Providences

I’m not watching the presidential Inauguration today, but I hear that it has started to rain in Washington — a fact that has provoked some bemused Twitter commentary on the judgment of the heavens, as well as one or two calls for lightning. And, as some historians have also pointed out, January 20 was the day that the trial of King Charles began in Westminster, in 1649; he was executed at the end of the month for having made war on his people. Looking back on the delayed inauguration of Charles Stuart’s son Charles II’s rule at the Restoration, the London tradesman and pioneer statistician John Graunt commented on the connection between politics, the weather and public health:

As to this year 1660, although we would not be thought Superstitious, yet it is not to be neglected, that in the said year was the King’s Restauration to his Empire over these three Nations, as if God Almighty had caused the healthfulness and fruitfulness thereof to repair the Bloodshed, and Calamities suffered in his absence. I say, this conceit doth abundantly counterpoise the Opinion of those who think great Plagues come in with Kings reigns, because it happened so twice, viz. Anno 1603, and 1625, whereas as well the year 1648, wherein the present King commenced his right to reign, as also the year 1660, wherein he commenced the exercise of the same, were both eminently healthfull, which clears both Monarchie, and our present King’s Familie from what seditious men have furnished against them.[1]

As a historian, I study these beliefs and their connections with more familiarly rational ways of thinking sympathetically and with interest. As a citizen, all I can say is that no amount of rain will undo the election of this grotesque monstrosity, and no number of sunny days ahead will justify it. Responsibility and judgment lie with us.

Notes

[1] John Graunt, Natural and Political Observations… made upon the Bills of Mortality (London, [1662]; 5th ed., 1676), 40-41.

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