Thanksgiving: 400 Years Ago

In 1620 the Mayflower set sail from Holland carrying a human cargo of 102. These people, whom we today call “the Pilgrims,” had left England to escape religious oppression under the iron fist of King James I and his Anglican bishops. They had found religious freedom, at least relatively, in Holland. But something started to go wrong during their stay: despite their desperate desire to remain English, their children were, slowly but surely, becoming Dutch. This didn’t sit well with William Bradford and his companions. So they chartered two ships, the Mayflower and the less well known Speedwell, and set sail for America.

According to American historian Nathaniel Philbrick, the pilgrims’ target was actually Virginia, the area they had actually secured a colonial charter for. But in the end, the Mayflower dropped anchor in what came to be New England. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as “Plymouth Rock.” The real landing place for the Pilgrims was Long Point.

Another long-held myth is the relationship between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags, the Native American tribe with whom they celebrated the first Thanksgiving. They didn’t live in constant harmony. In point of fact, Philip, the son of Massassiot, the Wampanoag sachem with whom the Pilgrims had celebrated the first Thanksgiving, initiated one of the bloodiest wars in American history: King Philip’s War, which lasted for only fourteen months, but, amazingly, was one of the bloodiest wars in American history, dwarfing even the American Civil War in lethality. This occurred just a generation after the first Thanksgiving.

This war was the first war to be fought between the English and the Indians. Interestingly, as the years passed and conflict with the Indians started to combine with Anglo-French conflict, the British government got more and more involved, sending troops to aid the colonists against the French and the Indians. This would lead in the long-run to the American Revolution, and in 1783 America would be a free country. So as you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, take some time to remember the heroes, (and some villains,) of the story of our great nation.

Napoleon Bonaparte and Napoleon III: Who Was the Better Man?

I’m sure you all have heard about the great general and emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte. Everybody has at one time or another. But what you may not realize is that, for all Napoleon’s battlefield knowhow, he was a stubborn and arrogant ass. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone, but even if it does, it’s the truth. Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte literally crowned himself Emperor of France? Well, it’s true. The pope came from Rome all the way to the French capital to honor Napoleon with a coronation. But Napoleon wouldn’t have it. At the most important part of the coronation, he stood, took the crown from the pope and put it on his own head. Then he took his wife’s crown and crowned her also. In so doing, Napoleon, as far as the Catholics are concerned, openly challenged God’s authority. And God accepted his challenge. Eight years later in 1812, in what some might call the twilight years of the First French Empire, Napoleon rashly invaded Russia. His army chased the tsar’s army deeper and deeper into the Russian interior and took Moscow. But a fire started in the city and it burned down. Whether or not the Russians started the fire is a matter of debate. But what matters is that much of Moscow burned to the ground, and Napoleon’s Grande Armee was forced to retreat through the harsh Russian winter, hounded by Russian partisans. All this led to the allied invasion of France in 1814 and the ultimate defeat of Napoleon by Wellington and Blucher at Waterloo in 1815. Hence, the first empire of the French, (or, more like the empire of Napoleon,) came to an end.

Fast forward to 1854. Napoleon’s nephew, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, crowns himself emperor of France. Then, just as his uncle did, he goes to war with Russia. However, in Louis Napoleon’s case, it was a matter of Catholic honor. The Eastern Orthodox Church was challenging Catholic interests in the Holy Land at the time. In the eyes of the French, French blood had been spilled for the Holy Land during the Crusades, whereas the Russians had never shed a drop of their own for the holy places. So they went to war. In all honesty, the Crimean War was not as disastrous for the French as the invasion of 1812 was, as it was not a full-scale invasion of Russia. Plus the French army was one of the finest in Europe at the time. The Crimean War was hardly a victory for either side, but one has to admit that Napoleon III, unlike his uncle, was defending Catholic interests.

Fast forward once again to 1870. Napoleon III leads France into another war, this time against the newly powerful North German Confederation under the iron leadership of the German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. Why did they go to war against Germany? Because of what historian Michael Howard calls “the Hohenzollern Candidature.” In so many words, the queen of Spain, Isabella II was deposed from the throne and was replaced by Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, who was under the direct influence of Bismarck and Spain’s “de facto leader,” Juan Prim. This alarmed Napoleon III, who feared a combined German-Spanish assault on his country. The French ambassador demanded that the Prussian king, Whilhelm, (William,) I not allow Leopold to be a candidate for the throne of Spain. Not only did Wilhelm and Bismarck refuse, but they published the French ambassador’s message, (the Ems Telegram,) which infuriated the French government. Once again, it would seem, Napoleon III went to war to defend the honor of France. But this time victory was not to be his, as his generals proved to be incompetent and ineffective against the power of Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke’s army. Defeated at the Battle of Sedan in September 1870, Napoleon III was forced to abdicate the throne, and France became a republic, determined to continue the war against Germany, but doomed to defeat in 1871.

I believe I have made my point quite clear. While I haven’t discussed France’s war against Austria in 1859, I have shown that, at least two times out of four, Napoleon III went to war to defend his honor, and, indeed, the honor of France. Whereas Napoleon I had only his own glory in mind, his nephew at least seems to have had honorable intentions.

The Crusaders: Savage Killers or Cunning Diplomats?

Many people today tend to write off the crusaders of the 11th and 12th centuries as brutal savages: barbarians who just liked killing. Excuse me for saying so, but based on my research of the past few years, that is a bunch of hogwash!

As I said, people write off the crusaders as killers. If that is true, why did the crusader states, (the County of Tripoli, the Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the County of Edessa,) last as long as they did? If truth be told, collectively they stood for nearly a century, and some of them stood even longer than that!

But why? Why did they survive for so long if the crusaders were just bloodthirsty barbarians? The answer: the crusaders were not savage killers, but cunning diplomats.

You see, when the armies of the First Crusade attacked Jerusalem in 1098, the Muslim rulers of the region were anything but united. There was infighting, I believe between the Fatimids of Egypt and the Seljuq Turks. Hence, the First Crusade sacked Jerusalem. And when the Crusader States were carved out of the barren wastelands of the Middle East, (which is a feat in and of itself,) what did the crusaders do? They negotiated treaties with different Muslim tribes. For example, according to Dan Jones, (who is not himself a proponent of the crusades,) King Baldwin II had Arab allies at his disposal. Likewise, according to historian Barbara Frale, one of the main functions of the Knights Templars in the early years of their existence was to make alliances with Muslim warlords. Hence the idea that the crusaders were just savage killers, in light of this information, couldn’t possibly be true. Were they human, yes, and as such they were capable of savage and brutal deeds. However, when people say that the crusaders were just savages who liked killing, all one needs to do in order to refute this is to look at the history of Outremer and the Knights Templars.

The Middle Ages: A Time of Ignorance, or a Time of Civilization and Learning?

In many of the movies you see on the Middle Ages today, you will see a rather frequent stereotype: the Christians of Europe were a bunch of savage ignoramuses who just liked killing and reveled in war and bloodshed. Is this accurate? Allow me to elaborate.

In Ridley Scott’s 2005 “historical” epic Kingdom of Heaven, the knights of western Christendom are portrayed as savage beasts while the Saracens are portrayed as civilized and peace-loving. I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. Saladin was a jihadist, and, hence, a killer. Balien of Ibelin was not a blacksmith as portrayed in the movie. On the contrary, Muslim, I will say it again, Muslim chroniclers, said he was, “like a prince.” That is a high amount of praise coming from a people like the Muslims when describing a Christian warrior.

Also, it must be said, the Crusaders weren’t just in the Holy Land butchering and raping. In fact, the Knights Templars were said to have been very good negotiators. According to Templar historian Barbara Frale, the Templars actually negotiated alliances, I will say that again, alliances, with Muslim warlords. This shows that, far from being savage killers, the Crusaders were ready to negotiate with any Muslim who was willing, (“the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”)

Also you have to consider several prominent writers of the period. First you have the anonymous author of the Gesta Francorum, the chronicle of the First Crusade. Then you have people like William of Tyre and the Byzantine chronicler Anna Komnena who wrote there own chronicles of the Crusades.

I hope this sheds some light on a subject that is cloudy at best for most people. And I hope that you will read more about the Crusades. Two books that have been recommended are the New Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden, and God’s War: A New History of the Crusades by Christopher Tyerman. Pick up some copies! You may find them helpful!

Then, I will leave it up to you: were the Middle Ages a time of darkness and ignorance, or were they a time of Christian learning?

Rome and the Barbarians: Who Were the Real Savages?

I’m planning an expose on History Channel’s Barbarians Rising. See, from what I have seen of the show, (I’ve only seen one episode,) the show makes the case that the Romans were the real savages and that, “it was the barbarians who opposed slavery. They were the earliest freedom fighters.”

I’ve seen the first episode. It of course makes Hannibal Barca look like a noble warrior who was just defending Carthage. Meanwhile, the Scipio brothers are portrayed as these villainous soldiers with perpetual scowls on their faces. But was that really the case? Was Rome the big bad wolf while Carthage was this poor defenseless city? That’s not the image I’d use. See, the Carthaginians, like the Romans, were pagans. And while I believe that Rome did go bad in the long run, they weren’t always bad. The Carthaginians, on the other hand, were pagans par excellence, worshippers of Baal. As such, they practiced human sacrifice. Anyone who has studied the history of Rome knows that this was a level to which even the Romans, for all their faults, didn’t sink. So who were the real savages? You decide.

Tsarist Russia and Soviet Russia: Problems Solved, or Worsened?

In October of 1917, the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky in Russia. Led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, and supported by the army and navy, they took control of the government and established the Soviet Union.

The question is, which government was worse: that of the tsars, or that of the Bolsheviks?

Well, to start, one has to examine the history of tsarist Russia. And it’s not a pretty thing to talk about. To put it simply, the tsarist regime was rather tyrannical. One thinks here of tsars like Nicholas I and Alexander III who clamped down on dissent and employed secret police, (the Third Section under Nicholas and the Okhrana under Alexander,) to stamp out dissent. They were also very anti-Semitic. In fact, some of the worst anti-Semitism in Russian history occurred, sadly, under the last two tsars. Take into account, if you will, the May Laws of 1882, (laws which further restricted the already restricted Jews living in Poland,) the pogroms of 1905, (which are illustrated in Joseph Stein’s Fiddler on the Roof,) and the Beilis Affair of 1911-1913, in which the Jew Mendel Beilis was falsely accused of murder in a horrendous turn of affairs known as the Blood Libel, a horrific legend that Jews ritually murdered children in order to use their blood to make Passover matzah. Without question, the tsarist regime was quite tyrannical.

However, one has to consider this: did the Bolsheviks solve those problems? Socialist sympathizers will undoubtedly and enthusiastically answer: Yes! But in truth the answer is no! Undeniably and irrefutably, NO!

See, everything, EVERYTHING, the tsarist regime was guilty of was worsened by the Bolsheviks: the bureaucracy, the secret police, the censorship, the anti-Semitism, everything.

“Oh,” one might say, “but they dissolved the Okhrana!” Yes! And replaced it with the Cheka, and later the KGB! “Oh, but they can’t have been anti-Semitic!” Oh, but they were! Think of this angry quote from Leon Trotsky when someone, oh the horror, called him a Jew:

“I am not a Jew, but an internationalist.” (A Concise History of the Russian Revolution by Richard Pipes, p. 261)

Then there’s the prison camps. The tsars ran an extensive system of prison camps that, in the words of Mendel Beilis, were called “Katorga.” There was also exile in Siberia. The great Russian author Dostoevsky spent four years in a Siberian prison camp, and wrote about such things in works like House of the Dead.

Did this injustice stop with the Bolshevik takeover? By no means! The 20th century Russian author and Soviet dissident Alexandre Solzhenitsyn can attest to this, as many of his most beloved books, (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the Gulag Archipelago, etc.) were based around the theme of the Gulag, or Soviet prison camps.

I think I’ve said enough to show that, in reality, at best the Bolshevik system of government was no better than the tsarist regime, and at worst, it was worse than the tsarist regime. Therefore, be warned: socialism fixes nothing. It only makes things worse.

The History of Revolution and Police Brutality in Russia: What Americans Can Learn From It

The history of Russia is something few Americans will find interesting. In fact, history in general is something few Americans will find interesting. But it’s something we must know. If there are three countries I think every American should study, they are America itself, followed closely by England and Russia.

“But why Russia?” someone may ask. “Why should I care about the tsars and the revolutionaries and even the oppression going on there today?” Simply put, Russian history is repeating itself. It’s repeating itself in the west, and few people realize it.

In 1883 Inspector Georgy Sudeikin of the Okhrana, (the tsar’s secret police,) was assassinated by Russian revolutionary and, ironically, police informant, Sergei Degaev. Degaev went on to reinvent himself as Alexander Pell, a beloved math professor in the United States. But not before founding the Russian terrorist organization known as Narodnya Volya, or the People’s Will. This revolutionary organization’s core belief was that terrorist activity was the most effective way to force reform and overthrow the tsarist regime. Sound familiar? It should! For the People’s Will is little different from the Marxist-Leninist organization known as Black Lives Matter. Propagating the same lies, employing the same tactics, and most likely using police brutality as an excuse.

To be as fair as I can, the Okhrana had a reputation for brutality. I remember reading about the Beilis Affair of 1913, and Beilis’s own account of how the tsar’s police agents treated him. And thus, Russians in the late 1800s and early 1900s had a legitimate reason to accuse the police of “police brutality.” We don’t. We’re not under constant, 24/7 surveillance by the police as people in late tsarist Russia and, indeed, Soviet Russia were. We must, we MUST learn from history, or, as the old proverb warns us, we will, we WILL, repeat it.

Socialism is a Farce

In this country today, you have so many ignorant young people screaming for the destruction of our nation and the resurrection of it as a socialist utopia. When that happens, a nation is always a zombie, a mere shadow of what it formerly was. Russia is one of the best examples. Out of Imperial Russia came some of the finest music and literature the world has ever known. One thinks here of names such as Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy. Russia also fought against Napoleon Bonaparte, the tyrant and upstart of the 19th century, and they defeated him, praise be to God. But what happened during the 19th century to mutate the Russian bear? Karl Marx and Friederich Engels happened. In 1848 they penned the Communist Manifesto. This was to have long-lasting consequences that reach into this present century. See, Marx and Engels may have created the Communist beast. But it was three Russians, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Joseph Stalin, who made Communism what it is today. When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917, starting with the royal family, they began a campaign of terror, murdering anyone who got in their way. This went on until Lenin’s death in 1924. Then it continued with Stalin. Now, many people see Stalin as the architect of Communist atrocity. But in reality, it was Lenin and Trotsky who started all the killing. Another one of their royal victims was the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, aunt to Tsar Nicholas II and sister to the Tsarina Alexandra. They took her and a group of her friends and threw them into a mine shaft with hand grenades hurled after them to finish the job. It was HORRIBLE! And as I said, the killing didn’t stop there. Then came the Russian Civil War, which lasted from 1918 to 1922. Interestingly, contrary to popular belief, the White movement in Russia was not Royalist, but Republican. The White Armies didn’t seek to restore the tsar, but to restore the constituent assembly, (the Duma, perhaps?) But they failed for lack of organization. And Communism reigned in Russia from 1918 to 1991. Now, people seek to implement the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky in this country. But they mustn’t succeed. Communism has failed everywhere, destroying anything it touches. “Let us try again,” the Communists beg. “We know we can succeed if we’re just given a chance!” That is a bunch of malarkey. Government without God never, I repeat, NEVER, succeeds. So don’t fall into the trap of Communism and socialism. Please, please, PLEASE, heed my words: it will not work.

Christmas Carols and Historical Ignorance

This Christmas I’ve started to realize just how historically ignorant people are. Of course I knew there was a lot of ignorance concerning history in this country, but it’s much MUCH worse than I had previously assumed. How did I learn this? Through Christmas carols. Let’s start with a very well-known English carol: God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen. If you look up that carol in the hymnal at the bottom of the page you will see this: 18th century English carol. English? Absolutely. 18th century? Ummmmm…No. It’s much much older than that. And worse still, not only have we misstated the time period, but we also misinterpret the carol itself. “God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen” does NOT mean “God bless you happy gentlemen.” In the old English “merry” actually means “mighty.” And “rest” doesn’t mean “repose.” It means to “make” or “cause to be.” So the real meaning of the carol is “God make you mighty gentlemen.” Also, “gentlemen” were the landed aristocracy, which I find interesting.

Now, let’s discuss the English carol “Masters in This Hall” by William Morris. Interestingly, while God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen seems to have been written for the higher classes in English society, Morris was an English socialist who seems to have written his carol for the lower classes. The idea of the song, at least as I hear it, is the poor coming into the halls of the rich and proclaiming the birth of Christ to them. Unfortunately, some have erroneously claimed that the song is French. If you study the history of the carol, the tune is French, but the carol itself is English.

In closing, I’ll just say this: know your history. Even small errors in historical analysis can be dangerous. And complete ignorance of history is EXTREMELY dangerous. So just take some time to do some reading. Read a history book that you find interesting or at least palatable. You’ll enrich yourself and you won’t be sorry.

Lenin and Stalin

I just watched a video on how Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, quite possibly the two most famous leaders of the Soviet Union, were different. It was explained that Lenin and Stalin both killed people, but the difference was, Stalin actually enjoyed it, while Lenin merely did it out of “political necessity.”

Be that as it may. Okay, fine, Lenin may well not have been the sadist that Stalin was, but, two things must be taken into account: one, Lenin killed almost as many people as Stalin did, two, he was just as heartless. The very fact that he allowed, and may even have ordered (according to Trotsky,) that the Russian royal family be herded down into a basement in the dead of night and killed is completely barbaric, and utterly inexcusable.

We must always remember, even if the Russians don’t, that the atrocities committed by Stalin were preceded by atrocities of almost equal brutality, committed by Lenin. So, in closing, no one, I repeat, NO ONE, can excuse Lenin’s behaviour by pointing to Stalin’s and claiming it was worse. It simply cannot be done.