Friday, February 20, 2015

The Articles of War and Royal Navy Court Martial

Currently I am reading a wonderful book, Under Enemy Colors, by S. Thomas Russell. A novel about a British maritime mutiny set against a backdrop of the French Revolution.  I won't give away any of the story, but the principal character, who is a person of honor, has his honor questioned, and must attend a court martial of his captain that threatens ruin. I looked into the court martial, and find the following:

In the 18th Century, naval officers of the British Royal Navy, kept order on their ships by use of the Articles of War, established in the 1650's, amended in 1749 by an act of Parliament, and again in 1757. There are 35 Articles that govern behavior, and establish discipline, rules of conduct and the penalties for trespassing them. They are extremely serious, almost a holy writ, and so, many a Sunday, what was read out to the crew instead of a religious sermon, were the dreaded Articles.

These Articles served as the law aboard His Majesty's ships, and offences were dealt with swiftly, especially for the ordinary seaman, including floggings, clapping men in irons and sending them below decks to a small "prison", shootings or hangings on deck. But where the behavior of officers came into questions, they were given the benefit of a trial, or court martial. There were court martials, or military tribunals, for ships destroyed, loss of command by mutineers, refusing to fight when duty called, refusing to take a prize (boarding an enemy ship and taking control), for instance.  

The court martial is the name of the institution, but also the process, with a court of naval officers appointed by a commander to try offences under military law. Here's a case for you: the 1757 court-martial of Admiral Byng.  Sent on the relief of Minorca without what he claimed were sufficient forces, he finally gave up the attempt.  Found guilty of neglect of duty, he was taken to his ship and publicly and promptly executed (by shooting) on the quarterdeck of his own  ship in Portsmouth Harbor.   Following that event, probably few English captains felt it proper to give up a ship without the death of much of the crew!

Here also are a couple of the Articles, that give indication of how serious things could get:

- Every person in the fleet, who shall not duly observe the orders of the admiral, flag officer, commander of any squadron or division, or other his superior officer, for assailing, joining battle with, or making defense against any fleet, squadron, or ship, or shall not obey the orders of his superior officer as aforesaid in the time of action, to the best of his power, or shall not use all possible endeavours to put the same effectually into execution, every person so offending, and being convicted thereof by the sentence of the court martial, shall suffer death, or such other punishment, as from the nature and degree of the offence a court martial shall deem him to deserve.            

- Every person in the fleet, who through cowardice, negligence, or disaffection, shall in time of action withdraw or keep back, or not come into the fight or engagement, or shall not do his utmost to take or destroy every ship which it shall be his duty to engage, and to assist and relieve all and every of His Majesty's ships, or those of his allies, which it shall be his duty to assist and relieve, every such person so offending, and being convicted thereof by the sentence of a court martial, shall suffer death.

- Every person in the fleet, who though cowardice, negligence, or disaffection, shall forbear to pursue the chase of any enemy, pirate or rebel, beaten or flying; or shall not relieve or assist a known friend in view to the utmost of his power; being convicted of any such offense by the sentence of a court martial, shall suffer death. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

My 2nd Annual Regency Ball!

It occurred to me that I have not had the opportunity to tell you about my attendance at the annual Regency Ball in Pasadena, California. Of course, part of the fun is the sewing up of an outfit to wear, and then learning the particular dance steps to English Country dances. The ball is better known as the Jane Austen Evening, and it is just one of this type of ventures into the world of Austen's literary works. You step back into time, with your outfit, the music played by an authentic chamber ensemble, the punch bowl, the fans fluttering, the dance card, and the general ambiance. People take these events rather seriously, but if you make a dance-step error, most people are not tremendously offended. There are some snobs, but most people go to have fun, to pretend they are Mr. Darcy, or Elizabeth Bennett (no matter what their age).

Last year was my first time out, and I made a traditional "Austen"-type empire gown. This year, I paid homage to Admiral Lord Nelson, by sewing up a Spencer jacket that had a military, or rather, Royal Navy, feel to it. I enjoyed making it, though now that I completed it and wore it, I see I could have done more. Isn't that always the way?! Nevertheless, it was fun to be there again, and I look forward to the chance to sew again, to design and embellish another Regency ensemble.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd mention a bit about the English Royal Navy uniform from that period. Of course, the officers wore the blue frock wool coat, with various degrees of gold braiding and buttons, depending on rank. There was the white shirt with neck tie, white vest and breeches. White hose, and black plain pumps. I wore my black flats, too, as you can see below. Sometimes the pumps were adorned with gold buckle. And, of course my favorite part is the black tricorne hat. Makes quite a statement.

Though mostly worn by military men, Catherine the Great was fond of the hat as well. I think I should have included one just to shake up the snobs! Ha Ha!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Venturing into the World of Baking Bread

Recently I decided that this year's new venture should be bread baking! I started last weekend with a recipe for brioche. It's a wonderful bread, and for a first attempt, it came out tasty, though it did not raise up into anything glorious. So, I will try again. Meanwhile, I will tell you about brioche and the 18th Century:

The first use of the word, on record, is from France in 1404. It was featured in Cotgrave's "A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues" in 1611, indicating a Norman origin. In the 17th Century, it was introduced as "pate a tarte brioche" as a lighter and cheaper version of blessed bread, the bread used for communion.

In the 18th Century, however, the bread became richer, tastier as more butter and milk were added. The blessed bread was replaced by the brioche we know. The great butter markets of Gisors and Gournay played a role here, promoting the use of their product. And, butter is the secret to good brioche!

It is documented that "Gisors, on market days, they produce up to 250 or 300 kg of brioches. The dough is made the evening before (1 kg of farine, a quarter of which for the starter, 10 g of yeast, 7 or 8 eggs; one mixes this together with the starter and 800 g of butter, breaking up the dough, which 'uses up the butter'. The dough is kept in a terrine, and one puts it in a mold just at the moment of baking. Thus prepared, the brioche remains light, keeps well, maintains the flavour of butter, without the stench of the starter. Brioche of varying degrees of richness from the rich man's with a flour to butter ratio of 3:2 to the cheaper pain brioché with a ratio of 4:1 existed at the same time."

In his autobiography "Confessions" published 1782, Jean-Jacques Rousseau tells the story of a great princess said to have advised the peasants, the poor folk, who had no bread, to "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche", or "let them eat cake". This translation is inaccurate, but none-the-less, the princess was referring to giving out the cheaper brioche. It was still an expense as there were 40,000 parishes in the kingdom where blessed bread was distributed.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Cause of Death?!

Recently I had the opportunity to read the play Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. It's been awhile since I sat down with this particular book, but I was waiting for a delayed plane, and so I could read, uninterrupted, for awhile.
It's good theatre, and it ends, of course as we know, with Salieri attempting suicide in a last attempt to be remembered, confessing that he murdered the musical genius, his rival, Mozart. The play won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1981.

Though Shaffer demonstrated a good deal of artistic license about Mozart and Salieri's lives as well as the musician's death, one thing is clear. Mozart did die, all of 35 years of age, and we really don't have a clear picture of what happened to him. There are not detailed records, and so it allows for a lot of conjecture.

Mozart had health issues throughout his life. He had smallpox, tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, typhoid, rheumatic fever and gum disease. Wow! We know, because he wrote extensive letters.

His sister-in-law said he died because of malpractice by his doctor, Dr. Closset. She wrote this in 1825.
In a medical journal, in 1908, the cause was attributed to Vitamin D deficiency. He was also thought to have taken medicines containing antimony to reduce fever. Here's some quackery going on!
In 1994, Neurology Magazine suggests he died of subdural hematoma. A skull believed to be his indicates some fractures from falls that he experienced in his last years, headaches and fainting spells. Bloodletting didn't help the situation.
In 2009, British and Viennese researchers concluded he died of streptococcal infection, leading to kidney failure and its effects.  

Of course, his body was never found (the skull thing is dubious), as he was put in a common grave with other poor folk, so there could never be a proper autopsy. Nevertheless, the his loss is profound. The play is worth the read, even it is mostly fiction. It's quite entertaining. Too bad it's not currently in any theatre. The great Paul Scoffield played Salieri on the London stage. it would have been wonderful to see him in the role. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Calculating the Future!

I recently saw the new movie The Imitation Game! It was extremely interesting, and the performances were definitely "Oscar'worthy". It got me to thinking about any computer-like machines from the Age of Enlightenment, and certainly I found some interesting information.

In 1709, an Italian, Giovanni Poleni, was the firs to build a calculator. It used a pinwheel design, like a clock.

In 1725, the French Academy of Sciences  certified a calculating machine that was designed by Lepine, a French craftsman. Though it was not very efficient, and jammed beyond a few calculations, it was another step forward.

In 1727, German engineer Antonius Braun, presented a machine to Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna. It had four functions, cylindrical in shape, made from steel, silver and brass. The dedication read, "to make easy to ignorant people, addition, subtraction, multiplication and even division". Not terribly politically correct, but probably most true.

In 1730, three machines were certified by the French Academy. Designed by Hillerin de Boistinssandeau, it used a single tooth carry mechanism to move more than two places. Again, a flawed machine.

In 1770, Philipp Matthaus Hahn, German, built a machine based on a circular premise, making it easier to work.

In 1775, Lord Stanhope of England made a pinwheel machine. Set in a box with a handle on the side. In 1777, he produced the Logic Demonstrator, that solved problems using formal logic. This was the first of its kind.

In 1784, Joann Helfrich Muller (1746-1830) became one of the early engineers to develop a sophisticated mechanical calculator. He had a creative mind and started making inventions of this sort from the early 1770's. He was asked by the local superintendent's office to check and recalculate some tables relating to the volumes of trees. So, to shorten the task, he invented a machine. Soon he realized that he could perform subtraction, division, etc with it as well. He turned to his colleague Phillip Hahn to see how this machine could be further improved.

Müller's calculating machine is very similar to the machine of Hahn, but it is larger (285 mm diameter, 95 mm height, weight 15.4 kg). It was in the form of a round box with a handle placed centrally and the number wheels concentrically arranged around the handle. It could calculate with 14 figures and its number and gear wheels could be altered to enable it to operate with non-decimal number systems.Müller intended also to use his machine for calculating of tables. He wrote "How easy it would be, by this means, to correct and extend the tables of logarithms". Later on Müller in fact used the machine to calculate a set of tables—"Tafeln des Kubischen Gehalts des Bauholzes", which was published in Frankfurt in 1788 (see the lower image). In another letter to Lichtenberg from 9th of September 1784, Müller recorded a new thought in a postscript for a printing tabulating machine.

Over the century, the great minds were on the right track. Who would have thought that the calculator would eventually add enough functions to become the computers of our times. Not only to calculate, but store and transfer information, not only for mathematics, but these days, to virtually see and communicate with the world from our desk top.