September 16, 1830: Old Ironsides, by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;Constitution.1
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon’s roar;–
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
Or know the conquered knee;–
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered bulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!


This poem was first printed in the Boston Daily Advertiser, at the time when it was proposed to break up the USS Constitution as unfit for service.

The outcry against decommissioning the ship was loud and clear:

“Such a national object of interest, so endeared to our national pride as Old Ironsides is, should never by any act of our government cease to belong to the Navy, so long as our country is to be found upon the map of nations…

“We confidently anticipate that the Secretary of the Navy will in like manner consult the general wish in regard to the Constitution, and either let her remain in ordinary or rebuild her whenever the public service may require.”–New York Journal of Commerce.

September 15, 1794: Dolley Payne Todd marries James Madison

Dolley Payne was born in 1768 to a Quaker family in North Carolina, and moved to a plantation in Virginia as a small child. After her father emancipated his slaves in 1783 he brought the family to Philadelphia, where Dolley discovered a cosmopolitan life markedly different from her early years. Dolley Madison

She married lawyer and fellow Quaker John Todd Jr. in 1790 and gave birth to sons Payne in 1792 and William in 1793. Disaster struck when a yellow fever epidemic swept through Philadelphia in August of 1793 and both her husband and her son William fell ill. They both died on October 24th that year.

Life was difficult for the young widow until a Virginia representative to Congress, which was in session in Philadelphia at the time, came to notice the attractive young widow who lived near his boardinghouse.

James Madison was a diminutive, shy man known more for his intellect than his charm. He asked his old college friend Aaron Burr, who was known to be a great lady’s man, to arrange an introduction.

Dolley was a tall, black-haired, blue-eyed twenty-six year old Quaker beauty. James Madison was seventeen years older than Dolley and one of the most brilliant minds in the United States. He was also short, slightly built, easy to overlook, Episcopalian, and painfully shy.

After a brief courtship spanning the spring and summer, 26-year-old widow Dolley Payne Todd married 43-year-old Congressman James Madison on September 15, 1794.

The Quakers promptly cast Dolley out of meeting for marrying outside the sect. Dolley discarded her plain clothing and began wearing the fashionable outfits (even turbans!) that became an indelible part of her public image.

When Madison was appointed Secretary of State in 1801, Dolley began to host receptions for the widower President Thomas Jefferson.

When her husband ran for President in 1808, her presence by his side was enough for his opponent Charles Pinckney to grumble, “I was beaten by Mr. and Mrs. Madison. I might have had a better chance had I faced Mr. Madison alone.”

One of Dolley’s first acts as First Lady was to invite some Senators and Congressmen to visit the President’s House to see how poorly furnished it was (when Jefferson returned to his Monticello, he took all his furniture with him). Money was quickly appropriated and Dolley planned a parlor to receive callers and an Oval room (the Blue Room) for formal receptions and for the “Squeezes” or informal open houses for which she was famous.

Dolley entertained graciously. She often entered a reception room with her parrot on her shoulder and carrying a book (usually by James Fenimore Cooper or Washington Irving) as a means to break the ice with guests. She established the White House as Washington’s social center, and with good reason President Zachary Taylor referred to Dolley Madison as “the first lady of the land”, thereby coining the term “First Lady”.

At an 1838 New Year’s Party hosted by Dolley in Washington, Henry Clay famously stated, “Every body loves Mrs. Madison.” To this, Dolley replied, “Mr. Clay, I love every body.”

14 September 1975: Canonization of Mother Elisabeth Ann Seton

Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton is a Saint! She is the first daughter of the United States of America to be glorified with this incomparable attribute!

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was born, brought up and educated in New York in the Episcopalian Communion. To this SetonChurch goes the merit of having awakened and fostered the religious sense and Christian sentiment which in the young Elizabeth were naturally predisposed to the most spontaneous and lively manifestations. We willingly recognize this merit, and, knowing well how much it cost Elizabeth to pass over to the Catholic Church, we admire her courage for adhering to the religious truth and divine reality which were manifested to her therein.

And we are likewise pleased to see that from this same adherence to the Catholic Church she experienced great peace and security, and found it natural to preserve all the good things which her membership in the fervent Episcopalian community had taught her, in so many beautiful expressions, especially of religious piety, and that she was always faithful in her esteem and affection for those from whom her Catholic profession had sadly separated her.

And then we must note that Elizabeth Seton was the mother of a family and at the same time the foundress of the first Religious Congregation of women in the United States. Although this social and ecclesial condition of hers is not unique or new … in a particular way it distinguishes Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton for her complete femininity…

And we rejoice …as the Church renders the greatest honor possible to Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton and extols her personal and extraordinary contribution as a woman -a wife, a mother, a widow, and a religious…

The apostolate of helping the poor and the running of parochial schools in America had this humble, poor, courageous and glorious beginning….

And may they always be mindful of the final exhortation of their Foundress Saint those words that she pronounced on her deathbed, like a heavenly testament, on January 2, 1821: “Be children of the Church”.

And we would add: “for ever!”

— Pope Paul VI :

September 11, 1609: A Fine Morning in New York:

Captain Henry Hudson and his crew of twenty Dutch and English sailors on board the ship Half Moon had explored bays and inlets from Maine to Cape Cod to the Chesapeake looking for the elusive Northwest Passage, when they arrived inside Sandy Hook on September 3. The men explored the bay for about a week, and then on September 11, 1609 Hudson came upon “as fine a river as can be found.”half moon

It was a sunny hot day. At one in the afternoon, the Half Moon set up the river, favored by the tide and a breeze from the south-south-west. The harbor was well protected, and when the local people came out to the boat, they were friendly and gave the sailors tobacco and Indian wheat.

The next day, twenty-eight canoes came out to the boat, full of men, women and children. The sailors didn’t trust the crowd and wouldn’t let them on board, but they were happy to buy oysters and beans, and they admired the natives’ copper tobacco pipes and earthen pottery.

In the following days the Half Moon sailed up the mile-wide river, and the explorers found it abundant with oysters and salmon. There was high land on both sides, and mountains off to the west, and they traded Indian corn and pompions and tobacco, and beaver and otter skins, and feasted on venison with the natives. One day the master and his mate set ashore and shared their wine and aqua-vita with the locals and all were very merry, especially the natives who had never tasted strong spirits before.

On subsequent days they went ashore and gathered chestnuts, and found good ground for growing corn and other garden herbs, and goodly walnuts and oaks, chestnuts and yews, and slate and good stones for building. The natives were welcoming and eager to trade for trinkets. The mountains looked as if they had metal or minerals in them, and the natives showed them a stone that looked like emery which could cut metal or glass.

The crew sailed upriver nearly as far as Albany before realizing this was not the passage to the Indies which they sought, but returning to the river’s mouth they realized that they had discovered a fur-trader’s paradise populated by natives with whom one could do business, and an outstanding harbor and tidal river with lands on either side which were ‘the finest for cultivation that I ever in my life set foot upon,’

As Robert Juet, the ship’s master, noted in his journal, “This is a very pleasant place to build a town on.”

Source: Juet’s Journal of Hudson’s 1609 Voyage (New Netherland Museum)

September 10, 1570: Paquiquineo returns to the Chesapeake Bay

In late June 1561, an Indian boy named Paquiquineo was spending his day as he usually did by the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, when a Spanish caravel sailed near and the crew called out to him, looking for fresh water. Paquiquineo pointed the ship towards his village where they could resupply.

ChesapeakeWhen the ship landed, the captain regaled the natives with gifts of food and clothing, and, learning that Paquiquineo was the son of the local chief, asked the chief for permission to take his son to meet the king of Spain. The chief agreed.

The ship soon sailed back to Europe with Paquiquineo on board. He landed in Portugal, and then traveled to Seville, where the captain bought him a fine suit of clothes (he was after all, a “princely person”), and then presented the lad to King Philip II at the court in Madrid.

Philip was duly impressed and ordered that Paquiquineo—who up to this point had resisted conversion—join a Dominican mission back to his homeland. After spending the winter in Spain, Paquiquineo sailed at the end of May 1562.

The plan was to make a brief stop in New Spain. They arrived near Veracruz and then visited Mexico City, where Paquiquineo became violently ill. Only on the brink of death did he consent to baptism, at which point he quickly recovered and took the Christian name “Don Luís de Velasco” after the viceroy of New Spain.

The Spanish authorized a ship on its way back to Spain to drop off the Dominicans at the Chesapeake Bay, but because of the Paquiquineo’s illness he missed the boat. It wasn’t until 1565 that another opportunity arose to return home. The Spaniards had just founded Saint Augustine in Florida, and now they were moving north. First, they would secure the Point of Santa Elena and then build a fort on the Chesapeake Bay. “Don Luís” (Paquiquineo) was summoned to Havana – he was almost home!

By August 14, the ship he was aboard had made its way north to Chincoteague Bay, but then a fierce storm blew it out to sea. After repeated storms and failed landings, the ship’s pilot headed east to Spain. “Don Luís” spent the next four years back in Seville.
In the meantime, the Jesuit leader Father Juan Baptista de Segura planned a new mission to the Chesapeake Bay. Although he had described La Florida as “one long pile of sand” and the Indians who lived there as “beasts,” he nevertheless believed the Indians could and should be converted through peaceful means, and he could use an interpreter to make that happen.

Sometime in the middle of 1570, Paquiquineo arrived back in Havana. In August the missionaries headed north, stopping at Santa Elena where a teenager, Alonso de Olmos, joined the mission as an altar boy, and then they continued towards Virginia.

On September 10, 1570, after nine long years, Paquiquineo finally made it home to the Chesapeake Bay. His family was ecstatic; they thought he “had risen from the dead and come down from heaven,” and they begged the missionaries to stay.

The Jesuits built two small structures, but Paquiquineo only slept in their hut for two nights. He moved back in with his brothers in another village and stopped responding to Father Segura’s pleas for help in securing food or in communicating with the Indians. In February 1571, Segura sent three Jesuit brothers out to find Paquiquineo.

On February 4, Paquiquineo met up with the three Jesuits, and he killed them. He then traveled to the mission, where he raised his club in greeting to Father Segura, and then killed him. Then he and his companions slaughtered the remaining Spaniards with their own axes, leaving only the altar boy, Alonso de Olmos, alive.

A Spanish relief ship which stopped by the following summer found no trace of the Jesuits, so a military expedition was sent to the James River in August 1572. When the soldiers landed, they found an Indian wearing a Eucharist paten as an ornament around his neck. They swiftly hung him, along with several other Indians, from the ship’s yardarms.

The Indians returned the altar boy Alonso de Olmos who had been living with them for the past two years, but Paquiquineo, the man the Spaniards had known as “Don Luís”, was nowhere to be found.

September 9, 1868: Birth of Mary Austin, Author of “The Land of Little Rain”

East away from the Sierras, south from Panamint and Amargosa, east and south many an uncounted mile, is the Country of Lost Borders.

Ute, Paiute, Mojave, and Shoshone inhabit its frontiers, and as far into the heart of it as a man dare go. Not the Land of little rainlaw, but the land sets the limit. Desert is the name it wears upon the maps, but the Indian’s is the better word. Desert is a loose term to indicate land that supports no man; whether the land can be bitted and broken to that purpose is not proven. Void of life it never is, however dry the air and villainous the soil.

This is the nature of that country. There are hills, rounded, blunt, burned, squeezed up out of chaos, chrome and vermilion painted, aspiring to the snow-line. Between the hills lie high level-looking plains full of intolerable sun glare, or narrow valleys drowned in a blue haze. The hill surface is streaked with ash drift and black, unweathered lava flows. After rains water accumulates in the hollows of small closed valleys, and, evaporating, leaves hard dry levels of pure desertness that get the local name of dry lakes. Where the mountains are steep and the rains heavy, the pool is never quite dry, but dark and bitter,rimmed about with the efflorescence of alkaline deposits. A thin crust of it lies along the marsh over the vegetating area, which has neither beauty nor freshness. In the broad wastes open to the wind the sand drifts in hummocks about the stubby shrubs, and between them the soil shows saline traces. The sculpture of the hills here is more wind than water work, though the quick storms do sometimes scar them past many a year’s redeeming. In all the Western desert edges there are essays in miniature at the famed, terrible Grand Cañon, to which, if you keep on long enough in this country, you will come at last.

Since this is a hill country one expects to find springs, but not to depend upon them; for when found they are often brackish and unwholesome, or maddening, slow dribbles in a thirsty soil. Here you find the hot sink of Death Valley, or high rolling districts where the air has always a tang of frost. Here are the long heavy winds and breathless calms on the tilted mesas where dust devils dance, whirling up into a wide, pale sky. Here you have no rain when all the earth cries for it, or quick downpours called cloud-bursts for violence. A land of lost rivers, with little in it to love; yet a land that once visited must be come back to inevitably. If it were not so there would be little told of it.

September 8, 1900: Great Galveston Hurricane

You know, the year of 1900, children,
Many years ago
Death came howling on the oceanGalveston
Death calls, you got to go
Now Galveston had a seawall
To keep the water down,
And a high tide from the ocean
Spread the water all over the town.
Wasn’t that a mighty storm
Wasn’t that a mighty storm in the morning, well
Wasn’t that a mighty storm
That blew all the people all away.
You know the trumpets give them warning
You’d better leave this place
Now, no one thought of leaving
’til death stared them in the face
And the trains they all were loaded
The people were all leaving town
The trestle gave way to the water
And the trains they went on down.
Rain it was a-falling
thunder began to roll
Lightning flashed like hellfire
The wind began to blow
Death, the cruel master
When the wind began to blow
Rode in on a team of horses
I cried, “Death, won’t you let me go”
Hey, now trees fell on the island
And the houses give away
Some they strained and drowned
Some died in most every way
And the sea began to rolling
And the ships they could not stand
And I heard a captain crying
“God save a drowning man.”
Death, your hands are clammy
You got them on my knee
You come and took my mother
Won’t you come back after me
And the flood it took my neighbor
Took my brother, too
I thought I heard my father calling
And I watched my mother go.
Wasn’t that a mighty storm
Wasn’t that a mighty storm in the morning, well
Wasn’t that a mighty storm
That blew all the people all away.
You know, the year of 1900, children,
Many years ago
Death came howling on the ocean
Death calls, you got to go

September 7, 1892: Death of John Greenleaf Whittier

WAS it thy step on the mountain-side?
Was it thy voice in the air? —
Strange beauty illumined the landscape wide;whittier
The world lay in heaven-light there.
And a whisper, a breath, through my trouble went; —
Did a soul speak, passing by? —
‘Ah, see how the heights and the levels are blent,
How the peaks are dissolved in the sky!
‘One tender suffusion of splendor is this, —
Blue summits and meadows green!
So peaceful, so soft the withdrawal is
Of a life into Light unseen.’
— Thy spirit was passing — I knew it not —
Beyond the light of the sun!
And the world thou hast left has a radiance caught
From the glory that thou hast won.
And my soul arises and follows thine
Up the luminous heavenward slope;
For thy beautiful footprints make earth divine
With the glow of a deathless hope.
– Lucy Larcom

September 3, 1838: Frederick Douglas Escapes to Freedom

I was rigged out in sailor style. I had on a red shirt and a tarpaulin hat and black cravat, tied in sailor fashion, carelessly and loosely about my neck. My knowledge of ships and sailor’s talk came much to my assistance, for I knew a ship from stem to stern, and from keelson to cross-trees, and could talk sailor like an “old salt.” Frederick_Douglass_as_a_younger_man-266x300

On sped the train, and I was well on the way to Havre de Grace before the conductor came into the negro car to collect tickets and examine the papers of his black passengers… He was somewhat harsh in tone and peremptory in manner until he reached me, when, strangely enough, and to my surprise and relief, his whole manner changed. Seeing that I did not readily produce my free papers, as the other colored persons in the car had done, he said to me in a friendly contrast with that observed towards the others: “I suppose you have your free papers?” To which I answered: “No, sir; I never carry my free papers to sea with me.” “But you have something to show that you are a free man, have you not?” “Yes, sir,” I answered; “I have a paper with the American eagle on it, that will carry me round the world.”
With this I drew from my deep sailor’s pocket my seaman’s protection… The merest glance at the paper satisfied him, and he took my fare and went on about his business…

After Maryland I was to pass through Delaware… The border lines between slavery and freedom were the dangerous ones, for the fugitives. The heart of no fox or deer, with hungry hounds on his trail, in full chase, could have beaten more anxiously or noisily than did mine from the time I left Baltimore till I reached Philadelphia.

The passage of the Susquehanna river at Havre de Grace was at that time made by ferry-boat, on board of which I met a young colored man by the name of Nichols, who came very near betraying me. He was a “hand” on the boat, but instead of minding his business, he insisted upon knowing me, and asking me dangerous questions as to where I was going, and when I was coming back, etc. I got away from my old and inconvenient acquaintance as soon as I could …

Once across the river I encountered a new danger. Only a few days before I had been at work on a revenue cutter, in Mr. Price’s ship-yard, under the care of Captain McGowan. On the meeting at this point of the two trains, the one going south stopped on the track just opposite to the one going north, and it so happened that this Captain McGowan sat at a window where he could see me very distinctly, and would certainly have recognized me had he looked at me but for a second…

But this was not the only hair-breadth escape. A German blacksmith, whom I knew well, was on the train with me, and looked at me very intently, as if he thought he had seen me somewhere before in his travels. I really believe he knew me, but had no heart to betray me…

The last point of imminent danger, and the one I dreaded most, was Wilmington. Here we left the train and took the steamboat for Philadelphia. In making the change I again apprehended arrest, but no one disturbed me, and I was soon on the broad and beautiful Delaware, speeding away to the Quaker City…

MY free life began on the third of September, 1838. On the morning of the 4th of that month… I found myself in the big city of New York, a free man; one more added to the mighty throng which, like the confused waves of the troubled sea, surged to and fro between the lofty walls of Broadway.

Though dazzled with the wonders which met me on every hand, my thoughts could not be much withdrawn from my strange situation. For the moment the dreams of my youth and the hopes of my manhood were completely fulfilled…

No man now had a right to call me his slave or assert mastery over me. I was in the rough and tumble of an outdoor world, to take my chance with the rest of its busy number.



September 2, 1945: Douglas MacArthur accepts the Japanese Surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri

Today the guns are silent. A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won….

As I look back upon the long, tortuous trail from those grim days of Bataan and Corregidor, when an entire world

lived in fear, when democracy was on the defensive everywhere, when modern civilization trembled in the balance, I thank a merciful God that he has given us the faith, the courage and the power from which to mold victory. We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war.

A new era is upon us. Even the lesson of victory itself brings with it profound concern, both for our future security and the survival of civilization. The destructiveness of the war potential, through progressive advances in scientific discovery, has in fact now reached a point which revises the traditional concepts of war.
Men since the beginning of time have sought peace…. Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war.

We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural development of the past two thousand years.

It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.

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