Universal Translator

Showing posts with label historical. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical. Show all posts

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Can the Constitution Alone Save Us?


We put a lot of faith in a document which was written over 200 years ago; and yes, it is an amazing document.  But could it alone save America from a person or group that really wanted control of a world power and economic titan?

If you are a believer that the Constitution of the United States will completely prevent the United States from becoming a country of limited freedoms with a totalitarian government, then you need to know that even the constitutions of the Soviet Union declared certain political rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and a series of economic and social rights (and duties) for all its citizens. The single party that governed the Soviet Union didn't let the words on paper limit its powers - with enough rules, regulations, and legislation, you can slowly and completely disregard the written law of the land. You'd never actually know the Power behind the dismantling of freedoms until it has finally silenced every dissenting voice and doesn't need to hide any longer.

Belief in the power of the document is essential, but we must also be vigilant on the creation and implementation of minor laws and regulations which limit and remove freedoms for everyone.  Bureaucratic government and social programs don't necessarily herald a diminishing of freedoms, freedoms are curtailed when power becomes consolidated within a single entity or group and they seek to keep that power through any means necessary.  The Soviet Union was ruled by a single party, a single party that strove to keep its power in all branches of government - executive, legislative, and judicial.  And not even the constitution in place could not prevent freedoms from disappearing.






From the 1936 Constitution of the Soviet Union:

"FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF CITIZENS


          ARTICLE 118. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. have the right to work, that is, are guaranteed the right to               employment and payment for their work in accordance With its quantity and quality.


The right to work is ensured by the socialist organization of the national economy, the steady growth of the productive forces of Soviet society, the elimination of the possibility of economic crises, and the abolition of unemployment.
ARTICLE 119. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. have the right to rest and leisure. The right to rest and leisure is ensured by the reduction of the working day to seven hours for the overwhelming majority of the workers, the institution of annual vacations with full pay for workers and employees and the provision of a wide network of sanatoria, rest homes and clubs for the accommodation of the working people.
ARTICLE 120. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. have the right to maintenance in old age and also in case of sickness or loss of capacity to work. This right is ensured by the extensive development of social insurance of workers and employees at state expense, free medical service for the working people and the provision of a wide network of health resorts for the use of the working people.
ARTICLE 121. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. have the right to education. This right is ensured by universal, compulsory elementary education; by education, including higher education, being free of charge; by the system of state stipends for the overwhelming majority of students in the universities and colleges; by instruction in schools being conducted in the native Ianguage, and by the organization in the factories, state farms, machine and tractor stations and collective farms of free vocational, technical and agronomic training for the working people.
ARTICLE 122. Women in the U.S.S.R. are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life. The possibility of exercising these rights is ensured to women by granting them an equal right with men to work, payment for work, rest and leisure, social insurance and education, and by state protection of the interests of mother and child, prematernity and maternity leave with full pay, and the provision of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens.
ARTICLE 123. Equality of rights of citizens of the U.S.S.R., irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life, is an indefeasible law. Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or nationality, as well as any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law.
ARTICLE 124. In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the U.S.S.R. is separated from the state, and the school from the church. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.
ARTICLE 125. In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system, the citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed by law:
  1. freedom of speech;
  2. freedom of the press;
  3. freedom of assembly, including the holding of mass meetings;
  4. freedom of street processions and demonstrations.
These civil rights are ensured by placing at the disposal of the working people and their organizations printing presses, stocks of paper, public buildings, the streets, communications facilities and other material requisites for the exercise of these rights.
ARTICLE 126. In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to develop the organizational initiative and political activity of the masses of the people, citizens of the U.S.S.R. are ensured the right to unite in public organizations--trade unions, cooperative associations, youth organizations,' sport and defense organizations, cultural, technical and scientific societies; and the most active and politically most conscious citizens in the ranks of the working class and other sections of the working people unite in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), which is the vanguard of the working people in their struggle to strengthen and develop the socialist system and is the leading core of all organizations of the working people, both public and state.
ARTICLE 127. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed inviolability of the person. No person may be placed under arrest except by decision of a court or with the sanction of a procurator.
ARTICLE 128. The inviolability of the homes of citizens and privacy of correspondence are protected by law.
ARTICLE 129. The U.S.S.R. affords the right of asylum to foreign citizens persecuted for defending the interests of the working people, or for their scientific activities, or for their struggle for national liberation.
ARTICLE 130. It is the duty of every citizen of the U.S.S.R. to abide by the Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, to observe the laws, to maintain labor discipline, honestly to perform public duties, and to respect the rules of socialist intercourse.
ARTICLE 131. It is the duty of every citizen of the U.S.S.R. to safeguard and strengthen public, socialist property as the sacred and inviolable foundation of the Soviet system, as the source of the wealth and might of the country, as the source of the prosperous and cultured life of all the working people.
Persons committing offenses against public, socialist property are enemies of the people.
ARTICLE 132. Universal military service is law. Military service in the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army is an honorable duty of the citizens of the U.S.S.R.
ARTICLE 133. To defend the fatherland is the sacred duty of every citizen of the U.S.S.R. Treason to the country--violation of the oath of allegiance, desertion to the enemy, impairing the military power of the state, espionage is punishable with all the severity of the law as the most heinous of crimes..."


To read the entire 1936 Constitution of the USSR, click here.




Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Olive Branch Petition: The American Colonies Seek Peace with Great Britian

Olive Branch Petition
       In May 1775, when the Second Continental Congress convened, most of the delegates followed John Dickinson in trying to peacefully reconcile with King George III and Great Britain.  However a smaller group of delegates led by John Adams thought that an armed conflict was inevitable; yet they chose to remain quiet and wait for the time to rally people to their side.  This gave Dickinson and the Congress the chance to pursue the peace. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the petition, but Dickinson thought his words were too offensive.  Dickinson edited and rewrote parts of the document.  Dickinson wrote that the colonies did not want independence but merely sought to negotiate trade and tax regulations with Great Britain. Dickinson wanted an agreement that would settle trade disputes and suggested that the colonists be given either free trade and taxes equal to those placed on the people in Great Britain, or alternately, no taxes and strict trade regulations. The letter was approved on July 5, then signed by members of the Congress. It was sent to London on July 8, 1775 in the care of Richard Penn and Arthur Lee. Dickinson had hoped that news of the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord combined with the "Humble Petition" would inspire King George to at least negotiate with the colonists. It reached London on August 14, 1775; and was presented to Lord Dartmouth, the Colonial Secretary, on August 21st. However, a letter written by John Adams had been intercepted in which Adams expressed discontentment with the Petition and wrote that war was inevitable. Adams also wrote that the Colonies should have already raised a navy and captured British officials. The letter arrived in London at the same time as the Olive Branch Petition. Due to the letter by Adams, British officials thought the petition insincere and King George even refused to receive or read it. The king himself considered the petition to have come from what he considered an illegal and illegitimate assembly of rebels. The king  issued the Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition  on August 23rd, declaring the North American colonies in a state of rebellion and ordering "all Our officers ... and all Our obedient and loyal subjects, to use their utmost endeavours to withstand and suppress such rebellion." So the rejection of the Olive Branch Petition by King George III gave Adams and his followers the opportunity to push for independence, resulting in a full-on armed conflict -the American Revolutionary War
A 1775 printing of King George III's A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition



Below is the text of the Olive Branch Petition:

To the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
Most Gracious Sovereign: We, your Majesty's faithful subjects of the Colonies of New-Hampthire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, in behalf of ourselves and the inhabitants of these Colonies, who have deputed us to represent them in General Congress, entreat your Majesty's gracious attention to this our humble petition.
The union between our Mother Country and these Colonies, and the energy of mild and just Government, produced benefits so remarkably important, and afforded such an assurance of their permanency and increase, that the wonder and envy of other nations were excited, while they beheld Great Britain rising to a power the most extraordinary the world had ever known.
Her rivals, observing that there was no probability of this happy connexion being broken by civil dissensions, and apprehending its future effects if left any longer undisturbed, resolved to prevent her receiving such continual and formidable accessions of wealth and strength, by checking the growth of those settlements from which they were to be derived.
In the prosecution of this attempt, events so unfavourable to the design took place, that every friend to the interest of Great Britain and these Colonies, entertained pleasing and reasonable expectations of seeing an additional force and exertion immediately given to the operations of the union hitherto experienced, by an enlargement of the dominions of the Crown, and the removal of ancient and warlike enemies to a greater distance.
At the conclusion, therefore, of the late war, the most glorious and advantageous that ever had been carried on by British arms, your loyal Colonists having contributed to its success by such repeated and strenuous exertions as frequently procured them the distinguished approbation of your Majesty, of the late King, and of Parliament, doubted not but that they should be permitted, with the rest of the Empire, to share in the blessings of peace, and the emoluments of victory and conquest.
While these recent and honourable acknowledgments of their merits remained on record in the Journals and acts of that august Legislature, the Parliament, undefaced by the imputation or even the suspicion of any offence, they were alarmed by a new system of statutes and regulations adopted for the administration of the Colonies, that filled their minds with the most painful fears and jealousies; and, to their inexpressible astonishment, perceived the danger of a foreign quarrel quickly succeeded by domestick danger, in their judgment of a more dreadful kind.
Nor were these anxieties alleviated by any tendency in this system to promote the welfare of their Mother Country. For though its effects were more immediately felt by them, yet its influence appeared to be injurious to the commerce and prosperity of Great Britain.
We shall decline the ungrateful task of describing the irksome variety of artifices practised by many of your Majesty's Ministers, the delusive pretences, fruitless terrours, and unavailing severities, that have, from time to time, been dealt out by them, in their attempts to execute this impolitick plan, or of tracing through a series of years past the progress of the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these Colonies, that have flowed from this fatal source.
Your Majesty's Ministers, persevering in their measures, and proceeding to open hostilities for enforcing them, have compelled us to arm in our own defence, and have engaged us in a controversy so peculiarly abhorrent to the affections of your still faithful Colonists, that when we consider whom we must oppose in this contest, and if it continues, what may be the consequences, our own particular misfortunes are accounted by us only as parts of our distress. Knowing to what violent resentments and incurable animosities civil discords are apt to exasperate and inflame the contending parties, we think ourselves required by indispensable obligations toAlmighty God, to your Majesty, to our fellow-subjects, and to ourselves, immediately to use all the means in our power, not incompatible with our safety, for stopping the further effusion of blood, and for averting the impending calamities that threaten the British Empire.
Thus called upon to address your Majesty on affairs of such moment to America, and probably to all your Dominions, we are earnestly desirous of performing this office with the utmost deference for your Majesty; and we therefore pray, that your Majesty's royal magnanimity and benevolence may make the most favourable constructions of our expressions on so uncommon an occasion. Could we represent in their full force the sentiments that agitate the minds of us your dutiful subjects, we are persuaded your Majesty would ascribe any seeming deviation from reverence in our language, and even in our conduct, not to any reprehensible intention, but to the impossibility of reconciling the usual appearances of respect with a just attention to our own preservation against those artful and cruel enemies who abuse your royal confidence and authority, for the purpose of effecting our destruction.
Attached to your Majesty's person, family, and Government, with all devotion that principle and affection can inspire; connected with Great Britain by the strongest ties that can unite societies, and deploring every event that tends in any degree to weaken them, we solemnly assure your Majesty, that we not only most ardently desire the former harmony between her and these Colonies may be restored, but that a concord may be established between them upon so firm a basis as to perpetuate its blessings, uninterrupted by any future dissensions, to succeeding generations in both countries, and to transmit your Majesty's name to posterity, adorned with that signal and lasting glory that has attended the memory of those illustrious personages, whose virtues and abilities have extricated states from dangerous convulsions, and, by securing happiness to others, have erected the most noble and durable monuments to their own fame.
We beg leave further to assure your Majesty, that notwithstanding the sufferings of your loyal Colonists during the course of this present controversy, our breasts retain too tender a regard for the kingdom from which we derive our origin, to request such a reconciliation as might, in any manner, be inconsistent with her dignity or her welfare. These, related as we are to her, honour and duty, as well as inclination, induce us to support and advance; and the apprehensions that now oppress our hearts with unspeakable grief, being once removed, your Majesty will find your faithful subjects on this Continent ready and willing at all times, as they have ever been, with their lives and fortunes, to assert and maintain the rights and interests of your Majesty, and of our Mother Country.
We therefore beseech your Majesty, that your royal authority and influence may be graciously interposed to procure us relief from our afflicting fears and jealousies, occasioned by the system before-mentioned, and to settle peace through every part of our Dominions, with all humility submitting to your Majesty's wise consideration, whether it may not be expedient, for facilitating those important purposes, that your Majesty be pleased to direct some mode, by which the united applications of your faithful Colonists to the Throne, in pursuance of their common counsels, may be improved into a happy and permanent reconciliation; and that, in the mean time, measures may be taken for preventing the further destruction of the lives of your Majesty's subjects; and that such statutes as more immediately distress any of your Majesty's Colonies, may be repealed.
For such arrangements as your Majesty's wisdom can form for collecting the united sense of your Americanpeople, we are convinced your Majesty would receive such satisfactory proofs of the disposition of the Colonists towards their Sovereign and Parent State, that the wished for opportunity would soon be restored to them, of evincing the sincerity of their professions, by every testimony of devotion becoming the most dutiful subjects, and the most affectionate Colonists.
That your Majesty may enjoy a long and prosperous reign, and that your descendants may govern your Dominions with honour to themselves and happiness to their subjects, is our sincere prayer.
John Hancock
New-Hampshire,John Langdon,
Thomas Cushing.
Massachusetts,Samuel Adams,
John Adams,
Robert Treat Paine.
Rhode-Island,Stephen Hopkins,
Samuel Ward,
Eliphalet Dyer.
Connecticut,Roger Sherman,
Silas Deane.
New-York,Philip Livingston,
James Duane,
John Alsop,
Francis Lewis,
John Jay,
Robert Livingston, Jr.,
Lewis Morris,
William Floyd,
Henry Wisner.
New-Jersey,William Livingston,
John De Hart,
Richard Smith.
Pennsylvania,John Dickinson,
Benjamin Franklin,
George Ross,
James Wilson,
Charles Humphreys,
Edward Biddle.
Delaware Counties,Cæsar Rodney
Thomas McKean,
George Read.
Maryland,Matthew Tilghman,
Thomas Johnson, Jr.,
William Paca,
Samuel Chase,
Thomas Stone.
Virginia,Patrick Henry, Jr.,
Richard Henry Lee,
Edmund Pendleton,
Benjamin Harrison,
Thomas Jefferson.
North-Carolina,William Hooper,
Joseph Hewes.
South-Carolina,Henry Middleton,
Thomas Lynch,
Christopher Gadsden,
John Rutledge,
Edward Rutledge.














Tuesday, 13 December 2016

That Second Kind of Christmas




Author John Steinbeck wrote  to his friend, politician Adlai Stevenson in November 1959. At this time, it had been discovered that certain game shows had been rigging their outcomes, John wrote to his friend about the fact that maybe America itself was being rigged by a pervasive corporate and political immorality and being effectively dulled by increasing gluttony and want.



New York
1959
Guy Fawkes Day

Dear Adlai,

Back from Camelot, and, reading the papers, not at all sure it was wise. Two first impressions. First, a creeping, all pervading nerve-gas of immorality which starts in the nursery and does not stop before it reaches the highest offices both corporate and governmental. Two, a nervous restlessness, a hunger, a thirst, a yearning for something unknown—perhaps morality. Then there's the violence, cruelty and hypocrisy symptomatic of a people which has too much, and last, the surly ill-temper which only shows up in human when they are frightened.

Adlai, do you remember two kinds of Christmases? There is one kind in a house where there is little and a present represents not only love but sacrifice. The one single package is opened with a kind of slow wonder, almost reverence. Once I gave my youngest boy, who loves all living things, a dwarf, peach-faced parrot for Christmas. He removed the paper and then retreated a little shyly and looked at the little bird for a long time. And finally he said in a whisper, "Now who would have ever thought that I would have a peach-faced parrot?" 

Then there is the other kind of Christmas with present piled high, the gifts of guilty parents as bribes because they have nothing else to give. The wrappings are ripped off and the presents thrown down and at the end the child says—"Is that all?" Well, it seems to me that America now is like that second kind of Christmas. Having too many THINGS they spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul. A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick. And then I think of our "Daily" in Somerset, who served your lunch. She made a teddy bear with her own hands for our grandchild. Made it out of an old bath towel dyed brown and it is beautiful. She said, "Sometimes when I have a bit of rabbit fur, they come out lovelier." Now there is a present. And that obviously male teddy bear is going to be called for all time MIZ Hicks.

When I left Bruton, I checked out with Officer 'Arris, the lone policeman who kept the peace in five villages, unarmed and on a bicycle. He had been very kind to us and I took him a bottle of Bourbon whiskey. But I felt it necessary to say—"It's a touch of Christmas cheer, officer, and you can't consider it a bribe because I don't want anything and I am going away..." He blushed and said, "Thank you, sir, but there was no need." To which I replied—"If there had been, I would not have brought it."

Mainly, Adlai, I am troubled by the cynical immorality of my country. I do not think it can survive on this basis and unless some kind of catastrophe strikes us, we are lost. But by our very attitudes we are drawing catastrophe to ourselves. What we have beaten in nature, we cannot conquer in ourselves.

Someone has to reinspect our system and that soon. We can't expect to raise our children to be good and honorable men when the city, the state, the government, the corporations all offer higher rewards for chicanery and deceit than probity and truth. On all levels it is rigged, Adlai. Maybe nothing can be done about it, but I am stupid enough and naively hopeful enough to want to try. How about you?

Yours,

John











(Source: America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction; Image: John Steinbeck, via lettersofnote.com .)


For more fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos; visit the Letters of Note archive here.



Monday, 19 September 2016

Mark Twain and his New-Fangled Writing Machine



"Few authors have made an impact as enduring as literary icon Samuel Clemens, a man who, under his pen name, Mark Twain, wrote such classics as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book which has been read by many millions of people around the world since its publication in 1884. It was ten years earlier, whilst shopping in Boston, that a curious Clemens spotted and then bought a Remington No.1, the very first “type writer” to be produced by E. Remington and Sons, released to the public that year. The first letter he wrote on his “new fangled writing machine”--which, incidentally, could only produce upper-case characters--was to his brother, Orion. Nine years after this letter was typed, Twain became the first author to deliver a typewritten manuscript to a publisher. It was his memoir, Life on the Mississippi." (www.lettersofnote.com)


Transcript
BJUYT KIOP N LKJHGFDSA:QWERTYUIOP:_-98VX5432QW RT

HA
HARTFORD, DEC. 9, 1874
DEAR BROTHER:

I AM TRYING T TO GET THE HANG OF THIS NEW F FANGLED WRITING MACHINE, BUT AM NOT MAKING A SHINING SUCCESS OF IT. HOWEVER THIS IS THE FIRST ATTEMPT I EVER HAVE MADE, & YET I PERCEIVETHAT I SHALL SOON & EASILY ACQUIRE A FINE FACILITY IN ITS USE. I SAW THE THING IN BOSTON THE OTHER DAY & WAS GREATLY TAKEN WI:TH IT. SUSIE HAS STRUCK THE KEYS ONCE OR TWICE, & NO DOUBT HAS PRINTED SOME LETTERS WHICH DO NOT BELONG WHERE SHE PUT THEM.

THE HAVING BEEN A COMPOSITOR IS LIKELY TO BE A GREAT HELP TO ME, SINCE O NE CHIEFLY NEEDS SWIFTNESS IN BANGING THE KEYS. THE MACHINE COSTS 125 DOLLARS. THE MACHINE HAS SEVERAL VIRTUES I BELIEVE IT WILL PRINT FASTER THAN I CAN WRITE. ONE MAY LEAN BACK IN HIS CHAIR & WORK IT. IT PILES AN AWFUL STACK OF WORDS ON ONE PAGE. IT DONT MUSS THINGS OR SCATTER INK BLOTS AROUND. OF COURSE IT SAVES PAPER.

SUSIE IS GONE, NOW, & I FANCY I SHALL MAKE BETTER PROGRESS. WORKING THIS TYPE-WRITER REMINDS ME OF OLD ROBERT BUCHANAN, WHO, YOU REMEMBER, USED TO SET UP ARTICLES AT THE CASE WITHOUT PREVIOUSLY PUTTING THEM IN THE FORM OF MANUSCRIPT. I WAS LOST IN ADMIRATION OF SUCH MARVELOUS INTELLECTUAL CAPACITY.

                                  LOVE TO MOLLIE.
YOUR BROTHER,
           SAM.


[Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book. Image at www.lettersofnote.com courtesy of Vassar College; reproduced with permission of the Mark Twain Project. For more letters of note, click here.]




Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Russia’s and Empress Catherine II’s Reaction to the American Declaration of Independence



This post is a further exploration about how other countries (and their leaders) reacted to the American Declaration of Independence.

Late 18th century English cartoon on Catherine the Great's territorial ambitions in Turkey. (The Granger Collection, New York)



       Nikolai N. Bolkhovitinov, director of the Center for North American Studies of the Institute of World History and academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, wrote*:   “The news of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, was first reported in a Russian document on August 13. This was a brief notation in a dispatch from the Russian chargé d'affaires at London, Vasilii Grigor'evich Lizakevich, to the first minister of the College of Foreign Affairs, Count Nikita Ivanovich Panin. A detailed account of the content and significance of the declaration was given by the Russian diplomat a week later: ‘In the Declaration of Independence promulgated by the general Congress on July 4,’ wrote Lizakevich, are repeated all the colonies' previous grievances concerning the redress of which they had in vain addressed themselves to the King, to Parliament, and to the British nation. No longer seeing any hope of correcting the abuses which they have suffered, they have found themselves compelled to issue this solemn declaration, which proclaims the United Colonies a free and independent state, thereby severing all their previous ties with Great Britain. In consequence of their independence, the United Colonies have the right and the power to declare war, to conclude peace, to contract alliances, to establish trade, and so forth, pledging themselves to sacrifice their lives, their honor, and all their possessions in order to preserve all the aforementioned privileges.
Although the Russian diplomat in his dispatch to the tsarist court was prudent not to mention high principles and the natural rights of man, it is to his credit that he evaluated the declaration and the courage of its creators very positively. ‘The publication of this document,’ Lizakevich concludes, ‘as well as the proclamation of a formal declaration of war against Great Britain offer evidence of the courage of the leadership there.’
The Russian diplomat clearly emphasized that the document was a declaration of war on Britain. The reports of Russian diplomats from London, in particular the dispatch of Lizakevich, served as an important source of information for the head of the College of Foreign Affairs, Panin, and Catherine II (Catherine the Great) herself on the situation in America and contributed to the formation, within the tsarist government, of an opinion critical of Britain's policy toward her former colonies. It is significant that the empress repeatedly observed that separation of the American colonies from Britain was practically unavoidable and that Panin and his close colleagues found the reasons for the rebellion in North America in the "personal fault" of the British cabinet and believed that the separation of the colonies from their mother country did not conflict with the interests of Russia and might even be advantageous to her.



       The American revolutionary government sent Francis Dana as the official representative to the Court of St. Petersburg.  During his time in Russia, Empress Catherine the Great refused to meet with him or to officially recognize the United States.  However, the Empress did institute The First League of Armed Neutrality.  This union consisted of Russia, France, and Spain against Great Britain.  Members of the League all agreed to protect the right of neutral powers to trade with warring powers, meaning they could continue to trade with the United States without concern for British blockades or attacks.  Americans continued to receive vital supplies from Europe throughout the war, allowing them to defeat Great Britain.  Catherine wasn’t exactly on the side of the Americans; it was more of a case of disliking the British and King George III.  She had already refused British use of the Russian army and navy.  She had thought that King George had allowed the rebellion to occur and that he should be taught a lesson.  The Russian reaction was more about the Empress gaining power over King George than American independence. (see http://www.quora.com/What-was-Russias-reaction-when-America-declared-its-independence)



For a Russian translation of the American Declaration of Independence and further reading: http://chnm.gmu.edu/declaration/russian.html





Monday, 31 March 2014

Old Gardening Superstitions of the South




Plant corn when the dogwood blooms but never on May first, second and third; those are barren days.


Plant root vegetables in the dark of the moon and plant leaf vegetables in the new moon.


The first thunder of spring wakes up the snakes and tells you winter is busted.


You are sure of a rough winter if the grape or nut crops are heavy.


Snakes will not come around a place where gourds are growing.


Weeds won’t grow back if cut in March during the dark of the moon.


Ninety days after the first katydid is heard, there will be a frost.


To make peppers grow, you must be hot and mad when you’re planting them.


When it rains on June 2nd, there will be no blackberries.


Plant cotton among your cucumber plants and insects will not attack your cucumbers.


It is bad luck to haul off or burn sassafras wood.


Never point at a watermelon with your first finger or the watermelon will drop off the vine.  Point at it with all your fingers.



Slips from plants should be stolen, only the stolen ones will grow.



Friday, 28 February 2014

Interesting Southern Heirloom Cake Recipes IV: Lady Baltimore Cake



Lady Baltimore Cake
Lady Baltimore cake is a popular Southern cake believed to have originated in South Carolina. It is a white layer cake, made light with beaten egg whites, filled with raisins and nuts (and sometimes figs) and iced with a fluffy white frosting (typically a 7-minute frosting, or meringue frosting). A Lord Baltimore cake, similar to a Lady Baltimore cake, uses egg yolks in the cake rather than egg whites with added crumbled macaroons and almonds in the filling.

According to Cassie L. Damewood at the website Wisegeek.com: “The story of how the Lady Baltimore Cake got its name varies. Since there is no mention of it in literature or evidence of it being a recipe prior to 1906, it is unlikely it had anything to do with the real Lady Baltimore. Ann Arundel, who died in 1649, was called Lady Baltimore because she was married to an Irishman man who inherited the whole state of Maryland in the United States (U.S.), including its large city of Baltimore, from his father. Interestingly, she never visited the North American continent, just as Lord Baltimore never did.
The most likely origin of the Lady Baltimore Cake was a romance novel entitled Lady Baltimore, written by Owen Wister and published in 1906. Legend has it that prior to writing the book, Wister had been given a cake by a southern belle from Charleston, South Carolina, named Alicia Rhett Mayberry. The confection so impressed him that he included it in his novel…Wister’s description of the cake’s appearance and taste was so appealing that readers of the novel were desperate to get the recipe. Since it had not been created, bakers set out to create a cake that mimicked Wister’s excited yet vague description from the book.”
 In his novel, Wister wrote:


"I should like a slice, if you please, of Lady Baltimore," I said with extreme formality. I returned to the table and she brought me the cake, and I had my first felicitous meeting with Lady Baltimore. Oh, my goodness! Did you ever taste it? It's all soft, and it's in layers, and it has nuts - but I can't write any more about it; my mouth waters too much. Delighted surprise caused me once more to speak aloud, and with my mouth full, "But, dear me, this is delicious!"

*****


The first printed recipe is said to have appeared on December 24th 1906 in the Daily Gazette And Bulletin newspaper of Williamsport, Pennsylvania (shocking!):

Lady Baltimore Cake (1906)
Beat the whites of six eggs. Take a cup and a half of granulated sugar, a cup of milk, nearly a cup of butter, three cups of flour and two teaspoonfuls of good baking powder. Sift the flour and baking powder together into the other ingredients, adding the eggs last of all. Bake in two buttered pans for fifteen or twenty minutes.

For the frosting: Two cups of granulated sugar and a cup and a half of water, boil until stringly, about five minutes usually does it. Beat the whites of two eggs very light, and pour the boiling sugar slowly into it, mixing well. Take out of this enough for the top and sides of the cake, and stir into the remainder for the filling between the two layers, one cup of finely chopped raisins and a cup of chopped nuts. This is delicious when properly baked.



 
Lady Baltimore Cake (1952)
Quick-Mix Method
Rich, fruit-nut Lady Baltimore filling and frosting decorate this queenly three-egg-white cake. Blend shreds of coconut right into the batter, for a change, to give you a rich, chewy treat.
BAKE at 350° F. for 25 to 30 minutes.
MAKES two 8-inch round layers.
All ingredients should be at room temperature.
Sift together . . . 2 cups sifted Pillsbury Sno Sheen Cake Flour
2 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
Add . . . 1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk
Beat . . . for 2 minutes, 300 strokes, until batter is well blended. (With electric mixer blend at low speed, then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.)
Add . . . 1 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites, unbeaten
Beat . . . for 2 minutes.
Pour . . . into two well-greased and lightly floured 8-inch round layer pans, at least 1 1/4 inches deep.
Bake . . . in moderate oven (350° F.) 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and frost with Lady Baltimore frosting, page 51.
COCONUT SURPRISE CAKE
Prepare Lady Baltimore Cake, folding in 3/4 cup shredded coconut (chopped slightly if shreds are long) before pouring into pans. Frost with almond frosting, page 51.

(SOURCE: pg. 20, “Kate Smith chooses her 55 Favorite Ann Pillsbury CAKE RECIPES” published in 1952 by Pillsbury Mills, Inc.)



Lady Baltimore Cake (pre-1980)

For cake
8 oz. butter, softened to room temperature
14 oz. sugar
¼ oz. vanilla extract
¼ oz. almond extract
13 oz. cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
8 oz. milk
7 oz. egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and almond extract, scraping down the bowl often.
Sift together dry ingredients.
Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix to smooth consistency.
In clean bowl, whip eggs whites and cream of tartar. Slowly add sugar. Whip to soft peaks. Fold whipped whites into reserved batter.
Divide mixture into three 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cakes cool on wire rack.
For icing
16 oz. sugar
6 oz. water
pinch of cream of tartar
6 oz. egg whites
¼ oz. vanilla extract
Combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in saucepan. Use a candy thermometer to cook the sugar to 265 degrees F.
Whip egg whites on high speed to medium peaks.
Very slowly pour cooked sugar into whipped egg white. Whip to slightly cool. Add vanilla.
For filling
3 oz. pecans, lightly toasted
5 oz. dried fruit, chopped
(raisins, figs, currants, candied cherry)
Combine ingredients. Reserve for cake assembly.
Assembling Lady Baltimore cake:
Transfer one-third of the frosting to a medium bowl. Stir fruit-and-nut filling into the frosting.
Place one cake layer on a serving plate, and add half the frosting-and-filling mixture. Add a second cake layer on top. Spread second layer with remaining frosting-and-filling. Place third layer on top. Frost top and sides of cake with plain frosting.
Garnish with dried fruit and nuts.

(SOURCE: Recipe by Chef Jan Bandula, Stratford University's Baltimore campus; via http://chesapeaketaste.com/index.php/recipes/665-recipe-lady-baltimore-cake )




Seven Minute Frosting (1949)

2 unbeaten egg whites
1 ½ cup sugar
dash of salt
5 TB water
1 ½ tsp light Karo corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in top of double boiler.  Mix well.  Place over rapidly boiling water; beat constantly with rotary egg beater and cook 7 minutes or until stands in peaks.  Re move from the water. Add 1 tsp vanilla and beat until thick.  Makes enough to cover tops and sides of two nine inch layer cakes or one loaf cake.  Orange juice can be used instead of water and add grated orange rind and yellow coloring.  This makes a good orange frosting.  Coconut can be added in plain white.

(SOURCE: Recipe by Maebelle F. Stokes, from Favorite Recipes Tried and True, compiled by Wesleyan Service Guild, Methodist Church, Reform, AL, 1949)


Monday, 24 February 2014

The Complete Banana Pudding; or, as we say, the Whole Nanner Puddin'



There is one dessert in the South that reigns as the quintessential Southern dessert, even surpassing the venerable Red Velvet Cake –it is the Banana Pudding, or as it is pronounced here in the South, Nanner Puddin’.   There was a time when this wasn’t the iconic Southern dessert, but then there was also a time when biscuits were limited to only the rich folk’s kitchens.  However, as bananas became more available, like wheat flour, recipes trickled down from society kitchens to our grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s kitchens creating things that define us in terms of our food.
       Banana pudding has been in the South for over a hundred years, but it wasn’t as popular as when Nabisco printed that iconic recipe on its box of Nilla Wafers.  The Southern Living Dessert Cookbook from 1967 listed only one recipe for banana pudding, while listing twelve recipes for rice pudding.  That’s changed a whole lot since then:

home made banana pudding. Photo courtesy of Stu Spivack


Banana Pudding (1967)

2 ¼ cups milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
3 or 4 bananas, mashed
1/8 tsp salt
Vanilla wafers

Combine all ingredients except the vanilla wafers and cook in double boiler until thick.  In deep casserole, alternate vanilla wafers and bananas until you have 3 layers of each.  Pour cooked mixture on top.  When cooled, put whipped cream or dessert topping mix on top and serve.
 (SOURCE: Southern Living Dessert Cookbook, Southern Living Magazine, 1967; recipe by Nancy Stillwell, High Point, NC)


You can find what most food historians agree is the first recipe for a “banana pudding” in Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book by Sarah Tyson Rorer from 1902.  The following year, Mary Harris Frazier published The Kentucky Receipt Book, which contained the following recipe:

Banana Pudding (1903)

Take a half dozen bananas, peel and cut in pieces an inch thick, put in baking dish and pour over custard made in the following manner:  Custard-one pint of milk, 3 eggs, beat the yolks light, add milk, also two tablespoons of granulated sugar. Have the milk boiling, add the eggs and let it cook until it thickens; when cool pour over the bananas. Make a meringue with the whites and granulated sugar, put on top of custard, set in oven a few minutes to brown.  Serve at once.     


The following is another recipe I have found for  the banana pudding we Southerners would recognize as banana pudding like our grandmothers made.  Instead of vanilla wafers, it uses cake, but it does use meringue as a topping as many will remember on top of Granny’s “nanner puddin’”

Banana Pudding (1913)

Slice very thin, crosswise, three medium size bananas, sprinkle thickly with sugar, then add to a batter made by beating up four egg-yolks and two whites, with one cup crumbled rich stale cake, half-cup sugar, cup very rich milk, and the juice of a large lemon.  Mix smooth, pour into a deep pudding dish, and bake in a quick oven, then cover with meringue made from the egg-whites left out, beaten up with a pinch of salt, two teaspoons cold water, and six tablespoons of sugar.  Return to the oven and let barely color.  Serve hot or cold.
 (SOURCE: Dishes and Beverages of the Old South by Martha McCulloch-Williams, McBride Nast & Company, New York, NY, 1913}



Momma’s mother, Nanny, had a recipe for banana pudding that most closely represents what I myself consider to be a proper banana pudding; however the base pudding is a recipe that has come down from those before her.  It is basically a soft custard and can be adapted to any flavour, not just banana.  My mother adds natural banana extract  to it and pours it over vanilla wafers to make a banana-less banana pudding – our family doesn’t like real bananas in our banana pudding (weird, huh?) Note: I don’t have a date for Nanny’s recip eand since it is still used, I just date it as ”heirloom”.


Nanny’s Pudding (heirloom)

Put two cups milk on to boil.
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 T butter or margarine
1 T flour

Mix sugar, eggs, vanilla, oleo or butter, flour well and pour into hot milk. Stir until thickened.  For banana pudding, pour over wafers and bananas.


At the turn of the century the National Biscuit Company (or Nabisco) began to market vanilla wafers.  In 1968, the name of the wafers became Nabisco Nilla Wafers.  However, the most important part of all of this is that a recipe on the side of the box became the standard by which all banana pudding would be judged forevermore.


Original Nilla Banana Pudding (from the back of the box) (1968)

3/4 cup sugar, divided 
1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
Dash salt 
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 NILLA Wafers, divided 
5 ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 1/2 cups), divided
Additional NILLA Wafers and banana slices, for garnish


1. Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. 

2. Reserve 10 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard on bottom of 1 1/2-quart casserole; cover with a layer of wafers and a layer of sliced bananas. Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas. Continue to layer wafers, bananas and custard to make a total of 3 layers of each, ending with custard. 

3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Spoon on top of pudding, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to edges. 

4. Bake at 350°F in top half of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Cool slightly or refrigerate. Garnish with additional wafers and banana slices just before serving. 

Makes 8 servings

 

Just in case you want to do it all from scratch…


Vanilla Wafers (1886)

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter
4 tbsp milk
1 egg
1 tsp  cream of tartar
1/2 tsp  baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 tbsp  pure vanilla extract
5 cups  flour (or as needed)

Preheat the oven at 350°F (180°C).
Cream the butter, then add the sugar and mix well. Add the egg and beat until well incorporated, then add the milk and vanilla and mix well. Sift 4 cups of flour with the
salt, the cream of tartar and the baking soda, and add these to the butter mixture. Mix well and then add enough extra flour until the dough holds together and is firm and supple, easy to roll.
On a very lightly floured surface roll the dough very thin (1/8 inch–3 mm), and cut with a cookie cutter. Using a thin metal spatula transfer the cookies to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake for about 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer the cookies on a rack to cool–they will be soft just out of the oven but will become crisp as they cool. Keep in an airtight container.
NOTE: The original instructions do not specify the exact amount of flour, they just say to add enough flour to roll the dough very thin. Begin with 4 cups of flour and then add as much as needed to make a dough that is easy to roll. Adding too little flour will make the dough too soft and sticky, adding too much will make it dry and brittle–in both cases it will be very difficult to roll. If you realize you added too much flour, add some more milk (1 tbsp at a time), until the dough is again supple and easy to handle.
 (SOURCE: The Woman Suffrage Cook Book, edited by Mrs. Hattie A. Burr, c. 1886, recipe by Mrs. B. M. Frazier; via http://www.wythenotes.com/2010/11/19/a-puddin-fit-for-a-king)


Homemade Vanilla Wafers

7 ounces all-purpose flour (almost a cup)
3/4 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1 Tablespoon ground golden flax 
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar (regular will work too)
1 large egg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whole milk

Position 1 oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Heat the oven to 350 F.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate. Chill the batter in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before scooping.
Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan. Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. Bake, 2 pans at a time, rotating the pans halfway through the baking, until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.
 (SOURCE: http://amomknowsbest.com/2011/05/homemade-vanilla-wafers-easy-
delicious)


The easiest way to make banana pudding (the po’folks version) is the mix up a box of Jello Banana Cream Instant Pudding and throw in some Nilla Wafers; however, if you had a few more minutes and a bit more money, you could try this (I myself would rather do without than do this, but to each his own):

Easy Banana Pudding

3 small boxes instant vanilla pudding mix
5 cups cold milk
12 ozs. whipped topping (Cool Whip)
1 cup sour cream
1 large box vanilla wafers
5 to 6 large bananas

Follow package directions for pudding, using the 5 cups of milk. Fold in half of the whipped topping and all of the sour cream. In large bowl, layer wafers, bananas, pudding mixture. Top with remaining whipped topping. Refrigerate. 
 (SOURCE: http://southernfood.about.com/od/bananarecipes/r/blbb693.htm)




FYI: The National Banana Pudding Festival is held at the Hickman County Ag Pavilion and Fairgrounds at Grinder's Switch just outside of Centerville, Tennessee.  For more info, go to http://bananapuddingfest.org