Hirelings and Slaves

From the national anthem:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Because we jettisoned any nuanced understanding of the English language or history,  the only meaning of the word slavery is race based chattel slavery, although ‘hireling and slave’ had been paired for centuries in poetry and prose to refer to anybody who served a cause for mercenary reasons.  Parallel pairing of synonyms is also a standard of poetry.

Examples of historic usage of the terms paired together when referring to mercenaries who serve a cause for purely monetary reasons:
1796,”Essays and Poems read in Theatres at Oxford:  “…they thus became the ready agents of the highest paymaster ; content to substitute for the disinterested enthusiasm of the patriot and the hero , the rapacity of the hireling and the devotion of the slave…”

1787, Robert Southey’s poem Elinor: ” sink the slave Of Vice and Infamy ! the hireling prey Of brutal appetite !”

1793, Hannah More: No , not an hireling slave Shall hail Great HEZEKIAH in the grave : Where’s he , who falsely claim’d the name of Great ? Whose eye was terror , and whose frown was fate ? Who aw’d an hundred nations from the throne…”

1794, Pig’s Meat… In England it is generally understood to mean pay given to a State-hireling for treason to his Country…. A Slave of State , hired by a stipend

An accurate new spelling dictionary, and expositor of the English language … The sixth edition, much improved, 1798, uses hireling and slave to define the word mercenary.

Politics for the People, Daniel Eaton, 1794-” Excite a sense of shame in the breasts of those numerous hireling slaves , who are always ready at the command of their masters to destroy their fellow citizens . Rouse all the powers of human nature to oppose this subversion of social laws….”

J. Ridgway, late 1700s, in a pamphlet or book called Criticism of the Rolliad writes scathingly of a dinner composed of members of the aristocracy opposed to liberty, describing the gathering as a “”a dull and miserly association of ducal toad-eaters and dependants, …slaves, government runners, pimps, and hirelings of all descriptions.””

1779, G. Cawthorn,The Historical, Biographical, Literary, and Scientific Magazine, vol 1: “not till the enemies of his country , the slaves of power , and the hirelings of injustice , were compelled to abandon their schemes , and acknowledge America as terrible in arms as she had been humble in remonstrance .

Thomas Underwood in the late 1700s wrote a poem on Liberty.  There’s a line calling for ‘curses on the mem’ry of every hireling slave.’  In fact, he calls down curses several times on political mercenaries, those political hacks who oppose freedom for what they can get out of it.  He refers to them as hireling slaves, elves, lurkers in the dark, bravoes of the night (a bravo at the time was a brigand, a mugger, a thug), and my favourite, not just elves, but “venal, mercenary elves.” and more.  He asks of the hireling slaves who write in opposition to liberty, ‘shall such slaves, detested be the thought, who work for pay, and therefore sold and bought, usurp dominion? Must we then obey, submit our thoughts to their despotic slavery?: He’s not talking about chattel, race-based slavery here.” (1768)

1767, The Political Register… refers to the practice of buying votes and seats of officers in a standing army resulting in hirelings and slaves.  “… they now in fact purchase great part of the votes which support their opposition…  corrupt means as the ministry retain and procure seats for their hirelings….. The opposition well know that these slaves care not what master they serve for they are paid for it…”

A New and Impartial History of England, from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Signing of the Preliminaries of Peace in the Year 1762, Volume 7 John II Barrow, refers to a debate in the time of William III over the merits of a standing army (termed mercenaries and hirelings, as they serve for pay and a job and not for love of country) vs an all volunteer force.   In the same paragraph he refers to the army as hirelings he says that those mercenaries were the only slaves in the kingdom.

The Poet: A Poem by Percival Stockdale.  He was staunchly and publicly opposed to the slave trade, but he uses the terms slaves and hirelings in a different fashion here in a deliciously brutal take-down of what he views as current mercenary and Philistine trends in poetry resulting in the disappearance of poetry as art:

No longer now the nine Aonian maids

Find hospitable haunts in royal shades

Poets are left to penury a prey

The slaves of trade, the hirelings of the day

Some pert prim Cadell or some rougher Turk

Prescribes the theme the measure of the work

Checks the free thought, lops off the ardent word…”

It seems far more likely to me that the verse in the National Anthem refers disparagingly to mercenary soldiers and subjects of the Crown than to Chattel Slavery.

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Christ’s Christmas Tree

Christmas is a time of stories, isn’t it? I never kept a stash of books to read on Independence Day, or Easter, or New Year’s, or for birthdays. But I had a lovely stash of Christmas books until this year. It disappeared, nobody knows where. I have decided that this means I can spend the next few years slowly buying Christmas books for my adult children and their families, and more carefully selecting mine. If the following has ever been published as a Christmas book, I think I would buy it.

Start here, or switch the order if you prefer, which is what I did.  But still, I suggest you start there  I post the tidbit below in hopes of stopping you in the act of doing something other than reading the full short story at the link:

“I am a novelist, and I suppose I have made up this story. I write “I suppose,” though I know for a fact that I have made it up, but yet I keep fancying that it must have happened on Christmas Eve in some great town in a time of terrible frost.

I have a vision of a boy, a little boy, six years old or even younger. This boy woke up that morning in a cold damp cellar. He was dressed in a sort of little dressing-gown and was shivering with cold. There was a cloud of white steam from his breath, and sitting on a box in the corner, he blew the steam out of his mouth and amused himself in his dullness watching it float away….”

When you have finished this story, you must read this short essay. You simply must.

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Equality, C. S. Lewis

“When equality is treated not as a medicine or a safety-gadget, but as an ideal, we begin to breed that stunted and envious sort of mind which hates all superiority. That mind is the special disease of democracy, as cruelty and servility are the special diseases of privileged societies. It will kill us all if it grows unchecked. ….


“Equality” is reprinted from The Spectator, vol. CLXXI (27 August 1943), p. 192


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Mary Christmas, a holiday story

The store of rosy apples

Mary Christmas

By Carolyn S Bailey

Illustrated by Arthur G Dove

IT was a green day before Christmas at the Island The harbor reflected a sky as blue as any that ever shone above Italy the wonderful sky line of the great metropolis glowed and glinted with a luster that only a New York sun atop a sky scraper knows the lawns of the Island were still green and gay with their carpet of grass and athwart it all towered Liberty her uplifted finger pointing to an open port and a straggle for existence in which the battle goes always to the man who elbows most and seldom to the weak Three ships were in harbor Etruria 501 New York 1104 Caledonia 767 in steerage the government official checked them off on the bulletin board The examining physicians and nurses took their stands the attendants gave a final sweeping to the long pens which were soon to hold their lines of would be citizens the captain of the Caledonia bustled in with his lists the barges began to unload their masses of humanity and Mary Christmas put by her knitting She was a little bent old Danish woman of sixty five Her flowered petticoat and starched apron were not long enough to cover her white stockings and hobnailed shoes Over her head was tied a red kerchief upon her back was strapped the red and white counterpane into which were knotted all her worldly goods including the store of rosy apples that were to furnish her fruit stand and make her fortune in the land of the free In one hand she tightly clasped her shining copper teakettle that rattled its fat cover defiantly as she tramped along in the other was her knitting and her eyes twinkled with a joy beyond words as the barge drew near the shore and she saw the line of immigrants setting foot in America The Domkirke will now soon be lighted for Christmas eve she said to a neighbor as she joined the crowd which was slowly making its way to the offices They will have let my lame Hans trim the altar

Don t go mother Don t go to America he say but I say to Hans I have one strong pair of legs and two strong arms and I will find a corner in the city for my apples Then oh so many rich peoples will come to me and buy ana I will send for you Hans and you will have the doctoring But her soliloquy was cut short by the pushing and jostling about her Stand in line there Numbers 16 in this row Numbers 17 wait outside Numbers 19 for the medical inspector Mary Christmas dropped so low a courtesy that the cover of the teakettle fell off entirely as the physician pushed off her kerchief inverted her eyelids to samine for possible trachoma and Lame Hans s cys by home M l v Tt was such a long time to wait marked her good wool shawl with strange chalk hieroglyphics pointing her to a line of sixty Italians Russians and Slavs waiting to be measured and checked off the Caledonia lists It was such a long time to wait and it was a little lonely Hans will be boiling the potatoes now she thought to herself and then he will go over the wood bridge to the choir practice She softly hummed to herself Watchman tell us of the night What its signs of wonder are But she was interrupted Mary Christmas Able to read yes Hight foui feet eleven inches Ribe Denmark Steamship Caledonia How much money have you Mary Christmas Money Ah that was safe Had the not sold all the geese to get it Man Christmas carefully rolled up her knitting and put it in her apron pocket set her teakettle on the inspector’s desk sat down upon her counterpane bundle turned down one white stocking and took out a wad of paper One dollar two three five dollars thirteen fifteen fifteen dollars and forty five cent Surely a fortune Have you friends to meet you Mary Christmas asked the inspector sharply My lame Hans stays by home He Have you friends in America is what I want tc know said the inspector No Deportation room said the inspector glibly Mary Christmas to be detained and deported at the expense of the Caledonia for lack of funds Detained and deported The apple stand so near realization 630 GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

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Why I Love Charlotte Mason’s Education

I still thrill to this passage as much now as the first time I read it over two decades ago:

“A Captain Idea for us,––Education is the Science of Relations.––A child should be brought up to have relations of force with earth and water, should run and ride, swim and skate, lift and carry; should know texture, and work in material; should know by name, and where and how they live at any rate, the things of the earth about him, its birds and beasts and creeping things, its herbs and trees; should be in touch with the literature, art and thought of the past and the present I do not mean that he should know all these things; but he should feel, when he reads of it in the newspapers, the thrill which stirred the Cretan peasants when the frescoes in the palace of King Minos were disclosed to the labour of their spades. He should feel the thrill, not from mere contiguity, but because he has with the past the relationship of living pulsing thought; and, if blood be thicker than water, thought is more quickening than blood. He must have a living relationship with the present, its historic movement, its science, literature, art, social needs and aspirations. In fact, he must have a wide outlook, intimate relations all round; and force, virtue, must pass out of him, whether of hand, will, or sympathy, wherever he touches. This is no impossible programme. Indeed it can be pretty well filled in by the time an intelligent boy or girl has reached the age of thirteen or fourteen; for it depends, not upon how much is learned, but upon how things are learned.”

From volume 3

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