren should learn that slogan today, too, as a touchstone to 19th century history and presidential politics. Some say it was the first slogan used by a candidate for president. See Mo Rocca’s piece for CBS Sunday Morning.
On Harrison’s death, Tyler found himself in uncharted territories. While the Constitution and the title suggested a vice president would fill in for a president when the president was absent, the Constitution did not explicitly say the vice president would succeed to the presidency if the president should die. There was some controversy at the time, about whether Tyler should act as caretaker until a new, special election was called.
Tyler took the oath of office as president, effectively putting the controversy to bed. No one sued to stop him. Tyler established the precedent of peaceful and quick transition of power to the vice president, upon the death of a president
Congress voted Harrison’s widow a one-time payment of $25,000, since he had died nearly penniless. This may be the first example of a president or his survivors getting a payment from the government after leaving office. It’s a precedent Congress didn’t quite follow through on, and presidents left office without pensions for many more years, a story told with pain about the later years and death of President U. S. Grant.
In the annals of brief presidencies, there is likely to be none shorter than Harrison’s for a long time. As you toast him today, you can honestly say he did not overstay his White House tenure. Others could have learned from his example.
It’s cruel to people who want to fly U.S. flags often, but only on designated flag-flying dates. (April is also National Poetry Month, so it’s a good time to look up poetry references we should have committed to heart).
For 2019, these are the three dates for flying the U.S. flag; Easter is a national date, the other two are dates suggested for residents of the states involved.
One date, nationally, to fly the flag. That beats March, which has none (in a year with Easter in April and not March). But March has five statehood days, to April’s two.
Take heart! You may fly your U.S. flag any day you choose, or everyday as many people do in Texas (though, too many do not retire their flags every evening . . .).
Three dates to fly Old Glory in April, by the Flag Code and other laws on memorials and commemorations.
In recitations of the presidents, some people forget Millard Fillmore, some forget Chet Arthur, and some forget John Tyler — which should be amusing, because Tyler served much longer than the man on whose ticket he was elected Vice President, and who died making Tyler the President.
In any case, our 10th President, John Tyler, was born on March 29, 1790, 229 years ago.
Tyler was elected Vice President on the ticket with the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe, William Henry Harrison. Harrison caught cold perhaps during the inauguration on a cold March morning. The cold turned to pneumonia and Harrison died with just 31 days of service, on April 4, 1841.
No president had died in office before. There was some confusion about whether Tyler would simply hold the office until a new election, or take the presidency and fill out the term. Tyler’s political genius may have been in having himself sworn in as president quickly, quashing much of the debate before opposition could muster.
But Tyler, a Whig, fell out of favor with his own party. He served one term. Tyler opposed key Whig Party policies, it turned out, and he lost favor with Whig giant Henry Clay.
A Virginian, Tyler tried to get a compromise on secession before the Civil War, but failed. He died in 1862, a member of the Confederate States’ House of Representatives. (Was he the only past President or Vice President to join the Confederacy? We need some research.)
Most high school history students don’t know about it. Most high school history students in Texas don’t know about it.
I wonder, sometimes, how many Texans remember at all.
I wonder, too, if there are lessons to be learned from the New London tragedy, while the nation debates what to do to prevent recurrences of school shootings.
No one in New London, Texas, bore ill-will towards children, or schools, or other New Londoners. Some good came of the disaster, but as we’ve seen, with animosity towards schools and school safety in Texas today, and a lackadaisical approach to dangerous substance control and accident prevention in West, Texas, and other places, lessons learned were not learned well.
The deadliest disaster ever to hit a public school in the U.S. struck on March 18, 1937, when a natural gas explosion destroyed the new school building at New London, Texas, killing about 300 people — 79 years ago today.
Noise from the blast alerted the town, and many people in the oilfields for many miles. Telephone and telegraph communication got word out. Oil companies dismissed their employees, with their tools, to assist rescue and recovery efforts. Notably, 20-year-old Walter Cronkite came to town to report the news for a wire service.
Investigation determined that a leak in a newly-installed tap into the waste gas pipe coming from nearby oil fields probably allowed natural gas to accumulate under the building. A spark from a sander started a fire in gas-filled air, and that in turn exploded the cavern under the school. School officials approved the tap to the waste gas line to save money. (Hello, Flint, Michigan!) Natural gas is odorless. One result of the disaster was a Texas law requiring all utility natural gas to be odorized with ethyl mercaptan.
Though the Great Depression still gripped the nation, wealth flowed in New London from oil extraction from nearby oil fields. The school district completed construction on a new building in 1939, just two years later — with a pink granite memorial cenotaph in front.
Today, disasters produce a wealth of litigation, tort suits trying to get money to make the injured whole, and to sting those at fault to change to prevent later disasters. In 1937 official work cut off such lawsuits.
Three days after the explosion, inquiries were held to determine the cause of the disaster. The state of Texas and the Bureau of Mines sent experts to the scene. Hearings were conducted. From these investigations, researchers learned that until January 18, 1937, the school had received its gas from the United Gas Company. To save gas expenses of $300 a month, plumbers, with the knowledge and approval of the school board and superintendent, had tapped a residue gas line of Parade Gasoline Company. School officials saw nothing wrong because the use of “green” or “wet” gas was a frequent money-saving practice for homes, schools, and churches in the oilfield. The researchers concluded that gas had escaped from a faulty connection and accumulated beneath the building. Green gas has no smell; no one knew it was accumulating beneath the building, although on other days there had been evidence of leaking gas. No school officials were found liable.
These findings brought a hostile reaction from many parents. More than seventy lawsuits were filed for damages. Few cases came to trial, however, and those that did were dismissed by district judge Robert T. Brown for lack of evidence. Public pressure forced the resignation of the superintendent, who had lost a son in the explosion. The most important result of the disaster was the passage of a state odorization law, which required that distinctive malodorants be mixed in all gas for commercial and industrial use so that people could be warned by the smell. The thirty surviving seniors at New London finished their year in temporary buildings while a new school was built on nearly the same site. The builders focused primarily on safety and secondarily on their desire to inspire students to a higher education. A cenotaph of Texas pink granite, designed by Donald S. Nelson, architect, and Herring Coe, sculptor, was erected in front of the new school in 1939. (Texas Handbook of History, Online, from the Texas State Historical Association)
Of about 500 students, more than 50% of them died. Once the new school and memorial were built, and the law passed requiring utilities to odorize natural gas so leaks could be detected earlier, survivors and rescuers rather shut down telling the history. A 1977 reunion of survivors was the first in 40 years.
Because of that scarring silence, the story slipped from the pages of most history books.
Trinity Mother Frances Hospital treated the victims; a 2012 film from the hospital offers one of the best short histories of the events available today.
New London, and the New London Museum, work to remember the dead and honor them. Work continues on a film about the disaster, perhaps for release in 2013:
Now, more than 75 years later, the London Museum, across the highway from where the original school was destroyed, keeps alive the memory of much of a generation who died on that terrible day.
This video was produced by Michael Brown Productions of Arlington, TX as a prelude to a feature documentary on the explosion and its aftermath which is planned for
the spring of 2013. . . .
What are the lessons of the New London Disaster? We learned to remember safety, when dealing with natural gas. A solution was found to alert people to the presence of otherwise-odorless, explosive gases, a solution now required by law throughout the U.S. Natural gas explosions decreased in number, and in damages and deaths. Wealthy schools districts, cutting corners, can create unintended, even disastrous and deadly consequences. Quick rebuilding covers the wounds, but does not heal them.
Remembering history takes work; history not remembered through the work of witnesses, victims and survivors, is quickly forgotten — to the detriment of history, and to the pain of the witnesses, victims and survivors.
Houston’s KHOU-TV produced a short feature on the explosion in 2007: