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Archive for the ‘personalities’ Category

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

For any young man politically minded and also a collector of quotes Thomas Paine is an inescapable presence whose quotes even this day have not lost their shine. In this age where all major religions are suffering from the virus of fundamentalism it is merely a caution well taken. Did he not say “To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead?” His sane voice urging the man on the street that ‘he should not petition for his rights but take them,’ made the American revolution a necessity. His ‘Common Sense(1776)* was so influential for John Adams to observe, “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”

A corset maker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination his footprints in England, America and France left in their wake great many who were his allies and admirers turn on him in the end as fiercely as they had warmed up to his clarion call.2.

Born in Thetford England in the county of Norfolk, Paine emigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 and it was Benjamin Franklin who advised him to go to America and he just did, arriving in time to participate in the American Revolution.

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Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. He wrote the Rights of Man (1791), in part a defence of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on British writer Edmund Burke led to a trial and conviction in absentia in 1792. In 1792, despite not being able to speak French, he was elected to the French National Convention. The Girondists regarded him as an ally. Consequently, the Montgnards especially Robespierre regarded him as an enemy. He narrowly missed guillotine and Thomas Jefferson as the Third President of the new Republic invited him to settle down in the new nation. His later years were plagued by ill health, neglect and when he died only six people attended his funeral. Quakers refused him burial and he was finally buried in a part of the grounds attached to his home.

*Common Sense

Paine used “common sense” as a weapon to delegitimize the monarchy and overturn prevailing conventional wisdom. He used two ideas from Scottish Common Sense Realism and from Philosophes. The idea is that ordinary people can indeed make sound judgments on major political issues, and that there exists a body of popular wisdom that is readily apparent to anyone. The Continental Enlightenment spread out influencing people as to how they thought. It empowered people in France to think for themselves. They held that common sense could refute the claims of traditional institutions. According to Sophia Rosenfeld the phenomenal appeal of his pamphlet resulted from his synthesis of popular and elite elements in the independence movement.

2.

Paine decided that President George Washington had conspired with Robespierre to imprison him. Embittered by this perceived betrayal, Paine tried to ruin Washington’s reputation by calling him a treacherous man unworthy of his fame as a military and political hero. Paine described Washington as an incompetent commander and a vain and ungrateful person. In a scathing open letter to President Washington in 1796, he wrote: “the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles or whether you ever had any.

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(1856-1951 ) Marshal,

Politician, war hero of Verdun

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Philippe Henri Pétain was a military and political leader and France´s greatest hero in World War I (1914-1918). He was later condemned as a traitor for having headed the pro-German Vichy regime after France’s defeat in World War II (1939-1945). 
     Born in Cauchy-ó-la-Tour in 1856, Pétain was educated at the Saint-Cyr military academy and the École Supérieure de Guerre (army war college) in Paris. As a general during World War I, he won fame for his successful defense of Verdun against the Germans in 1916. Later, as commander in chief, he did much to restore morale in the French army after a series of mutinies in 1917. He was made a marshal of France the following year. During the 1920s Pétain served in French Morocco. In 1934 he was minister of war, and from 1939 to 1940 he was ambassador to Spain. 
     Following the German invasion of France in 1940, Pétain – then 84 years old – was recalled to active military service as adviser to the minister of war. On June 16, 1940, hesucceeded Paul Reynaud as premier of France and soon afterward he asked the Germans for an armistice, which was concluded on June 22. On July 2, with the consent of the Germans, he established his government in Vichy in central France, and on July 10 he assumed the title of chief of state, ruling thereafter with dictatorial powers over that portion of France not directly under German control. Pétain and his prime minister, Pierre Laval, established a Fascist-oriented government that became notorious for its collaboration with German dictator Adolf Hitler. The Vichy government ruled with Germany’s approval, appointing all government officials, controlling the press, and practicing arbitrary arrests. The government also passed anti-Semitic laws and rounded up French, Spanish, and Eastern European Jews who were deported to German concentration camps.

With the German army occupying two-thirds of the country, Pétain believed he could repair the ruin caused by the invasion and obtain the release of the numerous prisoners of war only by cooperating with the Germans. In the southern part of France, left free by the armistice agreement, he set up a paternalistic regime the motto of which was “Work, Family, and Fatherland.” Reactionary by temperament and education, he allowed his government to promulgate a law dissolving the Masonic lodges and excluding Jews from certain professions.

He was, however, opposed to the policy of close Franco-German collaboration advocated by his vice premier Pierre Laval, whom he dismissed in December 1940, replacing him with Admiral François Darlan. Pétain then attempted to practice a foreign policy of neutrality and delay. He secretly sent an emissary to London, met with the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco , whom he urged to refuse free passage of Adolf Hitler’s army to North Africa, and maintained a cordial relationship with Admiral William Leahy, the U.S. ambassador to Vichy until 1942.

When, in April 1942, the Germans forced Pétain to take Laval back as premier, he himself withdrew into a purely nominal role.


     After the Allies landed in France in 1944, Pétain went toGermany and then to Switzerland. He returned to France after the war to stand trial for treason. In August 1945 he was found guilty of intelligence with the enemy and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was moved to Ile d’Yeu, an island off the coast of Brittany, where he died.

(Ack:worldatwar.net/biography, Brittanica.com)

 

 

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Late Jayawardene of Sri Lanka

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Pen Portraits- Theodor Herzl
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904)
founder of the political form of Zionism, a movement to establish a Jewish homeland. His pamphlet The Jewish State (1896) proposed that the Jewish question was a political question to be settled by a world council of nations. He organized a world congress of Zionists that met in Basel, Switz., in August 1897 and became first president of the World Zionist Organization, established by the congress. Although Herzl died more than 40 years before the establishment of the State of Israel, he was an indefatigable organizer, propagandist without whose vision the state of Israel might have turned out altogether different and out of step with the times.

A Jew in name but in all other things totally assimilated into the prevailing consciousness of Germanic culture as an ideal,he even joined a fencing club Albia in his Vienna days to prove he was unlike the typical Jew bred in the dingy ghetto. 1881 pogrom in Tsarist Russia coincided with closer at home politicians of the Right and Catholic clergy inveighing against liberalism that had given Jews certain exceptions. The Church of Rome had singled the Jews for their ire since they supported Bismarck’s anti-clerical policies. The changing political climate was something like the verse from the Exodus. ‘There arose up a new king over Egypt who knew not Joseph.'(ex.1:8)
It is however difficult not to bring in Moses for comparison. The original Moses turned back on the Egyptian culture but Herzl wanted to create a secular nation than a Jewish homeland revolving about the Torah. He did not even believe Moses as the author of Penteteuch. He was a Reluctant Moses who set out achieve his goal once he was sure of the vast scope of his mission. It appealed to the dreamer in him, and the oversized ego that equalled matched his commanding presence.

Born and brought up in the dual monarchies of Austro-Hungarian empire he spoke German and not Hungarian. Born to parents who were well to do (assimilated in secular ideals) he preferred literary fame above all. Among earliest of his heroes none were of Jewish persuasion. In his youth he had seen the Iron Chancellor creating a grand German Federation and in his life mission it must have unconsciously served as the template. Pan-Germanism was inclusive of all peoples subscribing to German culture that cut across various client states about Berlin. Growing up in Vienna Herzl was well tuned to the growing trends. There was also anti-semitism running into all levels of the society. As a reporter in Paris during the Dreyfus Affair he realized there was no other way to recast the proverbial Shylock image into a citizen of the world. It would require a nation. People don’t change from within, but change their social structure they would also change, a dictum that seems very valid. There were quite many detractors but it certainly speaks of the optimism and impermeable spirit of the man to stay his course.
In a sense his dedication to the cause to which personally he had great antipathy but nevertheless a great cause to give his all, makes him ‘King’ Herzl. He is rightly called the father of the nation of Israel.
benny

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Samuel F. B. Morse(1791-1872), American artist and inventor, designed and developed the first successful electromagnetic (magnetism caused by electricity) telegraph system.
Samuel Finley Breese Morse the first son of a Charlestown clergyman at first wanted to go for a career in art, studied under the American artist Benjamin West.
In 1815 he returned and and set up a studio in Boston. Having failed in his career he went back to Europe and it was in October 1832 during a long sea voyage home he knew his career lay in something else. He was interested in gadgetry even as he wanted to be an artist. His turning point was in meeting Charles Thomas Jackson, an eccentric doctor and inventor, with whom he discussed electromagnetism. Jackson assured Morse that an electric impulse could be carried along even a very long wire. Morse later recalled that he reacted to this news with the thought that “if this be so, and the presence of electricity can be made visible in any desired part of the circuit,I see no reason why intelligence might not be instantaneously transmitted by electricity to any distance.” He immediately made some sketches of a device to accomplish this purpose. His shipboard sketches of 1832 had clearly laid out the three major parts of the telegraph: a sender, which opened and closed an electric circuit; a receiver, which used an electromagnet to record the signal; and a code, which translated the signal into letters and numbers. By January 1836 he had a working model of the device that he showed to a friend, who advised him of recent developments in the field of electromagnetism—especially the work of the American physicist Joseph Henry (1797–1878). As a result, Morse was able to greatly improve the efficiency of his device.
In September 1837 Morse formed a partnership with Alfred Vail, who contributed both money and mechanical skill. They applied for a patent. The American patent remained in doubt until 1843, when Congress approved thirty thousand dollars to finance the building of an experimental telegraph line between the national capital and Baltimore, Maryland. It was over this line, on May 24, 1844, that Morse tapped out his famous message, “What hath God wrought [made]!”
Morse was willing to sell all of his rights to the invention to the federal government for one hundred thousand dollars, but a combination of a lack of congressional interest and the presence of private greed frustrated the plan. Instead he turned his business affairs over to Amos Kendall. Morse then settled down to a life of wealth and fame. He was generous in his charitable gifts and was one of the founders of Vassar College in 1861. His last years were spoiled, however, by questions as to how much he had been helped by others, especially Joseph Henry.
Morse died in New York City on April 2, 1872.( ack:www.notablebiographies.com)

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Victoriana-pen portraits
Dante Rossetti-(1828-1882)
Dante grew up fluent in both English and Italian. As part of a large Italian expatriate community in London he grew up among many exiles from Mazzini to organ-grinders his outlook was far from the parochial insulated circumstances of his contemporaries. He never was obsessed with money the way that Tennyson was.
In 1846 he was accepted into the Royal Academy but was there only a year before he became dissatisfied and left to study under Ford Maddox Brown. In 1848 he, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais began to call themselves the Pre-Raphelite Brotherhood.This group attracted other young painters, poets, and critics.In 1849 and 50 D.G.R. exhibited his first important paintings, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin. At about the same time he met Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, a milliner’s assistant, who became a model for many of his paintings and sketches. They were engaged in 1851 but did not marry until 1860. She helped him clarify his feminine ideal of beauty,which would change to the tall, thin, long-necked, long-haired stunners of frail health that we see in paintings like Beata Beatrix, Pandora, Proserpine, La Pia, and La Donna della Finestra. The persistence of the Pre-Raphaelite ideal shows up in photographs of William Butler Yeats’ idealized beauty, Maud Gonne. Jack Yeats, the father of the poet, was connected with the Pre-Raphaelites, and Yeats himself said of his younger days, “I was in all things Pre-Raphaelite.” In 1871 Rossetti and Morris leased Kelmscott Manor in Oxfordshire. In the late ’60s Rossetti began to suffer from headaches and weakened eyesight, and began to take chloral mixed with whiskey to cure insomnia. Chloral accentuated the depression and paranoia latent in Rossetti’s nature, and Robert Buchanan’s attack on Rossetti and Swinburne in “The Fleshly School of Poetry” (1871) changed him completely. In the summer of 1872 he suffered a mental breakdown from which he would never completely cured.
Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, more perceptive than any of his contemporaries, was the ideal person for Edward Burne-Jones to present himself to as a young, aspiring artist. He recognized Burne-Jones’s native talent and encouraged him to build upon it without recourse to the stifling academic procedures. but by the 1860s Burne-Jones was discovering his own artistic “voice”which would be clarified by his visit to Italy (1859 and 1862). It had been an enriching experience, manifest by rich and dark coloration, tending towards the choice of iron reds and dark oranges combined with deep greens. Thus his naive view presented in his earlier drawing became more complex by the inclusion of sumptuous colour, at this time chiefly derived from study of Venetian painting.. In 1877, he was persuaded to show eight oil paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery (a new rival to the Royal Academy). These included The Beguiling of Merlin. The timing was right, and he was taken up as a herald and star of the new Aesthetic Movement.

In addition to painting and stained glass, Burne-Jones worked in a variety of crafts; including designing ceramic tiles, jewellery, tapestries, mosaics and book illustration, most famously designing woodcuts for the Kelmscott Press’s Chaucer in 1896. Beardsley would draw much of his inspiration from him.
Trivia: ‘What is my line?’
In 1860 Burne-Jones married Georgiana “Georgie” MacDonald (1840–1920), one of the MacDonald sisters. She was training to be a painter, and was the sister of Burne-Jones’s old school friend. After marriage she made her own work in woodcuts and became a close friend of George Eliot. (Another MacDonald sister married the artist Sir Edward Poynter, a further sister married the ironmaster Alfred Baldwin and was the mother of the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, and yet another sister was the mother of Rudyard Kipling. Kipling and Baldwin were thus Burne-Jones’s nephews by marriage).

(ack: the Victorian Web)
benny

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Pen Portraits- Martin Luther

(1483-1546)
Born in Germany in 1483, Martin Luther became one of the most influential figures in Christian history when he began the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. He called into question some of the basic tenets of Roman Catholicism, and his followers soon split from the Roman Catholic Church to begin the Protestant tradition.
Born of peasant stock Martin at first wanted to become a lawyer for which in 1501, he entered the University of Erfurt, where he received a Master of Arts degree (in grammar, logic, rhetoric and metaphysics). However, in July 1505, Luther had a life-changing experience that set him on a new course. Caught in a horrific thunderstorm where he feared for his life, Luther cried out to St. Anne, the patron saint of miners, “Save me, St. Anne, and I’ll become a monk!”

Through his studies of scripture, Martin Luther finally gained religious enlightenment. Beginning in 1513, while preparing lectures, Luther read Psalm 22, which recounts Christ’s cry for mercy on the cross, a cry similar to his own disillusionment with God and religion. Two years later, while preparing a lecture on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he read, “The just will live by faith.”Finally, he realized the key to spiritual salvation was not to fear God or be enslaved by religious dogma but to believe that faith alone would bring salvation. This period marked a major change in his life and set in motion the Reformation.
In 1517, Pope Leo X announced a new round of indulgences to help build St. Peter’s Basilica. On October 31, 1517, an angry Martin Luther nailed a sheet of paper with 95 theses on the university’s chapel door. Though he intended these to be discussion points, the Ninety-Five Theses laid out a devastating critique of the indulgences as corrupting people’s faith. Aided by the printing press, copies of the Ninety-Five Theses spread throughout Germany within two weeks and throughout Europe within two months.

The Church eventually moved to stop the act of defiance.
On May 8, 1521, the Diet of Worms released the Edict, banning Luther’s writings and declaring him a “convicted heretic.” This made him a condemned and wanted man. Friends helped him hide out at the Wartburg Castle. While in seclusion, he translated the New Testament into the German language, to give ordinary people the opportunity to read God’s word.

Though still under threat of arrest, Martin Luther returned to Wittenberg Castle Church, in Eisenach, in May 1522. Miraculously, he was able to avoid capture and began organizing a new church, Lutheranism. He gained many followers and got support from German princes. When a peasant revolt began in 1524, Luther denounced the peasants and sided with the rulers, seeds of which we see coming to fruition when the German Lutheran Church would try to appease Hitler and his totalitarian program*. The Church of Rome was battling against an idea that had come of age. Printing made even a friar who had the courage of convictions and knew his Scriptures take on the mighty edifice that shall become tainted steadily for the reason it was organized and in the process had repackaged the Scriptures. In the end it would neither fit with the state nor with God. (ack: biography.com)

*MARTIN LUTHER AND THE NAZIS
The Nazi Party had argued that Hitler held the same beliefs and goals as Martin Luther. Martin Luther had warned the Germans against the Jews, and Luther’s writings, including “The Jews and Their Lies,” had been used by the Nazis to encourage anti-Semitism in the 1930s and 1940s. The Nazis went so far as to say that Adolf Hitler was carrying on the work of Luther. The Nazi Minister of Education reflected these beliefs when he wrote, “I think the time is past when one may not say the names of Hitler and Luther in the same breath. They belong together — they are of the same old stamp.”

THE REICH CHURCH
Pro-Nazis in the Lutheran Church, along with members of the Reformed and United churches, formed The German Christians’ Faith Movement in the 1930s. The movement was lead by the Nazi Ludwig Mueller, who called for the unification of all Protestant churches into one national church supporting Nazi racial and nationalist ideology. The members of this movement accepted the Nazi doctrine of a German super race and the inferiority of other races, including the Jews. The Lutheran Church was merged with the Reformed and United churches of Germany to form the Protestant Reich Church, officially known as the German Evangelical Church, in 1933, and Ludwig Mueller was appointed “Reich bishop,” answering to the Nazi Party. The Reich Church banned the use of the Old Testament of the Bible based on its Jewish origin, and excluded Christians of Jewish heritage. By the late 1930s and the beginning of World War II, the Reich Church had raised “Mein Kampf” above all other books, and had replaced the cross with the swastika. This church was the dominant form of Protestant and Lutheran Christianity in Germany during the war.(ack:http://people.opposingviews.com/lutheran-church-during-wwii)

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