Thomas Jefferson Witnesses the Storming of the Bastille

July 14, 2014

Storming the Bastille

A letter to Secretary of State John Jay:

July 14

On the 14th, they send one of their members (Monsieur de Corny, whom we knew in America) to the Hotel des Invalides to ask arms for their Garde Bourgeoise. He was followed by, or he found there, a great mob. The Governor of the Invalids came out and represented the impossibility of his delivering arms without the orders of those from whom he received them.

De Corney advised the people then to retire, retired himself, and the people took possession of the arms. It was remarkable that not only the Invalids themselves made no opposition, but that a body of 5000 foreign troops, encamped within 400 yards, never stirred.

Monsieur de Corny and five others were then sent to ask arms of Monsieur de Launai, Governor of the Bastille. They found a great collection of people already before the place, and they immediately planted a flag of truce, which was answered by a like flag hoisted on the parapet. The deputation prevailed on the people to fall back a little, advanced themselves to make their demand of the Governor, and in that instant a discharge from the Bastille killed 4. people of those nearest to the deputies. The deputies retired, the people rushed against the place, and almost in an instant were in possession of a fortification, defended by 100 men, of infinite strength, which in other times had stood several regular sieges and had never been taken. How they got in, has as yet been impossible to discover. Those, who pretend to have been of the party tell so many different stories as to destroy the credit of them all.

They took all the arms, discharged the prisoners and such of the garrison as were not killed in the first moment of fury, carried the Governor and Lieutenant governor to the Greve (the place of public execution) cut off their heads, and set them through the city in triumph to the Palais royal.

About the same instant, a treacherous correspondence having been discovered in Monsieur de Flesselles prevot des marchands, they seize him in the hotel de ville, where he was in the exercise of his office, and cut off his head.

These events carried imperfectly to Versailles were the subject of two successive deputations from the States to the King, to both of which he gave dry and hard answers, for it has transpired that it had been proposed and agitated in Council to seize on the principal members of the States general, to march the whole army down upon Paris and to suppress it’s tumults by the sword. But at night the Duke de Liancourt forced his way into the king’s bedchamber, and obliged him to hear a full and animated detail of the disasters of the day in Paris. He went to bed deeply impressed.

The decapitation of de Launai worked powerfully thro’ the night on the whole Aristocratical party, insomuch that in the morning those of the greatest influence on the Count d’Artois represented to him the absolute necessity that the king should give up every thing to the states. This according well enough with the dispositions of the king, he went about 11 oclock, accompanied only by his brothers, to the States general, and there read to them a speech, in which he asked their interposition to re-establish order. . . Tho this be couched in terms of some caution, yet the manner in which it was delivered made it evident that it was meant as a surrender at discretion.

The storming of the Bastille . . . The demolition of the Bastille was now ordered, and begun. A body of the Swiss guards, of the regiment of Ventimille, and the city horse guards join the people. The alarm at Versailles increases instead of abating. They believed that the Aristocrats of Paris were under pillage and carnage, that 150,000 men were in arms coming to Versailles to massacre the Royal family, the court, the ministers and all connected with them, their practices and principles.

The Aristocrats of the Nobles and Clergy in the States general vied with each other in declaring how sincerely they were converted to the justice of voting by persons, and how determined to go with the nation all it’s lengths.

The foreign troops were ordered off instantly.


Cardinals at the All-Star Break

July 13, 2014


Okay, they ran out of gas today, falling 11-2 to the Brewers in Milwaukee. That leaves the Redbirds in second place by one game, with Cincinnati another half-game astern and Pittsburgh only 3 1/2 out.

Although they’ve played well since Yadier Molina went on the DL, he’s lost to them for 8-12 weeks, effectively the remainder of the season. That’s a major setback.

With 66 games to go, the Cardinals play the Brewers and the Reds 10 times apiece, and the Pirates 6 times. They also play the cellar-dwelling Cubs 10 times, but Chicago has been known to rise to the occasion and spoil the Cardinals’ run. That’s 36 of the 66 games. I’m guessing it will take 98 games to win the division; so the Cardinals have 46 of 66 to win, and they have to be winners of the series against the other four NL Central teams. Without Molina, and with a starting rotation riddled by injuries and which, once you get past Adam Wainwright, is, frankly, shaky, that’s a tall order. Not impossible, but that’s almost a .700 clip, and they have only managed a .540 win rate to date. So there’s very little margin for error.

It’s not like they haven’t been in this position before, but at this point in the season last year, they were a full seven games better than they are right now. The difference is not chump change.

Offense is still a big question mark, despite the great week just past. I mean, Kolten Wong, on whom I had given up, hit .333 with 5 home runs and 8 RBIs this week. Is that the start of a strong second half, or merely a good week in a season that could otherwise be charitably described as mediocre? Alan Craig is hitting .244 with next-to-no power, and he went 1 for 15 this past week, when the rest of the club was steaming. Matt Holliday is hitting .265. Matt Carpenter is hitting .283, 17 points below his career average.

Last year, the team set a major-league record for batting average with runners in scoring position, .330. So far this year, it’s .251.

So, I would characterize myself as hopeful, rather than optimistic. If the team starts hitting on all cylinders, or if the rest of the NL Central plays at only a moderate level, there’s a clear shot at the championship. We’re about to see.


Happy Birthday, Arlo Guthrie

July 10, 2014

With thanks and deepest respect. God Bless.


Late Night Listening with Birthday Boy Richard Starkey

July 7, 2014

All the best, Ringo, and MANY happy returns!


Lovely Little Nugget of Political Wisdom

July 6, 2014

All cats are libertarians. Completely dependent on others but fully convinced of their own independence.


Independence Day! Celebrating the American Spirit

July 4, 2014


It’s fitting that Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was first published on this day in 1855.

The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

. . . .

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

From “Song of Myself

It is equally fitting that I am also reading this weekend “Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit” by Dane Huckelbridge. Written as enjoyably as it is informative.

Thanks to Fred Walker Robbins, Ph.D. for explaining the connections to me.


The 1964 Civil Rights Act

July 2, 2014


I’m reading Clay Risen’s book, The Bill of the Century: The Epic Batter for the Civil Rights Act, an amazing reminder of how difficult, complex, and dangerous the fight for equal rights for black Americans was in the 1950s and 1960s. Risen, an editor at the NY Times and contributor to various publications, previously wrote A Nation on Fire: American in the Wake of the King Assassination.

The passage of the 1964 bill, 50 years ago today, was a near-miracle (just try imagine that happening today, for example). While some of the actors–Lyndon Johnson, for starters–have come down in popular history as heroes in the struggle, others–Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen, for example, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. William McCulloch, and any number of Senate and House staffers–did much of the hard work. They overcame the deeply-entrench power of Southern racist Democrats in the Senate, breaking an historic filibuster in the process. The political maneuvering was byzantine and intense, yet it produced what was one of the most important pieces of legislation of the 20th Century. The political fallout–summarized in Johnson’s famous statement about delivering the South to the Republicans–is with us still, as is racism.

But the fact remains that, for a moment, at least, the apparatus of the federal government gave us all hope that E Pluribus Unum might mean something after all.

Some news summaries of the Act and its impact:

National Public Radio

Los Angeles Times


Wall Street Journal


Now What?

June 30, 2014

First, if for some reason it has to be repeated: elections matter; they have consequences.

Consider how the Supreme Court would have held, not only in the Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn cases decided today, but in Columbia v. Heller (which, for the first time, said an individual has a right to own a gun irrespective of the “well-regulated militia” section of the Second Amendment), McDonald v. Chicago (which over-rode local gun laws), Citizens United and FEC v. Wisconsin Right-to-Life (which weakened campaign finance laws), Shelby County v. Holder (which eviscerated the Voting Rights Act), Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (which upheld Indiana’s voter ID law), or in several other cases, had Al Gore filled the two seats now held by John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

In many of those cases, the Republican majority became “activist judges,” the kind the Right is supposed to detest, and either ignored or overturned long-held precedent. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing; Brown v. Board of Education overturned decades of precedent condoning segregation. But this Court, or at least it’s Republican-appointed male majority, has made activism a standard practice.

Yes, the present Court has upheld the EPA on emissions, and required warrants for searches of cell phones, but a Gore-appointed Court would have done the same thing. It might not even have granted cert on Citizens United, and even if it had, it would not have expanded the case to strike a blow at campaign finance reform.

I recall all too clearly Naderites back in 2000 arguing there was no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, that they were both bought and paid-for by corporations. Michael Moore, in particular, said he was sick of hearing people warning about the Supreme Court. How d’ya like the Court now, Michael?

While Dems do not have a sterling progressive record (witness NAFTA, welfare “reform,” and deregulation of the financial industry), had they held the White House and Congress, the ruinous tax cuts passed under Bush II would not have happened; we would not have gone to a trumped war in Iraq (and perhaps not ignored the CIA’s specific warning about 9/11); and we certainly have not seen the kinds of holdings that have come down from the Supreme Court since Roberts and Alito took their seats.

I’ve read bloggers claiming today’s decisions will be rallying cries for Democrats in the fall and in 2016, especially women. We’ll see. We’d better hope so.

Holding the Senate is the first order of business. Mitch McConnell has already promised, among other things, an assault on a woman’s right to choose should the Rs take over that chamber. Of course, if they lack 60 votes, Dems will be able to bottle things up, just as the Rs have since Obama was elected. But why even give them the opening?

As for 2016, consider that four justices are over 70–Breyer, Ginsberg, Scalia and Kennedy. The next president may well have four openings to fill.


Happy Birthday, Eva Boyd!

June 29, 2014

C’mon, c’mon, do the Loco-Motion with me!

Yes, that’s a Carole King/Gerry Coffin song.


June 29th, 1955 – Rock Around the Clock Goes #1

June 29, 2014

See ya later, alligator,


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