Introduction and Use of Accordions in Cajun Music

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The years have passed; and I think a change of mood has silently come over many persons. I find that some of those who once clung to compulsion as the saving social bond, as the natural expression of nation life, are willing today to consider whether some better and truer and safer principle may not be found; are willing to consider, as a practical question, if some limit should not be placed on the power to take and to spend in unmeasured quantity the money of others. Our friend the socialist has done, and is doing for us his excellent and instructive work. He stands as a very striking, I might say eloquent landmark, showing us plainly enough where our present path leads, and what is the logical completion of our compulsory interferences, our restrictions of faculties, and our transfer of property by the easy—shall I say the laughable and grotesque?—process of the vote. Into our present system, which so many men accept without thinking of its real meaning, and its further consequences, he introduces an order, a consistency, a completeness of his own. His logic is irresistible. If you can vote away half the yearly value of property under the form of a rate, as we do in some towns at present, then under the same convenient and elastic right you can vote away the nine-tenths or the whole. “ logic,” perhaps you lightly answer—but remember, unless you change the direction of the forces, logic always tends to come out victorious in the end.

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Although there were undoubtedly accordions in South Louisiana at an early date, they at first did not make an impression on Cajun musicians. One reason is that the first ones imported were in the keys of A and F (Comeaux 1978: 118; Savoy 1984: 13). The fiddles could not be tuned to those keys (the strings would have to be strung too tight, and thus tended to break), so the accordion had to be played as a solo instrument. It did not receive much local attention. Good quality accordions, made with excellent reeds and good quality bellows, began to be imported in the early 1900s. The first of these was the "Monarch" brand, and later the "Sterling" and "Eagle" were introduced, and they were widely accepted by Cajuns. These were called ("the little blacks") by their users because of their color, and they became the basic model for all Cajun accordions after this time (except for the color). It was in the 1920s that accordions in the keys of C and D began to be imported (Savoy 1984: 13). These could be played with the fiddle, and now the accordion, already well known and widely used, exploded in popularity. Accordions lost popularity in the 1930s, and when they again came in vogue in the 1940s, none were to be had from Germany.

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Every trade restriction is war declared upon other trades. All attempts of one class of workers to restrict their own special industry are treason against their fellow workers, because every restricted trade implies the effort to get an artificial or heightened price for the product of such trade, while the workers in it enjoy the product of other unrestricted trades at free trade (or unrestricted) prices. They are, therefore, guilty in the great exchange of the world of taking more and giving less, and so far as they temporarily benefit themselves—and it can only be temporarily—they do it by placing a tax upon all their fellow workers in the unrestricted trades. Nor is the universal restriction of all trades less hurtful than the partial restriction of some trades. Where all professions and trades are restricted, everybody alike—worker or non-worker—is injured, because: (1) everybody has to pay the higher price that results indirectly as well as directly from such restriction; (2) all production is rendered sickly by losing the vitalizing effects which accompany free trade—the constant introduction of new methods, the constant inflow of capital brains and energy; (3) each set of restrictions in turn fails and is then succeeded by a new set of restrictions, created to make the first set more effective, and thus a state of hopeless entanglement presently results; and (4) the workers and their children cannot readily pass to the trades for which they have an aptitude or liking, and a great mass, owing to such impeded movement, is slowly formed of unemployed, incapable and indigent, who under free trade would be healthily absorbed. Such restriction, like restriction in every other matter, prevents the true solution of labor questions. The true solution can only come, as in international affairs, through friendly disarmament of opposed forces; through making the individual the pivot of all action; through creating that freedom of action, which on the one hand allows capital to work in the easiest manner, to adapt itself to new circumstances, to develop new branches of production, and, just because it is unharassed and secure, to take the lowest profit; and on the other hand allows labor not only to improve its own position constructively through its own associations—its energies being no longer misdirected and its savings no longer wasted in useless warfare—but to obtain the highest wage possible, because such highest wage depends upon the following factors: (a) peaceful, continuous production with increased amount of products for distribution; (b) improved methods, economizing labor and material; (c) the constant inflow of new capital, and the competition of capital against capital to obtain laborers—this competition being at its keenest, and the employer's profit being at the lowest, where capital enjoys perfect security. High wages and security for capital go together. Whenever an employer feels insecure he recoups himself by a higher rate of profit. At the same time it should be remembered that under a state of free trade and free movement there cannot be successful combination amongst employers to maintain profit at the expense of wages; since a high rate of profit must lead to the formation of cooperative and joint-stock companies and to the increased bidding for labor with raised wages.

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“I should say that the result was to make the world, as a whole, reasonable to men. He has connected all human knowledge, establishing interdependence everywhere; he has taught us to see that everything in the world is part of a great growth, each part, like the different structures of a tree, developing to its own perfect form and special use, while it remains governed by the whole. He has helped us to rise everywhere from the reason that governs the part to the reason that governs the whole; and in tracing back this great growth of the past, compound form rising out of simple form, he has shown us the long, slow preparation toward perfection through which the world has traveled and yet has to travel. It is scarcely too much to say that he has given us a past and he has given us a future. In a time of sore need, when the old meanings were splintered to driftwood, he has seen that the true meaning of the world was to be found, and in finding it he has restored to us the possibilities of a higher religious faith. The influence of modern science has been to make men too easily satisfied with their own separate and fragmentary knowledge. Each man has settled down to his niche in the vineyard, and there labored industriously and successfully, but with his eyes closed for the wider meanings. To read a learned paper before a learned society, to be the highest authority on some special subject, have been objects which have unduly influenced our generation; and it is only such a work as Mr. Spencer's that recalls us to the truth that the use of knowledge is not simply to annihilate a rival on some particular subject that we look on as our private property, but to lead men to understand the great whole in which they are included–to bring that whole into perfect agreement with human reason. Specialism, however necessary, is not the end of science. The end of science is to teach men to live by reason and by faith, by grasping the great meanings of life, and by seeing clearly the conditions under which they can give effect to those meanings. How little science yet helps us in our general conceptions of life you can see by the quiet ignoring amongst politicians of the vital meaning which Darwin's discoveries have for them. And hence it is that, great as has been the multiplication of scientific facts, they have done but comparatively little to reform the ideas and reshape the conduct of men. Our intellectual life still remains thoroughly disorderly, notwithstanding stray patches of science and order introduced into it. It is here that we have so much to gain from Mr. Spencer. We owe to him our power to realize the harmony and unity embracing all things, the perfect order and the perfect reason, and thus to walk confidently with sure aims; and instead of being content to leave science as the technical possession of a few, he has, in a true sense, given it to the people by insisting on the universal meanings and making them accessible to all men.”