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Shaking One's Faith

It is 9:40 in the morning, after All Hallows Eve (Halloween). Suddenly the earth opens up. Cracks 15 feet wide swallow up anyone and anything. A 9.0 earthquake hits over 100 miles off the coast of Lisbon. Buildings collapse. Fires start, and 40 minutes later, a wall of water pushes up the river and travels inland for over 100 miles. Lisbon is in ruins. Thousands upon thousands are dead. How many? No one really knows. 10,000? At least. 100,000? Could be. The shaking can be felt all the way to Germany where it frightens a 6-year-old girl, Caroline Herschel (HER-shell), and her older brother, William. They will dedicate themselves to science because it is clear they cannot depend upon Divine Providence. And the French philosopher, Voltaire, will feel compelled to write his critical novel, Candide, on the "best of all worlds" philosophy called optimism. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Just to be clear, after the Great Lisbon earthquake, Europeans still believed in God, but they were no longer expecting God to protect them. Even today, people will credit God whenever they survive a disaster. That is fine, but one must use caution with that type of thinking. Remember the old joke of the man of faith turning away offers of help from his neighbors as the flood waters rise. He exclaims, "Don't worry! God will save me!" And as he waits, he drowns. When he goes to Heaven, he reminds God that he has perfect faith and asks why God never saved him. God answers, "I sent your neighbors." Faith in God is not protective magic. Nevertheless, faith can be extremely helpful. In the midst of suffering, knowing that God is by one's side can be of immense value.

Stop the Language! I Want to Get Off!

At one time Samuel Johnson thought to standardize the English language so that it might stay the same, with proper rules of grammar and spelling that did not change. But looking at the history of language, he can find no example of a successful effort. It is like "lashing the wind" or "tying down the breeze" since modern English hardly uses the word "lash" to mean "secure or tie down" any more. It now means "to whip or to strike". This year Samuel Johnson publishes his Dictionary of the English Language. For many years to come, his work will define proper English, but the hopes of future English teachers will be dashed... as he predicted. Language changes. [5] [6] [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The novelist Tom Clancy told a story of his visit to a classroom to speak to the students about writing. He explained how important it was to know the elements of language and to use them properly. The teacher stood in the back of the classroom nodding sagely. Then Clancy told the students to ask their teacher about Samuel Johnson and his accomplishments. He looked into the teachers face and realized that she had absolutely no idea whatsoever who Samuel Johnson was. As he told that story, I realized that I didn't know who Samuel Johnson was either. I'd heard the name, but couldn't recall who he was. So I looked him up. He was the most important source on the English language until the Oxford English Dictionary was published in all 10 volumes in 1928. Thank You, Tom Clancy. I'm listening to a Tom Clancy audiobook right now. (Executive Orders). [9] [10]

The Expulsion of the Acadians

This is not Canada. This is not Quebec. This is Nova Scotia which is the land of the French Acadians. The British gained control of the region in the early 1700s, but the Acadians refuse to swear allegiance to the King of England. With the French and Indian War in its infancy, the British decide to expel the Acadians from their lands and move them to other British colonies such as Massachusetts or to Great Britain or France. The expulsion happens in two waves, and thousands of Acadians die either of disease or due to the hazards of travel. Longfellow will write an epic poem of the Expulsion of the Acadians by focusing on one Acadian, the fair (and fictional) Evangeline. [11] [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Yes. Like the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, most people know of the Expulsion of the Acadians because of Longfellow's poem, Evangeline, published in 1847. I read the beginning of it but I'm not a poetry fan, so I gave up on it. Apparently the Acadians had been giving the British trouble for decades so the British wanted to break up any unified resistance. By separating the Acadians, they actually destroyed the economic base of the region. This expulsion, more than anything else, kicked off the Seven Years' War or as it was called in the British-American colonies, the French and Indian War.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1755, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Holmes, Richard. Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, The. Pantheon Books. ISBN 9780307378323. “This earthquake, which killed over 30,000 people in Lisbon and shook cities throughout Europe, seemed to many to call into question the idea of God (or Nature) as a benevolent Providence, and to be a sign that a new kind of scientific knowledge was required. Among many speculative works, it inspired Voltaire's Candide.” 
  2. Candide - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 March 2016. “A number of historical events inspired Voltaire to write Candide, most notably the publication of Leibniz's 'Monadology', a short metaphysical treatise, the Seven Years' War, and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Both of the latter catastrophes are frequently referred to in Candide and are cited by scholars as reasons for its composition.”
  3. William Herschel - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 March 2016. “The astrological symbol for planet Uranus features the capital initial letter of Herschel's surname.”
  4. 1755 Lisbon earthquake - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 28 March 2016. “Economic historian Álvaro Pereira estimated that of Lisbon's population of approximately 200,000 people, some 30,000–40,000 were killed; another 10,000 may have lost their lives in Morocco. However, a 2009 study of contemporary reports relating to the 1 November event found them vague, and difficult to separate from reports of another local series of earthquakes on 18–19 November. Pereira estimated the total death toll in Portugal, Spain and Morocco from the earthquake and the resulting fires and tsunami at 40,000 to 50,000 people.”
  5. A Dictionary of the English Language - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 March 2016. “Published on 15 April 1755 and written by Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, sometimes published as Johnson's Dictionary, is among the most influential dictionaries in the history of the English language.”
  6. Johnson, Samuel. Dictionary of the English language, A. J. F. And C. Rivington [etc.]. “Those who have been persuaded to think well of my design, require that it should fix our language, and put a stop to those alterations which time and chance have hitherto been suffered to make in it without opposition. With this consequence I will confess that I have flattered myself for a while; but now begin to fear that I have indulged expectations which neither reason nor experience can justify. When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to change sublunary nature, and clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and affectation.

    With this hope, however, academies have been instituted, to guard the avenues of their languages, to retain fugitives, and to repulse intruders; but their vigilance and activity have hitherto been vain; sounds are too volatile and subtle for legal restraints; to enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride, unwilling to measure its desires by its strength.”
  7. Pinker, Steven. Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language, The. HarperPerennial. ISBN 0060976519. “Every component of a language changes over time, and at any moment a language is enduring many losses. But since the human mind does not change over time, the richness of a language is always being replenished.” 
  8. Lash - definition of lash (2016). Retrieved on 29 March 2016. “To secure or bind, as with a rope, cord, or chain.”
  9. Samuel Johnson - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 29 March 2016. “After nine years of work, Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755. It had a far-reaching effect on Modern English and has been described as 'one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship'. This work brought Johnson popularity and success. Until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later, Johnson's was viewed as the pre-eminent British dictionary.”
  10. Clancy, Tom. Executive Orders. Berkley Books. ISBN 0425160572. 
  11. Seven Years' War - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 15 March 2016. “The Seven Years' War was fought between 1755 and 1764, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved every great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire, and affected Europe, North America, Central America, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. Considered as the greatest European war since the Thirty Years War of the 17th century,”
  12. Evangeline - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 29 March 2016. “The poem follows an Acadian girl named Evangeline and her search for her lost love Gabriel, set during the time of the Expulsion of the Acadians.”

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