By Cynthia Chung
[This is a transcript of an RTF lecture that was delivered as part of the “Storytelling, Myth-making and the Shaping of Universal History” Symposium.]
So the subject of this class, as the title would suggest, is on James Fenimore Cooper’s ‘The Bravo,’ and I am sure many people here are probably aware of James Fenimore Cooper and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are also many who are not. Fenimore was actually one of the most prominently read literary writers in the world during his time. What’s interesting is that we all know the German, British and Russian classical culture names that come to mind, such as Shakespeare, Schiller, Goethe and Pushkin, but who comes to mind for America?
James Fenimore Cooper was, you could say, if not the level of a Shakespeare or a Pushkin, which he wasn’t, he was nonetheless building the foundation towards that and was probably one of the writers who came closest to that level within the United States as an American literary figure. It was Cooper’s intention to lay the groundwork for a Shakespeare, a Pushkin, to eventually develop in the Americas. He understood that this was absolutely vital because he understood that the true principles of a republic, the moral fabric of a society, would mainly flourish amongst the people through its literary figures. This was Cooper’s life mission, to fight for these principles of a true republic. He fought for them not just through his involvement in networks around political intelligence but he very much engaged in this through the domain of cultural warfare through his literary works.
So most people, if they’re aware of Cooper, they will likely be aware of something like “The Last of the Mohicans,” and more broadly his “Leatherstocking Tales”, but they will likely be unaware of a book he wrote called “The Bravo” which will be the focus of the second half of this class. However, before we can discuss “The Bravo”, there is a lot of important historical components and of Cooper’s life that we need to have a comprehension of in order to understand fully what Cooper’s intention was in writing “The Bravo.”
I think a very good quote to introduce us to the man, James Fenimore Cooper, comes from his book “The American Democrat” where he writes:
Since this is Cooper’s life mission, the question we should be posing ourselves firstly is:
At first it might seem like there should be a concrete answer to that but actually there isn’t, it’s still you could say a work in progress in terms of what is the formation of an ideal republic. The word republic comes from the Latin respublica, which means “public interest, the state”, which comes from when Rome first established their republic. It is a translation of the Greek word politeia, which refers to the political system of a city-state.
So this question of a republic, most people agree upon its definition as something other than monarchy, that’s pretty much the first distinguishment of what is a republic. It is thus opposed to the concept of a king, one that is chosen as a divine right by God, that is given this right to rule over all other people and often is associated with a hereditary rule, such that the one who inherits the throne has had no need to showcase their merit for such a responsibility. However, the concept of a republic further than that depending on who you are talking to, can be a government formed and ruled by an oligarchy, an aristocracy or a democracy, and even here, especially in the case of aristocracy, there is more than one definition or idea of what is an aristocracy (whether it is consisting of a born nobility, or those who excel in noble qualities and are selected upon merit). We will be discussing these things and will address the questions of whether one form of government is better than another, or are they all equal? Does virtue lie in all of these or only one of these types of organizations? Or does virtue lie somewhere else as the source of the best government?
Thus, what are the principles that the best of all governments will all need to uphold, no matter the form that they choose. These are questions that I want people to keep in their minds throughout this presentation, we won’t attempt to answer them just yet, and there will not be a perfect answer anyway to these questions, however, it is something that we all as citizens who are concerned with upholding justice, should be constantly thinking about and what our role is in playing a part in this.
Since Rome was the originator of the concept of a republic, I think it important to go over just a few highlights of what that consisted of. Rome started out as a kingdom from 753 BCE to 509 BCE, it was led by seven kings in all. What’s interesting about Rome’s system of kings is that it was never based off of the hereditary principle, and the King was someone who was voted in by the Senate from the very beginning.
It was only until Ancus Marcius that there began to be problems with this idea, not quite of a hereditary principle, but that the King was going to be a major part of choosing who was going to be his successor.
In the case of Ancus, he had chosen an adopted son, not one of his own sons. And this adopted son, Tarquin ended up becoming King, he ruled for 30 so years, and he was murdered in his elder years by Ancus’s two sons, who wanted the throne for themselves and their lineage. It is said that before Ancus was murdered he was able to cry out (or his wife did out of a window) his choice for his successor. The Senate agreed with the King’s selection, but you can see there is already a problem that is starting to occur in how to uphold the most upright, the most deserving in positions of leadership. Tarquin also ends up picking an adopted son, not one of his own sons, Servius Tulius who becomes King for again, another 30 or so years.
Servius is also murdered in his elder years in a very bloody public display, by Tarquin the Elder’s sons, (along with Servius’ own daughter who married one of these sons). Servius Tulius, to make matters worse for those who began to hold the idea of an “inherited” nobility, an “inherited” aristocracy, was born a slave. When Servius was killed by the sons of Tarquin, it was Superbus (who in the above image is labeled Tarquin the Proud) who took over the throne.
Superbus was the last of the kings, the most barbaric and unruly of all of the kings. He basically coerced and bought the Senate to support his selection as King, and was bad-mouthing Servius in the Senate. As the story goes, the elderly Servius comes to the Senate to defend himself and Superbus attacks and beats him, throws him down the stairs where it is said that his own daughter (married to Superbus) runs him over by horse carriage. The street in which Servius is run down is later named Vicus Sceleratus (street of shame and infamy). Servius would be known as the last of the benevolent Kings.
Superbus ruled for 26 years and not surprisingly he was not very popular with the Roman people and the Roman Senate. He ruled as a cruel despot. There was a snapping point with the Roman people when Superbus’s son, Sextus, raped a noblewoman named Lucretia. Lucretia it is said was so humiliated, she felt so dishonored by this act that once she relayed it to a group of four high-ranking men, she then stabbed herself in the heart with a dagger.
Junius Brutus, who is the ancestor of Marcus Brutus (who we know of from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar), was one of the men who was present at the scene when Lucretia reports what happened to her. Livy, the historian, writes that as soon as Lucretia had committed suicide, Junius Brutus rushed over to her, plucked the dagger from her breast and raised it, swearing an end to the Tarquin kingship. Brutus gathered all of the Roman citizens together, and they voted to banish the Tarquin family, and he had them swear an oath that they would never suffer the rule of one man to govern Rome ever again. And as per Livy, the Roman people desirous of liberty would vow from that point on to no longer be swayed by the entreaties or bribes of kings.
As a point that people should keep in mind, the rape of Lucretia is often credited as the reason why the Roman people rebelled and said they would never suffer a king again, but as Machiavelli makes the point in his history of Rome, titled “Discourses on Livy,” it was not the isolated event of Lucretia’s wronging and suicide that had caused the people to rebel but the fact that Superbus had forsaken all law and had treated all of Rome with such dishonor that Rome would have been unrecognizable after only a few generations under the Tarquin rule. If Superbus had been a just King, the crime against Lucretia would have been presented to him to act as judge over, and he would not have been punished for the crime of his son. But this was not done, it was not done because it was known that Superbus had no respect for a law benefiting the general welfare of the people but rather only knew his own personal law, and this is what the people could no longer suffer under – the arbitrary law of a king.
Though many of the political institutions would remain the same when Rome became a Republic, one of the major transformations was that in place of the king you would have two pro-consuls who would be voted in by the Roman citizenry and would have a one-year term. This was of course done to try to dissuade anyone desiring to rule indefinitely and from abusing their powers for personal gain. Also, the fact that the pro-consul would rule for such a short period of time, it also encouraged a larger portion of the population to think that they could be selected for the task of pro-consul. That is, leadership for the Republic was a task that would necessarily be shared by many, since the term was only for one year, and thus encouraged the general citizenry to take more care in their education and their political thoughts, since such a task could easily fall upon you, that you’re selected for a position of leadership.
Again, this concept of the hereditary principle, was one of the corrupting influences of the period of kings, this concept that you “inherit” nobility, you “inherit” superiority, regardless of your actions in this world. Unfortunately, Junius Brutus, very quickly into his term as pro-consul, was challenged with how just of a leader he would be, and his two sons were found conspiring with the exiled Tarquin family plotting their return to the throne. And so, Brutus had to act as judge over his two sons in their treason and sentenced them to death. He had to also witness their executions which was considered the responsibility of the pro-consul. Some may think him a cold man for this, but there is no reason to think that such a decision did not greatly pain him, but rather that he treated his sons with no additional favor and judged their punishment for their crimes as he would have fairly done for anyone else.
It was because of this reputation for upholding honor that Junius Brutus became a hero in Roman history. That he not only led the overthrow of a tyrant king and helped establish the Republic, but that he embodied the noble qualities it was to represent and that nobody was above the natural law, which defends the general welfare of its people.
The Roman Republic would exist from 510 BCE to 27 BCE and in its early years this concept of liberty was really taken seriously, that is, liberty from the arbitrary rule of another. Liberty was considered by the Roman people the most noble of all things, such that they respected it when they saw it in a foreign people. Rome, in its beginning period as a Republic, when it was expanding, it offered citizenship to some of the foreign states if they were considered worthy of it and as Machiavelli recounts of the Privernati people, when they were asked if they would become citizens of Rome they answered they would abide by Roman law if they were treated well under her. Instead of being punished for what could have been seen as arrogance, they were rewarded with Roman rights since as Machiavelli writes “men who hold their liberty above everything else were worthy of being Roman citizens.”
And so that was the core fundamental of the Roman Republic in its earlier years, that if Rome treats you fairly as a citizen, it is the most cherished form of liberty you could have. Unfortunately by around the second century BCE, Rome started to develop core fundamental problems that would lead to extensive corruption and civil unrest. Rome would never fully recover from this and it would spell the end of the Roman Republic. [For more details on this story see my class “How To Conquer Tyranny and Avoid Tragedy: A Lesson on Defeating Systems of Empire.”]
The Roman state would collapse and it would give way to a monarchy, if not in name in form, it was an empire led by an emperor and it was based largely on a hereditary principle. Shakespeare tells this very important story of how Rome went from a Republic to an Empire in his play Julius Caesar, where a people who once valued liberty above all else and vowed to never suffer the rule of a king ever again, were now freely offering the crown to the power lustful General, Julius Caesar.
You can see in the image below Marc Anthony offering the crown to Julius Ceasar in Shakespeare’s play, which is offered three times. Julius Ceasar is making a show that he does not want the crown but he obviously does, and he does become Emperor soon after, and the crowd is cheering for this. So the Roman people at this point have become very small, who now wish to be ruled over, they wish to relinquish themselves of responsibility of a citizenry and were willing to trade this in for promises of security and comfort. This compromise would unleash one of the most terrible tyrannies upon not just the Roman people but Europe for centuries to come.
For those who are unaware of the history, Marc Anthony offers the crown to Julius Caesar because he himself is seeking out power and influence. And when Julius Caesar dies, Marc Anthony is one of the most terrible oppressors of the Roman people, where he actually empties the prisons of all the criminals so that he can form a massive gang to take hostage the whole city. It’s a really awful situation. [Again, for more details on this story see my class “How To Conquer Tyranny and Avoid Tragedy: A Lesson on Defeating Systems of Empire.”]
Rome would eventually be its own undoing from the rot within and the Empire would collapse centuries later. Despite this, the concept of a republic, this concept of liberty and freedom from the arbitrary rule of a few or a one, was something that inspired many republican states afterwards including Florence (hence Machiavelli’s history of Rome) and early modern Britain, which is ironic since Britain herself went from a republic to a monarchy and tried to stop many of its subsequent colonial territories from forming republics, especially that of the United States.
The United States was very aware that its organizing around the concept of a republic was Roman inspired. In the below image to the left, you see a picture of Quinctius Cincinnatus, another hero in Roman history, considered to be an example of the Roman ideal where he was selected to be a pro-consul but he was given absolute power, it was a time of crisis for the Roman state, and he used that power to get Rome out of the crisis and then he handed back the power afterwards . He then returned to the life of a farmer. He is considered the ideal because he was wise and virtuous enough to be a good leader and utilise political power for the good, but he was not tempted by absolute power, he was not tempted to continue his reign past a point where he considered his service to the people was no longer needed.
This is very much the ideal that George Washington (above image to the right) and others were inspired by. Washington helped to found the Society of Cincinnati. The American Revolution was fought by farmers who were not professional soldiers and once the Revolution was won, they returned to their chosen professions, which were largely made up of farmers. It was considered a form of corruption to have a permanent professional force of soldiers, and it was thought important that during times of peace people had another raison d’être.
Thus, the Roman Republic, despite its imperfections, had served as an example to one of the greatest ideals of liberty, such that all countries that named themselves a republic afterwards all wished to in some fashion or another form their government around this Roman concept of liberty, however, not all republics have been made equal and some were in fact tyrannies in disguise.
Striving for such an ideal also caused much tragedy, such as the French Revolution, which was an absolute disaster that brought upon the people the tyranny of a Napoleon, who became the leader of the French republic as first a consul from 1799 to 1804 but then declared himself Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814, he lost it for a bit and regained it for a bit in 1815. Napoleon wanted to rule all of Europe and likely beyond Europe as a sort of global Emperor.
Thus, whatever your thoughts are on Napoleon, it was clear that he never intended to honor the governance of a republic but always saw himself as a king, an emperor with the right to rule without question. And so this cycle repeats itself over and over again, the temptation of absolute power and to consider oneself naturally inclined to such colossal power, which the concept of the republic is fundamentally against.
So what was the fundamental difference between the American and French Revolutions? Obviously, that is a very loaded question and is not the focus of this class but I think important to go over it a little bit since it is one of the missions in Cooper’s life, this concept of upholding the proper principles of a republic. [I gave a class as well on Frederick Douglass and Lincoln which goes into this discussion a little bit further, titled “What it Means to be an American Citizen this Fourth of July”.]
A lot of people might think these words are empty words but they’re actually really important and are at the core of the founding principles of the United States which were later on violated and that was the corruption. If these principles here had been upheld, the United States would not have become what it has turned into today. [For more on how this corruption took over see my paper “The Shaping of a World Religion: From Jesuits, Freemasons & Anthropologists to MK Ultra & the Counter-Culture Movement PART III”.]
This has been a real fundamental issue for all just republics to resolve this paradox of the sacredness of the individual, the rights of the individual but also the importance for the promotion of the general welfare. And that this promotion of the general welfare should also be thought of in terms of the posterity, the generations upon generations that will follow. Obviously, if you want to uphold the general welfare, an individual cannot be free to do whatever they wish, however, what is also considered the best interest of the general welfare should also not violate the basic rights of an individual.
In the painting below titled “Writing the Declaration of Independence,” you can see who is the boss in this situation, Ben Franklin is the approver of any suggestion that comes up in that discussion. Ben Franklin would state at the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, in response to a question as to what form of government had been formed, he is quoted as saying “a Republic, if you can keep it.” Thus, it was understood that the upholding of any republic would ultimately be subject to the moral condition of that society.
So this is one of the fundamental cores of what is going to determine the best of all republics, is the moral condition of the society because to have the rights of the individual, you are now in part responsible for the moral integrity of society, and will shape this moral integrity by what role you choose to play. The right of sovereignty meant the responsibility to uphold its integrity.
The people would no longer have a king to blame but themselves if they were to squander this new freedom.
So how did France pan out from their Revolution? They had in turn had their French Revolution because they were inspired by the American Revolution, however, it did not work out the same way for them. One of these fundamental questions is how does one define Liberty, such that the concept of a republic will be shaped around this. What sort of Liberty, what sort of Freedom are we talking about? Is it an arbitrary concept of liberty and freedom, the freedom to do whatever one wishes? Recall the French Revolution’s phrase was “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”
One of the tragedies of the French Revolution was that, unlike with the American Revolution, it became more of a class dispute and quickly the poor blamed anyone of an upper class as being the sole problems of that society. They wanted equality by force and by name rather than by earned merit. It was an idea of equality where everyone would be torn down rather than built up, and was not on the basis of equal opportunity and demand for a certain fairness in the system to rise up in conjunction with the fruits of one’s work, on one’s proven merit. It doesn’t make sense to have everybody with equal outcome and equal responsibility no matter what your actions are.
The French Revolution turned into a mob situation, where they had over 40,000 executions including of their artists and their scientists, so of their best minds. It made sense that their best minds were the ones who were best educated and the ones who were able to have access to that education were primarily ones that were of the upper class who had more wealth and opportunity. So instead of this concept of identifying that equal opportunity for education was at one of the cores for equal opportunity, they instead attacked those who were educated. You can see how that became a confused thing that they were fighting for.
The French Revolution started in 1789, which would be called the ‘Reign of Terror’ at a certain point because of the number of people who were executed, and the situation quickly descended into chaos. The anarchy of the Jacobin terror left the people of France ultimately leaderless and allowed for the entrance of Napoleon, the Napoleonic wars ensued, and the bloodshed increased.
In the above image to the right you can see one of the less romantic paintings of Napoleon, in his retreat from Moscow after having lost a good chunk of his army.
Friedrich Schiller, who is in a sense the Shakespeare of Germany, was 30 years old at the time of the French Revolution.
The French Revolution had a lot of the American patriots that were responsible for the success of the American Revolution helping them, so it was a really big failure in that sense. Schiller identifies that the objective condition for political change was there in France but the subjective moral condition was lacking. Thus, Schiller recognised that all improvement in politics would have to come through the ennoblement of the individual.
Schiller identified that education needed to become the fundamental core for a proper revolution to occur and not a revolution that was unnecessarily bloody and destructive and left the people with a worse situation, but that there would be a basic understanding of the goals that would lead the people to a just republic and to not confuse your friends for enemies. This was what Schiller focused on as a general lesson in his dramatic pieces.
There is a really beautiful quote from Schiller where he writes “I know of only one secret to guarding man against depravity, and that is: to arm his heart against weakness.” Schiller accomplished this in the most natural way, through drama.
And, no surprise here, James Fenimore Cooper was very much in agreement with this.
So, a little bit harsh from Cooper on Goethe, but Schiller did have the capability of causing people to reflect to such a point that they were willing to transform and that’s the really beautiful thing about drama, when we are so moved by another’s acts of nobility or sacrifice, displays of valor and of virtue, that we want to replicate that in our own world and our own lives. And we are disgusted when we see the worse types of violations occur in drama and thus we should be equally disgusted by those things when we confront them in reality, in our everyday society. These things are naturally within us, so we can uphold them and not just in our dreams.
Cooper recognised that the ultimate destroyer of nations and cultures was not in fact by evil leaders that this was accomplished, but by wrong or false beliefs, adopted as popular opinion by that nation’s population. Should false beliefs hold sway, the population would set itself upon the path of its own destruction. So, though you can have tyrants, you can have despots, and true they can cause a lot of destruction, it is ultimately the citizenry that has to go along with that at a certain point, that will allow such a reign to continue over the people unjustly. And we will see this subject further unpacked in Cooper’s “The Bravo.”
Cooper would become the most well known writer in America during his lifetime, and very much the focal point of his writing was, as a literary antagonist to monarchy, the ideas of the hereditary principle through aristocracy, inherited nobility and feudalism. And he championed the principles of the republic.
Cooper would say:
So again, this question of the quality of your art is going to form the quality of your people. Thus, the social consequences of a society’s art is very serious, it is not just for light entertainment, like how we primarily abuse it today. Art is what cultivates our natural tastes, our natural instincts, so that we don’t feel like we are at odds all the time, which I think many people feel today, and unable to strive to be our best, to uphold just the general good. It shouldn’t be so difficult or challenging for people really, we should all want this, we naturally want it, so what’s going on? Why is it that we have so many societies where it becomes the opposite impulse?
Cooper was born into political intelligence; his father is William Cooper who worked closely with George Washington in the Continental Army. After the war , Washington had directed William Cooper to move to upstate New York to establish frontier settlements. This was partially to thwart the threat of British-controlled Canada, where there was always the threat of an attempt by Britain to reimpose its colonial rule upon the Americans, because they had troops stationed in Canada. Thus, you needed a strong settlement nearby to counter that threat, of course, industry was also a focal point of towns like Coopertown.
Two of William Cooper’s close friends were John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, among the writers of the Federalist Papers. And John Jay’s son, Peter, was close friends with James Fenimore Cooper, they were lifelong friends and were both second generation leaders of the American Republic. James Fenimore became a real leader of the second generation that followed the first generation of the founding fathers.
One of the interesting points is that Hamilton was George Washington’s second in command during the revolutionary war, Hamilton also acted as William Cooper’s lawyer defending him against the British land companies who were trying to steal millions of acres of forest land in upper New York state and, interestingly the lawyer for the British was the infamous Aaron Burr during these disputes. [For more on Aaron Burr’s treason, see my paper “The Shaping of a World Religion: From Jesuits, Freemasons & Anthropologists to MK Ultra & the Counter-Culture Movement PART III”]
William Cooper also served in Congress in 1809, and also was a judge, he was murdered by associates of Aaron Burr, just five years after Aaron Burr himself had murdered Alexander Hamilton in a duel. What’s again interesting, if you look at Wikipedia, they say that there is no evidence that William Cooper was murdered and that it is a rumor that was started by the Cooper family, apparently, where they said he was killed by a blow to the head during an argument with a political opponent at a public meeting in Albany, New York on December 22, 1809. According to Wikipedia entries, they say there is no evidence to this and consider it “implausible”. However, looking at the history of treason and affiliations with numerous assassinations of Aaron Burr, this is anything but implausible, including the fact that another of Aaron Burr’s associates was responsible for the murder of Alexander Hamilton’s first son in a duel, before Hamilton himself would be killed by Burr. [Burr is one of the greatest villains of American history, for more details on the great extent of his treason again refer to my paper “The Shaping of a World Religion: From Jesuits, Freemasons & Anthropologists to MK Ultra & the Counter-Culture Movement PART III”]
The Society of Cincinnati was founded in May 1783 by three primary figures, Baron von Steuben, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. They would shortly thereafter set up a headquarter in France, under the Marquis de Lafayette, for the European branch of the Society, which was in connection with German republican forces and other republican forces in Europe.
William Cooper was also a part of the Society of Cincinnati and James Fenimore would become a leading member of the Society later on. The Society was formed in part to defend the United States, since there was always the danger that Britain would make an attempt for reconquest since despite winning the American Revolution, British troops would remain in the United States (and stationed in Canada) for quite some time. The Society was also formed to uphold the principles of the Republic, you could say that the presence of the Society within the newly formed 13 states, functioned as a think-tank to uphold this form of government in the best way possible. It was also used in Europe to help facilitate support for the republican movements and functioned as an intelligence operation.
Despite the failure of the French Revolution, there was still a lot of inspiration in Europe for the republican ideas and James Fenimore Cooper was appointed as the American consul to the Cincinnati Society in Leon, France. Thus, James Fenimore worked very closely with the Lafayette circles. And for people who do not know, Marquis de Lafayette, he came from France to help fight in the American Revolution, and he made a bit of a name for himself and he also comes from somewhat aristocratic circles so he was found useful as a mediator in political organizing. Lafayette was a big supporter for the republican system, so much so that he named his son George Washington Lafayette.
But as we will see, he is a bit of a tragic character. I don’t have the time to go over the symbolic significance of the above painting, but suffice to say, he has two destinies pulling him on either side in the painting, one of monarchy and one of republican support.
Another thing people need to be aware of is that the Congress of Vienna assembled in 1814-1815, and intended to reorganize Europe after the Napoleonic wars, so again, the amount of destruction that the failed French Revolution laid out for all of Europe was quite extensive.
So after the disaster of the Napoleonic wars you have the Congress of Vienna, and they basically want to divvy up Europe, with a balance of power amongst four primary empires that being Britain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Prussia. In the image above to the left, you only see the three emperors of Russia, Austria-Hungary and Prussia which made up the Holy Alliance, Britain is left out in typical British manoeuvring where they always seem to succeed in remaining somewhat in the shadows and not front stage in the narrative of historical developments.
It was these three empires who would form the Holy Alliance and the way these territories were being divvied up, it was disregarding any concept of nationality. There are all of these republican movements that are happening during this period while the empires are arbitrarily dividing these territories to be just parts of an empire. This caused a lot of problems which continued into WWI and the Versailles Treaty, which was such an unnatural way of dividing up these regions and was clearly a way to mess up the republican movements that were being attempted.
By 1815, despite the disaster of the Congress of Vienna being celebrated, the Americans successfully defeated the British in the War of 1812 (fought from 1812-1815). This victory created a resurgence for the republican ideals in Europe and there was aggressive intervention largely coming from the intelligence circles around the American revolutionary forces and those who helped fight in the revolution, such as many high-level French and German players. So they are now trying to organize Europe, France is still, despite all of its problems, considered to be the most likely European nation to first succeed in becoming a republic, which was expected to cause a domino effect for many other countries to quickly follow suit. Marquis de Lafayette is very much at the head of all of this and Cooper is also stationed in France to help this come about.
During this time as well, you have Schiller working for pro-republican ideas, you have the von Stein-Humboldt reforms of 1809-1813 that are also occurring. In response to this the Carlsbad Decrees are set upon the people, a series of measures adopted by the German Confederation in 1819 to establish severe limitations on academic and press freedoms and set up a federal commission to investigate all signs of political unrest, which basically meant republican ideas in the German states. That’s when the Humboldt educational reforms started to become attacked in Germany and other places in Europe and many of these people ended up leaving Europe and going to the United States. So the United States was actually getting a real cultural upshift from the fact that the best minds of Europe were leaving, although it wasn’t helping out the European situation.
Cooper is very much in the middle of this cultural warfare, this fight for proper education towards proper cultural ideals which can then qualify themselves to be upholders of the principles of a fair and just republic.
By 1824, Cooper’s second novel, “The Spy” is published in Germany and was very popular in Germany and amongst other countries and it is at this point that Cooper becomes the most widely read author in the world! His works were translated into French, German, Spanish, Polish, Italian, Russian, Persian, Hungarian, and more. He wrote over 40 novels, innumerable essays and letters. It’s thus interesting that so many people today, especially Americans, don’t really know very much about Cooper, whereas if you talk to a British person or a Russian person, they certainly know their Shakespeare and their Pushkin, that is, they have read and studied each respectively. Unfortunately, Germany as well has lost a lot of its memory around Schiller. So why did this happen? How is it that the most widely read writer in the world not that long ago, has hardly any memory of his works in his own home country?
As we were discussing earlier on, everything was resting on the shoulders of Marquis de Lafayette to set up this republic in France, and when the time comes where everything is right for this to happen, he ends up supporting Louis Phillippe as King instead of establishing a republic! As the story goes, Lafayette and Louis Phillippe go out onto the balcony to greet all of the people who are calling for a republic and for Lafayette to be the first president of France. Lafayette then proceeds to announce “Here’s the King we needed. It’s the best of republics” and he hugs Louis Phillippe.
There is a story behind this that I don’t have enough time to go into, but all to say is that Lafayette had always been torn between this romantic idea of monarchy and aristocracy, him also having been born from aristocracy, and this idea of what is a form of government that is best suited for upholding the general welfare of all in the most natural and humane way.
Cooper was in Germany when this happened and had recognized at once that Lafayette had made a horrendous error in allowing Louis Phillippe to be made King rather than establishing an American-modeled Republic on the spot. Cooper attempted to salvage the situation but by December, Lafayette who had been promised by Phillippe that he was going to have a certain amount of responsibility in this new government under Louis Phillippe was quickly ousted. It was a total embarrassment that Lafayette had supported this man as King when there had clearly never been any intention on the part of Phillippe to honor any of the promises he had made to Lafayette.
In a letter to Peter Jay, John Jay’s son, Cooper writes of the lost opportunity, “For a few days the old veteran [Lafayette] held the fate of France in his single hand.” And dropped it… In this same letter Cooper continues:
Despite large failures around the whole French situation and the European situation in general, Cooper was one of the founders of the American Bible Society, and among its members would be those who later influenced Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Republic of China. So, major success on that side of things.
Unfortunately, by 1813 many of the republican revolts in Europe were being crushed. The fall of that year, after seven years in Europe, Cooper returns to the United States and is very shocked to see how much the situation has deteriorated within the United States itself. At this point, almost all of the first generation of people who made up the founding father legacy of the United States had either been killed or had died of old age and there was now a wave of opposition that was trying to undo the works of the founding fathers and the republican principles and to again return to a sort of oligarchical rule. The British still had a great many of its tentacles in this but there were also Americans that were beginning to support an anti-republican system.
When Cooper returned, among the serious problems were the British directed South Carolina secession movement and President Andrew Jackson’s destruction of the dirigiste economic system of the country, one of the reasons why Alexander Hamilton was murdered – so that could happen. [For more on this history see my paper “The Shaping of a World Religion: From Jesuits, Freemasons & Anthropologists to MK Ultra & the Counter-Culture Movement PART III.]
Because Cooper was the most widely read author in the world, the British and American press (the former largely owned by British subjects) began to attack him in the mid-1830s, as well as the European press, printing vicious diatribe. Typical was a review of his novel “The Monikins” – “It is a mass of husks and garbage, and has disgraced the country,” one wrote. A review of a commentary written by Sir Walter Scott’s son-in law (Sir Walter Scott was an opponent of Cooper in cultural warfare), read, “Lockhart showed potent causticity in exposing the gangrene of Cooper’s mind in its most foul and diseased state.” Name-calling was not enough; Cooper was lied about, misquoted, and distorted in the newspapers. He counterattacked and made a series of libel suits numbering in the dozens and he won it seems every case, even putting some of the newspapers out of business.
It got to be such a big thing that it became known as “Cooper’s War against the Press.” Cooper wrote his thoughts on this:
An insightful commentary that is not irrelevant in describing the situation of the American press today…
It is at this point that we can finally get into “The Bravo”. Cooper believed that the actual monarchy system of Europe was dead only a semblance of it remained and what dominated Europe was a financial oligarchy determined to maintain its feudal order against the American-led republican movement. It was this activity and study which led Cooper to write his three novels placed in European settings, to which “The Bravo” is one of them and will be our focus today.
In this story, Cooper focuses on the irrational, lawless character of the oligarchical mind and the struggle between oligarchy and republicanism. He wrote “The Bravo” in 1830, the year of the failure of the second French Revolution. The story is focused on Venice, who as we will see, calls itself a Republic. However, as we investigate what kind of a republic Venice is, we quickly realise that it is very different from what you might expect a republic should consist of. Venice was a very powerful empire in fact, and it’s interesting that Shakespeare and Schiller also made studies of Venice in their works. Cooper, the leading literary figure of America also chose to make a study on Venice. So there is something about Venice…
At the very beginning of “The Bravo,” Cooper makes some of his thoughts known in terms of his intention for writing this:
So the primary points he is making here are ‘what is going to be defining a republic’ and this question of whether you can have an oligarchy or an aristocracy based on merit or a democracy, with some thinking democracy more akin to that of a mob-rule. So you can see that all of these forms have problems in of themselves and that of popular opinion, since you don’t want a secret government, you want your people to have some role, to have some voice in giving feedback as to whether the system is just or not. You shouldn’t just rely on the judgement of a small grouping to always decide what is best without them hearing, at least considering, what are the thoughts of the people. But how do we enable it such that popular opinion doesn’t become the actual corrupter? So the voice of the people can be used to actually intervene on corruption or it can be the very corrupting force itself.
Before we go further into “The Bravo,” a few words on Venice. As you can see from the map below Venice is located along the coast of Italy and it is actually situated in a swamp region.
You can see from the picture to the right that it is actually an island, in a marsh-swamp area where you can have ships that go through it but it was apparently very difficult to access so it offered them a lot of protection from any kind of military invasion. And they didn’t have too much of a focus in organizing a large army for themselves directly, because of the geographical location that they were in.
Other areas which will be important for us to know about in this story of “The Bravo” is the Naples region, Saint Agata one of the cities talked about is a part of the Naples region, it is also important to take note the location of Rome, Vatican City, and Florence. People should be aware that at the time Venice, actually Venice never got along with Florence, Venice was also very much not get along with Rome and the Church states, including Naples.
Venice was founded in 700 AD, very much a product from the immigration of leading Roman families from the western Roman Empire’s collapse, and became the center of intelligence gathering. Along with their control of the banking system was their ability to utilise intelligence that gave them so much power that they dictated a lot of the wars that were occurring in Europe over this period. [For more on this see my paper “Schiller’s Ghost Seer, Intelligence Methods and a Global Citizenry.“]
Venice was a very powerful banking center of Europe, the Venetian bankers, also called Lombards, began to loot many parts of Europe with usurious loans of 120 to 180 percent interest. The oligarchical families would become extremely rich off of this system and stored much of their family fortune called the fondo within the Basilica of St. Mark, which functioned like a Venetian-state treasury and would absorb the family fortunes of nobles who died without heirs.
That was something that Venice was good at – having plenty of nobles dying without heirs. It was common that these nobles would die of mysterious circumstances or would simply disappear and they were assumed dead but the body never found. The canals of Venice were well known for being full of such bodies, which the murky water kept hidden for the most part, except where the fishermen fished.
Cooper at the beginning of “The Bravo” goes through some lengths to explain to us the system of Venice:
Before we go on I would just like to say that in this lecture in which we have been talking about aristocracy, this concept that you inherit nobility, you are part of the noble class and the fact that you are born into the noble class means that you will get all of these advantages and others will not and can never partake in those advantages in society, including leadership and responsibility because they were not born into the role. That’s the kind of aristocracy that Cooper is intervening on. Cooper was in support of a meritocratic system which is a society where people gain responsibility through their own merit. You prove that you are capable of having such responsibility and you qualify yourself for that. So aristocracy in its true definition, which sometimes the better philosophers will bring it up as such, means ruled by the best. This does not mean you can’t have any sort of inheritance in such a system but that it is really ultimately on the basis of merit that you advance in such a society.
And just quickly what he meant by that senatorial rank is that if you were born a noble, an aristocrat, you automatically qualified to being a senator so only the nobility could be senators and they automatically were, whether they liked it or not.
Venice at this point is already in a sort of collapsing state and those that are governing it are even partially aware of this. One of the ways in which they were able to continue for as long as they did was that they were in constant wars and they were taking over provinces and they were looting and plundering those provinces, as most cases of empire in which you become reliant on parasitical tendencies. On top of this you had the corrupting financial interests, to which the Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare was written to address this Venetian problem.
Again to keep in mind, we have the Council of 300, we have the Council of Ten, and the Council of Three and the Doge. And all of this is supposed to be forms of election, even the Doge is elected, though it is largely pageantry as Cooper says, a mannequin king so to speak with no real power, very much like how presidents of so-called “republics” function nowadays unfortunately.
So there is very much the mimicry of the form of the Roman Republic but as we will see there is something that completely violates any concept that just because these things are so-called elections that they must be fair and not in fact a usurpation of power.
Everyone is getting voted in by the Senate but the Senate is made up of members who were born into the aristocracy so if you have a system that is decaying and becoming ever more corrupt you can see how the Senate, which is not being voted in but rather they are born into this role, and this is what is supposed to upholding the justice and the fairness of the appointments that follow afterwards, it is a very flawed system.
When it comes to the Council of Three, they are apparently not elected but rather are chosen by “chance”, their names are drawn by lot and only they are aware of their selection for the position along with some of the more permanent officers of the government. Even with the Council of Three, who works in secret, it is clear that there is something even higher than this Council of Three, which are the permanent officers of the government and they are the only other people who know of the identity of the Council of Three.
Thus, the highest office of power is a completely secretive one.
The Doge rules for life and is appointed to that position, he does not inherit it. But it is the Council of Three that really holds power. As Cooper showcases in “The Bravo”, the Doge always has to look to someone asking for permission whenever he is in a position where he might go off script, so he’s really not in any position of power and he’s aware of it as well, that his station is more that of pageantry.
Thus, these three high stations of power are supposed to be chosen by “chance” and three men are selected as temporary rulers.
You could say at first glance that this does indeed resemble the system of the Roman Republic, in that the Doge is elected and does not inherit his position, he serves for life but is restricted in his power by the councils who in turn have a turnover and are not made up of permanent members, and the Senate in turn is in place to check these powers from the councils. One could think this system had a balance of power and because no person can seemingly hold on to absolute power for very long, would protect its members of government from corruption and the desire to usurp power.
However, as Cooper makes the point, such a system as the Venetian Republic could only uphold justice if it consisted of the most infallible virtue and of infinite intelligence, infinite wisdom to use such power in a responsible manner.
These men who enter these stations of power, win it by double chance, or as Cooper says “double accident” of an aristocratic birth followed by lottery.
Returning to the above quote, just to be clear, the word expediency means the quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper or immoral, a sort of convenience. Cooper is making the point that it is expediency that truly rules over the state of Venice and not the laws of God.
Venice thus largely looks like the model of a “Deep State” rather than a true republic, where you have secret power at the highest seats. In such a system, how are you supposed to hold individuals accountable for their actions? You cannot hold the Council of Three accountable during their term, you cannot even do so afterwards since you never knew their identities. Rather, the higher your station, the more impossible it becomes for anyone below you to hold you accountable for anything. However, the point should also be made that no aristocrat had the power to change the system, for the Venetian system was considered to be above any individual and thus everyone within it was considered ultimately expendable to that system.
Thus, Venice was very much in praise of its own loftiness and its high upholding of morality and so forth, while at the same time saying that expediency was its primary interest.
Some things people should be aware of, the below left picture is the ‘Mouth of the Lion.’ Anyone who wanted to do a secret denunciation of another person could write their message and put it into the mouth of the statue and it would be read by the Council of Three. This was a way for them to also gather intelligence and it was a way for people to self-police so you couldn’t trust anyone. Cooper makes the point that what the government has as a standard for itself is going to be what largely influences the bulk of your citizenry. Thus, because the government was so secretive, the people in turn upheld the right for secrecy. So they actually thought of it as a right and it was common for people to walk around with masks over their faces if they wished their identities to be withheld from whatever action that they were involved in.
The sense of the individual identity of the oligarch is entirely located in the social structure of the oligarchy itself. Universal principles, or law, neither define the individual’s self-conception nor even any internally defined purpose, it’s all about upholding this oligarchical structure. Thus, for the oligarch, since there is no universal or higher purpose to their individual life, no obligations to principles, law or justice – nothing, no matter how bestial and obscene is forbidden. Masks worn by Venetians to disguise the perpetrator while the act is permitted and condoned. What a hypocrisy!
This is another thing about Cooper’s “The Bravo,” which is another word for “assassin,” as we will meet the Bravo in Cooper’s tale, Jacopo, everyone is horrified when they see the Bravo walking down the streets because people view him as someone who is condemned and is seen as a representative of the greatest degree of villainy. And yet, the people having this sort of judgement of the Bravo, it is a double standard because anyone who was found out to be hiring the Bravo for whatever horrendous acts, those people were considered clean. There wasn’t a consideration that if you were hiring the Bravo, that that was a mark of stain on you, but the Bravo was regarded as tainted for the act. So, another funny hypocrisy that was prevalent in Venetian society.
Oligarchy as defined in this context, the Venetian Republic, is very much like how we’re also defining aristocracy, as the idea that you think you should be able to rule no matter what and that you have inherited rights for this and that it is your “natural” right to usurp power over another of lower station in society. However, the term “oligarchy” in its general definition is simply to be ruled by a small grouping of people, which is not necessarily a bad system, but rather depends on how you organise such a government, it does not necessitate a recognition of inherited rights, but can be a system based off of merit as judged by a moral and just standard. This also goes for the term “aristocracy,” this can refer to either a privileged station in society in which one was simply born into and inherits or it can mean again those who have shown themselves to exemplify the best qualities through merit, again by a moral and just standard, to be ruled by the best. Thus, depending on what one is using to define such terms, we can have very different results and outcomes.
Don Camillo Monforte is visiting Venice from Sant’ Agata, which is located in Naples, because he has family inheritance that he’s trying to claim in Venice. The inheritance is being withheld and he knows that part of the reason why is because he has connections with the Vatican, his uncle is the Cardinal Secretary and thus Monforte has a certain protection from the Vatican. Venice doesn’t want to deal with Monforte in the way they would typically deal in such situations, which is to assassinate him, because there would be a reaction from Rome and even Florence over the manhandling of Monforte. Unfortunately due to the time constraint, I won’t be going over Monforte’s story but focusing on just Jacopo’s story.
Jacopo we have already briefly introduced and will discuss more shortly.
Senator Gradenigo is a member of the Council of Three and was chosen to be the caretaker of a young noblewoman, Violetta, by the state and she will be in that situation until she is married.
Father Anselmo is a priest of Sant’ Agata stationed in Venice, he acts in many ways as a witness for God in this supposedly Christian republic which is constantly violating God’s laws.
Antonio is a fisherman from the Lagunes, we will hear more about him shortly.
Violetta is an orphaned young noblewoman from a very rich family the House of Tiepolo who somehow has been saved by Monforte after she is left stranded when her Uncle falls into some sort of trouble in Florence. She already has feelings for him, they both like each other. She is the daughter of the famed deceased Senator of Tiepolo, who is one of the few it seems, honorable men of Venice and likely this family has been slowly killed off, because Violetta is the last of the House of Tiepolo. Again, due to time constraints, I won’t be going over Violetta’s story, both Monforte and Violetta are a separate story that is occuring in tandem with Jacopo’s story.
In the above image you have Father Anselmo standing up in the boat and Antonio the fisherman. The fishermen were of the poorest class in Venice. Antonio has fought in the wars for Venice, he has sacrificed a lot and has lost his own son to these wars. He adopted a boy at a very young age who was the son of one of his fisherman friends who also died in these wars. He raised this boy as his own, he’s 14 years old and the state has taken this boy to work in the galleys of the ships. Anyone who is familiar with the life of someone who works in the galleys, it is normally something that was tasked to a slave or a criminal, it’s one of the worst environments to be in and the state forcefully sent this 14 year old boy there.
Antonio is pleading with the state to release this boy back into his custody and at least wait until this boy is an adult before they subject him to this. Basically, Antonio knows that such a life in the galleys will corrupt the boy, the boy is too young and pure right now to be in such an environment.
Despite his low station in Venetian society, Antonio is not an unhappy person, and he’s not thinking to overthrow this system, that is very unjust and unfair, he is not unhappy with his situation of poverty or the humility of his station, he’s content enough with these things, it is really just when the boy is taken that he says that he can’t suffer that level of injustice.
Jacopo’s father is actually a friend of Antonio, they fought in the war together. Antonio looks at Jacopo as a fallen man from grace, he sells his services to commit murder for money, but as Antonio goes through this tough time, it is only Jacopo who is there for him and offers him support.
One example of this was during a gondola (boat) race. It is considered a very prestigious race in Venice and Antonio enters the race because he knows that if he wins he can have a private appearance in front of the Doge.
Jacopo, who is considered the best gondolier of all of Venice, does it in such a way that he helps Antonio win the race, Antonio gets gold and Jacopo gets silver.
Pretty much all of Venice is present to watch this race and the Doge wants to award Antonio with this gold ore necklace, but Antonio says he does not want it and the Doge says right, we will exchange it for money to give to you. Antonio expresses that he would rather a favor and requests the release of the 14-year-old boy. And this causes a bit of a stir in Venice. When you usurp power unjustly, you tend to be the most paranoid of losing such power, because there is a certain awareness that it could all fall apart at any moment if it’s exposed for the real corruption and violation of power that it is. And Antonio is that simple disruptor of the illusion of justice that Venice pretends to uphold, simple but pure. Antonio doesn’t want anarchy, he doesn’t want power or influence, he doesn’t even want revenge, he just wants them to take back an action that they have already done. But Venice never does that. Venice never admits that it is at fault.
The people of Venice are at first cursing and are despising Antonio on just how he looks, he is a poor man and they are offended by his look of poverty. This already tells you a bit of the sort of society this is, where they don’t blame the arbitrators of the injustice, they blame the victims. But once Antonio wins the race, the Venetian society has not sunk so low that they are unmoved by truly noble and great acts, and thus Antonio earns the respect of a lot of Venetians once he wins the race. He, already a voice of influence amongst the fishermen, is now gaining a voice with the general Venetian public. And thus the council is starting to get very concerned about Antonio but they cannot do any sort of obvious assassination since this would reflect very badly on them with Antonio now in the public eye.
Jacopo continues to help Antonio and even accompanies him when Antonio is summoned to speak in front of the Council of Three (they wear masks at this meeting) and instructs him on how to speak to them. This should strike us as a little funny, why is this seemingly cold-blooded killer so interested in this man all of a sudden that he never had any relationship to before, and why is he moved by the case Antonio is putting forward?
Prior to the scene depicted in the above image, Jacopo goes up to Antonio and offers him food and drink, since Antonio hadn’t fished that day and he is that poor that he lives day to day, and eats what he catches that day. But Antonio refuses Jacopo’s offer and says they were bought with blood money. Jacopo insists that Antonio has nothing to fear for they were not bought with blood money, but Antonio doesn’t believe him and would rather go hungry.
In the next scene Priest Anselmo, who is also part of the caretaker group of Violetta, he’s brought in from the state, the Venetian police, to talk to Antonio while he is sitting in his boat. There seems to be a bit of confusion, Priest Anselmo thought he was giving confession to a criminal and hears out Antonio’s real story and blesses him. When Priest Anselmo returns to his boat, controlled by the Venetian police, Jacopo’s boat remains tied to their vessel and as they depart they remove the boat from underneath Antonio and drag it back to the shoreline, leaving Antonio to drown. Jacopo who went into the distance upon seeing the approach of the Venetian police, sees Antonio drowning and rushes to save him but is too late and Antonio drowns.
His body is found by the fishermen the next day and it causes quite a stir, they have his corpse and they are bringing it to the city to present it before the Doge. They know it was the state who killed him, but typical to a mob mentality, they lose this opportunity for qualitative change. The death of Antonio in many ways has parallels to the death of Lucretia, in the sense that it causes this huge stir from the population of Venice and is the last straw, that causes people to just break under the mountain of injustice that is constantly occurring in the system.
However, in this case it is a mob that doesn’t have a leader and it ultimately doesn’t have the level of understanding to withstand the sophistry that the state responds with. Thus, quickly the mob, which is more concerned not with a qualitative change but rather revenge, is easily tricked by the state into thinking that it was Jacopo who actually killed Antonio, even though they knew this was very unlikely but nevertheless allowed themselves to be swayed by the state.
The fact that the state killed Antonio shows the kind of weakness that the state has, that they couldn’t suffer to have an Antonio speaking his mind constantly because that would have caused too many cracks in their system, it was that fragile at that point, that the system could no longer defend and justify itself with an Antonio walking around with his very pure and simple demand for justice. But that purity was the most important thing.
In Venice, the people who are not born nobles (that is part of the aristocracy) are not taught hardly anything, so most of them don’t know how to read. Jacopo doesn’t know how to read, Antonio doesn’t know how to read. So they don’t have any education except for their life experience.
In the case of the nobility, Cooper talks about how their education has become very corrupted to its very core, so that these people who are born not bad people, are constantly being corrupted by their entourage and it’s thought that it is a necessity to do this. And that’s the real tragedy of this system, along with a people, a citizenry, that are also convinced that such a twisting of moral education is a necessary thing for the state. Cooper demonstrates this in the below quote:
Jacopo has been walking around the city in public as a Bravo for three years and it’s getting to a point where everybody is calling for his head. It’s become convenient for the state as well to call for Jacopo’s head, who they were conveniently ignoring for three years and everyone was a little confused as to why they were ignoring it. Jacopo is arrested and we should know that his father, who was friends with Antonio the fisherman, has actually been in prison for all of these years. Everybody thought he was dead, Antonio also thought that Jacopo’s father was dead. The state claims that he went missing, however, he was in fact imprisoned on false charges of stealing funds.
In this below scene Jacopo is confessing to the Priest Anselmo in his prison cell and we are told for the first time Jacopo’s actual story, that Jacopo, along with his mother and sister, had presented evidence to the court that the father was in fact innocent of these crimes:
So Jacopo thought his father was in exile, but then the state allows him access to see his father in prison, he doesn’t know why. The priest answers:
So we find out that Jacopo is in fact not an assassin! The state threatened that they would torture Jacopo’s father if he didn’t agree to serve the state as their secret agent and allowed for his public display as a Bravo, which normally that never happens – Bravos do not gallivant publicly but hide their identities. Jacopo accepted that he would take the blame of all of the assassinations that were going on, which were in fact being executed by the very state.
All of the corruptions, the worst types of crimes that were happening in Venice, Jacopo agreed to be the subject of gossip and for the blame to fall on him, to which the state would then manipulate the emotions of the people and have their hatred focus on this one object rather than the system itself. Jacopo agreed to this under threat that his father would otherwise be tortured, and with the hope that they would eventually free his father if satisfied with his services.
Jacopo is explaining that when the anger of the people would reach to peak the state would direct their anger to other things, when their hatred of Jacopo grew too faint, it was fanned, fueled by the state. Thus, it was believed that for the status quo, despite such corruptions and injustices, the people could be held in a relatively stable state as long as their object of hate was controlled, it could thus be manipulated and measured.
Jacopo’s reference to “this innocent” is a young, very innocent and good-hearted girl, about 15 years of age, Gessamina, the daughter of the prison keeper. She is really the one who handles the keys in the prison and has been by Jacopo’s side all of these years in his visits to his father.
Jacopo is scheduled to be executed the next day, Priest Anselmo was there to hear his last confession. That evening Priest Anselmo and Gessamina go to the Doge to plead Jacopo’s case. The Doge didn’t actually know anything about this and we can see (as the audience) as Anselmo and Gessamina are leaving the room, that the Doge is turning to his handler, pleading with his handler with the expression of “can we please intervene!” for the sake of Jacopo. Even the Doge is moved by this story, but of course, it is not up to the Doge what happens.
The next day Jacopo is on the executioner’s stage, his head is on the chopping block but Gessamina and the priest are still optimistic that there is going to be an intervention last minute to spare Jacopo’s life. Gessamina makes a beautiful speech to the mob, who is waiting to see the so-called “monster” Jacopo executed thinking somehow everything will be rosy after that and their lives will be fantastic in Venice.
So Gessamina does this beautiful speech and Father Anselmo thinks he sees the Doge making a sign from his window to spare Jacopo’s life and Gessamina in her glee turns around to see this and she is greeted with Jacopo’s head rolling down the stairs. Jacopo has been killed and the mob is satisfied with this, totally apathetic to the pleas of the priest and Gessamina and everybody goes about their way.
Cooper ends “The Bravo” with these lines:
Cooper makes a very big point that it’s not just the failure of the leaders of the Venetian society, the oligarchy, but it’s also the failure of the people themselves who also defend and justify such a system. And it was the people as well, who were probably aware on some level, that Jacopo couldn’t have possibly been responsible for all of the injustice of Venice but everyone was willing to put the blame on Jacopo and have him die for their crimes.
So again, to make the point that nations and cultures are destroyed not ultimately by evil leaders but by wrong or false beliefs adopted as popular opinion by that nation’s population. Should such false beliefs hold sway it will lead to the collapse of that entire society. So this concept of liberty, this concept of responsibility had become warped at a certain point and this secrecy as well, which is part of this very corrupting influence on the idea of liberty, that you should have such liberty that your identity should even be secret for the actions that you commit so you can have the most “freedom” possible, it’s the ultimate corrupter and the people also celebrated that. It was for that reason that such a system was able to continue for as long as it did.
I would think that we see a lot of similarities with the Venetian society and societies that exist today and how the people choose to allow themselves to be governed.
So that is the ultimate failing of a society, that in times of emergency, that is, crisis, there is an inability to even have the capability to recognize the qualities of the most honest, the most noble and the most wise. That the understanding of a simple morality, learned from a degenerate education system, has become so corrupted that the people are completely blind and are unable to recognize these qualities.
Lincoln would say these words, which I think are very much at the core of this lecture and Cooper’s life mission. He spoke these words below in a debate with the slave power’s champion Stephen Douglas:
And again, recall the words of Ben Franklin “a Republic if you can keep it.” Thus, this question of upholding the moral condition of the society is at the very core of what allows a republic to really function at its best. And this right of sovereignty means that the people must uphold it to a certain degree, but it’s also the form of education that we have such that we can choose the best with the most clear vision, I guess you could say, the best can be naturally selected upon in our society and we recognize them for their qualities.
I would say that the biggest victory Cooper helped to form, with the Lincoln success, was the Centennial Exhibition, which was opened on May 10th, 1876, in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. There were over 10 million people who came from around the world to this exhibit from 37 participating countries to share in certain breakthroughs that were happening in the industrial revolution. It was meant to organize for proper republicanism and against forms of empire and monarchy.
So parting thoughts, and thank you all for your patience, I just want to end with some words by Schiller in his essay “Theater Considered as a Moral Institution” which I think is going to be a beautiful way to end this class:
What Schiller is saying here, is that the world we live in is an imperfect world but the world we envision is always going to be more perfect than what we can execute in reality, and sometimes you can get really bogged down by all of the imperfections that have built up in the society that we are born into or find ourselves within but it is through drama that we are freed from those types of shackles, we are brought back to ourselves where our natural desire to not see injustice succeed is reawakened in us. These are good things especially for our youth, to have these reinstilled such that we can have change that is more akin with such noble ideals.
Cynthia Chung is the President of the Rising Tide Foundation and author of the book “The Empire on Which the Black Sun Never Set,” consider supporting her work by making a donation and subscribing to her substack page Through A Glass Darkly.
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