1 BC – Wang Mang consolidates his power and is declared marshal of state. Emperor Ai of Han, who had died the previous day, had no heirs.
Wang Mang (Chinese: 王莽, c. 45 BC – 6 October 23 AD), courtesy name Jujun (巨君), was a Han Dynasty official who seized the throne from the Liu family and founded the Xin (or Hsin, meaning “renewed”) Dynasty (新朝), ruling 9–23 AD. The Han dynasty was restored after his overthrow, and his rule marks the separation between the Western Han Dynasty (before Xin) and Eastern Han Dynasty (after Xin). Some historians have traditionally viewed Wang as a usurper, while others have portrayed him as a visionary and selfless social reformer. Though a learned Confucian scholar who sought to implement the harmonious society he saw in the classics, his efforts ended in chaos.
In October 23 AD, the capital Chang’an was attacked and the imperial palace ransacked. Wang Mang died in the battle.
The Han dynasty was reestablished in 25 AD when Liu Xiu (Emperor Guangwu) took the throne.
Early life and career
Wang Mang was the son of Wang Man (王曼), the younger brother of Empress Wang Zhengjun, and his wife Qu (渠, family name unknown), born in 45 BC. Wang Man died early, while Wang Mang was young, before Emperor Cheng took the throne and his mother Empress Wang became empress dowager. Unlike most of his brothers, Wang Man did not have the opportunity to become a marquess. Empress Wang took pity on his family, and after she herself was widowed, had Qu moved to the imperial palace to live with her.
While Wang Mang was obviously well-connected to the imperial family, he did not have nearly the luxuries that his cousins enjoyed. Indeed, unlike his relatives who lived expensively and competed with each other on how they could spend more, Wang Mang was praised for his humility, thriftiness, and desire to study. He wore not the clothes of young nobles but those of a young Confucian scholar. He was also praised on how filial he was to his mother and how caring he was to his deceased brother Wang Yong (王永)’s wife and son Wang Guang (王光). Wang Mang befriended many capable people and served his uncles carefully.
When Wang Mang’s powerful uncle Wang Feng (王鳳, commander of the armed forces 33 BC-22 BC) grew ill, Wang Mang cared for him near his sick bed day and night, and attended to his medical and personal needs. Wang Feng was greatly touched, and before his death, he asked Empress Dowager Wang and Emperor Cheng to take good care of Wang Mang. Wang Mang was therefore given the post of imperial attendant (黃門郎) and later promoted to be one of the subcommanders of the imperial guards (射聲校尉).
In 16 BC, another of Wang Mang’s uncles, Wang Shang (王商) the Marquess of Chengdu, submitted a petition to divide part of his march and to create Wang Mang a marquess. Several well-regarded officials concurred in this request, and Emperor Cheng was impressed with Wang Mang’s reputation. He therefore created Wang Mang the Marquess of Xindu and promoted him to the Chamberlain for Attendants (光祿大夫). It was described by historians that the greater the posts that Wang was promoted to, the more humble he grew. He did not accumulate wealth, but used the money to support scholars and to give gifts to colleagues, so he gained more and more praise.
Another thing that Wang Mang made himself known for was that he had only a single wife, Lady Wang, and no concubines. (Note that she had the same family name as Wang Mang—strong evidence that at this point the taboo against endogamy based on the same family name was not firmly in place in Chinese culture.) However, as later events would show, Wang was not completely faithful to his wife, even at this time.
Emperor Cheng appointed his uncles, one after another, to be commander of the armed forces (the most powerful court official) (see here for more information), and speculation grew as to who would succeed Wang Mang’s youngest surviving uncle, Wang Gen (王根, commander 12 BC-8 BC). Wang Mang was considered one of the possibilities, while another was his cousin Chunyu Zhang (the son of Empress Dowager Wang’s sister), who had a much closer personal relationship to Emperor Cheng than Wang Mang did. Chunyu also had friendly relations with both Emperor Cheng’s wife Empress Zhao Feiyan and his deposed former wife Empress Xu.
To overcome Chunyu’s presumptive hold on succeeding Wang Gen, Wang Mang took action. He collected evidence that Chunyu, a frivolous man in his words and deeds, had secretly received bribes from the deposed Empress Xu and had promised to help her become “left empress”, and that he had promised his associates great posts once he succeeded Wang Gen. In 8 BC, he informed Wang Gen and Empress Dowager Wang of the evidence, and both Wang Gen and Empress Dowager Wang were greatly displeased. They exiled Chunyu back to his march. Chunyu, before he left the capital, gave his horses and luxurious carriages to his cousin Wang Rong (王融) – the son of his uncle Wang Li (王立), with whom he had a running feud. Wang Li, happy with Chunyu’s gift, submitted a petition requesting that Chunyu be allowed to remain at the capital—which drew Emperor Cheng’s suspicion, because he knew of the feud between Wang Li and Chunyu. He ordered Wang Rong to be arrested, and Wang Li, in his panic, ordered his son to commit suicide—which in turn caused Emperor Cheng to become even more suspicious. He therefore had Chunyu arrested and interrogated. Chunyu admitted to deceiving Empress Xu and receiving bribes from her, and he was executed.
Also in 8 BC, Wang Gen, by then seriously ill, submitted his resignation and requested that Wang Mang succeed him. In winter 8 BC, Emperor Cheng made Wang Mang the commander of the armed forces (大司馬), at the age of 37.
First tenure as the commander of the armed forces
After Wang Mang was promoted to this position—effectively the highest in the imperial government—he became even better known for his self-discipline and promotion of capable individuals than before. As a result, the people’s perception of the Wang clan as arrogant, wasteful, and petty, began to be reversed.
In 7 BCE, Wang’s cousin Emperor Cheng died suddenly, apparently from a stroke (although historians also report the possibility of an overdosage of aphrodisiacs given to him by his favorite, Consort Zhao Hede). Emperor Cheng’s nephew Crown Prince Liu Xin (劉欣) (the son of his brother Prince Kang of Dingtao (劉康)) became emperor (as Emperor Ai). For the time being, Wang remained in his post and continued to be powerful, as his aunt became grand empress dowager and was influential.
However, that would soon change. Emperor Ai’s grandmother, Princess Dowager Fu of Dingtao (concubine of Grand Empress Dowager Wang’s husband Emperor Yuan) was a domineering woman who ruled her grandson. She greatly wanted the title of empress dowager as well. Initially, Grand Empress Dowager Wang decreed that Princess Dowager Fu and Emperor Ai’s mother Consort Ding see him periodically, every 10 days. However, Princess Dowager Fu quickly began to visit her grandson every day, and she insisted that two things be done: that she receive an empress dowager title, and that her relatives be granted titles, like the Wangs. Grand Empress Dowager Wang, sympathetic of the bind that Emperor Ai was in, first granted Prince Kang the unusual title of “Emperor Gong of Dingtao” (定陶共皇) and then, under the rationale of that title, granted Princess Dowager Fu the title “Empress Dowager Gong of Dingtao” (定陶共皇太后) and Consort Ding the title “Empress Gong of Dingtao” (定陶共皇后). Several members of the Fu and Ding clans were created marquesses. Grand Empress Dowager Wang also ordered Wang Mang to resign and transfer power to the Fu and Ding relatives. Emperor Ai declined and begged Wang Mang to stay in his administration.
Several months later, however, Wang Mang came into direct confrontation with now-Empress Dowager Fu. At a major imperial banquet, the official in charge of seating placed Empress Dowager Fu’s seat next to Grand Empress Dowager Wang’s. When Wang Mang saw this, he rebuked the official and ordered that Empress Dowager Fu’s seat be moved to the side, which drew great ire from Empress Dowager Fu, who then refused to attend the banquet. To soothe her anger, Wang Mang resigned, and Emperor Ai approved his resignation. After this event, the Wangs gradually and inexorably began to lose their power.
Retirement during Emperor Ai’s reign
After Wang Mang’s resignation, he was initially requested by Emperor Ai to remain at the capital Chang’an and periodically meet him to give advice. However, in 5 BC, after Empress Dowager Fu was more successful in her quest for titles—Emperor Ai removed the qualification “of Dingtao” from his father’s posthumous title (thus making him simply “Emperor Gong”), and then gave his grandmother a variation of the grand empress dowager title (ditaitaihou (帝太太后), compared to Grand Empress Dowager Wang’s title taihuangtaihou (太皇太后)) and his mother a variation of the empress dowager title (ditaihou (帝太后), compared to Empress Dowager Zhao’s title huangtaihou (皇太后)) – the prime minister Zhu Bo (朱博) and vice prime minister Zhao Xuan (趙玄), at her behest, submitted a petition to have Wang demoted to commoner status for having opposed Grand Empress Fu previously. Emperor Ai did not do so, but sent Wang back to his march Xindu (in modern Nanyang, Henan).
While in Xindu, Wang was careful not to associate with many people (to prevent false accusations that he was planning a rebellion). In 5 BC, when his son Wang Huo killed a household servant, Wang Mang ordered him to commit suicide. By 2 BC, there had been several hundred petitions by commoners and officials to request Wang Mang’s return to the capital. Emperor Ai, who also respected Wang Mang, summoned him and his cousin Wang Ren (王仁), the son of Wang Gen, back to the capital to assist Grand Empress Dowager Wang. However, Wang Mang would have no official posts and would exert little influence on politics for the time being.
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1865 – Mary Gilmore, Australian socialist, poet and journalist (d. 1962)
Dame Mary Jean Gilmore DBE (née Cameron; 16 August 1865 – 3 December 1962) was an Australian writer and journalist known for her prolific contributions to Australian literature and the broader national discourse. She wrote both prose and poetry.
Gilmore was born in rural New South Wales, and spent her childhood in and around the Riverina, living both in small bush settlements and in larger country towns like Wagga Wagga. Gilmore qualified as a schoolteacher at the age of 16, and after a period in the country was posted to Sydney. She involved herself with the burgeoning labour movement, and also became a devotee of the utopian socialism views of William Lane. In 1893, Gilmore and 200 others followed Lane to Paraguay, where they formed the New Australia Colony. She started a family there, but the colony did not live up to expectations and they returned to Australia in 1902.
Drawing on her connections in Sydney, Gilmore found work with The Australian Worker as the editor of its women’s section, a position she held from 1908 to 1931. She also wrote for a variety of other publications, including The Bulletin and The Sydney Morning Herald, becoming known as a campaigner for the welfare of the disadvantaged. Gilmore’s first volume of poetry was brought out in 1910; she published prolifically for the rest of her life, mainly poetry but also memoirs and collections of essays. She wrote on a variety of themes, although the public imagination was particularly captured by her evocative views of country life. Her best known work is “No Foe Shall Gather Our Harvest”, which served as a morale booster during World War II.
Gilmore’s greatest recognition came in later life. She was the doyenne of the Sydney literary world, and became something of a national icon, making frequent appearances in the new media of radio and television. Gilmore maintained her prodigious output into old age, publishing her last book of verse in 1954, aged 89. Two years earlier she had begun writing a new column for the Tribune (the official newspaper of the Communist Party), which she continued for almost a decade. Gilmore died at the age of 97 and was accorded a state funeral, a rare honour for a writer. She has featured on the reverse of the Australian ten-dollar note since 1993.
Mary Jean Cameron was born on 16 August 1865 at the small settlement of Cotta Walla (modern-day Roslyn), just outside Crookwell, New South Wales. When she was one year old her parents, Donald Cameron, a farmer from Scotland and Mary Ann Beattie, decided to move to Wagga Wagga to join her maternal grandparents, the Beatties, who had moved there from Penrith, New South Wales in 1866.
Her father obtained a job as a station manager at a property at Cowabbie, 100 km north of Wagga. A year later, he left that job to become a carpenter, building homesteads on properties in Wagga, Coolamon, Junee, Temora and West Wyalong for the next 10 years. This itinerant existence allowed Mary only a spasmodic formal education; however, she did receive some on their frequent returns to Wagga, either staying with the Beatties or in rented houses.
Her father purchased land and built his own house at Brucedale on the Junee Road, where they had a permanent home. She was then to attend, albeit briefly, Colin Pentland’s private Academy at North Wagga Wagga and, when the school closed, transferred to Wagga Wagga Public School for two and a half years. At 14, in preparation to become a teacher, she worked as an assistant at her uncle’s school at Yerong Creek. Another uncle, Charles White (1845–1922), was a journalist and author of books on bushrangers.
After completing her teaching exams in 1882, she accepted a position as a teacher at Wagga Wagga Public School, where she worked until December 1885. After a short teaching spell at Illabo she took up a teaching position at Silverton near the mining town of Broken Hill. There Gilmore developed her socialist views and began writing poetry.
In 1890, she moved to Sydney, where she became part of the “Bulletin school” of radical writers. Although the greatest influence on her work was Henry Lawson it was Alfred “A. G.” Stephens, literary editor of The Bulletin, who published her verse and established her reputation as a fiery radical poet, champion of the workers and the oppressed.
She had a relationship with Henry Lawson that probably began in 1890. She writes of an unofficial engagement and Lawson’s wish to marry her, but it was broken by his frequent absences from Sydney. The story of the relationship is told in the play “All My Love”, written by Anne Brooksbank.
She followed William Lane and other socialist idealists to Paraguay in 1896, where they had established a communal settlement called New Australia two years earlier. At Lane’s breakaway settlement Cosme she married William Gilmore in 1897. By 1900 the socialist experiment had clearly failed. Will left to work as a shearer in Argentina and Mary and her two-year-old son Billy soon followed, living separately in Buenos Aires for about six months, and then the family moved to Patagonia until they saved enough for a return passage, via England, in 1902 to Australia, where they took up farming near Casterton, Victoria.
Gilmore’s first volume of poetry was published in 1910, and for the ensuing half-century she was regarded as one of Australia’s most popular and widely read poets. In 1908 she became women’s editor of The Worker, the newspaper of then Australia’s largest and most powerful trade union, the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU). She was the union’s first woman member. The Worker gave her a platform for her journalism, in which she campaigned for the preservation of the White Australia Policy, better working conditions for working women, for children’s welfare and for a better deal for the indigenous Australians.
By 1931 Gilmore’s views had become too radical for the AWU, but she soon found other outlets for her writing. She later wrote a regular column for the Communist Party’s newspaper Tribune, although she was never a party member herself. In spite of her somewhat controversial politics, Gilmore accepted appointment as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1937, becoming Dame Mary Gilmore. She was the first person to be granted this award for services to literature. During World War II she wrote stirring patriotic verse such as No Foe Shall Gather Our Harvest.
In her later years, Gilmore, separated from her husband, moved to Sydney, and enjoyed her growing status as a national literary icon. Before 1940 she published six volumes of verse and three editions of prose. After the war, Gilmore published volumes of memoirs and reminiscences of colonial Australia and the literary giants of 1890s Sydney, thus contributing much material to the mythologising of that period. Dame Mary Gilmore died in 1962, aged 97, and was accorded the first state funeral accorded to a writer since the death of Henry Lawson in 1922.
Gilmore’s image appears on the current fourth series Australian $10 note, along with an illustration inspired by No Foe Shall Gather Our Harvest and, as part of the copy-protection microprint, the text of the poem itself. The background of the illustration features a portrait of Gilmore by the well-known Australian artist Sir William Dobell.
In 1973 she was honoured on a postage stamp bearing her issued by Australia Post.
The Canberra suburb of Gilmore and a federal electorate, the Division of Gilmore, are named in her honour.
Two Songs (1905)
Marri’d and Other Verses (1910)
The Tale inks (1916)
Six Songs from the South (1916)
The Passionate Heart (1918)
The Hound of the Road (1922)
The Tilted Cart : A Book of Recitations (1925)
The Wild Swan : Poems (1930)
The Rue Tree : Poems (1931)
Under the Wilgas (1932)
Pro Patria and Other Poems (1944)
Selected Verse (1948)
Fourteen Men : Verses (1954)
Men of Eureka and Other Australian Songs (1954)
Verse for Children (1955)
Mary Gilmore edited by Robert D. FitzGerald (1963)
Poems to Read to Young Australians (1968)
The Singing Tree : A Selection of Mary Gilmore’s Poetry for Young Readers (1971)
The Collected Verse of Mary Gilmore edited by Jennifer Strauss (2004–07)
“No Foe Shall Gather Our Harvest” (1940)
Old Days : Old Ways : A Book of Recollections (1934)
More Recollections (1935)
Letters of Mary Gilmore edited by W. H. Wilde and T. Inglis Moore (1980)
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