The Anatomy of a Wooden Ship: Part 3- The Ropes

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Built in Galicia in 1460, La Santa Maria de Inmaculada Conception was a carrack that served as Christopher Columbus’s flagship on his monumental 1492 voyage. While the carrack was slower compared to the Nina and Pinta, it did well on its Atlantic voyage, it ran aground and sank near what is present day Haiti in December of that year.

So now we have the sails and masts, we move onto the ropes. While the sails propel the ship and the masts carry the sails, the ropes hold the masts and sails together in the rigging. Now the rigging is a system of ropes, cables, chains supporting the ship’s masts and sails. There’s standing rigging including shrouds and stays which adjust the sails’ position and poles they’re attached to. Then there’s the running rigging which consists of halyards, braces, sheets, and vangs. The ropes also put the sails in working order, which can be lifted, reefed, and furled in whenever the windy conditions permit.

The Ropes:

Backstay- stay extending from the ship’s mastheads to its side and provides lateral support to the mast in a fore-and-aft rigged ship.

Becket- a rope with a knot on one end and an eye on the other. Used to secure loose ropes, spars, or oars.

Bight- the loop or double part created in a rope or strand of a rope when folded. Often used in creating complex knots.

Bitter End- the inboard end of a rope or anchor cable.

Block or pulley- a wooden or metal case in which one or more sheaves (rollers) are fitted through which lines can run to either increase purchase or change direction. In the 17th and 18th centuries, block pins were often made of greenheart.

Bobstay- rope used on ship to steady the bowsprit.

Boltrope- strong rope stitched to a sail’s outer edges to prevent tearing.

Bowline- rope used to keep a square sail’s weather leech to haul it forward, allowing the ship to point as high into the wind as possible.

Brace- a rope by which a yard is swung around and secured to shift a sail into a favorable position to the wind and the course of a square-rigged ship.

Brails or leech lines- ropes on a sail’s edge for hauling up.

Breeching Rope- a thick and heavy rope used to secure a cannon to the ship’s side for controlling and limiting gunfire recoil. Often wound around the cannon’s cascable and looped through both of a gun carriage’s sides. Both ends had an eye-splice which connected the gun to heavy ringbolt attached to the ship’s side. As a rule of thumb, it was 3 times the length of the gun barrel and could be 6 ½ inches in diameter for a large gun like a 32 pounder.

Bull Rope- rope used for hoisting the topmast or topgallant mast in a square-rigged ship.

Buntline- rope attached to a square sail’s foot to haul it up to the yard while keeping it from opening up. Normally there were multiple evenly-spaced buntlines leading through blocks on a yard to the foot of a square sail bent to that yard.

Buntline Hitch- a knot used to tie a buntline to a square sail’s foot.

Cable- a heavy rope or chain for mooring or anchoring. Can also be a naval unit of distance.

Catblock- block with 2 or 3 sheaves and with an iron strap and hook attached, used to draw the anchor the catshead.

Chip Log- a wood piece tied to a knotted cord. A ship’s speed was measured by counting the number of knots passing over the stern while being timed.

Clew Line- a line used for hauling up the clews when furling sail.

Clove Hitch- a knot used to tie and secure ratlines to the shrouds.

Cordage- ropes in a ship’s rigging.

Crowfoot- rigging to even the pull or load on the spars, stays, and leeches. Often more decorative than purposeful. Used on the mast tops until 1800.

Dandy-Rig- name used a for a variety of rigs, most often a ketch or yawl-rig.

Deadeye- a round or triangular hardwood block with one or more holes and a grooved perimeter. Used to set up a ship’s stays and shrouds. Most common thought of variety was said to have 3 holes.

Double Block- a tackle block with 2 sheaves located side by side.

Downhaul- rope for holding down or hauling down a sail or spar.

Earing- rope used for fastening a square sail’s top corners to its yard. Can also be an eye spliced into a sail’s boltrope for reefing purposes.

Eye- a circular loop at the shroud or stay’s end.

Fack- a full circle of any rope or cable.

Fisherman’s Knot- a not used to secure a line’s end to a ring or spar. Made by 2 turns with end passed back under both.

Footrope- a rope in a square-rigged ship suspended below a yard on which the topmen stood while furling or reefing sails.

Forestay- stay leading from the foremast to the ship’s bow.

Futtock Shroud- a shroud used to brace and support the topmast’s base, running downward and inward from the futtock base on the topmast base sides to the futtock band around the mast or directly to the lower shroud.

Gammoning- a heavy rope for securing the bowsprit to the ship’s stem.

Girtline- a rope passing through a block hung from a mast or masthead for hoisting relatively light loads such as a flag, tools, and weapons.

Halyard- a line used to hoist a sail, spar, or flag.

Hank- a series of rings or clips for attaching a jib or staysail to a stay.

Hawser- a heavy cable or rope that’s used for tying up or pulling a ship.

Hogging Truss- a rope or chain running front to back and tightened by a Spanish windlass and fastened to prevent stem and stern from sagging.

Jack-Block- a pulley system for raising topgallant masts.

Jeer- heavy tackle used for hoisting lower yards in square-rigged ships.

Jib Sheet- sheet or line controlling the jib sail.

Jigger- a 5ft long rope piece with a block at one end and a sheave at the other. Used to pull back tension at the cable’s hind part, when it’s pulled aboard ship by a windlass.

Jumper- a stay leading from the jib-boom’s outer edge to the dolphin striker.

Jury Rig- a temporary rig used to replace a damage mast or spar.

Lanyard- a short rope used on a ship for fastening things such as sails.

Lift- a rope in a square-rigged ship leading from the masthead, crosstrees, or cap to a yard’s either end for support.

Limber Rope- a rope threaded into the limber holes running the ship’s length. Pulled back and forth to keep the limber holes from plugging.

Line- rope.

Main Sheet- the rope controlling the angle at which a main sail is trimmed and set.

Main Stay- stay extending from the foremast’s main-top to its foot.

Man Rope- rope used as a ship’s handrail.

Martingale- a stay running from the jib-boom end to the dolphin striker, holding the jib-boom down against the fore topgallant mast stay’s pull.

Masthead Knot- a knot around the jury-rigged masthead intended to provide for stays attachment points.

Nave Line- a small tackle used to keep the parrel directly opposite to the yard, particularly while raising or lowering, (as it would otherwise hang under the yard), and prevent it from being sufficiently braced.

Nipper- a short length of rope used to bind an anchor cable.

Oakum- small old rope pieces used for filling holes in ship’s sides.

Outhaul- rope used to haul a sail taut along a spar.

Painter- a rope attached to the ship’s front used for tying it to a post. Used to control a smaller boat while loading or unloading from a beach.

Parrel- an arrangement of rollers and flat wood pieces held together with rope. Used to hold a yard against a mast while allowing it to be raised and lowered. Sometimes all the yards or some of the lighter, upper yards were held to the mast with ropes called parrel lashings.

Preventer- a rope backing-up another line or rope under extra strain to prevent the latter from breaking or giving way.

Quail- coil.

Quarter Netting- netting along the quarter rails.

Ratlines- horizontal lines running along the shrouds to create a ladder for the crew to use in getting to the rigging, tops, and yards.

Reef Points- short tapered rope lengths located across and reeved through the sail which can be tied together or hauled onto a yard to keep part of the sail out of use in strong winds. Reinforced with reef bands to keep sail from tearing.

Reef Tackle- a tackle for hauling up reef bands onto a yard and thus lessening the effective sail area in strong winds.

Rigging- all the ropes, chains, wires, and tackle used to support the masts and yards for hoisting, lowering, or trimming sails.

Roband- yarn piece used to fasten a sail to a spar.

Rode- an anchor length or chain.

Rolling Hitch- a knot to secure and attach one rope to another.

Rope- any flexible heavy cord to over an inch in diameter. Tightly intertwined fibers used in ship ropes were hemp, manila, sisal, and coir.

Running Rigging- name given to all the lines, ropes, and chains controlling sails, yards, and masts or all the rigging except for the shrouds and stays.

Sail Burton- a block and tackle extending from the topmast’s head to the deck of a square-rigged ship. Used for hoisting the sails aloft when they were bent to the yards.

Sheepshank- a knot shortening a line. Should remain under tension to be secure.

Sheet- rope running from the bottom aft the corner of a sail that’s used for controlling the sail on a ship and can be adjusted to the wind.

Shroud- standing rigging giving lateral and aft support to the masts.

Standing Rigging- name given to all the ropes and chains used to support the yards and bowsprits like the shrouds and stays.

Stay- part of the standing rigging supporting a mast in a fore-and-aft rigged ship. Forestays provide forward support while backstays provide support from the rear.

Tackle- a system of ropes and blocks for raising and lowering weights of rigging and pulleys for applying tension and gaining mechanical advantage.

Timber Hitch- a knot used for fastening around a spar to be hoisted. Tightens under strain and releases easily when slackened.

Timenoguy- rope stretched from one place to another on a ship.

Toggle- a fastener consisting of a peg or crosspiece inserted into an eye of a rope end in order to attache it to something.

Topping Lift- a rope running from the back boom end through a masthead block and down to the cleat at the mast’s foot. Used for holding up the boom when the main sail isn’t used.

Triple Sister- a pulley block with 3 sheaves side by side in the same housing.

Turk’s Head- a knot resembling a turban. Worked on a rope with a small line piece.

Tye- a chain or rope hoisted onto a yard on a mast. One end passed through the mast and was secured to the yard’s center. The other end was attached to a tackle for hoisting.

Voyol- a looped rope used to unmoor or hoist the ship’s anchor. Since it was a thinner, lighter, and more pliable than an anchor cable, it was easier to wind around the capstan and more convenient to use the voyol to hoist in the larger, stiffer, anchor cables by seizing thin, removable lines called nippers.

Wale Knot- a large knot created by untwisting the rope end strands and interweaving them.

Warp-Anchor Rope- rope reserved for attaching the anchor. Usually made of hemp and normally 3 times the water depth.

Whipping- a binding on a rope end to prevent it from unraveling.

Woolding- a rope around a mast or yard, often where it’s been fished or scarfed in order to strengthen it.

Yard Horse- ropes slung under a yard from the lift to the yardarm on which sailors or top men stood while reefing or furling sails.

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The Anatomy of a Wooden Ship: Part 2- The Masts

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Built in 1784 and acquired by the British Royal Navy in 1787 for a botanical mission, the HMS Bounty was sent to the Pacific Ocean under the command of Captain William Bligh to acquire breadfruit for transport to the British West Indies. But the mission was never completed due to a mutiny led by acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian in an incident known as the Mutiny on the Bounty. Christian, the mutineers, and their native allies would later burn the Bounty after mooring it on Pitcarin Island.

Well, we’re off to a good start in this series. While the sails make the ship go with the wind, they’d fly of the ship if they weren’t strung to long, tall masts. These are tall poles erected more or less vertically on the ship’s centerline. These are meant to carry sails and spars while giving necessary height to a navigation light, look-out position, signal yard, or signal mast. Large wooden ships had several of these with size and configuration depending on their styles. Until the mid-19th century, all ship’s masts were made out of wood formed from a single or several pieces of timber, mainly consisting of a conifer tree trunk. From the 16th century, ships were often built of a size requiring taller and thicker masts than could be made from a single tree trunk. On these larger ships, to achieve the necessary height, the masts were built from up to 4 sections (also called masts), known in order of rising height above the decks as the lower, top, topgallant, and royal masts. Giving the lower sections sufficient thickness necessitated building up separate wood pieces. Such section was known as a made mast as oppose to masts formed by single pieces of timber known as pole masts.

The Masts and Poles:

Bibb- a wooden bracket supporting trestle trees.

Bonaventure Mizzenmast- small and furthest from the mizzenmast that’s often seen on larger galleons.

Boom- a horizontal pole along the mast’s bottom edge to where it’s fastened. Used for holding and extending the sail as well as changing its direction.

Cap- wooden mast top through which the mast is drawn when being stepped or lowered. Often made of elm.

Crow’s Nest- a small platform near the top of a mast, sometimes enclosed, where a lookout could have a better view when watching for sails or land.

Crosstree- a light oak timber spreader fixed across the trestle trees at the lower mast and top mast’s upper ends. Supported the topmast and topgallant mast shrouds.

Fid- a bar of wood or iron taking the topmast weight when it’s stepped on the lower mast. When a topmast hole corresponds with one in the lower mast, the fid is driven through to hold them together.

Fish- a wood piece, somewhat resembling a fish, used to strengthen a mast or yard.

Forebitt- post for fastening cables at ship’s foremast.

Foremast- the ship’s front mast located nearest to the bow.

Futtock Plates- plates of wood or iron where topmast shroud deadeyes were secured.

Gaff- a swinging spar where the head of a 4-sided fore-and-aft sail is attached and used to extend it away from a mast supporting it. When a gaff is hoisted, it carries up the sail with it. Normally takes 2 halyards to hoist a gaff-rigged sail.

Gooseneck- a fitting attaching the boom to a mast of fore-and-aft rigged ship, allowing the boom to swing sideways. Or the join between the whipstaff and the tiller.

Heel- the mast’s lower end. Also the keel’s back end.

Hoop- wooden ring securing a sail’s luff to a mast that slide up and down when it’s hoisted or lowered in a fore-and-aft rigged ship.

Horn- fixture securing a gaff to a mast but could slide up or down.

Hound- a large timber support bracket location directly below the masthead that supports the trestle trees and top.

Jack-Cross-Tree- a single iron cross-tree at a topgallant mast’s head.

Jack Staff- a short staff at ship’s bow from which the jack is hoisted.

Jackstay- an iron or wooden bar running along ship’s yard to which the sails are fastened.

Jackyard- spar used to spread the foot of a gaff-topsail.

Jib Stick- a spar used to hold out the jib when sailing almost directly downwind or in light airs when the jib may otherwise flap or collapse. The outboard end may have a U shape to take the jib to take a jib sheet or a point to go into the clew. The inboard end may be fastened or held at some convenient point such as a side stay or a purpose made fitting.

Jury Mast- a temporary or makeshift mast erected whenever the mainmast had been destroyed.

Lower Mast- the main mast body rising up from a ship and the complete mast’s first division.

Lubber’s Hole- the floor opening of the fore, main, and mizzen mast tops of square-rigged ships, giving access to the topmasts from below.

Main or main mast- the longest and primary mast located at the ship’s middle. On a 2-masted ship, it’s always the tallest mast.

Mast- a large vertical pole set in a ship used to attach further yards and spars to carry sails. A mast is taken through the hole in the decks and fitted onto the keelson step.

Made Mast- a mast made in sections from separate pieces of timber.

Mast Cheek- one of a pair of support brackets directly below the masthead’s trestle trees.

Masthead- mast top.

Mast Step- an often-strengthened socket used to take the mast’s downward thrust and hold it in position. May be on the keel or the deck on a smaller ship.

Mizzenmast- usually the third and/or furthest mast on a square-rigged ship or a 3 masted schooner. Also the furthest mast on a 2-masted ship like a ketch or yawl.

Pole-Mast- an uninterrupted single spar mast. Has no topmast nor topgallant mast.

Royalmast- the mast next above the topgallant mast and the fourth division of a complete mast.

Sheer Pole- a horizontal rod parallel to ratlines attached to the shrouds’ base just above the deadeyes to keep shrouds from twisting while they were being set up and tensioned.

Spar- a wooden pole used for supporting the rigging and sails such as a boom, gaff, yard, mast, or bowsprit.

Spreader- a metal bar used in a square-rigged ship’s foremast to give more spread to the fore sails’ tacks.

Sprit- a long spar stretching diagonally across a fore-and-aft sail to support the peak.

Top or fighting top- a masthead platform used to extend the topmast shrouds to provide the topmast additional support. Early tops were often enclosed and basket-like while later tops were always open. Was a great platform for look-out and for snipers and archers to take aim from.

Topgallant Mast or l’gallant- the mast above the topmast on a square-rigged ship. The third division of a complete mast.

Topmast- the mast above the lower mast. The second division of a complete mast. Highest mast in a fore-and-aft rigged ship.

Trestle Tree- oak timbers horizontally fixed back and forth on a lower and upper masthead of a square-rigged ship. Used to support the topmast or topgallant mast, the lower and upper crosstrees, and the top. Normally rests on the lower mast’s cheeks or a topmast’s hounds.

Truck- a wooden top of a mast, staff, or flag pole.

Vangs- braces supporting the mizzen mast gaff to keep it steady. Connected to the gaff’s outer end, they reach downwards to the ship’s furthest side, where they’re hooked and fashioned. They’re slackened when the wind is fair and drawn in when the gaff’s position is unfavorable to the ship’s course.

Yard – a long tapering spar on a square-rigged ship slung to a mast and spread the head of a square sail, lugsail, or lateen and forward from the shrouds. Each square sail hangs from its own yard. Seamen furl the sails by bending over the yard as they use both hands hauling the sail. The sail is trimmed to the wind by braces leading from the yard arms back or forward to another mast or down to the deck.

Yardarm- the main yard across the mast holding up the sail or either end of the yard on a square sail. The yardarm is a vulnerable target in combat and a favorite place to hang prisoners or enemies. Also a yard’s outward end.

The Anatomy of a Wooden Ship: Part 1- The Sails

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Here is a painting of the USS Constitution, affectionately known as “Old Ironsides,” due to its prowess during the War of 1812 where it defeated 5 British warships. Built in the 1790s, this heavily armed frigate is the world’s oldest commissioned naval ship that’s still afloat. Though today it sits in Boston Harbor as a museum piece taking part in ceremonies, educational programs and historic reenactments with a US Navy crew of 60.

You see these ships in hit swashbuckling pirate movie as they float like castles on the waves with their intricate wooden facades and graceful sails blowing in the wind. But while movies tend to glamorize life on a wooden ship as full of glorious naval engagements, swashbuckling pirates, bold explorers, and trips to exotic islands with either nubile native women or cannibals, the reality of living on these ships wasn’t as fun as movies make it out to be. For one, life on a wooden ship often included bad food filled with weevils, unsanitary conditions, nasty diseases, rat infestations, lots of shit, hours of boredom, horrifying injuries and medical care, sexism, classism, and not a woman in sight. Not to mention, voyages could last years, punishments were harsh with keelhauling or flogging, lots of drinking and impressment, and other hellish things. Oh, and the pirates, well, they’re basically gangsters raiding merchant ships who were drunks who didn’t bathe or shave for months and were more often than not riddled with STDs and bad teeth. From the early modern period to the mid-19th century, wooden sailing ships dominated the waves in an era called The Age of Sail. Harnessing the power of winds and current, these ships helped kick start an age of exploration, globalization, colonialism, international trade, great naval battles, smallpox, racism, and slavery. Yet, even so, we all muse about the glorious sailing ships across the sea in their full sail glory while the men onboard seem to have a knack for adventure.

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The HMS Victory was launched in 1765 and is first rate ship of the line with its 104 guns. It’s best known as Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 which has gone down in history as one of Great Britain’s greatest Royal Navy victories. While the Victory survived the battle since it’s been on drydock as a museum ship since 1922, Lord Nelson did not.

I kick off this wooden ship series with the defining sails from a wooden sailing ship. And boy, did these ships have a ton of them tied to the masts and help propel the ship with the wind. Now sailing along the water has been around at least since the 6th millennium BCE with archaeological remains found from excavations into Cucuteni-Trypillian culture and of the Ubaid period in Mesopotamia. Ancient Egyptians and Sumerians used square rig boats as early 3200 BCE and it’s believed they established sea trading routes as far as the Indus Valley. Yet, for much of ancient times and the medieval period, many of the large sailing ships were man-powered galleys a la Ben Hur. Triangular fore-and-aft rig were invented in the Mediterranean as single-yarded lateen sails and began as a convention in southern Europe as the gentle climate made its use practical. And in a few centuries in Italy before the Renaissance, it began replacing the square rig which had dominated Europe since the dawn of sea travel. Yet, despite having seen it in trade and during the Crusades, Northern Europeans were resistant to adopting the fore-and-aft rig. But the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration changed this. From 1475, their use increased and within a century, the fore-and-aft rig was commonly used on boats on rivers and estuaries in Britain, northern France, and Low Countries. Though square rigs remain standard for harsher conditions of the open North Sea as well as in trans-Atlantic sailing. Yet, even those had some fore-and-aft sails for navigational purposes.

The Sails:

Bonnet- extra canvas strip fixed to the foot of a fore-and-aft sail.

Bunt- middle of a square sail.

Clew- corner sail with hole attached to ropes.

Course Sail- the largest and lowest square sail on a mast.

Cringle- a sail’s corner loop where lines are attached.

Cross Jack- the lowest square sail or the mizzen mast’s lower yard.

Drabler- an additional ship canvas attached to the bonnet’s foot of a fore-and-aft sail.

Driver- a large sail suspended from the mizzen gaff. Can also be a jib-headed spanker.

Flying Jib- the outermost triangular fore-and-aft sail. Extends beyond the jib and is carried on a stay attached to a flying jib-boom.

Foot- a sail’s bottom edge.

Fore-and-Aft-Sail- a triangular sail behind mast, attached to a gaff and boom parallel with a keel.

Foresail- lowest sail set on the foremast on a square-rigged ship.

Gaff-Topsail- a triangular topsail with its foot extended upon the gaff.

Genoa- a large jib overlapping the mainsail.

Head- top edge of a 4-sided sail. Can also be the area in front of the forecastle and beak. May be proper term for a ship’s toilet.

Headsail- sail set forward of the ship’s foremast.

Jackyard Topsail- a triangular topsail set above the mainsail in a gaff-rigged ship.

Jib- a small triangular fore-and-aft sail carried on a stay near the ship’s front stretching from the top foremast to the bow or bowsprit.

Lateen Sail- a triangular fore-and-aft sail, set on a long yard at an angle to a relatively short mast. Sometimes supported with boom.

Leech- a square sail’s vertical edge and a fore-and-aft sail’s afterside.

Loose-Footed- a fore-and-aft sail set without a boom such as most jibs.

Luff- a fore-and-aft sail’s leading forward edge. Also to bring a ship’s bow closer to the wind, usually to decrease the headsails’ power.

Lugsail-a quadrilateral sail lacking a boom, has a foot larger than the head, and is bent to a yard hanging obliquely on the mast.

Main Sail- the ship’s principal and largest sail. In square-rigged ships, it’s the lowest sail on the Main Mast.

Mizzen- sail behind or on top the ship’s main sail. Can also be a 3-masted ship.

Moonraker- a small light sail set above the skysail on a square-rigged ship.

Peak- the upper far corner of a four-sided, gaff-rigged, fore-and-aft sail.

Reef Band- an extra canvas strip attached across a sail to strengthen it where the reef points are located.

Roach- curved cut in sail’s edge to prevent chafing.

Royal- a small sail on a royal mast just above the topgallant sail. Normally the fourth sail in ascending order from the deck.

Sail- a cloth or canvas piece or combination of pieces cut and sewn together to the desired shape and size attached to a ship’s spars and/or rigging. Used for catching wind and propelling the ship. Often repaired at sea or at anchor in a secluded bay thousands of miles from home. Could be quite a patchwork of different material pieces.

Skysail- a small square sail above the royal on a square-rigged ship. Normally the fifth sail in the ascending order from the deck.

Skyscraper- triangular sail above the skysail in fair weather.

Spanker- a fore-and-aft sail on the aftermost mast, bent with a gaff and boom.

Spinnaker- a large triangular sail opposite the main sail.

Sprit Sail- a square or fore-and-aft sail extended by a sprit.

Square Sail- a four-sided sail set from a yard and hanging symmetrically across the mast.

Stay Sail- a triangular fore-and-aft sail set by attaching it to a stay.

Studding Sails- square sails rigged to extra yards that are lashed and extra further out from the primary yards. Typically extended the width of the sails on a square-rigged ship.

Stun Sail- a light auxiliary sail to the principal sails’ sides.

Tack- the lower forward corner of a fore-and-aft sail. Can be the rope used to hold the lower course corners and staysails on the weather side of a square-rigged ship or a line used to pull a studding sail’s lower corner to its boom. Or can be to change course on a ship by shifting the helm and sails’ position.

Throat- the upper foremost corner of a fore-and-aft sail.

Topgallant Sail- the sail set above the topsail and third sail in the ascending order from deck on a square-rigged mast. Later 19th century ships may carry a lower topgallant sail and an upper topgallant sail.

Topsail- a square sail set above the lowest sail on the mast of a square-rigged ship and is the second sail in ascending order from the deck. Can also be a triangular or square sail set above the gaff of a lower sail on a fore-and-aft-rigged ship. But while it’s usually the second sail in ascending order from deck on a fore-and-aft rigged ship, it can sometimes be the third.

Trysail- a small fore-and-aft sail used during storm conditions and placed instead of the regular sail. Usually hoisted on a lower mast.

“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass

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On July 5, 1852, the famed American abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered a speech in Rochester, New York’s Corinthian Hall. Making this speech in front of then US President Millard Fillmore and other notable figures in the country, Douglass equates the treatment of slaves of that of the Americans under British rule and persuades them to help the slaves break free like they helped themselves. Like today, the concept of oppression is a strong one for Americans everywhere, which Douglass doesn’t tread lightly. In fact, he uses the country’s rich but then short history to show Americans how badly they treat their fellow countrymen in bondage. While he reminds them they were once treated as slaves, he stresses his view that slaves and Americans are the same and they’re fighting the same fight as they did back in the 1770s. And since slaves are human beings, they should be treated as such. In addition, while Douglass doesn’t speak against religion in general, he does criticize white American Christianity and how white Christian churches deal with slavery in which he expresses outrage on many sects’ utter lack of responsibility and egregious religious hypocrisy. But he believes that the United States doesn’t have to stay the way it is. The country can progress like it did before during the American Revolution and through religion, which he sees as the problem as well as the main solution. At least once people realize that they aren’t living true to what they say they believe and what the Bible actually says. Since while white Americans may be so proud of their country while rejoicing freedom and liberty, they deny these very things to millions of its residents.

Given that Douglass was born and raised a slave and among the few who was educated and broke free, he gives this speech as a fellow US citizen and a slave fighting for freedom for everyone.While the US is said to be built on the idea of freedom and liberty, Douglass shows that it’s more than anything built on inconsistencies that have been overlooked for so long that they now look like truths. And because of these inconsistencies in the country’s way of duty, it’s made the name “The United States of America,” one of mockery and often held in contempt. But if the nation just abolished slavery and give rights to all Americans, it will no longer be the case. Nonetheless, in the end, Douglass keeps his hope and faith in humanity high since he believes slavery’s end is near and that you can’t stop progress. For knowledge is too available and appeasing to shoo away when its services are inconvenient. And he believes that Americans will soon open their eyes and see the atrocities they’ve been inflicting on their fellow countrymen.

While slavery may be over for 150 years, its appalling legacy still remains in racism, oppression, mass incarceration, and discrimination. Today, the United States is under the leadership of a contemptible man who cares nothing for the country for which he leads nor its people. With Donald Trump in the White House undermining our democracy, poisoning our public discourse, smearing our institutions, crippling our government, debasing our sacred values, inflicting terror on the marginalized and putting us through a horrifying nightmare nobody can escape from, celebrating the Fourth of July doesn’t inspire the same patriotic spirit it once had. Even worse, people I know and care about continue to support this unrepentant con artist who’ll only swindle them in the end if he hasn’t already, which only riles me with anger, outrage, and disgust. I’ve copied and pasted this speech on this post for you since it reflects the mixed feelings many Americans like myself have in regards to the present state of affairs at this very dark time.

 

Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens: He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country school houses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for it is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall, seems to free me from embarrassment.

The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable — and the difficulties to be overcome in getting from the latter to the former, are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say, I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence, I will proceed to lay them before you.

This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands.

According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young. Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.

Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is that, 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your “sovereign people” (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgement, it deemed wise, right and proper.

But, your fathers, who had not adopted the fashionable idea of this day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, presumed to differ from the home government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to. I scarcely need say, fellow-citizens, that my opinion of those measures fully accords with that of your fathers. Such a declaration of agreement on my part would not be worth much to anybody. It would, certainly, prove nothing, as to what part I might have taken, had I lived during the great controversy of 1776. To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy.

Everybody can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England towards the American Colonies. It is fashionable to do so; but there was a time when to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day, plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right, against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.

Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by the home government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress. They petitioned and remonstrated; they did so in a decorous, respectful, and loyal manner. Their conduct was wholly unexceptionable. This, however, did not answer the purpose. They saw themselves treated with sovereign indifference, coldness and scorn. Yet they persevered. They were not the men to look back.

As the sheet anchor takes a firmer hold, when the ship is tossed by the storm, so did the cause of your fathers grow stronger, as it breasted the chilling blasts of kingly displeasure. The greatest and best of British statesmen admitted its justice, and the loftiest eloquence of the British Senate came to its support. But, with that blindness which seems to be the unvarying characteristic of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned in the Red Sea, the British Government persisted in the exactions complained of.

The madness of this course, we believe, is admitted now, even by England; but we fear the lesson is wholly lost on our present rulers.

Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity. With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression. Just here, the idea of a total separation of the colonies from the crown was born! It was a startling idea, much more so, than we, at this distance of time, regard it. The timid and the prudent (as has been intimated) of that day, were, of course, shocked and alarmed by it.

Such people lived then, had lived before, and will, probably, ever have a place on this planet; and their course, in respect to any great change, (no matter how great the good to be attained, or the wrong to be redressed by it), may be calculated with as much precision as can be the course of the stars. They hate all changes, but silver, gold and copper change! Of this sort of change they are always strongly in favor.

These people were called tories in the days of your fathers; and the appellation, probably, conveyed the same idea that is meant by a more modern, though a somewhat less euphonious term, which we often find in our papers, applied to some of our old politicians.

Their opposition to the then dangerous thought was earnest and powerful; but, amid all their terror and affrighted vociferations against it, the alarming and revolutionary idea moved on, and the country with it.

On the 2d of July, 1776, the old Continental Congress, to the dismay of the lovers of ease, and the worshipers of property, clothed that dreadful idea with all the authority of national sanction. They did so in the form of a resolution; and as we seldom hit upon resolutions, drawn up in our day, whose transparency is at all equal to this, it may refresh your minds and help my story if I read it.

“Resolved, That these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.”

Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history — the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.

Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

From the round top of your ship of state, dark and threatening clouds may be seen. Heavy billows, like mountains in the distance, disclose to the leeward huge forms of flinty rocks! That bolt drawn, that chain broken, and all is lost. Cling to this day — cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.
The coming into being of a nation, in any circumstances, is an interesting event. But, besides general considerations, there were peculiar circumstances which make the advent of this republic an event of special attractiveness.

The whole scene, as I look back to it, was simple, dignified and sublime.

The population of the country, at the time, stood at the insignificant number of three millions. The country was poor in the munitions of war. The population was weak and scattered, and the country a wilderness unsubdued. There were then no means of concert and combination, such as exist now. Neither steam nor lightning had then been reduced to order and discipline. From the Potomac to the Delaware was a journey of many days. Under these, and innumerable other disadvantages, your fathers declared for liberty and independence and triumphed.

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too — great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.

They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final;” not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.

How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defence. Mark them!

Fully appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you.

Of this fundamental work, this day is the anniversary. Our eyes are met with demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm. Banners and pennants wave exultingly on the breeze. The din of business, too, is hushed. Even Mammon seems to have quitted his grasp on this day. The ear-piercing fife and the stirring drum unite their accents with the ascending peal of a thousand church bells. Prayers are made, hymns are sung, and sermons are preached in honor of this day; while the quick martial tramp of a great and multitudinous nation, echoed back by all the hills, valleys and mountains of a vast continent, bespeak the occasion one of thrilling and universal interests nation’s jubilee.

Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker. The causes which led to the separation of the colonies from the British crown have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in your common schools, narrated at your firesides, unfolded from your pulpits, and thundered from your legislative halls, and are as familiar to you as household words. They form the staple of your national poetry and eloquence.

I remember, also, that, as a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor. This is esteemed by some as a national trait — perhaps a national weakness. It is a fact, that whatever makes for the wealth or for the reputation of Americans, and can be had cheap! will be found by Americans. I shall not be charged with slandering Americans, if I say I think the American side of any question may be safely left in American hands.

I leave, therefore, the great deeds of your fathers to other gentlemen whose claim to have been regularly descended will be less likely to be disputed than mine!

THE PRESENT.

My business, if I have any here to-day, is with the present. The accepted time with God and his cause is the ever-living now.

“Trust no future, however pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present,
Heart within, and God overhead.”

We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child’s share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This truth is not a doubtful one. There are illustrations of it near and remote, ancient and modern. It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, we have “Abraham to our father,” when they had long lost Abraham’s faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham’s great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great. Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country to-day? Need I tell you that the Jews are not the only people who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchres of the righteous? Washington could not die till he had broken the chains of his slaves. Yet his monument is built up by the price of human blood, and the traders in the bodies and souls of men, shout — “We have Washington to our father.” Alas! that it should be so; yet so it is.

“The evil that men do, lives after them,
The good is oft’ interred with their bones.”

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him?

Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave’s point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse;” I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgement is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, it is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less, would you persuade more, and rebuke less, your cause would be much more likely to succeed. But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia, which, if committed by a black man, (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgement that the slave is a moral, intellectual and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws, in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, there will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and cyphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively, and positively, negatively, and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and lo offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employments for my time and strength, than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is past.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

INTERNAL SLAVE TRADE

Take the American slave-trade, which, we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year, by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states, this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government, as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words, from the high places of the nation, as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade, as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the laws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our DOCTORS OF DIVINITY. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish themselves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass without condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.

Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh-jobbers, armed with pistol, whip and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field, and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-chilling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man, with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the centre of your soul! The crack you heard, was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard, was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow this drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shocking gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me citizens, WHERE, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.

I was born amid such sights and scenes. To me the American slave-trade is a terrible reality. When a child, my soul was often pierced with a sense of its horrors. I lived on Philpot Street, Fell’s Point, Baltimore, and have watched from the wharves, the slave ships in the Basin, anchored from the shore, with their cargoes of human flesh, waiting for favorable winds to waft them down the Chesapeake. There was, at that time, a grand slave mart kept at the head of Pratt Street, by Austin Woldfolk. His agents were sent into every town and county in Maryland, announcing their arrival, through the papers, and on flaming “hand-bills,” headed CASH FOR NEGROES. These men were generally well dressed men, and very captivating in their manners. Ever ready to drink, to treat, and to gamble. The fate of many a slave has depended upon the turn of a single card; and many a child has been snatched from the arms of its mother by bargains arranged in a state of brutal drunkenness.

The flesh-mongers gather up their victims by dozens, and drive them, chained, to the general depot at Baltimore. When a sufficient number have been collected here, a ship is chartered, for the purpose of conveying the forlorn crew to Mobile, or to New Orleans. From the slave prison to the ship, they are usually driven in the darkness of night; for since the antislavery agitation, a certain caution is observed.

In the deep still darkness of midnight, I have been often aroused by the dead heavy footsteps, and the piteous cries of the chained gangs that passed our door. The anguish of my boyish heart was intense; and I was often consoled, when speaking to my mistress in the morning, to hear her say that the custom was very wicked; that she hated to hear the rattle of the chains, and the heart-rending cries. I was glad to find one who sympathised with me in my horror.

Fellow-citizens, this murderous traffic is, to-day, in active operation in this boasted republic. In the solitude of my spirit, I see clouds of dust raised on the highways of the South; I see the bleeding footsteps; I hear the doleful wail of fettered humanity, on the way to the slave-markets, where the victims are to be sold like horses, sheep, and swine, knocked off to the highest bidder. There I see the tenderest ties ruthlessly broken, to gratify the lust, caprice and rapacity of the buyers and sellers of men. My soul sickens at the sight.

“Is this the land your Fathers loved,
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the earth whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?”

But a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of things remains to be presented.

By an act of the American Congress, not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, Mason & Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men, women, and children as slaves remains no longer a mere state institution, but is now an institution of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive with the star-spangled banner and American Christianity. Where these go, may also go the merciless slave-hunter. Where these are, man is not sacred. He is a bird for the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is hunting ground for men. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, but for men guilty of no crime. Your lawmakers have commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Your President, your Secretary of State, your lords, nobles, and ecclesiastics, enforce, as a duty you owe to your free and glorious country, and to your God, that you do this accursed thing. Not fewer than forty Americans have, within the past two years, been hunted down and, without a moment’s warning, hurried away in chains, and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives and children, dependent on them for bread; but of this, no account was made. The right of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights in this republic, the rights of God included! For black men there are neither law, justice, humanity, not religion. The Fugitive Slave Law makes MERCY TO THEM, A CRIME; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American JUDGE GETS TEN DOLLARS FOR EVERY VICTIM HE CONSIGNS to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side, is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world, that, in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America, the seats of justice are filled with judges, who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding in the case of a man’s liberty, hear only his accusers!

In glaring violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenceless, and in diabolical intent, this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation. I doubt if there be another nation on the globe, having the brass and the baseness to put such a law on the statute-book. If any man in this assembly thinks differently from me in this matter, and feels able to disprove my statements, I will gladly confront him at any suitable time and place he may select.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were not stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.

At the very moment that they are thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and for the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they are utterly silent in respect to a law which robs religion of its chief significance, and makes it utterly worthless to a world lying in wickedness. Did this law concern the “mint, anise and cummin”— abridge the right to sing psalms, to partake of the sacrament, or to engage in any of the ceremonies of religion, it would be smitten by the thunder of a thousand pulpits. A general shout would go up from the church, demanding repeal, repeal, instant repeal! And it would go hard with that politician who presumed to solicit the votes of the people without inscribing this motto on his banner.

Further, if this demand were not complied with, another Scotland would be added to the history of religious liberty, and the stern old Covenanters would be thrown into the shade. A John Knox would be seen at every church door, and heard from every pulpit, and Fillmore would have no more quarter than was shown by Knox, to the beautiful, but treacherous queen Mary of Scotland. The fact that the church of our country, (with fractional exceptions), does not esteem “the Fugitive Slave Law” as a declaration of war against religious liberty, implies that that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love and good will towards man. It esteems sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right doing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness. A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy, is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such persons as “scribes, pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe of mint, anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy and faith.”

THE CHURCH RESPONSIBLE

But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines. who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.

For my part, I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke, put together, have done! These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted thing, having neither principles of right action, nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty, and leave the throne of religion a huge, horrible, repulsive form. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man-stealers, and thugs. It is not that “pure and undefiled religion” which is from above, and which is “first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” But a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation — a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, “Bring no more vain ablations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea! when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. YOUR HANDS ARE FULL OF BLOOD; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgement; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”

The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in connection with its ability to abolish slavery. The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. Albert Barnes but uttered what the common sense of every man at all observant of the actual state of the case will receive as truth, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”

Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday school, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds; and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.

In prosecuting the anti-slavery enterprise, we have been asked to spare the church, to spare the ministry; but how, we ask, could such a thing be done? We are met on the threshold of our efforts for the redemption of the slave, by the church and ministry of the country, in battle arrayed against us; and we are compelled to fight or flee. From what quarter, I beg to know, has proceeded a fire so deadly upon our ranks, during the last two years, as from the Northern pulpit? As the champions of oppressors, the chosen men of American theology have appeared — men, honored for their so-called piety, and their real learning. The LORDS of Buffalo, the SPRINGS of New York, the LATHROPS of Auburn, the COXES and SPENCERS of Brooklyn, the GANNETS and SHARPS of Boston, the DEWEYS of Washington, and other great religious lights of the land, have, in utter denial of the authority of Him, by whom they professed to he called to the ministry, deliberately taught us, against the example of the Hebrews and against the remonstrance of the Apostles, they teach “that we ought to obey man’s law before the law of God.”

My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how such men can be supported, as the “standing types and representatives of Jesus Christ,” is a mystery which I leave others to penetrate. In speaking of the American church, however, let it be distinctly understood that I mean the great mass of the religious organizations of our land. There are exceptions, and I thank God that there are. Noble men may be found, scattered all over these Northern States, of whom Henry Ward Beecher of Brooklyn, Samuel J. May of Syracuse, and my esteemed friend on the platform, are shining examples; and let me say further, that upon these men lies the duty to inspire our ranks with high religious faith and zeal, and to cheer us on in the great mission of the slave’s redemption from his chains.

RELIGION IN ENGLAND AND RELIGION IN AMERICA

One is struck with the difference between the attitude of the American church towards the anti-slavery movement, and that occupied by the churches in England towards a similar movement in that country. There, the church, true to its mission of ameliorating, elevating, and improving the condition of mankind, came forward promptly, bound up the wounds of the West Indian slave, and restored him to his liberty. There, the question of emancipation was a high[ly] religious question. It was demanded, in the name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God. The Sharps, the Clarksons, the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, and Burchells and the Knibbs, were alike famous for their piety, and for their philanthropy. The anti-slavery movement there was not an anti-church movement, for the reason that the church took its full share in prosecuting that movement: and the anti-slavery movement in this country will cease to be an anti-church movement, when the church of this country shall assume a favorable, instead of a hostile position towards that movement. Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties), is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria, and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and bodyguards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation — a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty. You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen and orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her cause against her oppressors; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave, you would enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the subject of public discourse! You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a threepenny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard-earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare, before the world, and are understood by the world to declare, that you “hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; and that, among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;” and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.

Fellow-citizens! I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretence, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad; it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing, and a by word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. It fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet, you cling to it, as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!

THE CONSTITUTION

But it is answered in reply to all this, that precisely what I have now denounced is, in fact, guaranteed and sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States; that the right to hold and to hunt slaves is a part of that Constitution framed by the illustrious Fathers of this Republic.

Then, I dare to affirm, notwithstanding all I have said before, your fathers stooped, basely stooped

“To palter with us in a double sense:
And keep the word of promise to the ear,
But break it to the heart.”

And instead of being the honest men I have before declared them to be, they were the veriest imposters that ever practised on mankind. This is the inevitable conclusion, and from it there is no escape. But I differ from those who charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. It is a slander upon their memory, at least, so I believe. There is not time now to argue the constitutional question at length — nor have I the ability to discuss it as it ought to be discussed. The subject has been handled with masterly power by Lysander Spooner, Esq., by William Goodell, by Samuel E. Sewall, Esq., and last, though not least, by Gerritt Smith, Esq. These gentlemen have, as I think, fully and clearly vindicated the Constitution from any design to support slavery for an hour.

Fellow-citizens! there is no matter in respect to which, the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon, as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but, interpreted as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gateway? or is it in the temple? It is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can anywhere be found in it. What would be thought of an instrument, drawn up, legally drawn up, for the purpose of entitling the city of Rochester to a tract of land, in which no mention of land was made? Now, there are certain rules of interpretation, for the proper understanding of all legal instruments. These rules are well established. They are plain, common-sense rules, such as you and I, and all of us, can understand and apply, without having passed years in the study of law. I scout the idea that the question of the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of slavery is not a question for the people. I hold that every American citizen has a right to form an opinion of the constitution, and to propagate that opinion, and to use all honorable means to make his opinion the prevailing one. Without this right, the liberty of an American citizen would be as insecure as that of a Frenchman. Ex-Vice-President Dallas tells us that the constitution is an object to which no American mind can be too attentive, and no American heart too devoted. He further says, the constitution, in its words, is plain and intelligible, and is meant for the home-bred, unsophisticated understandings of our fellow-citizens. Senator Berrien tell us that the Constitution is the fundamental law, that which controls all others. The charter of our liberties, which every citizen has a personal interest in understanding thoroughly. The testimony of Senator Breese, Lewis Cass, and many others that might be named, who are everywhere esteemed as sound lawyers, so regard the constitution. I take it, therefore, that it is not presumption in a private citizen to form an opinion of that instrument.

Now, take the constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.

I have detained my audience entirely too long already. At some future period I will gladly avail myself of an opportunity to give this subject a full and fair discussion.

Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work The downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are, distinctly heard on the other. The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen, in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.”[13] In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights again
Restore.

God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But all to manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
THAT HOUR WILL, COME, to each, to all,
And from his prison-house, the thrall
Go forth.

Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive–
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost,
Be driven.

I Want You to View These Vintage Wartime Propaganda Posters (Third Edition)

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Every year around the 4th of July (at least for the last two years), I’ve done a post of these old timey war propaganda posters which have become pop culture icons and occasionally internet memes. However, in late June I had to attend a wedding in Minnesota while a bunch of crazy stuff went on in the Trump administration, which I had to catch up on when I came back. So I’m running a little late with this. Anyway, unlike some of the propaganda outlets of today like Brietbart or Fox News, these war time posters weren’t really meant to deceive. If anything, they were more like Public Service Announcements stating that, “we’re all in this together,” especially the ones pertaining to WWII when the threat to survival was very real. At any rate, the artwork is always interesting to look at which is why they’re still in our public consciousness long after the wars they originated in have been long over. So for your reading pleasure, I give you another treasury of good old-fashioned wartime propaganda posters.

  1. He does his bit for 4 years so you buy bonds.

Since he’s Scottish, he wears a kilt in his uniform. Yes, I know it’s part of his heritage. But it’s not a great clothing choice to wear in the trenches.

2. “Hit Hard and often with the Marines!”

Apparently, this means bombing the shit out of some Japanese city. To be fair, we were at war with them at the time. But I kind of hate seeing beautiful architecture reduced to ruin though.

3. To prevent loose heads, inspect daily.

Because you don’t want a hammer to lose its head and land on your foot. Since it hurts like hell.

4. Work in construction? Join the Seabees.

These are US naval construction battalions. Yet, they seem to have among the least badass names ever.

5. Fight for Canada and stab bayonets into fire breathing vultures.

Well, I guess the black bird symbolizes Germany. Yet, while the Canadian soldier will beat the crap out of them, he’ll be polite about it.

6. “Every Time You Twist a Nut, Think of Hitler.”

I know they mean this in a mechanical sense. But you can also make an inside joke out of it, too.

7. If you’re Filipino, thank Japan for invading you.

Yes, the Philippines was a US territory at the time. And Japan is pointing out the US is playing they’re liberators from the Imperial oppressors angle. However, history shows us that this psychological tactic didn’t work.

8. Got tin cans, send them to the war effort.

Don’t forget to take off the labels and flatten them. Because you don’t want the salvage collector to reject them.

9. Serve those who served, become a VA nurse.

So you can treat soldiers who might be missing limbs and are suffering from PTSD. Yet, please don’t ask them about them watching their friends die.

10. The Army Corps of Engineers always clears the way.

So join up and you, too, could be a giant GI that would make Captain America look like a sissy. You’ll also get giant equipment, too.

11. “You’ll buy ’em, we’ll fly ’em!”

For this dead-eyed pilot needs all the ammo he needs to shoot at Messerschmitt’s. Buy bond stamps, please.

12. Join the Signal Corps where skill and courage count.

Because there needs to be some kind of communication among the burning rubble of Western Europe. Though I’m not sure what kind of horn can be heard above machine gun fire.

13. Can’t fight? Send money!

This is for the Canadian Patriotic Fund. And yes, Canada actually fought in both world wars.

14. Blot out the Hun with Liberty Bonds.

As far as propaganda posters are concerned, this was the easiest to design. Just a red hand print and typeface and voila.

15. Don’t pick up sultry ladies, soldiers, since they’re loaded with disease.

Indeed, even warnings on VD won’t stop soldiers from picking up prostitutes. Because many of them might be dead in the next fight anyway.

16. Hold up your end and send bonds!

Yet, not sure if this would help the nurse holding one end of a stretcher. Also, it’s for a bond fundraiser.

17. Are you Irish and Canadian? Join up and fight for Mom!

I’m sorry, but Whistler was neither Irish or Canadian. But that didn’t stop Canadians from using his painting as a recruitment poster.

18. “Grind These Heels in Our Wheels of US Production!”

Nowadays we just use robots to make the stuff. Unless they require some technical skill and engineering.

19. Join the military police of the troops and for the troops.

If being a soldier isn’t tough enough for you, then become a military cop to make sure your fellow men aren’t killing each other on their off-hours. May or may not be able to stop officers from committing war crimes.

20. Join a Volunteer Agricultural Camp to lend a hand on the land.

However, you’re unlikely to find any hunky man on the farm who’s neither terribly disabled or suffering from PTSD. Because those guys are overseas.

21. You came to this country, now help us preserve it. Save your wheat and food.

To be fair, there ware a lot of immigrants during WWI. So the image is warranted if you think otherwise.

22. Be an American Eagle and join the Army Air Service.

Disclaimer: New pilots will only receive limited training before combat. Also, average time in the air is 20 minutes.

23. Know a trade? Build for your Navy.

Yes, this is another Seabees poster. But this one is for the yards and docks where combat opportunities are limited.

24. Support the troops, send more fish.

Because fighting the German menace is more important than thinking about overfishing. Since fish is a fighting food.

25. “Dad, I’m off to war so you buy bonds!”

Since Johnny will have to leave his elderly father sooner or later. He’ll be drafted if he doesn’t volunteer.

26. Remember to practice safe SECS.

Meaning if you’re a soldier fighting, don’t give away certain info related to your job. Because the enemy can intercept it.

27. “Do it right, make it bite!”

So make bombs the right way to shoot down the enemy planes. Kind of a disturbing message to send.

28. Keep New Orleans safe, don’t talk about ship sailings.

Because a slip of the lip can sink a ship. For you don’t know who in New Orleans can be working for the Nazis.

29. Join WAVES and work on parachute strings.

Because someone has to make the parachutes strings straight on those Navy planes. So they’ll make a woman do it.

30. Pour that molten metal on to make the planes.

For the planes can’t make themselves. Also, don’t forget to put on your safety equipment. Though shirts are optional for some reason.

31. Keep America calm and stop needless noise.

Well, that’s something I can still get behind. Yet, this poster is telling Americans not to panic when everything goes to shit.

32. See that dead soldier? Well, he’s gone because of careless talk.

So keep your mouth shut and the next group of soldiers would be parachuting down alive. Understand?

33. Support your country, save waste paper.

Not sure what they’d use the waste paper for. But they also give instruction for packing certain types.

34. When America’s under threat, Lady Liberty draws her sword.

When Lady Liberty draws her sword, it’s really going to go down. Just look what the US did during the world wars.

35. Support the war effort and keep that lumber coming.

Since soldiers need to use all the wood they can get. Though the ones in the Pacific might be surrounded by jungle.

36. When you show up for work, you’re punching Hitler’s face.

So keep punching in every day. However, be careful with the munitions equipment that could send you to the hospital.

37. To win the war, more women must go to work.

But once the war’s over, women must leave their jobs for the men and settle down to be happy housewives. Kind of sucks if you think about it.

38. Soldiers, beware of the Juke Joint Sniper.

She’s also known as a prostitute or whore. And yes, she’s loaded with STDs.

39. Uncle Sam’s not done fighting yet.

So, Japan is next. And that would mean the US will drop a couple nukes on it until the country surrenders.

40. Support your country, build bombs and buy bonds.

Let’s hope she doesn’t cause an accident. Though her face does evoke some sadistic glee akin to a serial killer.

41. Make sure you can load and unload those docks fast.

Got to get those goods for the troops quick. Else, we’ll end up with Fascism.

42. When Columbia calls, men must enlist.

Funny, we don’t even use Columbia as Liberty anymore. Yet, she wields a flag and sword.

43. Save your country, donate your binoculars to the US Navy.

Since us looking for enemy U-boats is more important than spying on the neighbors and birdwatching. So send your binoculars, please.

44. Don’t forget to prepare for air raid protection.

Since you’ll never know whether the Germans will bomb the shit out of your hometown. Just ask the Brits.

45. Remember, that pickups might be full of STDs.

And these were meant for your grandparents’ generation. So I guess many didn’t keep it in their pants for their sweethearts back home.

46. Help us win the war so save your food.

Because all your food waste can be used to feed some hungry soldiers. And we need them well-fed to win.

47. Join the sub service to hit the Japanese where it hurts.

So join up living with a bunch of other guys like you in a cramped space to bring down Japanese aircraft carriers. Still, not exactly a nice place to be at.

48. Free speech doesn’t mean careless talk.

So use your freedom of speech wisely. Also, don’t talk around parrots.

49. Help win the war, invent for victory.

So if you have a more efficient idea about killing more people at a faster rate, give the US military a call. Hell, do it now.

50. We’ve just begun the fight, so join up.

Though this guy seems kind of frightened to me. Like he’s pleading for help than leading a charge.

51. Protect yourself since STDs are everywhere.

So remember, stay away from prostitutes. Or other scarlet women for that matter.

52. Support the war effort and build more B-24s.

It’s a bomber plane by the way. Still, if you’re assigned to one of these during WWII, best you write your last will and testament. Since they have a 50% survival rate.

53. Support the war effort by finding a job that fits you best.

Offer only valid until war ends. After that, women must give up their jobs for the menfolk. Because they belong in the kitchen according to their antiquated ideas.

54. Women, help our boys win the war and buy bonds.

Or else, this sweet old lady might feed you a poisoned pie. So send money.

55. Don’t boast till it’s over. Enemies also have their production machine going, too.

So best you don’t say anything until it’s all over. Whenever that is.

56. All you British ladies, come into the factories.

Just don’t blow yourself up and know you’ll only have that job until your man comes home. So keep calm and carry on.

57. Men of Britain, best you join up and stop air raids. Else, you’ll have your house bombed.

Of course, if you’re a guy during WWII, you’ll already fail miserably. Because we all know the Germans bombed the shit out of the UK. Though this one depicts a large airship for some reason.

58. In wartime, give all the help and comfort you can.

This is from the Jewish Welfare Board during WWI. But it would’ve worked just as well in WWII for obvious reasons.

59. Support your country and dig on for victory.

Since food rations for civilians can only go so far. So get on with your vegetable garden.

60. This summer of 1917, don’t forget to enlist since your country needs you.

If not, then expect Uncle Sam to look upon you in dismay. Also, you might get arrested for trying to buck the draft.

61. Your country needs you, join the Navy.

And yes, they use the woman in a naval uniform again. Despite that she won’t wear it in real life.

62. Are you a girl with a star-spangled heart? Be a WAC.

Look, ladies, you can join the Army, too. Of course, you won’t be assigned to combat duty. Because that’s men’s stuff.

63. Remember, sailors, don’t tell your date about naval operations.

After all, she could be German for all you know. Careless talk costs lives.

64. Are you a woman not doing vital work? Your country needs you now.

Because while the men are away, women need to step up. This is especially if they don’t have husbands or kids.

65. Are you playing square, soldier? Save gas.

Since the world only has a limited supply of oil. Best you save on your tank for the troops.

66. Only you can prevent forest fires and Fascism.

Kind of expecting Smokey the Bear to turn up at any moment. But he won’t be around till the 1950s.

67. Join the Marines to fight first in France for freedom.

Keep in mind you’ll be spending hours in some filthy trenches. Hope you don’t mind rats.

68. They have the guts, donate scrap metal.

Cause those tanks need all the scrap they could get. Not to mention, bullets are made of metal, too.

69. We can’t win the war without women.

Yes, you can’t win a war without women. But they still treated them like crap once it’s over.

70. Don’t crow or we lose the war.

And yes, there’s a giant rooster with the Axis Powers. So best keep your mouth shut and avoid careless talk.

71. Answer the call and join Pershing’s Crusaders.

But unlike their medieval counterparts, they don’t fight for their souls. And they spend more time in the trenches.

72. Support the men in the trenches. Enlist now.

Yeah, I know it’s a miserable experience with filth, disease, gunfire, and No Man’s Land. But your country needs you at the front. Still, the guy’s kind of creepy.

73. As Americans, we’ve always fought for liberty.

And it’s made no difference whether they’re Brits or Nazis. Yet, the uniforms and equipment have drastically changed.

74. Victory is always a question of stamina.

So send the troops your meats, fats, sugars, and anything laden with carbs. Since they need energy in the trenches.

75. When the empire is threatened, the lions must rise to the occasion.

Despite that it’s the lionesses who always do everything. Men, what can you do with them?

76. Women should always respond to the call of service for their country.

Yes, women, respond to the call of service. Your God-given right to vote can wait later. Since this is WWI poster.

77. Fight for your country, Australians, or the Germans will win.

Here they have Australia as New Germany. That should scare them into enlistment.

78. In America, free labor will always win.

Because American made weapons are top of their grade. Yet, we also have large multinational corporations willing to play both sides.

79. America beat the Germans before and we’ll beat them again.

However, this time they’re fighting for Der Fuhrer instead of the Kaiser. So it’s a bigger deal.

80. You never know who’s listening on the party line.

For it just as well could be Hitler for all you know. So no careless talk on the phone.

81. Support your country and join the Red Cross.

Sure they may be a great organization. But don’t mind its dubious reputation relating to corruption.

82. As FDR said, we must preserve hope. So buy bonds.

Not sure if this FDR image freaks me out. But he kind of reminds me of a mad scientist who’s about to experiment on some hapless trespasser in his castle.

83. This American soldier will go over the top for you.

And you see the soldier carrying the American flag. But in WWI, they’ll seldom go over the top. Since No Man’s Land is a real hell hole.

84. This woman’s husband is proud she did her part.

Well, at least he tries to be supportive. Though the expression reminds me of a man who’s struggling to feel secure with his masculinity. Yet, can’t help but feel a bit resentful over the whole thing.

85. Do your bit and get into the khaki.

Cause who else is going to fight in Gallipoli alongside a hot Mel Gibson? Sorry if I offended any Australian reading this.

86. Stop the black market. Don’t buy or sell on it.

Too bad there will always be a black market. And people will always make money on it.

87. British Empire soldiers always stand together.

That doesn’t mean the soldiers will get independence or be treated equally. But it’s WWI so it’s a recruitment tool.

88. America needs more nurses.

Here Uncle Sam gives a new nurse her hat. Now they wear scrubs.

89. While our men are at war, serve on the home front.

This is from Pennsylvania by the way. And there are some civilian organizations you can join, too.

90. Support the war effort, conserve energy.

Just remember there were no windmills, solar panels, and geothermal energy sources. So conserving fossil fuels is the only option.

91. Always remember that Hitler wants know.

So cut with the careless talk. Or you’ll help Hitler win the war.

92. It’s best to land with the US Marines.

But keep in mind, you wouldn’t want to fight with them on the Pacific. Because it’s a very violent place during WWII.

93. At night, it’s forward to victory.

For the German planes can bomb the shit out of Britain at any time in 1940. Best have the anti-aircraft gun ready at night.

94. Save energy and turn the gas down.

Guess most stoves were powered by natural gas. Seems like they should switch to electric.

95. This soldier lets his M-1 do the talking.

So in wartime, we must be careful on what we say. Or he’ll get riddled with bullets.

96. Why stand by during a brush fire? Fight the Germans back!

Because our effort needs all hands on deck. However, now our brushfire is the Trump administration. And too many are standing by watching our country burn thanks to Donald Trump, white supremacists, greedy corporations, and right-wing conspiracy nutjobs.

97. Save your coins, kids, and by war stamps.

And when little Jimmy turns 18, it’s straight to the trenches. But wars can’t win themselves, you know.

98. Support the troops, send money to the Red Cross.

Nowadays contributing to the Red Cross doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to. Yet, in this one, it acts like a shield for Lady Liberty.

99. Watch the ramparts, join the Army Air Forces.

And here he is holding a large bomb to be dropped in some city. But thanks to him, the skies won’t be so friendly.

100. Instead of dreaming of victory, fight for it! Buy bonds!

For soldiers can’t get on without stuff in the trenches. So send the US government money despite that they spend more on the military than anything else.

Of Guns and the Holocaust

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An ongoing argument among pro-gun activists I’ve often heard is the Nazi Gun Control Argument, which claims that Third Reich gun regulations rendered victims of the Holocaust weaker to such an extent that they could’ve effectively resisted oppression if they had been armed or better armed. Gun rights proponents and organizations like the National Rifle Association use this notion as part of its “security against tyranny” argument. They’ve also cited other authoritarian regimes that committed atrocities like Khmer Rouge, Stalinist Russia, and whatever totalitarian regime. Since the Parkland students have called for gun control legislation after 17 of their classmates were killed, the argument that a “well-armed populace is the best defense against tyranny” has been proliferated with a vengeance. During a debate shortly after the February shooting, Alaska’s Rep. Don Young said, “How many millions were shot and killed because they were unarmed? Fifty million in Russia because their citizens were unarmed. How many Jews were put in ovens because they were unarmed?” During a Florida Senate debate over an assault weapons ban, Sen. David Simmons claimed, “Adolf Hitler confiscated all the weapons-took all the weapons, had a registry for everybody,” before murdering his political opponents. This week, Iowa Rep. Steve King posted a meme noting Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez’s Cuban heritage and attacking her for ignoring “the fact that your ancestors fled the island when the dictatorship turned Cuba into a prison camp, after removing all weapons from its citizens; hence, the right to self-defense.”

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Sorry, but Adolf Hitler and his Nazi friends weren’t exactly gun control fans. In fact, they loved their guns. They encouraged children as young as five to march with them and told them nursery rhymes that glorified weaponry. To them, as long as you were a member of the German Master Race, you can stockpile as many firearms as you wanted in order to terrorize all the undesirables at your pleasure. Wikipedia lists the Nazi gun control argument as counterfactual history because most scholars believe that the disarming and killing of Jews had nothing to do with Nazi gun control policy.

However, the very notion that a widespread genocide, totalitarian regime, and other human rights atrocities could’ve been prevented by more private gun ownership is completely wrong. Even today, there is little evidence to suggest that widespread private gun ownership leads to more to more democratic societies. According to the Small Arms Survey rankings from 2007, while the US leads the world in civilian gun ownership (88.8 firearms per 100), but it’s followed by Yemen (54.8). You can argue its well-armed population overthrew an authoritarian leader, but civil war and humanitarian catastrophe following that undermine the case. While Switzerland (45.7) and Finland (45.3) also make the top 10. But also does Saudi Arabia (35), the world’s largest absolute monarchy with rules derived from Wahabist Islamic fundamentalism. And, until recently, famously prohibited women from driving. Iraq is also up there (34.2) which had a well-established gun culture under Saddam Hussein’s rule, which didn’t prevent him from committing genocide and mass murder. Yet, it did contribute to the chaos that ensued after the US overthrew him. Another country with a high rate of gun ownership is Bahrain (24.8) which didn’t help the failed uprising against its autocratic government in 2011. Nor did high gun ownership rates prevent a string of military coups in Thailand (15.6) or keep Venezuela (10.7) from descending into authoritarianism and economic chaos. By contrast, while North Korea virtually has no guns in private hands, neither do South Korea and Japan. Then there’s the sub-Saharan Ghana, one of Africa’s most peaceful and democratic countries which has one of the lowest rates of gun ownership. Another is Tunisia who not only overthrew its dictator in 2011 (with military assistance), but is the only one of the Arab Spring countries that has remained relatively democratic and stable since then. From what the data shows, countries with lots of guns consist of democracies and dictatorships, peacefully orderly societies, and failed states. Same goes for nations with few guns. It shouldn’t even be a debate talking point.

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Here’s a picture from the Stroop Report during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Notice the Nazis basically forcing these people to put their hands up. Yes, it’s simply horrifying.

Furthermore, claiming that the Holocaust could’ve been prevented if more people were armed is misleading and offensive. Just ask the Jewish groups, Holocaust scholars, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum who have all repeatedly called for Nazi analogies to stay out of the gun control debate. Because no serious scholarship of the Holocaust points to the lack of guns as a serious factor. First, it ignores the Jews taking part in armed resistance efforts like the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and Jewish partisans creating their own units after escaping the camps. In fact, the US Holocaust Museum has an entire page dedicated to other examples of armed resistance to the Holocaust while Wikipedia lists over 100 of them. But all had little chance of stopping the mass slaughter carried out by a major industrialized power like Nazi Germany since the odds were overwhelmingly. In the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, after the massive deportations to forced-labor camps and killing centers, people remaining in the ghetto organized and resisted with pistols, grenades, rifles, and automatic weapons. It was the largest Jewish armed revolt during WWII yet only managed to kill from 20 Germans. The Nazis quashed it in less than a month which resulted in 13,000 Jews killed and the remaining 50,000 sent off to concentration camps. Mostly because it was profound mismatch of manpower, the difficulties of smuggling weapons in the Ghetto confines, and a shortage of arms in Poland in general.

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And here’s what happened to some of the Polish Jews who took arms against the Nazis during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Notice how they’ll soon be shot at.

The German public was already disarmed in 1919 at the behest of Great Britain, France, and the United States due to a provision in the Treaty of Versailles which severely limited private firearm ownership to reduce Germany’s ability to re-arm itself. Though post-World War I Germany was awash with weapons. Many in the hands of the wrong people. Far-Right militias called the Freikorps stashed thousands of rifles and machine guns under the Allied Control Commission’s noses and used them in repeat armed attempts to overthrow the democratic Weimar Republic. And while mainstream scholars agree that a German gun registry law that created a permit system to own and sell firearms, it was established in 1928 under the Weimar. There were provisions that exempted “officials of the central government, the states, as well as the German Railways Company” and “community officials to whom the highest government authority has permitted acquisition without an acquisition permit.” This law was an attempt by the Weimar regime to disarm nascent private armies like the Nazi SA (a.k.a. Brownshirts) as an attempt to bring some stability to German society and politics. At the time, violent extremist movements were actively attacking the young and very fragile democratic state with the most prolific being the violent Beer Hall Putsch. So according to Dresden Technical University’s Dagmar Ellerbrock, “this order was followed quite rarely, so that largely, only newly bought weapons became registered. At that time, most men, and many women, still owned the weapons they acquired before or during the first World War.” A government that can’t maintain some degree of public order couldn’t sustain its legitimacy. Nor were the German people well-grounded in Constitutional, republican government as evidenced in their ballot box choices. Gun control wasn’t initiated to benefit the Nazis, but to prevent them and others of the same ilk from executing a revolution against a lawful government. In the strictest sense, the law succeeded since the Nazis didn’t stage a coup. But the 1928 provisions didn’t weaken the existing SA that pervaded German political life at the time. Ultimately, the Nazis ignored them with near impunity, engaging in terrorism on the streets as they expanded their political support. Eventually, they got elected in 1933 on promises to end economic poverty, reconquer “lost territories,” and end political paralysis at the Reichstag.

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Here are the 1938 Nazi gun laws, which actually expanded gun ownership to most Germans. As long as they weren’t foreign, Jewish, gay, gypsy, disabled, or left-wing, of course. Because the Nazis wanted them dead.

When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nazis used whatever gun records they had to seize weapons from perceived enemies of the state like Jews, Communists, Social Democrats, union members, or anyone else refusing to affiliate with the Nazi Party. Because the Nazis were intent on killing them and used the existing gun laws and regulations to further the genocide. As SUNY-Cortland professor Robert Spitzer told Mother Jones, gun policy, “wasn’t the defining moment that marked the beginning of the end for Jewish people in Germany. It was because they were persecuted, were deprived of all of their rights, and they were a minority group.” Yet, according to Ellerbrock, the files included very few guns in circulation and the registry was so incomplete that many Jews kept their guns well into the late 1930s. However, they also introduced a collective gun license for Nazi organization members whose main beneficiaries were the thuggish Brownshirts. After the German Parliament, the Reichstag gave Adolf Hitler emergency powers, he had a free hand. As Ellerbrock noted, “Under totalitarian rule, it took just a few weeks to drastically increase the number of Germans who held private weapons.” In other words, these looser gun rules were meant to encourage citizens to terrorize Nazi opponents and oppress minorities like Jews, gypsies, and gays. In 1938, the Nazis adopted a new law that loosened gun ownership rules by deregulating the buying and selling of shotguns, rifles, and ammunition. It made handguns easier to own by allowing anyone with a hunting license to buy, sell, or carry one at a time. Also, it extended the permit period from a year to 3, lowered the legal purchase age to 18, and gave local officials more discretion in letting people under 18 get a gun. Of course, there were exceptions such as Jews who weren’t allowed to own guns at all along with other dangerous weapons. But for everyone else, Hitler made it easier to get guns and used mass gun ownership for “Aryan” Germans to trash Jewish-owned businesses, rough up Jewish pedestrians on the street, and engage in what were called pogroms in Russia. As Ellerbrock told Politifact, “The gun policy of the Nazis can hardly be compared to the democratic procedures of gun regulations by law. It was a kind of special administrative practice (Sonderrecht), which treated people in different ways according to their political opinion or according to ‘racial identity’ in Nazi terms.” Therefore, disarming and killing Jews had nothing to do with Nazi gun control policy. Thus, during the Third Reich gun registration was spotty, confiscation was selective, and Nazis found it easier to get guns.

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Even if Germany’s Jews were well-armed, they couldn’t have stopped the Holocaust. Since they made up of less than 1% of its population and subject to systematic persecution implemented by a modern bureaucracy, enforced by police state, and supported by most of the population. In fact, armed revolt would’ve made the situation worse for Germany’s Jews by validating all the bad stuff the Nazis said about them. At least as far as its propaganda machine was concerned.

But if Germany’s Jews were well-armed, could they have stopped the Holocaust? The fact they constituted less than 1% of the country’s population makes it ridiculous to argue that private firearm possession would’ve enabled them to mount resistance against a systematic persecution program implemented by a modern bureaucracy, enforced by a well-armed police state, and either supported or tolerated by most of the German population. Its highly unlikely that armed Jews (or any other target group) would’ve weakened Nazi rule, let alone a full scale popular rebellion. In fact, it seems more likely to strengthen the Nazi support they already had. For such actions would’ve substantiated any foul Nazi lies about Jewish perfidy as well as hasten Jewish demise. The German Jews detained and deported after 1938 tended to be older and less well-off since most Jews with any resources left Germany much earlier. And the deportation took place with the open or tacit approval and complicity of most of the German people. Any act of armed resistance would’ve been completely futile.

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Here’s a Jewish business smashed on Kristallnacht, or “Night of the Broken Glass” from November 9-10, 1938 where Brownshirts and German civilians terrorized Jewish buildings, businesses, and synagogues while authorities looked on. It’s estimated that 91 Jews were murdered that night, though the death rate was much higher. Also, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Still, Germany’s Jews were in no way prepared for what awaited them. Nor could they imagine taking arms against their own country’s soldiers and police officers.

Even so, hypotheticals aside, gun ownership wasn’t widespread enough in Germany for a serious civilian resistance to the Nazis. Nor were Germans, particularly Jews, predisposed to violent resistance to their government. Anti-Semitism wasn’t new in Germany or anywhere else since they had been persecuted throughout history for centuries. Jews had survived previous pogroms before but not without suffering. They’d expect the barrage of anti-Jewish discrimination and violence would eventually subside and permit a return to normalcy like those in the past. Still, they considered themselves “patriotic Germans” for their World War I service who remained good citizens of the state they trusted beyond Hitler’s power seizure in 1933. As an overwhelmingly professional, urban and middle class, and strong in professions like law, medicine, and the arts, the notion these conscientiously law-abiding people would or could’ve taken to the streets and shoot down Hitler’s thugs is ludicrous. Those who didn’t flee into exile faced escalating barrage of discriminatory laws and were systematically dehumanized for years. Yet almost all obeyed to the letter. Even after their businesses, homes, schools, and hospitals were trashed and synagogues torched during Kristallnacht, and even when facing deportation and death, most Jews obediently reported to the holding centers with their suitcases as instructed, and were taken from there to the cattle trucks that hurried them to their deaths. They didn’t know the true horrors that awaited them in the concentration camps. In fact, as bad as things were for them in Nazi Germany, most Jews couldn’t imagine their fellow countrymen establishing an industrialized and scarily efficient mass murder system to kill them. The Nazis also used deception by telling their Jewish captives would be “resettled” for forced labor in the East. The death camp stops on railroads were disguised with signs showing they were regular train stations. The gas stations were referred to as “showers.” If they knew their fate, they probably wouldn’t have resisted. Since they’d be unable to bring themselves to fire upon their own nation’s soldiers or police officers. And what could they do about it. Though most of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust came from Poland, the Soviet Union, and other conquered territories in Eastern and Central Europe. Yet, all were surrounded by an indifferent, hostile, or terrorized population. Other than a few exceptions, there was no place to run or hide.

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In Nazi Germany, propaganda was everywhere. Also, despite that they’d be forever remembered for committing genocide as a totalitarian regime, Adolf Hitler and his Nazis were genuinely popular among the German people. And that’s truly scary.

Besides, the Nazis controlled the media during the Third Reich, they could censor and spin the news at their discretion. They were masters of propaganda which saturated every level of their society at every age stratum. Not surprisingly, the Jews were a primary target who were systemically demonized. If most German citizens didn’t come to Jewish defense to fight off Nazi tyranny, it was because they didn’t want to. For they had been persuaded that what was happening was best for their country, and that the Jews deserved what they got. Or at least didn’t want to lose their privilege, alienate their friends and family, or be carted off to a prison camp and executed. Because the Communists tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler several times before the Nazis stamped them out. Even if Europe’s Jews fought back, which they did several times over, it would’ve been almost impossible for them to attract the rest of the world’s attention, let alone draw sympathetic reinforcement that could’ve toppled Hitler. But the Jews didn’t need guns to draw attention or sympathy from people in other countries were concerned what was going on with them. After all, many Jewish Americans were refugees or had relatives in Europe at the time. And Kristallnacht sent shockwaves around the world with the British Times writing, “No foreign propagandist bent upon blackening Germany before the world could outdo the tale of burnings and beatings, of blackguardly assaults on defenseless and innocent people, which disgraced that country yesterday.” Yet, the Nazis also had financial or rhetorical support from numerous American tycoons and businesses like Henry Ford, William Randolph Hearst, Kodak, Coca Cola, Standard Oil, Chase Bank, Dow Chemical, Woolworth, Alcoa, Brown Brothers Harriman, General Motors, and IBM. Let us not forget the Nazi sympathizers on the America First Committee like Charles Lindbergh who didn’t want the US to welcome Jewish refugees. Across the pond, Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Windsor were also in the Hitler fan club along with Unity and Diana Mitford. French fashion designer Coco Chanel lived with a Nazi officer while WWI hero Marshal Philippe Petain led the collaborationist Vichy government during WWII. Norwegian politician Vidkun Quisling seized power in his country through a Nazi-backed coup and his regime contributed to the Final Solution. Let’s just say you had a lot of influential people outside Germany who didn’t want their countries to do anything about what was going on there.

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We must keep in mind that Nazi Germany managed to defeat armies from Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and France. And though they didn’t fare so well in Russia, they managed mow down 7 million Red Army soldiers.

As Warsaw Uprising illustrates, the notion that the Jews could’ve used rifles and handguns to stop the SS from herding them like cattle to their deaths is offensive. Inside Germany, only the army possessed the physical force necessary for defying and overthrowing the Nazis. But the generals already threw their support for Adolf Hitler early on. The Nazi Germany war machine was one of the most powerful military systems ever constructed, especially prior to and during the early years of World War II. The Nazi regime had managed to conquer all of France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Poland, along with huge swaths of the Soviet Union and northern Africa in the face of determined resistance by large, properly trained militaries equipped not just with handguns but also tanks, warships, airplanes, and other heavy superweapons. The Red Army lost 7 million fighting the Wehrmacht despite its tanks, planes, and artillery. Adolf Hitler deployed military-trained units to destroy Europe’s Jews so handguns and rifles wouldn’t have made a dent. Suggesting it would implies that the Jews had a path to resist the Nazis’ Final Solution when they didn’t. Arming every European Jew wouldn’t have made any difference.

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We must understand that atrocities like the Holocaust have happened not because of gun control or lack of guns. But when a large swath of the population doesn’t see them as a dealbreaker and are willing to embrace a totalitarian strongman in order to get what they want. The Holocaust was caused by anti-Semitism along with moral failure and indifference. To think it could’ve been avoided if people have been armed is a very offensive way to remember this unimaginable tragedy.

It’s all too easy to forget the allure that fascism presented to those in the West during times of social and economic upheaval. The Nazis were master manipulators of popular emotion and sentiment while disdainful of people thinking for themselves. Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power not through force of arms, but through success at the ballot box, propaganda, illegal violence, and Hitler’s political cunning. They didn’t just rise to power by intimidation and imposing totalitarianism, the Nazis were genuinely popular with enough of the population to prevent a coup. Nor did they need gun control to retain supreme and unlimited power. Shortly after being granted emergency powers, Hitler issued the Reichstag Fire Decree which suspended civil rights, banned the left-wing press, and authorized the mass arrest of Communists and Socialists (a move allowing Nazis to take seats of the arrested delegates and assume a Nazi majority). A month later, the Nazi majority Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, giving Hitler and the German Cabinet the power to enact laws without its involvement. These 2 acts transformed Hitler’s government into a legal dictatorship within 2 months. Within the next 6 months, the Nazis banned Jews, non-Germans, and political opponents from public service, outlawed trade unions, and barred all political parties aside from the Nazi Party. The success of Nazi programs like restoring the economy and dispelling socio-political chaos and the misappropriation of justice through terror assured the German people’s compliance. Else, they wouldn’t have loosened gun restrictions in 1938 as an effect a façade of legalism around exercising naked power like most of their actions. The 1938 weapons law wasn’t a part of normal governance since the Third Reich had demolished the rule of law. And while Jews were prohibited from owning guns, they weren’t allowed to many other things. They couldn’t vote, work in professions, attend school, go to the movies or theater, visit public parks or “Aryan” areas. In fact, Jews weren’t considered citizens of Nazi Germany or even human beings. To focus exclusively on gun control is to lose sight of the bigger picture. And suggesting that the only thing keeping Hitler in power was gun control only exonerates the many Germans who supported him.

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Here’s a cartoon depicting the Night of Long Knives where the Nazi regime killed their most prominent political enemies. Most were Brownshirt leaders. And yes, they were armed and the Nazis knew it. Most gave up without a fight.

Despite that while the Nazis confiscated weapons from people they didn’t like, Adolf Hitler didn’t need to seize weapons to get rid of perceived political enemies. Their gun laws weren’t the major part of the process to suppress political dissidents and round up German Jews for extermination. Take the Night of the Long Knives, for instance, which involved a series of extrajudicial executions to consolidate Hitler’s absolute hold on German power. Paramilitary organizations were part of the Nazi organization from its earliest days in the mid-1920s. A founding Nazi street fighting group were the Sturmabteilung or Brownshirts who were known for street violence tactics. Its leader Ernst Rohm was one of Hitler’s oldest allies and comrades. Another outfit called the Schutzstaffel or SS protected Nazi officials as they moved around the country. After Hitler won office, the SS under Henrich Himmler became part of Der Fuhrer’s inner circle. But Rohm was eager to consolidate his power, setting him on a collision course with established German military leaders and Hitler’s top advisers. They persuaded Der Fuhrer that the Brownshirts were difficult to control so he and that Rohm was plotting a coup. From June 30-July 2, 1934, the SS and Gestapo killed at least 85-200 Brownshirt leaders and other perceived enemies. Though the final death toll could be as many as 700-1,000 along with thousands of arrests. Most but not all were associated with Rohm. The incident had more to do with infighting among the Nazi community than with going after disarmed citizens. Quite the opposite for the Nazis knew full well they were going against a group with plenty of weapons. Hitler himself oversaw the Rohm’s arrest, which went down in the middle of the night with a truckload of armed Brownshirt troops driving up to a hotel. Not a shot was fired and Rohm complied. He was executed 3 days later. Those at the German Historical Institute wrote that with this operation, Hitler had managed to “legitimize outright murder on a large scale – without any legal proceedings whatsoever – and that the country largely accepted the Nazi propaganda that presented this strike as necessary.”

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Dictators don’t rise to power by taking away people’s guns. But rather through popular support and public purges to send a message to anyone who disagrees with them. If soldiers come to your door to kill you or take you away for speaking out against a Dear Leader, your private arsenal will not save you. In fact, it might even condemn you.

Nonetheless, the notion that if Jews were armed and could’ve prevented the Holocaust is ridiculous is an old claim the NRA and other gun rights people push to show that who are trying to show that when a civilian population is armed, it can prevent tyranny and that tyrants begin their rise to power by disarming the population. However, the fundamental problem with these claims is that they have no idea how and why dictators like Hitler and the Nazis come to power. Dictators come to power through a more gradual process aided by large swaths of citizens eagerly supporting the strongmen in charge and public purges of dissenters to send a message anyone still supporting the regime. By the time soldiers come marching to your door to kill or drag you away, it’s because they’ve been chosen and groomed for this task. And you’ve been demonized as a traitor who must be punished. Keeping a weapons stockpile will only be used to justify overwhelming force or murder. There’s a very long historical record of regimes hell-bent on crushing dissent seeing them as little more than nuisances which won’t even be recorded once the dark deed is done. If a military coup is involved, then it would’ve been made possible with the wide availability of guns along with widespread support for the insurgents from the people as was the case with the Communist takeovers of the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba. Tens of millions of people became victims in the 20th century because they were members of groups targeted for eradication over ethnicity, religion, or ideology by ruthless military dictatorships. While these massacres had concurrent efforts to disarm targeted populations thanks to gun registration requirements, to say those millions died because of gun control is bad history. It’s nothing short of delusional to think that small groups of untrained civilians could defeat some of the most powerful armies in the world. History shows that civilians are often powerless to militarily resist an oppressive dictator. We can only prevent genocide by strengthening democracy as well as supporting a free press and non-government organizations. Thinking gun control in the United States will lead to genocide abandons reality for a fantasy world.

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Blaming the Holocaust on the lack of guns allows people to ignore the real causes of the genocide like Nazism, Anti-Semitism, moral failing, and indifference. And it allows people to ignore how the Nazis stripped the Jews of more basic rights. Not to mention, it misrepresents history which isn’t just intellectually dishonest but also dangerous.

Blaming the Holocaust on the lack of guns allows people to ignore the Nazism and anti-Semitism along with the humanity’s moral failure and indifference that made its atrocities possible in the first place. The fact that gun culture considers the Jews’ lack of guns of more consequence than their lack of more basic rights says a great deal more about America’s gun culture than it does about the Nazis or the Jews. And even if they get it right about what the German gun laws did, they misrepresent the significance and consequences from those laws. Misreading history to suit one’s views is as intellectually dishonest as it’s dangerous. As Brown University historian Omer Bartov told Salon in 2013, “Their assertion that they need these guns to protect themselves from the government — as supposedly the Jews would have done against the Hitler regime — means not only that they are innocent of any knowledge and understanding of the past, but also that they are consciously or not imbued with the type of fascist or Bolshevik thinking that they can turn against a democratically elected government, indeed turn their guns on it, just because they don’t like its policies, its ideology, or the color, race and origin of its leaders.”

The Anatomy of a Medieval Castle: Part 4 – Types and Architectural Features

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Italy’s Castel del Monte was built in the 1240s by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. You may not know it, but it originally had a curtain wall. Yet, it’s a unique enough castle to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Finally, we get to the castle architecture. Over the 900 some years castles were built during the Middle Ages, they took on many forms with many different features. Most castles were made from wood since it was cheap, readily available, and an easy building material. However, a wooden castle was totally helpless against flaming arrows because we all know how wood catches fire, breaks, and decays over time. However, if a noble could afford it, he’d have his castle constructed from stone despite the high expense and maintenance. But stone was significantly less flammable and breakable with siege weapons and the elements. Early castles mostly consisted of simple fortifications and design. But as the medieval period went on, they became more complex with more towers, stronger gatehouses, and sturdier walls.

Castle Types

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Restormel Castle in England is an example of a shell keep which was a circular stone keep, are type of castle design. Though once a luxurious residence of the Duke of Cornwall, it was in ruins by the 16th century.

Adulterine Castle- a castle built without a liege lord’s or king’s approval.

Concentric Castle- a castle with 2 or more concentric curtain walls, such that the inner curtain wall is higher than the outer and can be defended from it. Often had round towers.

Courtyard Castle- a castle type consisting of a stone curtain wall surrounding a courtyard with buildings built inside it, normally against the curtain wall.

Knight’s Castle- a castle owned by a knight.

Motte and Bailey- an early form of castle where a large mound of dirt was built up. A wooden fortification was placed on top, which were shaped like a timber fence forming a circle like a crown.

Rectangular Keep- a stone castle with a square or rectangular keep with a second-floor entrance. The castle on Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a classic example.
Shell-Keep- castle style consisting of a circular or oval wall surrounding its inner portion. Usually stores and accommodates wooden buildings inside the hollow walls.

Stone Keep Castle- the classic medieval castle with a stone keep and a thick stone wall, which can be rectangular or circular in shape.

Tower House- a small castle consisting mainly or entirely of a single tower.

Architectural Features

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Built in the 12th century, the Château de Pierrefonds almost seems straight out of a fairy tale. Despite its 19th century restoration, it retains most of its defensive military architecture.

Aisle- space between an arcade and outer wall.

Ambulatory- aisle around an apse.

Apse- a circular or polygonal end of a tower or chapel.

Baluster- a small column.

Balustrade- a railing, as along a path or stairway.

Bar Hole- Horizontal bar for timber bar used as a door-bolt.

Barrel Vault- a cylindrical roof of stone or wood.

Base Cruck- a form of wood framed construction where the roof is supported by curved logs rising from the walls and not by aisle posts set on floor.

Bay- an internal division marked by roof principals or vaulting peers.

Blind Arcade- a line of arches on the face of a solid wall for decoration.

Bonnet- a freestanding fortification.

Boss or Keystone- a central stone in an arch or vault.

Bressumer- a beam to support a projection.

Cap House- a small chamber at the top of a spiral staircase in a tower or turret, leading to an open wall walk on the roof.

Cavalier- a raised structure containing a battery, usually sited above a bastion’s center to give better trajectory.

Cesspit- a wall opening where waste from one or more toilets were collected.

Colonnade- a range of evenly spaced columns.

Course- a level layer of stones or bricks.

Crossbar or Transom- a horizontal window division.

Cupola- a hemispherical armored roof.

Crow or Corbie Steps- a step-gabled end to a roof.

Diaphragm- a wall running up to the roof ridge.

Dog Leg- a right angle in a passageway.

Dormer- a vertically placed window in a sloping roof. Like you see on the top floors of a Cape Cod house.

Entresol or Mezzanine- a low story between 2 high ones.

Fireplace- a walled hearth used for heating a room. Most castles in the later Middle Ages had one in almost every room once they took off.

Gable- a wall covering the end of a roof ridge.

Garret- a building’s top story within a roof.

Groined- a roof with sharp edges at intersection of cross vaults.

Groin- junction of 2 curved surfaces in a vault.

Hood- an arched covering.

Impost- a wall bracket to support arch.

Jambs- side posts of an arch, door, or window.

Joists- wall-to-wall timber beans to support floor boards.

Lancet- a long, narrow window with a pointed head.

Label- a projecting weather molding above a roof or window to deflect rainwater.

Lantern- a small structure with open or window sides on top of a roof or dome to let light or air into the enclosed space below.

Lattice- Lines crossing to form a network whether on a window, fence, or gate.

Lintel- a horizontal stone or beam bridging an opening.

Loggia- a covered arcade or colonnade.

Louvre- a potter vent allowing smoke to escape from the hearth.

Meurtriere- an opening in the roof of a passage where soldiers could shoot into the room below.

Molding- masonry decoration that’s long and narrow as well as casts strong shadows.

Mullion- a vertical division of a window that’s constructed in panels.

Newel- Center post of a spiral staircase.

Nookshaft- a shaft set in a jamb or pier angle.

Pediment- a low-pitched gable over porticos, doors, and windows.

Pilaster- a shallow pier used to buttress a wall.

Piscina- a hand basin with a drain, usually set against or into a wall.

Pointed Arch- a sturdy arch that distributed the force of heavier ceilings and bulky wall. Can support much more weight than previous, simply, spindly pillars.

Rear Arch- an arch on a wall’s inner side.

Relieving Arch- an arch built up in a wall to relieve thrust on another opening.

Rib- a raised molding dividing a vault.

Roofridge- a roof’s summit line.

Soffit- an underside of an arch, hung parapet, or opening.

Spur- a triangular buttress used to strengthen a round tower’s bottom.

Spiral Staircase, Corkscrew, or Turnpike- a winding, circular staircase spiraling up clockwise which allowed added sword room for defenders. Steps were built unevenly to make it difficult for attackers to climb and fight. Said to be among the most economical and convenient method of accessing upper tower floors and easier to defend.

Squint- an observation hole in wall or room.

Traverse- a small bank or wall cutting across a covered way’s line.

Tympanum- a space between a lintel and arch over a doorway.

Vault- stone roofing.

Vaulted Ceiling- a ceiling with sturdy pointed archers and pillars that allowed ceilings to be taller than ever before. Also provided an impression of height, grandeur, and elegance. Can be built in a variety of different shapes and sizes.

Wall-Plate- a horizontal roof-timber on wall-top.
Wall-Stair- staircase built into a wall’s thickness.