Franco-Prussian War Declared, 1870

2021-07-19T11:39:23-05:00July 19, 2021|HH 2021|

“Put them in fear, O Lord; Let the nations know that they are but men.” —Psalm 9:20

Franco-Prussian War Declared, July 19, 1870

The legacy of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) comes readily to mind regarding military innovations and the redrawing of the boundaries of Europe in the 19th Century. Add to those residual effects, the natural French sense of superiority and touchy reaction to international insult, and the volatile combination of international political DNA came to its natural fruition in the leadership of the arrogant and spirited personality of Napoleon’s nephew. Charles-Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, President of France, 1848-52, and “Emperor of the French” from 1852 to 1870 was the last monarch to rule over France, and was founder of “The Second Empire.” He presided over the utter defeat of his beloved country on the field of battle, by the Germans.


Charles Louis Napol´on Bonaparte (1808-1873), President of France from 1848-1852, Emperor of France from 1852-1870

Prior to the conclusion of a war with Napoleon in 1803, there were more than three hundred political jurisdictions among the German states—more than a thousand if all the duchies and smaller entities of the former Holy Roman Empire are counted. The largest were the kingdoms of Prussia and Bavaria, but there were also the multitude of smaller states, independent free cities, family estates, and ecclesiastical territories. After Napoleon’s defeat of the Second Coalition in 1802, the French dictator reduced the number of “the Germanies,” and after the defeat of Prussia in 1806, and the subsequent dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, he consolidated the princely German kingdoms even more. Their armies were folded into Napoleon’s forces, with 125,000 Germans joining in the invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon’s “Continental System” severely damaged the economies of central Europe and spurred the German people to again join together against the French dictator in 1813. In the Battle of Nations, more than half a million men engaged in the largest land battle in Europe in the 19th Century. Austria, Prussia, Sweden, Russia and Saxony finally defeated Napoleon. After his first exile and last grasp for power and the return of Gloire at the Battle of Waterloo against England and Prussia (costing another 72,000 casualties), the French emperor was forced to end his and the French Empire’s attempt to rule all of Europe.


Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig (1797-1888), King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany


Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck-Schönhausen (1815-1898), Minister President of Prussia and Chancellor of the German Empire

The Congress of Vienna enlarged Prussian boundaries and consolidated thirty-eight other German states under the political authority of Austria. The idea of both a linguistic and geographic German unity percolated through the German-speaking states over the following fifty years. A growing unification movement complete with nationalistic songs, stories, and historical pride combined with an expansionist and increasingly militaristic leadership of Otto von Bismarck. Prussia defeated Denmark in a small war in 1864, and crushed Austria two years later, consolidating several smaller German states under a north German Confederation of Prussian rule. Most of the German states, by 1870, had turned to King Wilhelm of Prussia and to Chancellor von Bismarck for leadership and protection. One French wit claimed that the German nation was hatched from a cannon ball.


Castle Arenenberg in Switzerland, where Louis Napoleon spent much of his youth and exile

The man who became Napoleon III was born Charles-Louis, to Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Louis, in 1808. Sent into exile after Waterloo, with the rest of the Bonapartes, young Charles-Louis was raised primarily in Switzerland and Germany, although his tutor was a former French Revolutionary Radical and friend of Robespierre. Bonaparte was arrested several times trying to reinsert the Napoleonic family into French politics.

Louis Napoléon Bonaparte (1778-1846), King of Holland, brother of Napoleon I and father of Napoleon III


Hortense Eugénie Cécile Bonaparte, née de Beauharnais (1783-1837), Queen of Holland, step-daughter of Napoleon I and mother of Napoleon III

Following the Revolution of 1848 in Paris, Louis Napoleon, after living in England, the United States, and Switzerland, joined the growing list of men interested in following the abdicated King Louis Phillipe into power. Elected President in 1848, the romantic nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte promised universal male suffrage, and proclaimed his support for “religion, family, property, and peace.” He decided after his three-year term in office, the people would support a suspension of the constitution in order to keep him in power. He overthrew himself, then ordered a plebiscite so the people could confirm his actions. He settled scores with old enemies and declared the Second French Empire.


The official declaration of the Second Empire, at the Hôtel de ville, on December 2, 1852

As Emperor Napoleon III, he participated in several small wars prior to 1870, not seeking to regain the militant grandeur of his uncle, but definitely committed to defending French honor and restoring the elan of French arms. As had happened in the 18th Century, a succession crisis in Spain became the occasion for conflict between France and the burgeoning German nation whose leader promised the world that only a policy of blood and iron would bring success and respect. Von Bismarck learned the deft political strategy of manipulating his opponents into declaring war on Prussia, and a weak and sickly Napoleon III obliged him the occasion on July 19, 1870 when the French Parliament declared war. In the course of the six months of war, France mobilized more than two million men, and Prussia more than one and a half million. The Prussians maneuvered the French armies into strategic traps and their superior weaponry produced overwhelming casualties. Prussia suffered about 145,000 casualties and the French more than a million in the course of the war, including the capture of Louis Napoleon.


Surrender of Napoleon III to Otto von Bismarck after the Battle of Sedan, September 1, 1870

The French nation was stunned by the swiftness and the severity of the defeat and a desire for retribution passed on through the next several generations. Within just a few years, fear and distrust of opposing alliances, a continuing arms race, and old nationalist memories, established the international political environment that would erupt into the First World War in 1914. Many dots connect from the French Revolutionary years of Napoleon Bonaparte to the 20th Century.


The proclamation of Prussian King Wilhelm I as German Emperor at Versailles, January 18, 1871

Birth of John Everett Clough, 1836

2021-07-13T15:36:28-05:00July 13, 2021|HH 2021|

“And the base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are.” —1 Corinthians 1:28

Birth of John Everett Clough, July 16, 1836

John Clough was born in southwestern New York, not far from Lake Chautauqua. His family joined in the general migration westward, settling in Iowa Territory prior to the Civil War. John attended college in the 1850s in Iowa and while there sensed the call of God to Gospel ministry. Following graduation, John Clough received further theological training, and in 1864 sought and was granted ordination as a Baptist minister. His wife Harriet happily joined in his call to preach on the mission field. He appealed to the American Baptist Missionary Union and was sent to southern India to preach the Gospel to the Hindu Tulgu people. His unusual approach to evangelism presaged a sea-change in mission strategy, but resulted in a bountiful harvest of souls during his more than forty years among the same communities in India.


John Everett Clough (1836-1910)


Map of India showing the location of the city of Ongole, circa 1848

Eleven years earlier, in 1854, “in a predawn prayer meeting on a hill overlooking the city of Ongole, two missionaries and three Telugu Christian women had asked God to send a missionary to that city.”* The Cloughs’ arrival signaled the positive answer to that prayer, in God’s timing. When John Clough arrived, most or all of the few Christians in Ongole belonged to the Brahmin class, the wealthy and privileged caste of India. Most of the early converts from John’s preaching came from the lowest level of society—the Madigas of the Andrha Pradesh region of India where they served. In Indian culture, Brahmins were not permitted to associate with the low castes under any circumstances, and the church was no exception.


A Telugu couple, date unknown


A Brahmin family of Bombay, India, circa 1880

However, the Cloughs believed strongly that 1 Corinthians taught that God calls the poor and lowly of this world (vs. 26-30) and not many noble. Unlike previous missionaries, they chose to continue preaching primarily to the lowest castes of India in their areas around the city of Ongole. Their congregations thus became made up of farmers and tanners, humble but devout people who came to love Christ and serve in the church. For ten years, the Cloughs planted churches, built schools and trained preachers and evangelists. Several thousand were converted.


A group of Telugu Christian converts and missionaries, circa 1880

Another difference in Clough’s approach—also controversial then but not as much today—related to Indian culture itself. He taught the Telugu converts to live by a few basic Christian ethical principles, but was cautious not to impose a Western cultural system. He trained local men to preach and teach and encouraged the people to attach themselves to them, as they had traditionally done with their Hindu gurus. He believed that the Gospel would have greater success coming from indigenous preachers. Rather than separate believers in their own ghettos, he encouraged converts to remain in their own pagan social structures and witness to those well known to them and living side by side. He stressed their union in the Kingdom through worshipping together in the church on the Sabbath. He targeted the village elders to serve as deacons.


During the Famine of 1876-79, it is estimated between 5.6 million and 9.6 million human fatalities occurred

During the famine of 1876-1879, with millions of people starving, the British government of India extended the Buckingham Canal by five miles, to aid in getting food to south India. A huge workforce was needed, and wages were paid in food. Instead of returning to America, Clough negotiated a contract with the government and recruited thousands of starving Madigas to build three miles of the canal. He organized them into working companies and channeled food to them in exchange for the labor. The missionary also enlisted his preachers to spread the Gospel as they worked on the canal. More than 9,000 men were converted during the famine years. He refused to baptize the new professors of Christ, because he did not want them joining the Church for the wrong reason. He waited to see if the conversions were true, after the famine. When it all ended and life returned to normal, more than 9,500 Madigas presented themselves for baptism. The “Madiga community was turned upside down. They abandoned their old gods . . . and Clough’s churches had 21,000 members.”


The Buckingham Canal near Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India, 3 miles of which were built by locals organized by John Clough

John’s wife died in 1893, he remarried, and remained on the field until just before his death in 1910. When the missionary died, an estimated 60,000 Indians of the Ongole region belonged to Baptist Churches planted by John Clough. In 1936, the report of the Telegu Mission counted three hundred fifty Baptist Churches and a Baptist community of more than 300,000, the bulk of them from outcast groups.


Resources for Further Study

  • *The One Year Christian History, by E. Michael and Sharon Ruskin

Douglas MacArthur Takes Command in Korea, 1950

2021-07-07T13:47:54-05:00July 7, 2021|HH 2021|

“Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow . . .which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?” —Job 38:22a, 23

Douglas MacArthur Takes Command in Korea,
July 8, 1950

His mother’s four brothers served in the Confederate Army in Virginia regiments and his wife’s grandfather rose to captain in a Confederate Tennessee Regiment. His father was awarded the Medal of Honor fighting for the Union in a Wisconsin Regiment in the Civil War, and rose to the second highest rank in the United States Army. Douglas MacArthur himself could look back on the most spectacular career of any American soldier ever born: he fought in three major wars, was recommended for the Medal of Honor three times, awarded it once, received seven silver stars and two Distinguished Service Medals, eventually becoming one of only five men in American history to rank as a “full general.” He became the Field Marshall of the Army of the Philippines. After leading the United States to victory in the Pacific Theatre of the Second World War, MacArthur ruled Japan as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. In June of 1950, China-supported Communist North Korea invaded South Korea, creating a military disaster of unprecedented proportions; in less than two weeks, the United States chose Douglas MacArthur to lead the United Nations’ and South Korean Armies against the victorious North Koreans in 1950.


Douglas MacArthur, (1880-1964) as a student at West Texas Military Academy in the 1890s


General MacArthur as Commander in Chief of the Far East, circa 1945

General MacArthur faced tremendous handicaps in confronting the Communist invading forces that eventually reached almost three million men. The United States had sent home most of its forces in the Pacific region in the years following the Second World War, and the soldiers that were kept in useful reach for MacArthur were mostly green troops, unprepared for combat. The General himself was approaching his 70th year, had a poor relationship with President Truman, and possessed a personality not always conducive with getting along with subordinates or superiors (not that he thought there were any superiors). William Manchester, brilliant historian of the Second World War said of MacArthur:

“He was a great thundering paradox of a man, noble and ignoble, inspiring and outrageous, arrogant and shy, the best of men and the worst of men, the most protean, the most ridiculous, and the most sublime. No more baffling, exasperating, soldier ever wore a uniform. Flamboyant, imperious, and apocalyptic, he carried the plumage of a flamingo, could not acknowledge errors, and tried to cover up his mistakes with sly, childish tricks. Yet he was also endowed with great personal charm, a will of iron, and a soaring intellect.”


Brigadier General MacArthur, St. Benoit Chateau, France, 1918


General MacArthur wades ashore in the Philippine Islands, 1940

Hundreds of thousands of Korean civilians fled south as the enemy army overwhelmed the Republic of Korea forces, some of whom went over to the enemy and joined in the assault; intellectuals and civil servants were massacred by communist cadres. The battered ROK soldiers and a few American units finally put a stop to the overwhelming surprise attack and held up the communist forces along the one hundred forty mile “Pusan perimeter,” providing a relatively safe haven covering about 10% of Korea. President Truman decided that a stabilized Korea was necessary to the peace of Japan, and found out that the Soviet Union would not retaliate if U.S. troops got involved on a large scale. By the end of August, 1950, General MacArthur had about 180,000 in the line facing about 90,000 Reds.


U.S. troops await North Korean attacks across the Nakdong River from positions on the Pusan Perimeter, September 4, 1950

General MacArthur devised one of the most daring strategic surprise attacks in American military history. Several of MacArthur’s top military advisors said it could not be done and should not be attempted. Nonetheless, in a brilliant combined operation, 40,000 American Infantry and Marines landed by sea at Incheon in September, and proceeded to cross Korea, cutting off supplies to communist forces in the south, and driving the invaders into the north, capturing 135,000 KPA soldiers and killing or wounding another 200,000. Simultaneously, ROK and U.N. forces broke out of the Perimeter in the South, driving the enemy into the trap. By October, the South Korean government had been restored to power in Seoul and the 38th Parallel had been established as the northern border.


General MacArthur and several officers observe the shelling of Incheon from the USS Mount McKinley, September 15, 1950

Multiple thousands of “Chinese volunteers” swarmed across the border in October of 1950, killing thousands of American and ROK Marines and Infantry at the Chosin Reservoir, and dozens of hilltops and valleys of the rugged North Korean terrain. President Truman fired General MacArthur for disobeying orders, and risking an all-out war with Communist China, when the General ordered bombing of the supply lines and travel routes of the Chinese soldiers flooding into Korea to kill Americans. General MacArthur’s arrogance and lack of political savvy proved too much for the Joint Chiefs and the President to endure any longer. By the end of the War in Korea, more than three million were dead, including more than two million civilians. About 37,000 American soldiers died and more than 100,000 were wounded.


President Truman and General MacArthur at the Wake Island Conference, seven months before Truman would relieve MacArthur of his command

Douglas MacArthur returned to the United States: for some, the greatest war hero ever, for others, a man with too many personal flaws and not enough political clout to take on a President just as stubborn, but in full political power.


General MacArthur is greeted by a grateful public in this joyful ticker tape parade, Chicago, IL, 1951 (MacArthur is in the second car)


Resources for Further Study

  • The Forgotten War: America in Korea 1950-1953 by Clay Blair (1987)

Charles I of Spain Becomes Holy Roman Emperor, 1519

2021-06-28T18:58:36-05:00June 28, 2021|HH 2021|

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” —Proverbs 21:1

Charles I of Spain Becomes
Holy Roman Emperor, 1519

The King of Spain, Charles I (1500-1558), became Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, at the age of nineteen. Turning over to a teenager the most important and powerful position in Christendom, outside the papacy, could have been better timed, perhaps. His accession to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire in 1519 providentially associated with the controversies and debates with the towering intellect of the heroic and stubborn protesting monk of Saxony, Martin Luther, and all the other men of the Protestant Reformation. Charles would spend the next thirty-five years attempting to re-assert the Habsburg family’s authority over the German princes, and maintaining a united western Church. What could go wrong?


Pope Clement VII and Emperor Charles V during the entry of the Pope and the Emperor into Bologna in 1530, when the latter was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor by the former

Charles V’s maternal grandparents had received a dispensation from the Pope to marry, since they were second cousins, a consanguinity prohibited by the Catholic Church. The match of the 17-year-olds Ferdinand and Isabella, however, united the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, the Spanish monarchs who sponsored the Christopher Columbus voyages. Their marriage produced Charles’s mother, known as Joanna the Mad. Charles’s father was a Habsburg Prince known as Phillip the Handsome, oldest son of the Holy Roman Emperor, making Charles in a few short years, presumptive heir of Austria, as well as of Burgundy and the Low Countries, and most important of all, Spain. A sword and helmet were the appropriate royal gifts to the infant Charles, who should, perhaps, have grown up to be crazy good-looking and the all-powerful monarch of Europe. As providence would have it, he inherited the Habsburg jaw, a distinctive deformity, and stubborn German Protestants, willing to die for their faith.


Philip I of Castile (1478-1506), father of Charles V


Joanna I of Castile and Aragon (1479-1555), mother of Charles V

Born in Flanders, Charles inherited the Netherlands at the age of six. In 1519, as Charles V, he was appointed as The Holy Roman Emperor, King of the Germans in modern parlance, but crowned by the Pope ten years later. The highly educated monarch spoke his native Dutch and French, as well as Latin, Castilian Spanish, Basque and German. The Emperor spent much of his time travelling among his dominions, which he ruled over through regents, including his brother Ferdinand. His early years of energetic leadership proved promising—he gave the Knights of St. John the Island of Malta to defend Christendom’s southern flank in the Mediterranean, a strategy that eventually produced military successes in North Africa and a great victory over the Ottomans in 1565. Although he distrusted the Pope, Charles determined to defend the Roman Catholic faith against the rising tide of Protestant rebellion.


Charles I of Spain and V of the Holy Roman Empire (1500-1558)

When Martin Luther’s writings were brought to the Emperor’s attention, he called for the Diet of Worms to try the “heretic.” Concluding that Luther was definitely outside accepted Roman Catholic doctrine, he declared him an outlaw, but honored the safe-conduct pass from Worms. Charles declared in the edict:

“You know that I am a descendant of the Most Christian Emperors of the great German people, of the Catholic Kings of Spain, of the Archdukes of Austria, and of the Dukes of Burgundy. All of these, their whole life long, were faithful sons of the Roman Church… After their deaths they left, by natural law and heritage, these holy catholic rites, for us to live and die by, following their example. And so until now I have lived as a true follower of these our ancestors. I am therefore resolved to maintain everything which these my forebears have established to the present.”


Reformer Martin Luther testifying at the Diet of Worms, 1521

Charles was, however, only as powerful as his army and his alliances permitted, so his dependence on the German princes, including the Lutherans, constrained his actions against the reformers. Luther’s Prince of Saxony protected him and Charles sought ways to reach rapprochement, postponing the doctrinal controversies, as long as the Lutheran league of Princes (Schmalkaldic League) continued support of war against the Muslims and the French. For Catholic France, imperial designs also trumped religious contention. Hoping the Pope would settle the reformation problems for the Holy Roman Emperor only postponed war for a few years, thus allowing Protestantism to expand across Europe. From 1547 till his retirement in 1556, Charles V fought his own Protestant princes, France, the Ottoman Turks, and combinations of those enemies, exhausting himself and his empire, and causing untold misery to the German people in general.


An allegorical depiction of Charles V enthroned, surrounded by those whom he had conquered: (L-R) Suleiman I of the Ottoman Empire, Pope Clemens VII, Francis I of France, the Duke of Cleves, the Duke of Saxony and Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse

Between 1554 and 1556, Charles, suffering greatly from gout and epilepsy, gave up several of his lands and titles, and divided others, thus dismembering the Habsburg Empire. In his final abdication speech before entering a monastery, he recounted his attempt to hold the largest geographical boundaries in the history of Christendom by recounting his travels: ten to the Low Countries, nine to Germany, seven to Spain, seven to Italy, four to France, two to England, and two to North Africa. His last public words as he stood, depressed and exhausted, leaning on another, were, “my life has been one long journey.” His territory stretched from Mexico to Munich and from Sicily to the Zuider Zee.


The Palace of Coudenberg, Brussels, Belgium, from where Charles issued his various abdications

At 26, Charles had married Isabella of Portugal—a match that began as a political move, but which quickly became a deep and abiding love match. After she died thirteen years later, the Emperor dressed in black the rest of his life, in mourning, and never remarried. Their son Phillip was destined to become King Phillip II of Spain, a man of historical importance in his own right. He would carry on the war against the Reformation churches that his father failed to quell in his day, make a gallant attempt at conquering England with the Great Armada, and, in God’s Good Providence, fail.


Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and his wife, Empress Isabella of Portugal

Cyrus McCormick Patents Reaper, 1834

2021-06-21T13:44:16-05:00June 21, 2021|HH 2021|

“Whatsoever you do, do all to the Glory of God.”
—1 Corinthians 10:31b

Cyrus McCormick Patents Reaper, June 21, 1834

Technological advances sometimes effect changes that improve the lives of millions. The invention of moveable type, mass-produced interchangeable parts, the cotton gin, the mechanical reaper, jet propulsion, wireless telegraph and telephones, internal combustion engines, and many other achievements have transformed the world. Most of those inventions were the end-product of the work of many people trying to solve a problem, meet particular needs, or just reduce manual labor. Not surprisingly, Christians have been in the forefront of breakthrough designs and practical applications of creation principles. One of those men received a patent on June 21, 1843, revolutionizing farming and transforming food production for the world. That man was Cyrus McCormick (1809-1884).


Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-1884)

His great-grandfather came to America from Ulster, part of the great Irish Presbyterian diaspora which populated the frontiers of Pennsylvania. His grandfather brought the McCormicks south to settle in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and fought in the War for Independence at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Cyrus’s father expanded the family’s fortunes through land acquisition (1,800 acres), entrepreneurial business and building (two gristmills, two sawmills, a distillery, and a blacksmith shop). Born in 1809, Cyrus inherited his father’s talents and began experimenting in mechanics at an early age. His father, Robert, actually invented and patented several machines—a thresher and a hydraulic “hemp-breaker”—but his twenty-eight-year effort to build a grain harvester proved unsuccessful.


Robert Hall McCormick (1780-1846), inventor, and father of Cyrus McCormick


The McCormick family farm, Walnut Grove, in Steele’s Tavern, VA. The farm was built by Cyrus’s father, Robert, and it was in this blacksmith shop on the left where Cyrus built his first harvesters. The family grist mill is on the right.

Those experiments did not go to waste, however, for Cyrus—with the assistance of Jo Anderson, one of the McCormick servants—designed and fabricated a reaper pulled by horses. Building upon his father’s idea, Cyrus described his creative adaptation thus:

“I conceived the idea of cutting. . . with a vibrating blade operated by a crank and the grain supported at the edge while cutting by means of fixed pieces of iron projections before it. . . A very successful experiment was made with it in a field cutting oats. . . the machine was balanced upon two wheels, [with] the horses in front and to one side. . . causing the machine to accommodate itself to the irregularities of the ground.”*

The year was 1841, and the patent took three years to reach fruition on June 21, 1834. His father told a neighbor, “I am proud that I have a son who could accomplish what I failed to do.” Would that every father could have the occasion to say those words.


Leander James McCormick (1819-1900), Cyrus’s younger brother and business partner


William Sanderson McCormick (1815-1865), Cyrus’s younger brother and business partner

Every future competitor copied the salient features of the prototype McCormick Reaper, setting off a lifetime of lawsuits, controversies with the patent office, and fixing the occasional mechanical difficulties. Providentially, twenty-two-year-old Cyrus McCormick proved to be a man of “inventive genius, undaunted courage, untiring energy and of unswerving courage.” He scheduled field trials in farms around Lexington, the county seat. The reaper needed tweaking but eventually received newspaper coverage and endorsement by prominent Virginia supporters. The demand for reapers, however, took five years to stimulate after the patent had been secured. Improved castings, further field trials and exhibitions in rural counties around Rockbridge enabled Cyrus to begin manufacturing and selling his machine. From 1842 to 1850 he built 778 machines, only a very few shipping by wagon to the grain states of the midwest, “where land was flat and labor scarce.”


An 1884 version of the McCormick Reaper which also bound the harvest

Cyrus formed a partnership with the mayor of Chicago who invested $25,000 in the company, enabling the company to move the manufacturing to that city. Cyrus convinced two of his brothers to move there and assist him. Competitors “lawyered up” and formed a cabal of resistance before the patent office to block McCormick’s patent renewal in 1852. They succeeded, but the ending of his patent only spurred the energetic McCormick to greater efforts of marketing and manufacturing his machines. Cyrus swept the competition from the field (so to speak), through superior quality parts and machines, enabling buying on credit, and a policy to never sue a farmer for his failure to pay. He took his machine to Europe, where it created a sensation, and its use increased grain productivity exponentially. As the American frontier expanded, the McCormick Reaper travelled with the pioneers, making the midwest the bread basket of the entire nation. Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, claimed that the Virginian’s invention “carried civilization westward more than fifty miles per year . . . and took the place of regiments of young men in the Western harvest fields, releasing them to do battle for the Union,” as well as feeding them at the battle-front.


The Crystal Palace at the Great Exhibition in London, 1851, where McCormick exhibited his McCormick Reaper with great success

McCormick retained a loyalty to his home state, pleading for reconciliation of the sections before and during the Civil War, a very unpopular position to hold in Chicago at that time. He spent much of the Civil War years in Europe, believing and perhaps hoping, that the Confederacy would succeed. He unsuccessfully ran for Congress on a “Peace Democrat” platform in 1864.


In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire burned the McCormick factory, however, at the urging of Cyrus’ wife, Nettie, it was rebuilt and back in production by 1873.

An outspoken Christian businessman and a lifelong Presbyterian, McCormick endowed four theological chairs at what became McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He donated $10,000 to help Dwight L. Moody start the YMCA, and his own son Cyrus, Jr. became the first President of Moody Bible Institute. Cyrus and his wife Nettie Day donated large sums to Tusculum College, a Presbyterian school in Tennessee, and helped start churches and Sunday Schools all across the South after the War. In the last 20 years of his life, Cyrus served on the Board of Trustees of Washington and Lee College in his native Lexington, Virginia.

After Cyrus’s death, Nettie donated more than $160 million (in today’s money) to hospitals, disaster relief, churches and other private institutions. A beautiful statue of Cyrus stands near the President’s house on the campus of Washington and Lee College, and his farm near Steele’s Tavern, Virginia contains a free museum and is run as an experimental farm by Virginia Tech University. One historian summed up McCormick’s achievement: “in this remote community was invented the instrument which wrought the greatest change in agriculture that has ever taken place, and which has affected profoundly the economic life of the world.” As if that isn’t enough, Cyrus McCormick used his profits to affect the spiritual life of the world.


Nancy Maria “Nettie” Fowler McCormick (1835-1923), wife of Cyrus

*As quoted in The McCormick Reaper by Dr. John Latané, John’s Hopkins University

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