Daily Update: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

01-14 - Ratification of the Treaty of Paris

With no Saints to honor, we note that today is the anniversary of the ratification of the Treaty of Paris (ending the Revolutionary War) on January 14th, 1784 at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland by the Confederation Congress.

The Ratification of the Treaty of Paris in 1784 officially ended the American Revolution and established the United States as a sovereign entity. The Journals of the Continental Congress had reported that the Confederation Congress issued a proclamation on April 11th, 1783, “Declaring the cessation of arms” against Great Britain. The preliminary articles of peace were approved by Congress on April 15th, 1783, and the Treaty was concluded and signed in Paris on September 3rd, 1783. Due to the severe winter of 1783-1784 (now known to be a consequence of the volcanic eruption of Laki in Iceland) only delegates from seven of the thirteen states were present when Congress convened in January 1784. According to the Articles of Confederation nine states (out of the thirteen) were required to enter into a treaty. One faction believed that seven states could ratify the treaty, arguing that they were merely ratifying and not entering into a treaty. Furthermore, it was thought unlikely that the required delegates could reach Annapolis before the ratification deadline. However, Thomas Jefferson’s faction believed that a full nine states were required to ratify the treaty. Any less would be trickery which Britain would eventually find out, giving it an excuse to nullify the treaty, and would be a “dishonorable prostitution” of the Great Seal of the United States. Jefferson was elected to head a committee of members of both factions and arrived at a compromise. Assuming that only seven states were present, Congress would pass a resolution stating that the seven states present were unanimously in favor of ratification of the treaty, but were in disagreement as to the competency of Congress to ratify with only seven states. Therefore, although only seven states were present, their unanimous agreement in favor of ratification would be used to secure peace, and the vote would not set a precedent for future decisions. The document would be forwarded to the United States ministers in Europe who would be told to wait until a treaty ratified by at least nine states could arrive, and to request a delay for three months. However, if Britain refused to wait, then the Ministers should use the seven-state ratification, pleading that a full Congress was not in session. In the event, delegates from Connecticut and South Carolina arrived at the last moment, so that nine states were able to ratify the treaty after all. Copies were sent back to Europe via ship for ratification by the other parties involved, the first reaching France in March. British ratification occurred on April 9th, 1784, and the ratified versions were exchanged in Paris on May 12th, 1784.

Upon getting up to get ready for work I did my Book Devotional Reading, and on our way to work I did my Internet Devotional Reading. At the Pre-Shift Meeting Richard won a $10.00 meal comp. When we got out onto the casino floor, Richard was at first on the Second Mississippi Stud table, then was moved to the Four Card Poker Table. He then went back temporarily to the Second Mississippi Stud table, and then was told (since it was late in the shift) to break a Day dealer (one of the ones who had come in at 9:00 am) and then to break two other dealers. (I heard at 9:45 am that they were asking him if he wanted to go home early, and he told them no, not unless I could leave early as well). Meanwhile, I was on Mississippi Stud all day, and I continued reading Finders Keepers by Stephen King.

When we got home from work I set up my medications for next week (I have three prescriptions to renew on Monday), then made out my storelist for Richard (which included an over-the-counter vitamin that I needed him to get). Meanwhile, he paid bills, and I read the morning paper. He then left for Wal-Mart to do the grocery shopping, and I left for the Adoration Chapel, where I did my Weekly Hour of Eucharistic Adoration. I started reading the January 2nd, 2017 issue of my Jesuit America magazine, but was falling asleep in the Chapel, so after my Hour I came home. I plugged the bills Richard had paid into my Checkbook Pro app, then got busy with today’s Daily Update, as once I finish this Daily Update I will go to bed. Our LSU Tigers (9-6, 1-3) are now playing a Home College Basketball game with the Alabama Crimson Wave (9-6, 2-1), and our New Orleans Pelicans (16-24, 1-6) will be playing an Away NBA game with the Chicago Bulls (19-21, 5-6) tonight; I will record the score of the game in Sunday’s Daily Update.

Tomorrow is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, and another day with no Saints to honor; we note that on tomorrow’s date in 1919 occurred the Boston Molasses Disaster (try saying that five times fast). Richard and I will work our eight hours, and on my breaks I will continue reading Finders Keepers by Stephen King. In the afternoon I will continue reading until I get three-quarters of the way through the book. In the afternoon our LSU Lady Tigers (14-3, 3-1) will be playing a Home College Basketball game with the South Carolina Lady Gamecocks (14-1, 4-1).

Our Parting Quote this Saturday afternoon comes to us from Zhou Youguang, Chinese economist and linguist. Born in 1906 in Changzhou, his birth name was Zhou Yaoping. His father was an official of China’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing, which endured continuously from the 17th century until 1912. In 1927, after studying at St. John’s University in Shanghai, he graduated from Guanghua University with a degree in economics. He adopted the pen name Zhou Youguang as an adult. At the start of the second Sino-Japanese war, precipitated by Japan’s invasion of China in 1937, Zhou moved with his wife and two young children to Chongqing, the wartime capital, where their daughter died of appendicitis. In Chongqing Zhou worked for the Sin Hua Trust and Savings Bank. He also made the acquaintance of Zhou Enlai, already a star in the Communist Party. In 1946 Zhou went to New York to represent Sin Hua at the Wall Street headquarters of its United States agent, Irving Trust. He remained for three years, until the Communist takeover of China in 1949 moved him to return home. For the next few years he taught economics at Fudan University in Shanghai until, in the mid-1950s, Zhou Enlai, now China’s premier, intervened. By then the Communist government was seeking to make Mandarin Chinese the national language and to boost literacy throughout the country. In 1955 it convened a committee to create an alphabetic system, based on Mandarin, that would be easier to use than existing Romanization systems. Knowing that linguistics was a hobby of  Zhou’s, Zhou Enlai drafted him to come to Beijing and lead the committee. Zhou’s protests that he was a mere amateur were to no avail. So he set about studying languages and the myriad systems used to write them down. Before long, amid the late-1950s purges of rightists by Mao Zedong, the Communist Party chairman, he came to realize that his new calling was literally lifesaving, as Mao Zedong intensely disliked American-influenced economists. Traditional Chinese writing, conceived more than two thousand years ago, is a logographic system, in which each word of the language is represented by a separate character. To the reader, each character conveys mainly semantic, rather than phonetic, information. This fact gives Chinese writing an inherent advantage: It can be used as a common system with which to write the country’s many mutually unintelligible dialects. Thus, speakers of dialects as divergent as Mandarin and Cantonese can communicate with one another in writing, with each character encoding the same meaning — “house,” “blue,” “think,” and so on — regardless of its pronunciation in any one dialect. But by the same token, such a system carries a great disadvantage: Because the characters disclose little phonetic information, it is not possible, without prior knowledge, to look at a Chinese word and know how to pronounce it. For readers, there is also the immense onus of needing to master thousands upon thousands of discrete characters to attain even basic literacy. As a result, illiteracy remained rampant throughout China well into the 20th century, affecting, by some estimates, as much as 85 percent of the population. It was also inordinately hard for foreigners to learn to read the language. It took Zhou and his colleagues three years to develop Pinyin (the name means “spelled sounds”). At the start, Zhou and his committee confronted a set of foundational questions: Should Pinyin employ the Roman alphabet, the Cyrillic or a purpose-built one? How should it indicate the tones of the language? Though China’s close alliance with the Soviet Union made Cyrillic seductive, the committee ultimately settled on Roman because of its worldwide prevalence. Simple diacritical marks, including acute and grave accents, were used to represent tones. Pinyin was designed not to replace the tens of thousands of traditional characters with which Chinese is written, but as an orthographic pry bar to afford passage into the labyrinthine world of those characters. Adopted by the Chinese government on February 11th, 1958, Pinyin met with rapid acclaim. It vastly increased literacy throughout the country (dropping the illiteracy level to 5%), is used to teach schoolchildren to read before they graduate to the study of characters, eased the classroom agonies of foreigners studying Chinese, afforded the blind a way to read the language in Braille, and, in a development Zhou could scarcely have foreseen, facilitated the rapid entry of Chinese on computer keyboards and cellphones. It is to Pinyin that we owe now-ubiquitous spellings like Beijing, which supplanted the earlier Peking; Chongqing, which replaced Chungking; Mao Zedong instead of Mao Tse-tung; and thousands of others. Meanwhile, during the Cultural Revolution, in 1969 the government labeled Zhou a “reactionary academic authority” and exiled him to a labor camp in the Ningxia region of north-central China, where he worked the rice fields for more than two years. On returning home, he continued writing about language, culture and contemporary affairs. In the 1980s he helped oversee the translation into Chinese of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Pinyin was adopted by the International Organization for Standardization in 1982 and by the United Nations in 1986. He was the author of more than forty books, some of them banned in China and a good ten of them published after he turned 100 in 2006. In his occasional interviews with the Western news media from his modest apartment in Beijing, Zhou was openly critical both of revolutionary-era Chinese Communism and of the economic reforms of Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping. His wife died in 2002, and his son Zhou Xiaoping, an astrophysicist, died in 2015 (died 2017): “When you encounter difficulties, you need to be optimistic. The pessimists tend to die.”

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