Episode #6 – The Myth of Social Conditioning, Alcoholism in America, and Employees as Family
(Original Recorded November 25, 1981)
The Myth of Social Conditioning – Kenneth Minogue
The Alcoholic Republic – W.J. Rorabaugh
Redeem the Time: The Puritan Sabbath in Early America – Winston U. Solber
A Shopkeepers Millennium: Society and Rivals in Rochester New York 1815-1837 – Paul E. Johnson
Theodora and the Emperor – Harold Lamb
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Speaker 1: The Reconstructionist Radio Podcast Network presents The Easy Chair with R.J. Rushdoony.
Speaker 2: The Easy Chair with R.J. Rushdoony is brought to you by the Chalcedon Foundation and the GCS Apprenticeship Program. For more information, visit Chalcedon.edu and gcsapprenticeship.com.
R.J. Rushdoony: This is R.J. Rushdoony with Easy Chair Talk number six, November 25, 1981, a cold, sunny, frosty day. Very good Easy Chair weather. Well, the world hasn’t improved much since two weeks ago when we had our last talk. I read recently of one major hotel chain that, a few years ago, began screwing the pictures in their rooms to the wall, because so many of them were being stolen. Now, they’re finding that the guests are unscrewing them and carting them off, and in the process, ripping the wallpaper. Maybe they’re going to have to put such ugly pictures on the wall that nobody will want to steal them.
Then, I encountered another item, which struck me as describing our day, our generation about as well, about as thoroughly as anything I’ve read for a long, long time. In one city, state officials closed a striptease joint until it built ramps on its stage to accommodate handicapped strippers. Now, I have never gone to a striptease show, but who in the world would want to go to see handicapped strippers? Perhaps the next step will be that the state will require that they hire handicapped strippers, or 60 or 70-year-old strippers. We must have equality, you know.
Now, that tells us something about our world. How much chance does our humanistic age have of surviving when it is capable of such stupidity? That’s the only word for it, stupidity. Well, the only question is, who is going to take over? As Christians, it is our duty to do so. When Christians begin to turn to the whole word of God, to the law word of God, and begin to apply it, and when they take seriously their mandate to occupy till He comes, then we shall see some changes.
Meanwhile, let the humanists go their merry way, requiring ramps for handicapped strippers. That delights me. I think it’s a fitting symbol for the insanity of our time. Well now, to turn to something else, in the fall 1981 Policy Review, which is a periodical published by Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. There is an excellent article by Kenneth Minogue. The title of it is The Myth of Social Conditioning. Minogue, in this study, attacks the whole concept of conditioning. He regards it, as his title indicates, a myth.
Of course, the founder of this whole school of conditioning, or behaviorism as we know it in this country, was Pavlov. Pavlov made dogs salivate at the ringing of a bell, because he timed the ringing of the bell with giving of food to the dogs. Now, since then, this idea has been applied across the boards to all people as though all people could be conditioned. We have come to believe that conditioning is a reality, a fact of life in our time. Minogue, however, says this is a myth. We can be influenced, but we cannot conditioned. We must not confuse the two.
However, as he quotes one writer, “Few self-respecting Americans do not nowadays regard themselves as part of an oppressed and stigmatized group. Day after day, our sympathies are sought by indignant Blacks, women, homosexuals, landlords, tenants, Irish, old people, young people, the list is endless,” unquote.
All of these believe that they are oppressed, and that people are conditioned to certain attitudes which make them targets of oppression. Now, in particular, one such group is your Women’s Liberation People. They deny that there any sexual differences of any consequence, and that the male-female psychologies are a product of conditioning. They believe that by passing legislation and working towards certain educational goals, we will eliminate all those differences by reconditioning people to see no differences between male and female.
Now, Minogue begins by calling attention to the fact that conditioning and Christianity are incompatible. We have to recognize that conditioning is a faith and a philosophy, which has behind it a belief that man can transform, change the human race. It has as its basic hypothesis that man is not free, and that man can be trained to, like Pavlov’s dogs, salivate at the sight of food, respond to certain things, and become the puppet of the planners.
Well, of course the implications of this are very deadly. If it is true that man can be conditioned, then the human race has not much of a future. “Conditioning means,” Minogue says, “an alien element is introduced into the self, for whose effects the self is not responsible.” In conditioning, we are conditioned in spite of ourselves, to respond in ways that we would not normally respond. He says, and I quote, “To take the most obvious kind of example, we excuse some youth from the Psalms for some violent or criminal act on the ground that he has been conditioned all his life to respond to his circumstances in that way. We make a plausible enough judgment, but in doing so, we threaten to leave no room at all for the idea of moral responsibility. And if we press this model of explanation further, we run the danger of making a responsible act altogether impossible. For any actual human being acts at a particular moment when some limited element of his personality are uppermost and it is always arguable that his action is the outcome of something other than his true self,” unquote.
“But,” Minogue goes on to say, “social conditioning has become one of the master ideas of the 20th century.” He traces this concept back to the enlightenment and the enlightenment hope that the control of human beings could become a scientific fact. We have, as a result in the work of Pavlov in Russia and Watson and Skinner in this country, a deliberate attempt to gain this kind of power over men. We are told that this kind of power was exercised by Hitler, and Minogue quotes the statement, “Through technical devices like the radio and loudspeaker, 80 million people were deprived of independent thought,” unquote.
We are told that the same thing is being done to us by the communications media. We have had popular and scholarly men, and thinkers propagate the idea, men like Vance Packard and Herbert Marcuse. “But,” says Minogue, “social conditioning is impossible.” I quote, “Any kind of conditioning is something that cannot be done to a human being at all. To condition a human being would have to mean that some conditioner, that is one or more people, have had caused the object of the experiment to behave in an entirely predictable way on the application of a stimulus. That is the kind of thing that Pavlov did with dogs. And to see why it is impossible, one need merely note several features of the Pavlovian experiment.”
“First, in order to get the response he wanted, Pavlov had to tie the dogs up and blinker them so as to isolate the stimuli they were receiving. Such complete control cannot usually be achieved in dealing with human beings. And even if it could, it would generally fail to deal with the flood of internal stimuli in the form of thoughts and sensations, memories and reflections, which constitute the inner life of a person,” unquote.
Well, I think the statement there is an excellent one. Unless you’re going to make every person a prisoner controlled like Pavlov controlled the dogs, you will not produce any results. Even then, it is unlikely that it will work. In the Korean War, we had brainwashing, but if those people who are brainwashed, and they were by and large people without any faith or principles. If those people who were brainwashed were released, there’s no question that immediately the brainwashing, if it existed, was gone.
The question then remains, was it really brainwashing or was it a moral weakness? The Koreans found they could not brainwash anyone who had a strong Christian faith, or a strong belief in the free market or both. Both classes of people had a fundamental set of principles in terms of which they hated the Marxists. They knew where they stood. It was those who had no such beliefs who were brainwashed, or at least acceded to it. Not believing anything, they are ready to be agreeable to anything. When they were released from the prison camps, they went right back to the beliefs they had before they entered thm.
By the way Minogue quotes the so-called remark of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, “Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.” He points out that Loyola apparently never said any such thing. It was attributed to him, perhaps mischievously by Voltaire. To continue, Minogue points out that the simple idea of influence has been replaced by the pseudoscientific idea of conditioning. We are trying to view everything scientifically, and as a result, are becoming plaques.
“To adopt the idea of conditioning,” he says, “is to establish a civil war within the soul. And character is then replaced by conditioning. Moreover,” as he says again, “this whole concept is alien to our Christian civilization.” Moreover, he makes this telling observation, and I quote, “In the conditioning model, I merely discover that I have been the victim of alien influences. Self discovery is thus impeded by the assumption that the rejected component of the self has no connection with the real me,” unquote.
Do you get the drift of that? If we believe in conditioning, we can avoid moral responsibility. We can say, “I was conditioned to this by my environment, or by the communications media, and therefore it was not I that sinned, but the conditioned reflex that led to it.”
Dealing with the feminist, he said, and I quote, “The women who try to slough off their inherited femininity like an old snakeskin are drawn toward an abstract ideal of liberated womanhood, entirely unconnected with their individual character,” unquote. The result is that they think in terms of a de-individualized personhood. “And it is a good model,” he says, “for insanity. As a result,” he says, “we view a great many things through the eyes of conditioning, and as a result through falsified perspectives. The Moonies, for example, we insist they are conditioned. This is an easy out for parents who do not want to admit that their own training of their children was poor, or their child’s character was poor, and the child has gravitated to some false idea because of the weakness in that child.” It’s much simpler to say, ‘These baddies have taken my child and they have conditioned him.’ The result is we are not ready to face up to the realities of our world because we are agreeing to the myth of social conditioning.”
Well, so much for that very important and interesting study by Kenneth Minogue. Now I’m going to deal with three books. My comments will weave in and out of them. But first, to give you the specifics of each of these books. The first by Rorabaugh, W.J. R-O-R-A-B-A-U-G-H, The Alcoholic Republic, published by the Oxford University Press in 1979. Then second, Winston U. Solberg, S-O-L-B-E-R-G, Redeem the Time: The Puritan Sabbath in Early America, published in 1977 by the Harvard University Press. Then the third is Paul E. Johnson, A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815 to 1837, published by Hill and Wang in New York, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It was published in 1978.
These books have to do with the Sabbath and with alcoholism in America. Now, these may seem to be very much unrelated subjects, but there is really an important connection. What is that connection? Well, in the Alcoholic Republic, Rorabaugh points out that within 30 or 40 years of the war of independence, the United States became a thoroughly alcoholic republic. The rate of alcoholism became extremely high. It struck every class in society, the workingman, the students, the clergy, scarcely a class that was not affected, except the upper-class, which is an ironic fact.
It was so bad that there were problems, riots and all kinds of troubles on college campuses because of alcoholism. Workers were becoming increasingly incompetent because of alcoholism. The result was a temperance movement, which led to a prohibitionist temper, which continued in this country, culminating at the end of World War I and the 18th amendment, the prohibition amendment.
Now, the reasons for this are traced by Rorabaugh. There were, by the way, ups and downs in the rate of drinking. One thing that helped after the 1820s abate the rate of alcoholism was the Revival Movement. We’ll come to that in a little while. Now, why after the war of independence, did alcoholism take off with such astonishing rapidity? One of the things that happened was that drinking began to proliferate, so that politicians actually believed that the national debt could be paid off by a tax on liquor on whiskey. One of the results of that tax was the Whiskey Rebellion. Not too long after that, the tax was repealed.
Remember the old expression, and this will tell you the reason for the rapid growth of alcoholism, the old expression, drunk as a lord. We don’t hear that very often these days, but some of us who are less young than some of the others can recall when that expression, drunk as a lord, was still in use. It’s a very old expression. It goes back a couple of centuries at least. It points up a very interesting fact. There was a time when to be thoroughly drunk and drunk day in and day out, you had to be a lord. You could not afford it otherwise.
True in Hogarth’s, London you do find that for a time with distilled liquors first coming into production, drunkenness proliferated. But by and large, the cost of getting drunk began to increase, so that for most of history, up until the last century, it was expensive to get drunk, so the expression drunk as a lord. That meant that you had really spent money to get that drunk.
Now, very quickly, with the freedom of the United States, a strong democratic temperament began to proliferate. People began to feel that they were the lords of creation, that anything a lord could do, they could do. You had the rapid growth of heavy drinking among all classes, especially the lower classes. As a result, alcoholism began to proliferate at an astonishing rate. You had this situation where even occasionally, the clergy were too drunk to be able to continue in a service.
It is ironic that among the first temperance people were the Unitarians. The Unitarians emphasized reason. They were rationalists. Hence, they disliked liquor because liquor interfered with the function of reason, good thinking. Drinking, by and large, was a rebellion against status, against social rank. It was an attempt to say, “I’m as good as a lord.” In the early days after the war of independence, you still had elements of social rank to the point that, for example at Harvard, students were listed not alphabetically, but by their social rank. So if you came from the most important family, you are listed first. If you are at the bottom of the list, it meant that your family did not amount to much.
Well, the consequence of all this was a devastating one for American society. The drinkers were emphasizing their sense of autonomy. As Rorabaugh says, and I quote, “Drinking became a symbol of egalitarianism. All men were equal before the bottle. And no man was allowed to refuse a drink. A guest at an evening party might be dragged to the sideboard and forced against his protests, to down glass after glass. A refusal to drink under such circumstances was viewed as proof that the abstainer thought himself to be better than other people. He would not be invited to another party.”
“Similarly, after one English born schoolmaster offended Americans by declining to drink with them, they so ostracized him that when he took ill and died suddenly, it was several days before his absence from the scene was noticed and his death discovered. It was expected that a man attending a Southern barbecue would follow the barbecue law which required that everyone drink to intoxication. The only excuse for refusing a round was passing out. In Mississippi,” recalled Henry [Foot 00:28:49], “drinking to excess had become so fashionable that a man of strict sobriety was considered a cold-blooded and uncongenial wretch. To refuse to imbibe gave serious offense, suggesting a lack of respect and friendship. It was sometimes dangerous.”
“A gang of lusty Kentuckians angry with an abstinent comrade is reputed to have roasted him to death. While drinking in a group made the participants equals, it also gave them a feeling of independence and liberty. Drinking to the point of intoxication was done by choice, an act of self will, by which a man altered his feelings, escaped from his burdens, and sought perfection in his surroundings. Because drinking was a matter of choice, it increased a man’s sense of autonomy. To be drunk was to be free,” unquote.
This is why so many political figures in those days, beginning with the young Abraham Lincoln became so intensely concerned about alcoholism and joined the Prohibition Movement. This is why also the Prohibition Movement finally succeeded. It had behind it the horror of people over this propensity of the people of the United States to prove that they were as good as anybody else, to affirm this kind of new snobbishness to be as drunk as a lord.
There was also another factor in the whole situation, and it was this, taverns were always open on election day. The winner was the one who bought the most votes by setting up the most drinks, and somehow managing in between the drinks to get the people to go and vote for him before they passed out.
Rorabaugh points out that it was routine in those days to bring liquor to a court and to pass it to the judge and to the jury as well as the attorneys on both side. If you were a defendant, it was a good thing to do so, because there was a good chance if the judge and jury became mellow enough from the liquor you brought in, you might get acquitted.
Now I cite this because it’s an important study in our history. Rorabaugh, by the way, is an assistant professor of history at the University of Washington in Seattle. It also is related to the other two books. I mentioned that the other two books have to do with the Sabbath. Now, somewhere in one of his books, Christopher Hill makes a very interesting point about the Puritans in 17th-century England and in Cromwell’s day, in particular. The Puritans became enormously popular, although they were a small minority of the population. They were, for this, among other reasons, able to command the people of England because they were strict Sabbatarians.
However, their Sabbatarianism differed from that of the last century and this in that the Puritan Sabbatarians saw what the 10 Commandments clearly teach, that we are to rest in the Sabbath day. Not only we, but our animals that are servants. Now on 17th-century England, there was no day of rest for the ordinary man. Old England is spoken of in myth as merry England, but it was not a merry England for the common man. Here suddenly were these Puritans talking about a day of rest, a very important fact.
The workingman in England, the common people had lost rest when Henry VIII severed relations with the Vatican. Remember, medieval civilization had all kinds of Saints’ days. Some of these were days of rest. As a result, there were a considerable number of days in the Middle Ages when men did not work, when they had rest. Those days, those Saints’ days, holy days, were swept aside by Henry VIII and by Catholic monarchs, as well by the way. The result was a tremendous depression in the circumstances of the common peoples of Europe. We talk about medieval serfdom. It was a picnic compared to what came to pass in Europe with the Enlightenment. The worst horrors were those that overtook the Western world with the age of reason. About the same time, by the way, the common man in old Russia became a serf. There had been no serfdom in medieval Russia. It began only with the age of the Enlightenment.
One of the things the Enlightenment did was to separate a man from his fellow men. The socially elite, the nobility, the royalty, the intellectuals no longer had a common bond of faith with the rest of society. Now granted that the medieval era was not ideal, but there was still then a sense of unity because of the faith. With the Enlightenment, that disappeared.
Well, the Puritans, by their emphasis on the sanctity of the Sabbath, and the requirement of giving one’s workers rest became very popular. A lingering respect for the Puritans among the common people of England lasted generations after the day of Cromwell. They remembered what the Puritans had done for them.
Well, the Sabbath as we have it in New England was a carryover of the Puritan Sabbath in the early days. Moreover, one of the things that marked that age and this country to, let us say the 1820s, was that a man who had a mill, a shop, or a small manufacturing plant usually housed his workers in his own home. Some of those homes were rather large, or there was a place in back where these men slept. They were fed by his wife or by his servants at a common table where the employer and the workers sat down together. The result was that there was some sense of a family relationship between an employer and his employees.
If you sat at a table with a man, morning, noon and night, seven days a week, you would begin to be concerned about him. You would go to church with him. His sickness was then a family affair. As a result, there was a very different situation before the 1820s and that which followed. Parenthetically, let me quote a statement from the book by Solberg, which I think is very good from a preacher of the day, “Where there are no law sermons, there will be few gospel lies,” unquote.
They had some sound thinking in those days. Well, another little interesting fact in Virginia in the 1600s. One of the laws required masters of families to bring a serviceable gun with them to church on Sundays on penalty of up to 20 pounds of tobacco for masters, and up to 20 lashes for servants. Very interesting rule, but it was necessary for defense because on a day like the Sabbath when all men were preoccupied with worship, an Indian attack was all the more likely.
Solberg also makes this interesting comment, and I quote, “Sabbatarianism was also significant in conditioning attitudes toward economic life. The Puritan teaching sanctified enterprise and proscribed idleness by enjoining men to work six days a week and rest on the seventh. Thus, Sabbatarianism was an important stimulus to the growth of capitalistic and industrial society, but the ethical component of the theory held that life meant far more than personal or a social success. In reality, the doctrine of the Sabbath was socially progressive. The strong social case for the enforcement of the Sabbath rest has been obscured by historians who repeat anti-puritan propaganda about Blue Laws and the killjoy side of Sabbatarianism,” unquote.
The Blue Laws, by the way, were a myth. You can buy a copy of them, but they were manufactured by a Tory critic of the Americans during the war of independence. But now to get to the point. What happened at that dividing line? Well, in the 1820s, a millennium, a shopkeeper’s millennium, as Johnson describes it, took place. It was a society in which the small shopkeeper came into his own. Life was very good for him. He began to prosper. A new society was being created, and the growth was phenomenal. But there was a penalty in all of this, it meant that as he progressed and grew, he was hiring more and more people, he was no longer housing his help, whether he had a shop that manufactured or that sold, and a distance socially began to develop between the employer and the employee.
It was a millennium of sorts for the shopkeeper, as Johnson describes it, but it was also a critical stage in the development of society, because the family previously had included the workers. They had been a part of the fellowship. They went to church together. They did all things together. Now, they had to have separate housing. There was less personal concern. It was about that time that you began to see the development of rather ugly conditions of work, long hours, poor pay, no concern by the employers.
Little by little, as society became de-christianized, you had, for some people, seven days of work, 365 days in the year. Now, my father-in-law grew up in that old order and in his early years worked long hours every day of the year with no time off for Christmas or Thanksgiving or any other day. That was the reality of America. In this situation, the church stumbled and fell flat on its face. It began to throw the book at the working man in the form of strict Sabbath laws, closing the bars, but not improving working conditions. The church gained the reputation of being nothing but a killjoy.
It was about the same time that Charles G. Finney began his revivals. In fact, he began them in Rochester, New York. It was from there that the revival spread across the whole country. But it was precisely there, as Johnson points out, that these problems were present and were never addressed. Moreover, what you began to see develop was a working man’s church, and a rich man’s church. In other words, the temperance movement as a result of revivalism, did take hold with some of the working men. It had come down from the upper classes to the middle classes. The upper classes in the United States were the first who ceased to be drunk as a lord. Then, it was the middle classes. Then, some of the lower classes who were converted by the revivals.
But they no longer felt close to the boss. The boss had been their friend. He had been like a father. He was the one who sat at the head of the table and who was concerned about them. Now, he no longer was. He gave them a check, he balled them out at work, but he was no longer a personal Christian friend, a family member as earlier.
The result was that we had a social classification in the churches. Certain churches were the churches to belong to socially. Other churches were the working man’s church. To this day, we have not overcome the effects of that. Sabbatarianism ceased to have the appeal for the working men that it once did. Since the Sabbatarians were not concerned with the working aspect of things, but unhappily in those years, primarily concerned with the bars, the working man became suspicious of the Sabbatarians, and of Christians generally.
In the day of the Puritan, the workingman saw the Christian, the Puritan Christian as his friend and champion, a man who wanted to see him freed from intolerable labor, a man who recognized that under God, he was required to be given rest and to be treated humanely. Now, they no longer felt that way. We still have not overcome the effect of that break that was created around 1820.
Well, now I want to turn to something very different. I’d like to read something to you. I’ll possibly go back to something else if time permits, but today it will not be a poem, rather something from a book by Harold Lamb entitled Theodora and the Emperor. This is an old book which came out a good many years ago. It isn’t the best work there is on Justinian and Theodora. In fact, there’s scarcely a good book on the subject. This was published in 1952. Of course, it’s out of print.
It deals with an episode in the life of the Empire when Theodora was dead. Justinian was an old man. At a critical point, the Huns began to march from the steps towards Byzantium. A worse time for the Huns to arrive could not be imagined. There was no one to drive back the barbarians, no military garrisons, no engines of defense, no trained men. The fighting men were in Italy, in Africa, others in Spain, others in Cocos, others at Alexandria, and along the Nile, and a few on the Persian frontier.
But suddenly, the Huns appeared. The people in Byzantium, Constantinople could see across the straits the fires of the burning villages as the Huns moved closer and closer, and no troops to defend them. Panic began to seize the people in the city. The wealth of Byzantium was tremendous. The loot available to these barbarians, incalculable. How was the city to be defended when there were no troops?
At this point, Justinian sent for his old retired commander, Belisarius. I’ll read from this point on what happens. The veteran commander could not of course muster an army in a day. The last militia had been lost out on the long wall, then, too, the city armories had been stripped of reserve weapons. Going out of the palace, he paid no attention to the nervous crowd of patricians who formed in a sort of line in obedience to the Emperor’s summons. Instead, he told announcers to run through the streets calling, “Belisarius is going out with the standards. He asks for all who have served under him.” Such veterans were to meet at once in the Strategium Square. In addition, all horses were to be seized from carts and liters, and even the inviolate stables of the Hippodrome chariots.
Belisarius wanted swords from the houses, spears from the theaters, every bit of armor hung in the halls, especially the helmets with the plumes of his old comitatus. Above all, he wanted casting weapons, javelins and bows, planks from the shipyards, poles, axes, sailors and peasants from the country side. He wanted all of those. Although close to 60 years of age, he still made a fine figure and helmet and cuirass under the faded red mantle.
When he rode to the Strategium, he had the standards with him. From the alleys, men hurried after him shedding cobblers aprons, and porters, shoulder pads. Out of the taverns, they staggered, their heads dripping from rinsing in water pots. They galloped in on stolen horses. Belisarius hardly remembered many of their faces, and the veterans identified themselves by familiar names. By the pits of Darus, the 10 mile mark, and the Milvian Frige. Walking among them, he sorted them out, talking with the old men casually, telling them that this business of driving off Huns needed the old army.
There was a palate and massive merchant who held his head still with his hand on the shoulders of an anxious boy. “Illustrious,” this one called out, hearing his leader’s voice, “Votus, plank man of the first deliriums.” Studying the soldier’s face, Belisarius passed his hand before the other’s eyes and noticed that they did not move. Judging Votus to be blind, he shook his head at the officers following him, responding quickly. “Then, you are the Votus who was wounded coming out of the aqueduct at [Eraminum 00:55:01]. Wait here. I want you to tell the recruits about that.”
He seemed to be making a jest of his rounds among the biscuit-eaters, as they were called. Quick to catch his mood, they flung back jokes. “The biscuits are maggoty. Master, this chariot steed will go nowhere but around a post. If we frighten the Huns, we’ll never catch them. Have we cooks, or will we eat out of the Huns’ pots?” To his officers, he explained that he desired implements to make both fire and noise.
One of them who still had his uniform intact hazarded to guess that they would face odds of five to one as a tri-cameron. “No,” Belisarius said. “This will be like the Euphrates crossing, where we threw javelins and chased hares.” At no time would he speak of tactics or plans. Apparently, he was preparing for a new kind of game with 7,000 Huns joining in the sport. In reality, he understood the hopelessness of mustering in a force to make any kind of stand against and the Huns. He encouraged his motley command to think it would be something novel and unexpected. By costumes and jests, he put together the semblance of an arm.
By the next day, he had 300 of his veterans armed and mounted well enough to resemble a regiment, 500 more had horses, spears and swords and were capable of riding after him. About as many more on foot could use javelins and bows, and might carry out orders. The sturdier peasants and seamen were given axes and clappers made out of boards, with anything left over. Although nothing but a mob, these last might be taken for soldiers at a distance.
At the head of his new comitatus, the first citizen rode out of the golden gate by the shore of Marmora. He did not waste thought on any attempt to hold the triple city wall with civilians. The land walls stretched all of four and a half miles to the harbor. With flutes playing, he went out to meet the Huns in open country. Beyond the first milestones, he had his following make camp and barricade themselves in with branches and beams at the village of [Chedus 00:58:03]. Some clear fields extended around the village to wooded land through which the highway ran. At night, he had a great number of fires lighted and saw to it that his new cohorts kept moving around the fires as long as the light lasted. He did not post scouts outside the camp until the first daylight.
Belisarius at Chedus had only one advantage. Knowing the Huns from long experience, he believed they might turn and race away if surprised. Their instinct drove them like animals at the scent of danger. Since his semblance of an army could not stand firm against either the arrows or the charge of the horsemen of the steps, he intended to set a false trap for them. It would have to be a very makeshift trap.
By then, he was certain that scouts had arrived from the Huns to look over his exhibition camp, but he could not be certain what the sharp eyes of the nomads had noticed, or what conclusions they had reached. Actually, the scouts returned to [Zabugan 00:59:24], Hun of the [Kutragura 00:59:27] Hun with a report that a small and weak Roman army waited and camped on the high road. The Hun chieftain sent a third of his column ahead to clear the road.
After daybreak, Belisarius sent his missile throwers in two groups to either side the road within the woods. “Whatever you do after the first shafts are thrown,” he warned the officers of the two detachments, “make a noise and keep moving.” With his advanced parties screened by the tree growth, Belisarius set his stage in front of the village moving out his 300 biscuit-eaters leisurely, keeping the other riders behind them with a mob in the rear.
Seen from the forest road, this array would resemble the first lines of a greater force. In any event, it would catch the eye of the foremost riders coming along the road. That happened as he had hoped. The advanced detachment of Huns in their dark leather and [mail 01:00:36] came out cautiously, waiting for the remainder of their column. The Roman cavalry at a halt offered no visible menace. The whole scene appeared to puzzle rather than rouse the Huns who had become contemptuous of Roman soldiery.
Than the sudden discharge of javelins and arrows from the brush on either side drove the plank drivers down into the road. In some confusion, the Huns took to their bows. Around them, the woods rang with exultant and shouting. Belisarius chose this minute to charge with his 300 dependables. Behind them, other horsemen galloped, stirring up dust while the rabble sounded its wooden clappers and trumpets.
The Hippodrome racing steeds, mad with its excitement, turned into the wood as if rounding the chorus. There was a moment when anything might have happened. The veterans, once in motion, drove in their charge, while the Huns, trying instinctively to circle out were caught in the tree growth and scarred by the Roman javelins. The forest seemed to become a trap, with the enemy triumphant.
The Huns turned to race back along the road and lost heavily in doing so. The veterans pursued at the best of the speed of their carts and chariot horses. Belisarius’ luck, they called it. The flight of his advanced columns disturbed the Kutragura Hun who suspected a trap in the presence of a trained Roman army which he had no desire to meet. Hastily, he evacuated his camp and retired with his horsemen to the north.
Luck had played no part whatever in this. A battle is like an epidemic of fear. At some moment somewhere, a few men who happened to be less afraid than the others facing them with weapons will push forward, and the others will turn to run to safety. Two days before, 100,000 men in Constantinople had been so afraid that most of them were searching for boats to escape across the Bosporus. Belisarius had mocked them and jested and hinted until the multitude had begun to think of other matters than running from the city.
Then, he had gambled on the courage of 300 over aged soldiers in armor, pressed in on narrow way against 2,000 savage tribes men. There had been no fake about that. The 300 had pushed ahead. The 2,000 had turned to seek safety. Once they started to retreat, the Huns kept on going. They carried off loot enough to satisfy them. [Desiraran 01:03:55] Hun at least it now appeared too painful a business to try to rush the walls of the Imperial City. To that extent, the civilized fighter had out-guessed the more powerful barbarian.
Well, once they turned tail, they kept running. Belisarius, what happened to him? He became so popular that he was demoted and his property confiscated by the jealous Justinian. Not one of that great man’s good moments by any means. A little later, it was all restored by Justinian, but Belisarius never cared. He was an old soldier who was happy for the chance once again to serve his country.
Well, this brings us to the conclusion of another Easy Tape. There are some other things I want to share with you. I’m looking forward to our next time together. Thank you.
Speaker 2: Thank you for listening to the easy chair with R.J. Rushdoony. Please visit Chalcedon.edu for more materials by R.J. Rushdoony and the Chalcedon Foundation.
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