April 13, 2004


What a pleasant surprise. James Tertius de Kay's book, A Rage for Glory: The Life of Commodore Stephen Decatur, USN, is a more gripping read than the Ian Fleming novels I've recently been working my way through. I particularly enjoyed Lieutenant Decatur's speech to his crewmen before setting out in the U.S.S. Essex in the Summer of 1801 to enforce Thomas Jefferson's policy of opposing the Barbary pirates:

COMRADES -- We are now about to embark upon an expedition which may terminate in our sudden deaths, our perptetual slavery, or our immortal glory. The event is left for futurity to determine. The first quality of a good seaman, is, personal courage, -- the second, obedience to orders, -- the third, fortitude under sufferings; to thsee may be added, an ardent love of country. I need say no more -- I am confident you possess them all.

Like the country that produced its speaker, this statement in itself was revolutionary, as de Kay notes: "The members of the crew, stunned to hear themselves addressed as equals -- an absolutely unheard of departure for a naval officer -- roared their approval."

Posted by Ideofact at April 13, 2004 11:58 PM

Thanks for the recommendation.
I was just down in Washington DC last weekend, and paid a visit to the Decatur house museum. This will be a timely read.

Posted by: David Nishimura at April 15, 2004 01:55 PM

I am not only tempted to link, again, to my prior posts on Decatur (read them, dude), but to work on a biography of him.

(Still love your work, by the way.)

Posted by: Gary Farber at April 17, 2004 01:09 AM