Assessing the World, from Bismarck to Bernhardt
Assessing the World, from Bismarck to Bernhardt

CS Archive from September 15, 1888

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You might not think of Christian Standard as a place to turn for national and international news, but in 1888—130 years ago—it surely was.

And the reader back then received not only the news, but commentary.

The lead article/column, which started in the top-left corner of the September 15 issue that year, carried items under the small headline “AROUND THE WORLD.”

The wide-ranging reports are layered with opinion and occasionally drip with sarcasm. It’s entertaining writing, but some items may cause one to cringe, so be advised. Then again, some news seems little changed.

First off—and we’ve respected the original order—an item about Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of the German Empire . . .

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It is again announced that Bismarck, in one of his characteristic pets, because the Emperor [Wilhelm II] went riding, or changed his linen, or did some other important thing, without consulting him, is threatening to resign for the Nth time. It has long been apparent that Bismarck was badly spoiled by the doting old Emperor William [aka, Wilhelm I], and it might have been foreseen that he could not get along with anybody less indulgent and yielding . . .

[Note: William II/Wilhelm II dismissed Bismarck in 1890.]

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The Chicago Evangelization Society, of which Mr. Moody is president, has just held a famous council of eminent evangelists in that city. There were present those who with apostolic zeal have left homes and lands, kindred and friends, and hazarded their lives to preach the gospel in strange lands and among fierce peoples. One of them had during forty years preached in every city of Europe—preaching when he was permitted, and when not permitted, preaching anyhow. Others had encountered perils in the Chinese Inland Mission, and in India, and the heathen-most parts of the earth. It was a symposium of heroism—that council was; but some of them have, it seems, been offering the strange fire of a zeal not according to knowledge to the Lord. Yet it would have been good to be there and catch the contagion of their courage. One of those present, who had been in perils oft and labors abundant, said, “We have means at hand with all of our inventions to deluge the world with the gospel.” Will not many of our brethren who are ready to say, “Yes, they are going about to establish their own righteousness,” please come forward with means to send those who are not ignorant of God’s righteousness?

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Yet a few weeks and we shall have a decision by the people, not so much as to what shall be our national policy for the next four years, but as to which party shall administer the government and dispense the patronage. At least that is about what the average politician sees in it, and he smiles at the idea of “issues,” except the issue of the ballot. So true is this that questions of the most serious import are ignored altogether if they endanger majorities, or are insincerely discussed purely for the catching of votes. Candidates for high office have convictions about very serious matters which they would not avow in public for any reward, unless it were the coveted election—and that is the very thing which such avowal would defeat. Their mouths are sealed and their hands closed to the most dangerous evils of the time; not because those who support these evils are predominant, but because they hold the balance of ballots between divided patriots. In this the candidate is no more to blame than the people; for why should he commit political suicide only to make room for somebody who would not?

[Note: Republican Benjamin Harrison defeated President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, in November 1888. Cleveland returned the “favor” by defeating Harrison in 1892.]

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China has rejected the treaty submitted to her last spring by our government, concerning restriction of immigration. While Chinamen have had the whole range of Uncle Sam’s domain, Americans have been very narrowly circumscribed over there, and it would seem that our demands were not unjust. Whether England had anything to do with the rejection of the treaty or not can be settled hereafter, but here is a problem of great importance that demands careful solution. It is not so simple a question as some suppose, who would say, “Shut the Chinese out entirely, and be done with it.” That might shut us out of commerce with one-third of the human race, and might shut the doors of Christian missions to us. It is not a thing to be settled off-hand, but the danger to us from this immigration is too serious to leave it unchecked.

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Meanwhile it seems that both parties in Congress are fairly tumbling over each other in their scramble to be first in legislating the Chinese out—or rather in introducing and recommending legislation which may capture the Pacific States. . . . There seems to be as little hope of anything wise and just being done in this Chinese Immigration question this year, as in the Fisheries question. Then it is about impossible for Congress to get a quorum for anything.

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The English papers take the rejection of the late lamented Fisheries Treaty, and the President’s recommendations in the matter, in widely differing moods. Some are disposed to joke over it; others . . . to regard it as simply a piece of Pickwickian diplomacy . . .

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A special from London says “the great Sarah Bernhardt is getting into bad ways.” In addition to those the world already knows of, it is now reported that “her growing intemperance threatens to deprive the world of its greatest artist.” It is a curious “art” in which one can become “great” not only in spite of, but largely by reason of, the most flagrant immoralities. Sarah is but a living proof among many other proofs, past and present, that no amount of moral turpitude, and no vices, however abhorrent, hinder success upon the stage. In this instance, we would say to those who support the stage, You see your calling. Is it a thing pure, lovely, or of good report? Is there any virtue or anything praiseworthy about it? Think on these things.

[Bernhardt was then 43; she died at age 78 in 1923.]

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Representatives of our government are meeting with some success in their endeavor to induce the Sioux Indians to give up their wild, communistic life, and accept the new order of things, which gives each member of the tribe a definite tract of land. It is no wonder that the commissioners of the government have had much trouble and have consumed much time in bringing a few of the chiefs to their terms. It is contrary to all the traditions and instincts of the tribe. Besides, the Indians have abundant reasons to suspect the sincerity of the Great Father or at least the honesty of his agents. They fear treachery, and are artless enough to say so. . . .

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—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard

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