Posts Tagged ‘England’

Go Forth

September 27, 2012

Image from Shorpy


Francis Thompson (1859 – 1907)

Go, songs, for ended is our brief, sweet play;
Go, children of swift joy and tardy sorrow;
And some are sung, and that was yesterday.
And some unsung, and that may be tomorrow.

Go forth; and if it be o’er stony way,
Old joy can lend what newer grief must borrow;
And it was sweet, and that was yesterday,
And sweet is sweet, tho purchased with sorrow.

Go, songs, and come not back from your far way;
And if men ask you why ye smile and sorrow,
Tell them ye grieve, for your hearts know Today.
Tell them ye smile, for your eyes know Tomorrow.

Mason City Globe Gazette (Mason City, Iowa) Oct 4, 1929

Napoleon Wanted a Friend

April 30, 2012

History of the Purchase of the Great West from the French Emperor.
Rather Than See England Have the Territory He Would Donate It to America — Purchase Proposed by Him.

New York Commercial Advertiser.

There is an incident in American history that is as full of startling features, or even romance, as anything that ever transpired in a nation’s existence, and it is doubly interesting at this time when Hawaii is knocking at our doors for admission. It involves the circumstances of the Louisiana purchase, a mighty transaction, which gave the young republic “Louisiana and all that portion of the American continent extending northward to the tides that flow into the Pacific.” In detail these words meant Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota — that portion west of the Mississippi river — nearly all of Kansas, both the Dakota states, the Indian Territory, the greater part of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Oregon — in all 900,000 square miles.

Image of James Monroe from Archiving Early America

For the incidents in this narrative that relate to the American part, the writer is indebted to Gen. George W. Monroe, a near relative of President Monroe, who permitted extracts to be made from letters written by his distinguished kinsman, our minister to France, when the Louisiana purchase was effected, and on the French side to data from the memoranda of M. Cambaceres, the close friend of the Vicomte de Saint-Denis whose grandson allowed the papers mentioned to be examined.

The treaty of Amiens, made in March, 1802, between France on the one side and Great Britain, the Batavian republic and Spain on the other, did not long endure. It was ruptured in May, 1803. Foreseeing its disruption, England, the mistress of the seas, began hostilities by seizing everything French on the ocean that she could. The work was commenced even before the breaking of treaty relations between herself and France. The latter country had no adequate means of retaliation at hand. Her fleet was totally unequal to that of Great Britain, and while the army of France was fairly capable and effective, nobody knew better than did the First Consul Napoleon that the arms were as obsolete as the tactical and the method of organization. But it was in money that France was most lacking.

The embargo against England had greatly damaged the trade in woven fabrics with that country and the wine merchants of south France so clamored that Napoleon was compelled to make his edicts less rigorous to them.

Meantime Great Britain was preparing for a death grip with the hated Corsican. It was not a time when great national loans were a feature of finance. Where the money to float his immense schemes was to come from the ruler of France could not tell. He needed 100,000,000 francs, not in assignats, but in gold, something all Europe would recognize as beyond question. This was the condition of France’s master Jan. 1, 1803.

The first consul was absorbed, preoccupied. He had directed that attendance of Cambaceres, the archchancellor, and Lebrun, Lord Treasurer of France, for that evening. He wished to discuss the money question with them. Bonaparte had many very unusual qualities, but one which was unique in his great character. He never asked for advice. “Relate to me,” he would say to an official, “the precise conditions with which I must contend. I will find the means to deal with them.” And he always worked the problem out alone.

A dispatch that day from Admiral Villeneuve (who was in command of the French fleet then cruising in West Indian waters) contained very disquieting information. It informed the Minister of Marine, and through him Napoleon, that from a sure source he had learned of England’s intention to attack France through her colonies, and the first blow would fall upon the thriving young City of New-Orleans. The information had been conveyed to the American Minister, Mr. Monroe, who was to have audience with the First Consul Jan. 3 and consider what steps the two nations might jointly take to ward off the threatened blow. IT was almost as great a peril to the young Republic as it was to France. With the mouth of the Mississippi River in possession of France’s hereditary foe and the bitter enemy of the sixteen States constituting the American Union, the great tide of commerce then setting southward from Pittsburg to the sea would be suddenly cut off or greatly injured and restricted.

Up to this time the commercial conditions between the two countries had been of the most liberal nature. France had made to our enterprising tradesmen southward concessions of the fairest and most friendly character. New-Orleans, indeed, was a free port to inland commerce, which was in the hands of Americans alone. This liberality was creating the Cities of Cincinnati and Louisville, and the smaller river towns were thriving. It was making the young West rich. Should all this prosperity be checked in a day? “Do everything in your power,” wrote President Jefferson to our Minister at Versailles, “to protect and foster the inland trade of our people with the Southwest.”

“I will see if the Americans cannot help us,” said Cambaceres, as he was taking leave of the First Consul that evening.

Image from KNOWLA

“Do you know, I have been thinking of that, too,” replied Bonaparte, as he placed his fine, white hand on his former colleague’s shoulder. “I have something in my mind that may change the fortunes of France. Do not speak to Mr. Monroe until my audience with him, which will be after the morning levee is over Jan. 3.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Monroe at this time did not understand the French language well enough to follow a speaker who talked as rapidly as did Bonaparte. So the intervention of an interpreter was necessary.

“We are not able alone to defend the Colony of Louisiana,” the First Consul began. “Your new regions of the Southwest are almost as deeply interested in its remaining in our hands as we are in retaining it. Our fleet is already not equal to the needs of the French Nation. Can you not help us to defend the mouth of the Mississippi River?”

“We could not take such a step,” said Monroe, “without a treaty offensive and defensive. Our Senate is really the treaty making power, and it is against us now. The President, Mr. Jefferson, is my friend as well as my official superior. Tell me, General, what have you in your mind?”

Napoleon did not at once reply. He was walking the room, with his quick, nervous step. It was a small private consulting cabinet, adjoining the Salle des Ambassadeurs. The great man had his hands lightly clasped behind him, his head inclined forward, his usual position in deep meditation. “I acquired this great territory, to which the mouth of the Mississippi is the gateway,” he finally began. “I have the right to dispose of it if I will. France cannot now defend and hold it. Rather than see it in England’s hands, I would give it to America. But why will your country not buy it from France?” There Bonaparte stopped.

In a second Mr. Monroe’s face was like a flame. What a diplomatic feat it would be for him! What a triumph for the Administration of Jefferson to add such a territory to the Nation’s domain! The Southern Senators and members, with those of Pennsylvania, whose City of Pittsburg was doing a great Southwest trade, would favor the purchase, for the production of cotton was beginning to be immensely profitable. All the really valuable cotton land not in the States already was in the territory mentioned.

Image from IMSA

The purchase would strengthen the South beyond words. Then, too, the United States would control the Mississippi River, which now drains twenty-three States. And he — James Monroe! What a place would his be in his country’s history! His name would be linked indissolubly with the creation of a new national domain. Already had Virginia given to the Republic the immense Northwest Territory — now comprising the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, part of Minnesota, and all of Wisconsin. Then she had followed this bestowal of a kingdom by the gift of Kentucky, the superb. And now — and now there came, for the third in the brief life of the Nation, an opportunity for him — a Virginian, too — to render as grand a service to the common country as had ever been given by any son — save one — that Virginia had borne or reared!

No man born of woman was a better judge of his fellows than Bonaparte. He read the thoughts of the man before him as though they were on a written scroll. He saw the emotions of his soul. “Well, what do you think of my plain?” asked General Bonaparte.

“The matter, Citizen General, is so vast in its direct relations to my country and what may result from it that it dazes me,” the Minister replied. “But the idea is magnificent. It deserves to emanate from a mind like yours.” Mr. Monroe spoke with deep feeling. He never flattered. The look of truth was in his eyes, its ring in his voice. The First Consul bowed low.
“I must send a special dispatch at once to President Jefferson,” said Monroe, “touching this matter. My messenger shall take the first safe passage to America.”
“The Blonde, the swiftest vessel in our navy, leaves Brest at once, with orders to the West Indian fleet. I will detain her thirty-six hours, till your dispatches are ready. Your messenger shall go on our ship,” the First Consul said.

“But how much shall I say the territory will cost us?” The great Corsican was just ending the conversation. It had been full tow hours long. He came up to the American Minister, and, after a moment, spoke:

“Between nations who are really friends there need be no chaffering. Could I defend this territory, not all the gold of the world would buy it. But I am giving to a friend what I cannot keep. I need 100,000,000f. in coin, or its equivalent in bullion. Whatever action we take must be speedy. Above all, let there be absolute secrecy and silence,” and Bonaparte bowed our Minister out. The audience was ended.

“Now, what can be going on between the master of France and the American?” asked Prince Metternich, the Austrian Ambassador, as he offered his snuffbox to his confrere and rival diplomat, Nesselrode. The dark-faced Russian shook his head as he daintily dipped his finger and thumb into the “Prince’s Mixture,” a famous snuff at that time.

Within the hour it was known to every Ambassador and Minister in Paris that Bonaparte had been closeted for two full hours with the American envoy, while Lord Whitworth, British Ambassador, with Metternich and Nesselrode, waited for an audience. Nothing but affairs the most urgent could have caused such a causerie. What could it mean? “I suspect it concerns England,” wrote Lord Whitworth that night to Addington, Prime Minister, in a confidential note, relating the incident; “but how or in what way I cannot perceive.” By the end of the week the circumstance had been communicated to the English Minister at Washington, with orders to keep a particularly close watch upon events.

Monroe wrote very fully of the matter to Jefferson and also to Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina. He knew Macon to be one of the ablest statesmen of his time. The negotiation was kept a profound secret until Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Macon could sound a majority of their own party in Congress. The New-England delegation alone made any active objection. Mr. Burr, Vice President, brought over New-York and Pennsylvania. “We have too much territory now to defend,” said Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts. Mr. Adams followed in the same strain. Indeed, mr. Quincy declared in the debate in secret session on this question that he the Louisiana Purchase, without his State’s consent, in his opinion, would justify Massachusetts in retiring from the Union.

Image from the International Napoleon Society

The main difficulty was for the United States to procure the ready money. Bonaparte had consented to reduce his demand to 75,000,000f. But this was no small sum to the struggling young nation, which needed money on all sides. The Revolutionary veterans were clamoring for arrears of pay, still due, and pensions. Then the country was trying to build a navy. It had the Ohio, the Indiana, and the Northwestern frontier to defend. Hard cash was dreadfully scarce. The Nation was land poor. But with Stephen Girard as chief agent, the then young Dutch house of Hope conducted the business to a successful ending, aided in London by their correspondents, the Barings — sons of old Franz Baring, a successful money dealer, whose successors had gone into banking. The accepted bills for 25,000,000f. at four months, drawn against the United States Treasury, bearing 6 per cent. interest, were sold at par. They were divided into sums of 50,000f. and 100,000f. for the convenience of purchasers. When the London bankers learned that the Dutch capitalists were quietly purchasing these bills, two brokers, representing the Bank of Scotland and the Rothchilds respectively, offered to take one-half the sum total. But the bills were already placed. Their bids were declined.

It was a great stroke of business for Stephen Girard. He made about $100,000 in commissions alone. It led to his appointment to be naval agent for the French fleets in the United States, an office of great dignity and profit, for he was the person with whom the French Government places its money for the maintenance of its fleets on the North American and West Indian stations. So it happened that Mr. Girard had always on hand great sums in gold, subject to the orders of the commanding officers of the French fleets on the stations named.

In many ways the Louisiana purchase was a good diplomatic stroke for our country. It gave the United States a credit and standing abroad that has never been lessened or lowered. IT was the re-creation of France. The First Consul had long seen the need of rearming and reorganizing the forces of that country. He summoned the most expert arm-makers in France and said: “I wish you each to furnish me with a model musket, the best pistols for horsemen, a musquetoon, [our carbine,] and a sabre after a model to be given you. I wish the arms to be ready for a test in sixty days.” The result was the finest military firearms that had ever been known. The musket adopted weighed a little over nine pounds. IT carried a bullet eighteen to the pound. Its barrel was 42 inches, fitted with the bayonet that is still in use. The lock was extremely fine, and, with good flints, sure of fire. The French military firearms became famous all over the world. The recoil of the old Tower musket of England, and its equivalent on the Continent was so terrible that soldiers dared not fire it from the shoulder, but shot from the hip. The new arm of Napoleon burned four drams of superior powder, against six in the old piece. The trigger pull was reduced to that of the fowling piece of the time, and the new musketry drill prescribed a careful aim.

On Dec. 2, 1805, the French Army tested its new small arms and fire drill in actual battle, for the first time, at Austerlitz. The fire of the French infantry that day was so deadly that the allied armies could not stand up against it, nor answer it, and the new twelve-pounder, light field gun, also used in action for the first time that day, was a revelation to the Austrian and Russian Generals, in its rapidity of fire, ease in handling, and its new iron carriage.

“The re-equipment of our armies, which the money obtained by the sale of Louisiana made possible, gave the French soldier such confidence in the superiority of his weapons over those of his enemy that he became irresistible,” said Gen. de Lafayette, in 1824, to Gen. Schuyler of New-York and to President Monroe.

This country owes much to the royalist armies of France, but the debt was well-nigh paid with the money that made the Corsican the master of Europe and the French Empire the mightiest in Christendom. But if France won all Europe, the American Republic gained a new empire, the greatest ever attained by negotiation since diplomacy was a science.

The New York Time – Feb 13, 1895
Galveston Daily News – May 25, 1895


March 15, 2012


[This poem was written by Michael Davitt in Portland prison.]

In England’s felon garb we’re clad, and by her vengeance bound;
Her concentrated hate we’ve had — her justice never found.
Her laws, accurs’d, have done their worst; in vain they still assail
To crush the hearts that beat for thee, our own loved Innisfail.

Nor can the dungeon’s deepest gloom but make us love thee more;
We’d brave the terrors of the tomb to keep the oath we swore.
In chains or free, to live for thee, and never once to quail
Before the foe that wrought such woe to our loved Innisfail.

From Irish mothers’ hearts has flowed this sacred love of thee,
And Erin’s daughters’ cheeks have glowed that love in deeds to see;
A coward born fair lips will scorn, while joyously they hail
The hearts that beat for love of thee, our own loved Innisfail.

Then let our jailers scowl and roar when cheerful looks we wear;
The patriot’s God that we adore will shield us from despair.
Fair bosoms rise and love drawn sighs by mountain, stream and vale,
And day and night in prayers unite for us and Innisfail.

Here, chained beneath the tyrant’s hand, by martyrs’ blood we swear
To Freedom and to Fatherland we still allegiance bear;
Nor felon’s fate nor England’s hate nor hellish-fashioned jail
Shall stay this hand to wield a brand one day for Innisfail.

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) Mar 16, 1892

Charles Dickens, Fiction’s Shakespeare

February 7, 2012

Centenary of Dickens, Fiction’s Shakespeare

He Was Easily the Greatest Novelist in the English Speaking World.
His Family in Poor Circumstances — Celebrations in England and America.

By JAMES A. EDGERTON. [excerpt]

CHARLES DICKENS ranks easily as the greatest novelist of the English speaking world. Some of his admirers regard him as the foremost of any time or clime. This is undue praise, and he does not need it. The masters are secure in the world’s regard without our superlatives and puny attempts to bolster up their fame. Dickens is in the same class with Cervantes, Hugo and Balzac, Tolstoy and Turgenev. “One star differeth from another in glory.” It is enough that they are stars and that, being stars, they sine and are eternal.

Eulogy is no more needed by Dickens than by a mountain peak or a great river. He has become a permanent part of our language and civilization. His characters are as indelible as old Charlemagne and Cromwell. The way to judge a man’s importance is by the impress he leaves on his own and later times. So judged, Dickens appears a truly prodigious figure, for his expressions have become common-places, he reformed many abuses in the England of his day, he practically founded the modern Christmas, he started a new school in fiction, and his people are such that we would know them across the street.


An Unhappy Youth.

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, Feb. 7, 1812. His youth was most unhappy. It is said that his own father was the original of Mr. Micawber and Mr. Turveydrop. What through sickness and poverty the boy became intimate with the seamy side which he later portrayed in his books. He speaks of himself as a “very queer small boy.” He had but little more schooling than Abraham Lincoln and saw nearly as many hardships. Not until he had become a reporter and had begun writing little skits for the magazines did his skies brighten. There is an entertaining story of the origin of his pen name of “Boz.” He had called his younger brother “Moses,” which, with a cold in his head, became “Boses,” and this in turn was shortened to “Boz.”

At the age of nineteen Dickens was writing paragraphs on one of the London papers, and from this time to the end of his life his pen was busy. The “Sketches by Boz” appeared when he was twenty-three and achieved immediate popularity. He was married the next year and about the same time began the appearance of the “Pickwick Papers.” For the next quarter of a century, or until his death in 1870, the world was literally at his feet.

Some one has said of Dickens that there is no evidence in his works that he had ever read a book. Perhaps the only other great writer of whom this could be said was Shakespeare. While superficially the two are dissimilar, examined more closely there is much in common between England’s premier dramatist and her greatest novelist. Dickens had a strong turn for the stage, was himself a good actor, and, while his early plays amounted to little, his stories have been dramatized with immense success. The power to portray character, the humor, the universal sympathy, the charm of character and the faculty to grip men’s hearts was possess in a supreme degree by both writers and was never found in the same combination in any other. Dickens even wrote verse, although little of it has lived except “The Ive Green.” In my own view Dickens was the Shakespeare of English fiction.

Elaborate preparations have been made to celebrate his centenary throughout the world. The novelist’s son, Alfred Tennyson Dickens, was in America to attend this celebration at the time of his sad death only a short month previous to the event. Others of the family are said to be in poverty, and a recent theatrical benefit wherein most of the Dickens characters were represented on the stage was given in London, the proceeds of which went to the descendants.

Coshocton Daily Times (Coshocton, Ohio) Jan 29, 1912

The Figure Dickens Cut.

Satirists are not able to perceive their own absurdities. That is a well known failing and as old as the hills. The first great English writer to come over here and create a furor was Charles Dickens, and certainly no man ever lived who had a sharper eye for the grotesque in personal appearance, especially in dress. According to all accounts, his make up was something appalling. My old uncle saw him in New Orleans and used to swear he looked more like a caricature than a human being. He curled his beard, used corsets, sported red waistcoats with lavender pantaloons, carried two watches with gold chains around his neck and wore rings outside his gloves!

Just think of it!

Cambridge City Tribune (Cambridge City, Indiana) Dec 21, 1899

Dickens’ School Pets.

When Charles Dickens was a boy at Wellington House academy it was the secret pride of the students there that they owned more white mice, red polls and linnets than any other set of boys within their ken. These were kept in batboxes, drawers and even in the school desks. A small but very accomplished mouse, which lived in the corner of a Latin dictionary in Dickens’ desk and could draw Roman chariots, fire paper muskets and scale pasteboard ladders, fell at last into an overfull inkpot and lost both its white coat and its life. Dickens nevertheless won a prize for his Latin, and a well thumbed and blotted Horace which he once presented to his coach recently fetched a high price at an exhibition in England.

Altoona Mirror (Altoona, Pennsylvania) Sep 30, 1903

Dickens’ Tribute to the Cow

If civilized peoples were to lapse into the worship of animals, the cow would certainly be their chosen goddess. What a foundation of blessing is the cow! She is the mother of beef, the source of butter, the original cause of cheese, to say nothing of shoehorns, haircombs and upper leathers. A gentle, amiable, ever-yielding creature, who has no joy in her family affairs that she does not share with man. We rob her of her children, that we may rob her thereafter of her milk; and we only care for her when the robbery may be perpetrated. — Charles Dickens.

Appleton Post Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin) Mar 30, 1920

Dickens’ Cold.

Charles Dickens had a cold and thus described it in a letter to a friend: “I am at this moment deaf in the ears, hoarse in the throat, red in the nose, green in the gills, damp in the eyes, twitchy in the joints and fractious in the temper.”

Adams County Free Press (Corning, Iowa) Jul 21, 1920

Arcadia Tribune (Arcadia, California) Feb 7, 1936

Guy Fawkes: And the “Gunpowder Plot”

November 5, 2011

Guy Fawkes: And the “Gunpowder Plot”

A BIG, bearded man, known as “Johnson,” aroused some idle curiosity by bidding in at auction the lease of a vault or coal cellar underneath the House of Lords in London. Johnson explained that he was the servant of Master Thomas Piercy, who lived next door to Parliament House, and that he wanted the vault as a storage place for fuel.

James I, was king of England. He had succeeded Queen Elizabeth in 1603. He was a scoundrel in a weak stilted way. He persecuted the Catholics, broke his solemn state promises, lied out of difficulties and in other ways made for himself a host of enemies. Parliament, for the most part, backed the king’s wishes. Hence Parliament shared his unpopularity.

A band of daring, if unscrupulous, men resolved to rid England of King James, the royal family and Parliament as well by the very simple means of destroying the whole lot at one blow. Their plan was to fill the cellars of the House of Lords with gunpowder. Then, on the day when the king and his family should come to open Parliament, to set a match to the powder and blow up every one in the building.

Robert Catesby, Thomas Piercy and eighteen others were in the conspiracy. They chose as the actual assassin a brave, heartless soldier of fortune whose real name is said to have been Guido Fox, but who is known to history as “Guy Fawkes.” No one knows whether Fawkes was to receive money for his deed or whether he consented to do it through hatred for King James.

In the early autumn of 1604 the conspirators began to cut a hole through the nine-foot wall between Piercy’s house and the Parliament cellars. Then, hearing the cellars were for rent, Fawkes hired them. After that the work went on easily and safely enough. Thirty-six barrels of gunpowder were rolled into the cellars and were covered with masses of wood. A train of powder was laid. Everything was ready.

Parliament was to meet on November 5, 1604. The king and most of the royal family were to be there. At a signal Fawkes was to light the powder train and was then to escape by ship to Flanders. The other conspirators were to kill or capture any members of the royal family who did not chance to be at Parliament’s opening.

No one betrayed this plot, which might have changed the history of the world. Yet it was discovered. The discovery came about in an odd way.

One of the conspirators — which one was never known — was a friend of Lord Monteagle, a noted English statesman. He sent Monteagle an anonymous letter, begging him to keep away from the opening of Parliament. Monteagle, not sure whether or not the warning was a joke, showed it to the secretary of state.

The secretary laughed at it as a hoax, but was induced to show it to the king. James (who was so cowardly that the sight of a sword used to make him ill) fell into a frenzy of fear. On the night of Nov. 4 he ordered Parliament house searched. As the searchers neared the cellars they met Guy Fawkes coming out. He was seized before he could dart back and the place was ransacked.

The sight of so large a pile of wood roused suspicion. The wood was cleared away and the gunpowder barrels were discovered. Fawkes, raving with helpless fury, strove in vain to set fire to the gunpowder and to die with his enemies. He was overpowered and dragged before the king. There he made surly, contemptuous answers to all questions and refused to betray his accomplices. But torture at last made him speak. The conspirators were seized and most of them were executed — Fawkes last of all. An old chronicle gives the following account of his farewell to the world:

“This very tall and desperate fellow .  .  .  made no long speech, but (after a sort), seeming sorry for his offense, asked a kind of forgiveness of the king and the state for his bloody intent.”

All Europe shuddered over England’s narrow escape. The fifth of November was ordained by King James “to be observed forever as a day of thanksgiving.” For centuries thereafter Nov. 5 was celebrated throughout England much as we celebrate July 4. Amid bonfires and noise Guy Fawkes was burned in effigy. Even now the cellars of the houses of Parliament are regularly “searched” in memory of a government’s old-time peril.

So, for more than three hundred years after his death, Guy Fawkes has had the honor of an annual “Day” — a privilege denied to most heroes and accorded perhaps to no other blackguard.

The Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio)  Dec 28, 1912

Bull Baiting

June 29, 2010

Q. What is the etymology of the name bull dog?

A. The name is derived from the fact that these dogs were originally used in the ancient sport of bull baiting, which was popular among certain classes in England for at least 700 years, until it became illegal in 1835. The object of the dog was to seize the bull’s nose in his teeth, pin it to the ground and not let go. He was bred with an undershot jaw and a retreating nose, that he might hang on and breathe easily at the same time.

Middletown Times Herald (Middletown, New York)  Jun 17, 1937

To Punish Scolds

March 1, 2009



In Law Latin There Was No Word For Male Common Scold — Woman Indicted In Jersey City In 1889 as a Common Scold.

Not only is the common scold still within the purview of laws against routs and riots and favoring tranquility of the vicinage, but it is held that the ducking stool is yet a means of punishment should some appreciative Pennsylvania judge have the nerve to decree a renewal of its use. Fine and imprisonment are the modern refuge agains the shrewish. No judge would care to return to the old ways, for the gossips might wonder over his woman hatred and the public might think he was getting personal.

It is likely that few people know that the ducking stool was once employed in Pittsburg. It is held that women had more grounds for scolding in pioneer days than now, and hence the stool should again be brought into requisition.

The English settlers brought to the United States the ducking stool as an implement of punishment, as they imported the common law. At Plymouth, whence the pilgrims sailed, can be seen today the old ducking stools. Even in 1808 a woman was ducked there. The Puritans brought over the common scold law, and it was adopted in New Jersey and Delaware. In 1889 the grand jury of Jersey City indicted Mrs. Mary Brady as a common scold. It was found to be there, as here, still an indictable offense, and that the ducking stool was yet available as a means of punishment, not having been specifically abolished by the revised statutes.

The stool was used in Virginia, for Bishop Meade, in his “Old Churches, Ministers and Families In Virginia,” writes of ducking scolds from a vessel in the James river. From the Old Dominion the practice of thus treating scolds reached Pittsburg. It would be digressing to repeat the history of the establishment of courts in this city by Virginia, which began Feb. 21, 1775. On the second day of that court, the birthday of George Washington, then but 43, the sheriff was ordered to employ workmen to build a ducking stool at the confluence of the Ohio with the Monongahela.

By patient delying one can dig up much curious information about the ducking stool. Allusions to it recur in English chronicles all through the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Scolding women in these olden times were deemed offenders against the public peace. Blackstone in his “Commentaries” treats of the common scold in his chapter on “Public Wrongs.” After discussing offenses of graver degree his prelude is, “To descend next to offenses whose punishment is short of death.” These offenses are such, he says, “as annoy the whole community in general, and not merely some particular portion, and therefore are indictable, not actionable, as it would be unreasonable to multiply suits by giving every man a separate right of action for what damnifies him in common only with the rest of his fellow subjects.”

Then the great jurist treats of six classes of public nuisances and concludes: “Lastly, a common scold, communis rixatrix (for our law Latin confines it to the feminine gender), is a public nuisance to her neighborhood. She may be indicted, and if convicted placed in a certain engine of correction, called the trebucket, castigatory or cucking stool, which in the Saxon language is said to signify the scold stool, though now it is frequently corrupted into ducking stool because the residue of the judgement is that when she is so placed therein she shall be plunged in water for her punishment.”

Blackstone was a better jurist than etymologist. There was in even as early as the fifteenth century the punishment of sitting in the cucking stool for using short weights, selling bad ale and scolding, but it was a chair of disgrace placed in front of the offender’s own home. In the lapse of time the cucking and the ducking stool became synonymous.

In his “Travels In England” in 1700 Mission writes: “The way of punishing scolding women is pleasant enough. They fasten an armchair to the end of two beams, 12 or 15 foot long and parallel to each other, so that these two pieces of wood with their two ends embrace the chair, which hangs between them upon a sort of axle, by which means it plays freely and always remains in the natural horizontal position in which the chair should be, that a person may sit conveniently in it, whether you raise it or let it down. They set up a post on the bank of a pond or river, and over this post they lay, almost in equilibrium, the two pieces of wood, at one end of which the chair hangs over the water.”

The English poets have had their thrusts at the ducking stool, when their eyes in fine frenzy rolling seem to have caught inspiration from the temper of the shrew. In 1665, in “Homer a la Mode,” the poet sings:

She belonged to Billingsgate
And oftentimes had rid in state
And sat in the bottom of a pool
Enthroned in a ducking stool.

West wrote a complete poem on the stool in 1780, the philosophy of which likes in the extracted couplet:

No brawling wives, no furious wenches,
No fire so hot but water quenches.

All through England there were the stools used for ducking scolds. There was one at Rugby, and in 1820 a man was ducked for beating his wife. Court records reveal many instances where the penalty was inflicted on women.

The chair used at Scarborough, England, is yet preserved. It was last used in 1795, when Mrs. Gamble was “ducked three times over the head and cars.” In the museum at Ipswich is another. It has rods converging over the seat, with a ring through which to run a pole. In 1728 the constable of Morley charged 2 shillings for a pole. The stools in some cities were on wheels, and were called scolding carts. At Kingston-upon-Thames ducking was not infrequent, and the London Post in 1715 reports the ducking of  “a woman who keeps the Queen’s Head alehouse for scolding, in the presence of 3,000 people.” It was at Leominster in 1809 that the last recorded ducking of a woman occurred in England. The stool used is preserved in the jail there. Jenny Pipes was paraded through town on the stool and ducked near Konwater bridge.

Common Scold Wearing a Brank or Bridle

Common Scold Wearing a Brank or Bridle

There was another instrument of punishment for scolds, but not as ancient as the stool. It was the brank, or scold’s bridle. Its modern autotype is the mask of the baseball catcher, except there was a sharpened plate of iron in front that hurt the tongue when an effort to talk was made. The brank figures in literature as frequently as the stool. — Pittsburg Dispatch.

Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) Feb 16, 1901