Thursday, 15 August 2013

Topics Current of the Year (1900 that is...)

Brevities on passing Events, complied by Julian.

IT seems hardly credible that discussions should rage as to whether we were nearing the close or at the beginning of a century on January 1st, 1900. But it is even so, and the controversy was largely international. The Kaiser, erratic as ever, decided in favour of 1900 as the starting point for the new century, and the Tsar it is alleged followed suit. It has, however, been otherwise officially settled (and by those more capable than the Kaiser, we suspect) that the 20th century will begin on the 1st January, 1901,

The Past 100 Years.

WITHIN sight of the last day of a century that has wrought more changes in the distribution and organization of human society than all the centuries before! It is something to have lived in and to be of it. A century charged with new ideas, with expansion, with knowledge. New thoughts concerning human perfectibility and progress have come from it. Resources have been put at the command of human beings of which they had no conception, and now
"The age-end merges into years august,
The yearning world swings starward from the dust,
While weaklings talk of twilight, nor can see
The broadening of the dawn that is to be."

The good is coming, but it comes slowly and with many a set-back and disappointment It is well at the close of the century to keep bright hopes and great ends steadily in view, even while in the midst of remorse and contrition for the follies which have delayed the coming of the kingdom of peace.

A wonderful century -- wonderful for good, notwithstanding the inevitable evils in its course. Its last year has been heavily shadowed. Storm-breeding clouds are abroad. Every country has its own perplexities. Urgent unsettled and unsettling problems in our own, the unlooked-for humiliation of Britain and the consequent revelation of the envy and hate of every Continental power, the growing complexity of the Imperial and Colonial systems, the discontent in France, the internal throes of the German Empire, the insecurity of the Italian Monarchy, the combustible elements in Russia which only wait an explosive spark, the blood-bedraggled Chinese question! Every nation is, in fact, on its trial in this closing year of the nineteenth century, and what is done now will fix the course of many a year into the new one.

Let us trust that long ere the closing years of the opening century have been reached, the dreams of philanthropists and the visions of prophets will be realized, and that the reign of universal liberty, universal justice, and universal peace may have dawned.

Death of the Rev. Dr. Martineau.

THE most eminent Unitarian of Great Britain or America, and one of the most accomplished philosophical scholars in the world, a theologian unsurpassed in ability, the death of James Martineau, LL.D., D.D., Lit.D., at London, January 12th, 1900, removed one of the most dignified figures of the century. He maintained an extraordinary vigour and vivacity of mind and body up to his last year, which was his 95th. Dr. Martineau is better known among the intellectuals than among the multitude, but there are few readers to whom his name is not familiar, for his thought was so majestic that, like the sacred mountain of Japan, it was always in sight from the plains around.

At one time minister of a Unitarian Church in Dublin, afterwards of Liverpool and London churches, and for 60 years associated with Manchester New College, Oxford, his statue, recently placed in the Library of that College, will remind generations to come of one who for conscience sake maintained the doctrines and principles of the Unitarian Church to his own great loss and disadvantages, for it has been said, more than once, that Dr. Martineau might have been Archbishop of Canterbury.

Death of John Ruskin.

RUSKIN was unique. No man ever used his gifts and opportunities after the manner that has made him famous. A rich man, he cared nothing for wealth. A saint, he was the critic of the Church. An ascetic, he was in love with the beauty of nature and art. A favourite of Society, he did not value its distinctions. Loving a woman to idolatry, he did not know and could not learn the simplest laws of domestic life. A devoted student of science, he resisted the changes wrought by the application of science to the common affairs of men. He was a man unlike all others, antagonistic to most of his fellows, and yet was the one who, more than any other writer and thinker, was able in art and in literature to make the highest ideals of personal conduct and social organization and the noblest ends of action seem real, practicable and attainable.

He wrote in a style of which he alone was master. He made Turner famous. He was the chief interpreter of Venetian art and the first authority on Gothic architecture. He was the apostle of Pre-Raphaelism, and, whether as speaker to working-men or lecturer on art at Oxford, brought more sweetness and light into the common life of England than any other lover of art in his time.

Two quixotic transactions will illustrate Ruskin's unique temperament. He gave away his wife, and he gave away his fortune. He married a beautiful woman, alive to all the gladness of youth and the romance of marriage, thinking she would be content to be enshrined among his chief treasures and worshipped as a goddess too sweet and good for human nature's daily food. But alas! she was only a woman, and when Millais was summoned by Ruskin to paint her portrait, all three of them quickly discovered the mistake that had been made, for she and Millais fell in love with each other. Ruskin quietly obtained a legal separation, allowed her to marry his friend, and was thenceforth a broken-hearted old man. Giving his great fortune away cost him no pang. It was even a joy to him. He said a pound a day was sufficient for any English gentleman, and he gave away all but this. He started schemes for improving the condition of the poor; he founded a museum for them, a guild for working people, and a society to beautify the waste places of England. His was indeed a master among master minds of the 19th century.

Death of Lord Russell of Killowen.

THE death of Lord Russell -- Lord Chief Justice of England -- removes from the public service of Great Britain one of its greatest men, deprives the world of one of the most interesting figures of the century, and Ireland of distinguished sons.

The public intimation of Lord Russell's illness was not accompanied by any note of danger, so that no one imagined he was lying close to the door of death, and as a consequence the intelligence came with startling suddenness, and in Newry, where his career was watched with particularly keen interest, -- since he was one among our many distinguished Newrymen -- the news was heard with universal and profound sorrow. It has already been proposed that a monument of some kind be erected to his memory in this district, and we trust that some fitting national (to be fitting it must be national in the broadest sense) memorial may be successfully carried through.

Numerous discriminating accounts of his wonderful career have appeared, the unanimous verdict being that all the honours and distinctions he won were well merited. As Advocate, Attorney-General, Lord of Appeal, and Lord Chief Justice he was incorruptible, faithful, impartial and just, while in private intercourse he seems to have been one of the lucky mortals who are born with a wealth of perpetual June weather in their souls.

The photograph which we give of him, we may say, is from a photo, received from Lord Russell himself, and is one which he considered very good; and perhaps we may be pardoned for adding that more than once his Lordship expressed his appreciative interest in THE OPEN WINDOW.

Of his personal history we give the following outline condensed from a full notice which, appeared in The Christian World:--

"The very sudden death, after an operation, for appendicitis, of Lord Russell of Killowen caused a shock to the legal profession and raised a feeling of sympathetic regret throughout the British Empire. For, in spite of his stern, uncompromising attitude towards offenders of all sorts, the late 'Lord Chief' was a favourite with the English people. In the first place, he was a man who had risen by his own industry and indomitable will, which is a passport to the respect of the multitude; then it was felt that he was a tower of strength at the Bar and on the Bench in defence of justice and right -- witness his magnificent defence of the late Mr. Parnell and his co-defendants before the Parnell Commission, when all the influence of The Times and the Tory party were arrayed against him; lastly, he had the genial temperament which so many Irishmen possess, and which carries with it the faculty of making friends and disarming would-be enemies.

"Lord Russell was a Roman Catholic, and was for that reason shut out from the highest prize of the legal profession, the Lord Chancellorship. Yet he rose as high as he could, for he was the first Irishman, as well as the first Roman Catholic since the Reformation, to hold the premier place on the Common Law Bench. This he attained in 1894, when Lord Coleridge, the 'silver-tongued,' died, but shortly before that he had been promoted to a seat on the judicial bench as a Lord of Appeal. The dates are: Birth in 1832, at Newry; call to the Bar in 1859, after a brief career as a solicitor; Q.C. in 1872, and a seat in Parliament in 1880 for Dundalk; Attorney-General in 1886, with a knighthood; Lord of Appeal in 1894, and Lord Chief Justice in the same year. In politics Lord Russell was a Liberal and a Home Ruler, and owed his appointment as Attorney-General to Mr. Gladstone. He refused, however, to join the Irish Nationalists, and sat for an English constituency (South Hackney) from 1885 to 1894. Twice Lord Russell was engaged in International arbitration matters -- once as counsel for the British Government before the Behring Sea Commission, and once as British Arbitrator in the Venezuela Boundary case. The title of Killowen has puzzled many who have visited that Irish village in the expectation of finding a family seat of the Russells. There is no such seat, the title being adopted in recognition of the pleasant memories of his childhood, much of which he spent in that neighbourhood. His home was at Tadworth Court, near the Downs at Epsom. Among the stories most often repeated about Lord Russell is the one respecting the meeting of three young briefless barristers in an hotel in the North of England in 1865, when two of them, who afterwards became Lord Herschell and the present Speaker of the House of Commons, were so despondent about their prospects as seriously to discuss the advisability of emigrating. It was Charles Russell who counselled patience. The list of celebrated causes in which he appeared include the great baccarat case, Miss Fortescue's action for breach of promise against Lord Garmoyle, and Mrs. Maybrick's case. In the last he was counsel for the accused, and has never ceased, it is said, to use his influence for a more merciful treatment of that unfortunate prisoner, in whose innocence he seems to have believed. In his arduous labours, Lord Russell received immense assistance from his wife's business capacity, as she relieved him of many of the duties which usually fall upon the male head of the household, Lady Russell survives to mourn his loss, and so do five sons and four daughters. Two of the sons are barristers, one is a stockbroker, and one is a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery now serving in South Africa. The peerage granted to Lord Russell in 1894 dies with him, being a life peerage."

The funeral service was held at Brompton Oratory on the 13th August, and was conducted by his brother, Rev. Matthew Russell, S.J. Many distinguished people were present, and the Prince of Wales sent a wreath. The interment took place the next day at Epsom.

The Wearin' of the Green.

ST. Patrick's Day, 1900, in Ireland will be memorable. When the story of this century comes to be written, there will be no more thrilling chapter than this year's, recording as it must our Irish soldiers' heroism, their indomitable endurance and splendid gallantry, and their Sovereign's graceful recognition of it. Well worthy are they to wear the emblem of their native country, and well it was to rescue it from the fate of being degraded to a party-emblem level. Principle was born before partizanship; let us then follow the first-born. The shamrock belongs to the Irish, not to any particular party or sect in Ireland, and this will be recognised more fully than ever in the future: --
"We're one at heart if you be Ireland's friend,
Though leagues asunder our opinions tend."

A Suggestion. Great Britain's Daughters. An Imperial Emblem.

OUR Colonists have been brought up in the nurture and admonition of an expansive loyalty which puts Queen and home first, policy and party second, hence the spontaneous enthusiasm and loyalty to flag which carried all peoples and parties before it, irrespective or political, sentimental or sectarian differences, -- differences too that neither reasoning nor good nature can set aside, -- when danger threatened the original source of being, illustrating once again that race tendencies are stronger than external party bias.

What more fitting than that an emblem common to all our countries (Colonies and possessions) should be chosen, to be worn in future years to celebrate, not the winning of inglorious battles, but to commemorate the cementing of the ties which bind the daughter-countries to the mother-country.

We suggest a day of Imperial commemoration, and the wearing of some Imperial emblem to the memory of those who fearlessly met death
"In the cyclone of war,"
and worse than death
"In the battle's eclipse" -- 

one day upon which all persons throughout the Empire can sink for the time party jealousies, and unite in a universal celebration of national and noble heroism.

The War.

A YEAR ago, a great hurrah went up for War! The hurrah is over! Patience is now in order. The theatrical pantomime and the music-hall tableaux representing easy victory no longer excite hysterical applause. The gaiety of war has passed. Its holiday aspect has vanished. We have lost precious lives, and tears are flowing. Hundreds and thousands of blighted homes, of widowed and fatherless, of broken-hearted parents, hundreds and thousands of maimed and wounded, hundreds and thousands of suffering and agonized human beings and tortured animals! That is what war means. Let us not forget in dreams of conquest and Empire to count the cost.

The military spirit blazed out fiercely -- even in Fashion's domain, in costume, stationery and ornament. Believing that practically Britain would have a "walk over," a merely picnicing campaign of a few weeks, the country lightly entered into war, without realizing its dread responsibility or even dreaming of the possibility of an awful awakening, and perhaps among all the surprises which were in store for "G.B." none was greater than to find that Kruger would fight. The universal idea was that we were challenged by foemen unworthy our serious consideration. A set of farmers, herds and huntsmen. They were insane, of course, and Goliath-like we would annihilate them at one blow. The sorrowful fortunes of our brave fellows and all the melancholy details of disaster, soon took the edge off the fighting on our side, and one of the most bitter awakenings of the war lies in the miscalculation and mismanagement which seems to have characterized the whole campaign. In every department the same unsatisfactory conditions have prevailed, and the outspoken criticism of Press and public on the blunderings have been general and severe.

Had it not been for General Roberts, who, with a heart still heavy over his son's newly made grave, full of years and honours, responded so nobly to the call of country and Queen, it may be doubted if Great Britain would have so, bravely faced the results of, or recovered from the effects of, so great a humiliation. He it was who, when all Europe stood ready to hiss, and the Continental Press conducted a campaign of unexampled taunt and bitterness, proceeded to repair the British reverses, with an army which betrayed never a tremor of vacillation nor a particle of panic. The Empire, unflinchingly as ever, has proved -- and that in front of uncalculated and undreamed of, although merited, defeats -- that its stalwart qualities remain unimpaired. The difficulty arose from the unsuspected fact that Britain faced a foe as brave, as courageous, as full of resolution and masterful ability as herself.

The war has opened to our admiration, and sealed in noble deaths, deeds of daring and memorable self-sacrifice. Even those who, like ourselves, were not enthusiastic over the war, and who honestly believe that nothing was involved which arbitration could not have settled, cannot resist a thrill of national pride, evoked by the heroism displayed, and although the reverses were such as to bring a silence over the blatant and spurious patriotism of the war blusterers, it is a record to be proud of.
"Still with each day's new birth
     Great deeds are dawning,
Still in the silent earth
     New graves are yawning;
So at the season's call,
     Our tribute giving,
Think we of heroes all,
     Sleeping or living."

Many searchlights will be turned on the public-service offices when the lull comes in and the nation has time to investigate certain issues of the war. If out of the delirium and excitement of this war comes a consistent demand that in future "politics" shall be banished from matters involving the control of our Army and Navy; if the conviction that the Nation's Officialdom must always be administered for the benefit of the people and never for the benefit of the office-holder and his friends; if the carelessness of the persons who robbed our brave soldiers and volunteers of the food and aid and care which was paid for -- but not provided; if War Office scandals are traced and punished, -- if in effect this war teaches us to thwart corruption and to purify our public service, to check the destructive ambition of unscrupulous Ministers, and to denounce as a traitor to cause and country any Englishman, be he high or low, who dares publicly to debase his country's flag to a merely selfish article of commerce, and endeavours to make it out the El Dorado of the Stock Exchange, by such a declaration as "Her Majesty's flag is the world's greatest commercial asset," -- if these things be the outcome, then indeed will good have come out of evil.

The Indian Famine.

THE famine in India is so horrible that the thought of it reduces the pleasure of living. It does not lift the burden for us to remember that famines have occurred in that country with dreadful regularity during the past ages. A few years since it was hoped that pestilence and famine had been brought under the control of science and political economy. Now we are living with the daily consciousness that many millions of our fellow-creatures suffer the pangs of hunger, and that millions have died of starvation. The blame is being distributed among many, with a large margin left to be accounted for by a drought for which at present no one can suggest a remedy. Our Government in India might have done more to provide the water upon which the crops depend. The native princes seem to be hardened by tradition and habit; and those who live close to the soil are too short-sighted and helpless to foresee the evil and avoid it. Meanwhile the awful drought went on, the parched soil yielded no fruit, drinking-water dried up, and millions of lives shrivelled in the fierce heat and perished. At the same time in Africa, in drought and heat and dust-storm, the money that might have gone to the relief of India was used to destroy, in the widespread desolation of war, other lives still more valuable. Yet both war and famine are surely among the preventable evils with which modern society can successfully deal, and with which it will deal in the near future.


A SHUDDER ran through the civilized world at the shocking massacres of Europeans in China. For parallel to these revolting atrocities we must go far back into the pagan days of human passions and brutalities. The fearful events have been a violent shock, and even yet the nerves of the nations are strained to the sharpest tension. No excuse can be offered for the perpetrators of the crimes except that of hellish impulses, which -- engendered by foreign usurpation -- have broken loose among the "Boxer's," a Chinese organization of fanatics. The anti-foreign movement in China has reached such startling proportions that it is a menace to the whole of Europe, The awful possibilities of the semi-feudal organizations of the Chinese Empire are only now confronting those Powers who have hitherto pursued a course of steady aggression into China. This policy of "grab" has stung the Chinese to madness. Germany, England, Russia, France and Japan have each and all followed what is known as the "dismemberment of China Policy," and it is almost certain that had not a check on the parcelling out of the Empire come from China herself, the European symphony of spoliation in the extreme East would soon have degenerated to a discord which would have inevitably led to the clash of arms among the rival powers themselves.

The Opium traffic in China is a long-standing disgrace to Great Britain -- the war by which the degrading drug was forced on the Chinese people at the point of the sword is one of the foulest blots on England's escutcheon. To-day we are reaping the fruits of the seed then sown. We send Bibles to China by one vessel and Opium by another! and not a few have declared that England should apply her missionary efforts at the other end, for surely if recent events in China hold any lesson, it is for those in our country who so shamelessly abused the power which might (and might only) placed in their hands.

Many have wondered why China should form so engrossing a subject for European Chancelleries, but when the extraordinary, the unlimited resources -- mineral, metal and vegetable -- of the territory of China, resources which only await the hand of enterprise and engineering skill to develop, are considered, the anxieties and jealousies of the rival powers are no longer a riddle. The Chinese territory is an element of the gravest importance in civilization.

"The northern provinces of China alone contain deposits of coal that could keep the markets of the world overstocked for hundreds of years. Labour is plentiful, and would consider itself amply compensated at rates that appear ridiculously low to Western eyes. Given brain and capital, the Pei-ho and Hoang-ho Rivers could be turned into great roadways of commerce, carrying down to the sea a practically limitless supply of fuel, to be transported to the centres of Europe.

"China holds the same undoubted preeminence in other articles of supply. The quantity of labour alone that the vast population of China offers to the exploitation of the intelligent foreigner is enough in itself to subvert all existing economic theories, and to place the world in a chaos of disorganization for the time being. When the Europeans shall have completed the process of partition, and infused their own average methods into the enormous festering mass, the world will have to deal ab origine with many problems that are now presumed to be approaching a satisfactory solution, and perhaps with many others that have not yet arisen."

One Injustice Removed.

"MOST adroitly the Queen continued the series of graceful acts which she began in the allowing the wearing by the soldiers of the national emblem. To recompense the valour or her brave Irish regiments she has created a new corps of Guards -- a regiment of Irish Guards. In the country which calls itself United the absence of this name and thing was an anomaly, especially when we consider the proportion of the Irish element in the army."

The Irish Language Movement.

THE revival of our national tongue is a noble impulse and highly to be commended as a patriotic movement. When, however, the Great English Speaking Confederacy is founded, the Irish population of the world will be in it. Let them count on that, and prepare to be proud of it.

This article was originally published in "The Open Window Illustrated - Literary Annual and Year Book of Local Annals" in 1900 which was centred on the Newry area. 

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