1789s

On this day, 25th September 1763, Fletcher Christian, of the Mutiny on the Bounty fame was born.

Fletcher Christian was born in 1763, the son of Charles Christian of Cumberland, the family had originated from the Isle of Man. He sailed with William Bligh in the Bounty in 1787 as senior master’s mate for Tahiti. In April, 1789, after leaving Tahiti, Christian and some of the crew arrested Bligh and set him adrift with 18 others in the ship’s launch. He then took command of the Bounty and eventually landed at Pitcairn Island where he died in 1792.

There is no portrait or drawing extant of Fletcher Christian that was drawn from life. Bligh described Christian as “5 ft. 9 in. high [175 cm]. blackish or very dark complexion. Hair - Blackish or very dark brown. Make - Strong. A star tatowed [sic] on his left breast, and tatowed [sic] on the backside. His knees stand a little out and he may be called a little bow legged. He is subject to violent perspiration, particularly in his hand, so that he soils anything he handles" 

His fellow crew members on the Bounty had this to say about him   “He was a gentleman; a brave man; and every officer and seaman on board the ship would have gone through fire and water to serve him.” – “I would still wade up to the arm-pits in blood to serve him.” – “As much as I have lost and suffered by him, if he could be restored to his country, I should be the first to go without wages in search of him.” – “Every body under his command did their duty at a look from Mr. Christian.” – “Mr. Christian was always good-natured, I never heard him say ‘Damn you,’ to any man on board the ship.”  (Bounty’s crew Encyclopedia)

The State Library of New South Wales holds the  Fletcher Christian family papers.

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July 14th 1789: Storming of the Bastille

On this day in 1789, French revolutionaries stormed the Bastille fortress in Paris. This event came towards the beginning of the French Revolution which led to the toppling of the monarchy and execution of King Louis XVI. The dramatic events at the Bastille were precipitated by the King’s refusal to approve the reorganisation of the Estates-General, a general assembly designed to represent the clergy, the nobles and the common people. In response to fears of a counter-attack by the King’s forces, revolutionaries planed to seize the weapons in the Bastille. The prison was lightly guarded and the revolutionaries were able to force their way through and the ensuing violence led to the surrender of the defenders. The Bastille was where the French monarchy held their opponents, including figures like the mysterious ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ from 1670 to 1703, and so the mob also released the seven prisoners held there. The Bastille had represented ironclad royal authority and its fall was a major turning point in the revolution. After the Bastille the revolution escalated, with the passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and abolition of feudalism in August. A republic was declared in 1792 and the King was beheaded in January of the next year. For its prominent role in the French Revolution, this day is commemorated in France as a public holiday, Bastille Day.

“Is this a revolt?”
“No Majesty, this is a revolution
- supposed conversation between Louis XVI and adviser Duc de Liancourt after the storming of the Bastille

  • Alexander Hamilton:Let me tell you something about Aaron Burr. We were best friends in the revolution. I know, right? It's so embarrassing. I don't even... Whatever. So then in 1789, I started working as Secretary of the Treasury with General Washington who was totally gorgeous but then he stepped down from office, and Burr was like, weirdly jealous of him. Like, if I would blow him off to hang out with Washington or the other delegates, he'd be like, "Why didn't you invite me into the room where it happens?" And I'd be like, "Why are you so obsessed with me?" So then, for the election of 1800, which was between Jefferson and Burr, I was like, "Burr, I can't endorse you, because I think you're a pushover." I mean, we couldn't have a pushover in office. There were gonna be people in there deciding the *future of our country*. I mean, right? He was a PUSHOVER. So then he wrote me a letter and started yelling at me, it was so retarded. And then he challenged me to a duel because no one would talk to him, and he came back in the summer, and we went to New Jersey and he was totally weird, and now I guess he's the villain in your history.
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A sword belonging to George Washington, first president of the United States of America. He is believed to have worn it during his resignation as Commander in Chief in 1783 and when inaugurated as president in 1789.

This type of sword was commonly worn by officers and other gentlemen in formal occasions. These weapons were developed as very light and compact civilian sidearms. It was commonly used for duels and sometimes for self-defense, but for military purposes most preferred a more substantial cut-and-thrust weapon, like a cutlass.

This blade is of the colichemarde variant, characterized by its wide forte which abruptly tapers into a narrow profile. Its hollow triangular shape makes it an excellent thrusting sword, but at the same time makes it incapable of cutting. The broad portion of the blade is decorated with intricate engravings. The grip is wrapped with silver ribbon and wire, while the rest of the hilt is gilt with silver and gold.

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March 4th 1789: First United States Congress

On this day in 1789, the first Congress of the United States met at Federal Hall, 26 Wall Street, New York City. The Congress comprises two houses - the Senate, which at this point had 21 senators, and the House of Representatives, of which there were originally 58 members. The first Congress lasted until March 3rd 1791, spanning the first two years of George Washington’s presidency. The Speaker of the House was Frederick Muhlenberg, and the President of the Senate was, per the Constitution, Vice President John Adams. In the early stages of the American republic, there were no coherent and defined political parties, and Congress was simply divided between those who supported the Washington administration and those who did not, with the supporters holding a majority in each house. The first Congresss’ main accomplishments include passing the first ten amendments to the Constitution - known as the Bill of Rights - establishing the United States Census, creating Washington D.C. as the national capital, establishing the Departments of State, War and Treasury, and creating the Supreme Court through the 1789 Judiciary Act. The first meeting of Congress officially created the government set out in the Constitution, which had been ratified in 1788, and thus marks the day the Constitution was put into effect.

“All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives”
- Article I, Section I, Clause I of the United States Constitution

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John Martin (1789–1854, England)

Dramatic landscapes 2

John Martin was an English Romantic painter and one of the most popular artists of his day. He was celebrated for his typically vast and melodramatic paintings of religious subjects and fantastic compositions, populated with minute figures placed in imposing landscapes. His dramatic and subjective style of composition was in stark contrast to the emerging schools of naturalism and realism, which led his work to fall out of critical favour soon after his death, however a revival in interest has occured towards the end of the 20th century, and now his major works are popular pieces of many museum’s collections.

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Five-Toed and Four-Toed Manis (Chinese and Long-tailed Pangolin [Manis pentadactyla, Phataginus tetradactyla])

These pangolins are two of the eight extant pangolin (also known as scaly anteater or trenggiling) species.

The scales of these creatures are keratin - the same substance that makes our hair, fingernails, toenails, and rhino horns. They’re extremely effective as defense mechanisms, as the pangolin is able to hide all vulnerable parts of its body under spikes!

These creatures are also known as scaly anteaters due to their dietary habits: they love ants and termites. In fact, most of the time, pangolins don’t walk on the massive claws of their front feet, which are reserved for digging into ant and termite mounds and for some species, climbing trees.

Pangolins are native to south-east Asia and Central Africa, and are the most trafficked endangered animals in the world, both for the bushmeat and “traditional medicine” trades. The Asian pangolins are more endangered than the African pangolins. Because of their nocturnal habits and smallish size (even the largest giant pangolins are under 33 kg/75 lb, and most are much smaller), pangolins are more difficult to protect than the charismatic megafauna that have come to symbolize the animal-parts trade (such as rhinos, elephants, and tigers). Also confounding their protection is the lack of awareness of their plight.

No part of the pangolin confers any medicinal properties or compounds. They’re amazing lovely creatures that should be left where they are, to live their wonderfully scaly lives in peace. They’re not good pets, they’re not good trophies, and they’re useless for “medicine”.

Save the pangolins!

The naturalist’s miscellany, or Coloured figures of natural objects. George Shaw, 1789.

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Danger - 1:30- Official Video

A waterspout is a vortex appearing over a body of water: a terrifying link from cloud to sea. These sketches are from a 1798 pamphlet in our archives.

This image is the foot of a spout from 6 January 1789. The caption reads 

On the left hand are seen the clouds which rise towards the zenith, but still considerably distant. This foot had plumes elevated nearly like sails, and was driven towards the shore by the wind. In proportion as it came near the land it contracted and was reduced into a column of mist, which the wind overset on the land the moment the supply of water was wanting.

 This next image is from the same day:

“Nothing could more nearly resemble a ship of war on fire than this phenomenon, excepting that no flames appeared. I have endeavoured to shew the continual jets of its surrounding vapour, and of the water which issued from the center. At b are seen the remains of a water spout after it has been destroyed by the foot having touched the ground.

On the left of this next illustration, a represents the foot of the second water-spout ready formed, which was probably the third. It has yet no spout. At b is seen a protuberance tending obliquely towards the east, and advancing to the west with the cloud to which it is suspended.

Finally, this illustration shows two spouts. The authors writes that the wind was less strong on this day than the 6 January spouts above, and the phenomenon was proportionally less. 

It may be seen at a and b that the surrounding plumes of the foot had not the power to raise themselves up as in the preceding figures, but were kept down by the wind.

And here’s a modern-day photograph of the phenomenon: