Saturday, February 22, 2020

Lighting 289 Candles on Washington’s Cake—Part I

That's a lot of candles, Sir!
Note—Today begins a five part series on the life, times, achievements, and flaws of the proclaimed Father of the Country, George Washington.  May it be a reminder of how far we have fallen.
Today is George Washington’s Birthday except it isn’t unless you live in Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, or New York.  Those are the only states that still mark the occasion as an official stand alone holiday.  And outside of the old boy’s native Virginia you would be hard pressed to find evidence of it outside of mattress sale ads.  Nobody gets off work for it anymore.  Schools are generally in session working too hard cramming for standardized testing to do much about it.  Since Ditto machines became obsolete I doubt if second graders even get silly Cherry Tree handouts to sniff and color.  Of course, George usually gets top billing with Abe Lincoln for the Presidents Day Federal holiday, but it’s just not the same.
Too bad.  The Father of Our Country, First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of his Countrymen, etc. was an interesting dude.  He was one of the few who can truly be said to indispensable men of their age.  While not the stiff plaster saint devoid of common human foibles often depicted, he had enough grit, determination, and personal rectitude to hold an Army in the field for eight years against the mightiest empire on Earth with precious few victories under his belt and yet prevail—with a little help from the French.  He then helped shepherd a unique new republican government into existence and became the unifying leader that kept the component states from flying apart by centrifugal force.  And most astonishing of all, he walked away from power at the appointed date and let another take his place unchallenged or molested.  That unprecedented act set in motion 220 years of—mostly—peaceful transfers of power.  If things seem to be spinning out of control this year, it is no fault of Washington’s example.
To begin with George wasn’t even born on February 22.  He first saw the light of day on February 11, 1731 under the old Julian Calendar then still in use by England and its colonies.  He was an ambitious 21-year-old in 1752 when Britain adopted the Gregorian Calendar losing 11 dates and changing his birthday.  It must have been confusing and disorienting.
Washington's modest birthplace--Pope's Creek in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
He was the son of a second marriage of a modestly prosperous planter and member of the gentry.  His Father died when he was just 11 years old and he became the ward of his older half-brother Lawrence who had married into the fabulously wealthy Fairfax family, Virginia’s largest landowners. The boy, without a fortune of his own, famously mooned over the lovely Sally Fairfax, the young wife of Lord Fairfax himself.  She may, or may not, have encouraged the attentions.  George wrote up rules for himself to adopt the manners of the aristocracy and get ahead in the world.
He received a middling education from a local Anglican priest and dreamed of following brother Lawrence into service in the Royal Navy.  His domineering mother squashed that dream when he was 15 and the right age to have a midshipman’s berth purchased for him.  He took up surveying when he was 17 and laid out tracts in the western counties of Virginia, sparking a lifelong interest in western lands.
When Lawrence died in 1752—the year of the calendar change, George came into his estate, Mt. Vernon named for the Admiral who Lawrence had served under.  The next year he was appointed a district adjutant of the Virginia Militia with a rank of Major.  
A fanciful depiction of the death of Ensign Joseph Coulon de Jumonville near Ft. Duquesne was based on French accounts of the affair which depicted Jumonville as an unarmed diplomat assassinated under a white flag by Washington's men, although this version shows him trying to intercede.  What ever happened, it sparked a world-wide war.
His military career got off to a fast start by essentially starting a world war.  Dispatched to protect the interests of the Ohio Company land speculation scheme, Washington discovered the Ohio Company fort at the present site of Pittsburgh had fallen to a party of French and their Native allies and that they were building their own Ft. Duquesne.  The young officer and his militia men along with Mingo allies ambushed the French party killing most of them including its leader Joseph Coulon de Jumonville.  Jumonville may have been killed by the Mingos while Washington’s prisoner.  The story is unclear.  
Washington began to build his own Ft. Necessity near the former Ohio Company post but his party was attacked and he was captured by the French before he could complete it.  He was paroled and expelled by the French and allowed to return to Virginia with his troops where he was greeted as a hero.  The French accused him of assassinating Jumonville and after a couple of years of diplomatic wrangling the incident became the casus belli of the Seven Years War or the French and Indian War in North America in 1756.
None-the-less he was exhilarated by the battle and wrote to his brother, ““I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.”
Given Washington’s unique experience it was no surprise that he was tapped as the senior American aide to British General Edward Braddock in 1755 for his expedition to expel the French from the Ohio country.  It was the largest deployment to date of British Regulars who along with colonial militia and Native allies were supposed to capture Ft. Duquesne.  Because no American officer could serve above the rank of captain without appointment from London, Washington was denied a field command at the rank of major and reluctantly was officially listed as a volunteer aid to the General.  Braddock was a conventional European soldier with no experience in the irregular warfare of the frontier.  He tried to push a heavy column over the mountains and through thick woods while hacking a stump road for the baggage train and artillery.  It was slow going and gave the French, alerted by their Native allies, ample time to prepare.
General Edward Braddock at the head of a still far to heavy "flying column" marched into an ambush and his death.  Washington is depicted as the soldier in blue beside him.  The young Virginian rallied the panicked troops and organized an orderly retreat.
Finally, on Washington’s recommendation, Braddock split his forces with a fast moving flying column leaving the heavy construction crews and baggage behind with a rear guard.  Braddock took command of the lead column with Washington, who had been ill with fever, at his side.  At the Battle of the Monongahela the well prepared French and Indians ambushed the lead column, cutting it to pieces and mortally wounding Braddock.  Washington coolly rallied the British and Virginia Militia and organized an orderly retreat from what had been a rout.  He had two horses shot out from under him and his coat was torn by four musket balls.  The expedition limped home.
Washington was hailed as a hero by his troops, but the British held him at fault for his advice on splitting the force.  He was not posted to the next British expedition against the French.  And his hopes for a Regular Army commission and a scarlet coat were dimmed.  
Instead Washington was created Colonel of the Virginia Regiment and “Commander in Chief of all forces now raised in the defense of His Majesty’s Colony” in 1755.  The regiment, known as the Virginia Blues was the first in the Colonies to with full time professional soldiers, who were regularly drilled and outfitted with full uniforms and military equipment rather than ill organized, equipped and trained Militia turned out for short service.  
The troops were mostly draftees from the poorest levels of Virginia society and included some mulattos and native “half-breeds”.  Washington whipped them up into a respectable fighting force and deployed them in a string of frontier forts and blockhouses to protect settlers from Indian raids sponsored by the British.  He led his men in brutal campaigns against the Indians where his regiment fought 20 battles in 10 months and lost a third of its men. As a result Virginia’s frontier suffered less than that of other colonies.  Years of low level frontier warfare followed.
In 1758 he and elements of his regiment were part of a new drive against the French in the Ohio country—the Forbes Expedition.  Despite the ultimate success of that expedition which ultimately drove the French from Ft. Duquesne, Washington saw little action and that was an embarrassing snafu—his men and a British unit mistook each other for the French in the heavy woods and 14 men were killed in a friendly fire disaster.
That might have contributed to Washington’s decision to resign his commission when he got home, but more likely was his continuing disappointment in the British refusal to incorporate the Blues into the Regular Army with a commission for himself.  Despite his love for the military, he “retired” to manage his Mt. Vernon estate and other properties in in December of 1758.
Martha Washington was not always the heavy set, grey haired matron familiar to most of us.  As Martha Dandrige Custis she was an attractive--and very rich--widow when Washington married her.
But there seems to have been an even more compelling motive.  On January 6, 1759 he married 28 year old Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy widow with two children despite the fact that she was older than him and he still secretly pined for Sally Fairfax.  But Martha was still beautiful, charming, and compatible.  She also had shown she could capably manage a plantation on her own.  She was an excellent partner for the ambitious George and soon they were devoted to each other and he dedicated himself to raising her children when it became apparent that he would have none of his own.
Martha was, in fact, not just wealthy, but baring the Fairfax family, one of the richest persons in Virginia.  She brought with her not only more plantations and property but hundreds of slaves most of which she retained in her name but who joined the score or so that Washington owned and were soon all working under his exacting direction.  The young retired officer had vaulted from the middling gentry to the front ranks of the Virginia aristocracy with all the prestige and responsibility that entailed.
Washington threw himself into the management of his properties, especially the home estate at Mount Vernon.  He began expanding the modest home his brother had left into to the impressive white mansion we see today with additions and modifications being constantly made.  He rode the extensive grounds daily personally overseeing the work of the plantation and spent hours at his desk planning and pouring over business matters.  
Seeing other Tidewater planters beginning to suffer from a total reliance on tobacco as a cash crop as it exhausted the soil and yields fell off, Washington sought to diversify his planting and began to employ the earliest innovations in scientific farming including crop rotation being explored by Scottish agronomists.  He put in wheat, rye, oats, flax, and hemp in addition to tobacco.  He strove to make the plantation as self-reliant as possible building grist mills, whiskey distilleries, saw mills, a rope walk, and directed wheels and looms in the slave quarters spin flax and wool to yarn and weave the homespun into rough cloth.  He raised fine horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs and his busy smoke houses produced plenty of bacon and fine hams.  The sale of his surplus production eventually rivaled the revenue from his tobacco barns.  He grew richer by the year.
Washington at an older age was depicted as a kind slave master supervising haying in this painting by Junius Brutus Stearns.
Virtually all of the labor was provided by his slaves, who he found more honest and trustworthy than most hired white help.  Many rose from field hands to become skilled craftsmen, overseers, and household servants.  A few were taught to read and write to help with the details of administration.  Washington was a firm and exacting master, but by the standards of the day he was a fair one.  Whipping and other corporal punishment was sparing.  And because he was interested in expanding his slave holdings to serve his bustling properties, he seldom sold his slaves or separated families.  After all, he preferred to breed slaves rather than buy them.  And unlike so many other masters, Washington did not use his female slaves as a private harem.  His rectitude and loyalty to Martha prevented common sexual abuse that was rife among slave holders. 
Still, no matter how you cut it, there is no denying that the vast wealth that Washington amassed on the base of his brother’s estates and his wife’s properties was the direct result of slavery.
Despite all of this, Washington was still in debt to his British creditors for the importation of luxury goods for his household, especially in the early years of his marriage as he sought to establish his social standing.  When Martha’s daughter Patsy Curtis died in his arms of epilepsy in 1773 it was a crushing personal blow.  But he came personally into half of Patsy’s substantial estate with which he was able to pay off his English debt in full and permanently—a rare feat among the Virginia aristocracy.
It was not all work.  Washington enjoyed the amusements of his class—fox hunting at which he excelled  developed his reputation as the finest horseman in Virginia.  He entertained a stream of guests all the cream of Virginia society and visitors from other colonies and the Mother Land.  He enjoyed social dancing at which he was said to be quite graceful.  He also assumed the duties of a leading squire like the office of vestryman at his local Anglican parish despite a growing deism that detached him from conventional and orthodox Christianity.  He joined a local Free Mason Lodge not taking it terribly seriously at first but then becoming immersed in its mysteries and rituals, the true source of the spiritual life that he could no longer find at the communion rail.  And of course in addition to minor local offices and honors, was elected a member of the House of Burgesses.  
Given his wealth and status, Washington could easily have become a Tory, like the Fairfax family he had long sought to emulate.  But beginning in the mid 1760’s he began to throw his lot increasingly with those restive under the Crown and Parliament.  Perhaps it was the lingering resentment of a soldier who was never made a Regular, perhaps it was the spirit of the age.  He was never a deep or original political thinker like George Mason or a firebrand like Patrick Henry, but he was a steady, firm political presence.  The Stamp Act of 1765 stirred him to action and became especially active after the adoption of the Townsend Acts two years later in which Parliament tried to re-assert its authority over the colonies with a series of taxes, levies, and punitive actions aimed mostly at Massachusetts and New York.  In response Boston merchants began to agitate for non-importation declarations by the Colonies.  
In 1769 Washington and George Mason spearheaded the movement in Virginia where the House of Burgesses passed a resolution stating that Parliament had no right to tax Virginians without their consent.   Governor Lord Botetourt dissolved the assembly which then met at Raleigh Tavern and adopted a boycott agreement known as the Association.  It was a critical turning point.
When Washington posed for his first portrait for Charles Wilson Peale at the age of 40 in 1772 he was proud to wear his old Virginia Blues uniform.  He could still cut a dashing figure in it when he wore it to the Second Continental Congress three years later.
The furor in the Colonies led to the Townsend Act to be repealed in 1770 except for the tax on tea left in place as both an important revenue source and an assertion of Parliamentary authority.  But agitation in the New World continued and in 1774 London responded with what the Colonies called the Intolerable Acts.  Washington was livid he wrote to a friend,
They are an Invasion of our Rights and Privileges…I think the Parliament of Great Britain has no more right to put their hands in my pocket without my consent than I have to put my hands into yours for money… [We must not submit to acts of tyranny] till custom and use shall make us as tame and abject slaves, as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway.
Washington not only blew off steam, he acted.  In July 1774, he chaired the meeting at which the Fairfax Resolves were adopted calling for the convening of a Continental Congress.  The next month he attended the First Virginia Convention, and was elected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress.  
George Mason, Virginia's leading intellectual figure, authored the Fairfax Resolves that called for a Continental Congress, but it was George Washington's prestige a Chairman of the meeting that helped get them adopted.
Meanwhile things were getting out of hand in Boston where the British had closed the port to trade, occupied the city, and quartered troops on the town.  Things blew up in April of 1775 when Massachusetts Militiamen resisted efforts by British Regulars to seize armories inland.  The Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Siege of Boston by Militia troops from throughout New England followed.
When the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia the midst of the crisis, Washington showed up in his old Virginia Blues uniform and cut a dramatic, martial figure.  His life, and the fate of the colonies, would be changed forever.  
Tomorrow—Part II, First in War….

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Power of the Pamphlet That Refused to Die—Communist Manifesto

Marxists love this kind heroic imaginary.  You can pretty much define the sect by who gets added to these founders in a Mt. Rushmore-like row.

The pamphlet as a literary form and polemical tool owes its existence to the invention of moveable type, resultant relative mass literacy, and the need to cheaply reach and sway wide audiences.  They first came to the forefront during the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther, who had much sharper elbows than his plump monk’s body might suggest, was the first master of the form.  The slow-moving behemoth of the Catholic Church at first floundered trying to respond with turgid Latin tomes.  But it got better, or at least some of its wittier apologists did and for the next two hundred years ago a pamphlet war stoked bloody atrocities on all sides across Europe.

The Enlightenment and the dawn of modernity gave rise to the secular political and social pamphlets.  In England Jonathan Swift and others raised the form to dazzling rhetorical heights.  But in the New World Thomas Paine’s Common Sense helped bring one Empire to its knees and give birth to another.  Not long after a series of pamphlets collectively known as the Federalist Papers penned by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay rallied support for what became the most enduring Constitution in the world.

Common Sense by Thomas Paine was a pamphlet that changed the world.
In the 19th Century writers and philosophers of all stripes turned their attention the industrial revolution, the social injustice and inequality it fostered, and the growing rage of the displaced and oppressed.  Many notable figures—nationalists, democrats, socialists, anarchists, and utopians—entered the fray.  But one pamphlet overshadows all the rest in the sweep and enduring nature of its influence.

Meet the single most important pamphlet of all timeLove it or loath it, it cannot be denied.

It couldn’t have been more timelyThe uprisings that would sweep from France across the German states and into much of the rest of Europe were gathering steam on February 21, 1848 when a tiny faction of radical socialists from across the continent met in London and published Manifest der kommunistischen Partei, literally the Manifesto of the Communist Party

Now known more simply as the Communist Manifesto the 18,000 word paper bound pamphlet was authored by German Jewish journalist and intellectual Karl Marx and his close collaborator Friedrich Engels, a pioneering German-born sociologist who had made his mark with the publication three years earlier of The Condition of the Working Class in England, one of the first systematic studies of working class life.

The publication was almost instantly notoriousEditions appeared in French and English by 1850 and were followed by translations in most European languages.  By 1857 an American edition was published by the utopian and individualist anarchist Stephen Pearl Andrews.

The original German edition of the pamphlet that shook the world.



Exactly how much each of the two credited authors contributed to the final product is hotly debated with those who want to raise Marx to the level of an infallible prophet and messianic figure pumping their hero up while reducing Engels to almost a mere clerk.  What is indisputable is that in the final draft it is Marx’s vigorous and muscular rhetoric that characterized the document beginning with its famous preamble:

A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?

Two things result from this fact:

I. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power.

II. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself.


But we know that it was Engels who was commissioned by the Communist League, the first international party to adopt that name, in July of 1847 to draw up a catechism for the new movement.  His first effort became the Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith containing almost two dozen questions that helped express his own ideas and those of his comrade Marx at the time.  That was followed in October with a second draft renamed the less religious Principles of Communism.  Still, it was in the question and answer format of a catechismEngels was dissatisfied with that and suggested a new approach.  

He brought Marx into the project as the primary writer of the final draft, traveling to Brussels, Belgium where the exiled writer was publishing a radical newspaper.   Marx incorporated much of Engels’s work but heavily rephrased it and added his own insights

The controversy over who contributed what swirled over the life times of both men.  After Marx’s death Engels wrote of what had become known as Marxism:

I cannot deny that both before and during my forty years’ collaboration with Marx I had a certain independent share in laying the foundations of the theory, but the greater part of its leading basic principles belongs to Marx....Marx was a genius; we others were at best talented. Without him the theory would not be by far what it is today. It therefore rightly bears his name.

Whoever was the primary author, the effects of the pamphlet were not long in being felt.  It began to “hit the streets” in Germany by spring.  It surely did not cause the wave of 1848 uprisings, those had been festering and boiling under the surface since the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the spread of the Industrial Revolution into previously agrarian societies with urban centers organized along traditional craft production.  The leaders of the rebellions, as far as they could be identified, came from various ideological shades, including different varieties of socialists, along with democratic rebels casting themselves in the anti-royalist traditions of the French Revolution.  Many were young idealists, including students and sympathetic intellectuals.  Others emerged from the ranks of the evolving working class itself.  Communists represented only a tiny sliver of active leadership—their organization was too new, too weak to do much more than be swept up in an irresistible tide of history.  

A Berlin street battle in the Revolution of 1848.  Guess how many insurrectionists read the Manifesto.



Did the appearance of the Manifesto inspire the rebels?  To some extent.  But most were too engaged in making a revolution to spend much time reading about one.

But Marx’s somewhat bombastic claims in the introduction to the pamphlet led authorities to believe that there was indeed a “Spectre of Communism haunting Europe.”  The rebellions peaked and then faltered for lack of clear programs and ability to build sustained organizations while the forces of reaction rallied and counter attacked with overwhelming military power.  By mid-1849 most of the uprisings were crushed and a continent-wide repression was under way.  The Manifesto was generally suppressed, although surreptitious copies continued to be circulated, often at great riskIdentifiable Communists were arrested and sometimes executed—but so were leaders and activists of all ideological stripes.  Thousands were forced into exile.

Marx and his wife Anna were among them.  They had to flee Brussels to join Engels in London, where he resumed work as a journalist, dedicated himself to study of the revolutionary movements and why they failed, and to assuming more formal leadership in the Communist movement.

Karl and Anna Marx had to flee from exile in Brussels for exile in London with comrade Engels.  Note Anna is wearing a cross.  Curious.

In 1850 the Prussian master spy Wilhelm Stieber broke into Marx’s London home and made off with the Communist League’s membership records setting off a wave of arrests across Germany and France.  After the Cologne Communist Trial of 1852 the League was forced to dissolve.  There after Communism existed as a current in socialism and Marx worked to get national socialist and labor parties, as well as trade unions, to adopt his analysis.  

The Manifesto was now a document for an organization that had evaporated.  The very stuff of ephemera, at best of interest to historians, antiquarians, and haunters of dusty archives.  But instead, it not only remained in print, it spread and continued to be issued in new languages.  It was passed hand-to-hand, often clandestinely, among the scattered survivors of the ’48 upheaval.  

Marx and Engels issued editions with new introductions every few years in which they both explained themselves and sometimes modified views expressed in the original text.  Some local Communist grouping were established, but a generation of radicals influenced by it became militants in the trade union movement, emerging Social Democratic Parties, and labor parties.  They were among the Communards who rose up in Paris after the Franco-Prussian War and were eventually crushed by the French National Guard.

The document shaped the thinking of many socialists and some anarchists who were not explicitly Communist. 

Members of all these organizations—except for avowed anarchists and anarcho-syndicalist unions—met in Paris in 1889 to form the Socialist International, better known as the Second International at which Marx and Marxism were dominant.  Of course, by this time Marx had moderated some of the insurrectionist views of the Manifesto and advocated parliamentary and electoral activity through the Social Democratic parties modeled on that of Germany.  Still, despite the modified doctrine, the Manifesto remained a revered document.

In the 20th Century Lenin would resurrect the Manifesto as a primary document to differentiate his Bolsheviks from reformist Russian Social Democrats and as a rallying point for his insurrectionist 1917 October Revolution.

Today Lenin’s once monolithic international Communist movement has shattered into scores if not hundreds of often warring sects, all claiming to be the legitimate heirs to Marx and Engel’s vision.  Where Communists are entrenched in state power, in practice a kind of tightly controlled state capitalism as in China and Vietnam belie the original egalitarian and mass democratic vision.

Pamphlets on lit tables.  Still trying to be the next Marx...



Ideologues of all stripes still issue manifestos and publish pamphlets hoping to catch lighting in a bottle and spark the next world-shaking movement.  But for the most part the pamphlets lay unread on literature tables and are rejected by those on the street to whom they are eagerly offered.

Today the new generation of prophets and propagandists peddle their wares on the Internet increasingly in social media.  Which makes their work even more ephemeral than Marx’s flimsy paper pamphlet.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Not on Pawn Stars—The Broke King Who Hocked Some Islands

King Christian of Denmark, Norway and Sweden was in need of the services of a pawn broker.
You know how it is.  An unexpected expense arises, say your 30 year old refrigerator goes on the fritz.  Money is tight.  Hell, you just replaced the dryer and you need a brake job.  You are short on ready cash and the credit cards are maxed out.  What can you do?  Maybe scrounge around the house for something that might be valuable, hopefully something you don’t use much or even like.  The Stairmaster you ordered on a health kick five years ago and is now drying rack for towels.  Aunt Martha’s ugly vase that you were always warned not to touch because it’s worth a fortune.  Or, in a pinch, some old gold jewelry from the back of your wife’s little dresser top chest that she doesn’t have anywhere to show off anymore and you pray she won’t miss for a while.  You haul the crap down to Moe’s Loan and Groan, the local pawn broker, and negotiate for some fast cash to get you out of the jam.  If you hit the lottery or your bastard boss gives you the raise you so richly deserve, maybe you redeem the ticket.  If not, well, it is very little skin off your nose until the wife finds out about the jewelry.

                     No wonder King Christian I looks so sad--he had to pawn some perfectly fine islands.
That is sort of the position King Christian I of Denmark, Norway and Sweden found himself in.  It was 1472 and his majesty had to come up with a big fat dowry that he had been forced to pledge to James III, King of Scots to unload his daughter, Margaret of Denmark. 
That match was forced on the monarch by the biggest bully in the neighborhood, Louis XI of France, an inveterate schemer.  Louis wanted to force an end to long, low grade but expensive war between the Danes and Scotts over taxation rights to the Hebrides Islands that raged from 1428.  In 1460 Louis forced the betrothal of the four year old Margaret to the just crowned James III.  The marriage was sealed in July 1468 at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh when the lovely bride was 13 and James was a seventeen year old horse faced mope.
More than two years later the fat promised dowry had not been paid and the Scots were breathing down King Christian’s neck for their cash.  The king had blown his wad in a long war with the German Hansiatic League and was busy putting down costly rebellions in Sweden.  Desperately, he scrounged around for assets to raise money.  He found them in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, possessions of Norway in his pan-Scandinavian kingdom since the days of the Vikings.  As a Dane, he considered this part of the old Norse patrimony expendable.
So on February 20, 1472 he pawned them, to the Scots for the value of the dowry.  He never bothered to re-pay the guarantee, so Scotland has held onto the islands ever since.  The probably can show you the pawn ticket if you ask them nicely.

The ruggedly beautiful Orkney Islands are the site of some of the most important Bronze Age archeology sites in Europe including ample evidence of long Norse ownership and occupancy.
The rugged Orkneys, now known to be the home of some of the oldest Bronze Age settlements in the orbit of the British Isles, had long been a Norwegian fiefdom, but Scot settlers had become most of the population.  The current Norse Earl of Orkney was Scot William Sinclair.  Instead of transferring the holding to allegiance to the Scottish Crown, James claimed the islands as his direct holdings.  Sinclair, an innocent bystander to the Danish/Scot transaction, was compensated by lands around Castle Ravencraig and created Earl of Caithness.
If all of this seems exhaustingly complex, you should have tried living through it.
As is often the case, the holder of the pawned security—the Scots—came out way ahead of the pawner, Christian, who got nothing out of the deal but a truce on his western flank and a relief from dun notices.   The Scots gained two long cherished island possessions and a lovely young Queen who was soon beloved and admired by her new subjects.  Certainly more beloved and admired than her husband Henry who was at constant odds with his family and most of his nobles and pursued a highly unpopular policy of alliance with the ancient Scottish enemy England.  

Margaret of Denmark at her wedding at age 13 was much too nice a person to be caught up in the whole sordid affair.
Margaret, styled Queen Consort and thus without any direct political power, gave birth to three sons, including the future King James IV. She was kind and gracious and gave good council to the headstrong king when he would accept it.  Many nobles devoutly wished that she, rather than her husband ruled.
In 1479 the King’s policy of reconciliation with the English collapsed into intermittent warfare along the border followed by an 1481 full scale invasion of Scotland by Edward IV in whose Army was James’s brother Alexander, Duke of Albany now being presented by the English as a Scot pretender Alexander IV.  James moved to lead an army against the invaders, but leading nobles arrested and imprisoned him and set up a brief regency under Lieutenant-general Albany.
The English failed to seize Edinburgh and retreated, satisfied with territorial gains along the border.  During this time Margaret seemed much more concerned to the safety of her sons than for the fate of her husband under arrest.  James eventually contrived to bribe leading supporters of his brother to switch sides and with his English supporters gone, Albany fled and James resumed power.  The episode put a strain on the marital relationship and Margaret began spending as much time as possible away from the king, residing at Castle Sterling.
Margaret died under somewhat mysterious circumstances on July 14, 1486 at Sterling at the age of 32.  She was deeply mourned by the Scots.  One son later suggested she had been poisoned, but historians cannot confirm this or lingering suspicions that her husband may have been involved.

James the III of Scotland was a mope, cad, and bumbling monarch in addition to being throw-a-bag-over-his-head homely.
James, at any rate, did not long outlive her.  Rebellious nobles including his own son and the future king defeated and killed him at the Battle of Sauchieburn on June 11, 1488.  He was not widely mourned.
Historians rate James III as a failed king whose sole lasting achievement during his reign was the annexation of the Orkneys and Shetlands in repayment of a pawn debt.