Sep. 22, 1998


by Wendell Berry


Today's Reading: "VII" by Wendell Berry from A TIMBERED CHOIR, published by Counterpoint (1998).

It's the birthday in Worcestershire, England, 1933, of novelist FAY WELDON, author of Down Among Women (1971) and Female Friends (1975) and other books.

It's sociologist DAVID RIESMAN's birthday, 1909, Philadelphia, author of The Lonely Crowd, which came out in 1950, a book about the urban middle class in which he wrote: "The idea that men are created free and equal is both true and misleading: men are created different; they lose their social freedom and their individual autonomy in seeking to become like each other."

It was on this day in 1862 that PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN issued the EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION, ordering all Confederate slaves freed. This was five days after the battle of Antietam and Lincoln issued the Proclamation more for its strategic benefit than out of humanitarian concern. The Confederate states were hoping that England and France would enter the war on their side, and free up the blockaded market for Southern cotton. The Proclamation turned the Civil War into a moral cause — freedom for all people — not just the North trying to reign in the South. So England and France stayed out of the war, and blacks volunteered by the hundreds of thousands to fight in the Union army.

It was on this day in 1827 that JOSEPH SMITH, the 22-year-old son of a poor New England farmer, announced that he had received golden plates from an angel, plates he claimed to then translate into the Book of Mormon. Smith published his translation in 1830, and the Book of Mormon is taken as scripture, along with the Bible, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It tells the story of a group of Hebrews who migrated from Jerusalem to America about 600 BC, led by the prophet, Lehi.

It's the birthday of MICHAEL FARADAY, the pioneer electrical researcher, born just outside London in 1791. He had little more than a grade-school education, and when he was 14 years old was apprenticed to a bookbinder. He took more interest in reading the pages than binding them, and one article for Encyclopedia Britannica particularly caught his eye, the one on electricity. He learned all he could about it, lost his apprenticeship, then went on to study science in London. By the 1830s he was known as one of Europe's leading scientists. He discovered the principle of the electric motor, coined the words cathode, anode, ion, and discovered benzene.

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