Fatal Journey Part Three

Grace died on Wednesday, July 11, 1906. Chester was arrested for her murder on Saturday, right after eating a leisurely breakfast at the Arrowhead Hotel.

 

Auburn Prison, Site of Chester’s Execution in 1908

 

Chester was tried in Herkimer, Herkimer County, and the outcome was never in very much doubt. He had competent lawyers acting in his defense, but the prosecutor had amassed an astonishing amount of evidence against him. That evidence was entirely circumstantial; there were no witnesses to what happened to Grace on that summer day in the Adirondacks. Some of the evidence was secured in ways that would not be legal procedures today, but rights of the accused were secondary in that era.

 

The defendant himself had made too many mistakes, had acted like a man planning a crime before the fact with his use of aliases, had failed to do what “common decency” dictated when he walked away from the scene of Grace’s death. When he then proceeded to act the tourist and enjoy life, he may have offended every last person who might otherwise have wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

 

Publicly, Chester maintained to the end that he did not kill Grace. He may have confessed privately shortly before his execution; both his religious advisor and his mother said later he had. New York State’s Governor, Charles E. Hughes [at left], called the prison the night before the execution and spoke with the former. He was apparently informed that a confession had been forthcoming.

 

Governor Hughes proved himself a bright star in public life, an honorable man before, during, and after his brief career as Governor of New York State. It seems likely he made that phone call to the prison in good faith and a willingness to act, had he been given any reason to do so.

 

Chester Gillette was electrocuted at Auburn State Prison on March 30, 1908. He was buried in a cemetery in Auburn. His grave is unmarked and its exact location is unknown. Grace Brown is buried in a cemetery not far from her family home. Her small headstone, aside from her name and dates of birth and death, says only “At Rest.”

 

All of the scenes of this story are very familiar to me, having lived most of my life in Central New York State. The landscape, the small towns, the lakes and mountains of the Adirondacks, the farms and open fields spreading across the countryside are as familiar to me as my own neighborhood. South Otselic, DeRuyter, Cortland – places I have visited and explored many times. Herkimer County, even including the lakes in its northern region, is my territory too. Many of my extended family and their friends had small farms like the one that nurtured and sheltered Grace Brown, and as a child I loved visiting those rural homes.

 

Chester Gillette’s life seems more remote, several times removed from the places where I grew up. He was in Montana and Oregon, Washington State, California. He was in the east only the last two years of his short life.

 

Still, in addition to our common ancestors, there is another coincidence in our respective lives. As I read his story, particularly the way it ended, I couldn’t help thinking of a story my mother told many times. As a young child, she lived for a while in Auburn. The Prison’s warden was a family friend, and he gave my mother and her family a tour of the prison. The itinerary included the “death chamber”, no longer used by that time. Electrocutions were then held only at Sing Sing State Prison. Would she like to try out the electric chair? She would. And she did. For a lark, someone flipped the light switch, as if power was surging to the chair. My mother laughs when she tells that story.

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Fatal Journey Part Two

Chester wrote Grace one last letter a week after his previous one. In it, he says

I think it is best that you should go to Hamilton next Monday and meet me there. It would be better to go where we are not known and so we can leave there that day, although I don’t know where we can or will go. I have really no plans beyond that, as I do not know how much money I can get or anything about the country. If you have any suggestions to make I wish you would and also just when and where you can meet me….Don’t worry about anything and tell me about what I ask about the time and so forth.

 

Don’t worry about anything? Grace was entrusting, had to entrust, her whole well-being and future to this man who had no plans.

 

LAST LETTER FROM GRACE

 

My dear Chester – I am curled up by the kitchen fire….Everyone else is in bed….This is the last letter I can write dear. I feel as though you are not coming. Perhaps this is not right, but I cannot help feeling that I am never going to see you again. How I wish this was Monday [the day they planned to meet in the village of DeRuyter]….

 

I have been bidding goodbye to some places today. There are so many nooks, dear, and all of them so dear to me. I have lived here nearly all of my life. First, I said goodbye to the spring house with its great masses of green moss; then the beehive, a cute little house in the orchard, and, of course, all of the neighbors that have mended my dresses from a little tot up to save me a thrashing I really deserved.

 

Oh dear, you don’t realize what all of this is to me. I know I shall never see any of them again. And Mama! Great heavens, how I do love Mama! I don’t know what I shall do without her. She is never cross and she always helps me so much. Sometimes, I think if I could tell Mama, but I can’t. She has trouble enough as it is, and I couldn’t break her heart like that. If I come back dead, perhaps, if she does not know, she won’t be angry with me. I will never be happy again, dear. I wish I could die.

 

I am going to bed now dear. Please come and don’t let me wait there. It is for both of us to be there….I shall expect and look for you Monday forenoon.

 

Heaven bless you until then.

 

Lovingly and with kisses, The Kid

 

Contrary to Grace’s worst fears, Chester did meet her in DeRuyter as planned. There are so many “what ifs” in this story, as there are in all stories, one of which is what if Chester had backed out, leaving Grace there in that tiny hamlet alone. Would she have gone home, confided to her mother, a sister, a friend? Would she have lived?

 

The journey from DeRuyter to Big Moose Lake took from Monday to Wednesday, requiring two nights in hotels. Chester registered under false names for himself, as he had done in DeRuyter. At Big Moose Lake, he rented a row boat and the pair set off from the shore. The boat was observed by several witnesses, some on the shore, others on the lake. The understanding of the proprietor of the Glennmore Hotel, where Chester rented the boat, was that the couple would return in time for dinner. They didn’t return, and the next day several people became involved in the search for the boat and its occupants. The boat was found, floating upside down. Grace was found, drowned. There was no sign of Chester.

 

Chester’s account of what happened fluctuated, but he settled on a story about Grace being distraught and jumping into the lake to commit suicide, overturning the boat in the process. Unable to rescue her, he swam to shore and then walked four miles to Eagle Bay. When the boat left the Glennmore dock, it was known that he had a suitcase with him. His explanation for the dry clothes he was seen wearing on his hike was that the suitcase was left on shore when the couple stopped to picnic. He said he had planned to retrieve it on the way back to the Glennmore.

 

There never was a satisfactory explanation as to why Chester failed to seek help or report the incident. He arrived at Eagle Bay on foot, then took a small steamboat across the lake to the village of Inlet. He registered at the Arrowhead Hotel under his own name, Chester Gillette, Cortland.

 

For the next three days, Chester behaved very much like a young man with not a care in the world, on vacation, and enjoying every minute. He acted like any other tourist, hiking up a nearby mountain, conversing freely with people he met, and generally being charming, particularly when chatting with young women.

 

For Chester, life was about to change dramatically.

 

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Fatal Journey

Part One

The young woman on the left was my cousin, Grace Brown. The young man on the right was Chester Gillette. He was also my cousin. When I started learning their story, I had no idea there was any kinship to add to the many connections of geography, and one other coincidence, which I’ll save for later. On a whim, I took a look at Grace’s ancestry and found we had several sets of ancestors in common. With Chester, there was even more shared ancestry. I haven’t been able to connect their families together, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find they were related to each other.

 

Grace drowned in 1906. She was 20 years old. Chester was convicted of her murder and was executed in 1908 at the age of 24. Behind those simple, stark facts, there are many details known, and many more obscure.

 

There are a great many facts known about Chester and the life he led before it was ended in Auburn Prison on March 30,1908. Born in Montana in 1883, he did a great deal of traveling with his parents, “captains” in the Salvation Army. The family’s wanderings are interesting, perhaps, but they hardly seem relevant. There is nothing there that gives us much explanation as to what happened later.

 

About Grace, there is little to say. She was one of several children of a farming family, and Grace never traveled at all. Still, we are “aware” of Grace in a way that we can never know Chester. You see, Grace wrote letters. Ah, such letters! They tell us worlds about their young writer, about her concerns, her fears, her state of mind. They propelled her story into national prominence, probably contributed to the novel (“An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser) and the movie (“A Place in the Sun” starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelly Winters), and they may well have assured that her fickle boyfriend, Chester, was convicted of her murder.

 

This is a story of real people and, as such, has no easily identifiable beginning. A young man goes to work in his uncle’s skirt factory in Cortland, New York, where he meets many attractive young women who interest him. There are others that he knows from other settings. Grace was employed in that factory in the cutting room, and she was one of the girls Chester dated.

 

Perhaps “dated” is the wrong word to use here. Chester did date others, taking them places and attending parties with them, but Grace he visited at her place of residence. For a time she lived in her sister’s home and later in a boarding house. They had a sexual relationship in these houses for perhaps ten months, but they did not appear in public places together, outside of the skirt factory.

 

During the spring months of 1906, Grace became pregnant. There was never any doubt as to paternity. Whatever the two discussed with each other, whatever alternatives were considered, whatever plans were made are open to speculation, but only to speculation. There were no witnesses to conversations, and nothing was confided by either to any third party, as far as is known.

 

Grace took time off from work for a “vacation” at home on her parents’ farm. She and Chester kept in touch through letters during this time, and Grace also received letters from friends working in the factory. It was apparent that they were keeping her informed of Chester’s dates with other women. In writing to Chester, Grace alludes to plans they have made to go away together, for him to come and take her somewhere, the destination unspecified and purpose unclear. Were they going to marry? Were they merely planning to live somewhere until the baby was born and they could return to their respective homes? No one knows, and probably this question will be one of many remaining unanswered.

 

LETTERS FROM GRACE

 

Chester, I have done nothing but cry since I got here. If you were only here I would not feel so badly. I knew I should worry all the time. I do try to be brave dear, but how can I when everything goes wrong? I can’t help thinking you will never come for me, but then I say you can’t be so mean as that, and besides, you told me you would come and you have never disappointed me when you said you would not. Everything worries me and I am so frightened, dear. It won’t make any difference to you about your coming a few days earlier than you intended, will it dear? It means so much to me…I will try to be brave dear….I don’t believe I will sleep a wink tonight. Please write often and in every one of your letters I wish you would tell me not to worry about your coming for me. If you were only here, dear. I am so blue….Please write often, dear, and tell me you will come for me before papa makes me tell the whole affair, or they find it out themselves. I just can’t rest one single minute until I hear from you….

 

My dear Chester – I am writing to tell you I am coming back to Cortland. I simply can’t stay here any longer. Mama worries and wonders why I cry so much and I am just about sick. Please come and take me away from some place, dear…..I am afraid you won’t come, and I am so frightened, dear. I know you will think it queer, but I can’t help it….Chester, there isn’t a girl in the whole world as miserable as I am tonight, and you have made me feel so. Chester, I don’t mean that dear. You have always been awfully good to me. You just won’t be a coward, I know….I can’t wait so long for letters, dear….if you think I am unreasonable please do not mind it, but do think I am about crazy with grief and that I don’t know just what to do. Please write to me, dear.

 

My dear Chester – I am just ready for bed, and I am so ill I could not help writing to you….This p.m. my brother brought me a letter from one of the first [at the factory], and after I read the letter I fainted again. Chester, I came home because I thought I could trust you. I don’t think now I will be here after next Friday. [Grace continues to threaten to return to Cortland, thus causing trouble.] This girl wrote me that you seemed to be having an awfully good time….She also said that you spent most of your time with that detestable Grace Hill….I should have known, Chester, that you did not care for me. But somehow I have trusted you more than anyone else….I presume you won’t think you can come for me when I ask you to, Chester. If I could only die. I know how you feel about this affair, and I wish for your sake you need not be troubled. If I die I hope you can then be happy. I hope I can die….and then you can do just as you like. I am not the least bit offended with you, only I am a little blue tonight….Chester, please don’t think I am unreasonable. I wish I could hear from you, and I wish – oh dear, come please and take me away….I do want you to have a good time, though, and I won’t be cross….

My dear Chester – I am just wild because I don’t get a letter from you….I miss you. Oh dear, you don’t know how much I miss you. Honestly, dear, I am coming back next week unless you come for me right away. [another threat] I am so lonesome I can’t stand it. A week ago tonight we were together. Don’t you remember how I cried, dear? I have cried like that nearly all the time since I left Cortland. I am awfully blue…Please write or I will be crazy. Be a good kid and God bless you.

I would not like to have you think I was not glad to hear from you, for I was very glad, but it was not the kind of letter I had hoped to get from you. I think – pardon me – that I understand my position and that it is rather unnecessary for you to be so frightfully frank in making me see it. I can see my position as keenly as anyone, I think….You tell me not to worry and think less about how I feel and have a good time. Don’t you think if you were me you would worry?….I understand how you feel about this affair. You consider me as something troublesome, that you are bothered with. You think if it wasn’t for me you could do as you liked all summer and not be obligated to give up your position there. I know how you feel, but once in a while, you make me see all these things a great deal more plainly than ever. I don’t suppose you have ever considered how it puts me out of all the good times for the summer and how I had to give up my position there? I think all this is about as bad for me as for you, don’t you?…I don’t suppose you will ever know how I regret being all this trouble to you. I know you hate me, and I can’t blame you one bit. My whole life is ruined, and in a measure, yours is too. Of course, it is worse for me than for you, but the world and you too may think I am the only one to blame, but somehow I can’t, just simply can’t think I am, Chester. I said no so many times dear. Of course, the world will not know that, but it’s true all the same….I wish for your sake things were different, but I have done all I can do to prevent your being bothered. I know you will be cross when you read this, but you won’t be angry and blame me will you?…

 

[Apparently frightened at the tone of her previous letter and its possible consequences, Grace wrote the next day] …I have been uneasy all day and I can’t go to sleep because I am sorry I sent you such a hateful letter this morning, so I am going to write and ask your forgiveness, dear. I was cross and wrote things I ought not to have written. I am very sorry dear and I shall never feel quite right about all this until you write and say you quite forgive me…..Where do you suppose we will be two weeks from tonight? I wish you would write and tell me, dear, all about your coming….

 

My dear Chester – I wish you could have known how pleased I was to hear from you today….I think I shall die of joy when I see you, dear….I will try and not worry so much, and I won’t believe the horrid things the girls write….Chester, dear, I hope you will have an awfully nice time the Fourth [of July]. Really dear, I don’t care where you go or who you are with if you only come for me the 7th….I was cross and ill when I wrote about it before, but really, I don’t mind the least bit….

 

….You must come Saturday, dear, for I can never stay any longer. I have done my best and been as brave as possible these last weeks, but if you should not come I will do something desperate. Or dear, dear, dear! I can’t see anything but just trouble. What if I should not be able to travel? [Grace is apparently weak and ill from loss of weight, worry, and perhaps a difficult pregnancy.] There are so many things to think about. If I had strength dear, I do believe I should walk to the river and throw myself in. It would be rather cowardly, and I despise a coward, but I would not be a bother to you any longer. Oh Chester, the thought that I am in your way just drives me crazy. How I want to die no one but myself knows….I cannot tell how I really and truly need you, and I presume you will never know what I have suffered….And you must not fail to come. I will be so glad to see you, I will promise not to quarrel for a long time. Write as often as you can dear, and please come….

 

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WATERFALLS

Waterfalls are dear to most people, like rainbows. The sights and sounds of them have a universal appeal, restful and calming. There are some exceptions, like that tiny horror in the sheer north face of the Eiger that some climbers had to negotiate to reach the summit, or the dangerous falls an out-of-control boat is approaching. Pretty to look at, waterfalls can have a darker side.

They also have a history. Waterfalls actually have two kinds of history – a beginning and an end for themselves, and an impact on other kinds of history, such as human history.

The life history of a waterfall is described succinctly by the Encyclopedia Britannica.

In essence, a waterfall is an area where flowing river water drops abruptly and nearly vertically. Rivers tend to smooth out the bumps and depressions in their flow by processes of erosion and deposition. Elevated areas within the river get worn away, and the holes filled up with sediment. The river forms a smooth curve, steepest toward the source, most level towards the mouth. Waterfalls interrupt this curve, and their presence is a measure of the progress of erosion.

 

“Within a river’s time scale, a waterfall is a temporary feature that is eventually worn away….With the passage of time… the inescapable tendency of rivers is to eliminate any waterfall that may have formed.”

Nothing lasts forever.

The world’s tallest waterfall is Angel Falls, rising 3,212 feet above the floor of the a Venezuelan jungle. If you would like to jump from the top of it, there are expeditions planned so that people can do just that. Of course, there is a fee. An internet site explains. “COST: $5500 U.S. PER PERSON. This will cover virtually everything from the moment we arrive in Caracas until our departure. Flights to and from Caracas are additional. Alcohol, trinkets and beads are also additional.”

Angel Falls is in southeastern Venezuela and in a terrain so remote and difficult to get to that it was unknown to Venezuelans until the early 1930s. Overland access is blocked by a huge steep slope. Venezuelans were able to survey the region with aircraft, and they discovered the falls in 1935. Because of the dense jungle surrounding it, the waterfall is still best observed from the air. Angel Falls was named for James Angel, an American adventurer who crash-landed his plane on a nearby mesa two years after the falls had been discovered.

In 1971 three Americans and an Englishman climbed the sheer rock face of the falls in an adventure that took ten days. Climbing waterfalls is popular among some. When they reach the top, they say they have “conquered” the falls, which is the same claim they make about mountains.

A very famous waterfall is a small one, tucked into the Allegheny Mountains not far from Pittsburgh. Its distinction stems from the architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, who built a house called “Fallingwater,” cantilevered over the falls. Begun in 1936 and completed the following year, Wright designed the house for Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann as a weekend retreat. Probably Wright’s most-admired work, it was later given to the state and was opened to visitors. Wright had a sense of humor, which is apparent in some of his work, and in several quotes. My favorite is “The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” Fallingwater was never a house that needed vines.

Henry Stanley, a New York Herald reporter, is supposed to have said “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” That quotation is probably much more famous than the man who inspired it. That was David Livingstone, a Scot who arrived in Africa in 1840 at the age of 27 as a missionary and physician. He remained in Africa exploring the continent’s interior for the rest of his life. He lost an argument with a lion, losing his arm in the encounter, but continued undeterred.

 

In 1855, he became the first European to witness the magnificence of Victoria Falls. He wrote of the experience, “It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

 

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TWO VIEWS OF TOLEDO

A photograph – and a painting. Toledo now, and Toledo four hundred years ago. Toledo, as the camera reveals it. Toledo, as the artist, El Greco saw it, filtered through his own experiences, religious beliefs, mission as an artist, and, perhaps, what he knew of history.

The sky conditions in the two images are similar, showing a coming storm, or one just passing. In the photograph, it’s quite possible to see that soon the sun will break through. The painting, however, speaks of a sunny day gone by, now past, and perhaps long past. The horizon is black. Toledo’s history was black, too. Was the artist trying to convey that message? Possibly not; he was in thrall to the ruling religious powers of his time. It had been 100 years since the city of Toledo, capital of Spain until 1560, had tolerated anything else.

Titus Livius (59 BC-AD 17), a Roman historian better known as “Livy,” was the first to record any mention of Toledo. Two thousand years ago, he described it as a “small fortificated town.” When the Romans arrived in Toledo in the First Century A.D., they found a very well-defended city, situated on a mountain and surrounded by a river. Several centuries later, they built a massive wall that kept Toledo safe from invasions for centuries.

The Visigoths invaded Toledo and expelled the Romans in the Fifth Century A.D. and were the first Christian residents of Toledo. The Visigoths stayed in Toledo from the Fifth Century A.D. until 711, when the Muslims, with their vast armies, new religion, and powerful weapons obliterated them.

The Jews were a part of Toledan history since the last years of the Roman occupation. They came with the Romans, and the two groups coexisted peacefully. Though the Jews were never the dominant group in Toledo, they were always an important part of the city. They became known as money-lenders, merchants of fine cloths and precious metals, and intellectuals and were generally well-respected by the other peoples of Toledo. When the Visigoths took over, they forced the Jews to stop practicing their religion openly. The Muslims, in contrast, basically left the Jews in peace and only required them to pay taxes, just as they did to the remaining Visigoth Christians in Toledo.

Heritage Tours Online (website) says of Toledo:

During its heyday as capital (before it was moved to Madrid in 1561), Toledo was one of the most enlightened cities in Europe and a famous center for medicine, translation and manuscripts. While the rest of Europe was suffering through the Dark Ages, Toledo was shining bright and prospering.

Toledo was a society of great tolerance that attracted Muslim, Jewish and Christian men of learning and commerce. It was the scholars of Toledo who kept the works of the Greeks and Romans from becoming lost to future generations. Prominent schools of science, mathematics, theology and mysticism developed here, as well as schools of the occult and alchemy.

“Enlightened,” “shining bright,” “great tolerance,” words and phrases celebrate Toledo’s proudest place in history. Then, things changed.

When competing ideologies take up arms against each other, they can be just as vicious as any other type of warfare. My idea is right; yours is wrong. My religious sentiment is correct; yours is false. My God is the one true God; yours is a heathen fallacy.

I, ME, MY, where religion is concerned, is always in the context of WE, US, OUR and stands in contrast to OTHER, which includes all people not of the same religious persuasion. The thoughts, US and THEM, have a way of becoming US versus THEM, and THEY are suddenly the enemy.

The Jews in Toledo became the enemy.

After centuries of peace, a mob acting irrationally, as mobs always do, massacred Jews in Toledo in 1391. The same hysterical thirst for blood was unleashed in other parts of Spain, and nothing would ever be the same. The final horrific scenes in this long-playing tragedy would not take place for a century, but in the end, in 1492, Jews would be expelled from Spain. Along the way, many were tortured, many murdered, many driven out just ahead of the executioners.

The expulsion of the Jews heralded the political and economic demise of the city, which culminated in the Royal Court being moved to Madrid in 1561 in the reign of King Philip II. Toledo in the 21st century has tourism as its chief industry. Visitors can see the sad remnants of a glorious past, but it takes a knowledgeable tour guide to point them out. To really know Toledo, one must read the more honest of the history books. One could also study El Greco’s “View of Toledo.” Look closely; man’s dark side is suggested there.

 

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THE TWAIN SHALL MEET

Mark Twain and H. L. Mencken

All you need is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.

It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.

Always do right. That will gratify some of the people, and astonish the rest.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens took his more familiar name, “Mark Twain,” from his experience as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi. In shallow water, soundings were taken to determine the depth, and “mark twain” meant two fathoms, 12 feet, deep enough for safe navigation.

I have been an author for 20 years and an ass for 55.

Clemens lost his father when he was only 12. At the age of 13 he left school and became a printer’s apprentice. After two short years, he joined his brother Orion’s newspaper as a printer and editorial assistant. It was here that young Samuel found he enjoyed writing.

At 17, he moved to St. Louis and took a printer’s job, and about that time became a river pilot’s apprentice. He became a licensed river pilot in 1858. He was then 23. Three years later, in 1861, the American Civil War ended opportunities to continue that career. He left the Mississippi, briefly served in the Confederate cavalry, and then began some travels and adventures.

Later in 1861, he accompanied his brother to the newly created Nevada Territory, where he tried his hand at silver mining. In 1862 he became a reporter on the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada, and in 1863 he began signing his articles with the pseudonym Mark Twain. After moving to San Francisco, California in 1864, Twain met American writers Artemus Ward and Bret Harte, who encouraged him in his work. In 1865 Twain reworked a tale he had heard in the California gold fields, and within months the author and the story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” had become national sensations.

In 1867 Twain lectured in New York City, and in the same year he visited Europe and Palestine. He wrote of these travels in The Innocents Abroad (1869), a book exaggerating those aspects of European culture that impress American tourists. In 1870 he married Olivia Langdon, a native of Elmira, NY. After living briefly in Buffalo, New York, the couple moved to Hartford, Connecticut. Much of Twain’s best work was written in the 1870s and 1880s in Hartford or during the summers at Quarry Farm, near Elmira, New York.

Mark Twain’s house in Hartford, CT

Twain was justly renowned as a humorist, but he was far more than that, and his versatility and wide interests and depth of thought and emotion were later recognized by other American writers. Two of those were Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, both of whom pointed to Twain as an inspiration for their own writing.

He died in 1910, leaving a rich legacy for these writers, and others, to try to emulate. His best work is characterized by broad, often irreverent humor or biting social satire. Twain’s writing is also known for realism of place and language, memorable characters, and hatred of hypocrisy and oppression.

The best analysis of Twain’s work was written by another writer, H. L. Mencken.

 

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PRINCE OF WALES

PRINCE OF WALES

As an American with little knowledge of English history and tradition, I have wondered what in the world the Prince of Wales has to do with Wales. I have some ancestors, way, way back, who were said to be princes in the country we now call Wales. What happened? How did they get shoved aside for this (we suspect) honorary title, “Prince of Wales?” I decided to investigate.

Cardigan Bay, Wales**

My ancestor, and I have this on pretty good authority as those things go, was named Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, sometimes called “Llywelyn the Great.” He ruled a territory in Wales from 1194 to 1240 and was called Prince of Aberffraw and Lord of Snowdon. One historian, Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, says the following about Llywelyn: “He proved to be the greatest and most constructive Welsh statesman of the Middle Ages…. When he died in 1240, full of honor and glory, he left a principality which had the possibility of expanding into a truly national state of Wales. There was a moment when an independent Wales seemed about to become a reality.”*

Alas, it was not to be. Things looked pretty hopeful for a few years, on and off, but “off” won out. Edward the First replaced Henry III as King of England, and he conquered Wales and subjugated its people. In order to keep them in line, Edward I had enormous stone castles built in several places. Below is the one at Conwy, and it is said to have been placed above the original tomb of Llywelyn the Great. Not everyone can say just where their 23rd great grandfather is buried, but sometimes we just get lucky. There is also a statue of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth in the town of Conwy. I don’t know whether they also have a statue celebrating Edward I, but somehow I doubt it.

Edward the First was not the first king of England to be named Edward. There was Edward the Elder, 899-925. There was Edward the Martyr, 975-78. There was Edward the Confessor, 1042-66. We don’t get to Edward the First until 1272, and he ruled until 1307. He was also called Edward I Longshanks, being quite a tall fellow. After that, England seemed to get better at simple arithmetic; at least, they had learned to count. The next Edwards came in order. Edward II followed Edward I, next was Edward III. He was followed by some Henrys, but when another Edward put in an appearance, he was Edward IV, and so it went. It went right up to Edward VIII who, as we all know, didn’t want to be King without the woman he loved at his side, so he didn’t last very long in office. He was England’s last Edward, and there are no more in sight.

We have to get back to Edward the First, because he was the key player in all this “Prince of Wales” business. The Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about the matter: “In Great Britain the word prince could always be used in a generally descriptive way for a sovereign, duke, or other peer; but as a title of rank it was not used until 1301, when Edward I invested his son, the future Edward II, as Prince of Wales. From Edward III’s time the king’s eldest son and heir was usually so invested.”

If the Encyclopedia Britannica is correct, and who would doubt it?, the first Prince of Wales in the modern sense was Edward II. What sort of chap was he? “Edward II lacked the royal dignity of his father and failed miserably as king.” That’s the opening sentence in one biography. At the end of his reign, he was deposed and murdered. His lifestyle lacked style, at least for those times: his most influential associate was probably also his homosexual lover, and the folks around Edward were not pleased.

It’s hard to imagine stronger words than these, spoken about Edward I, but describing his despicable son. Sir Richard Baker, in reference to Edward I in A Chronicle of the Kings of England wrote: “…of four sons which he had by his Queen Eleanor, three of them died in his own lifetime, who were worthy to have outlived him; and the fourth outlived him, who was worthy never to have been born.”

That was the first Prince of Wales, and a very dismal start it was.

Things got better. And worse. And better again. If most of the male heir apparents were made Prince of Wales, there must have been many of them. Probably few are known for their doings as Prince. After all, why examine the salad when you can review the feast to follow? There are some exceptions, though. Some were Princes much longer than they were Kings, and the previously mentioned Edward VIII is a good example of that. An even better example is Edward VII.

Edward got a bad start in life, having two very large handicaps. One was his mother. The other was his father. Poor Edward was the second child and first son of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. Neither parent liked this child, thought he would amount to much, or respected him for any of his personal qualities. They seemed to have decided early on that he was hopeless and very poor material for the future King of England. Edward was made Prince of Wales at the age of one month, and things seemed to go down hill for him thereafter.

His parents were strict. More than strict, they imposed a rigid regimen upon him, controlling, or attempting to control, his every move. He could have done what many do under those circumstances, knuckle under and become a wimp. He chose another path – that of rebel – and what a glorious rebellion it was. He indulged in wine, women, and song. And food. And more women. and more of everything. Edward’s exploits were a scandal to some, amusing to others. He himself seems to have had a good time of it.

Edward married Princess Alexandra of Denmark when he was 22 years old, and they had three sons and three daughters. Photographs and paintings show her to be a very lovely woman, and historians say she “turned a blind eye” to her husband’s indiscretions. Apparently, Edward fared better with his wife than he had with his parents.

Queen Victoria never allowed her son to participate in affairs of state, and she found a way to blame him for her dear husband’s death. Albert is said to have died from typhoid fever, but Victoria believed that his worry over his son’s scandalous behavior was a contributing factor. She stated later that she could never bear the sight of her son after Albert died. Odd attitude, considering that Victoria lived nearly another 40 years.

Edward VII has the distinction of being Prince of Wales for a longer period of time than anyone else who ever held the title, fifty-nine years. Considering that his mother nearly completely shut him out of governmental affairs, one would expect him to have been a very poor and inept monarch. In fact, Edward was one of the best.

Edward succeeded the throne upon Victoria’s death and Edward threw himself into his role of king with vitality. His extensive European travels made him an accomplished ambassador in foreign relations. He was kin to most of the royal houses in Europe, allowing him to actively participate in foreign policy negotiations. Victoria’s fears proved wrong: Edward’s forays into foreign policy had direct bearing on the alliances between Great Britain and both France and Russia, and his manner and style endeared him to the English populace. Like Princess Alexandria, apparently, they didn’t hold his flamboyant sexual exploits against him. Perhaps Princes and Kings are held to different standards. Whatever the truth of that, Edward VII was and is considered a success.

 

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LINCOLN

First Inaugural Address

March 4, 1861

Fellow-Citizens of the United States:

In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President “before he enters on the execution of this office.”

I do not consider it necessary at present for me to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no special anxiety or excitement.

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read: Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause as cheerfully to one section as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions: No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause “shall be delivered up” their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?

There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by national or by State authority, but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is done. And should anyone in any case be content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?

Again: In any law upon this subject ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not in any case surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that “the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States”?

I take the official oath today with no mental reservations and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules; and while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed than to violate any of them trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.

It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our National Constitution. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have in succession administered the executive branch of the Government. They have conducted it through many perils, and generally with great success. Yet, with all this scope of precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional term of four years under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.

I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

Again: If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it break it, so to speak but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was “to form a more perfect Union.”

But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far as practicable unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating and so nearly impracticable withal that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.

The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far as possible the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be followed unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper, and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised, according to circumstances actually existing and with a view and a hope of a peaceful solution of the national troubles and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections.

That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events and are glad of any pretext to do it I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?

Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from, will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?

All profess to be content in the Union if all constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right plainly written in the Constitution has been denied? I think not. Happily, the human mind is so constituted that no party can reach to the audacity of doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied. If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might in a moral point of view justify revolution; certainly would if such right were a vital one. But such is not our case. All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are so plainly assured to them by affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions, in the Constitution that controversies never arise concerning them. But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate nor any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.

From questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the Government must cease. There is no other alternative, for continuing the Government is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them, for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new confederacy a year or two hence arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.

Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new union as to produce harmony only and prevent renewed secession?

Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.

I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court, nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case upon the parties to a suit as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.

One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive-slave clause of the Constitution and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave trade are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, can not be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the sections than before. The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived without restriction in one section, while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all by the other.

Physically speaking, we can not separate. We can not remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this. They can not but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you can not fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I can not be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution which amendment, however, I have not seen has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have referred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves can do this if also they choose, but the Executive as such has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present Government as it came to his hands and to transmit it unimpaired by him to his successor.

Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with His eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people.

By the frame of the Government under which we live this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and have with equal wisdom provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance no Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.

My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new Administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.”

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

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RAINBOW CROW

The Lenni Lenape people, “tribe” in modern vernacular, had many stories that were told and retold, handed down from one generation to the next for centuries. As must be true with any oral tradition, these tales changed over time and, eventually, most were lost. Some legends survived to our day, and the tale of “Rainbow Crow” is one of them. It can be found in various sources, each version being slightly different.

I have put “Rainbow Crow” into my own words, as I understand its meaning and significance. I hope it is faithful to the original tradition.

Long, long ago, before there were human beings, the animals gathered together to discuss changes in their world and what their actions should be. Whereas it had always been warm, it suddenly turned cold. Whereas the landscape had always been green, it now was beginning to turn white with snow.

The snow kept falling, and falling, and falling. Soon, the little animals began to be covered by snow and disappear. Then the same began to happen to the next largest animals. And the snow kept falling.

The animals tried to decide which of their number should be sent as a messenger to Kishelamakank, the Creator, to ask him to stop making the snow. The owl was the wisest, but he could be blinded by the light of day and get lost. Coyote was clever, but he was known to love tricks and could not be trusted to keep his serious mission. Each animal was considered in turn, but none seemed right.

Then, just as the animals were feeling desperate and afraid, Manaka’has, the Rainbow Crow flew among them, his array of beautifully colored feathers brightening up the ever-whitening forest. Rainbow Crow, in his voice that was the most melodious of all the birds, said, “I will go, I will go!”

And so it was.

Rainbow Crow flew up into the sky, above the forest, above the clouds, above the moon and the stars. For three days he flew until he arrived at the home of the Creator. At first, the Creator was too busy to notice Rainbow Crow, until the messenger began to sing. Never before had such a sweet voice been heard or such a beautiful song. The Creator told Rainbow Crow that in exchange for the gift of music, he would give the emissary a gift in return. “Tell me what you would choose to have.”

Rainbow Crow asked the Creator to stop the snow so that the animals would not be smothered and die in the cold.

“No, Manaka’has, I cannot stop the snow and the cold. They have spirits of their own. But I can give you the gift of fire. Fire will keep you warm through the cold seasons.” Saying this, the Creator found a stick and set it on fire from the heat of the sun. He gave it to Manaka’has, saying, “I can give you this gift only once. You must hurry; fly back to the Earth before the fire goes out!”

Rainbow Crow flew for three days back to earth. As he flew, the stick of fire grew shorter and shorter. The first day, sparks singed his tail feathers, turning them black. On the second day, the fire blackened all of his feathers with soot. On the third day, the smoke from the fire filled Rainbow Crow’s throat, making his voice hoarse and cracked. His once beautiful voice now could do nothing but croak, “Caw, caw!”

Rainbow Crow delivered fire to earth. He had lost his colors and his beautiful voice. For a while, he felt sad, but the Creator, seeing his distress, told him, “In exchange for your colors and your beautiful song, I will give you the gift of freedom. Soon, mankind will appear upon the earth and will be masters of all – all but you. You will be no good to man as food, for your flesh tastes like smoke. You will not be captured and caged to sing for him, for your voice is hoarse and unpleasant. And you will not be valued for your feathers, for they are black and without beauty.”

Kishelamakank told Rainbow Crow one more thing. “Look closely at your black feathers. They shine and tiny rainbows are reflected in every one.”

And so it was.

 

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