It is the 12 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 1819. It was a tense year in many respects, but mainly due to economic and social unrest. The Panic of 1819 became one of the first global financial disasters. The cause of it was primarily the peace between the French and the English, having been at war for centuries. Their most recent wars had benefited American manufacturers and agriculture, as it had become necessary to both the French and English economies. Furthermore, as the United States was expanding westward, the US government allowed people to purchase land on credit.
You’ve heard this tale before. A bump in the market and the houses without solid foundations fail. A result of this economic downturn were the events leading up to the Peterloo Massacre in the northwest of England. Unemployment was high, and a failed harvest exacerbated the plight of the common Englishman. Taxes were being raised, and only 11% of the adult male population could vote.
A rally was planned in Manchester to mobilize dissent and force the government’s hand. Instead, magistrates called on the yeomanry to put down the protest. The first yeomen were able to arrest the primary speaker but, in doing so, knocked over a woman and killed a young child. Protesters were agitated, and the magistrate called upon a military cavalry to disperse the crowd. They entered the group with their sabers drawn, and about a dozen were killed and hundreds injured. The result of all of this was harsher laws passed to minimize showings of public dissent.
1819 wasn’t all bad. It was a year for many firsts. The first steamship crossed the ocean as the SS Savannah travels from Savannah to Liverpool. The first swift walkers were introduced in NYC. These human-powered machines improved travel time and were also called velocipedes, dandy horses, or eventually and more commonly, bicycles.
In 1819 the man who revolutionized steam power, James Watt, died, as did King Kamehameha of Hawaii. Born in 1819 were several luminaries, including the future Queen Victoria, after whom the age would be named. American poet Walt Whitman was born in 1819, as was Herman Melville and Mary Anne Evans, although you probably know her by her pen name, “George Eliot.”
And it was on this, the 12 of June in 1819, that Charles Kingsley Jr. was born. The poet and priest in the Anglican Church would make an impact both on the literary world and the church. Kingsley was born on Dartmoor and grew up in Devon. He was tutored by the son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, attended Kings College, and then prepared for the ministry at Cambridge. He became a curate and later a rector at a Hampshire parish, where he would spend most of the rest of his life.
He was influenced by F.D. Maurice and the new socially conscious Christian crowd. His early writings and sermons reflected his concern for the lower class, all the while serving the church. He also taught history at Cambridge and wrote a book called “Heroes,” a retelling of Greek Mythology for children.
His work “Westward Ho!” became a popular retelling of conflict between Spanish Catholics and English Protestants. It is here that we see Kingsley’s Achilles heel. His hatred of Catholics could take racist overtones when aimed at the Spanish and especially the Irish in England. He got into a spat with the Tractarian and protestant-turned-Catholic John Henry Newman. It was Kingsley’s attack that led to Newman penning his magnum opus “Apologia Vita Sua.”
He was an advocate and inspiration for the muscular Christianity movement of the 19th century. This blending of Christianity with activities and exercise led to such movements as the YMCA and later, the power team.
Kingsley spent his last year touring and speaking, especially in the United States. It was here that he fell ill and cut short his engagements to travel home. And there he died in 1875. Born on this the 12 of June in 1819, poet and priest Charles Kingsley Jr. was 55 years old. The reading for today comes from Kingsley.
See the land, her Easter keeping,
Rises as her Maker rose.
Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
Burst at last from winter snows.
Earth with heaven above rejoices;
Fields and gardens hail the spring;
Shaughs and woodlands ring with voices,
While the wild birds build and sing.
You, to whom your Maker granted
Powers to those sweet birds unknown,
Use the craft by God implanted;
Use the reason not your own.
Here, while heaven and earth rejoices,
Each his Easter tribute bring.
Work of fingers, chant of voices,
Like the birds who build and sing.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 12 of June 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher “the Dandy Horse” 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.