Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Looking back at Lincoln: On April 18, 1863

On this day in 1863, Lincoln wrote the following memorandum concerning one Francis Capen, who claimed to be a "Certified Practical Meteorologist—& Expert in Computing the Changes of the Weather."

Capen was seeking work with the War Department and claiming that he could predict the weather. Lincoln obviously was not impressed:

April 28, 1863

It seems to me Mr. Capen knows nothing about the weather, in advance. He told me three days ago that it would not rain again till the 30th. of April or 1st. of May. It is raining now & has been for ten hours. I can not spare any more time to Mr. Capen.


I can certainly identify with this entry.

Before the Civil War, the Army Corps of Engineers was already gathering and using weather data. When the war began - and after seeing the impact of weather on troop marches (mud) and battles (wind and rain) - battlefield commanders requested accurate weather forecasts so they could better plan their movements.

Without any legitimate meteorologists (Francis Capen appears to have been a crank,) the Army gathered weather data as best as they could, and transmitted it by telegraph (i.e. 'its raining here and the wind appears to be blowing in your general direction.') Of course this wasn't a terribly accurate way to gather and distribute weather data, but it was better than nothing.

This fledgling system evolved into the National Weather Bureau, which eventually became the National Weather Service. Now we have satellites and radar... but we here in Indiana can testify: they still get it wrong much of the time!

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