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Friday Fun: The Ides of March 2021

15 March 2021

Beware the Ides of March.

I quote the Bard, from his play, Julius Caesar. The Roman emperor has been warned by the soothsayer to beware that day, 15 March. This dictator is too full of himself to pay any mind to the likes of an oracle. This emperor, fully clothed, in full sight, passes by the seer and informs him, “The Ides of March are come.” The seer answers: “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.”

The ides were, or are, not a weird divining rod type of affixing a particular day of a month for gruesome treachery or even petty patricide. The ancient Romans did not count each day of the month from the first to the last. They counted backwards from three fixed positions of the month, the Nones, the Ides, and the Kalends. The Ides occupied the 13th day for most months, but the 15th day in March, July, and October.

We therefore speak of the 15th day of March as the Ides of March; and, in some more Romanesque arenas, that day is the deadline for settling debts. In either sense, the day is one to beware. I was told, as a teenager, by a boyfriend about to dump me for my best friend — “Beware the Ides of March” — one entire week in advance of the disheartening event. I ought to have known the meaning of that phrase since I’d just read the play, Julius Caesar. Nonetheless, my betrayal came from out of the blue!

Denial is an abysmal state of mind. As public policy, it’s even worse. As war strategy, it’s a tragic state of fatal affairs.

My Friday fun on this day involved contemplating the historical revelations in Chapter 11 of John Ferling’s Almost a Miracle. (See Book Review.)

How utterly in denial of reality were the English Crown and cabinet in 1777 — when the Southern strategy was advanced to deal with that infernal war with the faraway American colonies. The independence of those 13 colonies was a foregone conclusion by the end of 1777; it couldn’t be stopped, especially after the Battle of Saratoga was won by the rag-tag Continentals.

The Southern strategy called for the creation of a crescent-shaped empire AROUND the Appalachians to Georgia, a state that has always been a stinker, filled with Loyalists to the Crown, and turncoats who could be paid to turncoat against the Americans.

The crescent-shaped empire would capably continue to cash in on the production of vital cash crops such as tobacco, rice, indigo and sea island cotton. That boundary empire would also prevent the westward expansion of Americans, or for the imperialists among us, Manifest Destiny!

There were many members of the English Parliament who were convinced, and rightly so, that this War of Independence was “a war whence no reasonable man entertains any hope of success”.

The majority of the English war ministers therefore arrived at the half-a-loaf of colonies is better than none option — in 1777, two years after the Revolutionary War began with bullets fired by men whose names remain unknown. Four more years would ensue - 4 - from 1777 until the final battle of the war, Yorktown, in 1781.

By the spring of 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis, the aggressive Redcoat commander was holed up in Wilmington, Delaware. He’d concluded that a war of conquest in the upper South of the United States held the only hope of Great Britain ever seizing that elusive decisive victory in this war. General George Washington, however, appeared fixated on re-gaining New York from the British.

During his military meeting with Comte de Rochambeau, who was the commander of the French troops, this American commander-in-chief voiced his stiff opposition to waging any further battles in the South, even with the assistance of more ships from the French fleet. That meeting ended with the understanding that George Washington determined the allied military strategy; that an attempt would be made to regain New York City with the additional French ships; and that any future decision regarding a naval attack would rest upon Command of the Water, which the American-Franco forces lacked at that point in time.

Joint operations would thus be conducted as “circumstances should dictate” when those French ships arrived in American waters.

The circumstances that were actually dictated, after the departure of General Washington from this military conference, were given in writing by Comte Rochambeau to his compatriot-emissary: “Bring the Fleet to the Chesapeake, not to New York.”

Those were French ships, after all.

The Siege of Yorktown ended on 19 October 1781, in Virginia. This decisive victory that ended the Revolutionary Way belonged to the Continental troops, led by General George Washington; and to Marquis de Lafayette, who had been joined by the French Army troops led by Comte de Rochambeau. Lt. General Charles Cornwallis did not realize that elusive, decisive military win. Cornwallis, Mad King George and his War Ministry were forced to negotiate the Treaty of Paris of 1783.

It was quite a comedown for this wild colonial girl to read that the northeastern part of this fledgling nation was not even of great importance anymore, after 1777. Those Caribbean islands to the south of the 13 colonies became the focal point of this brutal fight, a war waged by Great Britain to deny independence to her colonies that had been taxed without representation, regulated cruelly, and deemed bargaining chips in British war negotiations with her enemies. The fuller details are in the Master Document, the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Each State had its own list of grievances against King George III, thereby following an English tradition of enumerating the reasons for this declaration of independence in the first place.

This native Northeasterner found it insultingly humbling to conclude that the sugar-and-spice islands, much like the Spice Girls, represented the end game for a Great Britain that refused to acknowledge the greatness of those northern and mid-Atlantic colonies.

As for the Crescent-Shaped Empire, well, Great Britain may have failed in that preposterous gambit, but the state in which I currently reside, California, has unwittingly arrived at its own Crescent-Shaped Empire of Southern California. And I pitch my tent in what might be called Appalachia in the Sierra Nevada; more precisely, the heart of the App of the Mother Lode.

The Ides of March in previous years proved the maxim that it’s not about coming together to stab; it’s about coming together to stab in groups.

The Ides of March this year reinforces the ages-old reality of “Et tu, Brute” amongst a crowd of cowards feasting upon each other in the nation’s capital. I do not believe the media blobs will be streaming this house of cards coming down on itself.


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