Beware the Ides of March!

March 15th is the “The Ides of March” in the Roman calendar.  On this day, it was foretold that Caesar would meet his doom.  His wife warned him not to go to the senate but you no doubt remember his famous reply “Cowards die many times before their death, heroes die only once.”  Alas, Caesar went bravely to the senate and to his death.  In Marc Antony’s famous eulogy speech for Caesar, Anthony said about Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Caesar.”   Perhaps it is a coincidence that this line from Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar” started resonating with me in my sleep last night. “The good that men do is oft interred with their bones.”  Perhaps it has to do with my recently reading the biography of Thomas Paine.  
Thomas Paine has been called by some the Father of the American Revolution.  His short monograph Common Sense helped to spread the ideas of the revolution.  According to Wikipedia
It was passed around, and often read aloud in taverns, contributing significantly to spreading the idea of republicanism, bolstering enthusiasm for separation from Britain, and encouraging recruitment for the Continental Army. Paine provided a new and convincing argument for independence by advocating a complete break with history. Common Sense is oriented to the future in a way that compels the reader to make an immediate choice. It offers a solution for Americans disgusted and alarmed at the threat of tyranny.”
Based on his contributions to the revolution, many people even consider Paine to be one of the founding fathers along with Jefferson, Adams and George Washington.  Yet did you know that all of these men had repudiated their friendship with Paine and when Paine died in 1809 only 6 people attended his funeral.  Indeed his bones were later disinterred and to this day no one knows where they are.  Instead of being feted and admired, he died hated and ignored.  Today it is probably safe to say that not only has the good that Paine did died with him but few probably know or even care what brought so much opprobrium down on him.  Let’s take another case where the good that a man did was interred with his bones.  
In 1846, the United States of America went to war with Mexico. The major cause of the war was the fact that the USA annexed the state of Texas which Mexico still regarded as her territory.  The Mexican American War was not very popular in the USA and many regarded it as a naked bid for taking territory away from Mexico.  This feeling of naked aggrandizement continues to rear its head today amidst much of the anti-immigration rhetoric that gets thrown around.  Some regard the number of illegal immigrants as a wave of revolution forming a sort of “Reconquista” of California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico by dint of the large number of Hispanics now occupying these areas.  
Nicholas Trist (1800-1874) was an American diplomat appointed by President James Polk to negotiate a treaty with Mexico.  This treaty is known as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and was signed on February 2nd1848.  Trist had very strong feelings that Mexico was being treated unfairly and he wanted the peace treaty to be fair.  He did not have many supporters in the USA for his position.  Polk decided that Trist would not be tough enough on the Mexicans and ordered Trist home.  Through some subterfuge Trist ignored the instructions of Polk to return home and continued to negotiate with Santa Anna.  The end result was a treaty that actually ceded less territory than Polk and the expansionists wanted but still considerably more than Trist felt was fair.  It was a clear case of “to the victors, go the spoils.”  Trist later said of the treaty:
“My feeling of shame as an American was far stronger than the Mexicans’ could be.”
Trist was immediately fired for his insubordination, and his expenses during his time in Texas were not paid. Trist never held another major government position and was blacklisted in government for most of the rest of his life.  He died in relative ignominy.  A man who bravely stood up against public opinion and the President of the United States to do what he thought was right.  “The good is oft interred with their bones.”  In this case as with Thomas Paine, the good is ignored and the man seldom discussed in any American history lessons.  
As I write this blog, I am struck with the number of “unsung” heroes and heroines throughout history who now lie obscure and forgotten.  Perhaps a blog on these individuals would be a fitting epitaph and endeavor for someone to undertake.  As you go about the “Ides of March” today, think about someone who stood up for truth and justice when it was not popular.  Think about the quote that:  “The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority and the test of courage comes when we are in the minority.”  – Ralph Sockman.   Who do you know who should be written about in the blog?  Who do you know who fits the quote that: “The good is oft interred in their bones?”  Drop me a comment; I would love to hear from you. 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Mar 15, 2012 @ 23:12:56

    I did notknow this about Trist. Thank you.

    Reply

  2. John Persico
    Mar 15, 2012 @ 23:17:13

    You are welcome.

    Reply

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