February 16, 2004


Laughing Wolf's "In Defense of Duelling."

I'm reminded of the story of Isaac Brock's one and only challenger, who complained when Brock and his second insisted their proposed pistol duel be fought over the width of an outstretched handkerchief (muzzle to chest, in other words). The challenger withdrew.

Since I'm on the topic, Brock is one of those characters in history for whom the word "recklessness" seems too kind (the story above is thus entirely believable). He had this odd combination of total contempt for any opponent, and an absolute refusal to contemplate his own death, that made his eventual demise in battle less a question of if, but when. He wasn't a stupid man, but saying he was suicidal in his bravery isn't too far from the truth. (He's different from, say, Wolfe, who was also brave when he had to be, but whose death while standing behind his troops was more a case of the usual battlefield bad luck.)

I was rereading Turner's bio recently, and it struck me that that estimable author missed the mark, too, in comparing him to Gordon Drummond. (Drummond, the first Canadian-born general officer, was a meat-grinder, a Grant-at-Cold Harbor character; he took tremendous risks, but mostly with other people's lives.) But at least Turner was trying: it's fair to say no Canadian historian has ever "got" Brock, in the sense that they truly understood his mind, or his appeal to his peers. A revisionist biography of the fellow is sorely needed. I suspect the writer, if he could look at the man with fresh eyes, would find the closest contemporary parallel to "The Savior of Upper Canada" would probably not be a Wellesley or even a Beresford, but Marshal Ney, whose survival to face the firing squad after all Napoleon's battles is still something of a historical miracle.

Posted by BruceR at 06:19 PM


Note to Americans. You may have heard from various sources that Canadians are outraged over some sort of hand puppet sketch that appeared on late night television.

Just for the record, there are 30 million of us. Those who have been identified as outraged, as far as I can tell, so far consist of:

1) Alexa McDonough, NDP member of parliament (yes, well, okay, she is humorless, I'll give you that one);
2) The surprisingly humorless Federal Conservative leader Stephen Harper;
3) A professional separatist named Dorion, whose clear political interest here is stirring up any outrage he can;
4) The editorial board of the Toronto Star.

Erm, that's it. The rest of us, French and English, really couldn't give a damn. This has not stopped bloggers and other commentators with some anti-Quebec axe of their own to grind to bringing the "outrage" to a world audience, and claiming it's "destroying Canada." Give me a break. Imagine how much mileage they'd have gotten if anyone but the usual suspects above had said anything at all?

(The simple fact is the O'Brien show wanted to try out some new anti-French jokes for their jingoist American audience back home, and couldn't afford the plane fare to Paris for their little sock puppet. Thank god the Canadian government was willing to pay for their bus tickets up here, eh?)

Posted by BruceR at 02:57 PM