Thursday, January 26, 2017

Oliver Cromwell


The Oliver Cromwell entry in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica is the composite work of three historians, one of whom was Charles Francis Atkinson, who also wrote   The Wilderness and Cold Harbor.

One great source of Crowell’s strength was the military reforms he initiated. At Edgehill he had observed the inferiority of the parliamentary to the royalist horse, composed as it was of soldiers of fortune and the dregs of the populace. “Do you think,” he said, “that the spirits of such base men, mean fellows will ever be able to encounter gentlemen who have honor and courage and resolution in them?”  The royalist were fighting for a great cause, the parliamentary soldiers must also be inspired by some great principle.

Cromwell  thus chose his own troops, both officers and privates, from the “religious men, “ who fought not for pay or adventure, but for their faith. He declared, when answering a complaint that a certain captain in his regiment was a better preacher than fighter, that he who prayed best would fight best, and that he knew nothing could “give courage and confidence as the knowledge of God in Christ will. The superiority of these men – more intelligent than the common soldiers, better disciplined, better trained, better armed, excellent horsemen and fighting for a great cause – not only over the other parliamentary troops but over the royalists, was soon observed in battle. According to Clarendon the later, though frequently victorious in a charge,the royalists could not rally afterwards, “whereas Cromwell’s troops if the prevailed, or though they were beaten and routed, presently rallied again and stood in good order till they received new orders”; and the king’s military successes dwindled in proportion to the gradual preponderance of Cromwell’s troops in the parliamentary army. At first these picked men only existed in Cromwell’s own troop, which, however, by frequent additions became the nucleus of a regiment, and by the time of the New Model Army included about 11,000  men.

Cromwell’s early military education could have consisted at most of a perusal of the Swedish Intelligencer and the practice of riding. It is not, therefore, strange that his first essays in war were characterized more by energy than technical skill. It was some time before he realize the spirit of cavalry tactics, of which he was later so complete a master, a credit he shares with Fredrick the Great. Not even Sheridan’s horsemen in 1864-65 did their work more effectively than did the English squadrons in the Preston campaign.  His pre-eminence in the Civil War was due to his gifts as a general, the power of feeling the pulse of his army. Resolution, vigor and clear sight masked his conduct as commander-in-chief. He aimed at nothing less than the annihilation of the enemy’s forces, which Clausewitz was the first to define, a hundred and fifty years later, as the true objective of military operations. A military critic who maintains that Cromwell’s art of war was two centuries in advance of his time, finds universal acceptance.


Cromwell’s  military prowess gave him an unsurpassed political influence even before he became the supreme general of the Parliamentary Army.

The nature of Cromwell’s statesmanship is to be seen more in his struggles against the retrograde influences and opinions of his time, in the many political reforms anticipated though not originated or established by himself, and in his religious, perhaps fanatical, enthusiasm than in the outward character of his administration, which, in spite of its despotism shows itself in its inner spirit of justice, patriotism and self-sacrifice, so immeasurably superior to that of the Stuarts.

[To which spirit I will return shortly. First  the historiographical]

 
Cromwell’s personal character has been inevitably the subject of unceasing controversy. According to Clarendon he was “a brave bad man”, with “all the wickedness against which damnation is pronounced and for which hell fire is prepared.” Yet he cannot deny that “he had some virtues which have caused some men in all ages to be celebrated”; and he admits that “he was not a man of blood,” and that he possessed “a wonderful understanding in the natures and humour of men,” and “a great spirit, an admirable circumspection and sagacity and a most magnanimous resolution.” According to contemporary Republicans he was a mere selfish adventurer, sacrificing the national cause ‘to the idol of his own ambition.”   Richard Baxter thought him a good man who fell before great temptation., The writers of the next century generally condemned him as a mixture of knave, fanatic and hypocrite, and in 1839 John Forster endorsed Landor’s verdict that Cromwell lived a hypocrite and died a traitor. These crude ideas of Cromwell’s character were extinguished by Macaulay’s irresistible logic and by the publication of Cromwell’s letters by Carlyle in 1845, which showed Cromwell clearly to be ” not a man of falsehoods, but a man of truth”, and by Gardiner, whom, however, it is somewhat difficult to follow when he represents Cromwell as “a typical Englishman.”


In particular, that conception which regarded “ambition” as the guiding motive in his career has been dispelled by a more intimate and accurate knowledge of his life; this shows him to have been very little the creator of his own career, which was largely the result of circumstances outside his control, the influence of past events and of the actions of others, the pressure of the national will, the natural superiority of his own genius. “A man never mounts so high,” Cromwell said to the French ambassador in 1647, “as when he does not know where he is going.” “These issues and events,” he said in 1556, “have not been forecast, but were providences in things.” His  “hypocrisy” consists principally in the biblical language he employed, which with  Cromwell, as with many of his contemporaries, was the most natural way of expressing his feelings, and in the ascription of every incident to the direct intervention of  God’s providence, which was really Cromwell’s sincere belief and conviction.


Thus, in the  beginning of his speech to the Barebones (Little) Parliament- July 1653:

. . . You very well know, after divers turning of affairs, it pleased God, much in the midst of this war, to winnow the forces of this nation; and put them in the hands of other men of other principles than those that did  engage at first. By what ways and means that was brought about, would ask more time than allotted me to mind you of it. Indeed there are stories that do recite those transactions, and give you narratives of the matters of fact; but those things wherein the life and power of them lay; those strange windings and turnings of Providence; those very great appearances of God, in crossing and thwarting the purposes of men, neither versed in military affairs, nor having much natural propensity to them, even through the owning of a principle of godliness and of religion; which soon as it came to be owned, and the state of affairs put upon the foot of that account, how God blessed them, furthering all undertakings, yet using the most improbable and the most contemptible and despicable  means (for that we shall ever own): you very well know.

At the end of Volume Two of The Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, Carlyle recites ‘the latest of commentators” on the one given to Parliament  17 Sept 1656


 On the whole, the cursory modern Englishmen cannot be expected to read this speech: - yet it is a pity; the Speech might do him good if he understood it. We shall not again hear a Supreme governor speak in this strain. The dialect of it is very obsolete; much more than the grammar and diction, forever obsolete – not to my regret the dialect of it. But the spirit of it is a thing that should never have grown obsolete . . . Since that spirit did go obsolete and men took to “dallying” with the Highest, to “being bold” with the Highest, and not “bold with men” (only Belial, and not “Christ" in any shape, assisting them, we have had but sorry times in Parliament and out of it [England in the 1840s was a very sorry time!]. There has not been a Supreme  Governor worth the meal on his periwig in comparison. Belial is a desperately bad sleeping partner in any concern whatever. Cant did not ever yet, that I know of, turn ultimately to a good account, for any man or thing. May the Devil swiftly be compelled to call-in large masses of our current stock of Cant, and withdraw it from circulation! Let the people ‘run for gold’, as the Chartists say; demand veracity, performance, instead of measly mouth Speaking; and force him to recall this cant. Thank Heaven, stern Destiny, merciful were it even to death, does now compel them verily to ‘run for gold’’: Cant in all directions is swiftly ebbing into the Bank it was issued by.


The grammar and diction, however, familiar to readers of Shakespeare ( with allusions to a few of the phrases in that playwright’s works), sans verse and delivered extemporaneously- without script or teleprompter- with support of the habit of a dialect repeated often enough in all his speeches and letters.


Most of Cromwell’s speeches- all really- contain lengthy sermons.  in justifying the reign of the Major-Generals* he spoke thusly (this being but one occasion of many):

That men believe in Jesus Christ – that’s the form that gives the being to true religion, faith in Christ and walking in a profession answerable to that faith; – men believe the remission of sins through the blood of Christ, and free justification by the blood of Christ, and live upon the grace of God. Whoever hath this faith, let his form be what he will; he walking peaceably, without the prejudicing of others unto another form – it is a debt due to God and Christ; and He will require it, if he be “that Christian’  may not enjoy this liberty.

But if a man of one form will be trampling upon the heals of another form; if an Independent, for example, will despise him who is under Baptism, and will revile him, and reproach and provoke him, - I will not suffer him in it. If, on the other side, those on the Anabaptist judgment shall be censoring the Godly ministers of the nation that professed under that of Independency; or those that profess Presbytery, shall be reproaching or speaking evil of them, traducing and censoring of them, -as I would not be willing to see the day on which England shall be in the power of the Presbytery to impose upon the consciences of the others that profess faith in Christ, - so I will not endure any to reproach them. But God give us hearts and spirits to keep things equal.


Never-the-less, he would not stand the Papists- often hanging any priest to be found in the armies he defeated or associated with the machinations of Charles Stuart and Spain, the military arm of the great Anti-Christ, the chief existential  threat to the English nation and the Protestant cause in Europe generally; God’s Providential challenge to self-improvement for all good Christian men. He also established a Commission to examine all the ministers in England to weed out those inadequately qualified to teach the new dispensation or suspect of loyalties to the old Prelacy  though it cannot be that his Parliament or Commission was ever entirely compliant to his wishes but fell into the fruitless disputes and hair-splittings which were his constant complaint.


To Cromwell the matter was of pressing educational concern, analogous to what is attempted in modern times with public departments of Education and introduction of such infeasible things as “Common Core’ curriculum into communities of widely diverse  and jealous legacies, capacities and interests.  Here from that same remarkable (Fifth) Speech to Parliament 17 Sept, 1656:


But I forgot one thing I must remember. It is the Church’s work, you know, in some measure: yet give me leave to say, and I appeal to your consciences, whether or no there hath not been an honest care taken for rejecting of scandalous ministers, and for the bringing-in of them that have passed an Approbation? [ our two Commissions of Triers and Expurgators]. I dare say, such an one as never passed in England before! And give me leave to say, it hath been with this difference ‘from the old practice,’ that neither Mr. Doctor nor Parson in the University hath reckoned stamp enough by those that made these Approbations: though, I can say so, they have great esteem of learning, and look at grace as most useful when it fall unto men with it rather than without it, and wish, with all their hearts, the flourishing of all those institutions of Learning, as much as any, yet I must say it hath been counted nothing with them that have passed the best with them or me. I think there hath been a conscience exercised, both by myself and the Ministers, towards them that have been approved; I may say, such as one, as I truly believe was never known in England in regards to this matter. And I do verily believe that God hath, for the ministry a very great seed in the youth now in the Universities; who, instead of studying books, study their own hearts.  I think in my very conscience God will bless and favor that; and hath blessed it, to the gaining of very many souls – it was never so upon the thriving hand since England was as it is to this day. Therefore I say, in these things, in these arrangements made by us, that tend to the profession of the Gospel and Public Ministry, I think you will be so far from hindering, that you will further it. And I shall be willing to join with you.


This is perhaps, Cromwell at his ironic best, being diplomatic, giving what is essentially an admonishment and command (under clear threat of dissolution) that Parliament exercise its powers to get at the root and branch of ‘the old practice’: the ordinations (by ‘apostolic succession’), pastoral ‘livings' and vestry appointments handed out by the personal preferences according to material interest of the great Lords and Grand Gentry  ( he continued) countenancing Profaneness, Disorder and Wickedness in all places, and whatever is kin to that, and most agrees with that which is Popery. In my conscience , it was a shame to be a Christian within these fifteen, sixteen or seventeen years, in this Nation either in Caesar’s house or elsewhere!

There is much else besides miscellany in these letters and speeches. In suspending Parliament, excluding some elected members from the new, appropriating revenues without Parliaments approval, keeping a large standing army, expanding the fleet beyond anybody’s  expectation without explanation, seizing ‘disorderly persons ( many who were originally of his own party, Levellers and Fifth Monarchy men) he made fine arguments “Of Necessity”, which despots do but rarely so well and with such good cause. . To little avail except perhaps to posterity.

He was kind and friendly to George Fox who approved the Protector as a man of genuine ‘light’ but was compelled  to restrain some of his followers. He spoke well of James the First and used his translation of the Bible. He refused the crown, regarding the question of title as a mere ‘feather in the cap. A shining bauble for the crowds to gaze at our kneel to”.  various attempts to assassinate him, which he referred contemptuously to as a ‘little fiddling things’ were anticipated and prevented by an excellent system of police, spies and by a bodyguard of 160 men. It has been reported that he knew what went on in the very closet of Charles Stuart II.

Cromwell’s health was long impaired by the hardships of campaigning. At the age of 58 he was already old, and his firm strong signature had become feeble and trembling. “ It has hitherto,” Cromwell said, “a matter, I think, but philosophical discourse, that a great place, a great authority, is a great burden. I know it is. I can say in the presence of God, in comparison of who we are but like poor creeping ants upon the earth, I would have lived under my woodside to have kept a flock of sheep rather than undertook such a government as this.” “I doubt not to say,” declared his steward Maidston, “it drank up his spirits, of which his natural constitution afforded a vast stock, and brought him to his grave.

On the 2Oth of August  165 George Fox met him riding at the head of his guards in the park at Hampton Court, but declared ‘he looked like a dead man.”  On the 3rd of September he was.




*He divided England into twelve districts with commanding generals to keep the peace, exact taxes, forbid cock-fighting and horse-racing (gambling sports), close Alehouses (his most unpopular measure) and guard against conspiracies, uprisings and  invasion.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cromwell's First Recorded Speech/ The Storm of Basing House by Thomas Carlyle




“The first time I ever took notice of Mr. Cromwell,” wrote Sir Philip Warwick, “was in the very beginning of Parliament held in November 1640; when I, Member for Radnor, ‘vainly thought myself a courtly young gentleman, -for we courtiers valued ourselves much upon good clothes! I came into the House one morning well clad; and perceived a gentleman speaking, whom I knew not, very ordinarily appareled; for it was a plain cloth suit, which seemed to have been made by an ill country-tailor; his linen was plain, and not very clean; and I remember  a speck of blood or two upon his little band, which was not much larger than his collar. His hat was without a hatband. His stature was of good size; his sword stuck close to his side: his countenance swollen and reddish, his voice sharp and untuneable, and his eloquence full of fervor. For the subject matter would not bear much reason; it being on behalf of a servant of Mr. Prynne’s who had dispersed Libels; - yes, Libels, and had come to Palace yard for it, as we saw: I sincerely profess, it lessened much my reverence unto the Great Council, for the gentleman was much hearkened unto – which was strange, seeing that he had no gold lace to his coat, nor frills to his band; and otherwise, to me my poor featherheads, seemed an unhandy gentleman!”


Here is the other vague appearance, from Clarendon’s Life: “He, Mr. Hyde, afterwards Lord Clarendon, ‘was often heard to mention one private Committee, in which he was put accidentally into a chair; upon an Enclosure which had been made of a great wastes, belonging to the Queen’s Manors, without the consent of the tenants, the benefit thereof had been given by the Queen to a servant of near trust, who forthwith sold the lands enclosed to the Earl of Manchester, Lord Privy Seal; who together with his son Mandevil were now most concerned to maintain the Enclosure; against which the inhabitants of the other manors, who claimed Common in those wastes, as the Queen’s tenants of the same, made loud complaints, as a great oppression, carried upon them with a very high hand, and supported by power.

“The Committee sat in the Queen’s Court; and Oliver Cromwell being one of them, appeared much concerned to countenance the Petitioners, who were numerous with their Witnesses; the Lord Mandevil being likewise present as a party, and by the direction of the Committee sitting covered. Cromwell, who had never before been heard to speak in the House of Commons – at least not by me, though he had often spoken, and was very well known there, ordered the Witnesses and Petitioners in the method of proceeding; and seconded and enlarged upon what they said, with great passion; and the Witnesses and persons concerned, who were are very rude kind of people, interrupted the Counsel and Witnesses on the other side, with great clamor, when they said anything that did not please them; so Mr. Hyde (whose office it was to oblige persons of all sorts to keep order) was compelled to use some sharp reproof, and some threats, to reduce them to such a temper that the business might be quietly heard. Cromwell, in great fury, reproached the Chairman for being partial, and that he discountenanced the Witnesses by threatening them: the other appealed to the Committee, which justified him, and declared, that he behave himself as he ought to do, which more inflamed him, Cromwell, who was already too much angry. When upon any mention of matter-of-fact, or the proceeding before and at Enclosure, the Lord Mandevil desired to be heard, and relate with great  modesty related what had been done, or explained what had been said, Mr. Cromwell did answer, and reply upon him, with so much indecency and rudeness, and ibn language so contrary and offensive, that every man would have thought, that as their natures and their manners were  as opposite as it is possible, so their interests could never have been the same. In the end, his whole carriage was so tempestuous, and his behavior so insolent, that the Chairman found himself obliged to reprehend him; and to tell him, that if he, Mr. Cromwell, proceedeth in the same manner, he Mr. Hyde would presently adjourn the Committee, and the next morning complain to the House of him. Which he never forgave; and took all occasions afterwards to pursue him with the utmost malice and revenge, to his death.”  Not Mr. Hyde’s, happily, but Mr. Cromwell’s, who at lengthy did cease to cherish ‘malice and revenge’ against Mr. Hyde.

Tracking this matter, by faint indications, through various obscure sources, I conclude that it related to the “Soke of Somersham near St Ives; and that the scene at the Queen’s Court probably occurred  in the beginning of July, 1641 Cromwell knew this Soke of Somersham near St. Ives very well; knew these poor rustics, and what treatment they had got; and wished, not in the imperturbablest manner it would seem, to see justice done them. Here too, subtracting the due subtrahend from Mr. Hyde’s Narrative, we have a pleasant visuality of an old summer afternoon in the Queens Court [376] years ago.

Cromwell’s next Letters present him to us, not debating, or about to debate, concerning Parliamentary Propositions and Scotch “Eight Articles” but with his sword drawn to to enforce them; the whole Kingdom divided now into two armed conflicting masses, the argument to be by pike and bullet henceforth.



. . . . .

1645: Concluding Action of the first part of the English Civil War.

Basing  House, Pawlet Marquis of Winchester’s Mansion stood, as the ruined heaps still testify, at a small distance from Baingstoke in Hampshire. I had long infested the Parliament in those quarters; and been especially a great eyesorrow to the Trade of London with the Western Parts. With Dennington Castle at Newbury, and this Basing House at Basingstoke, there was no travelling the western roads except with escort or on sufferance. The two places had often beern attempted; but always in vain. Basing House especially had stood siege after siege, for four years; ruining poor Colonel This and then poor Colonel That: the jubilant Royalists had given it the name of Basting House; there was, n the Parliament side, a kind of passion to have Basing House taken. Lieutenant-General Cromwell, gathering all the artillery he an lay hold of, firing about 200 or 500 shot at a given point till he sees a hole made; and then storming like a fireflood- thought he might perhaps manage it.

http://www.britishbattles.com/siege-of-basing-house/



On being requested ‘to make a relation to the House of Commons’ on this matter. A certain Mr. Peters related:

“That he came into Basing House some time after the storm, on Tuesday, 14th of October,  1645, and took a first view of the works; which were many, the circumvallation being above a mile in compass. The Old House had stood two or three hundred years, a nest of Idolatry; the New House surpassing that in beauty and stateliness; and either of them fit to make an Emperor’s court.

The rooms before the storm (it seems), in both Houses, were completely furnished; provisions for some years rather than months; 400 quarters of wheat; bacon divers rooms-full, containing hundreds of flitches; cheese proportionable; with oatmeal, beef, pork; beers divers cellars-full, and that very good.

A bed in one room, furnished, which cost 1,300l. Popish books many, with copes, and such utensils. In truth, the House stood in its full pride; and the enemy was persuaded that it would be the last piece of ground taken by the Parliament, because they had so often foiled our forces which had formerly appeared before it. In several rooms and about the House, there were slain 74, and only one woman, the daughter of Dr. Griffith, who by her railing, poor lady, provoked our soldiers (then in heat) into further passion. There lay dead upon the ground, Major Cuffle- a man of great account amongst them, and a notorious Papist, slain by the hands of Major Harrison, that godly and gallant gentleman –all men know him; and Robinson the Player, who a little before the storm was known to be mocking and scorning the Parliament, and our Army. Eight or nine gentlewomen of rank, running forth together, were entertained by the common soldiers somewhat coarsely; yet not uncivility, considering the action at hand.

The plunder of the soldiers continued till Tuesday night: one soldier had 120 pieces in gold for his share; others plate, others jewels; amongst the rest, one got three bags of silver, which (being not able to keep his own counsel) grew to be common pillage amongst the rest, and the fellow had but one half-crown left for himself at last. The soldiers sold the wheat to country people, which they held up a good rates a while, but afterwards the market fell, and there were some abatements for haste.  And after that, the sold the household stuff, whereof there was a good store, and the country loaded away many carts; and they continued a great while , fetching out all manner of household stuff, till they had fetched out all the stools, chairs and other lumber, all of which they sold to the country people by piecemeal.

In all these great buildings there was not one iron bar left in all the windows (save only what were on fire), before night. And the last work of all was the lead; and by Wednesday morning they had hardly left one gutter about the House. And what the soldiers left, the fire took hold on, which made more than ordinary haste; leaving nothing but bare walls and chimneys in less than twenty hours – being occasioned by the neglect of the enemy in quenching a fire-ball of ours at first.

WWE know not how to give a just account of the number of persons that were within. For were have not quite three hundred prisoners, and it may be, have found an hundred slain- whose bodies, some being covered with rubbish, came not at once to our view. Only, riding to the House on Tuesday night, we heard divers crying in vaults for quarters, but our men could neither come to them, nor they to us. Amongst those that we saw slain, one of their officers lying on the ground, seeming so exceeding tall, was measured, and from his great toe to his crown was nine feet in length (sic).

And thus the Lord was pleased in a few hours to show us what mortal seed all earthly power grows upon; and how just and righteous the ways of God are, who takes sinners in their own snares, and lifteth up the hands of his despised people.

This is now the Twentieth garrison that hath been taken in this summer by this Army – and, I believe most of them the answers of the prayers, and the trophies of faith, of some of God’s servants. The Commander of this brigade, Lieutenant-General Cromwell had spent much time with God in prayer the night before the storm; and seldom fights without some text of scripture to support him. This time he rested upon the blessed word of God, written in the Hundred-and-fifteenth Psalm, eighth verse:

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name, give glory; for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say Where is now their God? Our God is in the Heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased! Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but the speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but the hear not; noses have they, but they smell not; they have hands, but they handle not; feet have they but they walk not; neither speak they through their throat! They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.”

This letter was read in all the pulpits next Sunday, with thanks rendered to Heaven, by order of Parliament. Basing House is to be carted away; whoever will come for brick or stone shall freely have the same for his pains.”







Saturday, January 7, 2017

Rosa Luxemburg by Hannah Arendt


[ a  review of J.P. Nettl’s Rosa Luxemburg, Oxford University Press, 1966]

Historically, Mr. Nettl’s greatest and most original achievement is the discovery of the Polish-Jewish “per group” and Rosa Luxemburg’s lifelong, close and carefully hidden attachment to the Polish party which sprang from it. This is indeed a highly significant and totally neglected source, not of the revolutions, but of the revolutionary spirit in the twentieth century. This milieu, which even in the twenties had lost all its public relevance, has now completely disappeared. Its nucleus consisted of assimilated Jews from middle-class families whose cultural background  was German ( Rosa Luxemburg knew Goethe and Morike by heart, and her literary taste was impeccable, far superior to that of her German friends), whose political formation was Russian, and whose moral standards in both public and private were uniquely their own. Theses Jews. An extremely small minority in the East, an even smaller percentage of assimilated Jewry in the West, stood outside all social ranks, Jewish or non-Jewish, hence had no conventional prejudices whatsoever, and had developed, in this truly splendid isolation, their own code of honor – which then attracted a number of non-Jews, among them Julian Marchlewski and Felix Dzerzhynski*, both of whom later joined the Bolsheviks. It was precisely because of this unique background that Lenin appointed Dzerzhynski as the head of the first Cheka, someone, he hoped, no power could corrupt; hadn’t he begged to be charged with the department of Children’s Education and Welfare?

Nettle rightly stresses Rosa Luxemburg’s excellent relations with her family, her parents, brothers, sister, and niece, none of whom showed the slightest inclination to socialist convictions or revolutionary activities, yet who did everything they could for her when she had to hide from the police or was in prison. The point is worth making, for it gives us a glimpse of this unique Jewish family background without which the emergence of the ethical code of the peer group would be nearly incomprehensible. The hidden equalizer of those who always treated one another as equals- and hardly anybody else – was the essentially simple experience of a childhood world in which mutual respect and unconditional trust, a universal humanity and a genuine, almost na├»ve contempt for social and ethnic distinctions were taken for granted. What the members of the peer group had in common was what can only be called moral taste, which is so different from “moral principles”; the authenticity of their morality they owed to having grown up in a world that was not out of joint. This gave them their “rare self-confidence,” so unsettling to the world into which they them came, and so bitterly resented as arrogance and conceit. This milieu, and never the German Party, was a remained Rosa Luxemburg’s home. The home was moveable up to a point, and since it was predominantly Jewish it did not coincide with any ‘fatherland . . .

Rosa Luxemburg’s early triumphs in the German Party rested on a double misunderstanding. At the turn of the century the SPD was “the envy and admiration of Socialists throughout the world.” August Bebel, its “grand old man,” who from Bismarck’s foundation of the German Reich to the outbreak of the First World War “dominated its policy and spirit”, had always proclaimed, “I am and always will be the mortal enemy of existing society.” Didn’t that sound like the spirit of the Polish peer group? Couldn’t one assume from such proud defiance that the great German Party was somehow the SDKPiL  (Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania) writ large? It took Rosa Luxemburg almost a decade – until she returned from the first Russian revolution – to discover that the secret of this defiance was willful noninvolvement with the world at large and single-minded preoccupation with the growth of the Party organization. Out of this experience she developed, after 1910, her program of constant “friction:” with society without which, as she then realized, the very source of the revolutionary spirit was doomed to dry up. She did not intend to spend her life in a sect, no matter how large; her commitment to revolution was primarily a moral matter, and this meant that she remained passionately engaged in public life and civil affairs, in the destinies of the world. This was one of the main points of her famous Juniusbroschure**, written in prison during the war and then used as a platform for the Spartakusbund. Lenin, who was unaware of its authorship, immediately declared that to proclaim “the program of a republic the means in practice to proclaim the revolution with an incorrect revolutionary program.”

 Well, a year later the Russian Revolution broke out without any ‘program’ whatsoever, and its first achievement was the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic, and the same was o happen in Germany and Austria. Which, of course, has never prevented the Russian, Polish or German comrades from violently disagreeing with her on this point. It is indeed the republican question rather than the national one which separated her most decisively from all the others. Here she was completely alone, as she was alone, though less obviously so, in her stress on the absolute necessity of not only individual but public freedom under all circumstances.


After the first Russian revolution in 1905, for which she had hurried back to Warsaw with false papers, she could no longer deceive herself. To her, these months constituted not only a crucial experience, they were also “the happiest of my life.” Upon return, she tried to discuss the events with her friends in the German Party. She learned quickly that “the word ‘revolution’  had only to come into contact with a real revolutionary situation to break down” into meaningless syllables. The German Socialists were convinced that such things could only happen in distant barbarian lands. This was the first sock, from, which she never recovered. The second came in 1914 and brought her near to suicide.



Naturally, her first contact with a real revolution taught her more and better things than disillusion and the fine arts of disdain and mistrust. Out of it came her insight into the nature of political action, which Mr. Nettl rightly calls her most important contribution to political theory. The main point is that she had learned from the revolutionary workers’; councils (the latter soviets) that “good organization of revolutionary action can and must be learned in the revolution itself, as one can only learn by swimming in the water,” that revolutions are “made” by nobody but break out “spontaneously,” and that “the pressure for action” always comes “from below.” A revolution is “great and strong as long as the Social Democrats [at the time still the only revolutionary party] don’t smash it up.

There were, however, two aspects of the 1905 prelude which entirely escaped her. There was, after all, the surprising fact that the revolution had broken out not only in a non-industrialized, backward country, but in a territory where no strong socialist movement with mass support existed at all. And there was, second, the equally undeniable fact that the revolution had been the consequence of the Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. These were two facts Lenin never forgot and from which he drew two conclusions. First, one did not need a large organization; a small, tightly organized group with a leader who knew what he wanted was enough to pick up over once the authority of the old regime had been swept away. Large revolutionary organizations were only a nuisance. And, second, since revolutions were not “made” but were the result of circumstances and events beyond anybody’s power, wars were welcome.

The second point was the source of her disagreements with Lenin during the First World War; the first; the first of her criticisms of Lenin’s tactics in the Russian Revolution of 1918. For she refused categorically, from  beginning  to end, to see in war anything but the most terrible disaster, no matter what its eventual outcome; the price in human lives, especially proletarian lives, was too high in any event. Moreover, it would have gone against her grain to look upon the revolution as the profiteer of war and massacre – something which didn’t bother Lenin in the least. And with respect to the issue of organization, she did not believe in a victory in which the people at large had no part and no voice; so little, indeed, did she believe in holding power at any price that she “was far more afraid of a deformed revolution than an unsuccessful one” – this was, in fact, “the major difference between her” and the Bolsheviks.

And haven’t events proved her right? Isn’t the history of the Soviet Union one long demonstration of the frightful dangers of “deformed revolutions”? Hasn’t the ‘moral collapse” which she foresaw – without, of course, foreseeing the open criminality of Lenin’s successor – done more harm to the cause of revolution as she understood it than “any and every political defeat . . . in an honest struggle against superior forces and in the teeth of the historical situation” could possibly have done? Wasn’t it true that Lenin was “completely mistaken” in the means he employed, that the only way to salvation was the “school of public life itself, the most unlimited, the broadest democracy and public opinion,” and that terror “demoralized” everybody and destroyed everything?

She did not live long enough to see how right she had been and to watch the terrible and terribly swift moral deterioration of the Communist parties, the direct offspring of the Russian Revolution, throughout the world. Nor for that matter did Lenin, who despite all his mistakes still had more in common with the original peer group than with anybody that came after him. This became manifest when Paul Levi, the successor of Leo Jogiches in the leadership of the Spartakusbund, three years after Rosa Luxemburg’s death, published her remarks on the Russian Revolution just quoted, which she had written in 1918 “only for you” – that is, without intending publication. “It was a moment of great embarrassment” for both the German and Russian parties, and Lenin could have been forgiven had he answered sharply and immoderately. Instead he wrote: “We answer with . . a good old Russian fable: an eagle can sometimes fly lower than a chicken, but a chicken can never rise to the same heights as an eagle. Rosa Luxemburg . . .in spite of her mistakes . . was and is an eagle.” He went on to demand the publication of “her biography and the complete edition of her works”, unpurged of “error” and chided the German comrades for their “incredible” negligence in this duty. This was in 1922.

Three years later, Lenin’s successors had decided to “Bolshevize” the  German Communist Party and therefore ordered a “specific onslaught on Rosa Luxemburg’s whole legacy.” The task was accepted with joy by a young member named Ruth  Fischer, who had just arrived fro Vienna. She told the German comrades that Rosa Luxemburg and her influence ‘were nothing less than a syphilis bacillus.” The gutter had opened, and out of it emerged what Rosa Luxemburg would have called “another zoological species” No “agents of the bourgeoisie” and no “Socialist traitors” were needed any longer to destroy the few survivors of the peer group and to bury  in oblivion the last remnants of their spirit.







* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felix_Dzerzhinsky
**
https://www.marxists.org/deutsch/archiv/luxemburg/1916/junius/

Friday, January 6, 2017

Samuel Gompers by Rosanne Currarino


For men such as Samuel Gompers, president of the AFL for every year but one from its founding in 1886 until his death in 1924, the broad argument of more – that material and cultural life was a central to social power as political rights were – had been tacitly apparent since his early childhood. Gompers was born in London in 1850, the son of Dutch Jews. His father, Solomon, and numerous uncles and cousins were cigar makers, active in the city’s Cigarmakers’ Society. The family placed considerable value on craft and guild solidarity but also emphasized the importance of education and the arts. As a child, Gompers attended a free Jewish school until the age of ten, when he began to work alongside his father. With his family’s encouragement, he continued to take classes at night, and his education was supplemented by his grandfather, who took him to concerts and plays. By the time he was thirteen, Gompers could speak and read some French, Dutch and Hebrew in addition to English and had a fairly wide-ranging knowledge of European literature and music. Later in life, he remembered his early years fondly and saw them as instrumental to shaping both his belief in trade unionism and his love of music and literature.

As the Gompers family grew, its members had more and more difficulty making ends meet. “London,” Gompers remembered later, “seemed to offer no response to our efforts towards betterment,” and Solomon Gompers moved his family to New York in 1863. The Gomperes arrived at Castle Island two weeks after the end of the draft riots, and New York was still smoldering. Despite the turmoil, the Gomperes were able to find more commodious lodging in the city than they had possessed in London, and Gompers and his father soon found work rolling cigars. Young Gompers continued  his semiformal education in the city’s theaters, concert halls, as well at free lectures at the Cooper’s Union.  There he met other young workers who shared his commitment to trade union politics and his passion for culture and philosophy, most notably P.J. McGuire*, later president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, and Labor Day parade.


The theoretical connections between cultural life and labor politics slowly began to solidify in 1873 when Gompers started working in a cigar factory owned by David Hirsch, a German socialist. At Hirsch’s factory, Gompers read the Communist Manifesto, translated by his friend and mentor, Karl Ferdinand Laurrell. Inspired to read more, Gompers taught himself German and read as much German philosophy and economics as he could, including Carl Hillman’s influential pamphlet, Prakitsche Emanzipation-swike. Hillman, a member of Saxony’s Socialist Democratic Workingmen’s Party, produced what Gompers would remember as the perfect expression of ‘the fundamental possibilities of the trade union.” Hillman by no means dismissed the power of political organization, but he argued that a political organization that failed to address material concerns would be impotent. The “ political life in today’s state,” he explained, had “firm economic and social underpinnings”; labor organizations had to acknowledge the latter if they wanted access to the former. Gompers completely absorbed Hillman’s message. When Hillman claimed that “anyone who wants to attain practical results must deal with all actual conditions and circumstances,” Gompers agreed. Theoretical abstractions, he felt, could offer little hope to workers, whose concerns lay more with rent and food than with revolution or what Hillman dismissed as “utopian dreams.”

Gompers growing conviction that “practical emancipation”, offered more hope to workers than purely political tactics did was confirmed by his experience during the early years of the depression. Now married and supporting a quickly growing family, Gompers watched with alarm as the U.S. economy crashed in the winter of 1873-74. “The scenes downtown,” he remembered “were wild on that rainy day” when Cooke’s investment house failed, but they were nothing compared to what followed. “Thousands in New York City were walking the streets in search of a job. As winter came on the misery grew too appalling proportions. Public officials made gestures which might have had value for political purposes but did not give food to the hungry or solve the rent problem for those facing eviction.” One fellow cigar maker’s family was so hungry that they ate their beloved pet dog. What workers needed most, Gompers felt, was economic security; without it they were powerless, politically and socially.

Though the depression certainly put basic economic concerns at the forefront of Gomper’s thought, he did not abandon the lessons learned from his grandfather and from his visits to opera houses and theaters. “Mental hunger,” he insisted, “is just as painful as physical hunger”; the labor movement had to address both. As a young man, he reveled in “a poem, a paper, a book” and was particularly known among his coworkers as an enthusiastic musician. In his autobiography, Gompers remembered that his grandfather “introduced me to a world that brought a lifetime of pleasure. Music appeals to my whole nature as nothing else does.” Music provided him with solace: “The beauty of wonderful music would hold me speechless, motionless – only waking at the the end to gasp to myself, “god, how beautiful!” When he was a young man rolling cigars, singing bolstered his and his comrades spirits during work; soon after he married in 1867, he used money that his wife, Sophia, had saved for new clothing to buy a violin. She overcame her initial anger, and Gompers taught himself to read music and soon learned to play the violin with friends. Music- especially Italian operas such as Tosca and Norma – as well as lectures, literature (Gompers was particularly fond of Dickens) and theater were as important to Gompers as work. “The pure joy of living is good to know,” he insisted, no less important than high wages and political agitation.

Increasingly in the 1870s, Gompers looked with distain on those who did not see the importance of higher wages, shorter hours, and pleasant pastimes- that is, those who were not, as he put it, “practical.” He was particularly dismissive of the “so-called Communists” agitating in January 1874 as exploitive opportunists: “propaganda was for them the chief end of life,” he complained. “They were perfectly willing to use human necessity as propaganda material. Practical results meant nothing in their program.” Indeed, Gompers later blamed the communists and other “non-practical” organizers for the January 12874 debacle in Tompkins Square Park**, where policemen freely battered protesters. Many participants and onlookers were seriously injured, among them Gomper’s friend Laurrell, and Gompers only narrowly escaped being bludgeoned by jumping down into a cellar-way. Soon thereafter, Gompers and other-like minded men formed the United Workers of America (UWA), specifically to repudiate what Gompers saw as dilettante communists. Following Hillman’s advice, the UWA held itself to practical goals, with organizers declaring, “The emancipation of the working class can be achieved through their own efforts and that emancipation will not bring about class rule and class privileges for them but equal rights and duties for all members of society. Economic betterment is the the first step to that desired end.” Gompers reserved particular ire for radicals he saw as “faddist, reformers, and sensation-loving spirits.” He loathed “pseudo-communists” and others “who did not realize that labor issues were tied up with the lives of men, women and children –issues not to be risked lightly.”

Gompers was equally dismissive of those who sought to return to an idealized past, marked by smaller shops and less mechanization. Following an 1867 strike by cigar makers protesting the introduction of molds that simplified the rolling process, her remembered that he ”began to realize the futility of opposing progress.” Cigar makers, he believed, “were powerless against the substitution of machines for human skills,” but they could work together to prevent wage reductions and increases in work hours. For Gompers, at least, these practical goals reached beyond “mere” economics. They were, he believed, also demands for “all” that was essential to the exercise and enjoyment of liberty”- in short, demands for better lives.

For Gompers, and others,  without economic power, political rights had little meaning. In the context of those times and in the final analysis, however much it may be clothed in legal rights and political immunities, democracy means material goods accessible to all. They realized that socialized democracy was as much a process as an ideal, the result of small, endless efforts to improve not only wages and working conditions but seemingly trivial details such as sidewalks, libraries, and furnaces. “ Our hope of this democracy,” explained Walter Weyl, “does not depend upon the chance of a sudden, causeless turn of the wheel. The motor reactions of society, like those of individuals, proceed only from prior accumulations of nervous energy.” “Real”  democracy [  More- a better life in material terms] mattered as much as formal political democracy.



*
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_J._McGuire
**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tompkins_Square_riot_(1874)


The Labor Question in America; Economic Democracy in the Gilded Age by Rosanne Currarino, Univ of Illinois, 2011

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Setting the Record Straight on Salem by Kenneth Murdock



 Increase Mather and the new royal governor, Sir William Phips arrived  in Boston on May 14, 1692. Cotton Mather  had written in his diary a fortnight before:

We have not our former Charter, but we have . . . one which much better suits our circumstances. And instead of my being made a sacrifice to wicked rulers, all our Counsellors of the Province are of my own father’s nomination; and my father-in-law, with several related unto me, and several brethren of my own church, are among them. The governor of the Province is not my enemy but . . . one of my own flock, and one of my dearest friends. .  . 

But Sir William had at once to deal with a mad witch hunt that had begun in Salem village, some twenty miles from Boston. Dozens of supposed witches were in jail in the nearby town of Salem, awaiting trial, and a hysterical search for others was spreading farther each day. The governor appointed a special court to meet in Salem to try the accused. By the time it finished its work, nineteen suspects had been found guilty of witchcraft and hanged, and another, who had refused to plead guilty or not guilty, had been pressed to death in accordance with an old English law.

Horrible as the affair was, it was a comparatively minor episode in the dire record of witchcraft delusions  in many countries for centuries before the Salem Village outbreak and, outside New England, even thereafter.

The Magnalia Christi Americana gives a summary account of the witchcraft episode as Cotton Mather saw it four years after it ended. Any reader who wishes to study the details of the whole sad story will find in Mather’s pages, together with the notes and bibliographical references in this edition, all he needs for understanding the course of events.

So far as the Mathers are concerned, the essential facts are that Cotton wrote in June 1692 The Return of Several Ministers, a document which he and other members of the clergy submitted to the governor and council in response to their request. It warned the “witch court”: against relying on “spectral evidence” as the sole basis for convicting the accused. The Magnalia explains adequately the nature of this “evidence,” commonly accepted in witch trials in England and elsewhere. The ministers also pointed out other ways in which the court could correct its procedures. Had the advice given in the Return been followed, many of the accused would have been saved, but the magistrates paid little or no attention to it.

Throughout the period of the trials and even before, Cotton argued that those who said they had been tormented by the devil or his agents should be examined not in open court but privately. If possible they should be brought to fasting and prayer to repulse Satan and frustrate his diabolic campaign. In 1688 Cotton had taken into his own home a girl who appeared to be afflicted by the devil, and together with others of the clergy has succeeded in curing her of delusion. After the trials began he offered to harbor six others and try to save them by the same method, but the court refused his permission.

The five essential sections of the Return of June 15 are given in the Magnalia. The full text was not printed until early November of 1692, when it was included in the postscript to Increase Mather’s Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits. This book was written at the request of a group of ministers who met at Cambridge on August 1. Six ‘witches” had already been hanged, and Mather and his colleagues alarmed by the court’s failure to heed the Return. Shortly after October 3, Mather’s finished manuscript was sent to the governor, with the endorsement of the ministers of eleven towns and three of the Congregational churches in Boston. By then fourteen more persons had been hanged in Salem, a half-dozen more had been condemned, and fifty others were in jail awaiting trial.

The Cases repeated the warnings of the Return but argued its points more vigorously and supported them by references to a variety of authorities. And, in two memorable sentences, it made absolutely clear Increase Mather’s position, and presumably, that of his son: “It were better that ten suspected Witches should escape, than that one innocent Person should be condemned,” and “ I had rather judge a Witch to be an honest woman, than judge an honest woman as a  Witch.”

By October 12 Governor Phips had read the manuscript and had been deeply impressed. On the 26th his council voted to call a meeting to seek light on the “right way as to the witchcrafts.” The Salem court interpreted this as, in effect, a dismissal. Three days later Phips confirmed this and suspended the trials until January, when the Supreme Court was to convene with instructions not to condemn any “witch” on the basis of “Spectral evidence.” It tried fifty-two of the accused and acquitted all but three. These the governor reprieved and later pardoned. Sir William declared that “the stop put to the first method of proceedings . . . dissipated the black cloud that threatened this Province with destruction.”. There was never again a trial for witchcraft in New England. Thus, “Increase Mather . . .brought the murders to an end by his Cases of Conscience.”

 By September, however, Governor Phips had received from England sharp queries about the court’s proceeding. In Massachusetts manuscript copies of Increase Mather’s Cases had been widely circulated, and there signs of growing opposition to the judges that Phips had originally appointed. He hoped that a record of a few of the trials, carefully selected and adroitly commented upon, might help him reply to his English interrogators and check the New England critics’ hostility to the court. Some of the judges, notably William Stoughton, the chief justice, and Samuel Sewall, were men of influence and supporters of Sir William’s regime, and  was eager to protect them from attack. But who was to write the sort of book he wanted? Not Increase Mather, since he was writing a severe critique of the court’s methods. But what about Cotton? He was less powerful, but was the pastor of an important church and renowned as a writer.

On September 22nd, the day of the last execution in Salem, he was called to meet with Stroughton and two other judges, Samuel Sewall and John Hathorne, and the clerk for the court, Stephen Sewall. He was promised the records of the trials, and both Samuel Sewall and Stoughton, who was not only chief justice but also lieutenant governor, pledge him their support if he would write the book Phips wanted.

Cotton Mather was caught in a painful dilemma. He agreed with his father’s criticism of the witchcraft trials. Could he now with a clear conscience write anything in defense of the judges which would satisfy them and the governor, unless he hid his real feelings and dealt only in half-truths?  On the other hand, could he take the consequences of a refusal to follow the magistrates wish? His father, by virtue of his age, experience, and achievement, could afford to rebuke them, but Cotton, not yet thirty, still had his way to make. He was passionately eager for fame and power, and for success he must preserve the good will of such local potentates as Stoughton and Sewall.

Cotton agreed, finally producing the hastily written and strangely confusing book titled The Wonders of the Invisible World, “Published by special command of his Excellency, the Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.”

First, he dashed off a prefatory section, “The Author’s Defense”, left a blank sheet for a statement approving his labors which he hoped Stoughton would supply, a wrote a curious little forward, which began: “I live by Neighbors that force me to produce these undeserved lines.” At this point he paused and sent all he had written to the chief justice. He was rewarded by a fulsome letter of praise and gratitude, signed “Your assured friend, William Stoughton.” Thus stimulated, he plunged on, adding to his manuscript some pages which had little or no relevance to his ostensible purpose. Then, at last, Stephen Sewall delivered some of the court’s records of five of the Salem trials. Mather settled down to write his version of them, trying to demonstrate that in these cases at least the court had not acted improperly. Samuel Sewall and Stoughton read his account in proof and wrote an endorsement of it as a true report of the “matter of fact and evidence’ and correct in “Prospect” of the “methods of conviction.” This Mather promptly dispatched to the printer. Still unable to control his pen, he added to the book a sermon on “The Devil Discovered” and some extracts from an account of witchcrafts in Sweden. The whole desperate hodge-podge was hurried through the press put on sale probably about October 15.

Here and there in the book are passages which reveal what Mather actually thought about the magistrates’ mistakes – their reckless reliance on “spectral evidence”, their unwise method of conducting the first investigation of each of the accused, and their failure to treat the “afflicted” as he had recommended. But for the most part these passages so swamped by other material and so cautiously phrased that the reader must agree with Perry Miller’s verdict that the Wonders was “a false book, produced by a man whose heart was not in it,” which failed “to convey except by its utter confusion, what Cotton Mather really believed” about the judges’ acts in Salem.

Once the last of the accused in Salem was freed, even those who “reviled” the Wonders when it first appeared did not trouble to press their attack. Cotton Mather, his father, and the judges of the court lost neither standing nor influence. In  the election of members of the Council in 1693 all nine magistrates who had condemned the supposed witches were chosen, together with two-thirds of those whom Increase had asked King William to appoint as counsellors.

In 1700  , however, there arrived from London a book which assailed both Mathers but aimed its sharpest shafts at Cotton. Robert Calef’s More Wonders of the Invisible World was a heated criticism of what its author considered to have been the part played by the ministers, especially  the two leaders of the Second Church, during the witch trials eight years before. Calef seems to have been a cloth merchant of Boston. He was no scholar but a man of common sense. Although anticlerical, he was a faithful reader of the Bible and as early as 1693 had interested himself in the witchcraft persecutions. He began to gather what information he could, collected fuller records of the Salem trials than Cotton Mather had, and wrote to him and to other ministers asking them for comments on his ideas about the witchcraft affair. For the most part they seemed to have treated his requests with scant courtesy, refusing to answer, or, in the case of Cotton Mather, threatening him with a libel suit.

Calef’s book is clumsily constructed and hard to read, but is nonetheless a courageous attempt to defend an important thesis. Like most men of his time in Old and New England, he believed that there were witches – “Scriptures else were in vain which assign their punishment to be by death.” He shared the common view that “there are possessions” by Satan and that “the bodies of the possessed have hence been . . afflicted.” But he insisted, as Perry Miller has put it, that the Bible gives no “explicit rules for detecting  the witch,” so “learned theories concerning the nature of the sin or its evidences are ‘human inventions’ –mere ‘traditions’ of men foisted onto Scripture, exactly on a par with the superstitions of Rome.” He inveighed especially against the “assumption to which all theorizers subscribed, the notion that witch enters explicit ‘covenant’ with the Devil” and declared it to be utterly without textual foundation.

Calef’s book was finished in 1697 but not printed until 1700 and then in London. It was too late to accomplish anything by raking over the dead coals of the Salem trials. Samuel Sewall had already publically acknowledged that, as a member of the first Salem witch court, he had followed methods and accepted evidence which he feared had cost some innocent people their lives, although, of course, he did not question that there were witches or that the law required that they be tried and, if found guilty, put to death. By 1700 most New Englanders shared his opinion and were eager to forget the whole dismal affair of 1692. No one seems to have paid much attention to Calef’s book, except those who were directly attacked in it – notably the Mathers- and those who welcomed anything that might weaken the influence of the Congregational clergy.

The book has been ably studied and summarized by several careful scholars. The only reason for mentioning it here is the fact that nearly two decades after the trials ended, when belief in witchcraft was no longer general, it became the principal source of the persistent myth which portrays Cotton Mather as the chief originator of the witchcraft hysteria, a villain who egged on the judges in their bloody work and gloated over the executions – a myth unhappily still cherished by some writers of fiction and drama and a few hasty historians.

This is understandable. As he went on with his work, Calef, justly angered by Cotton Mather’s cavalier treatment of his own inquiries, devoted many pages to virulent denunciations of him, often more abusive than respectful of truth. He enlarged the scope of his attack on the clergy to cover their political position and influence in matters that had little or no relation to the Salem trial. . . .

The story that Increase Mather had the book publically burned at Harvard may be true, although it has thus far been traced back no farther than 1809. Both Mathers did, however, collaborate in the production of an answer, refuting much that Calef had written, and successfully disposing of most of his charges, in a style often as vituperative as his own: Some Few Remarks Upon a Scandalous Book, against the Government and Ministry of New-England (1701)

Calef’s work deserves to be read for his sensible theory about the unsound basis traditionally relied on in New England and abroad for the discovery and trial of witches. But any dispassionate reader interested in the actual relation of the clergy to the witchcraft delusions of 1692 should also make his way through the pages of Some Remarks as an antidote to the More Wonders’ reckless ignoring or distorting the facts.  Although Cotton declared that, even after the Remarks appeared, Calef, the “vile fool,” was employed by “the enemies of the Churches . . .to go on, with more of his filthy scribbles,” nothing seems to have come of it. Little is known about the “fools” career after 1700, excerpt that he ‘held several town offices in Boston and Roxbury” and ‘died on April 13, 1719.”

Magnalia Christi Americana; Books I and II by Cotton Mather edited by Kenneth B. Murdock & Elizabeth W. Miller; Belknap Press, Cambridge, MA , 1977