Tuesday, February 28, 2012

And now for something completely different—the 17th century leg bomb

© Christy K. Robinson
There's nothing new under the sun! 2012 and 1630.
My contribution to the leg-bomb fad.
Look below for The English Gentleman's original image.

Since the Academy Awards presenter, Angelina Jolie, struck a pose with her leg extended from the slit in her designer gown on 26 February, social media are experiencing a “leg bomb.” People are photoshopping Jolie’s bare leg onto Whistler’s Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, the Statue of Liberty, Darth Vader, and many other images, and posting them to Twitter, Buzzfeed, Pinterest, and like sites. And now, I've joined the fad!

This sort of pose was very common in the 17th century, albeit the pictures were of men. (The pose was too provocative for female models, even nudes, to strike. Women did not show the inside of their knees or thighs.) However, the male aristocrats and royalty who could afford to have portraits made, seem to have spiked the “leg-bomb” during the 1600s. Charles II of England (1630-1685), often “made a leg” in his portraits, but he wasn’t the first. Check out the images below:

1628--James Hay (Lord Carlisle),
made Lord Proprietor
of Barbados by King Charles I

A Puritan Family, 17th-century woodcut


Louis XIV of France, making a leg

 
The Tric-Trac Players
by Mathieu Le Nain


Charles II of England

 
I like the look of consternation on the lion,
hoping that the angel doesn't lose his scarf in the breeze.


Charles II of England







Charles II of England



Charles II of England






































































The English Gentleman,
a men's fashion circular, 1630.


Link to the The Sun with several funny Jolie leg images: http://bit.ly/xEQjMx 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

William Dyer, FIRST attorney general in America

Engaged for the people, by the people, or in the peoples' name

© 2012 Christy K. Robinson

         William Dyer, the son of a yeoman farmer from a village near Boston, Lincolnshire, was apprenticed as a haberdasher in London, where his guild brothers often became mayors, councilmen, or government officers. After his emigration to New England in 1635, he held a succession of appointments as surveyor, clerk, Secretary of State, and General Recorder, and was appointed the first Attorney General of Rhode Island in 1650. But as I discovered, Dyer was also the first Attorney General of any colony in North America! And wait until you read his commission. It’s brilliant. It will make you long for a return to that ideal of government today!
In 1628, the founders of Massachusetts Bay Colony followed the lead of the Plymouth Colony, and obtained a royal charter to form a community that was self-governed but answerable to the King, Parliament, and laws of England. The Massachusetts Bay Company purchased a huge tract of wilderness that was later subdivided to become part of New Hampshire and Connecticut.
In late 1637, a large group of religious dissidents in the Boston area, including Anne and William Hutchinson, and William and Mary Dyer, were given the choice of submitting to the Massachusetts Bay theocracy, or being banished. They may have been planning to leave anyway, but the expulsion of Anne Hutchinson for heresy certainly hurried their departure. While she was under house arrest in the winter of 1637-38, the men were searching for and purchasing land from the Narragansett Indians, for what would become the Colony of Providence Plantations and Rhode Island.
The group may have sent their belongings by ship around Cape Cod, but some of them walked out of Boston and through the Indian trails of the forest in hip-deep snow, near the time of Passover and Easter. They walked 44 miles in what must have been an impressive Exodus from Egypt.
Upon their arrival, they immediately began building a town at the top of Rhode Island, later called Portsmouth. And a year later, a group of them moved to build a town and harbor called Newport. William and Mary Dyer were co-founders.
click to enlarge
They formed the first democracy in America—and a secular one at that— (Massachusetts governors John Winthrop and Thomas Dudley were disdainful of democracy), and obtained their own charter from the English government in 1643, after Massachusetts Bay’s Gov. Winthrop implied that Rhode Island would be annexed to Massachusetts, thus bringing the heretics back under his control.
In May 1650, the General Assembly, meeting in Newport, created the offices of Attorney General and Solicitor General. William Dyer and Hugh Bewitt/Buit, respectively, were immediately engaged.
Notice the wording in the order and commission for Attorney General below, that he was “Engaged for the people, by, or in the peoples name…”  Does that sound familiar, like, say, the Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, when he said that “Government by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”? 
You won't see many “one people” or “We the People” empowering statements until 1776, in the Declaration of Independence, or 1787, when the United States Constitution was written. But Rhode Island was there in 1650, advocating for us—the People.
How wise and creative and brilliant were those Rhode Island founders?! Huzzah!

This office of Attorney General was not created for the use of oligarchs, or "the cutthroat of prosperitie" and commerce, or for preferment of the representatives and executive officers (feel free to contrast with modern government). It was for the interests of the people—of any background or social structure or financial status.  

The. Free. People. 

         The job description promised protection from criminals, and from officers of the state. These assemblymen were not creating laws to cover their behinds, they were creating laws for transparency and accountability. It’s mind-boggling, contrasting what the United States (and its allies) have come to over the last few decades.

Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, p. 220 and 225:
Acts and Orders made at the Generall Courte of Election held at Newport, May the 23d, (1650), for the Colonie of Providence Plantations.


It is ordered by this Courte, to apoynt an Atturney Generall for the Colonie, as also a Solicitor. That the Atturney Generall shall have full power to impleade any transgression of the lawe of this State in any Courte of this State; but especially to bringe all such matters of penal lawes to tryall of the Generall Courte of Tryalls, as also for the tryall of the officers in the State at the Generall Assemblies, and to impleade in the full power and authoritie of the free people of this State, their prerogatives and liberties; and because envy, the cut throat of all prosperitie will not faile to gallop with its full careere, let the sayed Atturney be faithfully ingaged and authorized and encouraged. Engaged for the people, by, or in the peoples name, and with their full authoritie assisted; authorized, that upon information of transgressions or transgressors of the lawes, prerogatives and liberties of the people, and their penal lawes, he shall under hand and seale take forth summons from the President or Generall Assistants, to command any delinquent, or vehemently suspected of delinquencie in what kind soever accordinge to the premises, to appeare at the Generall Courte, if it be thereto belonginge, or to the Generall Assemblie in those matters proper thereunto; and if any refuse to apeare at that mandamus in the State of England’s name and the free people of this State, he shall be judged guiltie; and so proceeded with according to fine or penaltie.

Mr. William Dyre is deputed Generall Atturney for the Colonie, and ingaged. 
First Attorneys-General of colonial/east-coast America
Year instituted
Colony/east coast of America
First attorney general
1650
Rhode Island
William Dyer
1677
North Carolina
George Durant
1684
New York
crown appointee
1686
Pennsylvania
David Lloyd
1686
Massachusetts
Benjamin Bullivant
1686
western New Jersey
??
1688
Maryland
Charles Carroll
1698
South Carolina
Nicholas Trott
1704
Vermont
Alexander Griffith
1712
Virginia
Sir John Randolph (deputy AG)
1754
Georgia
William Clifton
1778
Delaware
Gunning Bedford, Jr.
1785
New Hampshire
Samuel Livermore
1820
Maine
Erastus Foote
1897
Connecticut
Charles Phelps

The most famous segment of Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Gettysburg Address:
"government of the people, by the people, for the people."

Note the similarity to the 1650 commission to the office of Rhode Island attorney general:
"engaged for the people, by, or in the peoples' name."
Christy K Robinson has written a trilogy (two historical novels based in fact, and a nonfiction book) on Mary and William Dyer. Traditionally, Mary Dyer, who is known for giving her life in the cause of religious liberty, gets all the attention because Quaker historians used her story for political and evangelization purposes. Because he never became a Quaker, William Dyer’s history has been much more difficult to tease out of archives and records in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and the British Library. But this English farmer's son was a foundation stone of American democracy.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Slanderers: “worser than dead flies”

© Christy K. Robinson

I was googling some background detail for the novel I wrote on William and Mary Barrett Dyer, when I landed on a Wikipedia page for Rhode Island’s attorneys general. It wasn’t the page I needed, but out of affection for my 12th-generation ancestor, I stopped for a moment to read William Dyer’s worthy name—which wasn’t there! It had been replaced with a dirty word.

Many historians and genealogists are understandably leery of Wikipedia because it can be edited by anyone with a free account. While Wikipedia has fantastic resources (I like to look up the references at the bottom of articles), mistakes are also perpetuated there. Students using Wiki as a primary source repeat the mistakes and myths in their papers. Teachers sometimes make the mistake of going there for an easy explanation to complex questions. Hobby genealogists, not knowing differently, accept those words as gospel—and suddenly, it's a source in Ancestry! Some of my author colleagues have given up trying to correct errors after having their articles or sections re-edited by passionate but clueless Wiki account holders who have read something in a novel that seems to make sense, then have changed the Wikipedia page to reflect the fiction. They get into editing wars* about their favorite historical figures. This drives the historians and researchers crazy!

 I asked a friend in Facebook's history group to help repair the calumny—a slander!—perpetrated on the good name of William Dyer. He was the Rhode Island colony’s first attorney general, for two terms from May 1650 until 1652. On the Wiki page, instead of his name and city being at the top of the list of attorneys general of Rhode Island, I found this:
Attorney General under the Patent of 1643
William Sackmuncher, of Down Under
May 1650 - 1651

What? Excuse me? If you understand urban slang, that’s a terrible thing to say about anyone. It’s slander. Some vandal with a juvenile sense of humor slandered a remarkable man who was buried in 1677. If someone had said that about William Dyer in his time, the liar would have been heavily fined for the act itself and assessed any damages incurred, and imprisoned for rebellion against an officer of the court.

The Wikipedia page is repaired thanks to friends with Wiki coding skills, and now it hyperlinks to the William Dyer biography page. Let’s hope vandals don’t get an email notification that their graffiti has been edited.

This is the statute enacted when William Dyer was the first Secretary and General Recorder for Rhode Island, prior to his terms as Attorney General. He actually was responsible for transcribing the law (quill and ink on parchment) and filing it in a box with four locks (keys kept in the four main towns of Rhode Island), in a room to which he had a key.

Made and agreed upon at the Generall Court of Election, held at Portsmouth, in Rhode Island, the 19, 20, 21 of May, Anno. 1647, for the Colonie and province of Providence.

Slaunder.
Forasmuch as a good name is better than precious ointment [Ecclesiastes 7:1], and Slaunderers are worser than dead flies to corrupt and alter the savour thereof [Ecclesiastes 10:1], it is agreed, by this present Assembly, to prohibitt the raysing or spreading of false reports, Slaunderers and Libells throwout the whole Colonie; and we further declare that the partie offended or grieved by such False reports, Slaunders, and Libells as hereafter followeth, may bring his action of slaunder against the reporter and speaker thereof, in case upon demand he reaveale not the author, but if revealed, then against the Author, and shall recover sufficient damages. The cases actionable are these; for a man to say eyther by word or writing, and yet not able to prove it, that another is a Traytor, a Felon ["sackmunching," which would have been considered a homosexual activity at that time, carried a death penalty with no appeal], a Thiefe, a Cutt-purse, or hath stole something; a perjured person, or hath forsworn himselfe in any man’s case; a Bankrupt, a Cheater, or one that lives by cheating; to call and be not able to prove it, an unmarried woman a whore; a young man unmarried, a whoremaster; to say a young man keepeth a House of Bawdery; or that a Tradesman maketh nothing but bad wares; or that a Merchant or shop-keeper hath nothing but rotten, bad and unsound wares in his house or shopp, or to speak any thing in the disparagement of a Man’s goods that he putts to sale whereby he may be damnified.
In May 1666, William Dyer, former attorney general and solicitor general, sued former Gov. William Coddington, his neighbor, for killing one of his mares, and lost the suit. Then he sued Coddington for "uttering words of contumacy" (stubborn refusal to obey or comply with authority, especially a court order or summons) and lost again.

Win or lose, words matter.


___________________
*Speaking of editing wars, one segment of American politics has decided that news and information that is in disagreement with their own agenda and ideology has created an online encyclopedia for historical revisionists called Conservapedia. They play content-editing war games in Wikipedia. 
_________________________ 
William Dyer's letter to the
General Court of Massachusetts
Bay Colony.

Christy K Robinson is author of two biographical novels on William and Mary Dyer, and a collection of her nonfiction research on the Dyers. In 1660, Mary Dyer was hanged for her civil disobedience over religious freedom, and her husband’s and friends’ efforts in that human right became a model for the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights 130 years later. The books (and Kindle versions) are available on Amazon.

And if you'd like to own or give an art-quality print of Mary Dyer's or William Dyer's handwriting, their letters to the General Court of Massachusetts, CLICK HERE