Monday, February 20, 2012

President's Day


On President’s Day in the States, we think more of Presidents Washington and Lincoln than others.  President’s Day is effectively George Washington’s birthday (February 22nd), recognized officially (Federally), on the third Monday of February.  This year, the date is February 20th.  Lincoln’s birthday is February 12th.  Until 1971, that meant two February holidays for many of us.  Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is still recognized in several states, including those in the Tri-State region of NY, NJ, and CT. 

Walter Scott refers to another US President, James Madison, in a letter he writes to Irish barrister Matthew Weld Hartstonge.  Scott refers to Madison at a time when America had become directly relevant to issues that were of immediate importance to Scott.  The War of 1812 was raging, and Napoleon had just abdicated as emperor, with the Bourbons restored in France.

‘TO MATTHEW WELD HARTSTONGE

ABBOTSFORD 12th April 1814

MY DEAR SIR,. . . Swift after all is not quite finished, but very very nearly so-it is astonishing what a number of things are necessary to finish a work, which one never thinks of till they are getting it out of their hands, and to say the truth, the current of good news with the uncertainty which preceded it, has for some weeks so agitated and so stirred me, that Quidnunc the Upholsterer in the Farce, would have been as fit for an Editor- My own eyes have seen that which I had scarcely hoped my Son's should see, the downfall of the most accursed and relentless military despotism that ever wasted the blood and curbed the faculties of a civilized people.-I should have as soon expected the blade of a sword to bear a crop of corn, on its polished and hardened side, as any good or liberal institution to flow from Bonaparte. If he survives the ruin he has created, and it is strange he should even wish to survive it-it will be no slight proof of the Civilization of our age, which does not follow with private revenge even the most atrocious criminal. I should wish him to survive to teach a school in America, or to help President Maddison to discipline his Continental Warriors -I have a notion the said President is in danger of getting what the Blackguards call a proper hiding. The moderation of the Allied Princes has something peculiarly graceful in it-and gives much lustre by the contrast between lawful rule, and right supremacy, compared to military usurpation-. But I will not enlarge upon this topic, though it has been so near my heart for so many weeks-the joy in Edinr. is immeasurable-The mob always strong upon the stronger side, fell upon some grotesque modes of marking the dwellings of those who were considered as Friends to Bonny. One man's door they painted with tears like a hearse- …’

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