Posts filed under “History”

HOW DECIMAL CURRENCY WAS INTRODUCED IN THE UNITED STATES.

washington-rising

 

Monday, August 10, is George Washington Day. Be ready for the whole truth about the Father of His Country. Here is a very short specimen of what you may expect.

Meanwhile the business of creating a government occupied most of the meetings of Congress; and as Congress created the positions, the President was required to nominate men to fill them. Of course Washington could think of only one man to be the Secretary of the Treasury, and Mr. Hamilton was hardly able to contain his joy at being able to found his own currency.

“We shall base it on tens,” he explained, “which will at a stroke eliminate the difficulties of converting between pounds, shillings, dollars, and all the other coins that jangle in our purses; and we shall have a national currency, so that there will be no complicated formula, as there is now, to convert the coin of New Hampshire to that of North Carolina. As the people are familiar with the name, and as it carries no memories of our oppression by the British, we shall call our coin the dollar, and if—”

“And these dollars,” Washington interrupted—“of what size and weight will they be?”

“The weight, of course, will depend on the value we assign to the United States dollar; as for the size, we shall consult with the men we choose to run our mint, who will be able to tell us how such and so much a weight of silver is best distributed in a coin.”

“These are very important considerations from the point of view of a coin’s projectile properties,” said Washington. “The Spanish milled dollar travels well through the air, and possesses enough heft to carry it to its target without being too much buffeted by the wind. I should hate to see an American dollar without those properties; for men who throw dollars for sport are very particular about the dollars they throw, and might reject our United States dollar if its range and accuracy do not meet their expectations.”

“I am certain you could persuade our mint to take those considerations into account,” said Hamilton. “Now, as I said, multiples of ten will—”

“A milled edge also improves the grip, which for sporting purposes is one of the most important considerations.”

“Yes. The grip. Now, as I was saying, we shall make our dollar divisible into tens, which we might call ‘dimes,’ as being, of course, the tenth part of a dollar. A tenth part of a dime would then be a ‘cent,’ because it is the hundredth part of—”

“I thought you said it was the tenth part.”

“It is the tenth part of a dime, and therefore the hundredth part of a dollar.”

“Why can’t it make up its mind?”

“It is both at the same time!”

“My word! That’s clever.”

“And then the tenth part of a cent would be a mill, bec—”

“Because it is the millionth part of a dollar!”

“No,” Hamilton explained with strained patience, “only the thousandth part.”

“Then why is it called a mill?”

“Because it is—”

“Why not a thou?”

“Because the names come from Latin, or rather—”

“Oh, Latin,” said Washington knowingly. “Well, Latin is another matter altogether.”

Hamilton was about to say something more, but then appeared to realize that he had won as much of a victory as he was likely to win in this discussion, and resumed his earlier topic. “As I was saying, the division into tens will make calculations much easier for ordinary shopkeepers and merchants, who will find their duties lightened considerably.”

“For example,” said Washington, “if I buy a turkey quill at Stimson’s in Alexandria for one bit, which is an eighth of a dollar, then that comes to…now let me see…”

“Twelve and a half cents,” said Susanna.

“Twelve and a half? Well, that doesn’t sound very easy at all. How is that easier than saying ‘one bit,’ Hamilton?”

“It just is!” Hamilton sputtered. “Tens are easier!”

I looked at Susanna, but she had nothing more to say. With Hamilton’s explosion, she had accomplished her goal.

HOW WASHINGTON AND DE GRASSE PLOTTED TO DEFEAT CORNWALLIS.

washington-rising

Monday, August 10, is George Washington Day. Be ready for the whole truth about the Father of His Country. Here is a very short specimen of what you may expect.

“It sounds very well,” said Washington, “but how are we to be sure of victory against so great an army? Cornwallis has greater numbers on his side.”

“The French fleet, sir, will be essential,” replied Susanna. “Cornwallis, we hear, has taken a position on the peninsula. If the French can prevent his escape by water, and prevent his being reinforced or resupplied, then we need only block the land routes, and we have him.”

This seemed like good advice to Washington, and so Admiral de Grasse was summoned to a meeting with the General, at which La Fayette was also present, along with Susanna and me. We unrolled a large map of the peninsula between the York and James rivers, and the three great leaders studied it in intense silence for a while. At last Washington spoke.

“If we dispose our soldiers here, on the north and east, with Fayette’s French army on the south, then you, Admiral, should be able to cut off Cornwallis completely by water to the west.”

“Yes,” de Grasse agreed, “the plan, it is excellent. He shall not escape us, by blue.”

Susanna looked down at the map. “I believe, sirs, that you have mistaken the water for the land, and the land for the water. These wavy lines here, you see, indicate the water; the land is this area behind them, here.”

“Ah!” said Washington. “Thank you, Phillips. Well spotted. That is important information, and complicates the strategy considerably. We cannot expect the men to stand very long in water that is possibly up to their necks, or even over their heads. We shall need to make some adaptations; perhaps some sort of bridge or pier assembly, or better yet a series of floating wooden platforms with which we can surround the peninsula on three sides, and on which the men can stand dryshod for an indefinite period of time. It will require a good bit of wood, which will require a good bit of labor; although the labor will be hastened considerably if we can find any large stands of wild cherry. That will do for the army; but, unless I am very much mistaken, the disposition of the fleet will require at least as much thought and labor, if not more.”

“Very assuredly,” the Admiral agreed. “I believe that a construction of the rollers, made perhaps of the trunks of the trees, will be necessary for the placing of the ships in position, if indeed suitable trees find themselves nearby.”

“Well, there fortune favors us,” said Washington. “Tidewater Virginia has many stands of pine that grow straight and tall, with few branches until very near the top; such trees would, it seems to me, make admirable rollers for our purposes.”

Susanna was sitting with her head down, her eyes closed, and her fingers on her temples; but now she spoke again. “If I may be so bold, sirs, it might be better to reverse the positions of the army and the fleet.”

The General and the Admiral both looked at her blankly for a moment; then Washington spoke slowly and cautiously. “Do you mean, the army on the land, and the navy in the water?”

“Yes, sir,” Susanna said with care and patience. “Each force deployed in its native element, so to speak.”

“My word, Phillips! How much simpler that makes everything! You see, Admiral, why I insist on having Captain Phillips present whenever we discuss strategy.”

GEORGE WASHINGTON IS COMING.

washington-rising

Monday, August 10, is George Washington Day. Be ready for the whole truth about the Father of His Country.

The painting, “Washington Rising,” is an unwilling collaboration between Frederic Church and Gilbert Stuart.

From DR. BOLI’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MISINFORMATION.

Third Series.

Map of the Holy Roman Empire at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, by Wikimedia Commons user “Astrokey44,” licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Thirty Years’ War.—Although it is usually spoken of as a religious war, the Thirty Years’ War actually began with a bloody rebellion by the cartographers’ guild of Stuttgart. Unfortunately the rebellion accomplished very little.

MEET YOUR MOTHER.

There is a certain school of philology, which we may call the Crank School, that believes the whole foundation of scientific philology is unsound. Like most forms of crank science, crank philology attributes the current scientific consensus to a giant worldwide conspiracy of all academics.

Dr. Boli has just found a remarkable example of crank philology, which he has added to the Wrong History shelf in his Eclectic Library:

Macedonian – The European Mother Tongue, with dictionary of ancient words still present in today Macedonian language. The all-inclusive PIE substratum of Pelasgo-Proto-Macedonic, i.e. Nashinski (Lat. Nostratic) and its 15,000 years old continuum with explained etymological phonologies from various sources and online dictionaries link-citations. By Basil Chulev, 2018.

For connoisseurs of cranks, here is a whole crank discipline. Apparently much of the intellectual life of North Macedonia is devoted to proving that all the accomplishments of the ancient world were attributable to Macedonians—ethnically the same as today’s Slavic Macedonians—and that nothing of any significance was ever accomplished by Greeks. For just one example, did you know that the middle section of the Rosetta Stone is written in pure Macedonian? Did you know that it had never been successfully translated until just recently, by a pair of Macedonian engineers named Boševski and Tentov? The rest of the world is egregiously misinformed on the subject, but Boševski and Tentov are media darlings in North Macedonia.

All this is merely an excuse to introduce three translations of beautiful ancient Thracian texts that prove to be pure Macedonian:

At the center of the city, I quickly gave cabbage to the beast mouth.

Nephew, are you satiated? Sit here and sip that juice.

If god has fire, you stay here girl and guard wisely at home.

Now, having read those accurate translations, you certainly have a strong desire to know more about the history of Macedonian as the mother of all European languages. Fortunately, Dr. Boli’s Eclectic Library has its own occasional blog, Literary Discoveries, in which you may read all about Your Macedonian Motherland. Otherwise you might have to read Mr. Chulev’s book, which Dr. Boli would not recommend.

FUN FACTS ABOUT THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

Although the Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2, the signing ceremony was delayed by two days for the convenience of the caterers.

Henry Wisner of New York refused to sign the Declaration because the Congress had voted to remove philately from the list of unalienable rights.

Francis Lee signed the Declaration because his brother Richard was there to hold him down. His usual response to a difficult decision was to run like the dickens, thus earning himself the nickname “Lightfoot.”

Historians examining Benjamin Franklin’s private correspondence have discovered that John Hancock was a pompous jackass.

In the engraving of the signing of the Declaration on the reverse of the United States two-dollar bill, John Witherspoon is erroneously shown with the face of Abraham Clark, and vice versa.

It was not revealed until well after the end of the Revolutionary War that delegate “John Morton” of Pennsylvania was a Manx cat.

Carter Braxton of Virginia took the occasion of the signing as an opportunity for an impassioned classical oration on the assembly’s duty to defend liberty for all men, ending with a memorable flourish in which he ordered his slave Pompey to bring him the inkstand.

 

NEWLY DISCOVERED PORTRAIT FROM LIFE OF CHARLES ANTHON.

The well-known portrait of Anthon by Mathew Brady.

The great classical scholar Charles Anthon had much to do with the high standards of learning in nineteenth-century American universities. His textbooks on the ancient languages were widely admired, and the proof of their utility may be found in the fact that many professors resented them for making the students’ work too easy. Dr. Anthon is also famous in Mormon lore as the Columbia professor who was shown a transcribed “Egyptian” inscription from the Golden Plates and pronounced it a hoax, which has been interpreted in Mormon history as “authenticating” it.

Once in a while, it is Dr. Boli’s privilege to make a original contribution of his own to scholarship. Today he is proud to announce the discovery of an original portrait from life of the great Dr. Anthon. It has lain undiscovered for a century and a half among the never-circulated books in a university library, but there is good evidence for its authenticity:

Here is the image in context, as it was found delineated on the dedication page of The Elements of Greek Grammar, by R. Valpy, with additions by C. Anthon:

What is our evidence that this is a portrait from life? The book was donated to the University of California in 1873; before that, it had formed part of the library of Dr. Francis Lieber, Professor of History and Law in Columbia College, New York. Since the volume itself is the 1847 edition of a very-often-reprinted work, and since it is the sort of book one would purchase as a student, but not as a professor of law and history (who presumably has already been through his first year of Greek), we may reasonably assume that it belonged to young Francis Lieber when he was a student at that same college, where he would have seen Dr. Anthon every day. The chain of evidence is strong. This is very probably Charles Anthon as he actually appeared to his students.

IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE.

The German language went through a period of intense nativization, when Latinate words were ruthlessly expelled from the language, and German substitutes found, no matter how awkward. Many of us have forgotten that, in the nineteenth century, there was a fanatical group of scholars determined to return English to its Germanic purity as well:

Speechknowledge, or Philology, is one of the branches of Folkknowledge, or Ethnology. Folkknowledge shows us the several stocks to which mankind belong; Speechknowledge, their several ways of speech and the laws which these follow.

Note that, aside from the parenthetical explanations of the invented nativist terms, the only Latinate word in those two sentences is “several,” for which there is no good Germanic equivalent (“different” and “various” being Latin as well).

The movement to Germanicize English never succeeded, and one may well ask why German could do what English could not. Dr. Boli could think of several reasons:

1. Germans have always had a genius for ruthless expulsion.

2. English gave up blackletter type much earlier. German was regularly printed in Fraktur until Hitler’s minions decided that Fraktur was part of the Jewish conspiracy; but German printers had a tradition of putting all the Latinate terms in roman type, so that old German books look like they’ve come down with a bad case of the roman pox. The ugliness of the type was often mentioned by the nativist activists.

3. By the time English was having its own small nativist fad, it was a global language, and for the most part the fad was confined to England itself. In particular, there was a more or less unified English and American market for books and magazine articles. Standard German was mostly confined to one continuous area, most of which came under the control of an empire that was very much interested in establishing a native German culture. It is notable that dialects of German established elsewhere have proved very absorbent of foreign terms and resistant to nativism; witness Pennsylvania Dutch.

4. The English and American sense of humor must have had some influence. Germany made a national industry of its scholarship, and thus made scholars into authority figures. When that English passage quoted above was published in 1858, a large percentage of readers would have burst out into the same undignified derisive laughter that would greet the same passage today. As G. K. Chesterton said, “Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.” Germany succumbed to that danger.

“Folklore,” a word invented by Germanicists in the middle 1800s, seems to be the one permanent contribution of the Germanicizing movement in English. It is a good addition to our language, because it is more general than the Latin “legend” or the Greek “myth.” It is also short and easy to read or say. But that the Germanicists utterly failed to introduce “speechknowledge” as a substitute for “philology” must be regarded as a triumph of the true genius of the English tongue.

NOW YOU KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING.

A page from the Bible, translated into Latin from the original Irish.

What question do you have about history? No matter: there is one answer: the Irish.

Who founded civilization? The Irish.

Who wrote the Bible? The Irish.

Who discovered America? The Irish.

Who built the Pyramids in Egypt? The Irish.

Who built any random landmark of ancient architecture you can think of? The Irish.

What people were once the rulers and masters of the whole earth? The Irish.

We have all these answers because of a book that, unaccountably, has not reached the attention of mainstream academic historians, but appears to be enjoying a resurgence of popularity among alternative historians, by which Dr. Boli means historians who are wrong. The book is Irish Wisdom Preserved in Bible and Pyramids, by Conor MacDari, and the title already hints at the riches inside. For more hints, here are some of the chapter titles:

The Compact of Rome and England for the Conquest of Ireland

The Bible an Irish Book Altered and Adapted by British-Roman Transcribers

Hebrew a Sacerdotal Dialect Improvised from the Irish Language for the Secret Use of the Priests

The Irish the First Cultural Nation, the Earliest Missionary Teachers, and the Great Temple Builders of the Ancient World

The Four-Pyramid Group and Sphinx, Designed and Erected to Symbolize Man

Every Irish priest is in on the conspiracy to keep the Irish people in the dark about their true history. You want proof? The author has proof:

The writer, in discussing matters with a priest, happened to refer to Irish literature. He said, “The Irish have no literature.” When asked why, he answered, “I cannot speak. My lips are sealed.” We are satisfied that Irish Roman Catholic priests have always been aware of this fraud.

How can you argue with proof like that? We have a second-hand report of an Irish priest who flat-out didn’t say that there was a mighty conspiracy! If you demand more proof than that, you simply do not understand how mighty conspiracies work.

It was very annoying to Dr. Boli that, although many reprint publishers offer facsimiles of this book for sale, he could not find it in any of the usual on-line libraries—except in the form of a very ugly PDF created by some user from a text file and uploaded to the Internet Archive. And thank you to that user, by the way, because even an ugly PDF took a good bit of work, and an ugly PDF is much better than no copy at all.

It is an old cliché to say that following a certain doomed endeavor is like watching a train wreck. But following the reasoning in this book is like watching two trains collide on a high bridge that is simultaneously blown up by anarchists while being hit by a tornado. It is, in other words, a spectacle not to be missed.

This book has inspired Dr. Boli to begin a page in his Eclectic Library devoted to what is euphemistically described as “alternative history,” but which Dr. Boli prefers to call Wrong History.

THE ANOMALY-HUNTER.

Here is a very good illustration, apparently made by adding drawings to a photograph, of Paul Whiteman’s band at the beginning of their career. Whiteman was already building a reputation; soon he would be King of Jazz, with the power to make George Gershwin write a Rhapsody in Blue even when he didn’t want to.

By the late 1920s, Whiteman’s band would grow to a monstrous thirty-piece organization, but here it is a typical 1920 hotel dance band of nine musicians.

Or is it ten? What inexplicable mystery have we uncovered here? Are we face to face with the supernatural?

Take a close look at the photograph. There is one extra character on the bandstand. Have you spotted him yet? Take a look between the legs of the second reed man:

Paul Whiteman, 1920, detail

Do we need any more excuse to hear a jazz record from a century ago? No, we do not.