Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Standing up before the King

As the subject line says, this is about not bowing down to Royalty.

My Friesian relatives were pretty strict Calvinists. My great great grandfather Hette Pieters Hettema, who was a leader of a secessionist sect of them, left a memoir that is mainly about his religious life. There is a brief description on a site devoted to the history of the secession movement in Hallum. A selection of the memoir was published in 1978 as a book entitled "Kroniek van een Friese boer." Here is a link to a web page, in Dutch, that describes the book, which has the English title,Chronicle of a Friesian Farmer. A great aunt, Bettie Hutter, made a synopsis. She writes:
In spring of 1839, great grand father & elder Hamming of Burum, went to Amsterdam as representatives of Friesland, where the divisions of the church were discussed. After that, because the judges continued to fine the separatists every time more than 19 people attended a meeting, the congregation at Wanswerd elected great grandfather and Lammert Hoogendigh from Ferwerd, to go to the King with a petition against the persecution.

Dec. 14, 1839, they left Leeuwarden for ________? [blank appears in typescript] where they stayed over-night. They travelled by coach. In Amsterdam, where the Rev. Van Velsen now lived, they stayed with him over Sunday, and went to the Hague on Monday. They were to find a Sir Golverdinge, who helped them to find their way, and on Tuesday they were to go to the palace. At 11 A.M. they were to sign their names in the great hall and state their purpose.

At twelve noon they were taken in to the king, who was congenial and listened to each of them in turn as they told of their persecution. The King promised to look into the situation and they returned to Leeuwarden, travelling straight through. It took some time, but before too long, they were granted freedom of religion and their own parish.
This incident came to mind when I prepared the following "quote-of-the-week" for my work-blog:
• Who gets borrowing privileges?

This quote of the week comes from the Annals of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, AD 1598-AD1867, by William Dunn Macray (Riverintons, London, 1868).
A.D. 1645.
A small slip of paper, carefully preserved, is the memorial of an interesting incident connected with the last days in Oxford of the Martyr-King [i.e., Charles I] whose history is so indissolubly united with that of the place. Amidst all the darkening anxieties which filled the three or four months preceding the surrender of himself to the Scots, King Charles appears to have snatched some leisure mo­ments for refreshment in quiet reading. His own library was no longer his; but there was one close at hand which could more than supply it. So, to the Librarian Rous, (the friend of Milton, but whose anti-monarchical tendencies, we may be sure, had ­always hitherto been carefully concealed) there came, on Dec. 30, an order, ‘To the Keeper of the University Library, or to his deputy,’ couched in the following terms: ‘Deliver unto the bearer hereof, for the present use of his Majesty, a book intituled, Histoire universelle du Sieur D’Aubingné, and this shall be your warrant;’ and the order was one which the Vice-Chancellor had subscribed with his special authorization, ‘His Majestyes use is in commaund to us. S. Fell, Vice Can.’ But the Librarian had sworn to observe the Statutes which, with no respect of persons, forbad such a re­moval of a book; and so, on the reception of Fell’s order, Rous goes to the King; and shews him the Statutes, which being read, the King would not have the booke, nor permit it to be taken out of the Library, saying it was fit that the will and statutes of the pious founder should be religiously observed.’

Perhaps a little of the hitherto undeveloped Puritan spirit may have helped to enliven the conscience of the Librarian, who, had he been a Cavalier, might have possibly found something in the exceptional circumstances of the case, to excuse a violation of the rule; but, as the matter stood, it reflects, on the one hand, the highest credit both on Rous’s honesty and courage, and shows him to have been fit for the place he held, while, on the other hand, the King’s acquiescence in the refusal does equal credit to his good-sense and good-temper. We shall see that this oc­currence formed a precedent for a like refusal to the Protector in 1654 by Rous’s successor, when Cromwell showed equal good feeling and equal respect for law.

Addendum: My Friesian relatives were stubborn as well as stedfast in their faith. For many years Hette Pieters Hettema refused to have himself or his family innoculated against smallpox, relenting only after losing half his family, including his wife.

Another Addendum: The Secessionists' complaint resulted from religious reforms enacted by the relatively liberal regime installed in The Netherlands by Napoleon. They wished to continue worship in the old way rather than in the Dutch Reformed Church of the time.

Yet another: The king of the Netherlands in 1839 was William I. Wikipedia says he had been reigning 25 years by that time and would stand down the following year. Says the official site of the Kingdom of the Netherlands:
In 1689 stadtholder Prince Willem III of Orange became King of Great Britain after his wife Mary II Stuart was chosen as Queen of Great Britain. In 1795 the last stadtholder Prince Willem V fled to England and the Netherlands became a part of the French Republic and later the French Empire of Napoleon. Between 1806 and 1810 Louis Napoleon, a brother of the Emperor Napoleon, was the first King of Holland.

In 1813 the son of the last stadtholder was chosen as sovereign. At the Congress of Vienna the Kingdom of the Netherlands was drafted and in 1815 this sovereign became King Willem I. His Kingdom also enclosed the later Kingdom of Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg. In the battle of Waterloo in 1815 the new crown prince Willem played a quite important part. Afterwards it gave him the nickname Hero of Waterloo, and the Russian czar offered him his sister Anna Pavlovna as his bride. Belgium became independent after a revolt in 1830, but the Netherlands didn't recognize the new kingdom until 1839. King Willem I abdicated in 1840 and died in Berlin in 1843.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dirty people and the marvels of Tibet

This post is about dirt.

There's an Irish children's song on an old Clancy Brothers album that we love. It goes:
Ahem, ahem,
me mother has gone to church.
She told me not to play wit' you
because you're in the dirt.
It isn't because you're dirty.
It isn't because you're clean.
It's because you have the whooping cough
and eat margerine.
One of my favorite books is this one:
Narratives of the mission of George Bogle to Tibet and of the journey of Thomas Manning to Lhasa
by Clements R Markham, Sir; George Bogle; Thomas Manning
First published: London, 1876
Reprinted: New Delhi, Manjusri Pub. House, 1971.
Why? It's a history of the high Victorian era and like others of its type is ambitious to tell a good story, is based on primary source documents, and being first to tell the tale, doesn't have to account for others' interpretations of the same material. It gives a facinating account which is at once adventure story, travel narrative, and a revelation about how British imperialism functioned in a part of the Indian sub-continent when still relatively unformed. It's also a rare find: not a book you'll come across in the second-hand stores or even most libraries.

Bogel was young, courageous, and -- an anti-archetype -- surprisingly empathetic with the peoples he encountered. Though his goal of economic penetration was largely unrealized, he succeeded in striking a friendship with Tibet's principal secular and religious leader, the Panchen Lama. As presented in the history, his letters and journals are full of detail, but also express his wonder: "When I look upon the time I have spent among the Hills it appears like a fairy dream," he wrote. Bogle was envoy of the East India Company. Manning was one of the many intrepid travelers who sought to go where none of their kind had previously been. He became the first Englishman to enter and study Lasha, Tibet's capital, and its inhabitants.

Markham explains in the preface:
It has long been known that the first British mission to Tibet was sent by Warren Hastings in 1774 under Mr. George Bogle, that a great friendship was found between Mr. Bogle and the Teshu Lama, and that intercourse was then established between the Governments of British India and Tibet. It is less generally known that the only Englishman who ever visited Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and saw the Dalai Lama, was Mr. Thomas Manning, an adventurous traveler who performed that extraordinary feat in 1811. No account has hitherto been published of Mr. Manning’s remarkable journey. These two gaps in the history of intercourse between India and Tibet have now been filled up. His family in Scotland has carefully preserved the whole of Mr. Bogle’s journals, memoranda, official and private correspondence. These valuable manuscripts, after having been judiciously arranged, were placed in the hands of the present editor. These consisted of journals, memoranda of various kinds, and on many subjects numerous bundles of private letter including correspondence with Warren Hastings , appointments, minutes of conversations and official dispatches. The whole of this voluminous mass of papers had to be carefully read through and annotated before any attempt could be made to arrange a consecutive narrative of the mission. Mr. Manning appears o have hastily jotted down his first impressions, day by day, in a rough notebook, which was copied out fair by his sister. He was a man of learning and great ability, and was well able to have written a good account of his remarkable journey. He never did so. His rough journal was placed in my hands. Thus an account of the visit to Lhasa of the only Englishman who ever entered that famous city is now presented to the world. This account of the important mission of George Bogle to Bhutan and Tibet has been gathered partly from journals, partly from official dispatches, and partly from private correspondence; and it is now presented for the first time in a connected form. That of Mr. Manning’s extraordinary journey to Lhasa is from a fragmentary series of notes and jottings, which alone remain to bear testimony to a feat, which still remains unparalleled.
What about dirt?

One of the things that struck Manning about the peoples of Tibet was their dirtyness. A caring man who wished to promote health and well-being, he tried to clean them up, but encountered resistance. Their aversion to a good wash might be put down to scarcity of water much of the year in the high plateaus. Or to the heavy layers of clothes they wore even while within doors. But, as the following AP news item seems to show, their dirtyness might also have resulted from Darwinian selection.
Rat study shows dirty better than clean
Fri Jun 16, 10:56 PM ET


WASHINGTON - Gritty rats and mice living in sewers and farms seem to have healthier immune systems than their squeaky clean cousins that frolic in cushy antiseptic labs, two studies indicate. The lesson for humans: Clean living may make us sick.

The studies give more weight to a 17-year-old theory that the sanitized Western world may be partly to blame for soaring rates of human allergy and asthma cases and some autoimmune diseases, such as Type I diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. The theory, called the hygiene hypothesis, figures that people's immune systems aren't being challenged by disease and dirt early in life, so the body's natural defenses overreact to small irritants such as pollen.

The new studies, one of which was published Friday in the peer reviewed Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, found significant differences in the immune systems between euthanized wild and lab rodents.

Co-author Dr. William Parker, a Duke University professor of experimental surgery said: "Your immune system is like the person who lives in the perfect house and has all the food they want."

Parker said he hopes to build a 50-foot artificial sewer for his next step, so that he could introduce the clean lab rats to an artificial dirty environment and see how and when the immunity was activated.

That may be the biggest thing to come out of the wild and lab rodent studies, Platt said: "Then all of a sudden it becomes possible to expose people to the few things (that exercise the immune system) and gives them the benefit of the dirty environment without having to expose them to the dirt."