Wednesday, September 6, 2017

There is Nothing Civil About War

By Bob Ferris

All this talk about a potential civil war in this country really makes me a little anxious. I have always taken a certain pride in the fact that nearly all my ancestors on both sides of my family fought to preserve the Union. In our family we did not have brothers fighting brothers or fathers fighting sons. We collectively seemed to know what we were about.  But we were not always that way, particularly if we jump back another two centuries to the English Civil War or more properly characterized as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.  I suppose since this series of conflicts was started with a prayerbook that we could also call it the War of Three Religions (Episcopal, Presbyterian and Catholic). 

I will admit here that this series of conflicts has always confused me because of its multidimensional nature.  Some argue that it was simply about the rich and the poor.  Others say it was over governance.   And we also see it reduced to Cavaliers and Roundheads like it was some near-decade-long Super Bowl.  But this ignores the roles of kings, popes, bishops and parliaments.  My sense is that it was more a soupy conflict of all these elements and more, regardless of what Hobbes, Marx and others say.  

Sir Oliver Cromwell 
I dropped into this topic while still researching some of the links exposed from my investigations of my family’s Graham roots in the borderlands between England and Scotland.  One of the threads in question dealt with the Chanoler family of Guisborough in Northern Yorkshire and their connections to the Ingoldsby family.  Anne Ingoldsby’s mother was a woman named Elizabeth Cromwell.  Certainly a familiar surname and then I saw it.  Her father was Sir Oliver Cromwell.  Crap.

The Slaughter after the Siege of Drogheda in 1649
My reaction was prompted by the Fortescues.   An ancestor by the name of Faithful Fortescue lost two sons including our direct ancestor Chichester at the First Siege of Drogheda in 1641-42.  The Fortescues decamped from Drogheda soon thereafter but when Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell attacked and defeated the place in 1649 he put many of the residents to the sword in a notorious massacre. The good news is that “our” Sir Oliver (pictured above) was the Lord Protector's uncle and not him. 

Sir Faithful Fortescue
Sir Faithful is an interesting fellow in this as he was a Royalist and then fought with Cromwell briefly only to head to Scotland to the royalist side once again. He exemplifies the labile nature of allegiances in this series of wars.  Perhaps this is why he went by the nickname of "Faskie" in Scotland.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that this potential “civil war” that folks such as Alex Jones and Roger Stone are banging drums for is more multidimensional like the series of English conflicts than what we saw during the 1860s in this land.  The Three Kingdoms conflict became so complicated because everyone was upset but they were upset for different reasons and in the end they had separate visions.  Folks in Ireland and Scotland both fought Cromwell and his New Model Army but for different reasons and with disparate end goals in mind.  My sense is that this type of amalgam slips easily into conflict but does not drift so easily towards resolution of any lasting consequence. 
Sir James Graham
In thinking about this I return to the Grahams—in particular James Graham of Montrose—more relative than ancestor.  James believed in the monarchy balancing Parliament, but felt that the Presbyterian clergy should play mainly in the realm of spirit rather than politics.  In his fight he was able to enlist the largely Catholic Highland Scots as well as the Royalists in Ireland.    In the current context I cannot help but compare this to Trump’s cabinet and those in his executive circle—together in conflict but not resolution.  This same comment could be made about this weird alliance of the very rich, very religious and very hateful stirred and heated from afar by the very envious.  

It should be remembered as we look backwards for clues about the future that tearing something down or destroying the beneficial accomplishments of others is much, much different than building a positive and jointly held vision that helps us all.  Now many may scoff at genealogy as vanity but it is also history and perhaps through it we can learn of our ancestors' triumphs as well as their failures and follies.  Perhaps through this exercise we can strive for the former and avoid the latter.

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