Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Charleston Mercury’

Agree To Disagree

Posted by Admin on March 1, 2013

We’ve heard more than a few people resort to that expression in the midst of spirited discussions or heated debates, and it’s straight forward. It means neither side is willing to relinquish their side of the argument, which leaves only one option: To agree to disagree.

In the Editorial section of the Worcester (MA) Telegram and Gazette published on October 22, 2009, the author spoke to the matter of the elections in Afghanistan. The Editorial Footnote included this commentary:

Mr. Karzai reportedly still disagrees with the methodology used to disqualify more than 1 million ballots allegedly cast in his name. Mr. Kerry deserves credit for helping the Afghan leader realize that it was time to agree to disagree, and move ahead with the only politically viable course available, a second vote under the watchful eyes of international observers.

This expression is oftentimes used successfully in matters of politics such as during the Cuban crisis in the early 60s. In fact, in a Special To The Times that ran in the New York Times on January 7, 1963, the headline was “They Will Agree To Disagree.” The article showed within the first two sentences that while there was considerable tension from both sides in the crisis, that cooler heads prevailed.

The Cuban crisis will come to a formal end this week when Soviet and American negotiators at the United Nations agree to disagree. The negotiators will submit to Security Council members separate statements saying that they cannot agree on how to close one of the tensest chapters of the cold war.

When Rudolph Valentino and his wife divorced, the difficulties prior to, and following,  the divorce were fodder for more than one columnist’s pen. The Youngstown Vindicator of November 15, 1925 contained another well-known expression and began with this paragraph:

“Never again” is Mrs. Winifred Hudnut Valentino’s attitude towards further matrimonial ventures. All artists should be unmarried, she said and added “children and domesticity are incompatible with a career, that’s all.”

Mrs. Valentino complained that it had taken Rudolph, who departed today for Paris, three years to develop his lack of appreciation for her ambition to become a motion picture star in her own right.

The article, which was carried by the Associated Press, was aptly entitled, “Valentino And Wife Agree To Disagree.”

When the Charleston Mercury of Mary 1, 1860 hit the streets, it carried news of the National Convention. It reported on the States of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, and a portion of Delaware, being denied in the platform, the recognition of Southern rights in the Territories and the protection of slave property by the General Government, seceded from the Charleston Convention. There was what the newspaper reporter called a “radical difference on a great principle.”

The U.S. Civil War raged from 1861 through to 1865 and began when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter, of course, was a key fort held by Union troops in South Carolina.

The article was lengthy and detailed, providing a historical background to readers and midway, the following comments made by Mr. Butler of Massachusetts were recorded:

Do you desire to send us home to be subjected to the sneers of the Black Republicans, telling us that we have gone and laid down our honor at the feet of the South, and point at us as they pass us in the streets? Is that to be done, for no good, to accomplish no advantage for you? Do you claim that of us? If you claim the relinquishment of personal honor, I tell you frankly you cannot have it. If you claim simply a compromise, we will see how far we can compromise; and if we cannot agree with you, gentlemen who have been with me will tell you that I know how to disagree with those with whom I cannot agree.

Anglican cleric and Christian theologian, John Wesley (1703-1791) who, along with his brother Charles Wesley founded the Methodist movement, held notable doctrinal and philosophical differences from those of his close friend, Anglican preacher George Whitefield (December 27, 1714 – September 30, 1770). In a letter to his brother dated August 19, 1785 he wrote:

I will tell you my thoughts with all simplicity, and wait for better information. If you agree with me, well: if not, we can, as Mr. Whitefield used to say, agree to disagree.

John Wesley spoke at the funeral services for George Whitefield in 1770 and among many things he said, was this:

And, first, let us keep close to the grand scriptural doctrines which he everywhere delivered. There are many doctrines of a less essential nature, with regard to which even the sincere children of God (such is the present weakness of human understanding) are and have been divided for many ages. In these we may think and let think; we may “agree to disagree.” But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials of “the faith which was once delivered to the saints;” and which this champion of God so strongly insisted on, at all times, and in all places!

And so, while many attribute John Wesley for this expression, John Wesley gives credit to his late friend, George Whitefield.  But surely, George Whitefield wasn’t the first to come up with the expression. As an Anglican preacher, isn’t it more likely than not that he found it in the Bible and began using it in conversationally?  The fact of the matter is that the expression agree to disagree is never found in the Christian Bible. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 1:10, the passage reads:

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

In other words, there’s no place for agreeing to disagree if you are a Christian as the Bible is the final word on what is and is not expected of Christians.

So somewhere between the death of Jesus and the life of George Whitefield, someone brought forth the concept of agreeing to disagree, but it was George Whitefield who appears to be the inspiration for John Wesley’s use of the expression.

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Dollars-and-Cents

Posted by Admin on February 1, 2013

When someone talks to you about things from a dollars-and-cents point of view, they’re strictly talking money.  But what’s the background on that expression? Who started being so specific that they had to insert dollars-and-cents into a conversation about money? Once you know the history behind this saying, you’ll understand why it sometimes needed — and still needs — to be said just this way!

On August 26, 1994 the Milwaukee Journal published an article that discussed the difficulties the United Nations was having in making ends meet. The problems arose as the UN faced new responsibilities including foreign peacekeeping operations. The article was aptly entitled:

Dollars-and-Cents Plea For Peace

On October 3, 1980 the Evening Independent newspaper of St. Petersburg (FL) excerpted an article by Robert Runde that was originally published in  MONEY Magazine. As with any article dealing with an upcoming election, it focused on inflation, taxes and employment opportunities. In other words, money issues. Ronald Reagan wanted an across-the-board tax cut that would most help upper-income taxpayers. Jimmy Carter focused on an economic renewal plan. And independent presidential candidate (who received 6% of the vote in that election) John Anderson wanted investors and savers to get bigger tax breaks. The story ran with this headline:

The Dollars-and-Cents Plans Of The Presidential Candidates

The Miami News ran a news story on March 31, 1943 entitled, “New Beef, Lamb, Veal And Pork Prices To Be Set For April.” It reported on the controversial issue of ceilings on livestock “on the shelf” and the revamping of the then-current meat price controls. It was a move that intended to curb the soaring prices on live animals at the farm level and relieve the pressure on packers, wholesalers and retailers who had to abide by the fixed prices. The article read in part:

For some months the agency has been engaged in replacing the old controls, which fixes maximums at the high price charged in March, 1942, by each individual seller, with specific dollars-and-cents ceilings at the packer, wholesale and retail level.

The New York Times published a story on March 4, 1906 that reported on the skepticism of real estate men and builders alike with regards to a proposed 40-story tower at the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street in New York City. It wasn’t that anyone was concerned that such a building couldn’t be built, but rather that building an ‘extremely high building‘ on a small lot wasn’t held in high regard. What’s more, the cost of putting up such a building would never justify the cost of advertising its value and generating a reasonable annual income in revenues.

With 3,000 square feet of space for rent on each floor at a cost of $3 per square foot, it was almost unimaginable in the day that a floor would command a rent of $9,000 per month! And the prediction that the building would generate $250,000 net per year was audacious, especially at a time in history when the concept of tenants renting entire floors for their businesses was only just growing in popularity. There was also the question of the elevator equipment needed for such a building. The problems that could be foreseen were many and all of them serious. The article ran under the headline:

Dollars-and-Cents Side Of Forty-Story Tower: Gigantic Structure To Be Built Primarily As A Money-Maker

Twenty-five years earlier, on August 18, 1876, the Weekly Press republished a New York Times story on Governor Tilden’s war record and Mr. Hewitt’s defence of Governor Tilden’s war record. Reporting on the proceedings of the House, readers learned that Mr. Kasson of Iowa “began a violent and vindictive political campaign speech, in which he indulged in personal attacks upon Gov. Tilden. He denounced him in most flagrant terms as having been a secessionist and disunionist.”

There was a fair bit of excitement after that speech and finally the floor went to Mr. Hewitt of New York, who took on Mr. Kasson’s attack of Governor Tilden. It was said that Mr. Hewitt “approached the subject as he would take hold of a slimy snake, with a desire to get rid of it.” Over the course of his defense of the governor,  Mr. Hewitt said many things, but none so cleverly said as this one statement:

I am not going to state dollars and cents. Patriotism is above dollars-and-cents in some quarters.

Dropping back to the law reports published in the New York Times on December 6, 1859, a number of court cases were mentioned in detail. In the case of The People vs Sarah Stuart et. al, alleged shoplifter, the newspaper stated that “a certiorari and a habeas corpus to obtain the papers upon which the defendant was committed, for review” and to have the body of the prisoner brought into Court” had been made. The matter of 15 yards of stolen silk and the accusation that Ms. Stuart was an accomplice to another woman’s theft of the purloined fabric resulted in the following:

The matter was brought before Justice Clerke, at Chambers, who refused to hear it, stating that the business of the Court should not be interrupted by such motions. Counsel for the prisoner said his client’s interests were of as much importance as the dollars-and-cents of civil litigants, who claimed the exclusive use of the Court at Chambers — that liberty was of more account than silver and gold.

The matter was subsequently postponed until Wednesday.

It would appear that accusations of political bribery have been around for as long as can imagine. The Charleston Mercury republished an article on January 18, 1842 that had originally been posted in the New York Herald, on the issue of repealing the Bankrupt Law. The Charleston Mercury reported that the New York Herald had reported that the Courier and Enquirer had reported (yes, this sounds a lot like the childhood game of ‘hot potato’) that foreign agents and agents of British creditors living in America, had accumulated a secret fund of several million dollars which bought and paid for the repeal of the Bankrupt Law at a rate of $100,000 USD per vote. Bribery and corruption! And who was alleged to have accepted bribes from these “foreign agents and agents of British creditors living in America?” The first nine named were:

Charles G. Ferris of New York
Thos. J. Campbell of Tennessee
R.L. Caruthers of Tennessee
B.S. Cowans of Ohio
J.H. Cravens of Indiana
Garret Davis of Kentucky
A.R. Soliers of Maryland
C.H. Williams of Tennessee
A. Young of Vermont

A subsequent nine were named, under the heading “Kentucky Delegation” and these included:

Mr. Boyd
Wm. O Butler
Mr. Green
T.F. Marshall
Mr. Owsley
Mr. Pope
Mr. Triplett
Mr. Underwood
J.B. Thompson

The news was awash in political intrigue, criminal activity, and aggregate blackmail in the eyes of newspaper subscribers! The response by Mr. Webb and published in the newspaper read thusly:

We do believe that such political bribery and political corruption have been and are at the bottom of this disgraceful proceeding; and we do not hesitate to say, that in our opinion, the member of Congress who could be thus seduced from his duty to his country, to his own, conscience, and to his unfortunate fellow citizens, is as dishonest and dishonorable as if he had openly received a bribe in dollars-and-cents.

The reason for using the expression dollars-and-cents with hyphens is due to the fact that during this period of American history, many Americans distrusted any paper money that used the decimal system of dollars and cents. In fact, public officials and private businesses often preferred using the British system of pence, shillings, and pounds even though American money was dollars and cents. In this respect, even if pence, shillings and pounds were in use, the overall cost was still considered the dollars-and-cents cost of doing business.

What’s more, in America in the 1830s, there was insufficient currency in circulation for all the business people, making America cash-poor. At that point in American history, gold, silver and copper coins held the value of the metal in the coin, and paper money was only as good as the private bank that printed it. If the bank failed, the paper money printed by that bank was useless to those holding on to that paper money.

Businesses and professionals continued to attach “dollars and cents” amounts to products and services, however, they began to extend credit since real dollars and real cents were unreliable barter. Thus began the layers of interlocking debt at the foundation of the American economy … the dollars-and-cents amounts owed to, and by, individuals.

The next time you hear someone talk about the dollars-and-cents costs of an expenditure, they’re talking about the hard costs … the costs of services and products associated with that expenditure … in dollars and cents.

Because of this, Idiomation pegs dollars-and-cents to the early 1830s.

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Henpecked

Posted by Admin on March 19, 2012

We’ve all heard about henpecked husbands and boyfriends and we’ve heard more than a few jokes about the situation.  There’s the joke about men who have to ask their wives and girlfriends permission to ask for permission and there’s the joke about men who have to hold their pay envelopes up to the light to find out if they’ve gotten a raise.

Just yesterday, the London Daily Mail newspaper published a story about famous British explorer, Captain Robert Scott depicting him as a henpecked husband.  Entitled, “Adoring Wife’s Last Hen-Pecking Letter To Her ‘Splendid’ Scott of the Antarctic” it read in part:

He was the stiff-upper-lip explorer whose death during a failed Antarctic expedition came to symbolise British stoicism in the face of extreme adversity.  But even as he raced in vain to beat a rival to the South Pole, Captain Robert Scott had another role – as a hen-pecked husband.

The Milwaukee Journal ran a two sentence news bite from Los Angeles, California on July 11, 1957 that read as follows:

Municipal Judge Robert Clifton says that henpecked husbands top the list of problem drinkers who pass in an endless parade through Los Angeles courts.  Clifton’s court handles an average of 99,000 drunk cases annually.

Twenty years before that on June 7, 1937 there was an article in the local newspaper entitled “Henpecked Men’s Wives Threaten Sit Down Strike” that spoke about events going on in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.  The first few sentences of the article were:

Members of the doughty clan, the Royal Order of the Doghouse, assembled in hasty consternation today as their new-found independence hung in the balance.  The henpecked hubbies face a wifely sit-down strike.

“They’ll get no meals when we strike!” threatened Mrs. Harry Powers, Milwaukee spokesman for a prospective women’s auxiliary.  “They’ll do their own cooking then.  Those men are getting too much protection from that club of theirs.  Too many nights out a week to suit us.  If they think they can ‘love, honor’ but not ‘obey’ us they’re due for a shock.”

Yes, this was a real news story and not a joke.  In fact, it was reported that the Royal Order of the Doghouse had been formed the previous November when henpecked husbands had banded together in “common misery and defiance of wifely authority.” 

When the Philadelphia Recorder published a news story out of Cape May, New Jersey on August 5, 1890 about the Secretary of State in which it was reported:

He cannot retire to a cave and promulgate his theories to rivals who have no personal ends to serve in carrying them out.  No, indeed; nor can he afford to give up the chief post in the Cabinet, in order that Reed and McKinley may secure it.  He wouldn’t be half so powerful as a political martyr as a henpecked Secretary of State.  To what purpose would he have endured so many petty humiliations.  He must go on, and he knows it.  Let us hear no more, therefore, about the impending crisis at Cape May Point.  He has only to wait, as he kept the President waiting while he breakfasted on Saturday morning.

Of course, the word was well-known and on June 20, 1849, the Charleston Mercury was happy to run an advertisement for George Oates with regards to new books available at his store located at 234 King Street in Charleston, South Carolina.  One of the new arrivals was a book entitled “Family Failings” by the author of “The Henpecked Husband.”

Along the 19th century, a “hen frigate” was a ship with the captain’s wife on board.  Unfortunately, more times than not, the wife would interfere with the duty or regulations and the crew took to referring to captains who couldn’t control their wives as henpecked husbands.  In fact, the term henpecked is found in the “1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” by Francis Grose as well as the “1828 Webster’s American Dictionary” by Noah Webster.

It was also found in “Don Juan” by Lord Byron (January 22, 1788 – April 19, 1824) in Canto I, Stanza 22 where he wrote:

But O ye lords of ladies intellectual
Inform us truly, have they not henpecked you all?

The Spectator was a daily magazine publication from 1711 to 1712,  founded by English politician and writer Joseph Addison (1 May 1672 – 17 June 1719) and Irish politician and writer, Richard Steele (12 March 1672 – 1 September 1729).  In the September 12, 1712 edition No. 482, readers were treated to a story entitled “The Fraternity of The Henpecked.”  

The earliest use of this expression dates back to English poet and satirist Samuel Butler (14 February 1613 – 25 September 1680) who wrote this prose in 1671:

The henpect man rides behind his wife and lets her wear the spurs and govern the reins.  He is a kind of preposterous animal, that being curbed in goes with his tail forwards.  He is subordinate and ministerial to his wife, who commands in chief, and he dares do nothing without her order.

And that is an accurate description of a henpecked man in modern times.

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