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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Science and Religion 1860


For the laying of the cornerstone for the University of the South, on 10 October 1860, Matthew Fontaine Maury gave this speech before 8 bishops, 200 clergy and 4,000 laymen concerning my personal belief in religion as the basis for any comprehensive understanding of the natural world.


Physical geography makes the whole world kin. Of all the departments in the domains of physical science, it is the most Christianising. Astronomy is grand and sublime; but astronomy overpowers with its infinities, overwhelms with its immensities. Physical geography chars with its wonders, and delights with the benignity of its economy. Astronomy ignores the existence of man; physical geography confesses that existence and is based on the Biblical doctrine that the earth was made for man. Upon no other theory can its phenomena be reconciled. …

Here, the schools which are soon to be opened … the masters of this newly ordained science will teach our sons to regard some of the commonest things as the most important agents in the physical economy of the planet. They are also might ministers of the Creator. …

I have been blamed by men of science, both in this country and in England, for quoting the Bible, they say, was not written for scientific purposes, and is therefore no authority in matters of science. I beg pardon: the Bible is authority in everything it touches. What would you think of the historian who should refuse to consult the historical records of the Bible because the Bible was not written for the purposes of history? The Bible is true: and science is true … they are both true; … and when your man of science with vain and hasty conceit announces the discovery of disagreement between them, rely upon it the fault is not the Witness or His records, but with the “worm” who essay to interpret evidence with he does not understand. …

As a student of physical geography, I regard earth, sea, air, and water as parts of a machine, pieces of a mechanism, not made with hands, but to which, nevertheless, certain offices have been assigned in the terrestrial economy. It is good and profitable to seek to find these offices … and when, after patient research, I am led to the discovery of any one of them, I feel with the astronomer of old, as though I had “thought one of God’s thoughts,”—and tremble. Then as we progress with our science we are permitted now and then to point out here and there in the physical machinery of the earth a design of the Great Architect when He planned it all. …

Had I time I might show how mountains, deserts, winds, and water, when treated by this beautiful science in our schools, and even before man had endowed it with a name, saw and appreciated its dignity—the for each one has its part to perform in the great concert of nature. …

What have we heard chanted here in this grove by a thousand voices this morning?—A song of praise, such as these hills since the morning stars sang together—the BENEDICTINE of our mother Church, invoking the very agents whose workings and offices it is the business of the physical geographer to point out! In her services she teaches her children in their songs of praise to call upon certain physical agents, principles in this newly-established department of human knowledge—upon the waters above the firmament; frost and cold; ice and snow; night and day; light and darkness; lightning and clouds; mountains and hills; green things; fowls of the air; with beasts and cattle—to bless, praise, and magnify the Lord!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

MFM information


More information about Matthew Fontaine Maury.
In 1853 Maury coordinated the first international conference on wind, currents and meteorology on the seas. He got England, France and Russia to send delegates to Brussels for the conference during the Crimean War. The conference resolved to send data to Maury at the National Observatory on wind and currents, even in time of war. In return the U.S. would provide updated Wind and Current Charts to all participating countries. By 1858 over 186,000 vessels were floating laboratories reporting to the Observatory. In recognition for his work he was given the following awards:

 A member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of Russia.

A member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium.

An associate of England’s Royal Astronomical Society.

And a member of some forty other learned societies in the United States, Europe, and the Orient.

The Emperor of Russia made him “Knight of the Order of St. Ann”.

The King of Denmark made him “Knight of the Dannebrog”.

The King of Portugal, “Knight of the Tower and Sword”.

The King of Belgium, “Knight of the Order of St. Leopold.”

The Emperor of France, “Commander of the Legion of Honour.”

At the request of Alexander von Humbolt, Maury received the Great Gold Medal of the Paris Universal Exposition.

A Great Gold Medal from the Emperor of France.

The Great Gold Medal of the King of the Netherlands.

The Great Gold Medal of Arts and Sciences from the Emperor of Austria.

The Gold Medal of Sardinia.

The Gold Medal struck especially by the order of the King of Sweden and Norway. 

The Pope sent a complete set of all the medals which had been struck during his pontificate as a mark of his appreciation of Maury's services in the cause of science.

The Czar of Russia and Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria sent jeweled pins to his wife, Ann. 

Most of these awards are on permanent display in the National Museum of the United States, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Up top date on MFM

 Still working on The Autobiography of Matthew Fontaine Maury: Life and Times of a Rebel.

I've written from his genealogy to the Civil War based on one biography that was a concise version of his life. I used it for the skeleton of his life, nut and bolts. I'm using another biography that has much more about his family life and longer quotes from his letters and speeches. This gives the story much more of a "In his own words," feeling.

Wikipedia isn't helping me with a particularly important person in MFM's life. William Lewis Herndon is referred to in most biographies (there are six so far I'm using) as MFM's brother-in-law. It's a family jumble of similar names and close cousins, normal at the time period where a married couple would have from six to fourteen children and giving them common first names.

MFM married Ann Hull Herndon. Her mother was Elizabeth Hull married to Dabney Herndon. Ann's parents died when she was 13 and MFM's elder sister, and mother of Dabney, also named Elizabeth, took Ann Hull and her brother, Brodie, in and raised them as her own.

MFM's uncle, Edward Herndon and aunt, Elizabeth were parents of William Lewis Herndon and others. 

This made MFM and William Lewis Herndon second cousins. MFM and Ann were fourth cousins. If MFM and WLH were brother-in-law then Ann would be MFM's first cousin. A big distinction today, not so big in 1820's.

Wikipedia counts Ann Hull and Brodie as children of Edward and Elizabeth Maury Herndon. It is confusing, but they should try to get this right.

I'm using a Maury Family Tree by Sue C. West-Teague, that spells this out in a confusing and absolutely impossible chronology.

I've still a bit of fleshing out to do with what I have on the skeleton before tackling the Civil War and MFM's return to the United States. He was under a death sentence far stricter that for Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stevens and Robert E. Lee! I'll explain in the book.

William Lewis Herndon was the captain of the steam ship Central America that went down in  a hurricane with millions of dollars worth of gold in 1858. It was recently discovered off the North Carolina coast. North Carolina, the U.S. and the salvagers are still fighting over what today is billons of dollars in gold coins. 

WLH had a daughter and she married a New York politician named Chester A. Arthur. MFM gave her hand in marriage as this was after her father died. It was Chester A. Arthur who pulled the political strings to get MFM back from London and to Virginia. 

Elizabeth Herndon Arthur died before Chester became Vice-President and later President of the U.S.