Monday, November 5, 2018

Remembering Guy Fawkes Day - In England and in the American Colonies

~The Fifth of November~
    Remember, remember! 
    The fifth of November, 
    The Gunpowder treason and plot; 
    I know of no reason 
    Why the Gunpowder treason 
    Should ever be forgot! 
    Guy Fawkes and his companions 
    Did the scheme contrive, 
    To blow the King and Parliament 
    All up alive. 
    Threescore barrels, laid below, 
    To prove old England's overthrow. 
    But, by God's providence, him they catch, 
    With a dark lantern, lighting a match! 
    A stick and a stake 
    For King James's sake! 
    If you won't give me one, 
    I'll take two, 
    The better for me, 
    And the worse for you. 
    A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope, 
    A penn'orth of cheese to choke him, 
    A pint of beer to wash it down, 
    And a jolly good fire to burn him. 
    Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring! 
    Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King! 
    Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Guy Fawkes Day is 'remembered' all over Facebook by way of memes and articles throughout the day every November 5th. And I must admit to posting about it as well. But many people have no idea what all of this Guy Fawkes stuff is all about, so I took it upon my self to gather information from a variety of sources - all of which is linked below - to put together a cohesive history of this day and why it means so much and remembered in England.
However, in the United States, it is mostly forgotten.
So here is, unabashedly taken word for word in most instances from the mentioned sources, is the history of Guy Fawkes Day in England and, yes, even in America.

Remember, remember...
King James and Guy Fawkes
Every 5 November we remember the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 - a thwarted act of terror in which a cabal of Catholic conspirators planned to blow up the House of Lords to rid England of King James I. The plot is commemorated every autumn with the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes, the plot's mastermind, an oddly pagan act of gloating sanitized by the addition of fireworks, sparklers and toffee apples.
But how did all of this come about?
After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule had hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. James I, after all, had a Catholic mother. Unfortunately, James did not turn out to be more tolerant than Elizabeth.
Under the leadership of Robert Catesby, a number of young men, 13 to be exact (including Guy Fawkes), decided that violent action was the answer to the anti-Catholicism of England. Catesby felt that violent action was warranted. Indeed, the thing to do was to blow up the Houses of Parliament. In doing so, they would kill the King, maybe even the Prince of Wales, and the Members of Parliament who were making life difficult for the Catholics. Fawkes, during the 80 Years War, (where he fought on the side of Catholic Spain against the Protestant Dutch), developed an intimate knowledge of gunpowder and explosives—which were crucial to the plot.
The conspirators rented a basement storeroom in the Palace of Westminster, to which 36 barrels of gunpowder were transported.
So, with thirteen others as part of the plot, why is Guy Fawkes the most famous conspirator, for he was by no means the one who conceived the plan.
This is, perhaps, one of the most infamous etchings of the plot.
The Gunpowder Plot was discovered after a Catholic Lord received a warning letter, which he then passed on to the Protestant King's chief minister. A search party found Fawkes skulking in his cellar around midnight on November 4, with matches in his pocket and 36 barrels of gunpowder stacked next to him. For Fawkes, the plot’s failure could be blamed on “the devil and not God.” He was taken to the Tower of London and tortured upon the special order of King James. Soon after, his co-conspirators were likewise arrested, except for four, including Catesby, who later died in a shootout with English troops.
A 19th century painting of the 
capture of Guy Fawkes
Fawkes and his surviving co-conspirators were all found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death in January 1606 by hanging, drawing and quartering. A Jesuit priest was also executed a few months later for his alleged involvement.
Of the conspirators it is Guy Fawkes who became the most notorious, for he was the one caught red-handed, and so it is he who has had, for four centuries, the name-recognition modern-day celebrities and politicians would die for.
After the plot was revealed, Londoners began lighting celebratory bonfires, and in January 1606 an act of Parliament designated November 5 as a day of thanksgiving. Soon, people began placing effigies onto bonfires, and fireworks were added to the celebrations. Effigies of Guy Fawkes, and sometimes those of the Pope, graced the pyres.
Guy Fawkes Day festivities soon spread as far as the American colonies, where they became known as Pope Day:
In fact, here is a first-hand account of a Guy Fawkes celebration in New England:
A great bonfire was established on the lower end of the main street… Soon after dark, a rude stage … placed on wheels and drawn by horses, made its appearance, on which was seated … an effigy of the pope, hideously painted, and behind him stood another representing the Devil. Two men with masks on their faces and fantastically attired, attended the grotesque figures … the whole [group] was surrounded with lanterns, and a crowd of men and boys sung the following:

From Rome! From Rome the Pope has come,
All in 10,000 fears,
With fiery serpents all around
His head, nose, eyes and ears.

This is the treacherous dog that did contrive
To burn our King and Parliament alive;
God by his grace did this prevent,
And saved the King and Parliament.

From Boston, which seemed to be the main center of American activity, to Newport to Salem, revelers took to the streets to commemorate the thwarting of Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot.
Showing Boston's commemoration of Guy Fawkes Day
(taken from the video of Bill O'Reilly's Legends & Lies docu-drama)

1768 colonial American commemoration 
of November 5th, 1605
While Pope Day had been celebrated in New England as early as the 1720s by way of parades and dramatic performances mocking the Catholic Pope, it became much more commonplace in the 1760s after the French and Indian War ended. The struggle with the Catholic French and their Catholic Indian allies had sparked a wave of anti-Catholicism throughout the colonies. Additional measures against Catholics were enacted in New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania and Pope Day ceremonies became more elaborate affairs. In Boston, rival gangs would each have their own popes and would battle each other through the night. Before the evening was over, the gangs would go to the homes of the wealthy and ring their bells asking for donations. If the owners refused to contribute, the revelers would drive a pole through their front window and proceed to the next home.   The evening concluded with mobs throwing their effigies into the bonfire to great cheering from the spectators.   Occasionally the merrymakers would get out of control and people would get injured. Indeed, in 1764 one boy in Boston was killed during the festivities.
By 1776, the colonists had been fighting for their independence for a year, having battled the English at Lexington, and Concord, and Bunker Hill. Commanding the Continental Army in Cambridge, Massachusetts, George Washington learned that his troops were planning to celebrate Pope Day that November 5. From his headquarters he issued a stern warning about “that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope—He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step … at a time when we are soliciting, and have really obtain’d the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada.”
General George Washington
Washington’s statement worked. No soldiers dared celebrate Pope Day that year, and in the years following, the event died out in New England and the rest of the colonies. As the colonists sought help first from Canada and later from France, their attitudes towards Catholics rapidly shifted.
At the Revolution’s end, Catholics found themselves in a much better position than they had been in just a decade earlier.
On several occasions during the 19th century it's been reported that the tradition was in decline, being "of late years almost forgotten." The traditional denunciations of Catholicism had been in decline since the early 18th century, and were thought by many, including Queen Victoria, to be outdated, but the pope's restoration in 1850 of the English Catholic hierarchy gave renewed significance to November 5th, as demonstrated by the burnings of effigies of the new Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Nicholas Wiseman, and the pope.
With little resistance in Parliament, the thanksgiving prayer enacted in 1606 in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was abolished, and in March 1859 the Anniversary Days Observance Act repealed the Observance of the 5th of November Act. As the authorities dealt with the worst excesses, public decorum was gradually restored. The sale of fireworks was restricted, and the effigies were neutralized in 1865.
And here in America, after Washington's complaint, the colonists stopped observing Pope Day, although according to The Bostonian Society some citizens of Boston celebrated it on one final occasion, in 1776.
The tradition continued in Salem as late as 1817, and was still observed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1892. In the late 18th century, effigies of prominent figures such as two Prime Ministers of Great Britain, the Earl of Bute and Lord North, and the American traitor General Benedict Arnold, were also burnt. In the 1880s bonfires were still being lit in some New England coastal towns, although no longer to commemorate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. In the area around New York City, stacks of barrels were burnt on election day eve, which after 1845 was a Tuesday early in November.
But...another sort of Guy Fawkes-ish tradition remains to this day:
Celebrating with an effigy to the American Guy Fawkes
Residents of the coastal Connecticut city of New London annually burn an effigy of the United States' best-known turncoat: Benedict Arnold. It was back in 1781 that the former Colonial officer ordered the burning of New London.
 As the man who helps to put this 'American Guy Fawkes' parade on stated in an interview with radio station WBUR:
"Arnold initially was born in Norwich, which is basically one town to the north of New London. And when he turned coat, one of the first things the British did was send him back to New London, because he knew all the fortifications, he knew the codes and knew the weaknesses to burn it to the ground, because at that time, New London really was one of the hubs of our Navy, and a lot of privateers through the Shaws were raiding different British ships and they had a license to do that from John Hancock and the other members of the Continental Congress. Basically he was sent here to burn [the Shaw Mansion, a Navy headquarters], burn the ships and wreak revenge on the people of New London. And he did.
From the Library of Congress
"The citizens of New London, my understanding, did it first in 1782, the year after Arnold burnt the town. They built the effigy (of Benedict Arnold) with two faces because of the double nature of his crimes. He's traditionally followed by a devil, sometimes in one of his hands there's a mirror, because they said he was very vain and used to like to look at himself.
What that did is that created this festival that caught on and spread throughout the newly formed Americas. In many ways, what our forefathers were wanting to do was still celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. But they couldn't, because they were no longer English, because we had won the war. ... Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot in England, who attempted to blow up Parliament ... still to this day they celebrate Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Day, which is the 5th of November. And that's what they still wanted to celebrate, but not being English, they couldn't. So they looked around for a convenient, unique American traitor, and they found one in our Norwich neighbor, Benedict Arnold."

So, now you know a bit more of why November 5th is remembered, even after over 400 years.
Until next time, see you in time.

Crisis Magazine
Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night
The Daily Mail
History Today
And the book Holidays & Celebrations in Colonial America by Russell Roberts

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