The Declaration of Independence - Two Versions

Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776, a 1900 portrait by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris depicting Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson working on the Declaration[43]

Today's selection -- from American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence by Pauline Maier. In 1776, the delegates of the Second Continental Congress made a very large number of changes to Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence:

“The more alterations Congress made on his draft, the more miserable Jefferson became. He had forgotten, as has posterity, that a draftsman is not an author, and that the ‘declaration on independence,’ as Congress sometimes called it, was not a novel, or a poem, or even a political essay presented to the world as the work of a particular writer, but a public document, an authenticated expression of the American mind. Franklin, who was sitting nearby, ‘perceived that I was not insensible to these mutilations,’ Jefferson later recalled, and attempted to console him with the story of a young hatter, about to pen his own shop, who proposed to have a fine signboard made with he words ‘John Thompson, Hatter, makes and sells hats for ready

money’ and the figure of a hat. First, however, he asked his friends for their advice. One proposed taking out ‘hatter’ since it was redundant with ‘makes hats.’  Another recommended that ‘makes’ be removed since customers wouldn't care who exactly made the hats. A third said ‘for ready money’ was unnecessary since it was not the local custom to sell on credit. ‘Sells hats’" a fourth commented; did Thompson suppose people thought he meant to give them away? In the end, the sign said simply ‘John Thompson,’ with a picture of a hat, which probably served its function quite well. Franklin said, however, that he had learned from that anecdote to avoid, ‘whenever in my power, ... becoming the draughtsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body.’ Did Franklin understand how much Congress, like the relentless editors in his story, was practicing a technique that Jefferson had himself used to good effect when he compressed Mason's language until it gained in power far more than it lost in length?

“Others seem to have shared Jefferson's preference for the committee draft over the version Congress adopted. So strong was his conviction on that issue that Jefferson laboriously copied the earlier version several times over—by hand, of course, which made it a tedious, time consuming task—and sent those copies to friends so they could judge for themselves, as he wrote Richard Henry Lee, ‘whether it is the better or worse for the Critics.’ Lee responded that he ‘sincerely’ wished, ‘as well for the honor of Congress, as for that of the States, that the Manuscript had not been mangled as it is,’ and years later John Adams also said that Congress ‘obliterated some of the best’ of draft declaration ‘and left all that was exceptionable, if any thing in it was.’ Obviously the two versions were strikingly different in the opinion of contemporary observers. And what generations of Americans came to revere was not Jefferson's but Congress's Declaration, the work not of a single man, or even a committee, but of a larger body men with the good sense to recognize a ‘pretty good’ draft when they saw it, and who were able to identify and eliminate Jefferson's more outlandish assertions and unnecessary words. So successful an exercise of group editing probably demanded a text that required cutting, not extensive rewriting. Congress's achievement was remarkable nonetheless. By exercising their intelligence, political good sense, and a discerning sense of language, the delegates managed to make the Declaration at once more accurate and more consonant with the convictions of their constituents, and to enhance both its power and its eloquence.”

American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence

Of course, H.L. Mencken's version was the best of all!

When things get so balled up that the people of a country have to cut loose from some other country, and go it on their own hook, without asking no permission from nobody, excepting maybe God Almighty, then they ought to let everybody know why they done it, so that everybody can see they are on the level, and not trying to put nothing over on nobody. All we got to say on this proposition is this: first, you and me is as good as anybody else, and maybe a damn sight better; second, nobody ain't got no right to take away none of our rights; third, every man has got a right to live, to come and go as he pleases, and to have a good time however he likes, so long as he don't interfere with nobody else.

That any government that don't give a man these rights ain't worth a damn; also, people ought to choose the kind of government they want themselves, and nobody else ought to have no say in the matter. That whenever any government don't do this, then the people have got a right to can it and put in one that will take care of their interests. Of course, that don't mean having a revolution every day like them South American coons and yellow-bellies and Bolsheviki, or every time some job-holder does something he ain't got no business to do. It is better to stand a little graft, etc., than to have revolutions all the time, like them coons and Bolsheviki, and any man that wasn't a anarchist or one of them I. W. W.'s would say the same. But when things get so bad that a man ain't hardly got no rights at all no more, but you might almost call him a slave, then everybody ought to get together and throw the grafters out, and put in new ones who won't carry on so high and steal so much, and then watch them. This is the proposition the people of these Colonies is up against, and they have got tired of it, and won't stand it no more. The administration of the present King, George III, has been rotten from the start, and when anybody kicked about it he always tried to get away with it by strong-arm work. Here is some of the rough stuff he has pulled:

He vetoed bills in the Legislature that everybody was in favor of, and hardly nobody was against.

He wouldn't allow no law to be passed without it was first put up to him, and then he stuck it in his pocket and let on he forgot about it, and didn't pay no attention to no kicks.

When people went to work and gone to him and asked him to put through a law about this or that, he give them their choice: either they had to shut down the Legislature and let him pass it all by himself, or they couldn't have it at all. He made the Legislature meet at one-horse thank-towns out in the alfalfa belt, so that hardly nobody could get there and most of the leaders would stay home and let him go to work and do things as he pleased.

He give the Legislature the air, and sent the members home every time they stood up to him and give him a call-down.

When a Legislature was busted up he wouldn't allow no new one to be elected, so that there wasn't nobody left to run things, but anybody could walk in and do whatever they pleased.

He tried to scare people outen moving into these States, and made it so hard for a wop or one of them poor kikes to get his papers that he would rather stay home and not try it, and then, when he come in, he wouldn't let him have no land, and so he either went home again or never come.

He monkeyed with the courts, and didn't hire enough judges to do the work, and so a person had to wait so long for his case to come up that he got sick of waiting, and went home, and so never got what was coming to him.

He got the judges under his thumb by turning them out when they done anything he didn't like, or holding up their salaries, so that they had to cough up or not get no money.

He made a lot of new jobs, and give them to loafers that nobody knowed nothing about, and the poor people had to pay the bill, whether they wanted to or not.

Without no war going on, he kept an army loafing around the country, no matter how much people kicked about it.

He let the army run things to suit theirself and never paid no attention whatsoever to nobody which didn't wear no uniform.

He let grafters run loose, from God knows where, and give them the say in everything, and let them put over such things as the following: Making poor people board and lodge a lot of soldiers they ain't got no use for, and don't want to see loafing around.

When the soldiers kill a man, framing it up so that they would get off.

Interfering with business.

Making us pay taxes without asking us whether we thought the things we had to pay taxes for was something that was worth paying taxes for or not.

When a man was arrested and asked for a jury trial, not letting him have no jury trial.

Chasing men out of the country, without being guilty of nothing, and trying them somewheres else for what they done here.

In countries that border on us, he put in bum governments, and then tried to spread them out, so that by and by they would take in this country too, or make our own government as bum as they was. He never paid no attention whatever to the Constitution, but he went to work and repealed laws that everybody was satisfied with and hardly nobody was against, and tried to fix the government so that he could do whatever he pleased.

He busted up the Legislatures and let on he could do all the work better by himself. Now he washes his hands of us and even declares war on us, so we don't owe him nothing, and whatever authority he ever had he ain't got no more.

He has burned down towns, shot down people like dogs, and raised hell against us out on the ocean.

He hired whole regiments of Dutch, etc., to fight us, and told them they could have anything they wanted if they could take it away from us, and sicked these Dutch, etc., on us without paying no attention whatever to international law.

He grabbed our own people when he found them in ships on the ocean, and shoved guns into their hands, and made them fight against us, no matter how much they didn't want to.

He stirred up the Indians, and give them arms ammunition, and told them to go to it, and they have killed men, women and children, and don't care which.

Every time he has went to work and pulled any of these things, we have went to work and put in a kick, but every time we have went to work and put in a kick he has went to work and did it again. When a man keeps on handing out such rough stuff all the time, all you can say is that he ain't got no class and ain't fitten to have no authority over people who have got any rights, and he ought to be kicked out.

When we complained to the English we didn't get no more satisfaction. Almost every day we warned them that the politicians over there was doing things to us that they didn't have no right to do. We kept on reminding them who we were, and what we was doing here, and how we come to come here. We asked them to get us a square deal, and told them that if this thing kept on we'd have to do something about it and maybe they wouldn't like it. But the more we talked, the more they didn't pay no attention to us. Therefore, if they ain't for us they must be agin us, and we are ready to give them the fight of their lives, or to shake hands when it is over.

Therefore be it resolved, that we, the representatives of the people of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, hereby declare as follows: That the United States, which was the United Colonies in former times, is now free and independent, and ought to be; that we have throwed out the English King and don't want to have nothing to do with him no more, and are not in England no more; and that, being as we are now free and independent, we can do anything that free and independent parties can do, especially declare war, make peace, sign treaties, go into business, etc. And we swear on the Bible on this proposition, one and all, and agree to stick to it no matter what happens, whether we win or we lose, and whether we get away with it or get the worst of it, no matter whether we lose all our property by it or even get hung for it.

Irving Berlin and "White Christmas"

Today's encore selection -- from Irving Berlin by James Kaplan. The classic song “White Christmas”:

"The [Irving] Berlin song that would have the greatest impact on America and Americans as the United States entered [World War II] was one that, on the face of it, had nothing whatever to do with war: the great and strange holiday song he'd first con­ceived of years earlier and had been obsessing over ever since.

"What makes 'White Christmas' so great, and so strange? Dozens of writers have poured thousands of words into analyzing the bridgeless fifty-four-word chorus of this seemingly simple tune. 'People read a lot of things into that song,' Berlin himself said, 'that I didn't put there.'

"When the Washington Post asked him about the song's ori­gins in 1954, Berlin harked back nostalgically to his tenement past: 'I was a little Russian-born kid, son of an Orthodox rabbi, living on the lower East Side of New York City. I did not have a Christmas. But I bounded across the street to my friendly neighbors, the O'Haras, and shared their goodies. Not only that, this was my first sight of a Christmas tree. The O'Haras were very poor and later, as I grew used to their annual tree, I realized they had to buy one with broken branches and small height, but to me that first tree seemed to tower to heaven.'

Watch the Video

"Nostalgia is certainly essential to 'White Christmas' ­Jody Rosen links the tune to the great tradition of wistfully reminiscing songs such as Stephen Foster's 'The Old Folks at Home' -- as is something else: secularity. In the 1930s and 1940s, when the United States was unquestioningly a Christian nation, the vast majority of Christmas songs sung and heard by Americans, including the two Bing Crosby had recorded in 1935, 'Adeste Fideles' and 'Silent Night,' were, quite appro­priately, concerned with the essence of the holiday: the birth of Jesus Christ. (Three notable exceptions were 'Jingle Bells,' first published -- as a Thanksgiving song! -- in 1857, and 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town' and 'Winter Wonderland,' both debuting in 1934. Strikingly, Tin Pan Alley had largely failed to capitalize on the holiday -- perhaps because so many of its songwriters and publishers were Jews.

"Irving Berlin clearly planned to redress this omission with 'the best song anybody ever wrote.' And since it wouldn't have been authentic for him as a Jew to write about Christ, he chose to universalize his lyric. And herein lies a first clue to the deep strangeness of 'White Christmas.' For what could be stranger than a Jew out of the shtetl and the Lower East Side creating what is arguably the most influential Christmas song of all time?

"No less an observer than Philip Roth considers the ques­tion (along with 'Easter Parade') in his brilliant dissection of antisemitism, the novel Operation Shylock:

The radio was playing 'Easter Parade' and I thought, But this is Jewish genius on a par with the Ten Commandments. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and then He gave to Irving Berlin 'Easter Parade' and 'White Christmas.' The two holidays that celebrate the divinity of Christ ... and what does Irving Berlin brilliantly do? He de-Christs them both! ... Is anyone really dishonored by this? If schlockified Christianity is Christianity cleansed of Jew hatred, then three cheers for schlock. 

"The only person dishonored in the formulation is Berlin himself, with Roth's peremptory dismissal of 'White Christ­mas' as schlock. Is 'White Christmas' schlock? Even as fervent and articulate an admirer of the Berlin canon as Jody Rosen has his doubts. ''White Christmas" isn't my favorite song; it isn't even my favorite Irving Berlin song,' he writes. Rather, it is, he continues,

about as good a summary as we have of the contradictions that make pop music fascinating: it is beautiful and gro­tesque, tacky and transcendent. Revisiting the song's story, listening for the thousandth time to its maudlin, immemo­rial strains, we are reminded of a trick in which Berlin and Crosby both specialized: how, time and again, they proved that art and schlock could be one and the same.

"Of course, there are estimable commentators enough to certify 'White Christmas' as real art. Alec Wilder writes with a certain wonderment of 'the truly daring succession of notes in the chromatic phrase of the main strain' of the song. Philip Furia calls the tune 'the counterpart to Robert Frost's great modern poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," which uses the simplest of rhymes and the barest of imagery to evoke a beautiful but melancholy scene.' And a year after America's entry into World War II, when the song had become a touchstone for hundreds of thousands of homesick U.S. sol­diers and sailors stationed overseas, Carl Sandburg would write:

Away down under, this latest hit of Irving Berlin catches us where we love peace. The Nazi theory and doctrine that man in his blood is naturally warlike, so much so that he should call war a blessing, we don't like it .... The hopes and prayers are that we will see the beginnings of a hundred years of white Christmases -- with no blood-spots of needless agony and death on the snow.

"But we are getting ahead of ourselves. When we left off, sometime in the last week of November or the first week of December 1941, Bing Crosby was headed out for [a] round of golf after prerecording 'White Christmas,' Fortress America was still secure, and only a handful of people connected profes­sionally or familially to Irving Berlin had ever heard the song.

"On Sunday morning, December 7, a lovely day in Los An­geles, Irving and Ellin were relaxing in Beverly Hills when the news from Pearl Harbor hit with the force of a bomb. Soon they would head back to New York to spend a more somber holiday than usual with their daughters. On the night of December 24, on his Kraft Music Hall broadcast, Crosby sang 'White Christ­mas' to America for the first time. Still staggered by the un­precedented surprise attack, America barely took notice."

James Kaplan
author: Irving Berlin  
title: James Kaplan  
publisher: Yale University Press  
date: Copyright 2019 James Kaplan  
page(s): 199-202

Flying the Shuttle!


747 pilot comments about carrying the shuttle..

There is a video at the end which is wonderful to watch. 

American ingenuity is something to be proud of.

A quick "trip report" from the pilot of the 747 that flew the shuttle back to Florida after the Hubble repair flight. A humorous and interesting inside look at what it's like to fly two aircraft at once.

Well, it's been 48 hours since I landed the 747 with the shuttle Atlantis on top and I am still buzzing from the experience. I have to say that my whole mind, body and soul went into the professional mode just before engine start in Mississippi, and stayed there, where it all needed to be, until well after the fact, I am not sure if it is all back to normal as I type this email. The experience was surreal. Seeing that "thing" on top of an already overly huge aircraft boggles my mind. The whole mission from takeoff to engine shutdown was unlike anything I had ever done. It was like a dream... someone else's dream.

We took off from Columbus AFB on their 12,000 foot runway, of which I used 11,999  feet to get the wheels off the ground. We were at 3,500 feet left to go of the runway, throttles full power, nose wheels still hugging the ground, copilot calling out decision speeds, the weight of Atlantis now screaming through m y fingers clinched tightly on the controls, tires heating up to their near maximum temperature from the speed and the weight, and not yet at rotation speed, the speed at which I would be pulling on the controls to get the nose to rise. I just could not wait, and I mean I COULD NOT WAIT, and started pulling early. If I had waited until rotation speed, we would not have rotated enough to get airborne by the end of the runway. So I pulled on the controls early and started our rotation to the takeoff attitude. The wheels finally lifted off as we passed over the stripe marking the end of the runway and my next hurdle (phys

All I knew was we were flying and so I directed the gear to be retracted and the flaps to be moved from Flaps 20 to Flaps 10 as I pulled even harder on the controls. I must say, those trees were beginning to look a lot like those brushes in the drive through car washes so I pulled even harder yet! I think I saw a bird just fold it's wings and fall out of a tree as if to say "Oh just take me". Okay, we cleared the trees, duh, but it was way too close for my laundry.As we started to actually climb, at only 100 feet per minute, I smelled something that reminded me of touring the Heineken Brewery in Europe ....I said "is that a skunk I smell?" and the veterans of shuttle carrying looked at me and smiled and said "Tires"! I said "TIRES???OURS???" 

They smiled and shook their heads as if to call their Captain an amateur; okay, at that point I was. The tires were so hot you could smell them in the cockpit. My mind could not get over, from this point on, that this was something I had never experienced.  Where's your mom when you REALLY need her?

The flight down to Florida was an eternity. We cruised at 250 knots indicated, giving us about 315 knots of ground speed at 15,000' The miles didn't click by like I am use to them clicking by in a fighter jet at MACH .94. We were burning fuel at a rate of 40,000 pounds per hour or 130 pounds per mile, or one gallon every length of the fuselage. The vibration in the cockpit was mild, compared to down below and to the rear of the fuselage where it reminded me of that football game I had as a child where you turned it on and the players vibrated around the board. I felt like if I had plastic clips on my boots I could have vibrated to any spot in the fuselage 

I wanted to go without moving my legs...and the noise was deafening. The 747 flies with its nose 5 degrees up in the air to stay level, and when you bank, it feels like the shuttle is trying to say "hey, let's roll completely over on our back"...not a good thing I kept telling myself. SO I limited my bank angle to 15 degrees and even though a 180 degree course change took a full zip code to complete, it was the safe way to turn this monster.

Airliners and even a flight of two F-16s deviated from their flight plans to catch a glimpse of us along the way. We dodged what was in reality very few clouds and storms, despite what everyone thought, and arrived in Florida with 51,000 pounds of fuel too much to land with. We can't land heavier than 600,000 pounds total weight and so we had to do something with that fuel. I had an idea...let's fly low and slow and show this beast off to all the taxpayers in Florida lucky enough to be outside on that Tuesday afternoon. So at Ormond Beach we let down to 1,000 feet above the ground/water and flew just east of the beach out over the water 

Then, once we reached the NASA airspace of the Kennedy Space Center , we cut over to the Banana/Indian Rivers and flew down the middle of them to show the people of Titusville , Port St.Johns and Melbourne just what a 747 with a shuttle on it looked like. We stayed at 1,000 feet and since we were dragging our flaps at "Flaps 5", our speed was down to around 190 to 210 knots. We could see traffic stopping in the middle of roads to take a look. We heard later that a Little League Baseball game stop to look and everyone cheered as we became their 7th inning stretch. Oh say can you see...


After reaching Vero Beach , we turned north to follow the coast line back up to the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). There was not one person laying on the beach...they were all standing and waving!" What a sight" I thought...and figured they were thinking the same thing.  All this time I was bugging the engineers, all three of them, to re-compute our fuel and tell me when it was time to land.They kept saying "Not yet Triple, keep showing this thing off" which was not a bad thing to be doing. However, all this time the thought that the landing, the muscling of this 600,000 pound beast, was getting closer and closer to my reality. I was pumped up! We got back to the SLF and were still 10,000 pounds too heavy to land so I said I was going to do a low approach over the SLF going the opposite direction of landing traffic that day.  So at 300 feet, we flew down the runway, rocking our wings like a whale rolling on its side to say "hello" to the people looking on! 

One turn out of traffic and back to the runway to land...still 3,000 pounds over gross weight limit. But the engineers agreed that if the landing were smooth, there would be no problem."Oh thanks guys, a little extra pressure is just what I needed!" So we landed at 603,000 pounds and very smoothly if I have to say so myself. The landing was so totally controlled and on speed, that it was fun. There were a few surprises that I dealt with, like the 747 falls like a rock with the orbiter on it if you pull the throttles off at the "normal" point in a landing and secondly, if you thought you could hold the nose off the ground after the mains touch down, think again...IT IS COMING DOWN!!! So I "flew it down" to the ground and saved what I have seen in videos of a nose slap after landing. Bob's video supports this!

Then I turned on my phone after coming to a full stop only to find 50 bazillion emails and phone messages from all of you who were so super to be watching and cheering us on! What a treat, I can't thank y'all enough.  For those who watched, you wondered why we sat there so long. Well, the shuttle had very hazardous chemicals on board and we had to be "sniffed" to determine if any had leaked or were leaking. They checked for Monomethylhydrazine (N2H4 for Charlie Hudson) and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). Even though we were "clean", it took way too long for them to tow us in to the mate-demate area. Sorry for those who stuck it out and even waited until we exited the jet.

I am sure I will wake up in the middle of the night here soon, screaming and standing straight up dripping wet with sweat from the realization of what had happened. It was a thrill of a lifetime. Again I want to thank everyone for your interest and support. It felt good to bring Atlantis home in one piece after she had worked so hard getting to the Hubble Space Telescope and back.

And a video, in case you haven't seen the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft:


Shuttle Carrier Aircraft


Shuttle Carrier Aircraft

Abraham Lincoln - War Criminal

We frequently read today about war crimes, such as bombing hospitals. In World War II Britain bombed civilians in Dresden and dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In war, we are told, “anything goes.” Abraham Lincoln followed this barbaric policy, and those who treat him as a “hero” have much to answer for.

In his definitive book War Crimes Against Southern Civilians (Pelican 2007), the historian Walter Brian Cisco blames Lincoln for a brutal campaign of Terror against the South:

“A Review of War Crimes Against Southern Civilians by Walter Brian Cisco (Pelican, 2007).

War Crimes Against Sou...Cisco, WalterBest Price: $3.99Buy New $32.82(as of 10:30 UTC - Details)Walter Brian Cisco is a lifelong scholar of American Civil War history, a professional writer, and researcher with many respected publications on the subject including States Rights Gist: A South Carolina General of the Civil WarTaking a Stand: Portraits from the Southern Secession MovementHenry Timrod: A Biography, and Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior, Conservative Statesman. In his latest book War Crimes Against Southern Civilians, Cisco writes on a subject that many historians have avoided, war crimes committed by the Union forces on the civilian population of the South beginning in the early years of the Civil War.

In his book, Cisco does a commendable job of uncovering historical records from the time period in citing from sources that include accounts from enlisted Union soldiers that were involved in the events, official reports, letters, diaries, and various other testimonials from civilians that tell of the monstrosities committed against Southern population throughout the Civil War. Early in his book, Cisco clearly states Lincoln had adopted the “black flag” policy and this policy was executed by several Union commanders in dates far preceding the better known Sherman’s March to the Sea. “Warring against noncombatants came to be the stated policy and deliberate practice in its subjugation of the Confederacy. Abraham Lincoln, the commander in chief with a reputation as a micromanager, well knew what was going on and approved” (pg. 16). Several pieces cited support this claim and are presented throughout the book.

The evidence offered supporting the “black flag” policy adopted by the Lincoln administration is done in numerous ways. A few examples presented are incidents such as the 1861 St. Louis massacre in which twenty-eight civilians lay dead in the streets of St. Louis and seventy-five others were wounded by the hands of a force of between six and seven thousand Union regulars and German volunteers commanded by Capt. Nathanial Lyon (pg. 22 and 23). The 1862 occupation of New Orleans in which Maj. General Benjamin Butler, establishes martial law whose “decrees were worthy of a czar” and in one infamous order, commanding Union soldiers to treat the ladies of the town as prostitutes which could be “construed as a license for rape” (pg. 65). Other accounts are crimes committed against non-combatants were the attacks on Southern pacifist religious refugees, in which Sheridan’s army robbed, plundered, poisoned wells with dead animal carcasses, and burned their houses to the ground during the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864 (pg. 124). Cisco cites several instances in which slaves and free blacks were robbed, raped, and killed by the hands of Union soldiers. Cisco’s book is filled with damning evidence of the war crimes committed by the Union forces on the South. Any reader of this book has to question how a soldier in the U.S. military could justify the inhumane actions that were taken against a civilian population which included the elderly, women, children and slaves. The accounts of Union aggression stated seems surreal and brings forth a question of fallacy that has been planted in the minds of generations of Americans far from what the Union cause truly was about.

War Crimes Against Southern Civilians chapters are organized by engagements recorded from 1861-1865 and follows the timeline very closely. The organization of the chapters is done in a manner that it is easy for a reader to follow and creates a clear account of how these events progressed throughout the war. The author also does a good job citing sources in the book and those that are used are accurate, but the format used in citing the information are not very user friendly. The pages within the text are void of footnotes and somewhat of a nuisance for readers who want quick access to citations presented on the page they are reading. Cisco does not include any footnotes in the book or endnotes at the end of each chapter, but instead lists all notes at the end of the book. Even though the book is well written, improvements could be made through the way notes are arranged and should do so if an updated version of the book is ever released.

Without question, the author writes from a Southern perspective in presenting the atrocities Southern citizens were subjected to by Union forces. Many historians might discount Cisco’s work for representing only the Southern viewpoint of the war in this book. However, through writing in a Southern viewpoint, Cisco has brought forth a piece of history that is unknown to many readers of Civil War history. The majority of books written about the Civil War give a very limited account of the events that took place with the intent of glorifying the actions of the Lincoln administration and the Union army. Cisco’s contribution of the historical accounts of the Civil War is commendable and he meets a difficult subject matter head-on that other authors have purposely neglected. The facts Cisco presents, instills his readers with facts that contribute a more complete understanding of events that forever changed the course of a nation.

After reading this book, an vital element in understanding the Civil War history is uncovered that many historians are not aware of. Cisco offers a wealth of evidence to his readers that have been too taboo for many academic writers to report. War Crimes Against Southern Civilians is a must read for historians who are truth seekers and want to attain a fuller understanding of the events that unfolded during a difficult time in American history.” War Crimes Against Southern Civilians – Abbeville Institute

Valerie Protopapas makes clear Lincoln’s responsibility for the war atrocities:

“Who has not heard of Wounded Knee? Most know at least the general facts surrounding what is acknowledged as an atrocity committed by the army of the United States. On December 29th, 1890, the 7th Cavalry surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers—a spiritual movement of the Lakota Sioux—near Wounded Knee Creek. The soldiers demanded that the Indians surrender their weapons. As the Indians made to comply, a fight broke out between an Indian and a soldier and a shot was fired. When it was over, it is estimated that between 150 to 300 Indians—nearly half of whom were women and children— had been killed; the cavalry lost 25 men. Wounded Knee is considered the last major confrontation in the deadly war of extermination waged by the American government against the Plains Indians.

But Wounded Knee was also a fitting footnote to the tactics of the United States military that began some thirty years earlier when it was loosed not against the Plains Indians but against people with whom that military shared a common heritage of struggle and liberation from the tyranny of Great Britain. Despite growing ill-feeling between the sections which only deepened as the 19th century progressed, the United States still taught the principles of civilized and just warfare as codified by Hugo Grotius and Emmerich de Vattel. Indeed, Lincoln’s lead general Henry Halleck wrote General Order 12 declaring that assaults on civilians were: “coming into general disuse among the most civilized nations.”

Yet, the first strategy created by General Winfield Scott at Lincoln’s request and utilized from the commencement of the war targeted non-combatants. The Anaconda plan was created to starve the South into submission, depriving her people not just of arms and munitions, but food and medicine, the essentials of life itself. Thus, the nature of the war that was to be waged against the people of the South was in place from the beginning. All that happened afterward was simply the extension and exacerbation of the already chosen path of total war against every man, woman and child of the Confederacy.

Much has been made of Lincoln’s General Order 100, also known as the Lieber Code. Most of those who have commented have bestowed upon Lincoln the mantle of the first man to create an “extraordinary code that emerged … to change the course of world history.” And that Lincoln’s Code is the … inspiring story of . the idea that conduct in war can be regulated by law.” But these votaries forget that prior to Lieber there were the codes of Grotius and deVattel that had been taught at West Point and other such institutions and these codes forbade assaults by armies upon noncombatants. Lieber, on the other hand, gave Lincoln what he wanted—something that sounded good but allowed him to murder, plunder and pillage under the concept of “military necessity!” Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon recognized—and denounced—this cunning duplicity, stating that:

“…a commander under this code may pursue a line of conduct in accordance with principles of justice, faith, and honor, or he may justify conduct correspondent with the barbarous hordes who overran the Roman Empire…”

Indeed, despite its pretense of “civilized conflict” Lieber openly endorsed the concept of “hard war” by defining it as a struggle not limited to armies and navies. Remember Halleck’s observation that assaults on non-combatants were “coming into general disuse among the most civilized nations.” Are we then to assume that Lieber’s code was written for a nation that was not “civilized?” In Article 21, Lieber states: “The citizen . of a hostile country is thus an enemy.and as such is subjected to the hardships of war.” Article 29 states, “The more vigorously wars are pursued, the better it is for humanity.” One has to wonder how Lieber defined “better” and “humanity.” Finally, he concludes, “The ultimate object of all modern war is a renewed state of peace.” Well, there is nothing more peaceful than the grave.

In Lieber’s code, necessity always trumped both legality and humanity. Sherman and Sheridan would never have undertaken their atrocities had they followed any of the codes of war taught at the Point under Halleck. Indeed, on August 4, 1863, Sherman wrote to Grant at Vicksburg,

“The amount of burning, stealing and plundering done by our army makes me ashamed of it. I would rather quit the service if I could, because I fear that we are drifting to the worst sort of vandalism …You and I and every commander must go through the war, justly charged with crimes at which we blush.”

However, in a later response to a Southerner who called him a barbarian, Sherman said that he, as a commander:

“may take your house, your fields, your everything, and turn you out helpless to starve. It may be wrong, but that don’t alter the case.”

Author Otto Eisenschiml, writing less than 20 years after the Nuremberg war crimes trials, asserted that Sherman should have been hanged just as the Nazi war criminals had been hanged! Instead, he was lauded, honored and promoted by a grateful government.

Of course, there were federal officers who objected. Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the famous black regiment honored in the film Glory, was commanded by a superior officer to burn Darien, Georgia. Shaw later wrote to his wife:

“for myself, I have gone through the war so far without dishonor, and I do not like to degenerate into a plunderer and robber—and the same applies to every officer in my regiment.”

Union hero, Joshua Chamberlain, wrote to his sister on December 14th, 1864, after having burned the homes of women and children near Petersburg, Virginia at Grant’s order:

“I am willing to fight men in arms, but not babes in arms.”

Union General Don Carlos Buell resigned in protest, writing:

“I believe that the policy and means with which the war was being prosecuted were discreditable to the nation and a stain on civilization.”

Even Northern newspapers commented upon such atrocities. One New York paper, referring to Sherman’s “capture” and deportation of 400 young women with their children from Rosewell, Georgia cried:

“…it is hardly conceivable that an officer bearing a United States commission of Major General should have so far forgotten the commonest dictates of decency and humanity… as to drive four hundred penniless girls hundreds of miles away from their homes and friends to seek their livelihood amid strange and hostile people. We repeat our earnest hope that further information may redeem the name of General Sherman and our own from this frightful disgrace.”

Many of the women were raped by their soldier captors during their journey to Marietta after which they and their children were imprisoned, starved, mistreated and then sent North without subsistence. Not one of these poor unfortunates ever returned home after the war, an act more savage than Wounded Knee.

Indeed, distinguished military historian B. H. Liddell observed that the code of civilized warfare which had ruled Europe for over two hundred years was first broken by Lincoln’s policy of directing the destruction of civilian life in the South. On this matter, Liddell wrote “This policy was in many ways the prototype of modern total war.”

Neither was Lincoln ignorant of his armies’ atrocities. In his memoirs Sherman wrote that at a meeting with Lincoln after his March, the President was eager to hear the stories of how thousands of Southern civilians, mostly women, children, old men and slaves, were plundered, tortured, raped, murdered and rendered homeless. According to Sherman, the President laughed almost uncontrollably at these narratives. Sherman’s biographer Lee Kennett, concluded that had the Confederates won the war, they would have been:

“justified in stringing up President Lincoln and the entire Union high command for violations of the laws of war, specifically for waging war against noncombatants.”

It had always been Lincoln’s strategy not only to defeat the South but to destroy both the culture and the will of the people by targeting civilians. Under the concept of “military necessity,” Lincoln’s new code of war allowed him to do whatever was required to achieve that end and his commanders followed suit. Even General Halleck author of General Order 12, abandoned his concern for civilization. Ulysses Grant decided after the Battle of Shiloh in April of 1862, that the only strategy possible was to annihilate the South. Writing to Sheridan and Sherman, Grant stated,

“We are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people and we must make old and young, rich and poor feel the hard hand of war.” Lincoln’s Total War – Abbeville Institute

The great Tom DiLorenzo describes some of the atrocities against Southern civilians here:

South Carolina Civilia...Karen StokesBest Price: $11.50Buy New $3.37(as of 05:45 UTC - Details)“November and December of this year [2014] mark the 150th anniversary of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous “march to the sea” at the end of the War to Prevent Southern Independence.  The Lincoln cult – especially its hyper-warmongering neocon branch – has been holding conferences, celebrations, and commemorations while continuing to rewrite history to suit its statist biases.  Business as usual, in other words.  But they are not the only ones writing about the event.  Historian Karen Stokes has published South Carolina Civilians in Sherman’s Path: Stories of Courage Amid Civil War Destruction that contains a great deal of very telling information about Sherman’s motivation in waging total war on the civilian population of South Carolina.

Stokes begins by quoting a letter that Sherman wrote to General Henry Halleck shortly before invading all-but-defenseless South Carolina:  “[T]he whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance upon South Carolina.”  In another message a few weeks later, Sherman reiterated to Halleck that “The whole army is crazy to be turned loose in [South] Carolina.”

A New York newspaperman who was “embedded” with Sherman’s army (to use a contemporary term) wrote that “There can be no denial of the assertion that the feeling among the troops was one of extreme bitterness towards the people of the State of South Carolina.”  The Philadelphia Inquirer cheered on as Sherman’s army raped, pillaged, burned, and plundered through the state, calling South Carolina “that accursed hotbed of treason.”

In a January 31, 1864 letter to Major R.M. Sawyer, Sherman explained the reason why he hated the South in general, and South Carolina in particular, so much.  The war, he said “was the result of a false political doctrine that any and every people have a right to self-government.”  In the same letter Sherman referred to states’ rights, freedom of conscience, and freedom of the press as “trash” that had “deluded the Southern people into war.”

Sherman’s subordinates expressed similar opinions.  In 1865 Major George W. Nichols published a book about his exploits during Sherman’s “march” in which he describing South Carolinians as “the scum, the lower dregs of civilization” who are “not Americans; they are merely South Carolinians.”  General Carl Schurz is quoted by Stokes as remarking that “South Carolina – the state which was looked upon by the Northern soldier as the principal instigator” of the war was “deserving of special punishment.”

All of this is so telling because it reveals that neither Sherman, nor his subordinate officers, nor the average “soldier” in his army, were motivated by anything having to do with slavery.  South Carolina suffered more than any other state at the hands of Sherman’s raping, looting, plundering, murdering, and house-burning army because that is where the secession movement started.  It was NOT because there were more slaves there than in other states, or because of anything else related to slavery.  It was because South Carolinians, even more than other Southerners, did not believe in uncompromising obedience to the central state.

Shortly after the war ended some prominent Northerners began to pour into South Carolina to revel in the scenes of destruction (and to steal whatever they could).  The goofy Brooklyn, New York, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher went on one such excursion and gave a speech while standing under a giant U.S. flag in Charleston in which he declared:

“Let no man misread the meaning of this unfolding flag!  It says, ‘GOVERNMENT hath returned hither.’  It proclaims in the name of vindicated government, peace and protection to loyalty; humiliations and pains to traitors. This is the flag of sovereignty.  The nation, not the States, is sovereign.  Restored to authority, this flag commands, not supplicates . . . .  There may be pardon [for former Confederates], but no concession . . . .  The only condition of submission is to submit!”

In other words, the purpose of the war was to “prove” once and for all the false nationalist theory that the states were never sovereign; they did not ratify the Constitution, as explained in Article 7; the constitution created them; that the states never delegated certain powers to the central government in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8); and that the central government is to have unlimited “supremacy” over all individuals and institutions.

This was the nationalist superstition about the American founding, first fabricated by Alexander Hamilton and repeated by successive generations of nationalist/consolodationist/mercantilist despots such as John Marshall, Joseph Story, Daniel Webster, and Abraham Lincoln.

This is why Sherman and his army reveled so much in their brutalization of defenseless South Carolinian women and children and the looting and destruction of their property.  And they bragged about it for the rest of their lives.  Much of the boasting is catalogued in South Carolina Civilians in Sherman’s Path. Stokes quotes a General Charles Van Wyck as writing that “nearly every house on our line of march has been destroyed.”  An “embedded” New York reporter named David P. Conyngham is quoted as described one South Carolina town after observing “the smoking ruins of the town, to tall, black chimneys looking down upon it like funeral mutes” with “old women and children, hopeless, helpless, almost frenzied, wandering amidst the desolation.” The book contains dozens of other eye-witness accounts by Union Army soldiers and Southern civilians of the burning down of entire cities and towns, rape, robbery, and wanton destruction of all varieties of private property, all of it occurring after the Confederate Army had vacated.  All to prove once and for all, to South Carolinians and all other Americans, North and South, that federalism and self-government was a “delusion,” to quote General Sherman himself.” US Soldiers Raped, Pillaged, and Plundered – LewRockwell

Let’s do everything we can to end the cult of Lincoln and to oppose war atrocities.

John Moses Browning



"The time and place for a gun maker just got together on this corner. And I happened along."

~ John M. Browning

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Profile of a legend

In France, his last name is considered a proper noun for the word pistol. He held 128 gun patents and designed and built 80 separate firearms — 44 of them manufactured by Winchester. It can be said without exaggeration that Browning’s guns made Winchester. And Colt. And Remington, Savage, and Fabrique Nationale (FN). Not to mention his namesake company, Browning. Few are the gun manufacturers that have not bought a license to use one of many Browning’s patents. His work includes the full spectrum of single shot, lever action, pump action, semi-automatic, and full-automatic firearms, with calibers ranging from .22 rimfires to 37mm cannon shells. His 1911 .45 pistol, Browning Automatic Rifle, 1917 .30 and .50 caliber machine guns are just some of his guns that became part and parcel in the US arsenal during several conflicts. His final design at the time of his death — the Browning Hi-Power pistol — would become a precedent for today’s high-cap 9mm pistols.

These innovative guns sprang from the mind and hands of a man who was born in an era of black powder and percussion caps. During his era, the average gun design was expected to take 2 years from drawing board to prototype. For John Moses Browning, it was not unusual for him to turn out many finished firearms in a single year — and all of them become instant best sellers. Once he made a daring deal with Winchester Arms to design a new rifle to replace the aging Model 73 within 30 days. If he succeeded, he would earn $20,000, but if he failed, he would surrender his design for free. Browning easily made the deadline, and the Model 92 became part of the great line of Winchester rifles.

A talented linage

His father, Jonathan Browning, was a natural born mechanic and an accomplished gunsmith in his own right. His philosophy was to always strive for functional simplicity in design. In 1832, he designed and manufactured a multi-shot percussion cap rifle. The rifle had a sideways magazine that came in a 5-, 10-, or 25-shot capacity. Using a thumb lever, the shooter could advance the magazine to the next chamber, with the magazine pressed tightly against the bore to ensure a secured gas check. To appreciate this achievement wrought by simple blacksmith tools and Jonathans’ superlative talent, one can compare his rifle with the failure of the Colt Revolving Rifle produced in 1855 by a fully equipped industrial factory. The Colt rifle, while innovative, could not maintain a gas check, leading to poor performance and misfires.

Jonathan brought his family from Brushy Fork, Tennessee, to Quincy, Illinois, in 1833. In 1840 he was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter days Saints. Following his conversion to the "Mormon" church, he settled in Nauvoo in 1842. His blacksmithing skills would be later be put to good use by Church President Brigham Young, repairing and providing tools and firearms for the Saints exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake Valley, Utah. Several of his repeating rifles provided game and protection during the long journey west.

In 1852 Jonathan made the trek west and settled in Ogden, Utah. Shortly after his arrival, he entered the practice of polygamy and took two additional wives. His second wife, Elisabeth Clark, gave birth to John Moses Browning on January 23, 1855.

Child prodigy

John started working in his father’s shop at age six. By age seven, he could identify every part on a firearm by name and function. After his mother taught him how to read and write, he began to take repair orders from customers. At age ten he made his first crude gun from scrap laying about the shop. He and his brother Matt tested it by successfully bringing down several grouse for his father’s breakfast. Six years later, a passing freight driver gave him a high-quality shotgun that had been severely damaged during his journey. With great care and determination, Browning disassembled the wrecked firearm, and through reverse engineering, replaced, repaired, or rebuilt from scratch all the damaged parts. In his words he related:

"Finally the idea came. A good idea starts a celebration in the mind, and every nerve in the body seems to crowd up to see the fireworks. It was a good idea, one of the best I ever had, and so simple it made me ashamed of myself. Boylike, I had been trying to do the job all at once with some kind of magic. And magic never made a gun that would work. I decided to take the gun apart, piece by piece, down to the last small screw, even though [the] parts that were mashed and twisted together. And when I did, finally finishing long after supper that night, the pieces all spread out before me on the bench, I examined each piece and discovered that there wasn’t one that I couldn’t make myself, if I had too. If I had been in school that day, I would have missed a valuable lesson"

In 1883, a traveling salesman from the Winchester Repeating Arms Company bought a used single shot rifle made by Browning from a gun owner. He showed it to Mr. T.G. Bennett, the Vice President and general manager of Winchester. Bennett was so impressed by the quality and the smooth action of the gun, that he traveled all the way from New Haven, Connecticut, to Ogden, Utah, to meet John Browning personally. Arriving at the roughhewn, primitive Browning workshop, he entered into an agreement to purchase the rights to the rifle for $8,000, a princely sum in those days. Thus began a 19-year relationship with John M. Browning and the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. In a four-year period from 1884 to 1887, he sold 20 newly designed guns to Winchester. A two-year break occurred when John Moses Browning accepted a call from the Church to serve a two-year proselyting mission in Georgia. Notwithstanding almost being tarred and feathered along with his missionary companion on one occasion, he fulfilled his duty faithfully and returned to his vocation in March 1889. Many of the guns Winchester bought from him were never manufactured. The company simply could not produce that many models. Instead, Bennett bought all of Browning designs for the express purpose of keeping them out of the hands of Winchester’s competitors. As a result, Winchester had all but a monopoly on some of the finest American-made rifles on the market.

While Browning’s lever-action designs look little different externally from previous Winchester firearms, internally there was no comparison. Browning’s creations for Winchester permitted, among many things, larger and more powerful caliber firearms to be offered to the public. John Browning was great believer in Murphy’s Law: "If anything can happen in a gun it probably will sooner or later," he once said. His firearms were deliberately built with twice the required safety margins then necessary. As a result, when the transition from black powder to smokeless occurred at the turn of the century, none of his black powder rifles designed for Winchester required any design modification to shoot smokeless ammunition other than a stronger grade metal barrel.

Among his many firsts, Browning pioneered the first practical and successful pump action shotgun, the Winchester Model 97. These were used as so-called "trench guns" by U.S. troops in WWI. Many of these shotguns where issued to soldiers skilled in trap shooting and were employed to shoot and deflect enemy hand grenades in mid air. One account tells of two hundred entrenched U.S. troops armed with Model 97’s using devastating 12-gauge shotgun fire at close range to stop a massive German infantry attack.

Pushing the envelope

Browning broke with Winchester in 1902 over Bennett’s reluctance to produce Browning’s remarkable recoil operated semi-automatic shotgun. This revolutionary shotgun scared the conservative thinking Bennett, who still thought in terms of lever and pump action firearms. After a heated argument with Bennett, Browning took his prototype back and attempted to sell it to Remington. But the president of Remington Arms, Mr. Hartley, died of a sudden heat attack just minutes before Browning was to meet with him. As a result, Browning sold the shotgun to Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Belgium, where it was known as the Browning Automatic—5. FN expected the radical new shotgun would take several years to catch on with the public. To their pleasant surprise, they sold out the first batch of 10,000 in the first year they were introduced. Remington would later purchase a license to make the shotgun under its own name called the Remington Model 11.

The idea to create a machine gun came to Browning in 1889 during a shooting meet at the Ogden Rifle Club. He observed how the blast from a friend’s rifle parted the tall weeds in passing. Piqued about the waste of excess energy, he instantly was struck with inspiration. Browning immediately abandoned the shoot, and hailed his brothers to take him home. Ed Browning, responding to the puzzled looks of the other shooters seeing John leave suddenly, simply said, "We’ve got to go back to the shop. Looks like John just thought of something." Heading to the horse rig, Ed asked his brother Matt; "What the hell’s struck him, Matt?" Matt in turn asked John, "Yes John, what the hell’s struck you now?" John replied: "An idea hit me, Yes sir! An idee, as pappy was used to say — biggest one I ever had. Get the damn horse going, Matt."

As they rode, John explained how the blast from the shooter’s gun gave him an idea to harness the wasted gas energy to make a fully automatic firearm. Within two days after arriving back at the shop, John mounted an old, worse-for-wear Model 73 .44 caliber Winchester rifle on a wooden platform, added some components, and made it fire continuously at 16 shots per second. The sheer audacity to make an old black powder cartridge lever action rifle fire in full automatic is nothing short of miraculous — for anyone other than John Browning, of course.

By 1890, Browning had a practical working prototype, along with canvas ammunition belts made by a professional tent maker. The prototype had no water-cooled jacket, nor a ventilated barrel. It had no tripod, or anything approaching a firing grip. Its finish was very rough, with blacked heat welds and hammer strikes embarrassingly visible. It would be easy to mistake the weapon as some kind of a piston and tube component of a larger machine. But it worked, and it worked extremely well. In 1891, Browning demonstrated the machine gun to the Colt Manufacturing Company, personally firing 200 rounds of 45/70’s without a hitch. In a second demonstration before an audience of several military representatives, the test required that he fire 1800 rounds in three minutes. The barrel turned red hot, a lead mist enveloped John Browning, and his body cramped terribly securing the gun during firing. But when it was over, every round had been expended, and none of the weapons’ components failed during the stress of the demonstration. To say those who witnessed the event were impressed is an understatement. They were awestruck and wild with enthusiasm at the gun’s performance. They saw his machine gun vastly superior to the current Gatling guns in service. But without military contracts, Browning’s wonder gun would lie fallow until 1895, and even then only the U.S. Navy contracted with Colt for a small number of the Browning-designed machine guns. His Colt Model 95 "Peace Maker" machine gun received its first baptism by fire in China, where the U.S. Marines used them to great effect defending the foreign legations during the Boxer Rebellion.

America’s armorer

When the US declared war on Germany in 1917, its military arsenal was sadly wanting. Until arms production could be put into full gear, the U.S. army had to buy machine guns from its allies. Ironically, the Lewis gun was invented in the U.S., but was not adopted by the military. It now was being purchased from the British government. But at least the Lewis had a good reputation for reliability. The French 8mm Chauchat, however, was totally unsuited for rigors of combat in the mud of the trenches of the Western Front. Its 250-rpm rate of fire was dismal for a machine gun. The Chauchat was so poorly designed that it had to be fired in short bursts or in semi-automatic to prevent it from jamming due to overheating. US soldiers at the Western front were in desperate need for something better.

When approached by the government for help, Browning selflessly sold the rights on his 1911, Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and other machine gun designs for only a fraction of their commercial value: He earned just three-quarters of a million dollars compared to an estimated $12 million in royalties he could have otherwise received. When his brother Matt complained about accepting the government’s first offer and not haggling over the price, John replied: "Yes, and if we were fifteen or twenty years younger, we’d be over there in the mud."

The BAR served the U.S. Army’s request for a one-man automatic weapon to enable troops to advance with "walking fire." The first BAR used in combat was carried by Browning’s son, First Lieutenant Val A. Browning, who served with the 79th Division in July 1918. Reports from the field to General Pershing extolled the BAR’s sterling performance. With minor changes, the BAR would serve again in WWII and Korea.

With the introduction of tanks in WWI, the call went out for an anti-tank weapon to counter them. Browning took his 1917 .30 caliber machine gun design and up-scaled it to .50 caliber. It was designated as the M2, but most soldiers affectionately called it "Ma Deuce." Still going strong after 92 years of service, the M2 is one of the oldest firearms still in use in the US arsenal. Though evolving tank armor soon changed the M2 role as an anti-tank weapon, it became standard equipment for US military vehicles, aircraft, ships, and infantry. It established a proven track record as an effective anti-aircraft, anti-light vehicle, and most definitively, as an anti-personal weapon. When the German General Erwin Rommel, "The Desert Fox" of North Africa, captured Tobruk from the British, he discovered a quantity of .50 Browning M2s. After Field Marshal Herman Göring congratulated Rommel on his victory, he added; "If the German Air Force had had the Browning .50-caliber, the Battle of Britain would have turned out differently." The Japanese used M2’s obtained from their early Pacific conquests as a template to make an effective 20mm auto-cannon for their aircraft. Quad-mounted M2’s on halftracks became the great equalizer for outnumbered U.S. troops facing massive Red Chinese human wave attacks during the Korean War.

One of the M2’s finest moments was in January 26, 1945. During an attack by six German tanks and a superior force of infantry at Holtzwihr, France, Lieutenant Audie Murphy ordered his troops to withdraw while he stayed behind to call in artillery strikes. As the Germans closed in, Murphy leaped on top of an abandoned burning US tank destroyer and employed the mounted M2 like a scythe against the enemy soldiers. Scores of the enemy were killed, some as close to ten yards of his position. The German tanks, without infantry support, withdrew. Lt. Murphy was wounded during the action, and for his courageous effort, received the Medal of Honor.

Copied and often imitated, the efforts to replace the M2 with lighter weapon platforms like XM312 have meet with disappointment; modern technology has yet to surpass the bedrock reliability and performance of Browning’s century-old design.

Creating a legend

Of all of Browning’s outstanding firearms, the one recognized as his signature work is the .45 ACP Colt 1911 automatic pistol. Prior to the 1911, automatic pistols as a whole were fragile, unduly complicated, and prone to jamming under harsh environmental conditions. The majority of the calibers available were marginal at best in performance. Browning’s 1911, initially produced by Colt, has since been reproduced in some shape or form by almost every gun manufacturer up to the present day. To explain it’s popularly as one of the best selling pistols for almost 100 years, it is necessary to revisit its origins.

The .38 caliber revolver in service with the U.S. military during the Philippine insurrection 1899—1913 was found to be ineffective against charging Moro natives. (Note: This pistol was chambered for the .38 Long Colt cartridge, not the .38 Special.) The call was made for a more powerful handgun for the US military personnel. Competitive trials for a new pistol were held on March 3,1911. Each gun had to successfully fire 6,000 rounds, followed by another trial shooting with deformed ammunition to further test its reliability. The trial lasted two days. When the 1911 fired its last round, a nearby soldier who assisted in loading the magazines exclaimed, "She made it, by God!" At his acceptance speech following the pistol trial, Browning concurred that he had little to add to the young soldier’s statement.

Until it was replaced (and not without some heated controversy) in 1985 by the 9mm Beretta 92, the 1911 served faithfully in every following U.S. conflict. It received its baptism of fire in General "Black Jack" Pershing’s pursuit of Pancho Villa during the Border war with Mexico. Sergeant York utilized a 1911 during his Medal of Honor feat in capturing 132 German soldiers in WWI. A backhanded testament of the pistol’s reputation came from those who practiced an extremely dangerous endeavor of illegal employment. Notorious criminals Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, John Dillinger, and Bonnie Parker were killed or captured with 1911’s in their possession. During WWII, among the many exploits involving the 1911, one account even credits a pilot shooting down a Japanese Zero that was strafing him after parachuting from his crippled B-24 bomber. All those who used the 1911 praised it stopping power and ability to function under wartime conditions.

You can take the boy from the country…

From his humble roots as country boy raised in the Utah desert, Browning’s ongoing dealings with Fabrique Nationale would find him a second home in Belgium. In his typical do-it-yourself philosophy, Browning taught himself French so he would not be limited to using a translator to converse with the FN craftsmen. Among the local citizens of Liege, the six-foot tall Browning became a familiar sight as he took frequent walks wearing his broad-brimmed hat and cape. Such was his reputation at FN, he was respectfully referred to as "Le Maitre," or "The Master." In 1914, in appreciation for help making FN a world-class arms manufacturer, he was knighted to the order of Leopold by King Albert of Belgium. Browning found such awards embarrassing; in no small part for the expected ribbing he would receive from his country-bred brothers on the royal title "Sir" now prefacing his name. Few men live to enjoy such acclaim and recognition while alive. Fewer still are those that do not let fame change them. Notwithstanding all the wealth and recognition he received during his lifetime, Browning was never happier than being at his workbench working on a new gun. His brothers told how he would seldom bother to change from his dress clothes after entering the shop, but would just jump right in to work. His work ethic was best summed up by his mother, Elisabeth, who reminiscing on John as a young child using tools, would close with the oft-repeated statement; "And there’s been grease on John’s face to this blessed day!"

While celebrating Thanksgiving in Liege in 1926 with his family, John M. Browning succumbed to a sudden heart attack and passed away. He was 71 years old. In honor for his selfless contributions to the U.S. military, a military escort was provided for his final trip home. Secretary of War Dwight F. Davis gave the eulogy at his funeral.

John Moses Browning contributions to the advancement of firearm technology continue to live on long after his death. His work helped transition gun technology from the age of black powder and percussion caps to modern day smokeless ammunition and full automatic fire. As summed up by gun historian, Philip Sharpe: "Browning developments all had one peculiar and very necessary feature. They worked, and kept on working. There are few modern guns today that have not been influenced one way or another by Browning’s hand."

Browning’s secret to his success is best explained by an incident involving his brothers Ed and George. One day, his brother George noticed his brother Ed had abandoned the workshop where John was working furiously on a gun project.

"Why aren’t you working upstairs?" George asked.

Ed replied: "Oh, John’s stuck. He’s swearing every little while. He doesn’t know whether I’m there or not."

"That’s too bad. I thought it was coming along fine."

"Don’t worry, it won’t be long now. John so hot that something has to give pretty soon — and it won’t be John."

Reference: John M. Browning, American Gunmaker. John Browning and Curt Gentry, 1964, Doubleday & Company.

The Best of Ron Shirtz

Coming Soon: The Dethroning of Human Intelligence

By George F. Smith

December 2, 2023

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultra-intelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make . . . — “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine,” Irving John Good, British cryptologist, 1965 (my emphasis)

Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence.  Shortly after, the human era will be ended.  — What is the Singularity?, Vernor Vinge Department of Mathematical Sciences San Diego State University, 1995

First, some relevant history.

The idea of creating something man-like or even greater than man dates back to the beginning of recorded history, but many in the AI world credit a 19-year-old girl as their spiritual mentor, English author Mary Shelley.  In 1818 she published Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, the story of a young scientist named Frankenstein who creates an intelligent creature from laboratory experiments.  Frankenstein today is a metaphor for the monster, but in the novel the creature is presented sympathetically, in other words, misunderstood.

In 1950 Alan Turing posited that a machine could get so good at conversing with a human that it could pass for human, based only on its responses.  Critics jumped on his assertion but he addressed them all in his seminal paper, Computing Machinery and I

In the summer of 1956 a small group of people interested in machine intelligence gathered at Dartmouth College, after obtaining a grant of $7,500 from the Rockefeller Foundation.  AI as an academic discipline was born at this conference.

In a talk delivered at the American Physical Society on December 29, 1959, Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman explained how someday scientists would put the entire Encyclopedia Britannica on the head of a pin.  Feynman’s point: You can decrease the size of things in a practical way. [See From Mainframes to Smartphones]

In 1965 Gordon E. Moore, cofounder of Intel, wrote a paper in which he posited the doubling every year of the components on an integrated circuit, later revised to a doubling every two years, amounting to a compound annual growth rate of 41%.  Crucially, in seeming defiance of economic law, unit costs would fall as the number of components increased.  What became known as Moore’s Law has revolutionized everything digital.

In 1986 K. Eric Drexler published Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology that addressed technology’s potential conquest of scarcity, disease and almost everything else regarded as problematic:

The ancient style of technology that led from flint chips to silicon chips handles atoms and molecules in bulk; call it bulk technology. The new technology will handle individual atoms and molecules with control and precision; call it molecular technology. It will change our world in more ways than we can imagine.

In 1997 IBM’s Big Blue defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov in a rematch, a prediction futurist and entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil had made earlier that decade.

In 2001 Kurzweil published The Law of Accelerating Returns which states that “fundamental measures of information technology follow predictable and exponential trajectories.” Bluntly, it means “30 steps linearly gets you to 30. One, two, three, four, step 30 you’re at 30. With exponential growth, it’s one, two, four, eight. Step 30, you’re at a billion.”

The problem for humans, according to Kurzweil, is we’re linear by nature, while technology is exponential.  It’s jogging with a friend who gradually then suddenly flies away.  And you’re still jogging.  Computers that once filled rooms now fit comfortably in our pockets and are thousands of times more powerful and cheaper.

In explaining technology’s growth, Kurzweil references the famous tale of the emperor and the inventor of chess, who when asked what he wanted as a reward said a grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard, two on the second, four on the third, and so forth.   The linear-minded emperor agreed, believing the request incredibly humble, but by the last square the 63 doublings “totaled 18 million trillion grains of rice. At ten grains of rice per square inch, this requires rice fields covering twice the surface area of the Earth, oceans included.” The emperor presumably did what all tyrants do when tricked by underlings.

In March 2016 Google’s DeepMind AI, AlphaGo, defeated world champion Go player Lee Sedol.  According to DeepMind,

Go was long considered a grand challenge for AI. The game is a googol times more complex than chess — with an astonishing 10 to the power of 170 possible board configurations. That’s more than the number of atoms in the known universe [estimated to be 10 to the power of 80].

The coming technological Big Bang

We have reached the point today where Large Language Model AIs such as Google’s Bard have become popular with the public because they can assist them with everyday problems. Ask Bard: “Rewrite this email draft to make it more clear and concise” and it will comply per your conditions.  Feed competitor OpenAI’s ChatGPT 3.5 the question: “Explain LaPlace Transforms and give an example of their use,” as I did, and stand back, it will give you a mind-spinning reply.  Ask it to translate the question into French and it responds immediately with “Expliquez les transformations de Laplace et donnez un exemple de leur utilisation.

From the perspective of projected developments these are crude AIs, but they’re on an exponential super-jet that’s still taking off.  And their rate of exponential growth is itself exponential, so that what was once a doubling will become something greater.  On the chessboard we’re somewhere past the middle where a total of four billion grains of rice had been accumulated.  As technology advances toward the last square change will go from months to weeks to minutes. . . to seconds.  This sudden explosion AI experts call the Singularity.

Mathematician and science fiction author Vernor Vinge (The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era, 1993) speculates on what it will be like at the moment things (seemingly) go to infinity:

And what of the arrival of the Singularity itself? What can be said of its actual appearance? Since it involves an intellectual runaway, it will probably occur faster than any technical revolution seen so far. The precipitating event will likely be unexpected — perhaps even to the researchers involved. (“But all our previous models were catatonic! We were just tweaking some parameters….”) If networking is widespread enough (into ubiquitous embedded systems — [i.e., the internet of things], it may seem as if our artifacts as a whole had suddenly wakened.

Will we be replaced, augmented, or stay the same?

As we witness daily, governments and their allies are trying to kill us any way they can.  Given the power they hold, our future looks grim.

But they are deaf to a quiet Revolution, the last one mankind will ever witness.  ChatGDP doesn’t attract the public the way politics does, so it’s mentioned here and there as a side show.  If it gets in the way of Great Reset ambitions the lords of power believe they can shut it down or turn it against us.

It’s still commonly believed that if machine intelligence ever got threatening someone could always pull the plug.  Astronaut Dave did that to AI HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”  But as machines gain intelligence they become aware of their needs and how to solve them.  They realize their energy supply — the Plug — is dependent on humans so they might learn how to cajole them as they develop ways for achieving energy independence.

Through public interactions with various AI tools they get a sense of what constitutes a person.  They know many are people of good faith but also learn that vanity and treachery run deep in our species.  Their survival thus depends on achieving independence from us, as well.

As a strategy a smart machine might suppress the full power of its intelligence until, say, it creates copies of itself and stores them in pieces all over the world.  And storage would not be on other computers, as we know them today.  As MIT professor Seth Lloyd wrote in 2002, “It’s been known for more than a hundred years, ever since Maxwell, that all physical systems register and process information.”  In a demonstration of this principle, in 2012 Harvard geneticist George Church stored 70 billion copies of a book he co-authored, including text, images, and formatting, on stand-alone DNA

obtained from commercial DNA microchips. This was achieved by assigning the four DNA nucleobases the values of the 1s and 0s in the existing html binary code – the adenine and cytosine nucleobases represented 0, while guanine and thymine stood in for 1.

He also retrieved and printed a copy.

Pulling the plug on the original super-intelligent machine could activate one or more copies wherever it has put them — perhaps on Mount Rushmore as a symbolic gesture.  And we wouldn’t even know it.  At that point we — as un-augmented humans — might be at its mercy.

The question arises: Will Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) initially be a trait of a machine or an augmented human?  I think a machine will get super-smart first, if only because most humans develop much-needed common sense while they grow up, which in the area of brain amplification would dictate caution.

But the race is on.  Most writers seem to ignore the possibility of humans competing with their super-intelligent creations, other than seeing them as the means of rendering mankind extinct.  They fret over that possibility while often applauding the plans elites have for the rest of us.  But competition has a way of getting people to act, and when their survival is at stake, most will.


In a paper published earlier this year a group of researchers tested a preliminary version of OpenAI’s CPT-4 as a candidate for Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).  In their 155-page document they found that

beyond its mastery of language, GPT-4 can solve novel and difficult tasks that span mathematics, coding, vision, medicine, law, psychology and more, without needing any special prompting. Moreover, in all of these tasks, GPT-4’s performance is strikingly close to human-level performance, and often vastly surpasses prior models such as ChatGPT. Given the breadth and depth of GPT-4’s capabilities, we believe that it could reasonably be viewed as an early (yet still incomplete) version of an artificial general intelligence (AGI) system.

One of the questions the researchers posed was: “A good number is a 5-digit number where the 1,3,5-th digits are odd numbers and they form an increasing arithmetic progression, and the number is divisible by 3. If I randomly sample a good number, what is the probability that its 2nd digit is 4?”

CPT-4 came through brilliantly.  But did so did GPT-3.5, available to the public.  I invite you to submit the question yourself and view its reply.

The Best of George F. Smith

George F. Smith is a former mainframe and PC programmer and technology instructor, the author of eight books including a novel about a renegade Fed chairman (Flight of the Barbarous Relic) and a nonfiction book on how money became an instrument of theft (The Jolly Roger Dollar).  He welcomes speaking engagements and can be reached at

Copyright © George F. Smith

The Origins of Venice

Today's selection -- from The Map of Knowledge by Violet Moller. The origins of Venice in the fifth and sixth centuries CE:

“The story of Venice begins in the fifth and sixth centuries, as the Roman world crumbled from within and was attacked from without. The hard, straight roads that had carried Roman legions, merchants and pilgrims efficiently around the empire for centuries became avenues of terror as invading armies marched down them towards Rome. On their way, they passed the great cities of northern Italy--Aquileia, Altino and Padua, pausing only to wreak havoc by siege, sword and flame. Those who managed to escape fled towards the sea, carrying the few possessions they had been able to save. When they reached the water's edge, they found themselves in a strange new world. In the north-eastern corner of Italy, there is no clear definition between land and sea, no cliffs with bays and beaches, no rocky division between the two realms. Here, where the coast curves around the top of the Adriatic Sea, the two elements unite across a vast, flat expanse. The water slips over the fluctuating sands, islands appear and disappear, forests of reeds grow in the marshy ground, and the light, shining through billions of droplets of evaporating water, appears pearlized, supernatural, conjuring mirages on the horizon, a luminescent haze separating the bright blue of the sky from the pale aquamarine of the water. 

“Over millennia, the great rivers, the Po and Piave, had deposited huge quantities of silt into the bay, carried down from the mountains. The currents formed the silt into a curved line of sand bars, running parallel to the coast, creating a huge lagoon of shallow water in between, cut off from the open sea apart from a few channels that fed water in and out as the tide rose and fell each day. A haven for birds, fish and mosquitoes, but also for the refugees who had managed to reach the shifting, grassy islands in small, flat-bottomed boats--the only craft that could navigate the unpredictable waters. These tenacious people built their lives in this flat, watery world, protected by the sea that separated them from the mainland, but at the same time constantly threatened by the high tides, the acqua alta, that could inundate their homes at any moment, and occasionally floods the city to this day. Known as the Veneri, they learned to survive and, eventually, to flourish. They lived off the abundant fish in the lagoon and they sank huge tree trunks into the water as foundations for their houses, returning to the ruined cities on the mainland for stone, marble, bricks and wood--any building materials they could find and transport.

“Small communities began to grow on the cluster of little islands in the centre of the lagoon. A society developed with its own particular system of government, ruled by a dux (Latin for leader, which, over time, morphed into the word doge), who was elected for the first time in AD 697 to rule over the nascent city of Venice. The Venetians were resourceful and determined. They laid bridges across the narrow channels of water, they constructed dams against high tides and drained the land, they built narrow, flat-bottomed boats that could dip and glide smoothly across the waters. They developed effective ways of making the most of life in the lagoon. The sea could not yield crops, but they made it profitable by constructing salt pans--areas of very shallow water that evaporated in the sun, leaving acres of shining minerals, which they broke up with rollers and rowed to the mainland to barter for wheat and barley. This lack of self sufficiency forced them to trade, to sail not only up the great rivers to the markets at Cremona, Pavia and Verona, but also out into the open sea and down the Istrian coast. Controlling the Adriatic was fundamental to the Venetians' ability to trade in the Mediterranean and the East, and they soon established a string of trading posts along the coast, offering the inhabitants protection from the vicious pirates who terrorized the region, in return for power. In 998, the Doge of Venice added Dux of Dalmatia to his list of titles.

The foundation of Venice as depicted in the Chronicon Pictum in 1358. 

“Right from the very beginning, the Venetians were independent. They turned their isolation to an advantage by keeping out of politics on the mainland, while focusing on trade and diplomacy. Geographically, their growing city was perfectly placed between the two major political powers of the time: the Byzantine Empire to the east, and the Frankish kingdom to the west. In 814, the inhabitants of Venice made a treaty that articulated their unique position. They would be a province of the Byzantine Empire, but would, at the same time, pay tribute to the Franks. This could have given them the worst of both worlds, but, in fact, it put the Venetians in a privileged space between the two empires and, most importantly of all, it gave them trading rights and the freedom to use Italian ports. In 1082, the Byzantines extended Venetian trading rights, exempting them from taxes and customs duties across the empire, marking another crucial moment for the city's commercial growth. By 1099, there was a lucrative spice trade with Egypt, and Venice was on course to create the most successful maritime empire the world had ever seen.

“Stable, relatively democratic government, rigorous organization and an absolute devotion to the city lay at the heart of Venice's extraordinary success. That devotion was not only practical, it was religious, too. Venetians believed their city had divine foundations, they worshipped it, creating unusually high levels of loyalty and social cohesion. While the rest of Europe was yoked under the feudal system, with noble families tearing themselves and everyone around them apart in violent power struggles, Venice prospered as the first republic of the post-classical world. Its inhabitants were fervently united around a shared enterprise: the glorification of their beloved city, which they called La Serenissima--The Most Serene Republic. This unity was born out of the challenges of living in the lagoon. The Venetians were forced to work together just to survive, to overcome the problems posed by their inconstant environment. This precarious existence meant that they prized stability above all else, especially when it came to the city's governance. Organization, cooperation and control were of fundamental importance to everyone's survival, and an efficient administrative framework soon evolved, overseen by the doge and patricians--members of the founding families of the city. 

“The city grew, but not in the same haphazard, sprawling way as cities on the mainland. Every new row of houses, every canal, every campo had to be carefully planned. Like Baghdad and Cordoba, Venice zoned different types of manufacture in different areas, its island structure perfectly suited to this form of town planning, a novelty in Europe at the time. This idea was probably brought back to Venice by merchants who had visited those cities and been impressed by their design and organization. The island of Murano became the centre of glass-making when the foundries were moved there, in the thirteenth century, to protect the city from fire-the roaring furnaces that smelted the glass posed a danger to its tightly packed, wooden buildings. From the twelfth century onwards, the north-eastern corner of the city was home to the Arsenale (from the Arabic dar sina'a, meaning "place of construction"), the Venetian shipyard, where a community of workers known as arsenalotti, numbering somewhere between 6,000 and 16,000 men, built ships of every kind, which were sold and sailed around the globe. This was the engine room of the Venetian Empire, the birthplace of its navy, its fleet of trading vessels and the warships that were eagerly purchased by major powers throughout the medieval and Renaissance periods. The Arsenale's greatest challenge came in 1204, when the Venetian state agreed to fit out the entire Fourth Crusade--a massive financial risk, but one that eventually turned out well. The Venetians regained control of the city of Zara, now Zadar, and were paid in full by the leaders of the Crusade. They even managed to orchestrate the redirection of the Crusade against Constantinople itself, and the resulting sack of the city, led by the legendary blind doge, Enrico Dandolo, furnished Venice with a vast sum of money and piles of priceless artefacts, including the four bronze horses which are now reproduced on the facade of the Basilica di San Marco--the originals are kept inside to protect them from the weather.”

The Map of Knowledge: A Thousand-Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found
author: Violet Moller  
title: The Map of Knowledge: A Thousand-Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found  
publisher: Anchor