“And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.’” —Exodus 13:14
Ellis Island Immigration Station Opens, January 1, 1892
n December, 1891 seventeen-year-old Annie Moore of County Cork, climbed aboard the USS Nevada, along with her two younger brothers, in Queensland, Ireland (now known as Cobh). On January 1, 1892 they disembarked to join their parents in New York, the first of seven hundred new immigrants to enter the United States through Ellis Island, formerly considered part of New York but declared by a judge, New Jersey-owned in 1998. By the year of its closure in 1954, more than twelve million more would follow Annie through the portals of the reception area to become United States citizens. The last was a Norwegian merchant-seaman named Arne Peterson.
View of Ellis Island in Upper New York Bay with Lower Manhattan in the background
In the years prior to 1892, New York City had processed immigrants through Castle Garden Immigration Depot, perhaps as many as eight million people. There were other ports of entry along the eastern and western seaboards, but the state system was collapsing when the Federal government took control of immigration in 1890. They consolidated the approved entryways and funneled the steerage passengers (1st and 2nd class could be processed aboard ship and disembark directly on Manhattan) through Ellis Island. They conducted a landfill project, doubling its size to six acres and constructed a processing station, which opened the first day of 1892.
An immigrant family in the baggage room of Ellis Island Immigration Station, 1905
The first Ellis Island immigrant station, opened on January 1, 1892 was completely destroyed by fire on June 15, 1897
The second Ellis Island immigration station, as seen in this 1905 photograph, opened on December 17, 1900
The new immigrants came from all the nations of Europe, with noticeable increases from lands of Southern Europe and Russia. Approximately one million arrived every year from 1905-1912. In 1924 Congress passed the Immigration Act, greatly reducing the number of immigrants allowed in and moving much of the processing overseas at the U.S. embassies. They established quotas, seeking to reduce the number of people entering the United States, especially Jews, Italians, and Slavs from Southern and Eastern Europe. The American Eugenics movement played a role in persuading Congress to assist in keeping out people they considered defective or undesirable.
Footage showing immigrants disembarking from a steam ferryboat, July 9, 1903
Newly arrived immigrants await inspection at the Ellis Island Immigrant Building, 1904
Part of the regular processing of new immigrants, culled from their ranks those with communicable diseases, those who were foreign criminals escaping law enforcement, and the obviously indigent who were not considered able-bodied or did not possess enough money to get a new start in the United States. A fairly rigorous medical inspection sent about 2% of the passengers back to their port of origin. About three thousand died in the Ellis Island hospital during the years of the Island’s operation. Estimates of the number of Americans descended from immigrants who passed through Ellis Island range up to one hundred million people.
Aerial view of Ellis Island with the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island in the foreground, downtown Jersey City on the left and Manhattan, mostly out of view, on the right
After about thirty two years of operation, with the controversial Immigration Act, the use of Ellis Island as port of entry declined. By the 1930s it was used primarily for detention and deportation processing and for POWs of the Second World War. Today, a museum on the island interprets the history of immigration in the United States, especially as it relates to Ellis Island. While foreigners entering the United States to settle also occurred through other ports, Ellis Island has become the symbolic place for people fleeing persecution, poverty and hopelessness to seek a new life of freedom in the United States — to work hard and create a healthier and more prosperous future for their families.
Immigrants bound for Ellis Island approach New York City, with the Statue of Liberty in the background
Memorial to Annie Moore and her siblings in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland
There is a lovely statue in the town of Cobh of Annie Moore and her little brothers, with their bundle and hope, leaving to join their parents who preceded them to New York. They are an appropriate symbol themselves of those whom Providence would bring to these shores to continue the building of a nation unlike any other in history. Think of how God brought your forebearers here and eventually established your family to serve God and raise up new generations.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” —Psalm 19:1
Johannes Kepler Is Born, December 27, 1571
ohannes Kepler’s achievements in mathematical theory and scientific application astound even the casual observer. In Kepler’s day, princes subsidized geniuses and kept them close to the throne, for such men brought prestige to the state and reflected glory on the political leaders as men of Renaissance wisdom and intelligence. But the Reformation had divided Europe into religiously diverse states and woe betide the scientist whose faith identified him as holding doctrines opposite those of the prince. Kepler’s Lutheran, and then Calvinist, convictions in Catholic jurisdictions, during the Thirty Years War, made for a life beset with problems unrelated to astronomic calculations.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer
Kepler was born in Weil der Stadt, a free imperial city in Swabia, a southwest German state in the Holy Roman Empire. The region had divided over the Reformation, between Protestant and Catholic. Kepler was raised by poor but devout Lutheran parents. His father was a mercenary and left when Johannes was only five years old. He likely died in the eighty-year war for Dutch independence. As a young boy, he contracted smallpox which left him with crippled hands and weak eyesight. His love of mathematics and interest in the heavens was encouraged by his mother and grandfather. Based on his superior work in local schools, Kepler was awarded a scholarship to Tubingen University to study for the Lutheran ministry, but that course was providentially altered.
Kepler’s birthplace in Weil der Stadt
The Holy Roman Empire at its zenith overlaid on modern European national borders
While a college/seminary student, Kepler was introduced to the work of Nicolaus Copernicus who had written that planets orbit the sun rather than the Earth, a revolutionary break from Church dogma and astronomic belief. With his brilliant mathematical skills and astrological acumen, Kepler was invited to become, at the age of twenty-three, professor of mathematics at the Protestant seminary in Graz, Austria. In his spare time he studied astronomy and astrology (considered nearly the same discipline in that era). He took a public stand for the heliocentric Copernican theories in his first published work, in opposition to both Luther’s and the Catholic Church’s belief. So dangerous was his theory considered that he and his first wife, Barbara, wrote to one another in code to minimize the chance of persecution.
Nickolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), Polish mathematician and astronomer known for his heliocentric model of the universe
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630
Barbara Kepler (née Müller) (1574-1611)
Kepler was skilled at ingratiating himself with men who could promote his career, and he received the benefits of several patrons. He also married an heiress, twice widowed, and together they had five children. Kepler corresponded with other prominent astronomers and ran afoul of Tycho Brahe, one of the foremost scientists of his day, a wealthy Danish nobleman-astronomer. They debated Copernican theory and eventually came together at Tycho’s new observatory near Prague, after Kepler fled Graz for refusing to convert to Roman Catholicism. Brahe added Kepler to his growing cadre of assistants, but was careful not to reveal to him all that he had discovered about planetary motion. Upon Tycho’s death that very year, Kepler was appointed Imperial Mathematician and given the task of completing Tycho’s work.
Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), Danish nobleman, astronomer, and writer known for his accurate and comprehensive astronomical and planetary observations
Over the following eleven years Kepler came into his own using Brahe’s notes and his own observations. Kepler was so respected that he was permitted his Lutheran convictions though the emperor’s court was Catholic. His duties included “reading the stars” and giving astrological advice to the Emperor, as he continued serious astronomical calculations and collegial contact with the other mathematicians of Europe. It took him eight years to solve the problem of explaining the unusual Mars orbit. He discovered the planets travelled in ellipses rather than circles, now known as Kepler’s First Law. He figured out that planets further from the sun moved more slowly, Kepler’s second law (1609). In comparing the orbits of two planets he found that “The square of the ratio of the period of two planets is equal to the cube of the ratio of their radius” (Third Law, 1619).
Emperor Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Empire (1552-1612)
Kepler’ First Law of Planetary Motion states that the orbits of planetary bodies are ellipses with the sun at one of the two foci of the ellipse (exaggerated for illustration purposes)
He wrote many other works, some of which still hold up. Kepler’s contributions to astronomy accorded him the title of “Father of Astronomy” by historians. Tubingen would not let him return because his Calvinist beliefs conflicted with strict Lutheranism and eventually he had to move to Linz. During the Thirty Years War, Linz was laid siege to by Catholic armies and he had to move again. Ironically, Kepler became an advisor to the Catholic General Wallenstein but failed to predict Wallenstein’s assassination. Kepler’s gravesite was lost when the Swedish army destroyed Regensburg, where he had died in 1630. It was this great Christian astronomer who is said to have remarked that “I think God’s thoughts after him,” a central tenet of twentieth century Reformed presuppositional apologetics.
“Act as free men, but do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves to God.” —I Peter 2:16
Thomas Paine’s First American Crisis Article Published, December 19, 1776
hese are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
So began the first in a series of articles written by Thomas Paine over a seven-year period during the American War for Independence. That first essay so inspired George Washington that he had it read aloud to the troops at Valley Forge in the winter of 1776-77. There is very little in the early life of Thomas Paine to indicate he would write pamphlets that would bring fire to the minds and hearts of American patriots and become a Founding Father of the United States.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) English-born American philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary
Born in Thetford, Norfolk, England in 1736, Paine apprenticed with his father, a Quaker, making stays, that is, stay ropes for the shipping trades. He received a rudimentary education at a local school, but spent a brief time at sea with a privateer before settling down into his own stay-making business. He worked at an excise office but was fired for false reporting. He married his landlord’s daughter and started a tobacco business, which failed. He was forced to sell all his possessions to avoid debtor’s prison.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Paine separated from his wife and moved to London where a friend introduced him to Benjamin Franklin, the colonial representative of Pennsylvania. The American advised Paine to move to the colonies for a new start. He arrived in Pennsylvania half dead from the sickly voyage and spent six weeks recovering. The working man from England accepted a job as the editor of the first real American magazine, The Pennsylvania Gazette, from which he began publishing articles subversive of English political control and of social convention.
His pamphlet titled Common Sense, attacked monarchy and advocated democracy, radical ideas that helped fuel the rebellion against Britain. Paine was vilified by prominent Tories, but his pamphlet eventually sold more than a half million copies, a phenomenal success without peer in America.
A 1792 political cartoon shows Thomas Paine penning his “The Rights of Man” and “Common Nonsense”, etc. while surrounded by injustices such as “rebellion”, “anarchy”, “atheism”, and trampling such concepts as “loyalty”, “religion”, and “Magna Carta”
In late 1776 he published his first essay of The American Crisis, cited above. Paine designed his writing to inspire Americans to join the fight for liberty. He used all the code words that patriots adopted to garner support. His writings and popularity led to election as secretary of the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs. He published secret information and ran afoul of fellow congressmen Robert Morris and Silas Deane and was fired from his position. His scandalous fight with them continued into the future.
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense Pamphlet
Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis Pamphlet
Paine served briefly as an aide-de-camp to General Nathaniel Greene, and accompanied John Laurens to France in 1781, seeking financial aid to continue the war against Britain. In this endeavor he was successful and was duly rewarded by Congress. Paine’s essays continued to provoke and inspire throughout the war. In time, however, the stay-rope maker, turned radical pamphleteer and revolutionary, revealed himself an enemy of Christianity and a promoter of radical revolution. He wrote two major works explaining his theories, The Rights of Man (1791, 1792) and The Age of Reason (1794-1807). Paine was elected to the French Revolutionary government but was eventually arrested; he barely escaped the guillotine.
Major General Nathanael Greene (1742-1786)
An embittered defender of radical democracy, Paine attacked George Washington in print and returned to the United States at the end of the century, where he was vilified, especially by Christians and Federalists. Thomas Paine’s commitment to an American Republic combined with a facility with words that inspired and motivated the Patriot cause made him an important factor in the founding of the nation. His ongoing radical ideology and revolutionary zeal to destroy the church and elevate the common man to positions of authority and power, ultimately brought his downfall. One obituary stated that “he had lived long, did some good, and much harm.” His bones were taken back to England by a friend but were eventually lost; he has no known grave.
Thomas Paine sitting for one of a series of portraits of twelve notable revolutionaries, including the Comte de Mirabeau, by the French artist Laurent Dabos
“Lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. —Hebrews 12:1a-2a
The Romanian Uprising Begins,
December 15, 1989
ictators have a long and storied history of leaving this mortal world well before their demographics might suggest, due to their unbridled tyranny. Nicolae Ceauşescu, “President” of Romania, is a good case in point. His downward mortality arc began with an evangelical pastor, László Tőkés of the Reformed Church of Romania, standing athwart history calling, Stop!
Ceauşescu had become General Secretary of the Communist Party of Romania in 1965, after many years in the communist youth movement and serving various posts in the Soviet-dominated Party. Within four years he established the most repressive totalitarian regime in Eastern Europe. His oppression of the large Hungarian and German minorities living within Romanian borders was especially egregious, bringing protests from other European nations. Living standards plummeted as his “cult of personality” and massive surveillance by the secret police increased exponentially. Food rationing and disastrous economic investment even brought criticism from the Russians in the 1980s.
Nicolae Ceauşescu (1918-1989) was arrested in 1936 and imprisoned for two years for communist activities
Ceauşescu in 1965, General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party and First “President” of Romania (1974-1989)
The tipping point came with Ceauşescu’s decision to bury ancient towns and villages and erect concrete housing towers, symbolic of the new Soviet man. He relocated rural populations into city collectives and systematically suppressed the churches, often with extreme physical brutality. In the town of Timişoara, Pastor Tőkés had had enough.
László Tőkés was the son of a Hungarian Reformed pastor. He followed his father into the Gospel ministry, living among the Hungarian population of Romania. Why so many Hungarians live in Romania is a long story, which cannot be told here. László was a persistent critic of the Ceauşescu regime and became one of the foremost dissident preachers in the nation. In 1988, Tőkés organized a cultural celebration for Reformation Day (October 31), inviting young people from many churches to attend. So his bishop banned all church youth activities in the region.
László Tőkés (1952- ) in 2007
Collage of various notable locations in the town of Timişoara, hometown of László Tőkés
A year later he ordered Tőkés to leave Timişoara by December 15 for a small out-of-the-way parish where he couldn’t be heard. Tőkés refused. Four thugs brandishing knives broke into his flat, and Securitate forces stepped aside while the pastor and his friends fought them off. As the deadline approached, several members of the parish church began a candlelight vigil outside the Tőkés home. They were soon joined by many church members and a few of the other local citizens. By the 15th of December, a solid cordon of people surrounded his home, keeping the eviction forces at bay in a peaceful manner. The mayor of Timişoara paid a visit, but stormed away when Tőkés remained in his apartment. Students from the local universities joined the protests as the Securitate set up water cannons lest the situation get out of hand.
Demonstrators in the streets of Timişoara, December 1989
Thousands of Hungarians and Romanians filled the streets singing hymns, and then “politically incorrect” patriotic songs which had been banned by the socialist state. The crowd surged to Communist headquarters, overwhelmed the militia, destroyed the water cannons and threw the pieces in the river. The army arrived and opened fire, killing dozens of demonstrators. On December 18, tens of thousands of workers in Timişoara took to the streets peacefully, and the city fell under control of the citizens.
Demonstrators face off against tanks and police forces in the streets of Bucharest
The news swept through Romania and the world as protests broke out in every city. Even some of the Securitate forces joined the people in the streets, till the “revolution” reached Bucharest, the capital. Ceauşescu and his wife fled in a helicopter. The armed forces of Romania switched sides. The tyrant was captured, put on trial and with his wife, and executed by firing squad on Christmas day, for “economic sabotage and genocide.” Of all the dominoes of the Soviet Empire which toppled, Romania was the one country where significant violence occurred, an outcome predictable for a narcissistic and bloodthirsty socialist dictator. It all began with a pastor who would not allow the state to dictate what should be said from the pulpit, and was willing to resist the state-controlled religious hierarchy who sought to muzzle him.
On December 22, Ceauşescu was forced to take refuge from protestors and managed to escape via helicopter
Elena Ceauşescu (1916-1989), along with her husband, was executed by firing squad on Christmas Day, 1989
“Why do the wicked still live, continue on, also become very powerful? They spend their days in prosperity, and suddenly they go down to Hell.” —Job 21:7,13
Leslie Printice Leads Anti-Abortion Rally,
December 3, 1846
ew York City in the 19th Century probably surpassed all others in political corruption and depraved popular culture; often the two were bound up together. One aspect of that depravity related to the extent and popularity of abortion, especially among the wealthier inhabitants. According to New York law, abortion was legal prior to “quickening,” that is, before a woman’s awareness of fetal movement. Since 1828, after about the fourth month of pregnancy, a person found guilty of performing an abortion could be charged with second-degree manslaughter, which carried a hundred dollar fine or a year in jail. The queen of abortion providers was an English immigrant, Ann Trow Lohman, known professionally as Madame Restell. In the mid-1840s, one of her chief antagonists was a young widow named Leslie Printice.
Trow married New Yorker Charles Lohman in 1836, a printer for the New York Herald. He introduced her to the writings of Robert Dale Owen, son of the founder of the utopian socialist community of New Harmony, Indiana. Robert Dale ran the day-to-day operations of that experiment and wrote extensively on a variety of topics, including birth control. Elected to Congress, he spearheaded various social “reform” measures, several related to “women’s issues.” Charles Lohmman published tracts on population control and contraception. His wife took up the cause with abortifacient pills and powders and started what became a lucrative abortion provider business.
Ann Trow Lohman “Madamde Restell” (1812-1878)
Trading as Madame Restell, Lohman would provide the services for abortion at an “income-adjusted” fee; the wealthy paid a lot more for her services than did the poor. When the pills did not work (which was frequent), she used instruments to pierce the amniotic sac to induce miscarriage. She became a millionaire plying her death-dealing wares in six different clinics with branch agencies in Newark, Philadelphia and Boston.
Brick Presbyterian Church, New York
Pastor Gardiner Spring (1785-1873)
Leslie Printice, a recently widowed member of the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City, pastored by the renowned Gardiner Spring, “was encouraged by his sermons on child-killing to take a bold and active stand.” She invited to her home lawyers, politicians, judges and community leaders and along with pro-life physicians, she laid out the facts of the abortion industry. Through her church, she set up the New York Parent and Child Committee to battle the abortion trade. They established prayer networks, sidewalk counseling shifts, and alternative care programs with Christian doctors. The Committee organized protests at the abortion clinics of Madame Restell. George Grant records that Leslie “led a rally outside Lohman’s lavish home on December 3, 1846, that was emotional, physical and fierce.” The next year when Restell again went to trial on manslaughter charges; she had been convicted five years earlier of minor infractions and the publicity had been a boon to her business. Wealthy politicians and businessmen were among the Madame’s best customers, and her payoffs were usually effective. Nonetheless, Leslie attended the trial with several children who had escaped the butcher. She remained steadfast in her testimony, despite death threats from gangsters on Restell’s payroll.
Blackwell Island Prison, New York
The Madame was found guilty, but only of a misdemeanor, and spent a year on Blackwell Island prison, though in virtual luxury. Once out of prison she returned immediately to her baby-killing business which kept New York City the abortion capital of America. Although Leslie Printice’s efforts were only partially successful in her day, she had uncovered the “she devil” and her bloody businesses for all to see. Fifty years later the Governor of New York, Theodore Roosevelt, recognized Mrs. Printice’s efforts in helping to inspire the state’s tougher legislation and enforcement in the years following. Her intense efforts on behalf of women and the unborn bore fruit that she herself would never see. Such is how the Lord often works, with people remaining faithful in their own day, but the fruit of their labors occurring in future generations.
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) c. 1904
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, by Burrows and Wallace, Chapter 45.