1845 – Manifest destiny: In a State of the Union message, U.S. President James K. Polk proposes that the United States should aggressively expand into the West.
In the 19th century, manifest destiny was a widely held belief in the United States that its settlers were destined to expand across North America. There are three basic themes to manifest destiny:
The special virtues of the American people and their institutions
The mission of the United States to redeem and remake the west in the image of agrarian America
An irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty
Historian Frederick Merk says this concept was born out of “a sense of mission to redeem the Old World by high example … generated by the potentialities of a new earth for building a new heaven”.
Historians have emphasized that “manifest destiny” was a contested concept—pre-civil war Democrats endorsed the idea but many prominent Americans (such as Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and most Whigs) rejected it. Historian Daniel Walker Howe writes, “American imperialism did not represent an American consensus; it provoked bitter dissent within the national polity … Whigs saw America’s moral mission as one of democratic example rather than one of conquest.”
Newspaper editor John O’Sullivan is generally credited with coining the term manifest destiny in 1845 to describe the essence of this mindset, which was a rhetorical tone; however, the unsigned editorial titled “Annexation” in which it first appeared was arguably written by journalist and annexation advocate Jane Cazneau. The term was used by Democrats in the 1840s to justify the war with Mexico and it was also used to divide half of Oregon with the United Kingdom. But manifest destiny always limped along because of its internal limitations and the issue of slavery, says Merk. It never became a national priority. By 1843 John Quincy Adams, originally a major supporter of the concept underlying manifest destiny, had changed his mind and repudiated expansionism because it meant the expansion of slavery in Texas.
From the outset Manifest Destiny—vast in program, in its sense of continentalism—was slight in support. It lacked national, sectional, or party following commensurate with its magnitude. The reason was it did not reflect the national spirit. The thesis that it embodied nationalism, found in much historical writing, is backed by little real supporting evidence.
1895 – Harriet Cohen, English pianist (d. 1967)
Harriet Cohen CBE (2 December 1895 – 13 November 1967) was a British pianist.
Harriet Cohen was born in London and studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music under Tobias Matthay, having won the Ada Lewis scholarship at the age of 12 followed by the Sterndale Bennett Prize in 1913. She made her debut at a Chappell’s Sunday concert at the Queen’s Hall a year later. Her first major appearance was in 1920 when she appeared at the Wigmore Hall in a joint recital with the tenor John Coates.
She was sister to the singer Myra Verney and a distant cousin of the pianist Irene Scharrer.
She became particularly associated with contemporary British music, giving the world premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Piano Concerto (which was written for her) and recording Edward Elgar’s Piano Quintet with the Stratton Quartet under the composer’s supervision. A number of composers wrote music specifically for her, including John Ireland, Béla Bartók, Ernest Bloch and E. J. Moeran, and particularly Sir Arnold Bax (Cohen’s lover), who wrote most of his piano pieces for her. This includes the music for David Lean’s 1948 film version of Oliver Twist. He also composed Concertino for Left Hand for her after she lost the use of her right hand in 1948.
The last six pieces in the collection Mikrokosmos by Bartók are dedicated to her.
Harriet Cohen dedicated an important effort to the performance of the Tudor composers at a time when this was unusual, and gave recitals of works by William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons and also of Henry Purcell. She was considered one of the finest performers of J. S. Bach’s keyboard music, winning outstanding praise from the musicologist Alfred Einstein. Pablo Casals, also, invited her to play Bach with his orchestra at Barcelona, and Wilhelm Furtwängler extended a similar invitation on hearing her in Switzerland. She gave the first ‘all-Bach’ recital at the Queen’s Hall in 1925.
She also cultivated Spanish music, and gave the second performance of Manuel de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, a work which became especially associated with her. She was also an early exponent of music of the Soviet Union in Britain, and visited Russia in 1935 to broadcast from Moscow and Leningrad, including works by Shostakovich, Kabalevsky and Leonid Polovinkin. These composers later sent her further compositions.
Cohen’s influence went well beyond that of a musician. She became strongly associated in the 1930s with publicising the plight of German and Austrian Jews and even played a concert with the scientist Albert Einstein (Alfred’s cousin) in 1934 to raise funds to bring Jewish scientists out of Germany. She became a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt and Ramsay MacDonald as well as the first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann.
Cohen was also a close friend of many leading figures of the time. These included not only musicians such as Jean Sibelius, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sir Edward Elgar and Sir William Walton, but also writers such as Arnold Bennett, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and D. H. Lawrence as well as politicians or entrepreneurs such as Max Beaverbrook and Leslie Viscount Runciman. Cohen became one of the most talked-about and photographed musicians of her day.
She was Vice-President of the Women’s Freedom League, and was for several years associated with the Jewish National Fund and the Palestine Conservatoire of Music at Jerusalem. Cohen was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1938. She died in London. The Harriet Cohen International Music Award was introduced in her honour in 1951.
She was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1959 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.
In January 2006, Dearest Tania, a words-and-music programme telling the story of Cohen, premiered, written by Duncan Honeybourne and performed with actress Louisa Clein.
Efforts for refugees from Nazism
Harriet Cohen met the American journalist Dorothy Thompson in 1930 on her first tour of America, a tour which took in New York, Washington and the Library of Congress and Chicago, thus finally establishing a name for herself on the International stage. It was a meeting that was to change Cohen’s life and awaken her Jewish consciousness. In 1933 Harriet Cohen travelled to Vienna to play a number of concerts, staying with Dorothy Thompson. She was profoundly moved by the plight of refugees, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who were pouring into the city from Germany. Thompson and Cohen were to correspond about the plight of Jewish refugees in Austria and Germany. Cohen was then able to pass on information from Thompson directly to the British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, who was at this time her intimate friend. Cohen met Thompson every time she went to America thereafter. From 1933 Cohen committed herself to work in Britain and the United States on behalf of refugees. This would result in a concert in America with Albert Einstein in 1934 to raise funds to bring Jewish scientists out of Germany.
In 1935 Ramsay MacDonald warned Cohen not to travel through Germany because the British Government would not be able to provide immunity for her. Soon after, Adolf Hitler passed the Nuremberg laws totally excluding Jews from public life.
Harriet Cohen had met Albert Einstein in Germany in 1929 when she had afternoon tea at his house. At the time Einstein disclosed that he played the violin and said that one day they should play together. Cohen kept her friendship with Einstein even after he had fled Germany in 1933. Cohen would often visit him in Oxford, England where he settled for a short time. In 1934, after Einstein moved to the United States, Harriet Cohen did finally play that duet concert with Einstein to raise funds to bring Jewish scientists out of Nazi Germany. Cohen and Einstein remained friends thereafter and he referred to her as “the beloved piano witch”.
It was not until 1939 when she first met Chaim Weizmann, the future first President of Israel, that she began to support the Zionist cause and a Jewish homeland. Cohen’s 1939 visit to Palestine extended her reputation there both as a concert pianist and politically. She argued with British and Jewish officials to try to get Jewish refugees admitted on ships from Nazi Germany (rather than be returned), once almost precipitating an International incident. Harriet Cohen believed passionately in a Jewish homeland but with justice to the Arab Palestinians. She survived two assassination attempts during her trip to Palestine. It was when Cohen was having dinner with Weizmann in London that Weizmann heard the news of the British Government’s 1939 white paper to limit Jewish immigration to Britain to just 15,000 people a year. Blanche Dugdale, Lord Balfour’s niece, a fellow diner, prophetically said in an agonised voice, “What will happen to the millions fleeing from Hitler?”
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