In which we see a corrupt aristocrat administer a revolutionary lesson
Chronicles, # 20
(adapted from the current edition of the ECF Reporter magazine)
It’s the fall of 1760, and Benjamin Franklin has done it again: the wily Pennsylvanian has convinced the British colonial administration to finance the first annual Society of American Pioneers Convention somewhere in
Four cities are in the running to host the convention:
That administrator’s name is Lord Damien Moretaker. Lord Moretaker is, to put it mildly, skeptical of this whole idea. He thinks of the colonists as ungrateful children, and the whole idea of a convention as an incredibly stupid waste of time and energy. But he needs to stay on the Prime Minister’s good side, so he’ll go along with all this nonsense. Just keep in mind that this is not a man who suffers fools gladly and probably would rather be in a
Lord Moretaker [that would be me, wearing a purple graduation gown and a mop for a wig, both of which have been procured from the performing arts department] bursts into the room. “All right then,” he intones in a loud but wan voice. “I am Moretaker. Now let’s get this hideous exercise behind us.”
The students, unprepared for such an abrupt entrance, are disoriented but amused. They take a moment to realize that Lord Moretaker is serious, and return to position in the clusters of desks around the room. “
The reliable Susan is the group’s spokesperson. “We believe the conference should be held in
“Well, that makes you a giant among pygmies,” Lord Moretaker observes. “My understanding is that
“Well, yes,” she says tentatively, probably as much because this is news to her as much as grudgingly conceding the point. “But –”
Jason leaps to her rescue. “We have a wonderful education system in
“What in God’s name is a ‘university’?”
“Well what has
Susan has recovered. “Because we believe that our people should be educated – ”
Moretaker cuts her off. “Let me get this straight,” he says. “You believe that having a lot of educated people is a good thing?”
“Yes, my Lord,” says Lisa. “We believe people should be well informed. People should know what’s going on in the world and have their own ideas.”
“So every idiot is supposed to have an opinion? And this is why we should have this conference in
“Yes, my Lord.”
“How charming,” Moretaker says with a mirthless smile. “All right, then.” Moretaker turns away from this group and is about to speak when Lisa interrupts. “My Lord –”
Moretaker scowls. “I have a few more reasons why
“That’s enough,” Moretaker snaps.
“That’s enough!” The class laughs at this flat rejection of a good student’s work. Lisa and her team look upon Moretaker with a combination of amusement and shock. (Will they credit for doing all that homework?)
"Right here, my Lord," Joey replies on behalf of his group. He looks confident, even cocky: He’s picked up the rules of this particular game and he thinks he can win. “My Lord, we believe that
“Well, My Lord, I believe we can.
“Hmmm,” Moretaker says, absorbing this, apparently approvingly. “And what about the Dutch? Is
“Well yes, my Lord. Actually,
“Oh it is, is it? And this diversity you describe is a good thing?”
“Now I’ve heard everything,” Moretaker says, genuinely amused. “Thank you,
But Joey isn’t ready to give up yet. “Your brother, my Lord.”
“Edmund? What about him?”
“Well, we believe that
“Who said anything about Edmund having a drinking problem?”
“Oh. No one. I’m sorry, my Lord. I only meant to say that we may be able to work out something for him and other veterans.” Joey’s voice trails off. His partner, Ben, is smilingly approvingly.
“Oh we will, will we?” Moretaker pauses to gaze inscrutably at Joey. “Thank you,
“That’s us, my Lord,” Lisa says brightly. Her team makes a brisk presentation emphasizing
“Did you say Benjamin Franklin?”
“Yes, my Lord. As you may know, having an inter-colonial conference was his idea.”
“Oh I know, all right,” Moretaker responds irritably. “We all know about the positively marvelous Mr. Franklin. Let me ask you something. Is Mr. Franklin actively lobbying to for
Lisa looks confused. But she’s smart enough to adjust her script in light of the circumstances. “I’m not sure, my Lord.”
“Not sure, huh? Very well then. I think I’ve heard enough about Mr. Franklin.
“I can assure you that this will not be my conference,” Moretaker replies.
“Well OK, Nate continues. "But we also want you to know that we are fully prepared to show you and your brother a really good time. The class laughs – apparently at both the idea and the fact that it’s Will who’s pitching it.
Moretaker shows no visible reaction. “After a pause, he asks: And what about the Negroes?”
“Yes, the Negroes. I hear they murder their masters in their beds.” More laughter.
“Oh no, My Lord. We have the Negroes under control. You and Edmund will have a really good time.”
“A good time,” Moretaker repeats. He turns suddenly to Joey. “
Despite its unexpected arrival, Joey is ready for this opening. “Oh, there’s all kinds of things we can do. Programs for lots of veterans like Joey. Why, we can –”
“Yes of course, the veterans,” Moretaker interrupts. Excellent. All right then, he announces to the class. “After hearing your presentations I have made my decision.
I return to the room a moment later, sans costume, amid some smiles and a few mock scowls. “So, I ask, what did you learn?”
“I learned that Lord Moretaker is a real jerk,” Lisa says.
“A real arsehole,” Katie says, prompting laughter.
“Careful,” I say. “He might just hear you.”
“I couldn’t believe how corrupt he was,” Lisa says.
“Well, that’s the way a lot of people felt at the time about the British Empire, in the late eighteenth century” I reply. “That it was poorly run mostly by people who were in it only for themselves. Fortunately, we know that the world doesn’t work that way any longer.” Some smiles at that.
“Let me ask you something,” Susan says. “Was this whole thing decided from the very beginning? That the conference was going to go to whoever did the best job of bribery with Edmund?”
I smile. “Now that wouldn’t be fair, would it?” I reply. “See you tomorrow,” I say, pulling open the door.