November 8, 1997


The American Revolution dragged wearily on, in 1778. The rebel victory at Saratoga seemed to be a turning point in the war, but there was still a long road to travel, to attain independence. And the rest of the world kept an ear cocked for news, and went its way.

Vermont was impatient, unwilling to wait for final victory. On March 12th it declared itself a state and elected Thomas Chittenden as its first governor. Two colonies to the south, poet-diplomat Joel Barlow graduated from Yale.Virginia abolished the slave trade, but not slavery.

There were births and deaths this year, as always. Painter Rembrandt Peale was born into the illustrious family of artists (and one showman), in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Metaphysical philosopher Thomas Brown was born in Kilmabreck, Scotland. William Pitt the Elder, friend to the colonies, died at the age of 69. French philospher-playwright François Marie Arouet de Voltaire died at the age of 83, after his triumphant return from exile a scant three months earlier. Thomas Arne, composer of Rule Britania, died at the age of 67.

Speaking of composers, the Mozartian note factory chugged merrily along. Mozart had just moved on to Paris where his Symphony No. 31 in D Major, and ballet Les Petits Biens (with libretto by Joan Noverre) had their premieres. Opera found a new venue on August 3rd, as architect Giuseppi Piermarini's Teatro alla Scala opera house opened in Milan.

Explorer-adventurerers wandered the world's sea lanes. Captain James Cook landed in Hawaii early in the year, then proceded northward along the Pacific coast of North America, arriving in the inlet that would be named for him, off the site of present-day Anchorage, Alaska. To the east of Cook's Inlet, Hudson's Bay Company explorer Peter Pond discovered the twelve-mile Methy Portage into the Mackenzie River basin. There was glory to be got on the seas, and in the rivers, bays and inlets of the globe. For the fortunate. 1778 drew to a close on an unglorious note a continent away from Cook and Pond. On December 24th the privateer brig General Arnold sailed from Boston, intent on prize money and spoils. The North Atlantic is never more dangerous then in the winter; the vessel ran aground in broken drift ice off Plymouth, later in the day. As Chrirtmas Day dawned, watchers from the town could see the wreck, but rescue proved impossible. As the townspeople looked on helplessly, one by one the crew members began freezing to death. When rescuers reached the General Arnold the next day, only 33 men of the crew of 105 were still living. Sea paths of glory also lead to the grave.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.

© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte