Pity Me Not When the Pop-Guns Pop

“It is a shame that a brave man should be exposed to die by a miserable pop-gun, against the effect of which he cannot defend himself.” Chevalier de Bayard (c. 1500)

The Chevalier de Bayard was the last true knight of France, and so he abominated firearms, in his day a newfangled weapon.  As a warrior of the old school, he saw the “miserable pop-gun” as the tool of skulking villains, as thus as an affront to everything that was honorable and valorous in the noble art of combat.  Alas, a skulking villain with an arquebus unhorsed this chevalier sans peur et sans reproche (as was his epithet) at the Battle of Sesia in 1524, and the wound from that ball finished Bayard off.*

Bayard’s attendants dragged him from the fray and propped him against a tree, where he is said to have held the hilt of his sword “before him like a cross,” while calmly awaiting death.  It came within the hour, and when he died the age of chivalry died with him.

The age died, but not the memory of the age, so Bayard was long venerated as a model of chivalric virtue, and a man who lived “without fear or reproach” was long said to be a man in the mold of the Chevalier Bayard.

Such was in fact said of General Lawrence Sullivan Ross, who had fought the Comanche as a Captain of Texas Rangers, and then fought the Union as commander of the Third Texas Regiment of Cavalry.  Largely on the strength of these achievements, he was elected governor of Texas in 1887, and appointed President of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas in 1890.

The dedication to the history of the Third Texas Regiment of Cavalry, informally known as Ross’s Brigade, says:

“To the Hero Patriot General L. S. Ross, the Chevalier Bayard of the Western Armies of the Confederate States of American . . .”**

In calling Ross the Chevalier Bayard of the Western Armies, the regimental historian was not simply registering the fact that Ross had fought bravely and on horseback.  Bayard died defending France against the arrogance of Charles V and the aggression of the Holy Roman Empire, and the regimental historian clearly meant to imply that Ross had followed in Bayard’s footsteps by standing up to Lincoln and the Yankee Leviathan.  What is more, when he was propped against that tree awaiting his end, Bayard famously rebuked the turncoat nobles who had switched to the side of the Empire when the cause of France seemed lost.  The Duke of Bourbon was one of the turncoat noblemen, but as an old friend of Bayard, he rushed to the side the dying knight.  When Bourbon expressed pity for his mortal wound, Bayard answered:

“Sir, pity me not, for I die a man of honor.  But I pity you, who fight against your king, your country and your oath.”***

The regimental historian almost certainly knew this line, as did many of his readers.  They thus knew that to liken Ross to the Chevalier Bayard was to say he had never truckled to the imperious Yankee, and he had never broken faith with Texas.

Sans reproche means without reproach.  Not even once and not even a little.

When Ross was elected governor, Confederate veterans were the General’s biggest supporters, and when he was named President of the Agricultural and Mechanical College, the tiny institution began to grow because his military reputation inspired confidence in parents and respect in students. Since its founding twenty years earlier, the college had struggled to attract students, and to control the tumultuous few that it did attract, so state legislators had begun to talk about closing the institution and converting its buildings to a State Lunatic Asylum.  Ross was able to stop them from doing this because he was, in the eyes of most Texans, sans reproche.  Not even once and not even a little

The old general is today honored by a prominent statue at the center of the Texas A&M campus.

* * * * *

It was only a matter of time before the statue known as “Sully” would become, as they say, problematic, and the first “miserable pop guns” of political correctness were fired at it just the other week.  The memory of General Ross is not yet expiring beneath a tree, but these were simply ranging shots and the next volley will, no doubt, draw blood.  For as Bayard said, these are shots “against the effect of which he cannot defend himself.”

It has long been the custom of our senior class to process through the campus in November of their final year, stopping at various landmarks to bid the university a ritual adieu. When they stop at Sully, they salute the general while a herald reads the names of any classmates who have died in the course of their studies.  The solemn moment was, however, this year omitted because, as you may have guessed, “some students had expressed discomfort with . . . Ross’s background as a Confederate general during the Civil War.”†

These students are, it seems, too ignorant to add discomfort over the fact that Ross was “for many years preeminent as a leader against the implacable savages.”**

Although many other students were angered by this snub of Sully, and we are told that the chambers of the Student Senate have been ringing with speeches on both sides of the question, I believe Sully’s defenders have already lost.  He cannot defend himself against the effect of these miserable pop-guns, and neither can they—he because he is dead, they because they concede that there is, indeed, a great deal to reproach in the life of Lawrence Sullivan Ross.

And so this is how they defend poor old Sully:

“Think of this not as a monument to the Chevalier Bayard of the Western Armies of the Confederate States of American, nor as a monument to a man who was for many years preeminent as a leader against the implacable savages.  Think of it, rather, as a monument to a capable college administrator and effective government lobbyist, to a man who, despite his many misdeeds on horseback, redeemed himself behind a desk.”

This is a rotten defense.  Ross is not a hero because he was President of the College. He was President of the College because he was a hero.  And if his defenders will not stand by this simple statement of fact, we might as well lease the crane and call the scrapyard, because sooner or later, Sully’s going to go.

Sans reproche means without reproach.  Not even once and not even a little.

Meanwhile the miserable pop-guns pop.  One Student Senator, for instance, blames Sully for “the lack of diversity on campus, with 63 percent of the undergraduate population classified as white.”  She tells us that she has friends from high school who “didn’t want to come to A&M University because they felt it was uninclusive,” and that “memorializing a Confederate general” was surely one cause for their repugnance.  Another Student Senator by the name of Iman Ahmed suggests that any tradition should be junked “if some Aggies feel excluded.”†

Complaining about feelings of exclusion is the tool of skulking villains, just like the “miserable pop-guns” that killed the age of chivalry.  It is, of course, a shame that the reputation of this brave man should be exposed to die by these pusillanimous insinuations, but Ross cannot defend himself against this villainous violence, and neither, it seems, can we.  So, let us all crawl into the shade of a convenient tree, and there contemplate the hilts of our swords while awaiting the end.  But in the unlikely event that a turncoat minion of the Empire should express pity over our plight, let us at least not forget to say:

“Sir, pity me not, for I die a man of honor.  But I pity you, who fight against your king, your country and your oath.”

 

*) Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard(1473 – 1524) is most often remembered as the Chavalier de Bayard.  His epithet, chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, means knight without fear or reproach.  See John Mitchell, Biographies of Eminent Soldiers (London: William Blackwood and Son, 1865).

**) Victor M. Rose, Ross’s Texas Brigade: Being a Narrative of Events Connected with its Service in the Late War Between the States (Louisville: Courier Journal, 1881).

***) Jules Michelet, Modern History (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1855).

†) Bryan-College Station Eagle, December 2, 2018.

7 thoughts on “Pity Me Not When the Pop-Guns Pop

  1. Pingback: Pity Me Not When the Pop-Guns Pop « Los Diablos Tejano

  2. Pingback: Pity Me Not When the Pop-Gun Pops | Reaction Times

  3. The biggest question I come to is, ‘what can we do to stop this madness’? It might even be a natural result of student loans. The college no longer cares about its students, because their payment is guaranteed by the Federal Government, permanently. So the administration can harvest hordes of agit-pop gun students, and laugh all the way to the bank, while they abdicate their responsibility to inform, tame–to meek, in the archaic sense–the unruly youths and transform them into intellectual adults.

    If student loans ever become dischargeable in bankruptcy, besides the broader economic implications of a trillion dollars vanishing from the national balance sheets, centers of higher learning would suddenly have to care about their students. They may even begin to prioritize getting students into careers vs. encouraging them to master underwater basketweaving before returning to the trough with a fresh set of loans to study something employable.

    I pity these youths that they are being denied the proper formation to integrate naturally into a society which, by and large, doesn’t really care about their opinions of a statue.

  4. Prof. Smith: Your essay put me in mind of R. L. Dabney’s 1882 discourse, entitled The New South, delivered at Hampden Sidney College “before the Philanthropic and Union Literary Societies.” I am sure you have read it before, but for anyone who has not and so disposed the speech is included in volume IV of Discussions by Robert L. Dabney, available for a modest price on Amazon Kindle. Here is a short excerpt from the speech:

    But this century has seen all this reversed; and conditions of human society have grown up, which make the system of our free forefathers obviously impracticable in the future. And this is so, not because the old forms were not good enough for this day, but because they were too good for it.

    Dr. Bertonneau mentioned in a comment to his earlier entry that our society is in fact not free, despite all of the liberal jargon claiming such is the case. The Dabney quotation I cite above expresses in a nutshell the reason for which “freedom” as our forbears knew and understood it, is impossible to our generations – their system is too good for our generations.

    The speech itself goes into greater detail as to why the “New South” found itself in such a predicament, and failed to preserve the old system, failing in the issue to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” But in the spirit of the subject of your essay, Dabney would not have it that we weep for his generation; no, he would have it that we weep for our own generations, for we are the unfortunate ones.

    As you and I both know, whenever the children curse their fathers and mothers, that society is well on her way to extinction. As Christians we are commanded to honor our fathers and mothers, though they be poor. Which of course is the first commandment with promise. We are, one should also note, not given any “outs” as to the command. Dishonor them – as this current godless generation is apt to do – and relinquish the promise. It is really that simple.

    • I’ve read Dabney’s Defense of the South, but not the essay you mention. I’ll get the volume IV on Kindle. I was recently reading back numbers of a Republican newspaper that was published in Houston in the years around 1870, and then of course some of the opposing newspapers of what was then called “The Democracy.” The bitterness of the Democrat newspapers greatly obscured their message, and so did the glib triumphalism of the Republican newspapers. But after awhile, I began to see that all the moralizing on the Republican newspaper was just lipstick on a “pig philosophy” (Carlyle’s phrase). Like today, leftism is actually good for “bidness.” The didn’t express it very well, but the Democrat papers wanted to say there is more to life than railroads and a rising stock market.

  5. Pingback: Addendum to Pity Me Not When the Pop-Guns Pop – The Orthosphere

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