It is the 2nd of June, 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1780. As with yesterday's podcast, we will focus today on the British isles. But as was the case then, nothing happened in that empire that didn't affect the rest of the world.
1780 was a year of national and international tension: The American Revolution was in full swing, and 1780 was the year of the Benedict Arnold affair. He was caught and fled to the British. His co-conspirator John Andre was arrested and hanged.
Britain was spread thin—the second Anglo-Mysore war took place between British soldiers and their subjects in India. Furthermore, the 4th Anglo-Dutch Wars took place in 1780—a renewed conflict between the British and Dutch shipping interests in the Atlantic.
Bohemia and Hungary both abolished Serfdom in this year. Political pressures and the fear of revolt caused these eastern European countries to reform.
In Peru, there was a revolt against the Spanish. The following years would be very significant for South American countries declaring their independence from the Iberian empires.
Amidst a world in Tumult, 1780 saw New England's Dark Day. This day was caused by a combination of smoke from forest fires, a thick fog and cloud cover—candles were necessary to light streets at noon—and the darkness didn't pass until the next day. You can imagine that these would spark apocalyptic interpretations and panic.
Born in this year were Carl Von Clausewitz, the Prussian military theorist, and commander who made his mark on the Napoleonic wars and the development of modern warfare. Also born this year, Elizabeth Fry, the Quaker, humanitarian and so-called "Angel of Prisons" known for her work amongst the poor and imprisoned. Born in 1780 was Lucy Barnes, author of the controversial "The Female Christian."
It was the century of Opera, the 18th century. This year, Mozart was commissioned by the Elector of Bavaria to compose the music to the opera "Idomeneo," the famous story about the King of Ancient Crete.
In 1780 John Wesley, the Methodist minister, wrote his "Reflections on the Rise and Progress of the American Rebellion." The famous orator and preacher condemned the American revolution as, among other things, hypocritical. The colonists said that they were being enslaved, but owned slaves themselves: good burn, Wesley, good burn.
But the revolutions were not limited to the British colonies. And it was on this day, the 2nd of June in 1780, that the Gordon Riots began. They were possibly the closest Britain came to having a revolution of its own. These riots were based on old antagonisms rooted in the Reformation.
The riots began with the 1778 Catholic Relief Act. This act undid the anti-catholic laws from the previous century. While many of the discriminatory aspects of the old laws were no longer enforced, they did still require any British soldier to swear allegiance to the church of England. Of course, as we saw in this year alone, the British empire was fighting at least three different wars. It could use more soldiers, especially those Scottish highlanders and Irish Catholics, who would have many reasons never to swear allegiance to the Anglican church.
29-year-old Lord George Gordon led some 40,000 Britons to the Parliament to present a petition to repeal the new tax laws. When Parliament refused, a protest turned to a riot, and soon Catholic chapels and the property of prominent Catholics were burned. The anti-Catholic riots soon attracted many of the disaffected in British culture who had other grievances. Other religious minorities such as Millenarians and Levelers took to the streets as did those opposed to economic reform.
It is estimated that the riots destroyed more property that the French Revolution and would have long-lasting impacts on British society. Coming out of the riots, many came to believe that a more durable monarchy was preferable to social anarchy. A full tine police force was created to quell protests in the future. And the debate societies that could foment unrest were closed.
The Gordon Riots and their aftermath would have an incredible political impact and lead to significant reform in the relationship between the church and Parliament. The Glorious Revolution and the transfer of the crown to German hands, the various king "George's," would lead to more religious leeway in the country. Only some members of Parliament carried the old anti-papal political sentiment. That old sentiment had its last gasp—and a heck of a big one at that—on this day in 1780 when the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots broke out in England.
The reading for today comes from American poet Sidney Lanier, "A Ballad of Trees and their Master," a poem about Christ going to pray at the Mount of Olives and then taking his final steps to the cross and the resurrection.
Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent.
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to Him;
The little gray leaves were kind to Him
The thorn-tree had a mind to Him
When into the woods He came.
Out of the woods my Master went,
And He was well content.
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When Death and Shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last:
It was on a tree they slew Him—last,
When out of the woods He came.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 2nd of June 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by the bassist for the death metal band "Angel of Prisons, "Christopher Gillespie." The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day—and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.
This show was produced by Christopher Gillespie (gillespie.media).