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Epilogue to the Narratives

from Extraneus, Book XII, Strange of the Carolinas, second ed.

On the Lands and Political Philosophies of Nations

Strange Lives
Political Evolution
Aggression and Imperialism
The Separation of Church and State
The Similitude of Democracy and Communism
The Future

We seem, as it were, to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind.
Sir John Seeley

Before concluding our history of the Strange families, it seems only proper that we pause and reflect upon this collection of private histories, relating these sundry backgrounds to our own, present experience. In the wake of so many human acts, both noble and ignoble, we must feel humble, and wondrously compelled to compare our individual achievements against those of so many others antecedent to ourselves. Mirth and misery are old companions of humanity, and notable events of happiness and misfortune never seem to happen without evoking some story or remembrance of things past.

Strange Lives

The family histories in Extraneus are collections of ordinary lives, which happen to be illustrative of the medieval, renaissance, and modern histories of the United Kingdom, Eire, France, Canada, and the United States of America. Strange lives lead us through the Ages of Chivalry, Discovery, Reason, Revolution, Industry, and Technology. Nations may mature in similar ways, but their evolutionary events occur differently, almost erratically, and are widely divergent. The world at present is divided into groups of nations progressing through their respective ages at different speeds, sometimes concurrently with others, sometimes at entirely separate times.

The Third World of developing nations comprises countries that are newly embracing reason, revolution, and industry in order to advance themselves toward modern international commerce. The Free World and Communist World have already experienced revolution and industrialization, are now developing their technologies, and are posed for their transitions into the Information Age.

From Normandy and Minor Britain (Brittany), to Great Britain and Eire, and then to North America, the Stranges migrated, mixing their blood with the bloods of Normans, Celts, and Anglo-Saxons. Together with that blood, there traveled an enduring desire for self-sufficiency and self-determination: in short, the freedom to think, to express one’s thoughts in speech and writing, and to act by the dictates of one’s own beliefs.

Political Evolution

Too frequently we are drawn to genealogy merely for self-edifying, egocentric, and ethnocentric reasons. I hope that this history has departed from this limited and narrow rationale. My purpose has encompassed larger goals and broader aims, for I have endeavored to understand the macrocosm of social evolution from the microcosm of family history. Lack of knowledge alone has too often divorced family history from national and world history, such that individuals are commonly described in family histories as if they had lived and acted in a vacuum, as if worldly events had little or no effect on our ancestors. The essays, indices, and glossaries that accompany this work were designed to equip the reader with views of the world much wider than the customary and simplistic ‘Abraham begat Issac’ genealogy.

Although it is frequently praised as a bastion of freedom and democracy, the United States has been criticized as being an aggressive and predatory society, highly mercantile and militaristic in nature. Indeed, most of its territory has been either purchased, or won by force. The history of the United States has been punctuated by an infamous succession of wars and military actions. To date, the U.S. is the only nation in the world to have used an atomic bomb against another, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, thereby causing the instantaneous deaths of approximately 120,000 people and the gradual deaths of thousands of others.

The United States was the first nation to explode a thermonuclear device (1952), and the first nation to land a manned spaceship on the moon (1969). During the 1980s the Reagan administration vastly diminished the government’s role in the health, welfare, education, and environmental protection of its citizens, and concentrated instead on increasing the country’s weaponry, and thus, the nation was transformed from the world’s greatest ‘creditor nation’ into the world’s greatest ‘debtor nation.’ Expenditures happen to lay bare the priorities of a country, just as readily as they define the goals of an individual or a corporation. When the citizen perceives that his nation’s foremost aim is to militarize, mobilize, and dominate, he should and ought to admit the patency and reality that naked aggression and the four horsemen are breaking through the hedge.

Under Reagan’s leadership, the U.S. Navy grew to a fleet of nearly six hundred warships, and the U.S. arsenal of biological and chemical weapons became a size capable of destroying the entire world’s population not once, but many times. When we take into consideration the ‘nuclear winter’ that is postulated would result from a major thermonuclear exchange, we may conclude that the combined firepower of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. arsenals of nuclear weapons, represented some 65,000 nuclear warheads, surpassed the point at which they could destroy the earth 3,000 times. Additionally, Reagan founded the Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly called ‘Star Wars,’ which effectively expanded the arms race into space.

In this two hundred and eighteenth year of the Union, 1993, we may observe that warfare, military engagement, invasion, and suppression of domestic rebellion are all acts that have dominated some period exceeding more than one hundred forty-seven years of our annals. This obsession with conflict represents more than two-thirds (or some 68%) of U.S. history (1776-1993). Even in times of peace and quietude, the so-called ‘Defense’ Budget consumes the single largest share of U.S. expenditures, outside entitlements. President Truman, who bestowed upon the world the threat of nuclear devastation, acted to have the Great Seal of the United States altered so that the eagle’s head would face the olive branches of peace rather than the arrows of war. Further, he changed the name of the Department of War to the Department of Defense. Nevertheless, our history and our continuing military presence around the world makes one fact clear and patent: the United States has been preëminently a military state. Even the ‘peaceful’ Reagan era had acts of war, such as the Invasion of Grenada (1983) and the Attack on Tripoli and Benghazi (1986).

The weaponry, armies, guards, and militias of the United States have been employed chiefly to expand its territory, to decimate and, in many cases, exterminate native Americans, and to intervene in the affairs of foreign states. Politicians and presidents attempt to rationalize defense spending under the pretense it will be used ‘to defend democracy’ or ‘to protect American interests overseas.’ Fact and history, however, controvert these assertions, demonstrating quite clearly that actual deployments of U.S. forces have mostly been orchestrated to make shameless bids for domination and commit unprincipled acts of aggression.

Presidents as recent as John F. Kennedy (served 1961-1963) have invoked the Monroe Doctrine (1823), which states "that the American continents are henceforth not to be considered as subject for future colonization by any European power." The U.S. has used the Doctrine as some type of holy justification to intervene in the internal affairs of Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, and a host of other foreign states in the Western Hemisphere. And yet, the U.S. has undertaken to occupy with military forces the Eastern Hemisphere countries of Germany, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as the Southern Hemisphere islands of the Philippines and Microneasia.

Civil libertarians and constitutional constructionalists would prefer to view history as an evolution toward freedom, and I am one such historian. Idealistically, we would like to chart a course through time that traced the development and evolution of human beings as a continuing struggle to realize the inviolable, sacred, and natural rights of man, from the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, to the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Strange family did not originally support the Magna Carta, but they did support the effort to force Henry III into signing confirmations of that charter of liberties, and engaged in the many English and American conflicts that acted to preserve and perpetuate the liberties of civilized man. Bearing an admitted prejudice for this view of history, I have described and delineated the long and intricate flourishing of Strange families, taking pains to relate their individual sufferings to the broader human and national struggles for liberation.

Liberty has many enemies and many foes, and those who govern the United States cannot be absolved from their successive accountability for allowing civil liberties to wane and dissipate, even be abrogated. Common people must recognize that we are ultimately responsible for the erosion of liberty. Only we, as a people, can determine whether we promulgate the principles of liberty, or spread the dogma of dictatorship. It is tragic that Americans are largely ignorant of our own Bill of Rights, and that we too often self-righteously bully other countries, and even our own people, as if we were blind to our own democratic principles.

Aggression and Imperialism

The positioning of more than a half million (625,866) U.S. troops in Vietnam (1969) ought to never, ever be interpreted by future historians as some ‘defense of democracy.’ At the time of partition in 1954, South Vietnam was headed by a titular emperor, Bao Dai. Though the monarchy was abolished in 1955, Premier Diem was later brought to power, not by the processes of a free democracy, but rather by the covert intervention of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). South Vietnamese governments acted as if they were dictatorships, not democracies, conscripting their nationals into military servitude for terms as long as thirty-nine years.

By any set of historical or linguistic criteria, U.S. presence in Vietnam must be called at best an ‘occupation,’ and at worst an attempt at ‘colonization.’ In any event, the ultimate defeat of U.S. forces seems to have been predestined by the overwhelming trends of Asian history. Neither presidential and congressional support for the war, nor the opposition of large segments of the citizenry against it, could have reversed a progression that has occurred since the beginning of recorded history in Asia. On the Indochina peninsula, and in fact, throughout most of East Asia, northern powers have quite consistently prevailed over southern powers for some 3,000 years. The Vietnamese themselves derive their name from the Yuè (Viet) state in China, the northern region from which the populace originally migrated. South Vietnam was destined in history to be defeated, even before we engaged our forces there.

Another lesson learned from Vietnam is that ‘democracy,’ as Americans know it, is a peculiar product of our own history, as well as an outgrowth of the collective histories of our predecessors. Our liberties were carefully developed and nurtured since the thirteenth century, by the constant efforts of our ancestors to extract themselves from feudalism. American democracy is the result not merely of the War of the American Revolution, but rather of some seven centuries of continual constitutional development. To even contemplate the colonization of Vietnam with instant, exported brands of our own institutions was a futile and ludicrous exercise in ethnocentrism. To have actually sacrificed some 50,000 American lives in that attempt, and to have caused the deaths of untold millions of Asians, was a highly criminal and unforgivable act, a national disgrace that should never be forgotten.

Vietnam was just one example of the type of imperialism that America has repeatedly applied against its perceived foes. Several examples may be cited, but have occurred so often, and across such a vast amount of time, we could not possibly recite them all here. Rather, we shall defer the task of describing such events to the chronology of U.S. history, in Volume V.


Japanese democracy is entirely new, but its exercise is still ruled by the conventions of feudal society. Extant photographs of sword-wielding samurai from the Meiji Era demonstrate that Japan is merely one century away from feudalism. The West has not preserved any picture-perfect representation of the archers at Halidon Hill (1333), nor of other key events in medieval times. Rather, we must remain content to view our feudal past with pictures no more advanced than the sketchy and imperfect detail afforded by the Bayeaux Tapestry and other primitive drawings.

Japan may consider herself fortunate in being able to examine her feudal ancestors with photographic accuracy. Feudal institutions were preserved in the empires and kingdoms of Asia well into the twentieth century. It was presumptuous and unrealistic of Americans to think that the Vietnamese people subservient to an emperor in 1955, could possibly accept and assimilate a model Western democracy by the time U.S. troops were deployed in Vietnam one decade later, in 1965. Social transitions may be difficult and take time, but national reorganization is a far harder enterprise, sometimes requiring centuries to effect.

In a feudal state, the basis of centralized power is agricultural or pastoral land, and the only realistic way to rapidly progress from such an organization into modern statehood is to forcibly redistribute the ownership of that land. In fact, we have observed this process time and time again, throughout the modern world. Unlike the Americas, the European, Asian, and African territories have been occupied by large populations, and have been politically divided, for centuries and centuries. The one and only feasible way to remove a feudal system, and replace it with one ruled by the people, is to reassign ownership, as was the original intent of the Reconstruction in the U.S. Most of the countries in the European Economic Community have accomplished this gradually, by taxation and statute, which is why many of these countries, notably the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the Netherlands have developed highly rational, ‘socialist’ types of government.

Feudalism is based upon two systems of authority, namely a spiritual network of churches, cathedrals, mosques, or temples, commanded by a distant, theocratic pope or religious authority, and a temporal network of fiefdoms and castles ruled by a local, autocratic king, or state secular authority. Dualistic feudal organizations survive throughout the modern world, in countries as different as England and Bhutan. The spiritual power claims preëminence over the temporal, and the temporal power often claims to derive its ‘divine right’ to rule from its spiritual superior, ideally in such a way that the two systems complement and reïnforce one another. The daily or public lives, actions, and economies of people in a feudal state are actually determined by the king and his barons, whereas their inner consciences and private rites of passage are controlled by the saintly offices of the bishop and his priests. The king and his baronage is a model for a strong, centralized, and dictatorial government that has found expression in such diverse nations as the theistic and fascist state of Nazi Germany, and the atheistic and communist state of Stalinist Russia. Whatever the expression, be it a theocracy, dictatorship, kingdom, or empire, the feudal principle rarely fluctuated: powers and decisions derive absolutely from the top, with no consideration for the people controlled.

The Magna Carta (1215), and the several charters that followed, acted to limit and constrain the power of the king, reserving a number of basic rights and powers for the nobles of his kingdom. In English civilization, the first concrete step away from feudalism, and toward modern democracy, was taken by Simon de Montfort (circa 1208-1265), Earl of Leicester, who organized the Baron’s Revolt and formed the first Model Parliament. Thus, the power of the autocrat gradually diminished, and was distributed among his many lords and their respective dominions.

Unfortunately, czarist Russia, imperial China, and most of the other recent kingdoms of the world, never experienced the long developments of humanism, renaissance learning, and gradual democratization that Europe experienced. When the czar and the empress were removed, Russia and China suddenly lapsed into periods of domestic turmoil that resulted in the strong, dictatorial governments of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. When the redistribution of wealth and land failed to provide the people with adequate resources, they resorted to conquest as a solution for their poverty. Rapid modernization during the 1930s led to some peculiar aberrations: namely, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini, and the ‘emperor cult’ in Japan. Hitler conquered neighboring states for lebensraum or ‘living room.’ Mussolini invaded north Africa and Abyssinia (Ethyopia) for the same reasons, and Japan created a ‘co-prosperity sphere’ in Manchuria, China, the Philippines, and Indochina, pretending to be willing to share the wealth of its conquests with the conquered people.

These sinister and reprehensible developments are incorrectly viewed by Americans as being foreign or alien to the American experience. In truth, however, the U.S. has acted, and continues to act, in the very same ways. How can a fair and objective historian first condemn Hitler for his genocide of Slavs, Poles, and Jews, and then mysteriously absolve Ulysses S. Grant for his genocide of one hundred native American tribal cultures? How does one condemn Mussolini for occupying Abyssinia, and then justify the American conquest and occupation of the Philippines? How does one condemn tyranny, dictatorship, and totalitarianism in other countries, and then blithely accept the dictatorship of the ‘Silent Majority’ or the ‘Moral Majority’ in the United States? If we are to view history realistically and objectively, we must be ready and willing to criticize ourselves. A society that perpetuates feudal and aggressive actions should always be characterized by, and held accountable for, its political acts.


The population of the United States is predominately European in origin, patriarchal in nature, and Christian in faith. Although the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and several Constitutional Amendments are designed to protect the ‘life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness’ of each citizen, as worded in the Declaration of Independence, regardless of ‘race, color, or previous condition of servitude,’ and although each person should be entitled to ‘free exercise of religion’ and ‘freedom of speech,’ the noble goals of the country remain yet to be satisfactorily achieved.

Discrimination against non-whites, non-Christians, and females has been perpetuated by social conventions and by various laws. Amendment IV (1791) was supposed to protect ‘the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,’ and yet the predominantly Christian legislatures of various localities preserve a wide range of European ecclesiastic laws and ordinances, which impose Christian moral codes even on the private lives of citizens. This institutionalized bigotry was a major cause of the American Civil War (1861-1865), as well as the cause of widespread civil disorders during the 1960s, when women, blacks, gays and lesbians, native Americans, Asian Americans, peace activists, and other groups launched their respective crusades to obtain equal rights and participation in government. Blacks have made the greatest progress, securing ratification of the postbellum Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution, seeing the passage of several civil rights bills under the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration, and winning strong affirmations of their equality in various Supreme Court hearings.

However, the long periods of peace and economic prosperity during the late 1970s and early 1980s revitalized extremist conservatism and evangelical Christian fundamentalism, much to the detriment of these equal rights movements. Reagan appointed to the Supreme Court a chief justice who did not believe in the ‘separation of church and state,’ because he thought that religious codes of conduct, which are duly transformed into civil laws by a ‘majority,’ cannot be challenged by using the altruistic principles of equality expressed in the Constitution. The appointments made during the 1980s of several Supreme Court justices who share the same or similar views will surely impede future attempts to perfect the egalitarian society envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

The Separation of Church and State

The legislative and judicial infrastructures of the United States suffer from a fundamental contradiction that stems from the Act of Supremacy (1534). When Henry VIII commanded that the Anglican Church be officially divorced from the Roman Catholic, he dissolved the large Catholic monasteries in England, and thereby abolished the network of ecclesiastical courts. As a result, the existing civil and criminal courts began to incorporate purely Roman Catholic ‘ecclesiastic law’ into English ‘common law.’ The American colonists brought this curious mixture of judicature to the New World, and it has ruled the lives of U.S. citizens ever since. Whenever the Supreme Court rules against an argument for ‘civil rights’ or ‘equal rights’ or ‘privacy,’ the opinion normally begins with citations from the reign of Henry VIII, because it is the ecclesiastical nature of those laws which laid the foundations for discrimination.

In essence, the governmental systems of the United States are constantly struggling with the inherent contradictions of two divergent world views. On the one hand, our common law and legislative traditions are trying to preserve the principles of religious conduct that were set forth by the Third and Fourth Lateran Councils (1179 and 1215). On the other hand, our common sense and constitutional traditions are trying to preserve the principles of social equality that were set forth by the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. Even though the concept ‘separation of church and state’ has long been touted as an essential component of American civilization, it has not yet been realized, and can never be realized until a ‘test of separation’ is developed and applied to every aspect of lawmaking, administration, and judicature.

Aldus, the publisher in Venice, printed the books of the ancient Greek and Latin authors. Scholars such as Petrarch and Erasmus popularized the study of ancient civilization, thereby educating the nobility of Europe in Aristotle’s philosophy, Plato’s democracy, and Socrates’ brotherly love. This new diffusion of knowledge led to a renaissance of humanism, in the spirit of which the general populace began to expect and demand higher degrees of sophistication and performance from their leaders. Monarchs found it increasingly difficult to forcibly impose their will. Kings had to earn their subjects’ respect through higher learning, and had to begin inciting the allegiance of their people by argument and competent decisions, rather than by autocracy. Likewise, the church was called upon to justify its authority, and writers like Thomas Aquinas exhausted entire lifetimes composing intricate treatises to rationalize and humanize each doctrine of the Christian faith.

When reason and argument failed to prevent erosion of papal power, Rome resorted to suppression. The Office of Propaganda, which still exists in the Vatican, began to authorize the reading of some books, while proscribing the printing of others. Inquisition tribunals terrorized Europe by condemning entire communities, such as the Jews, and by censoring scholars, such as Galileo. Even the challenge of Martin Luther was thought to be surmountable. Pope and king alike at first confronted Luther with a united defense. The pope bestowed upon Henry VIII and his heirs the title of ‘Defender of the Faith,’ in reward for the English king’s famous book on the Sacraments, which refuted Lutheranism.

One of the most surprising events in history was when Henry VIII estranged his queen Catherine of Aragon, and married Anne Boleyn. The will and erudition of the English king proved to be too challenging for Rome. When the pope refused to allow annulment of his marriage, Henry declared himself to be Supreme Head of the Anglican Church, forcibly divorced the Anglican bishops from Rome, and then plundered and dissolved the Roman Catholic monasteries. During the sixteenth century it began to appear as if the fever of new learning would upset everything. Rome had prohibited the translation of the Bible into any vernacular language, but English translations began to appear in spite of the ban. The spirit of the Reformation infected many lands, and the common people began to rise up against both king and bishop.

The discovery of America probably averted and postponed much bloodshed. The economies of Europe were largely agrarian, meaning that revenue and power were based upon land. The subjects of an earl harvested his county. Landless persons, who were not otherwise supported by the economies of manors, depended upon the public lands of the bishoprics for survival. In America there was once plenty of land, occupied by native populations that were small and militarily weak. The very abundance of land permitted freedoms to develop that were impossible in Europe. American immigrants controlled such a wealth of space and resources that they could declare themselves free of earldoms and free of bishoprics. This new ‘living room’ in and of itself allowed Americans to establish what we today call ‘free trade’ and ‘freedom of religion.’

The Similitude of Democracy and Communism

The Cold War (1947-1973) that developed and intensified between the Free World and Communist World during the twentieth century led Americans to believe that there was some great ideological gap between these two modern political systems. In reality, nevertheless, democratic and communistic societies shared objectives. The differences we perceived were primarily due to the times and intensities in which changes occurred. Communist states accomplished their social changes in merely seventy years, whereas democratic states have required over seven hundred years to enact the same changes.

Land reforms in China and Russia disenfranchised the feudal aristocracies that once controlled the lands and the peoples of those countries. The overall objective was to empower and enfranchise the people themselves. Although both of these communist countries underwent periods of totalitarianism and cultural revolutions, these periods were comparable in no small measure to our own periods of democratic reform. The Reign of Terror in France, as well as the Empire of Napoléon I, were both developments that followed the French Revolution. Although the English Civil Wars accomplished many political reforms, they gave rise to the terrible tyranny of Oliver Cromwell. The United States itself has exercised and perpetuated a terrific storm of expansionism and conquest, trying to spread and promulgate its own revolution. Russia and China both began to experiment with democracy and free trade in the late 1980s, whereas the United States moved in the reverse direction, promulgating extreme brands of conservatism that threatened to dismantle democracy.

The so-called ‘atheism’ of communist states was little different, in character and essence, from Europe’s Protestant Reformation, or the movement for ‘Freedom of Religion’ in Colonial America. Communist countries rejected the control of religious institutions in precisely the same fashion as the English and Americans once rejected them. By contrast, in 1956 the United States adopted "In God We Trust" as its official motto, thereby erecting a keystone for state religion, but violating the spirit of Amendment I. It should not be the business of democratic leaders to advocate state-sponsored religiosity, cry for death penalties, or demand governmental intrusion into private lives, for these extremes only serve to glorify extremists.

If we, as a people, were only courageous enough and responsible enough to read and understand our own stated principles, we would never allow our liberties to be so rapidly diminished and abolished by ambitious and unprincipled men. What cause have we to criticize other countries, particularly communist countries, when we allow our own liberties to be jeopardized and eroded by the majority dictatorship? I hope that this recitation of Strange history will reïterate with sufficient force those principles and doctrines that are essential to democracy, so that future generations may never forget nor abandon the aspirations of our Founding Fathers.

The Future

Historians, biographers, and genealogists should always write in the past tense, even while their subjects live. The historian’s very objective is to leave behind a true and reliable record of what has occurred, so he would defeat his purpose to create a narrative that weaves some uncertain course, oscillating between past and present events. Change alone will one day render obsolete and dated almost any present statement. Speculations made in the future tense might never come to pass. And thus, the biographer should always strive to keep his narrative consistently past and past perfect.

No one can help but dream about the future. And yet, dreaming about future things requires that we remember and recollect the past, for it is through knowing the past that we can know the future. Certain events are inevitable, such as birth and death, but it is through study and explication of those passages that we can know better how to manage those incidents whenever they occur to others, and how to cope with them when they happen to oneself.

The simpleton might view the archivist as an eccentric, but the historian sees him as the priest of his craft, for he holds the materials for making things matter, he has the clue or the trail of records that will surely embody some new biographical creation, another human life resurrected from dusty chronicles of the past.

From Extraneus, Book XII, Strange of the Carolinas

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