187 years ago today, on July 26, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act passed its third reading in the House of Commons, ensuring the end of slavery in the British Empire. It was authored by William Wilberforce.
August 24 marks the birthday of British statesman and England’s greatest abolitionist William Wilberforce. He was a man well known to the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution and became not just a politician, philanthropist, and abolitionist, but also a writer of such popularity (in his own day) as C.S. Lewis was in the 20th century. As I mentioned in my first article on the History of Amazing Grace, Wilberforce’s mentor was the song’s author John Newton. The popular film “Amazing Grace” tells, in brief, the life of Wilberforce.
William Wilberforce was born in 1759 to privilege and wealth in 18th century England and though physically challenged, worked for nearly 20 years to push through Parliament bills for both the abolition of the slave trade as well as the emancipation of enslaved people in the British Empire, almost 200 years ago. (more…)
HISTORY OF REEK SUNDAY
Several years ago at this time of the Summer, on one of my teaching trips to Ireland, I found myself on the west coast, where they have a saying,
“Ahh… west o’ here, the next parish over is Boston.“
This Sunday, the last one in July every year, marks Reek Sunday, or Garland Sunday in Ireland. During this event between 25,000 and 40,000 people will walk the 3-hour round trip up the Reek Mountain, or Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland. It’s the sacred mountain of St. Patrick and a popular pilgrimage in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, commemorating his driving the snakes from Ireland. Over 100,000 people visit Croagh Patrick throughout the year.
On the summit of this mountain, it is believed that St. Patrick fasted and prayed for 40 days in 441 A.D. The story goes that at the end of this fast St. Patrick threw a bell down the mountainside and banished all the serpents from Ireland. The fact that snakes never were native to Ireland does not diminish the tradition.
Some believe that the banishing of the snakes represents either certain pagan practices or outright evil. In any event, the pilgrimage in honor of St. Patrick goes back to this date over 1,500 years ago. (more…)
HISTORY OF THE 1ST MOON LANDING: APOLLO 11
Fifty-one years ago today, at 3:17 Eastern Time, July 20, 1969, the first human stepped out of the Apollo 11 lunar module onto the moon. With the immortal words of the 38-year-old Neil Armstrong:
“That’s one small step for (a) man,
one giant leap for mankind.”
…the first man in history began an excursion on the moon that lasted over two and a half hours.
Five hundred million people watched it on television. Everyone I knew watched it.
Eight years previously, in May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy in his special State of the Union message had uttered these galvanizing words:
“I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “Space… the final frontier… her mission…” It was spoken first in September of 1966. But John Kennedy’s 29-word statement five years earlier first captured the sense of “mission” more clearly and memorably than Americans had commonly heard before.
The Apollo mission would send two Americans to the moon’s surface and return them safely. (more…)
HISTORY OF TAX DAY
This year, in an unprecedented move [official word for 2020], the deadline is extended for 90 days for Federal Income Tax filing to today, July 15, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Many states are following suit by extending the deadline for state taxes, but the new dates differ by state. Previously, in some years, the deadline might be moved after April 15, due to civil holidays, weekends, or inclement weather. It’s then pushed to the next day of the week. But not this unprecedented year.
Tax Day is the anniversary of the celebration for the elation we feel when we receive a tax refund until we realize it was our own money in the first place and the government has been “borrowing” it from us for the better part of a year and paying us no interest for the privilege. The holiday is celebrated with the mention of tax credits, exemptions, deductions, write-offs, and dependents… some of which may be the same.
Back during the time of Jesus, this season was referred to as
“therefore render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”
HISTORY OF BASTILLE DAY
Each year on July 14, Bastille Day is celebrated to commemorate the Storming of the Bastille in Paris on this date in 1789, an important date in the French Revolution. Also known as French National Day, it features feasting, fireworks, public dancing, and an address by the French President.
However, the center of this celebration is the largest and oldest European military parade along the Avenue of the Champs-Élysées. This wide boulevard runs through Paris and is called la plus belle avenue du monde. Lined by high-end shops and eateries, as well as the Arch of Triumph in the middle, it is undoubtedly the most beautiful avenue in the world that I’ve walked along. [[Except this year, due to Coronavirus there will not be a parade.]] Bastille Day is celebrated across the globe wherever French ex-patriots, people of French ancestry, and Francophiles live. (more…)
HISTORY OF FRENCH FRIES: NATIONAL FRENCH FRY DAY
Today is National French Fry Day. While no one knows who began this celebration, placing in on July 13 is significant in that the important French holiday is the next day, July 14, for Bastille Day.
History of French Fries
Some French people might call the delectable potato confection Belgian Fries, and there is evidence that they may have originated there.
One story is that the phrase “French Fried Potatoes” first appeared in English in 1856 in the cookbook Cookery for Maids of All Work by E. Warren.
Another story, which is more likely, is that they were first called “French Fries” by American soldiers stationed in Belgium during World War I. After first tasting them, the Yanks called them “French” fries as it was the official language of their fellow Belgian soldiers.
However, due to the 2018 defeat of the Belgians by the French at the World Cup games, I cannot find any French people who will give any credit to the Belgians on these historical facts. A Belgian journalist claims that a 1781 family manuscript tells of deep-fried potatoes in the Spanish-Netherlands (now Belgium) before the 1680s. The fact that potatoes did not arrive in that area until around 1735 makes this a hot potato. Eating potatoes for food was popularized in France by King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who wore potato blossoms in their buttonholes and hair.
Potatoes are not native to Europe, but came from the New World, when Spanish conquistadors brought them back from Peru in the early 15th century. This is why J.R.R. Tolkien, at the suggestion of his careful readers, removed them from his mid-60s versions of his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books, but the movies did not.
HISTORY OF JOHN CALVIN
On July 10, 1509, in Noyon, France was born Jean Cauvin, known to us as John Calvin. Of all the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, none were as significant in forming biblical theology or ecclesiastic thought as this one man. Calvin’s teaching and tradition penetrated more of the world than any of the other Protestant traditions.
He would most influence the worldview of Western Europe, the UK, and the Americas up until the Modern period of history. His organization of the church government in Geneva would influence the church polity of Presbyterianism. His theology would influence the Congregational (Puritan) as well as German and Dutch Reformed Churches. Some Baptists and Unitarians, though they did not fellowship with Calvinistic churches, often contained aspects of his theology.
Influence on America
Many of the ideas incorporated into the American Constitution were done so by men inspired by John Calvin. He had a healthy view of the depravity of man, the need for checks-and-balances in government, the division of powers, and provision for the rightful and orderly succession of rulers. Founding Father James Madison was strongly influenced by Reverend John Witherspoon, the only clergy signer of the Declaration of Independence.
HISTORY OF JAMES MADISON
In this, the last of our articles on the Founding Fathers, we look at James Madison. He has correctly been called “the Father of the Constitution,” and one might think that the Constitution became active on July 5, 1776, but this is not how it happened.
HISTORY OF THE 4TH OF JULY: JOHN ADAMS
Before John Adams became the first Vice President of the United States under George Washington, second President of the United States, the first resident of the White House, and writer of the Massachusetts State Constitution he had a role during the Revolutionary War period as one of the creators of the Declaration of Independence.