The Execution of the Rosenbergs, 1953

2018-06-19T15:24:59+00:00 June 18, 2018|HH 2018|

“The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice.” —Proverbs 17:23

The Execution of the Rosenbergs, June 19, 1953

Following the Second World War, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics waged a “Cold War” to bring the “third-world” nations into the political orbit of the West or of the USSR. Both sides were determined to thwart the other, by whatever means. Throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s the Russians had subverted Americans sympathetic to international communist goals to spy for them. Communist spies insinuated themselves into Hollywood, the political bureaucracy, the scientific community and industry. They attempted to penetrate the FBI and the CIA. Some of them got caught and went on trial. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s trials for espionage and subsequent executions proved to be the most spectacular and controversial of the cold war.

Replicas of the atomic bombs that were detonated over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima Aug 6, 1945 (left) and Nagasaki Aug 9, 1945 (right)

Other than a robust capitalist economy, the United States had one major military advantage over the Soviets — the atomic bomb. Keeping the blueprints for building such a weapon proved impossible when American scientists clandestinely stole the secrets and passed them on to Soviet spies. The Rosenbergs were part of the network of traitors who contributed to Russia’s acquiring the knowledge to build nuclear weapons.

Mushroom cloud from Russia’s first air-dropped atomic bomb test in 1951

Born in New York City in 1918 to a family of Jewish immigrants, Julius Rosenberg formally joined the Communist Party in the 1930s. He was recruited as a Soviet spy in 1942 and, as an electrical engineer for a company making war materials, was able to pass along thousands of classified documents, including the upgraded proximity fuse. Rosenberg’s Russian handler encouraged Julius to recruit more spies, a task at which he proved quite adept, signing up men in strategic industries, from which they passed along all sorts of classified military secrets to the NKVD (Russian secret police). Rosenberg’s foremost recruit proved to be his own brother-in-law, David Greenglass, who worked on the Manhattan Project — the atomic bomb. After the Soviets tested their first nuclear device in 1949, the United States realized that there had to be high-level information leaks in the nuclear program.

Julius Rosenberg (1918-1953)

Ethel Rosenberg née Greenglass (1915-1953)

David Greenglass (1922-2014), brother of Ethel Rosenberg

After identifying Klaus Fuchs as a deeply placed spy who passed on secrets of the Manhattan Project all throughout World War II, the FBI began uncovering a whole nest of spies and traitors, including Greenglass. Their confessions and other evidence led to Julius Rosenberg and his wife as the key links in the conspiracy to steal American military secrets. A grand jury settled on eleven counts of espionage against the Rosenbergs and Ethel was arrested and incarcerated to await trial, based on the testimony of her brother and sister-in-law.

German Physicist Klaus Fuchs (1911-1988)

The Rosenbergs refused to “give up” any of their co-conspirators or plead guilty themselves. Julius was accused of passing on the blueprint of an implosion atomic bomb and Ethel of typing up the notes. The couple remained defiant throughout the trial and pled the Fifth Amendment when asked about their involvement with the Communist Party. On March 29, 1951, the Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage and sentenced to death by electrocution. A campaign began immediately to prevent their execution.

Demonstrators carry signs pleading for clemency for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Mainstream Jewish organizations refused to come to their aid; even the ACLU claimed no violations had been committed by the prosecution. Others, however, saw the entire episode as a set-up to perpetuate a “red scare” and use the Rosenbergs as scapegoats. The nation was not at war with the Soviets, though they were supporting the North Koreans in that conflict. Prominent Communists and some non-Communists protested long and loud to no avail. President Eisenhower refused amnesty and the Rosenbergs were electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison in New York on June 19, 1953. They were the only two American civilians executed during the cold war. Five hundred people attended their funeral and ten thousand stood outside. The two Rosenberg sons have spent their lifetime trying to get their parents exonerated, or at least their mother. No President has complied. Some scientists estimate that the Rosenbergs and their confederates shortened the Soviet acquisition of the atomic bomb by about one year.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg separated by a wire screen as they leave the U.S. Court House after being found guilty

Espionage can be a dangerous game, but the possibility of executing a spy today in the United States is virtually unthinkable. There are a number of them, however, who have been caught having revealed the names of foreign agents, intelligence “assets,” who were then executed by the Russians or other foreign enemies. Men like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanson are incarcerated for the rest of their lives.

The Signing of the Magna Carta, 1215

2018-06-08T20:09:03+00:00 June 11, 2018|HH 2018|

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” —Micah 6:8

The Signing of the Magna Carta, June 15, 1215

In the year 1100, King Henry I of England issued a document known since then as “The Charter of Liberties,” in an attempt to curry favor with his barons. He was the youngest son of William the Conqueror, but was able to grab the throne after the death of his oldest brother, during a time that his second oldest was on crusade in the Holy Land. Neither the barons nor the church were happy with Henry’s accession to the throne. The document addressed some of the abusive taxation and unpopular ecclesiastical practices of the former king, William II (“William Rufus”). Although the Charter was mostly ignored in practice, 115 years later it was cited as precedent for claiming certain rights against the unpopular and overbearing King John. This time, rebellious barons themselves imposed a charter of rights on the King, a list of rights that has come down to us today as the Great Charter — Magna Carta.

Cardinal Stephen Langton and the nobles and barons of England met November 20, 1214 at St Edmund’s Abbey to swear that, if King John refused to uphold the liberties and laws granted to the church, they would withdraw their allegiance to the crown

In 1199, John, son of Henry II, became king of the realm upon the death of his brother Richard “the Lion Heart” (who died from an arrow wound while besieging the castle of Chalus in central France.) A man of fiery temper and “utterly lacking in morals,” John offended his Irish lieges, failed to conquer recalcitrant nobles in Wales, and saw his choice for Archbishop of Canterbury annulled and replaced by papal decree. He was excommunicated by the Pope. His English nobles considered the onerous taxes levied by John an adequate cause for rebellion against him.

Richard I of England (1157-1199), third son of Henry II

13th-century illustration showing King Henry II and his children:
(L-R): William, Henry, Richard, Matilda, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joan and John

The papal choice for Archbishop of Canterbury was one Stephen Langton, justly famous for dividing the Bible into chapters, a system still in use today. In 1212, the Roman Pontiff absolved the English barons of their allegiance to King John. The following year, the barons gathered at Westminster Abbey, where Langton produced and read the Charter of Liberties that King Henry had issued 115 earlier. The idea that English liberty was rooted in their history, unified barons from different areas of the realm against the King. After capturing London in 1215, the barons, along with Langton, met King John at a gathering brokered by the Master of the Knights Templar at Runnymede. There the recalcitrant monarch signed the Great Charter, written in Latin and perhaps mostly authored by Stephen Langton, which has stood to this day “as a fundamental statement of English constitutionalism.”

Pope Innocent III (1160-1216) excommunicated John in November 1209

Plaster maquette of Stephen Langton — one of seventeen made for life-sized bronzes representing the Magna Carta signatories

Among the sixty-three articles was a declaration that the English church was free of government control, a list of feudal obligations, and principles for the administration of law and justice — including the lex talionis principle of “an eye for an eye.” It set down rules for “no taxation without representation,” and the requirement of jury trial by peers and many other legal rights of freemen. All in all, it restored the ancient rights of Englishmen against the usurpations of a Norman tyrant. John disavowed the Charter shortly after signing it, but it has remained a seminal statement of English rights for more than eight centuries, and was quoted by the American Founders of 1776 as one of the guarantors of the rights of the colonies.

One of four known surviving 1215 exemplars of the Magna Carta

King John signs the Magna Carta

Read the Full Text of the Magna Carta

Magna Carta, AD 1215

2018-06-08T17:05:00+00:00 June 8, 2018|Historical Documents|

Magna Carta

Full text of the Magna Carta, signed by King John at Runnymede
June 15, AD. 1215
Translated from the original Latin

[Johannes Dei gratia rex Anglie, dominus Hibernie dux Normannie, Aquitannie et comes Andegavie, archiepiscopis, episcopis, abbatibus, comitibus, baronibus, justiciariis, forestariis, vicecomitibus, prepositis, ministris et omnibus ballivis et fidelibus suis salutem…]

JOHN, by the Grace of God, King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Earl of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciaries, foresters, sheriffs, governors, officers, and to all bailiffs, and his faithful subjects, Greeting.

Know ye, that we, in the presence of God, and for the salvation of our own soul, and of the souls of all our ancestors, and of our heirs, to the honour of God, and the exaltation of the Holy Church and amendment of our Kingdom, by the counsel of our venerable fathers, Stephen Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England, and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Henry Archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, Joceline of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry, and Benedict of Rochester, Bishops; Master Pandulph our Lord the Pope’s Subdeacon and familiar, Brother Almeric, Master of the Knights-Templars in England, and of these noble persons, William Mareschal Earl of Pembroke, William Earl of Salisbury, William Earl of Warren, William Earl of Arundel, Alan de Galloway Constable of Scotland, Warin Fitz-Gerald, Hubert de Burgh Seneschal of Poictou, Peter Fitz-Herbert, Hugh de Nevil, Matthew Fitz-Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip de Albiniac, Robert de Roppel, John Mareschal, John Fitz-Hugh, and others our liegemen; have in the first place granted to God, and by this our present Charter, have confirmed, for us and our heirs for ever:

Article 1:
That the English Church shall be free, and shall have her whole rights and her liberties inviolable; and we will this to be observed in such a manner, that it may appear from thence, that the freedom of elections, which was reputed most requisite to the English Church, which we granted, and by our Charter confirmed, and obtained the Confirmation of the same, from our Lord Pope Innocent the Third, before the rupture between us and our barons, was of our own free will: which Charter we shall observe, and we will it to be observed with good faith, by our heirs forever.

Article 2:
We have also granted to all the free-men of our kingdom, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs.

Article 3:
If any of our earls, barons, or others who hold of us in chief by military service, shall die, and at his death his heir shall be of full age, and shall owe a relief, he shall have his inheritance by the ancient relief; that is to say, the heir or heirs of an earl, for a whole earl’s barony shall pay one hundred pounds: the heir or heirs of a knight, for a whole knight’s fee, one hundred shillings at most: and he who owes less, shall give less, according to the ancient custom of fees.

But if the heir of any such be under age, and in wardship, when he comes to age he shall have his inheritance without relief and without fine.

Article 4:
The warden of the land of such heir who shall be under age, shall not take from the lands of the heir any but reasonable issues, and reasonable customs, and reasonable services, and that without destruction and waste of the men or goods, and if we commit the custody of any such lands to a Sheriff, or any other person who is bound to us for the issues of them, and he shall make destruction or waste upon the ward-lands we will recover damages from him, and the lands shall be committed to two lawful and discreet men of that fee, who shall answer for the issues to us, or to him to whom we have assigned them. And if we shall give or sell to any one the custody of any such lands, and he shall make destruction or waste upon them, he shall lose the custody; and it shall be committed to two lawful and discreet men of that fee, who shall answer to us in like manner as it is said before.

Article 5:
But the warden, as long as he has the custody of the lands, shall keep up and maintain the houses, parks, warrens, ponds, mills, and other things belonging to them, out of their issues; and shall restore to the heir when he comes of full age, his whole estate, provided with ploughs and other implements of husbandry, according as the time of wainage shall require, and the issues of the lands can reasonably afford.

Article 6:
Heirs shall be married without disparagement, so that before the marriage be contracted, it shall be notified to the relations of the heir by consanguinity.

Article 7:
At her husband’s death, a widow may have her marriage portion and inheritance at once and without trouble. She shall pay nothing for her dower, marriage portion, or any inheritance that she and her husband held jointly on the day of his death. She may remain in her husband’s house for forty days after his death, and within this period her dower shall be assigned to her.

Article 8:
No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she wishes to remain without a husband. But she must give security that she will not marry without royal consent, if she holds her lands of the Crown, or without the consent of whatever other lord she may hold them of.

Article 9:
Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent in payment of a debt, so long as the debtor has movable goods sufficient to discharge the debt; nor shall the sureties of the debtor be distrained, while the principal debtor is able to pay the debt; and if the principal debtor fail in payment of the debt, not having wherewith to discharge it, the sureties shall answer for the debt; and if they be willing, they shall have the debtor’s lands and rents until satisfaction be made to them for the debt which they had before paid for him, unless the principal debtor can show himself acquitted against the said sureties.

Article 10:
If anyone has borrowed anything from the Jews, more or less, and die before that debt be paid, the debt shall pay no interest so long as his heir shall be under age, of whomsoever he may hold; and if that debt shall fall into our hands, we will not take anything except the chattel contained in the bond.

Article 11:
And if any one shall die indebted to the Jews, his wife shall have her dower and shall pay nothing of that debt; and if children of the deceased shall remain who are under age, necessaries shall be provided for them, according to the tenement which belonged to the deceased: and out of the residue the debt shall be paid, saving the rights of the lords. In like manner let it be with debts owing to others than Jews.

Article 12:
No scutage nor aid shall he imposed in our kingdom, unless by the common council of our kingdom; excepting to redeem our person, to make our eldest son a knight, and, once, to marry our eldest daughter, and not for these, unless a reasonable aid shall be demanded.

Article 13:
In like manner let it be concerning the aids of the City of London. And the City of London should have all it’s ancient liberties, and it’s free customs, as well by land as by water. Furthermore, we will and grant that all other cities, and burghs, and towns, and ports, should have all their liberties and free customs.

Article 14:
And also to have the common council of the kingdom, to assess an ‘aid’, otherwise than in the three cases aforesaid: and for the assessing of scutages, we will cause to he summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons, individually, by our letters. And besides, we will cause to he summoned in general by our sheriffs and bailiffs, all those who hold of us in chief, at a certain day, that is to say at the distance of forty days, at the least, and to a certain place; and in all the letters of summons, we will express the cause of the summons: and the summons being thus made, the business shall proceed on the day appointed, according to the counsel of those who shall be present, although all who had been summoned have not come.

Article 15:
We will not give leave to any one, for the future, to take an aid from his own free-men, except for redeeming his own body, and for making his eldest son a knight, and for marrying, once, his eldest daughter; and not that unless it be a reasonable aid.

Article 16:
None shall be distrained to do more service for a knight’s fee, nor for any other free tenement, than what is due from thence.

Article 17:
Common Pleas shall not follow our court, but shall be held in a fixed place.

Article 18:
Trials upon the writs of ‘novel disseisin’, of ‘mort d’ancestre’, and ‘darrein presentment’, shall not be taken but in their proper counties, and in this manner:- we, or our Chief Justiciary, if we are out of the kingdom, will send two justiciaries into each county, four times in the year, who, with four knights of each county, chosen by the county, shall hold the aforesaid assizes, within the county on the day, and at the place appointed.

Article 19:
And if the aforesaid assizes cannot be taken on the day of the county court, let as many knights and freeholders, of those who were present at the county court remain behind, as shall be sufficient to do justice, according to the great or less importance of the business.

Article 20:
A free-man shall not be amerced for a small offence, but only according to the degree of the offence; and for a great delinquency, according to the magnitude of the delinquency, saving his contenement: a merchant shall be amerced in the same manner, saving his merchandise, and a villein shall be amerced after the same manner, saving to him his wainage, if he shall fall into our mercy; and none of the aforesaid amercements shall he assessed, but by the oath of honest men of the neighbourhood.

Article 21:
Earls and barons shall not be amerced but by their peers, and that only according to the degree of their delinquency.

Article 22:
No clerk shall be amerced for his lay-tenement, but according to the manner of the others as aforesaid, and not according to the quantity of his ecclesiastical benefice.

Article 23:
Neither a town nor any person shall be distrained to build bridges or embankments, excepting those which anciently, and of right, are bound to do it.

Article 24:
No sheriff, constable, coroners, nor other of our bailiffs, shall hold pleas of our Crown.

Article 25:
All counties, and hundreds, tithings, and wapentakes, shall he at the ancient rent, without any increase, excepting in our demesne manors.

Article 26:
If any one holding of us a lay fee dies, and the sheriff or our bailiff, shall show our letters-patent of summons concerning the debt which the deceased owed to us, it shall he lawful for the sheriff or our bailiff to attach and register the chattels of the deceased found on that lay fee, to the amount of that debt, by the view of lawful men, so that nothing shall he removed from thence until our debt he paid to us; and the rest shall he left to the executors to fulfil the will of the deceased; and if nothing be owing to us by him, all the chattels shall fall to the deceased, saving to his wife and children their reasonable shares.

Article 27:
If any free-man shall die intestate, his chattels shall he distributed by the hands of his nearest relations and friends, by the view of the Church, saving to every one the debts which the deceased owed.

Article 28:
No constable nor other bailiff of ours shall take the corn or other goods of any one, without instantly paying money for them, unless he can obtain respite from the free will of the seller.

Article 29:
No constable shall distrain any knight to give money for castle-guard, if he be willing to perform it in his own person, or by another able man, if he cannot perform it himself, for a reasonable cause: and if we have carried or sent him into the army, he shall he excused from castle-guard, according to the time that he shall be in the army by our command.

Article 30:
No sheriff nor bailiff of ours, nor any other person shall take the horses or carts of any free-man, for the purpose of carriage, without the consent of the said free-man.

Article 31:
Neither we, nor our bailiffs, will take another man’s wood, for our castles or other uses, unless by the consent of him to whom the wood belongs.

Article 32:
We will not retain the lands of those who have been convicted of felony, excepting for one year and one day, and then they shall he given up to the lord of the fee concerned.

Article 33:
All kydells for the future shall be quite removed out of the Thames, and the Medway, and through all England, except upon the sea-coast.

Article 34:
The writ which is called ‘præcipe’, for the future shall not be granted to anyone of any tenement, by which a free-man may lose his court.

Article 35:
There shall he one measure of wine throughout all our kingdom, and one measure of ale, and one measure of corn, namely the quarter of London; and one breadth of dyed cloth, and of russets, and of halberjects, namely, two ells within the selvedges. Also it shall he the same with weights as with measures.

Article 36:
Nothing shall he given or taken for the future for the writ of inquisition of life or limb; this shall he given without charge, and not denied.

Article 37:
If any hold of us by fee-farm, or socage, or burgage, and hold land of another by military service, we will not have the custody of the heir, nor of his lands, which are of the fee of another, on account of that fee-farm, or socage, or burgage; nor will we have the custody of the fee-farm, socage, or burgage, unless the fee-farm owe military service. We will not have the custody of the heir, nor of the lands of anyone, which he holds of another by military service, on account of any petty-sergeantry which he holds of us by the service of giving us daggers, or arrows, or the like.

Article 38:
No bailiff, for the future, shall put any man to his law, upon his own simple affirmation, without credible witnesses produced for that purpose.

Article 39:
No free-man shall he seized, or imprisoned, or dispossessed, or outlawed, or in any way destroyed; nor will we condemn him, nor will we commit him to prison, excepting by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the laws of the land.

Article 40:
To none will we sell, to none will we deny, to none will we delay right or justice.

Article 41:
All merchants shall have safety and security in coming into England, and going out of England, and in staying and in travelling through England, as well by land as by water, to buy and sell, without any unjust exactions, according to ancient and right customs, excepting in the time of war, and if they he of a country at war against us: and if such are found in our land at the beginning of a war, they shall he apprehended without injury of their bodies and goods, until it he known to us, or to our Chief Justiciary, how the merchants of our country are treated who are found in the country at war against us; and if ours be in safety there, the others shall be in safety in our land.

Article 42:
It shall be lawful to any person, for the future, to go out of our kingdom, and to return, safely and securely, by land or by water, saving his allegiance to us, unless it be in time of war, for some short space, for the common good of the kingdom: excepting prisoners and outlaws, according to the laws of the land, and of the people of the nation at war against us, and merchants who shall he treated as it is said above.

Article 43:
If any hold of any escheat, as of the honour of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other escheats which are in our hand, and are baronies, and shall die, his heir shall not give any other relief, nor do any other service to us, than he should have done to the baron, if that barony had been in the hands of the baron; and we will hold it in the same manner that the baron held it.

Article 44:
Men who dwell outside the forest, shall not come, for the future, before our justiciaries of the Forest on a common summons; unless they be parties in a plea, or sureties for some person or persons who are attached for the forest.

Article 45:
We will not make justiciaries, constables, sheriffs, or bailiffs, excepting of such as know the laws of the land, and are well disposed to observe them.

Article 46:
All barons who have founded abbeys, which they hold by charters from the Kings of England, or by ancient tenure, shall have the custody of them when they become vacant, as they ought to have.

Article 47:
All forests which have been created in our reign, shall be immediately disafforested; and it shall be so done with river-banks, which have been taken or fenced in by us during our reign.

Article 48:
All evil customs of forests and warrens, and of foresters and warreners, sheriffs and their officers, river-banks and their keepers, shall immediately be inquired into by twelve knights of the same county, upon oath, who shall be elected by good men of the same county; and within forty days after the inquisition is made, they shall be altogether destroyed by them never to be restored; provided that this is notified to us before it is done, or our judiciary, if we are not in England.

Article 49:
We will immediately restore all hostages and charters, which have been delivered to us by the English, in security of the peace and of their faithful service.

Article 50:
We will remove from their bailiwicks the relations of Gérard de Athée, so that, for the future, they shall have no bailiwick in England; Engelard de Cigogneacute;, Peter, Guy and Andrew de Chanceaux, Guy de Cigogné, Geoffrey de Martigny, and his brothers, Philip Mark, and his brothers, and Geoffrey his nephew, and all their followers.

Article 51:
And immediately after the conclusion of the peace, we will remove out of the kingdom all foreign knights, cross-bow-men, and stipendiary soldiers, who have come with horses and arms to the molestation of the kingdom.

Article 52:
If any have been disseised or dispossessed by us, without a legal verdict of their peers, of their lands, castles, liberties, or rights, we will immediately restore these things to them; and if any dispute shall arise on this head, then it shall he determined by the verdict of the twenty-five barons, of whom mention is made below, for the security of the peace. Concerning all those things of which any one hath been disseised or dispossessed, without the legal verdict of his peers by King Henry our father, or King Richard our brother, which we have in our hand, or others hold with our warrants, we shall have respite, until the common term of the Crusaders, excepting those concerning which a plea had been moved, or an inquisition taken, by our precept, before our taking the Cross; but as soon as we shall return from our expedition, or if, by chance, we should not go upon our expedition, we will immediately do complete justice therein.

Article 53:
The same respite will we have, and the same justice shall he done, concerning the disafforestation of the forests, or the forests which remain to he disafforested, which Henry our father, or Richard our brother, have afforested; and the same concerning the wardship of lands which are in another’s fee, but the wardship of which we have hitherto had, occasioned by any of our fees held by military service; and for abbeys founded in any other ‘fee’ than our own, in which the lord of the fee hath claimed a right; and when we shall have returned, or if we shall stay from our expedition, we shall immediately do complete justice in all these pleas.

Article 54:
No man shall he apprehended or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman, for the death of any other man except her husband.

Article 55:
All fines that have been made by us unjustly, or contrary to the laws of the land; and all amercements that have been imposed unjustly, or contrary to the laws of the land, shall he wholly remitted, or ordered by the verdict of the twenty-five barons, of whom mention is made below, for the security of the peace, or by the verdict of the greater part of them, together with the aforesaid Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and others whom he may think fit to bring with him: and if he cannot be present, the business shall proceed, notwithstanding, without him; but so, that if any one or more of the aforesaid twenty-five barons have a similar plea, let them be removed from that particular trial, and others elected and sworn by the residue of the same twenty-five, be substituted in their room, only for that trial.

Article 56:
If we have disseised or dispossessed any Welshmen of their lands, or liberties, or other things, without a legal verdict of their peers, in England or in Wales, they shall be immediately restored to them; and if any dispute shall arise upon this head, then let it be determined in the Marches by the verdict of their peers: for a tenement of England, according to the law of England; for a tenement of Wales, according to the law of Wales; for a tenement of the Marches, according to the law of the Marches. The Welsh shall do the same to us and to our subjects.

Article 57:
Also concerning those things of which any Welshman hath been disseised or dispossessed without the legal verdict of his peers, by King Henry our father, or King Richard our brother, which we have in our hand, or others hold with our warrant, we shall have respite for the period commonly allowed to Crusaders, excepting for those concerning which a plea had been moved, or an inquisition made, by our precept, before our taking the cross. But as soon as we shall return from our expedition, or if, by chance, we should not go upon our expedition, we shall immediately do complete justice therein, according to the laws of Wales, and the parts aforesaid.

Article 58:
We will immediately deliver up the son of Llewelyn, and all the hostages of Wales, and release them from their engagements which were made with us, for the security of the peace.

Article 59:
We shall do to Alexander King of Scotland, concerning the restoration of his sisters and hostages, and his liberties and rights, according to the form in which we act to our other barons of England, unless it ought to he otherwise by the charters which we have from his father William, the late King of Scotland; and this shall be by the verdict of his peers in our court.

Article 60:
Also all these customs and liberties aforesaid, which we have granted to he held in our kingdom, for so much of it as belongs to us, all our subjects, as well clergy as laity, shall observe towards their tenants as far as concerns them.

Article 61:
But since we have granted all these things aforesaid, for God, and for the amendment of our kingdom, and for the better extinguishing the discord which has arisen between us and our barons, we being desirous that these things should possess entire and unshaken stability for ever, give and grant to them the security underwritten; namely, that the barons may elect twenty-five barons of the kingdom, whom they please, who shall with their whole power, observe, keep, and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties which we have granted to them, and have confirmed by this our present charter, in this manner: that is to say, if we, or our justiciary, or our bailiffs, or any of our officers, shall have injured anyone in anything , or shall have violated any Article of the peace or security, and the injury shall have been shown to four of the aforesaid twenty-five barons, the said four barons shall come to us, or to our Justiciary if we be out of the kingdom, and making known to us the excess committed, petition that we cause that excess to be redressed without delay.

And if we shall not have redressed the excess, or, if we have been out of the kingdom, our justiciary shall not have redressed it within the term of forty days, computing from the time when it shall have been made known to us, or to our justiciary if we have been out of the kingdom, the aforesaid four barons, shall lay that cause before the residue of the twenty-five barons; and they, the twenty-five barons, with the community of the whole land, shall distress and harass us by all the ways in which they are able; that is to say, by the taking of our castles, lands, and possessions, and by any other means in their power, until the excess shall have been redressed, according to their verdict; saving harmless our person, and the persons of our Queen and children; and when it hath been redressed, they shall behave to us as they have done before.

And whoever of our land pleaseth, may swear, that he will obey the commands of the aforesaid twenty-five barons, in accomplishing all the things aforesaid, and that with them he will harass us to the utmost of his power: and we publicly and freely give leave to every one to swear who is willing to swear; and we will never forbid any to swear. But all those of our land, who, of themselves, and of their own accord, are unwilling to swear to the twenty-five barons, to distress and harass us together with them, we will compel them by our command, to swear as aforesaid.

And if any one of the twenty-five barons shall die, or remove out of the land, or in any other way shall he prevented from executing the things above said, they who remain of the twenty-five barons shall elect another in his place, according to their own pleasure, who shall he sworn in the same manner as the rest. In all those things which are appointed to be done by these twenty-five barons, if it happen that all the twenty-five have been present, and have differed in their opinions about anything , or if some of them who had been summoned, would not, or could not he present, that which the greater part of those who were present shall have provided and decreed, shall he held as firm and as valid, as if all the twenty-five had agreed in it: and the aforesaid twenty-five shall swear, that they will faithfully observe, and, with all their power, cause to be observed, all the things mentioned above. And we will obtain nothing from any one, by ourselves, nor by another, by which any of these concessions and liberties may he revoked or diminished. And if any such thing shall have been obtained, let it he void and null: and we will never use it, neither by ourselves nor by another.

Article 62:
And we have fully remitted and pardoned to all men, all the ill-will, rancour, and resentments, which have arisen between us and our subjects, both clergy and laity, from the commencement of the discord. Moreover, we have fully remitted to all the clergy and laity, and as far as belongs to us, have fully pardoned all transgressions committed by occasion of the said discord, from Easter, in the sixteenth year of our reign, until the conclusion of the peace. And, moreover, we have caused to he made to them testimonial letters-patent of the Lord Stephen, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Henry, Archbishop of Dublin, and of the aforesaid Bishops, and of Master Pandulph concerning this security, and the aforesaid concessions.

Article 63:
Wherefore, our will is, and we firmly command that the Church of England be free, and that the men in our kingdom have and hold the aforesaid liberties, rights, and concessions, well and in peace, freely and quietly, fully and entirely, to them and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and places, for ever as is aforesaid. It is also sworn, both on our part, and on that of the barons, that all the aforesaid shall he observed in good faith and without any evil intention.

Witnessed by the above and many others. Given by our hand in the meadow which is called Runnymede between Windsor and Staines, this fifteenth day of June in the seventeenth year of our reign.

The Six Day War Begins, 1967

2018-06-06T15:54:42+00:00 June 4, 2018|HH 2018|

“Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.’” —1 Samuel 17:45

The Six Day War Begins, June 5, 1967

In the late 19th Century, certain eastern European Jewish leaders created a movement known as Zionism, advocating the return of Jews to Palestine for the eventual creation of a Jewish state, hopefully in the same boundaries as Old Testament Israel. As a result of the First World War, Britain took Palestine from the Ottoman Turks and established a protectorate under British jurisdiction. Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour endorsed the creation of a “national home” for Jews in Israel. As Jews of the world diaspora began filtering into Palestine, the native inhabitants — both Muslim and Christian — began to push back against losing their land to Jewish immigrants. The British obstructed Jewish refugees from the Holocaust from entering Palestine after the Second World War in order to curry favor with the Arabs. Jewish resistance groups blew up bridges and the King David Hotel and ambushed British soldiers, putting constant pressure on Britain to create a Jewish state. In 1948 they succeeded. Conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians and Arab neighbors along her borders — Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan — continued off and on through the years as the new state of Israel expanded its territory. In 1967 a major war that lasted six days reshaped the Israeli nation and the entire region, the results of which are still being fought over today.

Gamal Abdel Nasser served as the President of Egypt. He had faced down England and France over control of the Suez Canal, creating his own great standing and power among the Arab states. When he had closed the Straits of Tiran in 1956, Israel invaded the Sinai, the Egyptian-controlled desert and buffer zone between Israel and Egypt. The Straits were reopened to Israeli merchant traffic. In May 1967, Nasser again threatened to close the Straits and massed troops along the Israeli border under the false impression that Israel was massing on the Syrian border. As war seemed inevitable, Israel decided on a preemptive strike against the major enemy in the Sinai.

Nasser and Egyptian pilots

French-built Dassault Mirage at the Israeli Air Force Museum

Israeli troops examine a destroyed Egyptian aircraft

Flying French-built Mirage jets, the Israeli Air Force flew low over the Mediterranean to avoid radar, swooping down on their Egyptian counterparts, bombing and strafing the air bases, severely damaging their opponent’s ability to strike back from the air and guaranteeing Israeli air supremacy throughout the war. Syria attacked Israel from the north and Jordan from the east but Israeli armored and infantry regiments quickly seized the Golan Heights and the east bank of the Jordan River. Well organized, well led, and with the highly motivational knowledge that their opponents would be happy to wipe them off the map of the world, the Israelis conducted ferocious offensive operations.

Israeli tank from the Six Day War

Israeli reconnaissance forces in Sinai

On the ground in the Sinai, Israel’s 70,000 men and 700 tanks crashed head-on into the Egyptian battle lines, taking heavy casualties and causing heavier ones to the enemy. Over a week of fighting secured the entire Sinai Peninsula for the Israelis. The battles with the Jordanians were much closer to home with fighting in Jerusalem and its immediate environs. Old Jerusalem and the east bank of the Jordan fell to Jewish forces as did the Golan Heights defended by Syria. When the war came to an abrupt end, the Israelis had killed or wounded more than 16,000 enemies at the loss of about 900 killed and 5,000 wounded. A million Muslims suddenly found themselves within Israeli jurisdiction. The official name of the conflict became “The Six Day War,” one of the greatest triumphs in a short time, in history.

Israeli tanks advancing on the Golan Heights

A national euphoria enveloped Israel, and jokes about the brevity of the war and heroism of Israelis made the rounds. “It was our finest hour — or did it take that long?” A soldier says to his friend, “Let’s take over Cairo.” His friend replies, “What shall we do in the afternoon?” Overconfidence reigned until the surprise attacks that threatened to destroy Israel in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The jokes ended, but that’s another story.

The Fall of Constantinople, A.D. 1453

2018-05-28T20:20:10+00:00 May 28, 2018|HH 2018|

“Draw thee waters for the siege, fortify thy strong holds: go into clay, and tread the mortar, make strong the brick kiln.” —Nahum 3:14

The Fall of Constantinople, May 29, A.D. 1453

In one of the greatest sieges of all time, Sultan Mohammed II, on May 29, A.D. 1453, captured the last Christian bastion in the Middle East, Constantinople, which had withstood every assault for 1,100 years. With the total collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the Muslim hordes were free to attack the West, where the symbolic capital of Christian Europe, Vienna, lay astride the Danube River — the city with the largest German-speaking population on the continent. Constantinople’s final collapse came with a huge cost to the Islamic army and total destruction of the defenders. The downfall of the Byzantine Empire also brought the dominance of the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East and parts of southern Europe until the twentieth century.

Modern-day Istanbul

Constantine mosaic in Hagia Sophia

Now known as Istanbul, Constantinople was established by Constantine the Great in A.D. 323. The city walls loomed over the strategic straits that separated Europe from Asia, and served as the political and religious capital of Christendom in the East. Guarding both the Bosporus and the Dardanelles Straits, this mighty city also became the nexus of commerce, communication and invasion between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. When the followers of Mohammed swept into Africa and the Middle East from the 7th to the 15th Centuries, Constantinople proved to be the one rock against which their heathen militant armies constantly broke. The forces of Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam contended for ascendancy in the region for all of those 700 years. In the 12th Century, Christian knights from Western Christendom conducted crusades to liberate the “Holy Land” from the Muslims and build up certain strongholds to protect pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem. Some of the crusaders attacked their fellow religionists of the Byzantine Church and even looted Constantinople. After a couple hundred years, the western knights were driven away by the followers of Mohammed. In 1452, Sultan Mohammed II decided that Constantinople must fall.

The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, by Eugène Delacroix, 1840

Mohammed II and his army II approach Constantinople

The Byzantine emperor Constantine XI Paleologus could count on only 5,000 local and 2,000 foreign troops to defend the triple walls that would have to be breached by the enemy. He also had the services of the renowned siege defensive expert, Giovanni Giustiniani, who brought 700 knights and archers from Genoa and the Greek island of Chios. Mohammed II threw against the walls of the city 70,000 regular troops and 20,000 men known as Bashi-Bazouks, who were fighting only for the loot of the city if it fell. The Janissaries, young men captured from Christian families as slaves and raised as fanatical Moslem suicide special forces troops, were there in abundance. The attackers were also well supplied with artillery, including a cannon called “the Basilica,” 27 feet long and capable of throwing a stone ball of 600 pounds.

After 12 days of bombardment, several breaches in the walls appeared, but the soldiers who stormed the weakened walls were thrown back with heavy losses. The attack on the city began on April 6, but a month later, the Sultan’s soldiers were no closer to taking the city and had suffered many dead and wounded. Attempts at digging mines under the walls to blow them up were all discovered and the attackers were roasted with “Greek fire” or drowned by flooding. Siege towers were destroyed by fire and wave after wave of attackers — including the Janisseries — were hurled back by the exhausted defenders. On May 29, in the midst of waves of attacks, some Turks found a small door in the wall — probably accidentally left open — and made their way inside, seizing a tower and running the Sultan’s flag up the flagpole. The defenders fell back and then their defenses collapsed.

The Ottoman Turks transport their fleet over land into the Golden Horn

The people inside the city were killed or enslaved, probably about 50,000. A few surviving soldiers managed to escape, though their commander, Guistiniani, succumbed to wounds. Constantine XI died in battle. The Turkish armies moved westward and laid siege to Vienna, a military conflict with the West that would last another couple hundred years and some would say is continuing now, by other means. Sixty years after the fall of Constantinople, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, and the harried Holy Roman Empire, distracted by the aggressions of the Muslims, would not be able to focus attention on what otherwise would have been the destruction of the Protestant Reformers.

Mohammed II. (c. 1430-81) enters Constantinople