Daniel Isaac Eaton, Thomas Paine’s publisher, accused of blasphemy

The prosecution mounted a brilliant case against Thomas Paine’s publisher. The first witness the attorney General called was Henry Ben Raven, who, as stated earlier, had purchased a copy of Thomas Paine’s book from Daniel Isaac Eaton’s shop. Continue reading Daniel Isaac Eaton, Thomas Paine’s publisher, accused of blasphemy

The Ghost of Thomas Paine haunts the Church of England

Portrait of Thomas Paine in front of booksWhen Richard Dawkins recently claimed that Christians were “not really Christian at all”, he wasn’t breaking new ground.

Over 200 years ago, Thomas Paine, that oft-quoted American patriot, wrote a pamphlet that said basically the same thing.

Continue reading The Ghost of Thomas Paine haunts the Church of England

Then she stole the sailor’s heart

Pillory, whipping post and stocks Wallingford, Berkshire;  sketch
Pillory, whipping post and stocks; based on a drawing by Llewellynn Jewitt

Jeffery Hart Bent was not a very forgiving man.  Jeffery once passed a toll that he thought he shouldn’t have to pay. When they asked Jeffery for the fare, he rammed through the gate, breaking it, and continued on his way, leaving the broken booth behind him.

When called to Australia’s Supreme Court, Jeffery didn’t seem to see the condemned man as having many more rights than the broken tollbooth.  The court was a man short when a squeaky clean English solicitor named Garling was held up at sea on his way to New South Wales, captured by an American ship. Only, they weren’t a short, as there were convicts who had served their time and were eligible to serve in the court. Jeffery Hart Bent, however, would not consider it, and he held in contempt any of his advisors who would.

Judge Bent had heard many stories from his little brother Ellis, no doubt, but nothing could prepare him for the sea voyage he was about to make. Continue reading Then she stole the sailor’s heart

The fate of Captain Rowland and his privateer brig Holkar

Stranded on her tropical island, it’s likely that Susannah Lalliment didn’t know or care what happened to her would be rescuers turned deserters, Captain Rowland and his Holkar privateer.

To the British navy and merchant marine, however, the brig Holkar was a menace.

Slowed only by the captured ships and other prizes they had to sell, Captain Rowland and his crew turned back home to turn in his prizes. The Emu was taken to New York, and other prizes to other ports.

Continue reading The fate of Captain Rowland and his privateer brig Holkar

Susannah Lalliment meets the American pirates

Despite her conviction, Susannah Lalliment was lucky. The far off colonies of the Empire had too few loyal subjects, and the parliament had an idea of how to get more people there. Susannah’s death sentence was commuted to banishment, life on the other side of the world. Continue reading Susannah Lalliment meets the American pirates

Sentenced to death over a ten pound bank note

A gun pointed at the queen on a ten pound noteSusanna Lalliment didn’t know how to spell her own name.   She was said to be descended from French Huguenot refugees, but she seemed to speak English well enough.

The Lalliments were skilled lace makers in Nottingham. The lace business in Nottingham, however, was changing.  New technology put many traditional craftsmen out of work.

Perhaps being descended from immigrants contributed to workforce mobility.  Susannah and her father moved to London; and that’s where all the trouble started. Continue reading Sentenced to death over a ten pound bank note

When Tecumseh made the Mississippi flow backwards

Here the Earth, river, &c torn with furious convulsions, opens in huge trenches, whose deep jaws are instantaneously closed; there throws a thousand vents sulfurous streams gushed from its very bowels, leaving a vast and almost unfathomable caverns. – William Leigh Pierce, eyewitness

1812 was a year of science.  The discovery of dinosaurs, the electric battery, iodine and many other marvels firmly placed the year within the “Age of Reason.”

Portrait of Tecumseh
Tecumseh, from John Frost's Illustrated Historical Sketches of the Indians

At the same time, new “superstitions” were developing.  One of these was helped by three of the most powerful earthquakes America had ever known.  Some scientists fear such earthquakes could come again, and this time, the devastation could be much greater. Continue reading When Tecumseh made the Mississippi flow backwards

The Empire’s New Talent

French Actor and Actress Dancing
French Theatrical, by Louis, from two old prints

From Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branaugh, to a portrayal of former Prime Minister Margaret “Maggie” Thatcher, you’ll see the British flag waving down the aisle at this year’s academy Awards.  Again.  Yet again.

One starts to wonder if the Americans have a “sense of inferiority” when it comes to the dramatic arts. If so, from whence does this pathetic inferiority complex come?  Let’s start in the month of April, 1812. Continue reading The Empire’s New Talent

1812, When Big Banks Could Go Bankrupt

2nd of January, 1812. London was the world’s financial capital, and “Boldero and Lushington” were one of the biggest and best known financial firms in 19th century London.

Photograph of two winged statues joining hands at an angle on top of the National Audit Office in London
National audit Office, London, photographed by the author February 2011

The firm started in 1738, under the name of “Thomas Miners.” In 1742, when Charles Boldero joined the firm, it became “Miners and Boldero.”  As the Boldero family’s influence in the firm increased, so did both their fortunes.

So it was a huge surprise when, on January 2nd 1812, Boldero, Lusington, Boldero and co. stopped making payments. Continue reading 1812, When Big Banks Could Go Bankrupt