The First Day of Summer, Reflections on the Solstice, the 797th Anniversary of Magna Charta, Juneteenth, the Committee of Five, with only six months left until the End of the World as we Know it?


The Summer Solstice 2012 

(and the countdown for the last six months before Winter Solstice 2012 and then—the great yawning abyss of the time which comes after the end of time?—- or was it a great a yawning abbess who didn’t know what time it was, I can’t remember…. a really big abscess? a yawn exposing an abscessed tooth that went without treatment for too much time?  Whatever….)

At 23:09 (11:09 PM) Wednesday night in London, the earth reached its maximum northward axial tilt of 23 degrees and 26 Minutes—so I guess the time was about 4:09 in the afternoon Pacific Daylight time.  So today, June 21, 2012, is the First Day of Summer and soon with come the day of Saint John the Baptist.  Summer berries have come out all over northern Europe and so one of my favorite distinctively German drinks, Johannisbeersaft (Johnny Berry Juice?) can now be made in season…. Nun aber kam, Johannistag… as Hans Sachs sings on St. John’s night in Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg…..Knowing the nearly thousand year history of the Master Singers of Nuremberg and having grown up on Wagner’s opera, I think I have written here before how terribly disappointed I was upon being invited there for the first time (just two weeks after my Harvard Ph.D. graduation where the German Chancellor Helmut Josef Michael Kohl delivered a commencement address, coincident with the previous year’s collapse of the Berlin Wall and my receiving a Volkswagen Fellowship to the University of Bonn that year and summer) to a private tour of Die Meistersingerhalle in modern Nurnberg on Johannistag 1990 I came face-to-face with a totally modern building, neither more nor less interesting than the Wang Center in Boston, the Dallas Theatre Centre or the Dallas City Hall, or the Los Angeles Civic Center or the LA County Art Museum, or Lincoln Hall itself in New York City.  Today’s Meistersingerhalle was built in 1963…. Historic, Mediaeval and Renaissance, Nurnberg having been essentially erased from the map, like most German cities, in the allied bombings of 1944-45, because we were the civilized and morally superior conquerors of a nation which…. had bombed but never totally obliterated even one single British Western European City….

I was jealous of a friend today, an old Harvard Colleague John W. Hoopes who was headed from Kansas to Chichén Itzá on this Summer Solstice…. The Yucatec Maya marked the solstices and equinoxes at their greatest architectural monuments with a variety of symbolic architectural and iconographic contrivances…. the Maya obsession with time has recently “gone global” of course with the Baktun 13 2012 End of the World “HYPE”othesis…  As I told John, I don’t accept the Thompson correlation of Maya and Christian calendars, and since I don’t believe that Baktun 13 is ending this year at all, I wouldn’t be worried even if I DID believe that Baktun 13 was going to be the end of the world (because under the 11.3.0.0.0 or Vaillant correlation, Baktun 13 won’t happen for at least another 256 years, and I, for one, plan to be dead by then….no matter what anyone else has to say about my plans….).  John is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, so he’ll understand if not forgive some of my discussions here…..about the history and mythology which shape modern times.

The eleven days of June 11-June 21 mark critical events in the history of our Anglo-American constitutional democracy.  

THE SURRENDER OF THE LAST CONFEDERATE CITY & SEAPORT (Galveston, Texas) on June 19, 1865

Strangest and most imbued with historical mythology rather than real historical significance among these days is the most recent: Juneteenth.  June 19, 1865, was a day in history that two of my sixteen great-great-grandparents (my mother’s father’s paternal grandparents) actually witnessed as children in Galveston, Texas.  Juneteenth happened on the date of the surrender of the last Confederate seaport and city of any consequence (namely Galveston, Texas), two months and ten days after General Robert E. Lee’s April 9 surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

Galveston surrendered that day without a fight, and the Union Navy officers read and proclaimed that all slaves had been freed effective January 1, 1863 (which happened to be the New Year’s Day that the Confederates, in what was known as the “Battle of the Cottonclads” RETOOK Galveston back into CSA sovereignty from an early naval occupation by the US forces, keeping it until this final surrender of the war).    It now seems that 31 States around the country celebrate the surrender of Confederate Galveston, to wit, as of 2009, it was announced that “Kansas will join Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Delaware, Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, California, Wyoming, Illinois, Missouri, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Virginia, Washington State, Tennessee, Massachusetts, North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina, Vermont, Nebraska and the District of Columbia in recognizing the end of enslavement in America,” states Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D., Chairman of the National Juneteeenth Holiday Campaign.

Of course, the historical and legal fact is the Constitution of the United States did not allow the 16th President, or any of my other distant cousins, the authority to free the slaves by proclamation.  I don’t know whether the Emancipation Proclamation was the first “Legislative Decree” issued by any President of the United States in plain violation of separation of powers, but it was certainly one of the most far reaching, ever.  The Modern Equivalent, if the reader can set aside her or his emotional reactions to slavery, would be if a President decreed that, as of a certain date, New Yorkers, Californians, Pennsylvanians, and residents of Connecticut and New Jersey could no longer own or operate cars.

I fear that President Obama probably believes that he can issue such an order. What I fear even more is that the Congress and Supreme Court of the United States might ALLOW him to issue such an order, to let it stand.   Obama might well do so in the interest of reducing traffic and air pollution in the two most densely populated and heavily congested traffic areas of the United States, but the constitution simply does not allow it.  And the Constitution never did allow the President to change the internal laws of the several states.  No President today could alter the abortion or divorce laws of the individual states of the Union, no matter how strongly he felt about it, no matter how much popular support there was for such a move, and no President, in a democratic society SHOULD have the power to (a) legalize or (b) criminalize any kind of property ownership in the individual states or nationwide.  President Abraham Lincoln was, sadly I say this, the first truly criminal President the United States ever had, in that most of what he did, he did outside of the law, but President Abraham Lincoln was NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, the last truly criminal President of the United States.  Which brings us to the interesting question, who was the last completely constitutionally compliant President of the USA, and the answer might just be, either James Buchanan, or just possibly Grover Cleveland…. Rutherford B. Hayes and some of the other late 19th Century Presidents didn’t do a great many unconstitutional things…. but Rutherford B. Hayes cannot be counted as a constitutional president since he won neither the electoral nor the popular vote of 1876 but lost both to one of my lifelong heroes, Democratic President Samuel J. Tilden, Governor of New York, who won both the popular and electoral votes, but refused to plunge the United States into another great war (which, in 1876, would have been  “Civil War” in the true historical sense, compared with the English Civil War of 1642-1649 that the American War Between the States of 1861-65 never was….)

The New York Times published on Juneteenth this year a disturbing article “Southern Baptist Convergence” advocating the notion that history must be rewritten to accommodate a certain view of “Black Pride” and Communism:  “If conservative evangelicals are serious about making common political cause with black Protestants, they must revise their expectation that a free market and and a population that obeys their particular reading of scripture will correct the injustices ingrained in American society. They must rethink their approach to America’s history and its modern-day problems.” (http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/18/southern-baptist-convergence/?nl=opinion&emc=edit_ty_20120619)

The rewriting of history as a precondition for political and religious realignment should be a deeply disturbing notion to everyone.   I for one DO favor constant historical revisionism, but I know that it cuts both ways.  As suggested above, for example, I do not consider my namesake and distant cousin Abraham Lincoln to be a great President at all.  In fact, I would rate him as something of a monster.  The Sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln suspended the guarantees against false and illegal imprisonment embodied in the Great Writ of Habeas Corpus (one of the great heirlooms of Magna Charta, see below, Clause 29, to be precise).  The Forty Fourth President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, has all but abolished the writ of habeas corpus entirely under the guise of the National Defense Authorization Act (last year’s Senate Bill 1867) which authorizes indefinite detention without charges or trial.

THE COMMITTEE OF FIVE

In 1776, actually since about 1763, the second largest English Speaking population in the world felt that it had not received its fair inheritance of the Rights and Liberties of the English people.

The Virginia Resolve of 15 May 1776 was passed by the Fifth Virginia Convention in the old House of Burgesses at Williamsburg. This historic three-part resolve became the basis of action plans for three America-wide measures later recommended for adoption by the Continental Congress. The three measures addressed were: [i] Independency; [ii] Diplomacy; and [iii] Confederacy.

Richard Henry Lee, head of the Virginia delegation, was “instructed” by the Virginia Convention to move the Virginia Resolve as a Congressional resolution to be adopted on behalf of the Grand American Association of the thirteen United Colonies of North America. The timing of its introduction before Congress was left to the discretion of the Virginia delegation.

Lee laid the Virginia Resolve before Congress on the Monday morning of 27 May 1776, along with a similar resolve submitted by the North Carolina delegation, adopted the previous month at North Carolina’s Halifax Convention, and dated 12 April 1776. On 27 May 1776, both resolves were “read” and “ordered to lie on the table.” This event marked the day that two colonies served that semi-outlaw Congress with  formal notice that the time had arrived for all the colonies, thirteen-as-one, to prepare and to make a break  from the sovereignty, and the reigning sovereign, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

Eleven days later, on 7 June 1776, in accordance with the parliamentary mode of introducing consideration of a new measure, the same Richard Henry Lee of the Virginia delegation “moved” the Virginia Resolve, which was duly “seconded” by John Adams of the Massachusetts delegation.

On this day and by this historic step the Virginia Resolve of May 15th, earlier tabled on May 27th, became the Lee Resolution of June 7th. After two days of protracted debate on the Lee Resolution, conducted throughout Saturday the 8th and Monday the 10th, the process culminated in a crucial, adopted resolve of Congress, enacted on the late Monday afternoon of the 10th.

By the resolve of June 10th Congress agreed to defer further debate on the Independency measure for three weeks, in order to give adequate time for each of the still undecided colonies to come to a decision on how to instruct its delegation on the three measures proposed. Within two days of this June 10th decision three interlocking committees had been established, one for each of the three measures in the Lee Resolution: [i] A committee to prepare a broadside manifesto to justify Independency declared; [ii] A committee to prepare a constitution for Confederacy; and [iii] A committee to prepare template treaties of mutual defense and commerce. Thus was the Congressional stage set for the decisive debate and vote on Independency expected to take place on Monday, 1 July 1776.

On June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress of that second largest English-speaking population in the world appointed Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston to the “Committee of Five”

Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Robert Livingston

to draft a declaration of independence.    A famous painting by John Trumbull shows the presentation of the declaration to the full Congress by this committee on June 28, 1776:  John Turnbull's famous painting---famous for the history, not the great art.....

797TH ANNIVERSARY OF MAGNA CHARTA: 

The earliest of the key historical events in the Constitutional history of the Anglo-American world directly attributable with some historical confidence to this week were those which took place exactly 797 years ago (18th century adjustments in the English Calendar being ignored for the moment) June 15-19, by the Thames River in the far northwest corner of the County of Surrey in England. 

The name Runnymede may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘runieg‘ (“running” or regular meeting) and ‘mede’ (mead or meadow). The name designates “a place in the meadows used to hold regular meetings” (the meetings were probably “running” in the modern sense, although in modern slang perhaps, “the place to go if you’re in the know” captures it better—it was only for the elite, to be sure, the landholding barons and the king).

What is certainly true of this place is than an ancient social institution or loosely structured organization analogous to the Viking “Thinga” (Allthinga), known in Anglo-Saxon times as theWitan, Witenagemot or Council met with the Kings of the South Saxons, the Saxons of South Ridge, and the Western Saxon (Sussex, Surrey,  and Wessex) from the 7th to 11th centuries took place at Runnymede.  The most regularly “running” meetings in the original Kingdom of England (United Angles & Saxons under the Kingdom of Wessex) started to institutionalize this place from time to time during the reign of Alfred the Great. The  Witan/Witenagemot, like the Norse/Icelandic Thinga (Allthing or the earliest Roman “Res Publica” including the Senatus & Quirites) normally met in the open air.  The political organ known as the Witan evolved and transformed itself in the years succeeding 1215, which all English speaking peoples take as the moment of conception of the birth of what later became known in England’s 13th century as “the place to talk” (in Norman French or) “parliament.”

At the water-meadow at Runnymede  in 1215, King John of England affixed his great seal to the Articles of the Barons on June 15 (the barons having entered and effectively “arrested” King John on June 10).  The barons in turn sealed the Magna Carta on June 19.  The charter indicates Runnymede by name as the place of its creation.  Although only three of its original 63 clauses persist essentially unchanged as part of modern British law, the Magna Carta had an inestimable historical impact on common and constitutional law as well as concepts of political representation also affecting the development of the modern parliament, not only of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the Congress and Legislatures of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and now dearly departed  Dominion of South Rhodesia/Republic of Rhodesia).   Indirectly, what happened at Runnymeade, through the influence of the British Empire, especially after the American Revolution and the Fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, has reshaped the political landscape of Europe, Latin America, and Japan, of the entire civilized, and democratic world, excluding only the most barbarous Arabic Kingdoms.  Tthis most barbarous list clearly includes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, America’s long-standing ally—because even America’s next likely war-target the Islamic Republic of Iran, possesses a Parliament composed of and representing “the propertied middle class” = bourgeois, the French Third Estate, which directly evolved together with the English Parliament due to the long association of England and France) and some of the most backwards and benighted African and Asian nations which possess neither parliaments nor congresses of any kind.

Three clauses of Magna Charta have survived for these 797 years, unscathed, as part of the law of Great Britain, only the last of these (“Clause 29”) having crossed the Atlantic into the American Constitution:

  • 1. FIRST, We have granted to God, and by this our present Charter have confirmed, for Us and our Heirs for ever, that the Church of England shall be free, and shall have all her whole Rights and Liberties inviolable. We have granted also, and given to all the Freemen of our Realm, for Us and our Heirs for ever, these Liberties under-written, to have and to hold to them and their Heirs, of Us and our Heirs for ever.
  • 9. THE City of London shall have all the old Liberties and Customs which it hath been used to have. Moreover We will and grant, that all other Cities, Boroughs, Towns, and the Barons of the Five Ports, as with all other Ports, shall have all their Liberties and free Customs.
  • 29. NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.

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