The Patriotic Wisdom Of General John Stark

One of the most impressive names in the annals of American Revolutionary War leadership is that of General John Stark of New Hampshire.  Few of his peers equaled him in fighting prowess, tenacity, and strength of character; and while his name may be unfamiliar today, this is only because he was an apolitical animal who scrupulously refused to seek the garlands of notoriety and fame.

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Some Leadership Principles Of John Paul Jones, In His Own Words

John Paul Jones, in a 1781 portrait [PD: US]

I have lately had the pleasure to read some of John Paul Jones’s correspondence during the American Revolution.  It was a surprise to me how many notables he communicated with—not just with his political superiors, but with Benjamin Franklin, the King of France, Lafayette, and many others. 

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The Ruses Of Diocles, Agnon, And Pindar

Wisdom is neither easily found, nor painlessly acquired.  If we seek it out, it is likely to present itself to the prospector in a way that conceals its true utility.  In the same way that precious metals and gems are distributed unevenly and clandestinely among geologic sediments, so is wisdom often submerged in quantities of intervening irrelevancies, or cloaked in a sheen of protective coloration.  For wisdom—prudentia—knows that only the truly worthy will bring to bear pickaxe, shovel, and grindstone to extract, refine, and polish her secret ores for all the world to see. 

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See The Throat, And Latch On To It

The Roman lawyer and government official Pliny the Younger wrote a fascinating letter to the historian Cornelius Tacitus that has fortunately been preserved for posterity (Letters I.20).  The topic discussed is whether it is better to deliver a long speech, or a short one.  Pliny says he has often debated this subject with a learned friend who believes conciseness in public speech is the best policy. 

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No Example, No Trust

The emperor Julius Valerius Maiorianus, known to English-speaking posterity as Majorian, was a vigorous and able sovereign.  He is conceded to have been one of the last western Roman leaders who made an energetic effort to maintain and improve the empire’s institutions.  Even Gibbon, who usually had only snide comments for the later occupants of the Roman throne, condescended to say a good word for him in chapter 36 of his History.  

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Our Actions Direct The Waters Of Fortune

There are many men who lack a certain sense of awe and grandeur at the inscrutable workings of Nature.  They are apt to favor crank theories instead of considered judgments; and they recline in  negativity and pessimism when the time comes for them to perform in the face of adversity.   They lack faith in the ability of the human soul to accomplish truly great things, because they themselves have no awareness of the capacities of that divine soul. 

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The Captives Of The “Starry Crown”

The Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who lived from 1879 to 1962, changed his birth name when he was in college.  He was originally known as William Stephenson, and was born in Manitoba, Canada.  His biographers do not know exactly what prompted him to make such a startling reinvention of identity. 

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Lost In The Lapse Of Years

The name Jacob August Riis is an obscure one today, known only perhaps to scholars of American journalism and photography.  He was a Danish-American journalist, and he lived from 1849 to May 26, 1914.  He produced excellent work in his day; his photographs of the New York slums were influential in helping promote social reforms that eased the lives of the urban poor.  His 1890 volume How the Other Half Lives:  Studies Among The Tenements Of New York constitutes an important record of the squalid conditions of the Gilded Age’s downtrodden. 

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I Am A Whirlwind, I Am War And Deluge

The philosopher Philo of Alexandria, in the second book of his treatise On Dreams (II.18.123), relates a story about a despotic governor of Egypt.  “It is only a very short time ago,” he says, “that I knew a man of very high rank, one who was prefect and governor of Egypt, who, after he had taken it in his head to change our national institutions and customs…was compelling us to obey him, and to do other things contrary to our established custom.” 

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