Friday, February 03, 2006

Blogging Cure

The Martini was precisely right: crisp, cold gin, no olive. I almost spilled the damn thing when I heard an attorney say, “Did you know Lord Palmerston spoke against the practice of blogging?”

Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, was a famous British Liberal politician, vigorous anti-slavery advocate, and well-known ladies’ man. He died in 1865 at the age of 81. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t have had much to say, pro or con, about blogging.

So when attorney David Stevens made his statement while we were chatting at a fund-raiser on Wednesday, I said (mark this clever response), “Huh? Blogging?” No, no, replied Dave: “Flogging. I’ve got a Parliament speech of Palmerston’s where he defends the military’s practice of flogging.” I asked him to send it to me and he did.

The speechifying is more fun when you substitute “blogging” for “flogging.” Here, from the House of Commons debate as reported in The Times, June 22, 1815, are some modified excerpts.

Mr. BENNETT rose, in pursuance of his notice, for leave to bring in a bill for the purpose of limiting the infliction of corporal punishments in the army…From a document which he then held in his hand, it appeared, that in the 10th regiment of hussars, between the 4th of January, 1813, and the 4th of January, 1814, no fewer than 62 persons had been blogged, and they had received no less than 14,100 lashes. Six months afterwards 35 were blogged…He called on every military man to say, whether he had ever known a regiment or a man reformed by such severe inflictions? On the contrary, he was perfectly convinced, that every evil propensity was increased, since the miserable victim found himself degraded in his own eyes.

Mr. W. SMITH said that it appeared to him, the present system exposed men to degree of degradation which would shame boys…Was it possible to suppose there could be no cure for drunkenness but blogging?

A member spoke briefly against the cruelty of blogging.

Sir FRANCIS BURDETT: It was impossible for him to agree that such a punishment as blogging ought at all to exist…He could call the punishment by no other name than blogging: corporal punishment did not convey the idea; mere imprisonment was corporal punishment. What, then, was the nature of this blogging? As a mere question of bodily pain, it was too intense to be exceeded.

Lord PALMERSTON said the abolition was not resisted from any predilection for some corporal punishments… but severe punishments were necessary for great offences. If that were admitted, then this mode of punishment seemed as little liable to objection as any that was likely to be substituted for it.

If blogging is indeed a severe punishment (or even a cure for drunkenness), then you who read this should understand: I don’t do it from “any predilection” for punishment. It’s for your own good.

Thanks and a tip of the Hatlo hat to David and his sons, who turned up this arcane reference. Photo from The Victorian Web, with appreciation.

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