It is the 14 of July 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1791.
It was the year that both Mozart and John Wesley died. Both men represented aspects of the 18th century and would leave their marks in the fields of music and theology, respectively. Wesley lived to 87 years old. However, Mozart died at the age of 35. He was working on his "Requiem" and had just conducted the debut performance of "The Magic Flute."
A few men were born in 1791 who would have an outsized influence on the next century. 1791 saw the births of Samuel Morse, Charles Babbage, and Michael Faraday. Morse would revolutionize communication. Babbage laid the groundwork for the first computing machine. And Faraday set the stage for the use of electricity in everyday life.
In 1791, the American Bill of Rights was ratified. James Madison initially wrote 19 amendments, he then whittled that down to 12, and 10 were finally ratified this year. The would-be 11th amendment had to do with apportionment in the House of Representatives. The amendment was designed to make sure that smaller communities continued to be represented even as the population grew. The 12th amendment was to ensure that Congress couldn't give itself a raise. Both were rejected, but the would-be 12th amendment was never officially closed. In 1982, it was a student, Gregory Watson, who pointed this out in a school research paper. Shocked to realize that Watson was correct, the requisite number of state legislatures passed the amendment, and in 1992 it became the 27th amendment.
In 1791, Thomas Paine, author of "Common Sense," published the first volume of his "The Rights of Man." This book influenced by the American and French Revolutions called for political rights and their concomitant social rights. Paine laid the groundwork for public education and general economic welfare as necessary to combat oligarchy.
"The Life of Samuel Johnson" was first published in 1791. The work, written by Johnson's friend Boswell, is considered a landmark in the history of biography. It was exceedingly popular and well-received. It has been a mine of famous quotes, including:
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money," "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel," and "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
And it was in the context of Johnson's England, with revolutions to its east and west, that religious and political strife continued in the British Isles. While theological issues weren't debated as robustly as they once had, the political implications of one's confession became a cause for partisanship. It was on this, the 14 of July in 1791, that the famous Priestley Riots broke out in England.
They are called the Priestley Riots but on account of a dissenting pastor named Joseph Priestley. Priestley had been an opponent of Edmund Burke, that famous (or infamous) critic of revolution. Burke warned that the mixture of dissenting religion and political liberties would lead to chaos. Priestley wrote in a pamphlet of "laying gunpowder under the old building of error." While this was a metaphor of dubious quality, some in the Anglican establishment took it as a threat and attacked Priestley and his followers as they were celebrating the second anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. The riot was spurred on by those who thought that Minister Priestley's dissenting religious and political views would lead to unrest. Only four of these establishment hooligans were convicted. Priestley would be burned in effigy across the country by faithful English folk, as part of a triumvirate with Thomas Paine and Guy Fawkes. The riots which took his name, despite them being aimed at him, started on this the 14 of July in 1791.
The reading for today comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a student at the time of the Riots who would later memorialize Joseph Priestley. This is one we've heard before, Coleridge's "My Baptismal Birthday," in honor of my two sons who just celebrated theirs.
God's child in Christ adopted, — Christ my all, —
What that earth boasts were not lost cheaply, rather
Than forfeit that blest name, by which I call
The Holy One, the Almighty God, my Father? —
Father! in Christ we live, and Christ in Thee —
Eternal Thou, and everlasting we.
The heir of heaven, henceforth I fear not death:
In Christ I live! in Christ I draw the breath
Of the true life! — Let then earth, sea, and sky
Make war against me! On my heart I show
Their mighty master's seal. In vain they try
To end my life, that can but end its woe. —
Is that a death-bed where a Christian lies? —
Yes! but not his — 'tis Death itself there dies.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 14 of July 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a staunch defender of the 3rd Amendment, Christopher Gillespie. (If you are a soldier, don't even try and live in his house for free.) 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.