Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.


There is a story that goes with these beautiful words and the song from whence they came. It starts with slavery.


Most are unaware that the Founding Fathers dealt with the issue of the importation of slaves to the United States in the Constitution. Article I, section 9, stated in effect that the government could not ban the importation of slaves for at least 20 years.


Why such was placed in the original Constitution is not certain. I suspect that the Founding Fathers, most of whom were slave owners, were of the opinion that twenty years would give them enough time to propagate additional slaves. Since slaves had a significant monetary value and one’s worth was often measured by slaves owned, it made sense that there had to be a time when no more would be permitted entry to the United States. An overabundance of slaves could conceivably diminish the value of each slave.


Twenty years passed. The Congress could not wait to pass a law banning further importation of slaves to the United States. They did it one year early in 1807. Thomas Jefferson was President at the time. He is also considered the Father of the Constitution. He supported the proposed law and did not hesitate in signing it. The law went into effect January 1, 1808.


From that day forward, the United States Navy was on the lookout for any ships that were attempting to bring new slaves to American shores. The Navy was kept busy. Slavery was a big business. It took till 1862 for the Navy to finally eradicate the problem.


Although the final three slave ships were captured in 1862 when the Civil War was already two years old, their capture had nothing to do with the Civil War. It was the result of continued enforcement of the 1808 law.


The last three ships captured were the William, Bogota and Wildfire.


The demand for new slaves was overwhelming in the 1700s and first half of the 1800s. They were needed for work in North and South America. It is estimated some twelve million were imported during those years.


Cuba was in need of great numbers of slaves. The sugar fields needed workers. It is estimated at least 100,000 slaves were delivered from West Africa to Cuba.


Slaves had to be replenished. Most of the slaves delivered were young. Teenagers. They did not live long. They were literally worked to death. The need to replenish drove the slave industry.


John Newton was a slave trader. A bad guy in his early years. Very bad. Mean. He was known by people acquainted with him as a despicable person.


On one of the trips across the ocean, Newton and his ship engaged a violent storm. Newton thought he was going to die. He learned to pray. He asked God to save him. God did.


Newton continued as a slave trader for a few years. However, his conscience was now bothering him. He quit his chosen profession and went to theology school. Newton became a minister.


In 1779, Newton wrote Amazing Grace. Not as a musical piece. Not as a song. But rather, a poem. His congregation would recite, not sing, the words at services.


The poem continued to 1835. At that time, someone put it to music. There was an English tune New Britain. It became the melody for Amazing Grace.


Prior to the 1960s, Amazing Grace had no particular popularity. Except in the black churches. It became a song of hope and redemption. An African American spiritual.


Then came the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The marches, the boycotts, the assassinations. Amazing Grace gained national prominence and popularity during that era.


It also became a top selling recording.


Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley and Tennessee Williams all recorded it. So did Althea Franklin and Judy Collins. And most recently, Susan Boyle.


Amazing Grace’s history began with the United States Constitution, the law of 1808, John Newton finding God, someone putting the words to music and finally the civil rights movement.


Today the hymn is sung everywhere. Both for the living and the dead. Warm and uplifting.


Another beautiful Key West morning! A calm one. Nothing moving. Water still. No breeze. Birds chirping. I stepped out on the deck. I felt the whole world was mine.

President Obama’s eulogy at Reverend Pinckney’s service moved me. My emotions got involved. Tears filled my eyes. I thought it was one of man’s great orations. The feeling apparently mutual. Media persons over the weekend have expressed themselves in a similar fashion.

Amazing Great was part and parcel of the eulogy. In fact, part and parcel of the service.

Several years ago, I wrote an article for Amazon Kindle titled Amazing Grace. The story/history behind the Amazing Grace of today. Several times I have reprinted the article. I did again yesterday. Called it Amazing Grace Revisited.

I was motivated by President Obama’s singing of the classic during the eulogy.

Amazing Grace Revisited is this week’s column in KONK Life. Publishes wednesday.

Love Publix! The crossroads of Key West!

Yesterday afternoon ran into Albert and his family. Albert was my trainer at WeBeFit. A terrific guy. Special. Albert was pushing his cart accompanied by his wife. Inside sat Angelina. Their eight month old daughter.

First time I had seen her. A beauty! The face, the hair, the eyes. The eyes especially. Reminded me of the Gerber baby.

God bless!

A week ago on June 23, this blog was titled Cuban Hemingway House. Hemingway’s Cuban home called Finca Vigia. Run down. Filled with Hemingway books, letters and photos. Beat up from the humidity over the years. The home is closed. No tours, etc. as here in Key West.

My article was motivated by the news that an American foundation was providing a not for profit Cuban group with just under $900,000 to save the items. An example of little things beginning to happen because of warming relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

This morning’s Key West Citizen retold the story. With much more detail and photographs.

The Citizen article revealing. Dink Bruce is a local. Everyone knows Dink. A warm sociable guy. The article reveals that Dink’s father Bruce was a good friend of Hemingway. Bruce did the renovations to Finca Vigia when Hemingway acquired the property. Dink still has some of the renovation drawings.

A small world. One way or another, we all seem to be connected.

Lest I forget, two of Hemingway’s greatest works were written while he lived at Finca Vigia. For Whom The Bells Toll and The Old Man And The Sea.

Greece. WOW days ahead! Greece and the Eurounion are split. Greece is on its own. Unbelievable money problems ahead for Greece. Perhaps also the Eurounion.

Greece has already announced that banks will be closed for six days. Only 60 euros a day may be removed from ATM accounts. The problem is that there are only enough euros left to supply the ATM machines for 3 days. Then, what? Will the drachma return? Or as far fetched as it sounds, will Greece adopt the American dollar as its currency?

My friend Anna telephoned from Novara yesterday. She is scheduled to fly to Greece for a month’s vacation tomorrow. She is fearful of going. I e-mailed her this morning and told her to go somewhere else. Greece will be uncertain for a while.

I would love to be in Greece at this time. Athens and the islands. It will be exciting! Protests, demonstrations. Who knows what else. A moment in history. Not in my plans however.

Have to hustle. Anti-gravity treadmill later this morning.

Enjoy your day!