SIXTY YEARS

I have given speeches all my entire life but never given one as I am givng you tonight.

Sixty years have I lived on this earth and dedicated myself to the scientific advancement of mankind.  Unlike others before me, I am not a maker of gadgets but pure in my experimentation of the mind.

A man can be at the very height of his career in his sixtieth year and yet it can take only a single moment of indiscretion to cause his fall from grace.

Sincerely friends, if it can happen to me, then it can surely happen to you too.

In another five years on a cold Good Friday morning in the north London parish of Highgate, I swear Iwill draw my last breath and the world at large will come to wonder of my legacy both then and for years thereafter, as you might wonder now.

You might visit St. Michaels Church in the city of St. Albans and look at both my statue and the crypt where I shall be supposedly be laid to rest.

You might visit the country estate in the environs of St.  Albans where I shall shortly go to write up my memoirs and the substance of my legacy.

I am a man of royal blood, of that I am absolutely certain, and I was born to be a king.

By the same token, I am the Queen’s bastard, conceived by a noble woman who would produce no natural heir to the throne of England and by her lover, Robert Dudley, a beast of a man who would stop at nothing to get his way.

What dastardly thing did the Queen contrive in the summer of 1571 so that no rightful successor such as I could ever be allowed to fulfil his destiny according to God.

Contrived by the Queen’s conjurer-in-chief, William Cecil, later his son Robert, who made things happen as only they could..

I cannot put to words how I felt when my foster mother, Anne Bacon, a relation of the Cecils, let it slip that we shared no common blood but in truth that I had always known,

My few years to serve as asssistant ambassador in France as soon as I completed my scholarship at Trinity College Cambridge ought to have been recognition and deserving credit of a mother’s pride for a son as well as providing training for his future regal role.

Alas, nothing could be further from the reality as she set about distancing herself from me as a mother and embarking on a sham which stills mocks me to this day as it did then and will continue to mock me beyond this night.

France and the ambassadorial travels I made across the European continent were a whole episode in my life which I cannot and I do not regret.

I would not have met Queen Marguerite of Dubois and experienced the youthful exuberance of infatuation and love.

I would not have written the 154 Sonnets – was it really that many? – that gave testimony to true love and which I kept preciously secret until a trusted housekeeper came upon them in my absence and saw opportunity to financially benefit from their publication in 1609.

If I did not go to France, perhaps I might not have been inspired to provide the source, the material and at times the collaboration to many of the theatrical plays which many of you here tonight have enjoyed in all their gore and glory by the Shakespeare name.

If my dear beloved mother Elizabeth Tudor had not seen fit to refuse her consent to my intended marriage to Marguerite, how I might wonder how different my life would and could have been.

My Queen Marguerite, and she will always be such in my heart, was the most gracious and ingraciating woman I have ever  known.

It matters not to me one iota that she was a catholic and would have  had to divorce her King in order to be my partner before God and challenge  the constitution of the English state which I always felt,  it was my duty to rule.

Marguerite ultimately chose exile and lived out the remaining years of her life from a quaint, modest hostel on the banks of the Seine, as I shall live out mine with equal modesty in St. Albans when this speech is done and dusted and the consequences of it have been addressed.

It be a little less than six years since her mortal demise and I miss her dearly, my dearest marigold now resting peacefully in the garden of her eden.

My foster father, Nicholas, the Queen’s senior legal adviser and keeper by another name, a man quick to get the bottle, passed away while I was amidst the French commission and I was hastily withdrawn back to England.

My foster brother, Anthony, forever a confidante, was always supportive, even when the news broke that I would inherit nothing from Nicholas Bacon’s estate.

If fortune favours the brave, then I would suggest that I was always at least one stop short of the grant of the favour, for whatever reason.

Debt has plagued me almost all my life, yet I have enjoyed economic privilege, been educated well and I am not a man without means.  I am possessed by a need to give away what I have and I must admit it is a need which I do not know how to control.

My thanks to Anthony for more than once coming to my rescue and securing my release from a debtor’s gaol, a shaming but humbling experience for any man, whatever his status and station in life.

Of course, the plague of debt  had an impact on my second attempt at romance and to get married, inevitably so.

It is true that I was very much interested for the hand in marriage of Elizabeth Cecil, grand-daughter of William Cecil, niece to Robert, widowed at 20 by Sir William Hatton and snatched from my eternal grasp by Sir Edward Coke, a rival in all aspects of life ever since we first crossed swords..

A few years later, a couple after the passing of Queen Elizabeth and on the persuasion of your majesty King James, I did eventually marry, Alice Barnham, the fourteen year old daughter of a London councillor..

Our marriage has produced no children, through no fault of mine or hers.  It may just be an indisputable fact that I prefer bedfellows but I dare anyone to say I have ever solicited rent-boys or been homosexual by nature.

Dear brethren before me, I am at heart a humble man and it has been my lifelong project to establish an intelectual community dedicated to the discovery of scientific knowledge for the use and benfit of all mankind.

Those who know me just a little know that knowledge is my province.

I am probably done as a lawyer, counseller, politician.  As Lord Chanceller, I have surely reached the highest station in life to which God is allowing me to aspire.

I vow to spend my remaining years devoted to the literary, scientific and philosophical cultural legacy destined to bless the modern world.

Edward Coke, I hold no grudge against you over the affair with Elizabeth or indeed the political humiliation you have had me endure for best part of twenty odd years.

Allow no man to challenge where my loyalty lies as I stand before you now and to deny that royal prerogative is superior to common law.

And yes, there is blood on my hands from the duties I have carried out.  I have played my part according to law to execute two people who were once good friends and who shared their genius so readily at the Good Pens Meeting I hosted back in Twickenham in 1596.

Richard Devereux, Earl of Essex, and more recently Walter Raleigh,

These sixty years, I have learnt to be vocal in so many different ways.  If I had been King on my mothers death, then certainly the name of William Shakespeare would not be up there in neon-flashy lights, if one day they ever exist.

Because I could not have devoted time to inspiring the Bard to write the plays and Ben Jonson, Earl Pembroke, to mention but two, would not be in the final stages of putting together a fantastic collection of the plays in one volume.

Yes brethren, good people, I am one just like you.

I have been a scholar.

I have been a lawyer,

I have been a politician.

I have been a diplomat.

I have been a scientist.

I have been a crytologist.

I have been a philosopher.

I have been a writer.

It is I, John Barclay, pseudonomously speaking.

It is I, Francis Bacon.  It is I.  Thank you very much.  And good night..

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AMAZING GRACE

A repentent slave trader humbled the words of the first stanza to a modest gathering of folk at a prayer meeting on the first day of 1773.

It was barely a year since the itinerant clergyman had been admitted to Gods ministry and twenty since he had, whether by intention or fate, given up the debauchery of his previous vocation.

It would have taken more than just a shipwreck for this shattered soul to become found when once he was lost and to be able to see when once he was blind.

Here was a man who sought reconciliation with humanity, forgiveness and redemption in exchange for freedom and peace.

But he knew not if he would make it through heaven’s pearly gates while twenty thousand ghosts were haunting him day and night to his grave.

They were not going away anytime soon.

In two hundred and fifty years, the stanza has hardly been modified, though there were many additions to it by the clergyman’s own hand.

A tune was added and the stanzas formed into a hymn which in turn became a popular anthem, sung rejoicingly and reflectively by millions of people across the world of every creed.

The stanzas do not intend to convey anti-slavery sentiment and yet there are those who looked beyond the persona of the evangelist who wrote them and applied them to campaign and fight for the cause to remove chains from every man woman and child who was deemed not free.

It is a hark from a bygone era but still strikes a cord in the world today.

Slavery and Colonialism went very much hand-in-hand

And the chains were coming off.

The author of the stanzas lived for eighty-two years between the years 1725 and 1807.

He lived just long enough to see laws passed in his homeland which abolished slavery.

He wrote the lyrics for many more hymns but none more meaningful than the one which the London seaman derived from his own personal experience.

This, as you may have gathered, is the background story to ‘Amazing Grace’, written by John Newton and the inspiration for a Yorkshire member of parliament, William Wilberforce, to finally win the day for the abolition of slavery at the fourteenth attempt in 1807.

Both John Newton and William Wilberfore lost a parent in childhood.

They both claim to have seen the light when once they were blind.

They were drawn together and united for the cause of abolishing slavery.

John Newton was ironically blind in his last years but this did not prevent him reciting ‘Amazing Grace’ one more time before he died and in the presence of William Wilberforce.

This was the stanza which struck the chord on that occasion:

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail

And mortal life shall cease,

I shall possess within the veil

A life of joy and peace.

It was a surreal moment in time and a testament of faith.

Amazing Grace.

HENRI DUNANT – THE RED CROSS MAN

Henri Dunant is a very famous person indeed but hardly anyone knows who he is today.

He is the mentor behind the creation of the Red Cross.

He is probably and literally the fourth most famous Swiss national after William Tell, Henri Nestle and Roger Federer.

When as a thirty one year old journeyman he passed by the Battle of Solferino in northern Italy in 1859, he knew something had to be done to address the barbarity of warfare.

He wanted to set up a humanitarian movement which could and would protect human life and health, ensure respect for all human beings and also prevent as well as alleviate human suffering.

It was only a few years after the Crimean War fought by Britain, France and Turkey against Russia which was significant to bringing public attention the need for non-combatant trained medics to be available at the field of battle, the most famous of whom was, of course, Florence Nightingale.

Within the space of four short years, his vision came to fruition and the Red Cross institution was formed in Geneva Switzerland in 1863.

Its adopted symbol of a red cross on a white background is an exact reversal of a white cross on a red background for the Swiss nationaL flag.

Henri Dunant received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901 for his important contribution to mankind and yet he suffered greatly in his life as a direct result of this due to poverty, ill-health and personal bankruptcy.

When he died an old man in 1910, he was an obscure rather than a notorious figure for history to record.

But the Red Cross plays an important part in times of war and world crisis today with no little thanks paid to Henri Dunant.

AMERICAN YANKEE

.This is a personal explanation on how the term ‘Yankee’ has evolved.

I am a tenth generation descendent of Jan Kees and that makes me a Yankee.

Jan Kees was a very popular Dutch name during colonial days.

The first Dutch arrivals were probably freebooters, pirates or buccaneers who plundered and earned contempt from the colonial English.

A lot of Dutch migrated from their homeland to settle in America in the eighteenth century, notably New York and New England.

Haarlem and Brooklyn are place name examples of that.

The English were the colonial rulers of America until independence was established in 1776.

The English could not pronounce the Dutch language very well.

So at the beginning the term ‘Yankee’ was adopted to refer to all Dutch settlers in their colony.

And the name Jan Krees became synomyous with ‘Yankee’.

A song was written by the English called ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ to mock the American rebel in the fight for independence who wore a cap and stuck a feather in it.

It has remained a popular song ever since but with a complimentary rather than a derogatory meaning.

Later on during the American Civil War of 1861-1865, Confederates referred to the militants from the Unionist states as ‘Yankees’.

By the time of the second world war `1939-1945, ‘Yankees’ had come to refer to all Americans and had even be shortened to ‘Yank’.

Today, the term ‘Yankee’ is used to refer to the national baseball team which plays at the Yankee Stadium in New York City.

There has been a Yankee sports stadium in New York City since 1923.

The original stadium was replaced with a new one in 2009.

‘Yankee’ is probably not the most famous acronysm in American English but it must run a close second to Santa Klaus which is derived from the Dutch patron, Saint Nicholas.

Happy Independence Day Americans!

THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

I am an Englishman and not a patriot of the United States.

This is, however, my twopenny-worth as a reflection on the American Civil War.

The United States of America was a union of thirty six states formed by the so-called founding fathers with a declaration of independence from colonial rule in 1776.

The two key elements of the declaration were freedom for every American and entitlement to a pursuit of happiness.

One of the legacies of colonial rule was slavery, the concept of which was to contract one individual to another by way of subordination.

The slaves were brought from Africa and the Caribbean.

It was the era of industrialisation and the swing away from slavery to free paid labour across the world.

Slavery remained prevalent throughout the Union.

Significantly less so in the industrial north than the agricultural south where the prosperity gained from cotton and tobacco flourished.

It was somewhat inevitable that the white European settlers of the south who had the most to lose from the abolition of slavery, would be the most resistent to it in their territory and would be the least able to accept an emancipated slave as their equal.

In spite of the founding fathers vision, America remained a divided nation from the time of independence right through the civil war, a period of reconstruction and decades more of racial indifference before finally in 1965, equality for blacks with whites across the Union was acknowledged.

It does, however, seem extraordinary that in a nation state such as America that there could have been such blantant racial discord for so long.

In truth, if you believe in a cause whether or not right or wrong, then it is surely a just one.

Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Generals Lee and Grant, were honest, honorable and humble men who were true to a cause as they saw it.

The Confederates were not necessarily wrong to effect secession.

The Union were not wrong for the corrective actions they took to protect what existed.

The two American States could potentially have separately co-existed side by side.

It was not quite a case of the irresistable force meeting the immovable object.

War was forseeable and predictable but not inevitable.

If it was not an attack on Fort Sumner which sparked conflict, then it surely would have been something else.

Neither the Union nor the Confederates were ready for war.

The Confederates were certainly not ready for governance.

Richmond Virginia was no match for Washington as an administrative capital, let alone Montgomery Alabama.

The Confederates could have held the upper hand if possessed of a more manageable infrastructure, if the fighting force was better trained, if more consideration was given to maintaining morale not just spirit and determination to fight, if a greater sense of objectivity was applied in key decision making and if those who could financially contribute towards the cause did so from their profits.

A war is not won by tactics alone.  It needs strategy, planning, organization, objectives and an infrastructure by virtue of which a military force can access food and supplies.

In the case of the American Civil War, railroads and rivers such as the Potomac and the Mississippi played their part in the outcome of the conflict as did an effective blockade of southern ports and an ineffective embargo on export of products to former colonial powers.

Once the south had what the north did, partly but not entirely due to the economic and political reconstruction of the Union which followed the end of the Civil War,  it slowly but surely dawned on Americans living in the deep south that living the American dream could not be miraged from the past.

There was enlisting and drafting of able bodied men for military service.

There was conscription.

There was recruitment of combatants from overseas.

There was no rebellion or insurrection.

There was no invasion or official border control division.

There was no treason.

There was oppression.

There was self-preservation.

There was patriotism.

For every three men who fought for the Confederates, two had never owned a slave.

For every man who vocalized the cause, there were three more who paid an exemption fee and did not fight.

For every Afro-American who was enslaved, there was another who found it to freedom.

For every American who fought, there was a compatriot who died for the supposed cause.

This was a conflict in which the valiant fought for the true cause.

The true cause was that no man or woman should suffer oppression when there is a more righteous path in the pursuit of happiness.

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THE AMERICAN SLAVE

It was, of course, the colonialists who introduced slavery to the American continent and it was then they who set the trend for its eventual worldwide abolition.

In 1776, following the revolution, the new nation state of the United States of America came into being on the premise of freedom and liberty for every American.

That did not include those who were indentured and bonded as slaves.

There is a common misconception that after the Declaration of Independence, there were only slaves in the southern American states who were used primarily on the cotton farm plantations.

Census records have shown and proven that there were slaves in the northern states as well but due to climate and commerce, not as many as in the south.

Whether they were free slaves remains a matter of discussion and debate.

The emancipation of slaves in America would be a gradual process right up to the end of the American Civil War in 1865 and the enactment of a ratification law known as the Thirteenth Amendment.

Slavery, ultimately, became the focal issue of the American Civil War in which perhaps a million Americans, both black and white, died for the cause.

The American slave had been denied combat during the revolution.

Except for isolated incidents and in spite of the sufferance of being enslaved,, there is no evidence to suggest that the American slave would or could have threatened an insurrection or rebellion against the Union State before, during or after it came into being.

Until more recent times perhaps.

Nevertheless, the potential of the threat supposedly played a part in moving the capital city northwards in 1800 from Philadelphia to Washington.

The American slave would, however, finally be permitted to enlist in the Union Army by the sixteenth serving President, Abraham Lincoln, and to fight against those who chose to go against industrial progress with their stubborn Luddite-like thinking and enslave humanity, whatever the colour of their skin..

Somewhat curiously, a presidential decree soon followed, declaring freedom for the American slave who was still enslaved in the territories controlled by the Confederation and not by the Union.

It is curious in the context that it may never have reached the ears of those to whom it was intended until the latter stages of the civil war.

Colonialists had left behind a legacy which their descendents could not just let go.

The perceived white master was afraid of what would happen if the American slave was given equality and status.

That relationship between the white master and the American slave was never more epitomised than in a novel written by an American schoolteacher entitled ‘Uncle Toms Cabin’

Many years after the end of the civil war, the American Slave, though free from chains, shackles, bond and indenture, would suffer further indignity in the pursuit of happiness promised to him by the American Constitution of 1776.

That came with the Jim Crow Laws and absolute segregation in society applied in schools, public places and on transportation.

It has to be understood that those laws were only applied in the cotton states of the deep south and not across the whole United States.

It would take many decades more and in effect be a century of years (1865 to 1965) before he who was once a slave by the colour of his skin could claim to be truly American as of right and not merely rewarded for services rendered.

The undeniable reality is that the American slave is no more than a true patriot of his country in the twenty first century which is reflected in all forms of public life.

It is the ultimate colonialist legacy, without which, the United States of America would not be the country it is today in the pursuit of happiness and the prestige of civil liberty.

 

 

 

 

 

THE JESUIT PRIEST

Yesterday, in a coffee shop in a town in a faraway land, I met a Jesuit priest.

While drinking a capuccino latte and eating a sugar-coated cinammon doughnut, I made my one and only confession.

I confessed that I was not a catholic, that I did not know the meaning of the word, that I believed in the notion of God but not the Christian one which affiliated with Jesus as its figurehead.

Years ago, I watched ‘The Mission’ and only last week I watched ‘Silence’, directed by American Martin Scorcese.

As I understand it, the essence of both films was that a soldier of Jesus Christ, defined as a Jesuit, should go to a foreign land and spread the gospel of the Christian faith.

Or do I mean the catholic faith?

Why is it that I spell Christian with a capital letter and catholic without?

I became intrigued to learn that the supreme head of the catholic church, the Roman Pontiff himself, the Pope, elected to that position in March 2013, was a Jesuit priest.

There was a wry smile and a short shriek of laughter from the Jesuit priest sitting in my presence.

The sudden clasp of our hands and looking into each other’s eyes was a touching moment of unforgettable silence.

As I now know, the Jesuit priesthood was a religious order formed in 1534 by a Spanish soldier by the name of Ignatius Loyola.

To become a Jesuit priest, the man told me, entailed the taking of vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for a lifetime.

Jesuits, like Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines and other such religious orders, are not attached to a diocesan parish church like their secular brothers.  Nor are they accountable to bishops.

Jesuits are licensed by the Pope himself to spread the gospel, so to speak.

Forgive the abrasiveness of my thinking but I must stand to question the need at all to evangelize and apostasize in the twenty-first century to a seemingly well-educated, science-orientated, objective-thinking global populus.

And what is apostasy if it is not to be defiant based on rational opinion or belief about a system, authority or situation perceived to be different?

I could see all too clearly in the eyes of the Jesuit priest that he had abandoned nothing or no one in his absolute determination of human faith.

He was no defector,  no deserter, no whistleblower, no rebel, no mutineer, no betrayer of his nation state.

There are, of course, pockets of civilisation in underdeveloped countries but I am not dissuaded from thinking that the Jesuit Priest is overstepping the boundaries of his mission.

So why does he sit before me?

And why do I sit with him?

It was I who traced him on the internet by social media.  It was I who requested the meeting taking place between us today.

This is a Jesuit priest of the twenty first century who has a smartphone at his fingertips, an online presence, wears a baseball cap and can speak seven languages fluently.

This is my confession.

His mission has taken on a different sphere, a bit like an astronaut going into space to explore the unknown, the universe.

Yes, that is it.  Catholicism means Universal.

Except there are those Christians in the world who have declared themselves to be protestants, lutherans, anglicans, prestbyterians, orthodox.

Today is actually Sunday Twenty-Third of April.

The Jesuit Priest knows it is the celebrated birthday of William Shakespeare, the English playwright who came from the town of Stratford upon Avon.

He takes the words right out of my mouth when he refers to the harbouring of Jesuit priests in the Shakespeare family home by William’s father John and the hiding of the sacred Borromeo testament.

He has never been to England but I hail from that town and I have so many times been to the famous cottage on Henley Street where the events he vividly described supposedly took place.

His ‘take’ on the historical events were different from mine but it mattered not.

Once a lawyer, I am now an English teacher and I have a mission in my life too to teach students the English language so that they can, possibly, have a better, brighter future.

The mission of the Jesuit Priest and the English teacher, it seems, though not fused, is therefore linked and the same.  To deliver a message.

The charming young waitress serves us both a second (free) cup of coffee.  I take another bite of my delicious doughnut.

The clock on the huge white church which shadows the  square strikes eleven on this April Sunday morning.

The hearty congregation disperse into the environs of this northern Indonesian coastal city.

Sunday school, alas, was a long time ago in my life but suddenly I am reminded that catechism, another word I did not fully understand,  is no more than explaining belief as a compilation of doctrine and teachings.

It always remains open to question but I have got the message.

What we nearly all accept today is that there are many different intepretations of faith besides our own and we should not be so stubborn or short-sighted as to believe that ours is the only way.

Not today.  Not any day.  Not any way.

The Jesuit priest has heard my confession.

There was no farewell.  No selfie.  No bill of conscience.

My soul can be at peace because, now, today, I know the truth.