Opening Japan

It was on this day in 1854 that Commodore Matthew Perry and his staff concluded the Kanagawa Treaty with the Empire of Japan, ending more than Japan’s more than 250 years of self-imposed isolation. Perry’s mission to open Japan to trade with the United States had many important immediate and long-range effects. It forever changed the course of Japanese history, and ultimately world history, making it one of the most important treaties in diplomatic history. In the wake of the Kanagawa Treaty, Japan modernized at an almost unbelievable rate.

When Perry’s mission landed near Edo (now Tokyo,) Japan had no modern, industrial manufacturing, no steamships, no navy capable of contending with any Western powers, no modern armaments, no telegraph, no modern printing presses, and no international diplomatic corps. Japan in that era was truly isolated from the rest of the world, and had limited influence beyond its island empire. This is by no means to imply that Japan was undeveloped or unsophisticated: the major reason for these lags and lacks was the political policy of the Tokugawa Shoguns who had been the de facto rulers of Japan since 1600.

During much of the 16th Century, Japan had been rent by progressively more ferocious and deadly civil warfare as competing lords vied for power. Western powers, primarily Portugal and the Netherlands, readily supplied armaments to the feuding nobility, and freely meddled in Japan’s internal affairs. When Tokugawa Ieyasu emerged triumphant in 1600 as Shogun, overlord of all Japan, he set about restoring Japan to stability and prosperity. One measure he undertook was to ensure the peace with several laws (and a large number of executions of rivals as well, this being an old and respected tradition across all times and cultures.)

For example, though in the last decades of the 16th century Japan is estimated to have made more muskets per annum than Western Europe of that time, under the early Tokugawa Shoguns firearms were explicitly prohibited to the lesser daimyos (nobles.) Private ownership of all weaponry was firmly controlled by the Shogunate, with the result that private feuds and wars could no longer be waged. In the wake of the peace thereby imposed, arms manufacture throughout Japan shrank in importance, and new developments essentially stopped. Correspondingly, this policy ushered in an age of Domestic tranquillity which saw the blossoming of some of Japan’s finest cultural achievements. The visual arts attained great heights. Woodblock prints, paintings, ceramics, iron-working, and textiles from the Edo Period rank among the most valuable artistic treasures in the world. At the same time, performing arts flourished as well. Japan’s theatrical heritage was enriched by masterworks in Kabuki (elaborately staged dramas) and Bunraku (plays staged with puppetry,) as well a wonderfully refined dance and music.

During this period too, scholarship flourished to a surprising degree for such an isolated country. Throughout the Tokugawa Shogunate (1600 – 1860) a limited but steady stream of western learning entered Japan through the small Dutch trading station in Nagasaki, and was widely disseminated throughout Japan. But Japan sent none of her people abroad to study, and invited no outside teachers in. The result was that by Perry’s arrival, Japan was highly developed both culturally and artistically, but was technologically underdeveloped.

Thus it was that Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan relied heavily on the threat of violence without fear of an effective reprisal; Perry’s squadron could easily inflict a punishing bombardment on most any Japanese coastal city. And so Japan’s rulers determined to accede to the demands of the United States and grant some trading concessions, albeit in a very limited and highly restricted fashion. Nevertheless, the genie, as the saying has it, was out of the bottle.

Perry’s insistence upon Japan’s acceptance of U.S. trade led to other Western Powers demanding similar consideration. Within five years, the influence and the demands of the Western nations upon Japan led to internal strife and ultimately revolt. Things began to unravel rapidly, and many of the systemic political problems of the Edo Period which had been festering for generations erupted into open riot and small-scale rebellion. The Tokugawa Shogunate was effectively ended by 1860, and in the power vacuum that followed, a new era of warlord warfare broke out.

In 1863, the Daimyo Mori Takachika of Shimonoseki in southern Japan declared himself no longer bound to the central authority in Edo, and began demanding tolls for all ships that passed through the strategically important Shimonoseki straits. When the ships of Western governments which had hammered out treaties with the Edo government refused to pay the unauthorized tolls, Lord Takachika ordered his soldiers to fire on the ships using some rather antiquated, smoothbore cannon, but also using some recently purchased Western artillery. During the summer of 1863, several Western ships were fired on, mostly with little harm, but one Dutch ship suffered several casualties.

Despite the fact that the United States was in the throes of a great civil war, the United States warship USS Wyoming sailed to respond to this threat, and in a short but fierce battle severely punished the Daimyo’s forces. This strikingly one-sided engagement apparently served as a “wake-up call” for many Japanese: it was clear that simply having modern guns was not sufficient to compete with the Western Powers.

By 1867, a coalition of warlords and progressive intellectuals effected a profound and hugely important change in Japan’s political structure. The Emperor, a position which for almost 1,000 years had been more religious and ceremonial than political, was returned to full power in what became known as the Meiji Restoration. Japan had made a decisive turn toward modernity, technology, and the West.

As I mentioned above, Japan made almost incredible progress in gaining technological prowess. In 1854, Japan had none of the accoutrements of a modern 19th century Power. Within a generation Japan had acquired a modern military, a massive, efficient, and remarkably productive manufacturing infrastructure, and had developed trade and diplomacy on a global scale. Within a second generation, Japan had become an unquestioned Great Power, able to treat on equal footing with major Western Powers. No other nation in the history of the world had ever risen so far so fast.

Perry’s treaty was, as noted, really enacted under coercion. But it is notable in that it was enacted without being born in warfare, nor did it directly spawn warfare. That makes it an unusually important treaty. Warfare between Japan and the United States would not come for almost a century.

W. C. Rawson, Sr. 1925-2007

On this day in 1925 was born a man who has been for all my life one of my greatest heroes – probably the foremost – and an inspiration, and a role model, though I cannot claim to even begin to come close to embodying the high standards that he set by his example. He was a true hero in many, many ways, most of which are unrecorded and unheralded by the world at large, but which are nevertheless heroic.

As copilot of four-engine bombers for the 493rd Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, he flew 30 missions against Nazi Germany as lead plane in his squadron. He flew both B-17s and B-24s, making him unusually qualified to comment of the relative merits of each. For his service he was decorated with multiple Air Medals and twice received The Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, he married, and took to studying law at Georgetown. But when the United States Air Force was formed as a distinct branch of the military, he rejoined and served until 1969, however it was not until 1999 – thirty years after he retired – that he received his final Citation from the Secretary of Defense, enough material having been declassified to permit the issuance of the Citation.

So, as I say, he was a hero officially.

But he was even more a hero in ways that are less formally recognized. He and his wife of fifty-five years raised six kids and put each one through college. And the two of them never forgot their primary role as parents: to be teachers. He took his role as a teacher to be one of his most important duties. Whether around a meal table, working on an engine, or hiking in the mountains, he continually taught. And not merely facts and figures, but values and morals and beliefs. And he continued this important role unto the next generation, teaching his grand children.

And he was a hero at the very end of his life, eduring with as much patience and good grace as possible the affliction of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS or “Lou Gherig’s Disease.” As Dylan Thomas advised his own father, he would not “… go gentle into that good night,” but neither did he rage. If I were to find myself in the same circumstance and face it so well, I’d be proud indeed.

My father as a young US Army Air Corps officer in 1945.

So, today, upon the occasion of what would have been his 87st Birthday, I send out this in tribute to one of the finest human beings I shall ever have the pleasure and benefit of knowing; though I know and have known many outstanding and astounding people, he stands out from them all: my father, William Charles Rawson, Senior. As fine a man as I have ever known: a wonderful father, an irreplaceable teacher, a courageous and heroic gentleman. It is true, he was not flawless, for no one is, but his virtues were many. And I can say with all sincerity: If I am ever accounted half the man he is, I shall adjudge myself a success in this world.

Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world ‘This was a man!’

Julius Caesar, V:v

Happy Birthday, San Francisco!

Two hundred thirty-six years ago on 28 March 1776, the settlement that would one day become the great city of San Francisco was founded. While the British-dominated eastern shore of North America was in political ferment and rebellion that would result in the world’s first colonial declaration of independence, the Spanish-dominated western shore was being settled to make a reality Spain’s longstanding claim to the potentially valuable territory. Spain had started to settle California with the establishment of a small military garrison and a religious mission on San Diego Bay in 1769.

That same year, the impressive, accommodating, and strategically important San Francisco Bay had been discovered. Though the California coast had been frequently explored in the preceding 250 years, the Spanish despaired of finding a decent natural port. Unlike the East Coast of North America whose many rivers formed navigable tidal estuaries and bays at regular intervals along the coastline, the West Coast of North America was almost completely devoid of natural harbors. Until the discovery of San Francisco Bay, the best harbor that had been found was at the Monterey Peninsula, and that was not a particularly sheltered locale.

Why did it take so long to find San Francisco Bay? Well, those who have been there surely know: it is often foggy there. Very foggy. So foggy, in fact, that the narrow opening of the Bay, the Golden Gate, often disappears from view, either from inside the Bay or from outside. Though many expeditions had sailed very close to the Golden Gate – Sir Francis Drake is thought to have sailed within four miles of it – not a one saw the wonderful gap in the coastline that opened into a splendid natural port. It seems somehow typical of San Francisco – doing the exact opposite of what is usually expected – that the famous Bay was first discovered from the land! Yes, it was Gaspar de Portola’s 1769 overland expedition that made first sighting of the glorious natural harbor that would later become so important.

So it was on this day, 28 March in that fraught and momentous year of 1776, that the first settlers under Juan Bautista de Anza reached the site that was to become San Francisco. It was first established as a military garrison – in Spanish Presidio; it was a military facility for Spain, Mexico, and the United States. The United States Army maintained that Post until the site was incorporated into the Golden Gate national recreation area in 1994, and “The Presidio” proudly bore its founding date, 1776, upon its entrance gates. The very next order of business was the founding of a religious mission. The ancient adobe mission building, dedicated to the patron of the Franciscan friars who built the California missions, San Francisco de Asis, still stands, having withstood nine major earthquakes and five major fires unscathed. And finally established was a small town known, in honor of the healing herb that grew on the site, as Yerba Buena, Good Herb.

The actual city of San Francisco would not exist until the first American governor of California granted a charter to the former Yerba Buena in 1847. This governor, John C. Frémont, was a renowned geographer who had mapped a great deal of the far West for the United States Army – he also coined the name “Golden Gate” for the entrance to San Francisco Bay (in 1846, before gold had been discovered) but his coining did not stick in its original form: drawing on his mastery of Classical Greek, Frémont had dubbed the breathtaking entry Chrysopylae, “Golden Gate.” (I am glad that the English form won out!) Frémont also established a bit of a tradition of Californian unorthodoxy: an Army officer, Colonel Frémont had been appointed governor by Commodore Stockton after the U.S. victory in the Mexican-American War. General Kearny felt this was an unacceptable slight – he outranked Frémont, after all! Kearny therefore arrested Frémont and sent him to Washington, D.C. charged with mutiny!

Frémont was convicted and almost immediately pardoned by President Polk. The whole affair convinced many of the former Mexican citizens who now found themselves under American rule that the Yanquis were as unstable as the Spanish Grandees who had been so intolerable. (All the principals have streets named after them in San Francisco!)

San Francisco, as this brief account illustrates, was unusual and unorthodox from its very founding. And California has often had a rough time with its governors! But in any case, a Happy 236th birthday to one of our nation’s – indeed, one of the world’s – most interesting and delightful cities!

Downtown San Francisco looking eastward from UCSF Medical Center. This is an unorthodox view, most SF cityscapes looking westward. 06SEP08.

Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

It is an odd thing, but everyone who disappears is said to be in San Francisco.

— Oscar Wilde

Happy Birthday To The University Of California!

Today, 23 March 2018, is the day upon which the University of California, Berkeley celebrates its 150th anniversary, its annual Charter Day. The University has accomplished many great things in its 15 decade life span; it has seen triumphs and tragedies, upheavals and euphorias. By any measure, it is one of the great institutions of learning and discovery in the world, and it is fitting to pay tribute to its long, eventful, and impactful existence.

It was, in reality, 150 years ago 23 March 1868 that the Organic Act creating the University of California was enacted. The plan to build a state university is as actually even older than the state of California itself. The first constitutional convention for the state-to-be was held at Monterrey in 1849, more than a year before California was admitted to the Union 9 September 1850. At that session, hope was expressed for the establishment of a great university, the only limiting factor being the perennial problem of lack of money. Despite the riches promised by the Gold Rush, the state had no significant tax base. One delegate, undeterred by the sad state of financial affairs, nevertheless observed, “If we have the means here, we can procure the necessary talent; we can bring the president of Oxford here by offering a sufficient salary.”

Though the hopes were high in 1849, it would take almost two decades for the state to finally realize its aspirations for a university. The United States Congress granted the state 46,000 acres of public lands to endow the university in 1853, and with the passage of the Morrill Act in 1862, a further land endowment of 150,000 acres was made available. But still no university was created. During this period, the private College of California had been founded in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, and in 1866, the California legislature established an Agriculture, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College. This state college had funding, but no campus; the College of California had a campus but no funds. Seeing an opportunity, Henry Durant, president of the College of California, proposed that the college give its facilities to the state on the condition that a proper university be established, merging the faculties of the College of California and the AM&M College. This proposal was accepted, and on 23 March 1868, the University of California was formally established and chartered.

In addition to a small site in Oakland, the College of California owned a sizable tract of land to the north of Oakland amid some rather marginal farmland. The site had limited water resources, which was something of a drawback, but it had one remarkable asset: it was situated exactly opposite the Golden Gate and possessed an absolutely unique and stunning view. This view through the Golden Gate and out over the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean was inspiring, and seemed to embody the very aspirations of the state and its new university. When the site was acquired, Durant and others gathered at a rocky outcropping and gazed at the prospect. One of those present quoted the final stanza from the poem On the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America:

Westward the Course of Empire takes its Way;
The four first Acts already past.
A fifth shall close the Drama with the Day;
Time’s noblest Offspring is the last.

The poem’s author was the scholar and philosopher George Berkeley (always pronounced “BARK-lee”) Bishop of Cloyne, Ireland in the early 18th century. Bishop Berkeley felt that America had great potential for furthering education and achievement; his notions resonated with the founders of the College of California, and they decided to name the surrounding town in honor of Bishop Berkeley. The University of California moved to the Berkeley campus in 1873, after two large buildings had been completed.

The first graduation class of the University of California was rather small; they bore the collective nickname “The Twelve Apostles.” From that small class, however, came a future governor of California, two future mayors, a future congressman, and three future Regents of the UC. It was an auspicious start. That first class was all male, but in 1870, the university committed to accepting women as well, and from that time on was a co-educational institution.

During the 1870s, the UC experienced many difficulties as the institution became a “political football,” with opposing factions fighting over the university for political influence, or hurling charges of mismanagement at the school for political aims. In the state’s constitutional convention of 1878, the UC was given an unprecedented degree of independence. The University of California enjoys a unique position among public universities, as it is not merely a function of the state government, but an autonomous, almost equal fourth branch of state government. The idea was that the UC would be dependent upon the legislature for some funds, but otherwise insulated from political infighting. This noble ideal has not always been as successful as the originators had hoped, but it has produced a vigorous, dynamic, and truly independent university.

From the outset, California aimed to build a truly great university. By the 1870s, foreign students began to enroll in the UC. Eastern academics attracted by favorable salaries and a pleasant climate began taking professorships at the university. Professors from universities in the American South left institutions still devastated by the Civil War and came to California. By the turn of the 20th Century, the University of California had built an international reputation.

In 1899, Benjamin Ide Wheeler was appointed president of the University of California. During Wheeler’s twenty-year tenure, the school grew from 2,600 students to over 12,000, and from fewer than 200 faculty to nearly 700. Wheeler was an adept fund raiser, and he attracted many private benefactors to sponsor the growth of the campus, beginning a long tradition of private support for a public university. The Berkeley campus experienced a building boom which gave the campus its stunning “classical core” designed by America’s foremost proponent of Beaux Arts architecture, John Galen Howard. Under Wheeler’s strong leadership, students were given a functional self-government. The University expanded during Wheeler’s time with two “farms” (agricultural research stations) at Davis and at Riverside, a medical school in San Francisco and an oceanographic research facility at San Diego. To better serve the southern region of the state, an extension campus was founded in Los Angeles. All of these facilities later became full campuses in what is today the ten campus system of the University of California. Wheeler assembled a faculty of the very first rate. By 1906, the University of California was accounted one of the “Big Six” universities in the United States, along with Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Chicago, and Michigan.

After Wheeler resigned in 1919, the comptroller of the university, Robert Gordon Sproul, had effective command of the campus for ten years prior to being appointed president in 1930. Sproul served for an unheard of 28 years as president of the University. During Sproul’s time in office, the University grew even larger. The university extension in Los Angeles became UCLA. Additional campuses were added. Enrollment grew dramatically, from about 30,000 statewide in 1930 to almost 80,000 in 1958 when Sproul retired. The university’s reputation grew as well.

In 1929, Ernest O. Lawrence built his cyclotron which revolutionized atomic physics. Lawrence was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1939, the UC’s first recipient (and, in fact, the first Nobel Laureate at any public university.) Today the UC has more than 100 Nobel Laureates among its faculty, staff, and alumni throughout the various campuses (of these, 65 are affiliated with the Berkeley campus.)

By the 1950s, it was plain that the University of California was much more than its flagship campus in Berkeley. In response to growing demand for access to the University, the Regents restructured the campuses, ultimately leading to the 10-campus system which exists today.

At one time, “The University of California” inevitably described the institution whose campus was in Berkeley. This campus was also called, in the fashion of so many state universities, simply “California,” or “Cal.” The rise of this multi-campus university, or “multiversity,” to use former President Emeritus Clark Kerr’s terminology, led to the use “Berkeley” to specifically describe the Berkeley campus. It is as “Berkeley” that the University of California’s oldest campus is most commonly known today when discussing its academics (or its politics.) Sports fans, however, recognize that “California,” or “Cal” has long been an outstanding name in athletics. Interestingly enough, many people who are well aware of the athletic achievements of “Cal,” have no idea that “Berkeley” has a football team!

California athletics have many notable achievements, including five undefeated seasons of football in the 1920s under Coach Andy Smith. (The outstanding record of 50 straight games without a loss stood for many years and was significantly “bested” – by 5 – in 2003 by Ohio’s Mount Union College.) Cal also has the distinction of playing some of the most famous (or infamous) plays in college football history, notably “Wrong-way” Roy Riegels’ reverse run against Georgia Tech in the 1929 Rose Bowl, and 1982’s “Miracle of Strawberry Canyon,” better known as “The Play,” which featured 5 lateral passes on the final play of the Cal Stanfurd Big Game, resulting in a 25-20 Cal victory. Football is by no means Cal’s only sport, though space does not permit the listing of all of Cal’s sporting accomplishments here.

I would also note that Cal has for more than a half century fostered one of the finest college marching bands in the U.S. Though nearby rival Stanfurd is home to a “wild and crazy” band of the most anti-traditional kind, it is “Berkeley” whose band represents traditional musical and marching discipline. Many who see the Cal Band in performance, such as the huge crowd at 1979’s Garden State Bowl, find it hard to imagine that such a polished group arises from “Berkeley.” Just goes to show what they know …

In the 1960s, the Berkeley campus attracted national attention because of its significant student activism. In the era of the Civil Rights struggle across the country, a large number of students at the University of California felt that their education had to serve a purpose more meaningful than the simple pursuit of a good job. The campus’s conflicts and upheavals in the 1960s merit a discussion of far more detail than this essay permits, but a few key points should be noted: the beginning of the student demonstrations and campus unrest was grounded in the most uncontroversial of motives: Free Speech.

For much of the UC’s history, the University forbade any form of political discourse on UC property. The aim was laudable enough: as a truly independent arm of the state government, the Regents felt that it was wise to forbid any political activity within the University itself. Though this policy was generally unpopular with the campus community, it was acceptable because the campus was situated in the heart of the city. Those who wished to discuss matters political had merely to step to the edge of campus to stand on Berkeley city property where politics could be discussed. In honor of the campus’ main entry way to the city, Sather Gate, this accommodation was known as “The Sather Gate Tradition.”

This tradition meant that the main entrance to campus was typically the gathering place for political expression of every stripe. A cartoon from 1924 shows every sort of cause from the Irish Revolution to “The Jews Harp Club” being promoted at Sather Gate, all, of course, asking for donations. And this tradition acted as a safety valve that permitted students to accept the UCs prohibition of Free Speech on the campus itself. True, there were some rather embarrassingly bizarre results, such as when the presidential candidates of 1952 and 1956 had to address campus crowds from cars parked on city streets, yet it worked.

When the University grew in the late 1950s, however, the border of the campus proper moved a block south of Sather Gate. Territory that had been the scene of free political discourse for more than 50 years suddenly became subject to the prohibition against Free Speech. Yet trouble did not start immediately because “The Sather Gate Tradition,” in a modified form, moved south with the border of the campus.

In the Fall of 1964, “The Sather Gate Tradition” was suddenly revoked without apparent justification. The chancellor of the Berkeley campus and his assistant determined that the new southern border of the campus where political activity had been relocated in the wake of campus expansion was, in fact, technically, UC property. Accordingly, a ban against all political expression was proclaimed.

Nothing will incite resentment and reaction like the revocation of long-held rights. Changes to such rights, and changes to perceptions of such rights, are notoriously contentious and difficult to effect. The University officials, by all accounts, fumbled badly. The result was the first major student demonstration of the 1960s: Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement (FSM) was born.

The Free Speech Movement, it is important to note, was in no way an exclusively “radical” or even “left wing” movement. When one looks at the photos of the students involved in the protest, it is striking that the vast majority of the men are wearing coats and ties and the women are in dresses. The Free Speech Movement appealed to a broad array of students of all political viewpoints. Among the signatories to the statement of aims of the FSM were both the California Young Republicans and the Young Californians For Goldwater! These were young adults who wanted, simply, to be able to talk about the vital issues of the day on the campus where they were preparing for their place in the larger world. That hardly seems subversive.

But with the power and influence of television, the student protests of the FSM became major media events. within a few months, anyone who wanted their cause to be televised discovered that a demonstration on the Berkeley campus virtually guaranteed coverage. By the late 1960s when anti-war protests turned violent and deadly, the streets of Berkeley south of the UC campus were the premiere place for demonstration and agitation. It is notable that reliable estimates for the violent clashes of 1968-1971 account no more than 20% of the protesters as having affiliation with the University (affiliation is imprecise: students who had graduated or dropped out may or may not be accounted as “affiliated,” and so the numbers range between 10 – 20% in most estimates. In any case, it was never near a majority.)

Despite the pain and upheaval of the 1960s, the University continued to grow and to carry on its mission. The later 1970s saw a return to a more peaceful and productive campus atmosphere, though one in which political confrontation was a prominent fixture. In 1980, Cal’s Czeslaw Milosz was honored with the Nobel prize in literature, a first for a campus whose Physicists and Chemists had dominated the honors.

By the 1990s, the Berkeley Campus drew more of its funding from private donations than from state support. As the University continued to grow, the Berkeley campus continued in its flagship role as it does even today. In the past two decades many advances in science and technology have originated at Berkeley. Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Geology, Paelontolgy, Economics, History, and Engineering have all seen major contributions from Berkeley scholars. Computer folks know of advancements such as BSD Unix and RAID storage. A great public university has continued to uphold its public trust.

More than 100 years ago, Benjamin Ide Wheeler addressed the students of the University of California:

“The University shall be a family’s glorious old mother by whose hearth you shall love to sit down. Love her. It does a man good to love noble things … it is good to be loyal to the University, which stands in life for the purest things, and the cleanest, loftiest ideals. Cheer for her; it will do your lungs good. Love her; it will do your heart and life good.”

Happy Birthday to the University of California!!!

Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

It is a good thing in general to avoid doing what you couldn’t explain to your mother.

— Benjamin Ide Wheeler,
President of the University of California,
Remarks to the new Freshman class, 1920

20 March 1852: A Book That Changed The World

It was on this day in 1852 that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s landmark novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among The Lowly was first published. The book unquestionably ranks as one of the most important novels in world history: it was the best seller of the entire Nineteenth Century throughout the world, second only to the perennial leader, The Bible, and it was significantly responsible for creating a profound change in attitudes toward slavery throughout the United States of America, but mainly, of course, in the Northeast and Midwest. Pro-slavery and Abolitionist sentiments had been at odds from the very earliest days of the founding of our republic, but in the wake of the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, abolitionist sentiment grew immensely. Tolerence for the manifest hypocrisy of the evil of slavery flourishing in “The Land of the Free” grew less and less. As absolutists on each side clashed, war became inevitable. Upon being introduced to Mrs. Stowe at the Whitehouse, Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, “So this is the little lady who made this great big war!”

The book sold out its first run almost immediately. Before the end of 1852, more than 300,000 copies had been printed in the United States, an unprecendented success at that time. Another 200,000 copies were printed elsewhere in the English-speaking world, and translations began to appear in other languages before the year was out. These figures do not include unauthorized and “bootleg” copies that flooded the market as well, nor the many unauthorized abridgements and digests of the book. Additionally dramatic interpretations ranging from public readings to many hundreds of theatrical versions brought the tale to millions of people. It was a phenomenon unlike any which the world had seen. And, as noted above, its impact was immense and immediate.

For today’s tastes, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is overwrought, melodramatic, and verbose in the extreme. Stowe’s prose styling makes one think of Charles Dickens as being spare and concise by comparison. The novel’s major appeal today lies in its historical importance. It is today much more often read about than read; indeed, some recommend against actually reading the unabridged original novel because it contains characterizations of its enslaved protagonists that are distinctly stereotypic and often unflattering (though no one decries the portrayal of the wicked and greedy Simon LeGree, whose name is still an epitome for nastiness and evil.) This seems to me to be a perfectly fine state of affairs, as the book really is a labor to slog through; it is enough to know what it was about and to know its impact.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin did not start the dialogue on slavery in the United States, and it certainly did not conclude it. It did, however, hugely influence the development and direction of that dialogue. The book did not really do much to advance the understanding and communication between blacks and whites in the United States either. The book was written for a white audience, and while it is sympathetic and sentimental about the condition of the slaves, it does not portray a realistic view of the slave experience, and in fact did much to promote limiting, negative stereotypes. More than a century after the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the book was at the center of controversy in the height of the Civil Rights movement.

So, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was not genuinely timeless literature, nor did it promote real understanding among diverse and conflicting populations. But it did enkindle an outrage against centuries of slavery that brought about the end of that “Peculiar Institution,” as it was euphemistically known, within less than fifteen years. The end of slavery was a most necessary starting point to permit our nation to begin addressing the resultant issues of inequality and race in America. That process is ongoing still, and as is plain from then Senator Obama’s much remarked upon speech in early 2008, that process is a work in progress, a work that has not yet, even after more than 150 years, reached its goal. The past is not dead; it is not even past: it is with us in the present. But knowing the past and frankly facing it with all its glories and all of its shames, is necessary to living today and building a better future for all of us.

Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells us
about one man and fable tells us about a million men.

— G. K. Chesterson

A Visit To Ireland, September 1992

In September 1992, I and my friend Michelle travelled to the British Isles. This is a portion of a description of the trip which I wrote shortly afterward.

After two days in London, we ventured forth to visit Ireland. We took the train from London to Holyhead in Wales in order to get the ferry crossing to Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. Train travel in Great Britain is an absolute pleasure. The trains run in a timely fashion, and on the intercity runs they run fast. On a clear, straight stretch of mainline the intercity trains top 125 miles per hour, which makes them much faster than automobile travel. Prices are reasonable, too. The fare for a return (round trip) ticket from London to Holyhead was 44 pounds.

At Holyhead we discovered that the ferryboat was delayed. And it started to rain. Heavily. After a three hour wait, we were finally able to board the vessel. During that time the weather grew steadily nastier. It made for a “colorful” crossing. I thank my lucky stars that I have never suffered from seasickness, but I was in the minority aboard that night. More than half the passengers were suffering, and this fact was unpleasantly obvious. The boat really pitched and rolled, and for most of the voyage there was a pronounced list to starboard which made matters even worse. Michelle, who alleges that she had never been seasick before that crossing, was three shades of green by the time we docked in Dun Laoghaire. Mercifully, the Capitain was able to shave about twenty minutes off the typical crossing time despite the rough seas, and we docked at about 10:00 pm. We found a local Bed and Breakfast and crashed.

The next morning we proceeded on to Dublin (Baile atha Claithe, in Irish) by commuter rail. The system is known as “DART,” which I found amusing since that is the name of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system as well. We found another nice B&B in downtown Dublin and deposited our luggage so we could walk around the city. Irish B&B’s live up to their reputation as a good bargain. I know of no other major city where one can get pleasant accomodations and a huge, delicious breakfast for $26 a night.

Dublin is a great city to tour on foot. There was scaffolding only on the famous Four Courts, and it turned out that most of the historical sites were free of charge that Sunday because it was national heritage day. This fact ensured that there were mobs of school children at every attraction, and that there were guides to explain the historical significance of all of it as well.

The next day we went to pick up the rental car that I had booked and paid for before I left the US. This is the point at which I began to learn, first hand, that the popular stereotype of the Irish attitude toward punctuality is accurate. They know punctuality, they respect it, but they have a very casual relationship with it …

We were to pick up the car around 10:00 am at the Dublin Ferry Port. I also learned about the Irish definition of precision. I called the rental firm. “Oh, no,” they said. “You must pick up the car in Dun Laoghaire!” This despite the fact that my rental voucher clearly stated that the car would be at the Ferry Port. OK. Back on the DART to Dun Laoghaire. Once at the rental firm I was subjected to half an hour of hemming, hawing, and hedging. The net result was that they didn’t have the car I had paid for. Well, it seems that it had “gone missing.”

It may be tough to imagine in this day and age of instant computerized control systems how a car could be misplaced, but it was quite a cultural lesson. The firm uses no computers whatsoever. They drop off and retrieve cars all over Ireland, and the drivers check in, erratically, it seems, by telephone. It took another hour to determine that a suitable car was at the Dublin airport. The airport is about as far from Dun Laoghaire as one can get and still be calling it Dublin.

The agent offered to have one of his people drive us to the airport to pick up this car. OK. Good. Ah, but she hadn’t had her lunch hour yet. So, wait another hour. Fine. It is now 2:15pm. Sarah has returned from lunch. It is now time to do the paperwork! Not a rapid procedure you may well guess. At 3:00 pm we leave for the airport, carreening through congested Dublin streets. When we get to the airport at 4:00 pm we learn from a smiling lad that the car is “almost” ready. I happend to inquire of that lad, “Do the Irish have a word like the Spanish mañana?” “Well, sort of…but nothing that conveys the same sense of urgency…” We were underway by 4:45.

I still had more to learn, of course. Driving on the left is a surprisingly easy transition to make. This is because everything is reversed. The wheel is on the right, all the traffic flow is reversed, and so there really is no temptation to steer to the right lane as I had feared. Of course, so completely had I effected the mental flip-flop that I consistently referred to “easy” turns (lefts) as rights and “hard” turns (rights) as lefts! But I managed OK all the same.

Irish roads add to one’s sense of adventure. I discovered that the dividing line in the center is merely advisory in character. But this makes sense as the roads are typically 10 feet wide and enclosed by stone walls or bramble hedges. As a result one drives dead-center down the road untill some other vehicle approaches or wants to pass. At these times one prays for clearance and hugs the edge of the pavement. The speed limit is alleged to be 45mph on the country lanes. The locals, however, drive in excess of 60mph. They all wanted to pass.

Unnervingly, the trucks which ply these country lanes are full-sized diesel rigs, and they too drive at phenomenal rates of speed. It adds to one’s confusion that speeds are miles-per-hour but roadsigns post distances in kilometers. Well, mostly. Some signs use both kilometers and miles. But not for the same destinations! And there is rarely any indicator to tell you which measure is in use. On top of this, the distances are truncated, not rounded. Whether Killashandra is 1 kilometer or 1.1 or 1.998 kilometers ahead the sign will simply say “Killashandra 1.” The same rule applies to miles when used. I learned this fact when I stopped at a gas station and asked the pleasant, talkative proprietor about the inconsistant distances. I was told, “Well, on the road signs, a kilometer is not so precise a measure as you might imagine…” This seemed to epitomize the Irish world-view.

Despite the travails of car rental in Ireland, I think that a car is definitely the way to go around the country side. Ireland’s railway net is not the equal of Great Britain’s and so a car is nearly required to truly venture into the countryside. And seeing the countryside is essential to seeing Ireland.

The roadsides are generally a mixed hedge of brambles and, unexpectedly, huge wild fuschias! I have always thought of fuschias as tropical, and they are, but the Irish weather is somehow just right for the wild sort. The roadsides are also graced with lovely wild roses. Since the roses bloom for just a few weeks (around late June, I am told, in time for weddings, don’t ya’ know…) all I saw was the bounty of brilliant, ruby red rose hips. I had read, years ago, that when citrus fruit was scarce during the Second World War, rose hips supplied sufficient vitamin C for the children of the British Isles. I now can see how this was possible; there must have been tons of rose hips along every mile of highway.

Another distinct advantage of travelling by car is the chance to stop when and where you wish at the time that suits you. This was wonderful since the Irish seem to move on a time schedule that suits them…

On the first part of our journey we were quite constrained by time. I had intended to leave Dublin around 10:00 am and ended up departing from the far North of the city at quarter to five. The result was that we were forced to bypass driving through my ancestors’ lands in Loaise (“Leesh”,) alas… This was no great tragedy as we must have seen a hundred fields that would have looked just the same, but the sense of spiritual pilgrimage was diminished a little bit.

All the same, we had time to stop at the Rock of Cashel, a marvellously preserved medieval stronghold, which (naturally) was partially covered in scaffolding! The rock is an ancient fort and an even more ancient holy site. Patrick’s Church is here at the seat of the kings of Munster (The southernmost of the Four Kingdoms: Ulster, Leinster, Connaught, Munster, and Meath. Well, that’s five kingdoms, but remember what I said earlier about Irish notions of precision…) Patrick preached here in the mid 400’s and won the South for Christianity. As far as can be reliably determined (and “reliable” may be like “precision” in Irish) Patrick himself proclaimed a church and a bishopric at Cashel which confirmed the rock’s lasting place in the Irish imagination.

Many imfamies occurred at The Rock over the centuries. Before the English Reformation, the Earl of Kildare set fire to the Cathederal on The Rock, explaining that he “thought the Archbishop was inside.” Later Oliver Cromwell, self-styled Lord Protector of England and ardent anti-Catholic, immolated the 3000 citizens of the town of Cashel who sought refuge in the same (rebuilt) Cathederal during the tempestous troubles of 1647-48.

The Rock was “closed” by the time we arrived. The setting sun was a spectacular backdrop to the great, grey granite citadel. As we approached this stirring location, this “Acropolis of Ireland,” I was smitten by the sense of immediate proximity to the past, to history. Such is the sense of history in Ireland that the above incidents, and all of the details of which I have just written above about Cashel, were recounted to me by two teen-aged fellows whom I passed as I walked about the walls of the fortress; they were neither tour-guides nor scholars, simply lads who knew what had happened in the places where they trod.

From Cashel we motored, braving the dark on those narrow Irish lanes, through Tipperary (where the City Limits sign informs you that “You’ve Come A Long Way”) and thence to Limerick. Some of you may appreciate the fact that there is a certain sense of Pilgrimage for me to go to Limerick.

We found a B-and-B in Limerick, but it was nearly 10:00 pm when we arrived. This limited the choice of restaurants to one: The Genuine Texas Steak House! How’s that for a fine How-dee-doo? I had a small salad and soup (my word! The steaks were better than $20 for 9 oz.!) But I was quite amused by the decor. It was fairly “cowboy” but not too terribly much “Texas.” The waitress, noticing my hat, asked me if I was really a Texan (I suppose only a Texan wears a broad-brimmed hat in Ireland…) When I noted that I was in fact from Dallas, she insisted that I tell her what I though of their atmosphere.

I was tactful. If I had really been honest, we might well be at war with Ireland!

One of the great sights to see in Limerick is the Norman castle of King John which dates to the early 1100’s. It was, of course, shrouded in scaffolding and closed to the public while repairs and excavations are being effected. Scaffolding was the Leitmotif of the trip, it seems…

Limerick is situated on the mouth of the Shannon, the greatest, longest, broadest river in the British Isles. This makes for some splendid, achingly beautiful views, which stand in one’s memory as clearly as Van Gogh’s records of the night lights on the Rhone at Arles. These scenes did not lend themselves to the camera, yet they committed themselves deeply into memory. If I ever resume painting, I have a treasure trove of scenes to depict.

From Limerick we drove North to the Cliffs of Mohor. Astounding! This is the most spectacular site of the land mass meeting the inexorable sea in all of Europe. The stormy, violent Atlantic slams into the high, slaten cliffs, and the interface is sheer. No soft beach or gentle slope lessens the impact of the hungry ocean as it gnaws upon its first taste of Europe; here is the most dramatic of dichotomies between land and sea. The rock and water meet as if neither one desired the meeting, but neither could avoid it, and the meeting is all the nastier for that.

We mere humans witness this dreadful contention and feel the terrific force of wind and water as we bundle up against the ferocious elements, all the while pondering the analogies which beg to be drawn from this drama. The cliffs are splendid, scenic, and stark. Both stunningly lovely and frighteningly bleak. The spray from the waves one hundred-fifty feet below soaks through the topcoats of the tourists above. Yet no one seems to regret the experience.

A bright Victorian Gentleman built a small tower at the cliffs so that he could promote travel to the site. So well did he succeed that the locals still honor him to this day, for without tourism, the denizens of Mohor would be failed sheep ranchers. And the only sheep the can survive the harsh environment at Mohor are “No good for mutton and worse for wool” according to a snaggle-toothed, good natured lady who served coffee at the tourist lodge. (I was thrilled to find coffee, by the way. Ten years ago it would have been a strong Irish tea. And the Irish, according to this hostess, only know how to make tea “so strong a rat could’t sink his foot in it.”)

From Mohor, our journey proceeded North to Galway, which is a town of much historical interest. However, I must confess, that my mastery of left-handed driving was sorely tried by the thought of driving through the second largest city in the Irish Republic. We skirted the city and missed seeing where Christopher Columbus prayed before setting sail for parts unknown in August of 1492.

Northwards we passed through the several towns that ring in Irish song as the last hope of the rebellion of 1798: Ballina, Baouhie, Castlebar and Killala. Killala’s “Broad Bay” was the scene of the French troops’ landing in August of 1798 which was intended to support the rebellion of the Irish patriots against their English overlords. Alas for the “Gallant men of the West,” the rebellion had already been crushed at Wexford and points South nine weeks before. Not to be daunted, however, the French General, Humbert, decided to proceed as though the rebellion were in full swing (despite the fact that his only interpreters spoke English, as the Irish in the East did, but that the Irish in the West spoke Irish.) After early successes, the French were captured by the English and accorded the treatment that was the right of prisoners of war. Of course the Irish folk who had joined them were summarily executed, as were their families and cousins. The civilized English did, however, limit their revenge to the rather decent expedient of decimation of the West. Only every tenth male above the age of thirteen was hanged!

We located a likely B-and-B in Sligo and passed a pleasant evening dining upon delicate salmon and heavenly Guiness Stout. As the Irish claim, Guiness is “more nutritious than mother’s milk, and more fun in the drinking.” (A delightful young man, John Brophy, told me this and I felt it worth including even if it may not be a general sentiment…)

The gentleman who ran the B-and-B assured me, the following morning at breakfast – a splendid, hearty, and delicious Irish breakfast (Eggs, sausage, “Canadian” Bacon, grilled tomatoes, toast, and cereal, with juice {in a thimble!} and strong, black coffee) – that we must “do the scenic drive and visit the Holy Well.” He assured me that, “even if you aren’t a believer, you must wash your hands in the holy well…” So I did. It was a lovely, tranquil, and picturesque site, and I felt calmed if not purified by the experience. Michelle was accosted by a woman who wanted to be sure that Michelle experienced the religious rapture of the site. Michelle’s Judaism notwithstanding, she assured the woman that the Holy Well was a moving experience.

As I was getting back to the car, a white-haired gentleman called to me: “Tell me!” he called, “you’re not from Dallas!” I replied that I was, in fact, a Dallasite. (The hat, again, you see.) He regaled me with stories of his adventures in Texas 30 years ago, and then, unaccountably, for we hadn’t talked about my California connections, informed me: “Don’t go to San Francisco. Everyone tells me I’m crazy, but it’s the most over-promoted city in the world, if you ask me!”

I hadn’t the heart to explain my San Francisco connections to him.

After the trip to the Holy Well, the next stage of the pilgrimage was W. B. Yeats’ grave “under Ben Bulben.” Ben Bulben being a magnificent highland rise that looks just like some mesa in Arizona except that Ben Bulben is softened by a dense cover of lush green. As befits a poet who was spare of word, Yeats’ grave is marked by a simple slate headstone with no adornment but the quote “Cast a cold eye\ on life, on death\ Horseman pass by!” cut into the cold, grey slab. His own vision of the fantastic heroes of Ireland’s past is a fitting epitaph.

Next on the road from Sligo, we headed to Lough Allen, a small, almost tiny lake that is more acclaimed by English fishermen than by the Irish locals. Lough Allen is surprisingly lovely in a land where bucolic loveliness is the norm.

Perhaps the most endearing detail of this beautiful region was a simple toadstool. A small, perfect, red-capped, white-stemmed mushroom grew along the marge of the lough. It was the most perfect, enchanted-looking, toadstool I have ever seen. I have almost conviced myself that I “just missed” the Leprechaun who (no doubt) had been sitting upon it moments before my intrusion.

The afternoon flowed rapidly away as we drove through the countryside, including the “green and lovely lanes of Killeshandra.” Far sooner than we had expected, we had arrived again in Dublin. Despite the fact that we knew exactly where we intended to go, we spent more than an hour trying to negotiate Dublin traffic.

Back in Dublin for the evening, I decided to locate a pub which would feature traditional Irish folk music. I took several recommendations from guidebooks, and Michelle and I set out on what proved to be quite a walk. We looked into four different, far-flung pubs, but they were all hosting varieties of progressive rock, and had not a note of the more traditional fare. Our peregrinations took us over quite a wide swath of central Dublin. Finally, I stopped into Davey Byrnes’ Pub (which Joyce mentions in Ulysses, and which naturally has turned into a shrine/theme bar,) to restore my flagging spirits with a pint of Guiness. There I fell into conversation with a convivial group who assured me that the place to go for the folk music was a bar called Barry Fitzgerald’s.

By now it was nearly 10:30, but Michelle and I decided to check it out. It was marvellously ironic that the pub was less than two blocks from where we were staying! And they did have splendid music as well! Although we were only able to catch a half dozen or so tunes, I felt it to have made the search worth while. I met an engaging fellow who introduced himself as Seamus O’Conchubhuir (that’s Jamie O’Connor in the Anglicized version.) He hailed me with, “Sure you must be from Dallas.” My hat served as my ethnic identity, again. He wanted to buy my hat, and when I declined his offer, insisted that I procure him one in Dallas. I gave him my card, and I await his call.

When the band wrapped up, I got into quite a conversation with the musicians, and even ran through a rendition of “Streets of Laredo” with them (the tune is an old Irish air.) The collective skills of these performers were quite impressive; each fellow played at least three instruments, and they all sang. I was just sorry that I hadn’t arrived at the place earlier in the evening. Yet, as the saying holds, better late than never.

The next day was a remarkably uneventful trip back to London. We dropped the rental car at the Ferry Port (by special arrangement!) and enjoyed a smooth, timely crossing Eastward across the Irish Sea. We caught the Chester train from Holyhead and changed at Crewe. Here the only occurance worthy of mention happened. A young Australian woman came up to me and said: “Pardon. I can’t help asking. Did you know that you have a twin?”

I think that she was unprepared for my answer; “Yes,” I replied.

I suppose that she didn’t know quite what too say, so I continued and told her that I did indeed have a twin brother, and I had known this for as long as I could remember. I then inquired why she had asked. She explained that I “looked just like” a friend of hers in Canberra, and she wondered if I might be a relation. I informed her that I had no Caseys in my family tree to the best of my knowledge. She seemed to have been rather disoriented by the whole exchange.

Jamie Rawson
Dallas, Texas
1 October 1992

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Saint Patrick was the man
Who, through piety and stealth,
Drove the snakes from Ireland!
Here’s drinking to his health!!!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Whatever one’s ethnic heritage, one can wear the green and raise a glass in celebration. It is a particular genius of our American melting pot that we can be Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, Mexican on Cinco De Mayo, Lovers (which is to say: Citizens of the World) on Valentine’s Day, and anything at all at Christmastime, while being Americans all year ’round.

Contrary to a common assumption, St. Patrick was indeed an actual historical person about whose life we have much documentation. He wrote a Confessions which, while not rivaling St. Augustine’s similar work, is nevertheless a an important piece of post-classical Latin, and a valuable reference for fifth century Church history.

Patrick was born in Roman Briton, near modern-day Bristol. When he was a young man, he was kidnapped by a band of Irish pirates and enslaved. During his period of slavery, he became fervently devoted to the Christian faith in which he had been raised, and he determined to Christianize the pagan Irish. He also, unsurprisingly, developed a life-long hatred for slavery.

Patrick was finally rescued from slavery after several years, and he returned to Briton where he took holy orders and became a priest. He returned to Ireland unaccompanied to begin his mission of converting the Irish. Patrick preached the Gospel to the heathen Celts throughout Ireland’s four provinces (Ulster, Munster, Linster, Connaught, and Meath*) and he found a remarkably receptive audience. Though the Irish were fiercely attached to such classic Celtic pastimes as violence and sexual license, they nevertheless accepted the message of the Gospel and Patrick became attached to the court of the Ard-Rí (high king,) ultimately becoming Ireland’s first bishop.

It is not known if the legend of Patrick using a seamróg – or shamrock – to illustrate the concept of the Trinity has a basis in fact — he certainly makes no mention of it in his writings; it is even more doubtful that he drove the serpents from the island, but, one supposes, it could be true … His aversion to slavery became influential in Christian thinking and is significantly responsible for the fact that for nearly a millennium Western Europe did not practise slavery (per se.) The Irish aversion to slavery was also manifest in the massive migrations of Irish who flocked to the free states of the U.S. and the trickle into the slave states. Southern politicos railed against Irish immigration, and the Irish became strong abolitionists, mainly, Gerald O’Hara notwithstanding.

What is known for sure is that Patrick was responsible for an absolutely unique occurence in Western history: the completely peaceful conversion of an entire people. Alone in European history, Ireland experienced no violence nor strife in the conversion to Christianity, yet the complete conversion was effected in a generation. Well, just how complete is complete? As recently as 1992 I was invited to visit a “holy well” on the outskirts of Sligo, being assured that its waters were healing and beneficial (one elderly lady even told my traveling companion that if she would wet her feet in the well, she’d bear a child within the year! Which Michelle, being then single, really didn’t wish to happen …) Such holy wells — and groves, and mountains, and fields, and such — were a feature of Druidic religion, and festivals such Lughnasa and Halloween and Michaelmas all tie to Druidic feasts: in many ways the Irish simply fitted Christianity over the old, pagan ways. Yet they embraced Christianity with a passion, and with Christianity they also embraced the necessary literacy and in so doing became master scribes and authors.

The Irish, as Thomas Cahill’s book title claims, “Saved Civilization.” When the whole of Western Europe was being marauded by barbarians and Vikings, the Irish at the far West of the world, copied classical literature and religious texts, and added their own works to the cannon. By the ninth century, there were Irish monasteries from Scotland to Kiev and from Sicily to Upsala. It was from these resources that Charles the Great, king of the Franks and Emperor of the newly formed Holy Roman Empire, was able to launch the Carolingian renaissance.

Of course the Irish still retained a love of fighting and a sense of fierce independence that prevented the political unification of the country (except briefly in the 1000’s under Brian Boru) and the difficulties of that legacy are still vexing the Irish today. Easily divided and defeated seriatim, the Irish became subjected under the Vikings (who founded virtually all of Ireland’s great cities: Dublin, Derry, Wexford, Waterford, Cork, but not Galway) and later the Normans in England. In the late 1100’s, the pope was so frustrated with the political instability in the most Christian see of the Church that he permitted England’s Henry II to take the title of King of Ireland, and for the next 750 years the Irish were subjects of the king of England. Periodic revolts — some 70 major risings in that time period — were to no avail because even the most successful revolt would end with the fragmentation and ultimate suppression of the participants.

Finally, in the 1920’s, England relinquished Ireland (after some incredible brutality on the parts of The Crown and the IRA) but retained control of six of the nine counties of historic Ulster. The painful results of that compromise are well-known down to our own day.

The internal trials in Ireland led to massive waves of emigration throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. “Unhappy Ireland, whose chiefest export is her children,” a 19th Century commentator observed. America, Canada, and Australia are heavily populated by the descendants of these emigres, but to a lesser extent the Irish also settled in Latin America; one of the heroes of Latin American liberation is Bernardo O’Higgins. Interestingly, though the best census figures estimate that possibly one in four Americans has Irish heritage, and some 40% of U.S. presidents have had Irish heritage, (including Mr. Obama) surveys repeatedly find that nearly 60% of the U.S. population claim Irish descent!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!!

Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

It is said that God created whiskey
so that the Irish wouldn’t conquer the world.

— Irish Folk Wisdom

* Yes, that’s FIVE provinces … precision is not a particularly Celtic concern 😉


It was about 2,056 years ago this day, (give or take a few calendrical corrections in the interval) on 15 March, 44 BC, known in the Roman calendar as “The Ides” (“IDVS” meaning, most likely, “mid-month”) that the last leader of the Roman Republic, the dictator Gaius Julius Caesar, was murdered by a group of well‐meaning, if arguably incompetent conspirators as the Senate gathered to conduct business in Pompey’s theater in Rome.

These men styled themselves saviors of the Roman Republic and had coins minted which featured the phrase IDVS MARTIVS (The Ides of March) and depicted a “Liberty Cap”, the emblem of a freed slave, hoping to convince the people of Rome that Caesar’s murder had freed them from tyranny. Unfortunately, and quite oppositely, in the wake of the assassination of Caesar, civil strife and chaotic uncertainty dominated the political landscape for years, ending only when Julius Caesar’s adopted son, his nephew Octavius, took control of Rome as the first true Emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus.

Under Augustus, Rome’s political situation stabilized and the economy regained its former vigor. Materially, Rome prospered, but her cherished heritage of more than 500 years of civil liberty and republican government had vanished, killed more by decades of short‐sighted petty politics among Rome’s competing factions, coupled with the indifference of the electorate, than by the daggers of Caesar’s assassins.

Whether one admires Caesar or detests him, it nevertheless remains that he’s still a pretty big part of our lives: our calendar is the one he promulgated (with one amendment by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century) and we have the month “July” to honor him (and “August” to honor his heir, Augustus.) Many of the checks and balances in the U.S. Constitution were emplaced by our founders specifically to prevent a modern‐day Caesar from arising here.

Because the name Caesar became so inextricably associated with imperial power, it came to mean “emperor.” The German term Kaiser and the Russian term Царь, “Czar” (or “Tsar”) both derive from Caesar. From early 44 BC when the Senate conferred the status of Dictator Perpetuo upon Caesar, (dictator without a fixed term) until the forced abdication of Simeon II, last Tsar of Bulgaria, in 1946 — nearly 2,000 years — the world was never without a ruler somewhere whose title derived from Caesar’s name!

“Caesar salad”, however, is not named for Julius at all, or at least not very directly: it was created at Caesar’s Hotel in Tiajuana, Mexico during the prohibition era when the Hollywood elite would drive to Mexico for cocktails and dinner. A “Caesar” salad was named for Caesare Cardini, the hotel’s Italian-born proprietor.

Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

The strangest poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.

— William Blake

A Revolution In Naval Warfare

History so often vitally depends upon which side wins a battle. A key victory at the right moment can alter all that follows. Of course, some glorious victories, such as that of Henry V’s English longbowmen over the flower of French Chivalry at Aigincourt, or John Churchill’s “famous victory” at Blenheim apparently accomplish nothing more, in the long run, than ending the lives of countless soldiers. But, oddly enough, sometimes a great contest can culminate without a clear winner at all, yet radically alter the course of history all the same.

On 9 March 1862, what is arguably the single most important naval battle of the American Civil War ended in a draw at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Confederate ironclad warship CSS Virginia and the Union ironclad USS Monitor had engaged one another for more than 3 hours without result. CSS Virginia is better known as Merrimac, confusingly, because Virginia had been built on the reclaimed hull of a Union ship. Thus, this battle is generally referred to as the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac.

The two ironclads used steam power alone. Previous steam-powered warships retained traditional sails, as did the very first ironclad, France’s La Gloire of 1859, but the radical designs of Virginia and Monitor precluded such a scheme. Both vessels were heavily armed with powerful guns. Virginia was fitted with traditional broadside ranks, but Monitor had a remarkable, revolutionary revolving turret. Both were heavily armored with iron plates that rendered the most powerful shots harmless. With neither ship able to inflict meaningful damage upon the other in the course of their contest, both withdrew to regroup and repair after the grueling fight.

Both sides claimed victory at the time, but the action has long been considered a draw. The meeting of the two untested, state-of-the-art warships was the truly crucial aspect of the engagement, and the result was undeniably a tie. It is certainly true that on the morning of March 8 the Confederates inflicted great damage to the Union blockade fleet which was bottling up the state of Virginia’s trade. CSS Virginia sank two traditional wooden Union warships and forced a third to run aground. Virginia was initially able to attack at will and with impunity, so the Union losses were about 261 killed to 7 Confederates. This would ordinarily count as a significant tactical victory for Virginia, except that she failed utterly in her mission to lift the Union blockade. The timely arrival of USS Monitor prevented Virginia from inflicting any more damage upon the Union blockade fleet and turned the battle into a contest between the ironclads.

Though the epic clash of the ironclads was inconclusive from a tactical and strategic point of view, it was nevertheless a dramatic turning point in the history of naval warfare. Until 9 March 1862, ironclad warships were an untried experiment, and most tradition-minded naval brass around the world viewed them as novelties. Though France and England had built a small number of ironclads between 1859 and 1862, both navies relied upon and were still bulding traditional wooden-hulled ships. But the news of the battle at Hampton Roads changed everything immediately and irrevocably.

The United States Navy commenced commissioning an entire fleet based upon the design of USS Monitor. The Confederacy could not match the Union’s industrial might, and never again seriously challenged the Union navy. Within days of news of the battle reaching England and France, both country’s navies put an immediate halt to all construction of wooden ships. Other major navies followed suit. Russia ordered the construction of ten “monitors” and newly formed Kingdom of Italy a like number. By year’s end of 1862, ironclads had been added to every major fleet in the Western world, or were under construction. By 1866, in the largest fleet action the world had witnessed in almost 40 years, the Italians and Austrians fought at the battle of Lissa where 7 Austrian ironclads decisively defeated 12 Italian ironclads. The age of sail had effectively ended for naval warfare.

The new iron and steel navies which ran on coal-burning steam engines changed the very nature of global geo-politics. In the age of sail, ships needed little more than periodic replenishment of food and water for the crew, even on extended voyages. And these needs could be met at most any port of call, or even in wilderness. But steam ships required coal, and lots of it. A coal burning ship was limited by her supply line. Suddenly, small and otherwise uninteresting islands became potential strategic resources as coal depots. A scramble for island empires began, and by the end of the century, the majority of oceanic islands across the globe had been claimed by one of the Western powers. Even islands that had previously been independent nations were caught up in this race for coaling stations. In a very real way, the independence of the Kingdom of Hawaii was doomed on 9 March 1862.

The inconclusive battle between CSS Virginia and USS Monitor seemed to have accomplished nothing very meaningful at the time, yet everything that followed was changed by the very fact that it was fought. That no clear victor emerged was, ultimately, unimportant. Wooden ships and sails had been a mainstay of navies for more than 2,500 years; quite literally overnight, they were rendered obsolete. It is perhaps fitting, that the United States Navy christened its first ironclad “Monitor,” which is Latin for “One Who Warns.”

Jamie Rawson
Flower Mound, Texas

There was never a good war, or a bad peace. — Franklin