A moderately accurate depiction of the first Thanksgiving feast in the City on the Hill. Subsequent events are a different story.

As ever, the Wall Street Journal has published the two usual editorials for Thanksgiving Day.

From 1620 comes The Desolate Wilderness, Nathaniel Morton's account of the Pilgrims' arrival in Plymouth (the one subsequently in Massachusetts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and
savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.
The other is And The Fair Land, which reminds us all what Americans have to be thankful for and, mutatis mutandis, we in the West, too.

This has been a somewhat chaotic autumn but I am now on the last stages of that Journal to be sent off to the typesetter within the next 12 hours (D.V.) So, this is the last call. Anyone out there who promised and article and has not delivered (I have your names down in my little black book) or wants to dash off something now, now, now, do so and send it to me at szamuely_AT_aol.com. Otherwise, you can wait for the developments on the blog (or have an article posted on the secondary one).

The secondary blog of the Conservative History Journal is finally in existence. The aim is to post very long pieces on that with shorter links on this, the primary blog. There may well be future technological developments on the site but warnings will be posted.

The first piece on the other blog is a long interview Mark Coalter, a frequent contributor to the Journal, had with Professor John Ramsden in the summer of 2007. The interview has not been published until now. It is now up in its entirety. But just to whet everybody's appetite, here is an excerpt about Professor Ramsden and Lord Willoughby de Broke:

MC: You could always look at Lord Willoughby de Broke

JR: I was responsible for getting Lord Willoughby de Broke’s papers deposited. I was the first person to read them and I went to see the then Lord Willoughby. I said to him, that these are valuable papers which should be deposited somewhere for safety. He asked where, and I took a deep breath and thought where would he like me to say? With one eye on 1911, I suggested the House of Lords’ Records Office as an appropriate place, which he thought a good idea. We then had a discussion about 1911. Bearing in mind that this would have been about 1970 when the conversation was taking place, he engaged me in a long discussion about whether the Parliament Act of 1911 had not, in fact, been a rather bad thing; it would have been much better (he argued) if the House of Lords had retained its power. The Willoughby de Brokes were die-hards unto the very end.

MC: And yet willing to countenance Asquith’s new Peers?

JR: There was a letter in that collection addressed to, I don’t think it was Carson, rather Craig, in Belfast around the time of the so-called Mutiny at the Curragh, in which Willoughby de Broke writes to the Ulster leaders saying that I am at your disposal, I can ride and shoot well and I have many tenants who will come with me. Just like 1642, whereas this was 1911 and he was proposing to raise Warwickshire for the Union! It’s wonderful. I guess Craig’s reply, while it doesn’t quite say calm down, old boy, that’s what it means. Obviously, what the Ulstermen needed was Lord Willoughby riding to the rescue. Instead, they pointed out they could look after themselves in Belfast, as indeed they could.
There is a great deal of absolutely fascinating stuff in the interview. I strongly urge everyone to read it.

PS Tory Historian will be back very soon.

We have received the following note from Tom Hurst who is working on a thesis on Conservative Party rhetoric:

“Verbal Combat”: The role of Conservative Party rhetoric, 1979-90.

The Ph.D thesis looks at Margaret Thatcher’s public, political rhetoric during the period 1979-90. It is concerned not only with the speeches themselves but also with the process which led to their creation, the manner in which they were disseminated by various media channels and their relationship to government policy.

Any information on the areas discussed above would be much appreciated. Contact: tomhurst06_At_hotmail.com

Comments on this post will be passed on to Tom Hurst as well.

This review is part of a series on books that might be of interest to those interested in conservative history.

Was Frank Johnson a conservative? He most certainly was not a Conservative with a capital C, being, as a journalist, of a somewhat anarchic nature. He was, however, one of those who promoted Margaret Thatcher’s free-market policies and being from an East End working class family (his father had been a baker) he had a natural affinity with many of the IEA’s ideas. But Frank would not have been Frank if that had interfered with his ability to see the funny side of everything, including Margaret Thatcher’s campaign in the chocolate factory.

The Times obituary said that he excelled in “a very English art form”, which would have pleased him as he was, despite his travels to European cities and capitals, a very English person.

A good parliamentary sketch can be high art, but art with a hard-nosed purpose. Sketch writers know they are an important arm of the democratic process. Unless we can laugh at our politicians we can never keep them in order.
The Telegraph obituary quoted a number of his witticisms about politicians of every hue and stripe. Though I followed his career with interest and read him whenever I could while he peregrinated through the right-wing press, I had not realized that he invented the term “chattering classes”. That alone will keep his name alive.

The Telegraph also gives the story of his last few days, which I read at the time and found funny, moving and absolutely typical all at once:
Johnson endured cancer with exemplary courage for seven years. He would say of his illness that he bore it "with the stoicism of the London working class from whence I came".

Last Sunday, just before he went into hospital for the final time, he attended the performance of Aida at La Scala in which the tenor Roberto Alagna (as Radames) walked off the stage in a fit of pique after being booed; Johnson immediately filed the story to The Daily Telegraph.
A journalist to the marrow of his bones and all attempts to be anything else, even editor, failed. But, really, who cares when we have those wonderful sketches, many of which were collected by his widow, Virginia Fraser, in a recently published volume, called Best Seat in the House? This might make a wonderful Christmas present though the potential giver ought to be warned that there is a strong chance that much of Christmas Day will be spent by people reading out various hilarious passages with younger members of the family wondering who all those people flitting through the articles are and why is everybody roaring with laughter.

There are the stories of his childhood and adolescence with the famous one about being clutched to Maria Callas’s bosom in “Norma” as well as my favourite of young Frank pretending to talk about football or cricket though he had actually been spening Saturday afternoon at the ballet; his early journalistic career and being hired by Maurice Green, then editor of the Daily Telegraph to write parliamentary sketches alternating with John O’Sullivan (though this last fact is not mentioned). Nor is there any mention of Colin Welch, then Deputy Editor and the man who more or less controlled the motley crew of political writers on the newspaper.

And so we get to the meat of the collection: those wonderfully funny and pointed stories about politicians in Parliament, on the hustings, at party conferences, anywhere and everywhere. Johnson’s way with words was entirely his own though one sees his influence among all sorts of political journalists.

Not all the pieces are good. Some of the later, supposedly more serious ones lack soul and wit. Sometimes the wit is misplaced in that it does not do what it should: illuminate the subject of the article.

I also have my doubts about some editorial decisions. The concept of having Frank Johnson’s victims comment on the articles about themselves must have seemed like a good one but after a while those insincere sentences written with teeth firmly clenched become tedious. The choice of photographs is tilted towards Frank the later grandee rather than Frank the journalist. That is what he was all his life – one of the best. A Fleet Street legend, indeed.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


November 9, 1989 Berlin - the Wall is destroyed by the People

Sometimes one finds definitions of what history is in unexpected places. Well, not that unexpected, as Oleg Khlevnyuk's Master of the House: Stalin and his Inner Circle is a history book that describes the way Stalin gradually and often violently imposed his control on the Politburo while conducting a policy of terror against the population of the Soviet Union.

In his Introduction Dr Khlevniuk discusses the various theories of how Stalinism came about and whether it was inevitable given either/or Russian history and the character of Bolshevism. He clearly does not like the theory of historical inevitability:

But for the historian, it seems to me, the concept of the "iron march of history" is, at the very least, uninspiring. Chronicler of the inevitable - why would anyone wh has read and analyzed tens of thousands of pages of the most diverse documents, who has learned the fates of faceless millions, not to mention hudreds of flesh-and-blood individuals, many of who desperately fought
for their interests and ideals - why would such a person agree with such a characterization?

The idea of inevitability comes when we try to arrange history into some kind of orderly progression. Specific knowledge complicates the picture, revealing the diversity of factors involved in any human endeavour, the complex interplay between historical traditions and the logic governming events as they unfold, between political conflict at the top and social pressures at the bottom, and, in the end, the role of chance.
A long way from the soft Marxism favoured by so many of our academics.

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