Daily Archives: 3 December 2013

December 3, 1831 (a Saturday)

HMS Beagle

On this date, Charles Darwin was in Plymouth, England and started sleeping onboard HMS Beagle, believing that its departure was imminent. This evening, in a letter to his friend and mentor, Professor J.S. Henslow, he wrote:

My dear Henslow, 

It is now late in the evening, and to-night I am going to sleep on board. On Monday we most certainly sail, so you may guess in what a desperate state of confusion we are all in. If you were to hear the various exclamations of the officers, you would suppose we had scarcely had a week’s notice. I am just in the same way taken all aback, and in such a bustle I hardly know what to do. The number of things to be done is infinite. I look forward to sea-sickness with something like satisfaction, anything must be better than this state of anxiety…

Darwin was given quarters in the chart room, one deck above Captain FitzRoy’s quarters, at the stern of the ship. The chart room was nine feet by eleven feet and had five feet of generous headroom. The walls were lined with bookshelves, cabinets, an oven and a wash stand. To make matters worse, the mizzenmast came up through the floor and a large four foot by six foot chart table sat in the middle of the room. In all, there was about six feet by eight feet of space to work in. Darwin lived in this room, on and off, for nearly five years. However, the Beagle did not sail on Monday as the ship expected.

References:

  • Charles Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin: Including an Autobiographical Chapter. Edited by his son. Volume I. [unabridged facsimile of the 1897 edition] (Boston, MA: Adamant Media Corp., 2000) 189.
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December 3, 1861 (a Tuesday)

Today’s Republicans, the so-called party of Lincoln, in their anti-government zealotry — conscious of their patrician backers — have strayed far from the ideals of Lincoln, whom they would like to claim as one of their own.

Over 150 years ago, in his first State of the Union address on 3 December 1861, Republican President Abraham Lincoln warned of “the approach of returning despotism” which he described as “the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government.” He then stated his clear belief in the supremacy of the people:

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

He next described the state of relations between labor and capital in the entire U.S. (not just the rebellious South) ending with this summary of what was then the American reality:

The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress and improvement of condition to all.

Then Lincoln wrapped it all up with this warning to hard-working Americans:

No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty; none less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which if surrendered will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them till all of liberty shall be lost.

Clearly this surrender of political power is already largely in place.