Sunday, October 27, 2013

Truxtun Park/Truxton Heights of Annapolis

The last few years I have been living in the Truxton Heights area of Annapolis. Truxton Heights overlooks Truxtun Park. I always thought it was odd that there were two different spellings of the name and assumed that it was a mistake by developers when they named Truxton Heights. I had never given much thought to the history of the name, despite the fact that I had previously included a brief story about the legendary witch of the area in my book, Witch Trials, Legends, and Lore of Maryland. The only thing I knew about the area was that the park was donated to the City of Annapolis in the 1930s by a Truxtun Beale. I learned this from reading a marker in the park. I sort of just assumed that Truxtun Beale was probably a batty old rich woman who donated the land when she died. And I thought it was odd that they named it after her first name. Shouldn't it be Beale Park?

"Don't Fuck with the Trux" was his personal motto,
or at least it should have been.

Well, it turns out that my assumptions were wrong. First, Truxtun Beale was a guy and a very interesting fellow. Born in 1856 in San Francisco, he was a lawyer and a diplomat. He was once the US Ambassador to Persia and then Greece, Romania, and Serbia.

One has to wonder what sort of diplomacy he engaged in. Beale was a badass, for lack of a better term. In 1902, in San Francisco he was charged with shooting a newspaper editor.  He argued it was self-defense and was acquitted. At age 60 in Washington, D.C., he started a fist-fight with a former Navy Secretary.

Beale was also involved in politics. He was a delegate from California to the Republican Convention in 1912. In 1920, he offered cash rewards to young Republicans who came up with the best suggestions for the platform.

An ardent supporter of liberty and limited government, Beale was a big fan of the Herbert Spencer, the legendary English philosopher who was a proto-libertarian of sorts. Spencer died in 1903, but Beale was convinced that the American people in the early 20th century desperately needed his wisdom. In 1916, Beale produced a book of Spencer's writings that were accompanied by commentary from important men such as President/Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Henry Cabot Lodge. In The Man Versus the State a Collection of Essays, Beale hoped to warn his fellow citizens about the dangers of the progressive movement, so-called. The publisher wrote at the start of the book:
It is due to the interest and energy of Mr. Truxtun Beale that these essays of Herbert Spencer, with comments by eminent Americans, have been gathered together into a book. Mr. Beale has been a student and a disciple of Spencer ever since he became acquainted with his work; he has, indeed, been a sort of lay exponent of the Spencerian philosophy in America. It is a long generation since Spencer did the greatest part of his work, but it is not so long since these essays were new and vital in the world. They are filled with straight thinking and fundamental truths about man's efforts to construct social organisms and state systems, and the inevitable failure of democracy to bring about that perfection of order and social justice of which man has always dreamed. Spencer looked into the world and into the heart of man, and what he found he set down faithfully and without swerving from the truth. Because of their lack of sentimental thinking and their lack of unfounded hope; because of their recognition of truths not altogether pleasing to our social dreams, these essays, after establishing the foundation of all our modern social thinking, were in a fair way to be neglected, if not forgotten by the world, until Mr. Beale conceived the idea of gathering certain of them together and making them into a book. In pursuit of his idea, Mr. Beale travelled about the country enlisting the aid of a few of those leaders of thought in America who know the tremendous value of Spencer's work in our social system; and he succeeded in inducing these men to write critical and interpretative comments on the essays, as they appear in the light of what they can teach us in relation to the problems' that are perplexing America to-day. This book is the result of Mr. Beale's adventure in preaching the gospel according to Herbert Spencer.
Herbert Spencer at 78
The reason I find this so fascinating is because after I found and started reading Spencer, I also became a fan of his work. One day when walking my dog in
Truxtun Park I also thought about putting together a book of Spencer's writings along with commentary about how they relate to current political debates. I didn't know that nearly 100 years before Beale had done the same thing. Other than seeing his name on a plaque, I had no idea who he was. I wonder if Beale thought up the idea while at his Annapolis retreat. Maybe I should really work on that project now and dedicate it to Truxtun Beale.

Beale eventually died in 1936 at his country home in Annapolis. His house must have been in or around the area, but I do not know where. He was buried in Williamsburg, VA. . But that doesn't answer why it was named after his first name or why the spelling is different for Truxton Heights. A simple answer may be that he didn't name the park after himself. It was likely named after his grandfather, who he was also named after, Thomas Truxtun, a naval officer during the Revolutionary War who later rose to the rank of Commodore. In the days before the grammar and spelling nazis required conformity, spelling was not always consistent and sometimes Thomas Truxtun's name was spelled as Thomas Truxton. What is the right version? Who knows? But it probably made sense to use both spellings to make sure that his memory was properly honored.

So there you have it, the history of Truxtun Beale who donated the land that became Truxtun Park. And in case you are wondering, there is a Beale Park out  there, but it is in California.


The 'witch's grave' in Truxtun Park.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book about Glen Burnie from Back Creek Books in Annapolis is a great place to buy books. Small bookshops and even big retailers, like Borders, have been driven out of business by it. It is the favorite complaint of some that this is just not fair. They especially like to complain about the fact that online retailers do not have to collect sales taxes. That advantage is vanishing for Amazon as they expand into more states, including Maryland. So what will some of the small merchants complain about next? Who knows? But some always have someone or something to blame.

Good merchants know that no one owes them anything. They don't complain about the internet. They don't sit around and grip about things being unfair. They spend their energy creating experiences that are unique and that offer value, whether tangible or intangible, to the consumer. If possible, they find a niche market that cannot be properly served by the big retailers. They also use the internet. And they do well.

Back Creek Books on Main Street in Annapolis is a small business like this. A small independent bookstore should have no business surviving, let alone thriving, in the world of But it does. Among the many great things about it, it offers books that you just can't find elsewhere or that you wouldn't otherwise discover. Among other things, they have a great selection of unique books about Maryland.

One book that I picked up recently was 1988 Glen Burnie 100, Our Spirit Lives, A Pictorial History 1888 - 1988. I cannot find this book anywhere on Amazon or anywhere else online (that is not to say that it might not eventually end up for sale somewhere online in the future).

Glen Burnie is an unincorporated area in the northern part of Anne Arundel County near Baltimore City. It is more of a working class area, although there are some nicer parts, especially around the water. Every time I drive through or bike through on the B&A trail, I always want to explore more. You get the feeling that there are probably a million untold stories and forgotten legends from the area. So when I saw this book, which was published in 1988 by the Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, I was excited.

Regarding the book itself, I was slightly disappointed. It was more like a yearbook, full of pictures but short on information. For example, it has a picture of Glen Burnie in 1895 and mentions that the town hall, also called the "Orange Hall" could be seen in the background. What business was conducted at this town hall? Was Glen Burnie ever an incorporated city? Why was it called the Orange Hall? It mentions that the area was settled by Elias Glenn, a lawyer from Baltimore whose parents were originally from Scotland. Did he name the town hall the Orange Hall out of sympathy with the Orange Order in Scotland or was it simply just painted orange because that was the only color paint they had sitting around? When was the Orange Hall taken down and why? Does anything sit on the site today (or in 1988)? They put in lots of old pictures, which was nice, but details about the history were missing.

I was also struck by the fact that there were hardly any non-white people in the photographs. Glen Burnie is a diverse place with many blacks, Asians, and Hispanics, although it is mostly white. I'm sure it was less diverse in 1988 and before. Still, it did seem that the non-white segment of the population was under represented in this book.

Despite all this, the book did provide some insight into the history of the area and when I get time I hope to compare some of the pictures in the book to how the area looks today.

I'm glad that I found this book, despite the fact that I found it lacking in some respects. I am looking forward to returning to Back Creek Books to see what else I can find.

Maryland Folklore - Book Review

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Feed Annapolis 5 Miler

The Feed Annapolis 5 Miler is a 5 mile charity race in Annapolis created by the Revolution church. Revolution is a Protestant evangelical non-denominational church that markets itself to people "who don't like church". Feed Annapolis is their charity wing that gets food to poor people. Of course, with food stamps, school lunches, and the rest, I'm not so sure that people are starving here. But feeding the poor should be done by private groups and individuals, not the State, so I was happy to help out, even if the entry fee seemed a bit high.

The race was on the morning of Saturday, August 17, 2013. It started at Bates Middle School, which is less than a half mile from my house, so I walked there. There appeared to be enough parking for everyone.

The volunteers and everyone else seemed reasonably pleasant and the race started without incident. The course took us around the school area, then around my neighborhood, and then through Truxtun Park, then back through my neighborhood, then through the outskirts of Murray Hill, before ending back where we started. It was a bit disappointing that the race never took us downtown. But knowing the local politics, I wasn't surprised. The downtown residents complain endlessly about every event, especially sporting ones, at the City Council meetings. The race directors may have decided that it wasn't worth the effort to get a permit for a downtown run. I don't blame them.

The course was easy enough to follow and well marked. And volunteers were at every turn so no one could get lost.

There was some food after the race. The Chick-fil-a breakfast sandwiches were decent, but sort of dry. Some catsup and/or mayonnaise and pickles would have made them better.

They encouraged people afterwards to line up and put together a box of food by walking down a long line and filling the boxes with food that was out on a table. The church members would then take that food to the poor.

I ran the race with Eric Knowles, who is also running for State Senate. Eric is a good guy. He isn't a career politician. He works for a living as a bartender. He doesn't compromise his beliefs to get elected. He is one of the few people running for office who has actually understands the proper role of government. We ran at a comfortable 9:18 per mile pace and had a good political discussion as went. Regretfully there was no beer provided after the race. We did walk to my house afterwards where we continued our political discussion and drank some beer that I had sitting around.

Chestertown Tea Party 10 miler

In recent years, the Chestertown Tea Party Festival organizers have felt the need to add a disclaimer that their event is not political. Their festival is inspired by a real, or at least legendary, event. Whether or not the citizens of Chestertown participated in an act of vandalism to protest British taxes is unclear. But that doesn't stop the town from celebrating it. They have been doing so every year, on Memorial Day weekend since 1968, which obviously predates the recent Tea Party political movement. So it must annoy them that they have to add a disclaimer.

Chestertown is a small town founded in 1706 on the Chester River, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It is the county seat for Kent County. The downtown area has a nice historic feel to it. Many of the houses and buildings go back to the 18th century. While not a major tourist destination, it isn't a bad place to visit for a day trip.

The festival has all sorts of events, but the only one I participated in was the 10 mile race. Called the Run for Radcliffe, the race benefits the private Radcliffe school which is for kids with learning disabilities.

The race started at 8 am on Saturday, May 25, 2013. I overslept a bit and had to rush to get there from Annapolis. As a result, I missed my normal 2-3 cups of coffee. The excitement of the race was a nice substitute, however.

It was a bit crowded at the start because there was also a 5k race that was starting at the same time. However, after about a mile or so, the 5k runners changed course and the race became much less congested.

Downtown side street
The course took us mainly through the local suburbs and avoided the downtown area. Running through the downtown area might have been more interesting, but it also would have made it more difficult. People were busy setting up their stalls for the festival and there were lots of people walking around. Running through there would have just slowed everyone down and make life more complicated. There were a lot of hills in the course, but they were fairly mild. And for each uphill there was a corresponding downhill. The race was well supported with water and other refreshments. The locals were supportive and seemed happy that we were there.

I started out in the back and slowly increased my speed throughout the race. My five mile pace (they had a timing map at the 5 mile mark and we wore RFID chips on our shoes) was 9:44 per mile. My total race pace, at the end, was 9:30 per mile. So I was faster in the second half. It wasn't my best race, but I wasn't dissatisfied. Some older guy passed me in the first mile. He was huffing and puffing, while I was relaxed. I made it my mission to pass him, but did so slowly. I had him in my sights for a while and finally passed him around mile 7 and didn't see him again until after I finished.

The finish was great. They had a beer truck set up with free beer from the Fordham Brewery. I drank in moderation because I was driving and because it was still morning. I only had 3 to 4 pints. I walked around for a while before heading back.

I would certainly do this race again and recommend it to others. It was well supported, it was for a good cause, the people were friendly, it was a nice course, and they had free beer. What else could you ask for?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Graveside Service for H.L. Mencken

H.L. Mencken's grave
Henry Louis Mencken left this world on January 29, 1956. Yet his memory is still kept alive by those who continue to value liberty in a world that increasingly does not.

On January 27, 2013, several people attended a brief service of remembrance at his grave in Louden Park Cemetery in Baltimore. Oleg Panczenko of the Friends of the Mencken House gave these remarks,  which I fully endorse:

Do We Still Value Liberty?
Remarks for the Mencken Grave Site Memorial ServiceLoudon Park, 2013-01-27 14:00
By Oleg Panczenko
(1,011 words)
Mencken family graves
Mr Mencken wrote that “liberty is the only genuinely valuable thing that men have invented, at least in the field of government, in a thousand years” [1] and few, at least here in America, would disagree. It is part of the mythos of the American founding that this nation was “conceived in liberty”. With this statement we immediately hit a sour note, for the phrase “conceived in liberty” famously comes from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address which Mr Mencken described as “a mellifluous and emotional statement of the obviously not true. The men who fought for self-determination at Gettysburg were not the Federals but the Confederates.” [2]
I am not making the puerile, smugly self-righteous and snidely dismissive observation that the Founding Fathers owned slaves. That they did. They also established a system with a built-in cognitive dissonance but elaboration of this idea is a topic for another day.
In high-school civics class we were taught the childish fiction that The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, are there to limit the power of government and thus secure the liberty of the people. We were also taught that our government was a government “of the people, by the people, for the people”. But if this is so, why would we want to limit ourselves? The answer lies in the definition of government, which Mr Mencken defines as “the class of job-holders, ever bent upon oppressing the citizen to the limit of his endurance” [3]. What of the prohibitions on what government may do? Again, Mencken: “the execution of these prohibitions was put into the hands of lawyers, which is to say, into the hands of men specifically educated to discover legal excuses for dishonest, dishonorable and anti-social acts. The actual history of the Constitution, as everyone knows, has been a history of the gradual abandonment of all such impediments to governmental tyranny.” [4]
Mencken, writing in 1924, lamented that “the old rights of the free American, so carefully laid down by the Bill of Rights, are now worth nothing. Bit by bit, Congress and the State Legislatures have invaded and nullified them.” [5] He gave examples of the failure of the Federal Courts to preserve the rights of free Americans: The Espionage Act cases, the labor injunction cases, the deportation cases, the Postal Act cases, the Mann Act cases, and the Prohibition cases [6]. Some of these are no longer good law. The names of most of these rubrics are sufficient to give one an idea of what they dealt with. The Mann Act dealt with prostitution, immorality, and what we now call human trafficking, serious matters indeed, but the operative concept of “immorality”, as expressed in the act, was nebulous and made criminal certain consensual acts.
Because of such writings, and many others, Mencken today is lauded as a defender of liberty. Mencken is certainly a rich source of well-turned phrases. But was he a defender of what no one wants any more, at least in the form understood by him and his contemporaries? Americans are happy with qualified liberties, the qualification being that “liberty” is the freedom to do what I approve of and something to be trumped by other considerations if it involves another doing what I do not approve of.
But is even this notion of selective liberty still operative? Is “liberty” part of the word-noise of what passes for discourse today? That Americans complacently endure insults and indignities when they travel by air speaks louder than words.
In Mencken’s time the cases brought before the Courts which affected the “old rights of the free America” were matters of news. The newspaper reader had at least a sense of what was being considered and why it was important. There was Mencken, a man with a national audience, who could object to highly visible constrictions of liberty.
Americans today are less aware of the ongoing diminishment of their liberties even though the means of dispersing news are far superior now to the newspapers, radio and newsreels of Mencken’s time. I offer the following unextraordinary example.
How many of you have heard of the country where people have been detained and strip searched for the following offenses: driving with a noisy muffler, driving with an inoperable headlight, failing to use a turn signal, riding a bicycle without an audible bell, having outstanding parking tickets, making an improper left turn, and violation of a dog leash law?[7]
Surely a legislature has gone mad if such things are permitted! Surely such things could not happen here today! If they did happen here it would have been in a backwards time years ago and the laws permitting such things would have long ago been voided by our Supreme Court.
The country is the United States of America, the land of the liberty-loving. The acts listed have occurred within, say, the last ten or so years.
On April 2, 2012, the United States Supreme Court held in a 5-4 decision that “officials may strip-search individuals who have been arrested for any crime before admitting the individuals to jail, even if there is no reason to suspect that the individual is carrying contraband.” [8]
Is this a surprise? Over ninety years ago Mencken wrote: “when it comes to the mere rights of the citizen it [the Supreme Court] seems hopelessly inclined to give the prosecution the benefit of every doubt.” [9]
A survey of 855 registered voters conducted after the Court announced its decision found that 31% of voters thought that regardless of the offense, officials should have the authority to strip search anyone taken to jail even if there is no reasonable suspicion. It is heartening that of the roughly two-thirds who disagreed there was no appreciable difference between Democrats and Republicans. What is disheartening is that 31% agreed. [10]
Mr Mencken wrote that law “is necessary only when it is necessary. The rest is only insult and oppression, and the citizen is under no more obligation to submit to it than he is to submit to any other insult or oppression.” [11]
To what extent will you “submit to insult or oppression?”
Notes and References
1.) Mencken, H. L. “Why Liberty”, Chicago Sunday Tribune, 1927-01-30, part 8, p. 1.
2.) Mencken, H. L. Minority Report (1956), item 332.
3.) Mencken, H. L. “Editorial”, American Mercury 2(3):281-286 (1924-07).
4.) Ibid.
5.) “Répétition Générale”, Item 8, “On Minorities”, Smart Set 67(2):25-34 (1922-02).
6.) Mencken, H. L. “Editorial”, American Mercury 1(1):161-164, p. 163:1 (1924-02). The following suggestions for further reading are merely pointers to the huge body of writing about each set of cases. For Espionage Act cases argued before the Supreme Court see Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47, (1919), Debs v. United States, 249 U.S. 211 (1919), Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919), and Social Democratic Publishing Co. v. Burleson, 255 U. S. 407 (1921); for Labor Injunction cases argued before the Supreme Court see In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564 (1895), Loewe v. Lawlor, 208 U.S. 274 (1908), and American Steel Foundries v. Tri-City Central Trades Council, 257 U.S. 184 (1921); for Deportation cases see Turner v. Williams, 194 U. S. 279 (1904), and Goldman v. United States, 245 U. S. 474 (1918); the Postal Act cases refers to prosecutions under the Comstock Postal Act of 1873; for the Mann Act cases argued before the Supreme Court see Hoke v. United States, 227 U.S. 308 (1913), Athanasaw v. United States, 227 U.S. 326 (1913), Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470 (1917); for the Prohibition cases argued before the Supreme Court see National Prohibition Cases, 253 U.S. 250 (1920).
7.) List extracted from Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of Burlington (2012). See
8.) The case is Albert W. Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, et al. 566 U.S. ___ (2012). See
9.) “Répétition Générale”, Item 8, “On Minorities”, Smart Set 67(2):25-34 (1922-02).
10.) Fairleigh Dickinson University College at Florham, PublicMind Poll, “Nation Sides with New Jersey Motorist Against Court, Automatic Strip Searches”, 2012-04-02. See
11.) H. L. Mencken, “Notes on Government”, Chicago Sunday Tribune, 1926-01-10, Part 8, p.1.

Dr. Dean Ahmad, Islam and Liberty at the Anne Arundel County Campaign for Liberty meeting

Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to hear Dr. Dean Ahmad of the Minaret of Freedom Institute give a talk on the relationship between Islam and Liberty. Dr. Ahmad is a Muslim and a libertarian. Anti-Muslim bigotry has been on the rise the last few years, especially on the right. This is extremely unfortunate and misguided.

I am happy that Dr. Ahmad is out fighting both against religious intolerance and in support of freedom.

In case you couldn't attend, here is his presentation:

 Rudwan Abu-rumman, Dean Ahmad, and William Cooke