Happy Halloween!

It’s Halloween!  All the build-up, all the ghost stories, it’s finally here!

Last night I took the opportunity to carve my one of the two pumpkins I picked up earlier in the month ($4 a pop!).  He’s the cheeky little guy pictured above, and in the photo collage below (I’m getting fancy with the production values in this post).

His brother was stolen off my front porch Wednesday night.  I’d just gotten in bed and switched off the lights when I heard some tires squealing.  Thinking it was one of my neighbor’s buddies hydroplaning on the wet street, I didn’t think much of it, until my neighbor began shouting for me minutes later!

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On Ghost Stories

Yesterday’s post about Father Robert Morey’s courageous stand for the unborn really took off.  Thank you to readers for sharing the post, and thanks to those of you who left comments.  Please continue to keep Father Bob in your prayers.  —TPP

It’s Halloween!  Well, at least it’s All Hallow’s Eve Eve, but that’s close enough for some ghoulishly delicious ghost stories.

I love a good ghost story.  The Victorians did the genre best, but many writers since have honed it further, adding their own unique twists and scares.  Even Russell Kirk, the great conservative philosopher, was a fan of ghost stories.  Indeed, his bestselling book was a ghost story.

For the Victorians, ghost stories were told at Christmastime.  This timing, while peculiar to modern readers, makes sense intuitively—Christmas is a time for remembering the past, in part (perhaps especially) our honored dead (just ask Washington Irvingif he comes by to haunt you).  The “ghosts” of departed loved ones linger closely during those long, frosty nights.  The inherent nostalgia of Christmas and the winter season—and bundling up next to a crackling fire—sets the perfect mood for ghostly tales.

Nevertheless, what other time of year can beat Halloween for a good tale of witches and werewolves; of monsters and mummies; of ghouls, goblins, and ghosts?

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Warrior for Life

Per yesterday’s post, my intent was to share a spooky ghost story with readers today.  However, some major news broke locally that has important national and spiritual implications.

Father Robert E. Morey, the priest at Saint Anthony’s Catholic Church in Florence, South Carolina, denied former Vice President Joe Biden Communion at the 9 AM Sunday Mass.  Father Morey wrote that “Holy Communion signifies we are one with God, each other and the Church. Our actions should reflect that. Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.”

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Halloween Week!

It’s the week of Halloween!  I love Halloween—it’s second only to Christmas and maybe Thanksgiving for my favorite holiday.  Poor Halloween suffers—as countless others have already noted in casual conversations all month—due to Commercial Christmas’s imperialism, so it doesn’t really get its proper due anymore, but it’s a fun event worth celebrating.

As is typical for Halloween in South Carolina, the crisp, autumnal weather is gone; in its place is uncomfortably warm, sticky mugginess.  As a child, I always dreamed of the spooky, chilly Halloween nights I would read about in books, the kind of night where you really could believe ghosts are tickling your spine, witches are abroad, and skeletons are playing their rib cages as xylophones.

Instead, Halloween in South Carolina is always hot and wet.  As a plump child with glasses, I could never wear a mask for long, as my chubby breathing in the swampy air would fog up my thick glasses, my costume quickly becoming a burdensome chore (mostly for my parents) instead of a joyfully freeing disguise.  It looks like I’ll be treated to lots of back sweat and foggy lenses again this year.

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Lazy Sunday XXXIII: Virtue Signalling

Hard to believe that in sixty-four days, we’ll have reached one year of daily posts here at The Portly Politico.  In that time, I’ve done my fair share of exposing one of my least favorite activities:  self-righteous virtue-signalling.

So, what better way to signal my virtue in exposing virtue-signalling than by feature virtue-signalling for today’s Lazy Sunday?

Without further ado, here are my selfless, virtuous contributions:

  • Self-Righteous Virtue-Signalling Lives On” – This post looked an egregious National Review piece by Nicholas Frankovich in the wake of the Covington Catholic situation.  That seems like a distant memory now, but it was one of my battles in the never-ending culture wars.  The issue was that Frankovich, in his zeal to show to a Left that hates him that conservatives can gang up on themselves, threw innocent children under the bus.  Disgusting.
  • The Leftist Pantheon, Part I: Environmentalism” – This piece looked at Scandinavian eco-troll Greta Thunberg’s environmental apocalyptism.  Thunberg is the victim of environmental education indoctrination, in which everything we do is somehow destructive to Mother Gaia—one of the Left’s many neo-pagan gods and goddesses.
  • Tom Steyer’s Belt” – I love to rant about television commercials.  Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer has a series of them he runs on Hulu, in which he’s wearing a ridiculous belt that makes him look like the old hippie he is.  This dumpy, stoop-shouldered elite tries to jazz up his look with some multiculturalism by wearing a Kenyan belt—sartorial signalling at its worst.
  • The Dirty Pierre” – Mitt Romney is the Establishment Republican King of Virtue-Signalling now that John McCain, the loathsome Arizona Senator and necromancer, is dead.  His “Pierre Delecto” Twitter account, which Romney used to defend himself against online detractors, rather than being a man and doing it as himself, is a despicable, cowardly example of a man who wants the Left to love him.  They never will, Mitt!

That’s it for this week!  It’s a muggy Sunday in South Carolina—typical Halloween weather for us.  D’oh!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: Fall Cleaning; TPP Hits 300!

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

The vicious plague that has swept through my family—and to which I succumbed late Tuesday night—seems finally to have run its wicked course.  After being unable to keep down even water, I am finally getting back to normal thanks to plenty of rest and ginger ale.

Being sick makes me appreciate my health even more.  It also helps me realize how much abuse I put this portly frame through—the bad diet, the long hours, the endless sitting.

But I’m sure all of that hard-won wisdom will dissipate by the end of the weekend, and I’ll be back to eating Wendy’s 4 for $4 meals and staying up too late.  Oh, well—at least today the blog reaches 300 days of posts!

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

The Dirty Pierre

I’m on the mend, and am back at work today.  It’s pretty hectic being away for a couple of days:  I was immediately swarmed by young’uns this morning, asking about melodic intervals and the War of 1812.

If only I had a shadow Twitter account, from which I could give myself an emotional boost whenever I’m having a rough-and-tumble, post-recovery morning.

That’s my clumsy segue into today’s topic—Senator Mitt Romney’s latest pathetic act of perfidy, the Twitter account with the hysterical, outrageous nom de plumePierre Delecto.”

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TBT – #MAGAWeek2018 – John Quincy Adams

Because I was out sick from work yesterday (and will be again today), I needed a way to cover Secretary of State and President John Quincy Adams with one AP United States History class that was slightly behind the others (in part to our strange, rotating schedule).  It occurred to me that I had written nearly 2000 words on the great Secretary of State back in 2018, during the first ever #MAGAWeek.  Why not have the students read that?

So, given my decrepit—but improving!—situation, I thought I’d dedicate today’s TBT to the man who was, perhaps, the greatest Secretary of State in American history—the oft-forgotten, much-maligned John Quincy Adams:

John Quincy Adams

If yesterday’s MAGA Week profile of George Washington was straight from “American History Greatest Hits, Volume I,” today’s selection is like a bootlegged deep-cut from an obscure local musician’s live show.  John Quincy Adams—an American diplomat, Secretary of State, President, and Congressman—deserves better.

US History students of mine for years have recoiled at the dour daguerreotype portrait of our somewhat severe sixth President.  But behind that stern, austere visage churned the  mind of a brilliant, ambitious man—and probably the greatest Secretary of State in American history.  I will be focusing on Adams’s tenure in that position in today’s profile.

An “Era of Good Feeling”

Adams was one of several “all-star” statesmen of the second generation of great Americans.  After the careers of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Quincy’s father, John Adams, a new, youthful cadre of ambitious and talented national leaders took their place at the helm of a nation that was growing and expanding rapidly.  From the ill-fated War of 1812 through the Mexican War, leaders like John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson—the populist odd-man out—forged a national identity and sought to navigate the nation through its early growing pains.

John Quincy Adams was among this group.  After the War of 1812, his father’s old Federalist Party largely died out, both due to the treasonous actions of the so-called “Blue Light” Federalists (who openly sided with the British) and to demographic changes brought about by westward expansion and the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  More Americans were small, yeoman farmers, and the Federalists’ pro-British, pro-industry, pro-commerce platform held little appeal for feisty frontiersman who were suspicious of a strong federal government and the hated Second Bank of the United States, charted in 1816.

As such, the United States entered an “Era of Good Feeling” under President James Monroe, in which one party, the Democratic-Republican Party, remained.  Monroe’s cabinet was a “who’s who” of young, dynamic men, and Adams was his Secretary of State.

Secretary of State

It was in this context that Adams made his most significant contributions to American foreign policy and nationalism.  While serving as Secretary of State, he laid out a vision for America’s future that held throughout the nineteenth century.

In essence, Adams argued that the United States should pursue a realist foreign policy that avoided wars and foreign entanglements; that the nation should not seek a European-style “balance of power” with its Latin American neighbors, but should be exercise hegemonic dominance in the Western Hemisphere; and that the United States should gain such territory as it could diplomatically.

In 1821, Adams famously issued his warning against involvement in foreign wars of liberation.  The context for this warning was the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire, an endeavor that was hugely popular in Europe, particularly in Britain.  Many Americans urged Congress to intervene in the interest of liberty, and for Americans to at least send arms to help in another fledgling nation’s war for independence.

Adams perceptively saw the dangers inherent in the United States involving itself in other nations’ wars, even on the most idealistic of grounds.  To quote Adams at length:

“Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.” (Emphasis added; Source:  https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/jqadams.htm)

If America were to involve itself in open-ended wars of liberation—even once!—it would set a dangerous precedent that the United States would become constantly embroiled in the squabbles of other nations.  No matter how well-meaning, such intervention would commit the nation to a disastrously unlimited policy of nation-building and war.

The Transcontinental Treaty (1819)

Prior to rumblings for intervention in Greece, Adams brokered the purchase of Spanish Florida in a rather amusing fashion.  The hero of the Battle of New Orleans, General Andrew Jackson, pursued a group of Seminole Indians into Florida, violating orders to respect the international border.  In the process, Jackson attacked a fort manned by Seminoles and escaped slaves, killed two British spies, and burned a Spanish settlement.

Instantly, an international crisis seemed imminent.  To a man, President Monroe’s cabinet demanded disciplinary action be taken against General Jackson.  It was Adams—who, ironically, would become Jackson’s bitterest political opponent in 1824 and 1828—argued against any such action, and planned to use Jackson’s boldness to America’s advantage.

With apologies to Britain and Spain, Adams pointed out that, despite the government’s best efforts, Jackson was almost impossible to control, and was apt to invade the peninsula again.  Further, Spanish rule in Florida was increasingly tenuous, due to the various Latin American wars of independence flaring up at the time.  With revolts likely—and facing the prospect of another Jackson invasion—Spain relented, selling the entire territory for a song.

The Oregon Country and the Convention of 1818

Adams was also key in securing the Oregon Country for the United States, although the process was not completed in full until James K. Polk’s presidency, some thirty years later.  The Oregon Country—consisting of the modern States of Washington and Oregon—was prime land for settlement, but the United States and Great Britain both held valid claims to the territory.

Adams realized that the United States could afford to be patient—given America’s massive population growth at the time, and its citizens’ lust for new lands, Adams reasoned that, given enough time, American settlers would quickly outnumber British settlers in the territory.

Sure enough, Adams secured another territory for the United States, albeit in far less dramatic fashion that the acquisition of Florida one year later.

The Monroe Doctrine (1823)

Perhaps Adams’s greatest contribution to the United States was his work on the Monroe Doctrine in 1823.  Once again, Adams’s diplomatic brilliance came into play.

Adams sought to keep the United States out of foreign wars, but he also wanted to keep European powers out of the Western Hemisphere.  As Spain continued to lose its grip on its American colonies, the autocratic nations of Russia, Prussia, and Austria (the Austrian Hapsburg controlled Spain at this time) sought to reestablish monarchical rule in the Western Hemisphere.

President Monroe and Secretary Adams were having none of it—nor was was Great Britain, which enjoyed a brisk trade with the newly-independent republics of Latin America.  To that end, Britain proposed issuing a joint statement to the world, with the effect of committing both nations to keeping the new nations of Latin American independent.

Monroe was excited at the idea, but in his ever-prescient manner, Adams argued for caution.  Were the United States to issue the declaration jointly with Britain, they would appear “as a cockboat in the wake of a British man-o-war.”  It would be better, Adams argued, to issue a statement unilaterally.

The United States had no way, in 1823, to enforce the terms of the resulting Monroe Doctrine, which pushed for three points:  Europe was to cease intervention in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere (non-intervention); Europe was to cease acquiring new colonies in the Western Hemisphere (non-colonization); and the United States would stay out of open-ended entanglements and alliances with Europe (isolation).

However, Adams knew that Britain would enforce the Monroe Doctrine with its mighty navy, even if the United States issued it unilaterally, because it would be in Britain’s national interest to do so.  Sure enough, Adams’s shrewd realism won the day, and, other than France’s brief occupation of Mexico during the American Civil War, European powers never again established colonies in the New World.

After Monroe’s Cabinet

For purposes of space and length, I will forego a lengthy discussion of Adams’s presidency and his tenure in Congress.  He was an ardent nationalist in the sense that he sought an ambitious project of internal improvements—roads, canals, harbors, and lighthouses—to tie the young nation together.  In his Inaugural Address, he called for investment in a national university and a series of observatories, which he called “lighthouses of the sky,” an uncharacteristically dreamy appellation that brought him ire from an already-hostile Congress.

His presidency, too, was marred by the unusual circumstances of his election; Adams is the only president to never win the popular or electoral vote, or to ascend to the position from the vice presidency.  That’s a story worth telling in brief, particularly for political nerds.

The presidential election field of 1824 was a crowded one, and the “Era of Good Feeling” and its one-party dominance were showing signs of sectional tension (indeed, the second system of two parties, the National Republicans—or “Whigs”—and Jackson’s Democratic Party, would evolve by 1828).  There were four candidates for president that year:  Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, Speaker of the House Henry Clay, and Secretary of Treasury William Crawford of Georgia.

Jackson won a plurality of the electoral votes—99—but no candidate had a clear majority.  In this event, the top three candidates are thrown to the House of Representatives, where each State’s delegation votes as one.  Crawford, who finished third, was deathly ill, and was not a suitable candidate, and Henry Clay, in fourth, was not eligible constitutionally.

That left the rabble-rousing Jackson and the austere Adams.  Clay, as Speaker of the House, held immense influence in Congress, and could not stand Jackson, so he threw his support behind Adams, who won the election in Congress.

Apparently losing all the wisdom and prudence of his days at the State Department, Adams foolishly named Clay as his new Secretary of State—an office that, in those days, was perceived as a stepping stone to the presidency.  Jackson supporters immediately cried foul, arguing that it was a “corrupt bargain” in which Clay sold the presidency in exchange for the Cabinet position.

While it appears that Adams sincerely believed Clay was simply the best man for the job, the decision cast a pall over his presidency, and Jackson supporters would gleefully send their man to the Executive Mansion in 1828.

At that point, Adams expected to settle into a quiet retirement, but was elected to represent his congressional district in 1830.  During his time in Congress, he fought against slavery and the infamous “gag rule,” which prevented Congressman from receiving letters from constituents that contained anti-slavery materials.  He was also a vocal opponent of the Mexican War—as was a young Abraham Lincoln during his single term in Congress—and died, somewhat disgracefully, while rising to oppose a measure to honor the veterans of that war.

Regardless, Adams’s career shaped the future of the country, gaining it international prestige and setting it on track to emerge as a mighty nation, stretching from sea to shining sea.  Through his service and genius, Adams made America great—and, physically, in a very literal sense.

Quick References

Sick Hump Day

Last night during my local concert band’s fall concert, I started feeling excessively full.  Chalking it up to the Wendy’s “4 for $4” meal I’d wolfed down beforehand, I didn’t think much of it, but it was not a very pleasant sensation.  I could feel the rockets getting ready to fly during our finale, the good bits from Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

I made it home and made the mad dash for the bathroom.  Without getting too bogged down in the gory details, I had succumbed to a nasty stomach virus that is circulating in my family at the moment.

So today has seen me fighting nausea, painful cramps in my legs, hands, and joints (I think due to dehydration), and the effects of a largely sleepless night.  I managed to get to the grocery store in town and load up on Powerade, ginger ale, chicken noodle soup, and bananas—the ancient home remedy of my people.

Here’s hoping tomorrow sees me on the mend.  I’m still unable to keep down most solids, although I had a banana at lunch.

Back to our regular schedule tomorrow.  Your prayers are appreciated.