And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

26 September

1637
Robert Woodford,
lawyer

‘I would give some present to new Mr Maior but want some money. Lord I pray thee increase my estate in thy due time for the Lords sake Amen.’

I pray increase my estate

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1859
William Daunt,
politician

‘Arthur O’Connor came here. It seems that his Uncle Feargus made a will leaving Arthur everything he had. The legatee is slightly puzzled to discover whether everything means anything or nothing. I incline to the latter interpretation. . . When I was about six or seven years old, a certain countess, whom my mother took me to visit, pronounced me to be “a handsome boy with a bad countenance.” I do not name her ladyship, who was said to have scared Lord C_ into marrying her, by threatening to stab herself in the event of his refusing to accompany her into Hymen’s temple. She was a very clever woman . . . could be very captivating and very disagreeable. In old age she still clung to the vanities of youth. I have seen her, when more than fourscore, with a bare neck, an enormous sable wig, curled into multitudinous ringlets, and surmounted by a fantastic little pink satin hat, that contrasted strongly with her old, withered, wrinkled, toothless, haggard visage. . .’

The Irish Difficulty

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1862
John Milton Hay,
politician

‘Last night September 25 the President and I were riding to Soldiers Home; he said he had heard of an officer who had said they did not mean to gain any decisive victory but to keep things running on so that they the army might manage things to suit themselves. He said he should have the matter examined and if any such language had been used, his head should go off.

I talked a great deal about the McClellan conspiracy but he would make no answer to anything. He merely said that McC. was doing nothing to make himself either respected or feared.’

The witty, dapper Mr. Hay

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1896
Lady Aberdeen,
philanthropist

‘Here again after another week of “progress” as it is called, through Ontario - that is, being bucketed from one place to another by night & going through the round of being received at the station, addresses presented, a procession round the town, reception at the Fair grounds, an attempt to go round the exhibits in the midst of a huge crowd, a long luncheon with nothing possible to eat, & visits to various schools, hospitals, convents & other institutions. We live our days to the tune of God save the Queen, from the moment the train stops till it departs, & one sometimes wonders inwardly whether the moment will not arrive when instead of keeping up an inane smile, we will not seize someone & turn then round & shake them or do something desperate to make at least a change.

I fear this is all horridly ungrateful, for everybody has been most kind & people have vied one with another to see who could do most for us. I think there has been a general desire to show that the feeling of the country was not with Sir Charles in his attack on H.E.

The long talked of debate come off last Monday evening, just when we were leaving. Everybody was prepared for a long evening of it - the old gentleman made a carefully prepared speech & kept himself mostly within bounds & was only pulled up twice, by the Speaker for speaking disrespectfully of H.E. Capt. Sinclair who was present, thought he spoke better than Laurier, who seemed rather taken unawares. Several of the Liberal leaders were ready with speeches, but when Laurier sat down, no one on the Opposition side got up & to the amazement of everybody, the debate collapsed. Neither Foster, Haggart or Ives were even present & the Conservative party generally had made up its mind not to support their leader in this. So he has made rather a mess of his great constitutional question. It seems rather a pity that the opinions of some of those most interested in the matter & also the despatches to & from the Colonial Office should not be put on record so as to ensure the same line being kept for the future. But doubtless there is safety in allowing the subject to drop now & we at least may be amply satisfied with the result.

Our tour this week comprised Peterborough, Stratford-on-Avon, Goderich, Tavistock, Brantford, Woodstock & Lindsay. The Shows have been very good & the fruit superb, especially the apples over which the proprietor of Coldstream is apt to linger considerably. The English market is found to be far away the best & for the best apples from Goderich they have been getting 17/- a barrel.

The local authorities are not quite sufficiently alive to the danger of crowds trying to converge on one centre & we have had several escapes from accidents owing to platforms etc. being not sufficiently strong. At Peterborough the platform was fairly stormed & it collapsed - it was not high, & no one was hurt, not even an old gentleman of over 90 who was precipitated down. At Stratford we had to pass from the Rink (where the addresses were presented & where there was a great crowd, although it was but 9.30 a.m.) back to our carriage across a wooden bridge some 20 feet high. The crowd got flurried & would not move on - more & more came pressing on from the Rink & the bridge began cracking & swaying in horrible style with all these people on it. However the cracking frightened them on happily in time - next day another platform began to crack & at the evening reception at Goderich, the crowd became utterly unmanageable & fought with the militia who had been brought in by Capt. Wilberforce’s request to help keep the passage way. The mayor sent for the police & threatened to arrest any more who gave trouble, but there was great discomfort & the poor wretches who struggled through to the so-called “reception” & to present addresses looked decidedly dishevelled & irritable. The Irish gave a nice address there about Home Industries. To make things better, the electric light went out & we finished our entertainment by the light of a single oil lamp. The militia did very well that night. We were ensconced in a retreat consecrated to Mr Walker of Walkerville’s whiskey & ale. It was bitterly cold for two days & I have succeeded in bring back a baddish cold. H.E. has kept very well, I am thankful to say & we have slept on the car throughout, the Grand Trunk kindly lending us another car. At Tavistock I found myself suddenly announced by H.E. to make a German speech at 9 a.m. without any meditation, as he had been told that the inhabitants were mainly German. I don’t believe.’

God save the Queen

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1966
Mohammed Ayub Khan,
soldier and politician

‘The deputy foreign minister of the Soviet Union, Nikolai Pavlovich Firyubin, came to see me in Swat. His objective was to gain support on the stand they are taking on different world problems in the current General Assembly. Problems like disarmament, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, Vietnam, decolonisation, future of Southwest Africa, etc. are involved. Our views are not dissimilar.

I brought up the question of more economic aid, supply of arms and the danger of arming India to such an extent. He took note of these things and promised to convey my views to his government. The general impression one gets is that the Soviets are happy about the manner in which our relations arc developing and so are we. It is in our interest that our relations with the Soviets should gain depth. We can then develop greater leverage with the USA and India.

The Soviets seem to be hesitant in supplying us arms even though Kosygin had repeatedly promised to me. I am sending him a letter of reminder.’

Diaries of a Pakistan leader

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1975
Tony Benn,
politician

‘The papers today reported the admission by the FBI that they had engaged in over 250 domestic burglaries for political and other purposes. There was also a report in the New York Times that the CIA was again giving money to West European socialist parties to intervene in Portugal. Just before the Executive at 10 I had a word with Bryan Stanley of the POEU [Post Office Engineering Union] and I mentioned my concern about telephone-tapping.”Oh yes,” he said, “there’s no question about it. I believe the Tories were engaged in a widespread surveillance campaign involving the telephone-tapping of activists in the trade union movements and the Labour Party, as well as the Communist Party. The aim was to prepare a general dossier and, in the run-up to an Election, blacken the character of political opponents.” ’

The hopes of the Left

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In general, these diary extracts are quoted as given in the published (book or online) source referred to in the reference articles. Each extract may be all, a large part of, or a small part of the complete entry for that day. I have tried to indicate where text has been removed from within a quote by the use of trailing dots in square bracket.

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