The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec)
July 10, 2004 Saturday Final Edition
SECTION: Weekend: Arts & Books; Pg. H4
HEADLINE: The Jesuits helped shape the modern world
BYLINE: PETER STOCKLAND
Adventure, Politics, Intrigue and Power - a History
of the Jesuits
By Jonathan Wright
Doubleday, 337 pages, $39.95
A book that opens with a long-dead Jesuit having his baby toe bitten off as an act of piety might not seem like every reader's cup of tea.
How many North Americans, after all, have much interest in the history of a Roman Catholic organization known far more widely for the apocrypha its name evokes than for the facts of its existence?
OK, blockbuster novelist Dan Brown proved with The Da Vinci Code that it's possible to sell millions of books with a potboiler plot based on half-truth, suspicion and paranoia about Opus Dei, the contemporary Catholic movement sometimes considered the successor to the Jesuits.
But an actual history written by a university-certified historian? A detailed, honest-to-God account of a 470-year-old religious society based on research and original documents? By itself, the subtitle of Jonathan Wright's new book raises the daunting questions: a) will there be footnotes? and b) will we have to read them?
Yes, there are notes aplenty at the back of God's Soldiers. Yes, it's entirely possible to cruise through the text without reference to them. Wright is a historian with a doctorate from Oxford, but he's also a storyteller with a craftsman's touch of the pen. Erudition and narrative deftness coalesce to marry factual rigour with the wildest of adventure stories.
Wright rightly regards the story of the Society of Jesus as a motif for the unfolding of modern Western society during the last five centuries. The Jesuits emerged from the immediate aftermath of the theological earthquake caused by Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Much more, they became the offspring of newly fecund modernity.
The point is made early on that Ignatius Loyola hardly intended the society he founded with a few friends to become the vanguard of Catholic counterreformation. A Spanish soldier whose right leg was shattered by French cannonballs at Pamplona in 1521, Loyola and his friends chose the tactical route of shoring up Catholic devotion in individual hearts rather than engaging in the grand strategic sweep of saving Europe from Luther's unleashed hordes.
As Wright puts it: "(T)he spirituality they espoused was not envisaged as some counterblast to Protestant heresy; it was firmly rooted in the medieval devotia moderna tradition."
Yet within a dozen years, the Jesuit mission was inextricably part of what historian Paul Johnson has called the birth of the modern. Evangelization, under the Jesuit impulse, had the modern characteristic of being equal parts education, science, politics, newfound mobility and persecution - inexhaustible persecution.
At our tag end of the modern project, it is boilerplate to blame religious faith as a primary source of humanity's cruelty. It is sobering to be reminded, as Wright reminds readers so effectively, of the centuries of inhuman torment inflicted on Jesuit missionaries and, for a time, on the Society itself. Christianity makes for a convenient cultural scapegoat, but the Jesuit martyrs are testimony to the darkness that could be found in the pre-Christian as much as the post-Christian heart.
At least the Portuguese noblewoman who bit off Francis Xavier's fifth toe in the anecdote that opens the book had the decency to wait until he was a corpse lying on a slab in Goa. Other Jesuits, as Wright details, were not so lucky. By the hundreds, if not thousands, they were tortured, hacked, burned and butchered in all corners of the globe simply for daring to proclaim their faith in the face of local or tribal hostility.
Among the most compelling sections of God's Soldiers is Wright's account of the mistreatment of the Jesuits at the hands of their own European tribes during the suppression, and ultimate liquidation, of the Society in the mid-18th century. The account reads like a macabre prefiguring of the techniques of oppression used two decades later to such hideous effect in the French Revolution and two centuries later in the totalitarian exterminations conducted by Hitlerites, Stalinists and Maoists.
Of course, the Jesuits did rise again to soldier on, much as humanity itself has done in emerging from the previous century's death camps, gulags and killing fields.
Wright seems guardedly optimistic the Society will endure for some time yet.
Peter Stockland is The Gazette's editor in chief.
The Boston Globe
November 10, 1989, Friday, City Edition
HEADLINE: From the old school;
Groton-St. Mark's steeped in tradition, perspective
BYLINE: By John Powers, Globe Staff
They met for the first time on Mr. Thayer's meadow in Lancaster on a Wednesday afternoon in 1886. The Grotties came down on the 12:29 train ("Now and then Jay would favor us with a solo on the fish-horn"); the St. Markers piled atop a horse-drawn barge at Clinton.
Tomorrow afternoon on a rectangular patch of this Tudor spread, the Lion (St. Mark's) plays the Zebra (Groton) a game of foot-ball for the 100th time.
The Grotties will be wearing the same horizontally striped jerseys they sported a century ago. The St. Markers will be garbed in their traditional blue. The haze and scent from the Friday night bonfire will still be in the air, and the gridiron will be surrounded by students, parents and Old Boys standing five deep outside a rope.
It was much the same in 1905 when Hamilton Fish was a young Lion, playing across from many of his social chums. He may have gone on to make All-American at Harvard, win a national championship and stop Jim Thorpe in his tracks. But what still galls him after eight decades are those four losses to the Zebra. "We never did beat them," says Fish, now 101 and recently remarried. "That's what upsets me."
The results of other, lesser Saturdays will fade. But Groton-St. Mark's endures across generations. "I was talking to a friend on the team about that," says St. Mark's captain David Paquette. "And he said that a lot of people will remember their football career here by whether we win or lose this game."
Groton coach Jake Congleton recalls one season when the only victory came against St. Mark's. "I couldn't convince our players that it wasn't a wonderful season," he says. "I said, 'Hey, you only won one game.' "
If Groton loses tomorrow, it will scarcely matter that they won four other games. If St. Mark's wins, nobody will remember that they were thwacked by Governor Dummer last week. It's been that way for both sides since that first Wednesday 103 years ago.
"The St. Mark's game made or broke the season," remembers former Gov. Endicott (Chub) Peabody, who captained the 1937 team and whose grandfather founded Groton. "If we won, we'd carry The rector around the circle in a big Oriental-style chair which had handles fore and aft. There'd be a bonfire and terrific cheers for each member of the team. It was glorious. But when you lost, you came home to darkness - and a long winter ahead."
Two years out of every three, it's been bonfires and backslapping for the Grotties, who've won 61 of the 99 games and tied 4. They've earned the luxury of having a postgame ritual. The St. Markers, who've won only twice since 1978, schedule their bonfire and Victory Wagon procession for Friday. Optimism has always been a prime virtue in Southborough.
For years, the St. Mark's students and faculty, led by the headmaster's wife, did a snake dance on the eve of the game, chanting, "Oh me, oh my, how we'll black old Peabo's eye," even as they conceded the heavy odds against them.
Peabo was The Rector himself, and he tormented the Lion from the first game on Mr. Thayer's makeshift gridiron, when he suited up in striped jersey and stocking cap and played alongside his boys.
Another Groton master, William Greenough Thayer, lined up alongside Peabody that day, and the pair duly intimidated the Lion's spindly volunteers. "The former was very lively, the latter very large," observed the St. Mark's school history.
Thayer, who later became headmaster at St. Mark's, scored one Groton touchdown, Peabody provided the other "by a very pretty rush," and the Zebra ruled, 10-2. The next year, St. Mark's refused to play if Groton used masters. Memories of the strapping 6-foot Rector and the lively Thayer trampling 125-pound fourth-formers were still fresh.
When play resumed in 1888, new rules applied - no more than two masters per side and none over 150 pounds. Thus was The Rector squelched. Yet Groton still won, 52-0, the worst flogging of the series, and dominated for years.
St. Mark's didn't win a game until 1894, when Hamilton Fish Benjamin scored three touchdowns and found himself immortalized in verse in the school newspaper: "Fish Benjamin of Southborough/A mighty oath he swore/That the great school of St. Mark's/Should see defeat no more."
Most seasons, the Zebra was simply larger and heavier than the Lion and played the game according to Peabody's manly taste - "very straight football, without guile." When St. Mark's ran a reverse one year, the shocked Rector deemed it immoral.
It wasn't immorality, it was desperation. For five years at the start of the century, the Lion couldn't even manage a point. The game was a religion at Groton - until relatively recently, every student had to play at least a year of football. Down at Southborough, it was more a diversion.
As early as 1887, the St. Mark's school newspaper was lamenting the number of promising athletes who preferred skating: "Now, as this is the foot-ball season, let us ask those fellows who play hockey to stop and play foot-ball instead."
Victories over the Zebra were cherished because they were comparatively rare. John Marquand's novel "The Second Happiest Day" refers to a wedding day. The happiest was a victory over the Grotties.
Any St. Marker can reel off the most memorable ones. The 15-13 decision which capped the unbeaten 1947 season. The 41-13 shocker in 1951, when Potter Palmer flung scoring passes to Paul D.G. Munger, playing his first and only game as a Lion. The 20-7 uprising which ruined Groton's unbeaten season in 1956. Bill McCardless' last-minute field goal in 1971 that ended six years of emptiness.
And the 22-14 sting two years ago, when a JV back named Marvin Lao was pressed into service and scored a touchdown. "Everyone was ecstatic," says Paquette. "Our hope came true."
The Class of 1988 had never come close to beating Groton. For most of them, it was a victory to retire on. The majority of the players who suit up tomorrow will never play in college. Most of those who do will be at Division 3 schools like Amherst and Hamilton and Williams. If they play for an Ivy school, it will most likely be 150-pound football at a Princeton or a Pennsylvania.
The Lion and the Zebra are not in the business of stocking rosters at scholarship colleges. They have produced a handful of All-Americans - Fish, Peabody and Be Bradlee at Harvard, Truxton Hare at Penn - but all but one played before the Great War.
Groton now has the smallest male enrollment (157 in grades 9-12) in the Independent School League, St. Mark's the third smallest (179). Groton has 38 players in all, St. Mark's barely more than 40. All of them will dress tomorrow, and the coaches will make a point of getting every senior into the game.
The gridiron is merely an extension of the classroom. The head coaches - Congleton at Groton, Henry Large at St. Mark's - are both history teachers who happen to coach football. Congleton has had the job since 1958 (with two years off on sabbatical), Large since 1965. They are not expected to win. They are expected to motivate, to challenge, to teach. "The only way kids learn is to dare," says Large. "To extend themselves."
These are Episcopal church schools founded in the last century (St. Mark's in 1865, Groton in 1884) and grounded in the values of the English public schools. Thus reads Groton's Original Announcement: "Every endeavor will be made to cultivate manly Christian character."
Books, chapel and vigorous exercise were the indivisible trinity at both schools, and football was played according to a gentlemanly code. Even though Groton used two masters to subdue the Lion in that first game, the St. Mark's newspaper conceded, "We were beaten fairly and squarely."
The game was to be hard but clean, with handshakes and cheers for the rivals afterward. In the athletic offices at both schools, the code is posted still: "Honor visiting teams and spectators as your own guests and treat them as such."
The Lion and the Zebra may be rivals, but they are far from enemies. Congleton and Large are old friends who don't worry much about who's ahead on what ledger. It may be the most important game on the schedule, but Groton-St. Mark's is still only that - a game.
Both schools will still hold classes tomorrow morning, and there'll be other games - football and soccer and field hockey - going on simultaneously. "I'm often asked today, 'Where are all the fans?' " says Groton headmaster Bill Polk, who captained the 1957 varsity. "And I point to all the other fields."
At both Groton and St. Mark's, all students must play a team sport. Back before the schools went coed and before soccer grew in importance, football was the only real option. There were second, third and fourth teams at both places. "The primary challenge for the fourth team," remembers Large, "was keeping their pants up."
The third and fourth teams have gone the way of the snake dance. So has the automatic Monday holiday at St. Mark's when the Lion wins. Nobody's talked about blacking old Peabo's eye for a while now.
"With schools like these, the important thing is to know the difference between a tradition and an anachronism," says St. Mark's headmaster Chris Mably. "We live in a very different society now than when the rivalry began."
The day when both schools were the exclusive preserve of Coolidges and Bundys and Choates from the Brahmin fish ponds of Boston and New York has passed.
Fish and Peabody knew most of the players on the other side of the ball because they'd gone to the same feeder schools and summered at the same resorts. "I don't know any of their players," says Paquette, "and I don't think too many other guys do, either."
Groton and St. Mark's draw from a broad spectrum of classes and races now. More than a third of the student bodies receive some kind of financial aid. Nearly half of each class is female, and black, Hispanic and Asian faces peer out from team photos.
Walk the sidelines tomorrow and you'll see the diversity. "We don't get the tweedy-preppy crowd now," says Congleton, "because we're not a tweedy-preppy school anymore."
Yet some of the tradition endures. Halfback Morgan Dix's Groton roots go back three generations. His father, grandfather and great grandfather are all in the archives.
Few of the players on either side have spent much time rummaging through the lore, but they can sense its presence. "I don't think we know the history that well," says Dix. "But the rivalry is so big."
The rivalry is all around them, from the moment they come through the portals as third-formers. "You walk through the door here," says Large, "and people start talking about Groton."
Pictures of old varsities hang on the library walls. Bound copies of the Grotonian and the Vindex go back more than a century. At Groton, the same man who coaches now also coached the headmaster. He and his assistants have been at the school for a combined 100 years.
When the tower clock creeps past 3, you can still hear Congleton's voice from 100 yards. Today the old captains and coaches and masters will return, and the Lion and the Zebra will grapple once more.
"I told the kids Monday at practice that there'll be a lot of excitement and hoopla," Large says, "but that this game is special not because it's the 100th, but because it's their game."
Sports Illustrated, Nov 5, 1990
A golden oldie, in every way: at age 101, Hamilton Fish is the last of a rare sports breed. Robert H. Boyle.
He was one of the greatest tackles ever to play college football and was a two-time All-America. He is now 101 years old and as tough and spirited as when he fought for Harvard more than 80 years ago.
He is Hamilton Fish, Harvard, class of 1910, the last surviving member of Walter Camp's alltime All-America football team and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. As a Republican member of Congress from 1920 to 1945, Fish again became a nationally known figure, for his vehement opposition to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal.
Fish lives in Cold Spring, N.Y., with his fourth wife, Lydia, 58, a former state corrections officer. After a lengthy correspondence, the always ready to socialize Fish met his wife-to-be in person for the first time at a library reception, and they were married three months short of Fish's 100th birthday, on Sept. 9, 1988. Fish has not lost his zest for politics either, even when it means taking on family members. In 1974, when his son, Hamilton Fish Jr., a Republican member of the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee, voted to impeach President Richard Nixon, Fish was a prominent member of Operation Freedom, which took out ads opposing any prosecution. Twelve years later, when his grandson Ham III ran for the Democratic nomination for Congress, the eldest Fish all but branded Ham III a Communist and announced that he intended to campaign against him. "My grandfather regarded me as he would any political opponent," says Ham III, 38. "I never took it personally."
Fish now wears a hearing aid and gets about with the aid of a walker to offset a bad knee ("Nothing to do with football," he says), but he also has a full-time secretary to help keep his hectic schedule of public engagements. Recently, his calendar for the coming month showed an evening panel discussion at a Connecticut community college, two parades, a reception for the Salvation Army, another speech, a trip to Southborough, Mass., to celebrate the 125th anniversary of St. Mark's, his preparatory school, lunch at the Porcellian Club in Cambridge, Mass., and a class reunion at Harvard.
Five years ago Fish attended his 75th reunion, and as a member of the class of 1910, he confidently expected to lead the parade as the oldest alumnus present. His grandnephew J. Winthrop (Winty) Aldrich was there attending his 20th Harvard reunion, and as Aldrich says, "The scene that followed was vintage Ham Fish. He came upon an infirm, sickly old man clutching a walker and a sign that said 1906. Brandishing his cane at the man with the walker, Uncle Ham shouted, `That man is an imposter! He was behind me!' " It turned out that the man was indeed a member of the class of 1906, but it also proved that trying to upstage Fish is a daunting task for anyone.
Fish had better luck this year at his 80th reunion, though there were again some tense moments. When Harvard president Derek Bok and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany, Ella Fitzgerald and other recipients of honorary degrees began the academic procession, Fish, using his walker, was slow in getting to the lead. As the band started to play and the grand marshal checked his watch, Aldrich decorously transferred Ham Sr., holding his 1910 sign, to a folding chair on top of a dolly and pushed the old man to the head of the line. The band parted like the Red Sea before Moses, and, as Fish wheeled by, Fitzgerald slapped him on the shoulder and exclaimed, "Why, you sweetie pie!"
That might have been the first time Fish has ever been addressed in such a manner. Certainly his opponents on the gridiron or in Congress had other names for him. At St. Mark's, Fish played football for three years, and he is still upset that while he was there his teams never beat archrival Groton.
At Harvard, Fish played right tackle both ways, as was the rule then. In 1907, when he was a sophomore, Harvard won its first seven games, but then lost three straight, to the Carlisle Institute, Dartmouth and Yale. The defeats were blamed on Crimson coach Joshua Crane, and he was replaced for the 1908 season by Percy Haughton, perhaps the greatest coach in Crimson history.
A believer in specialized coaching, Haughton wanted Lieut. Ernest Graves, a West Point graduate then serving in the Corps of Engineers, to coach the line. According to Morris A. Bealle's The History of Football at Harvard, Haughton sent a message to President Theodore Roosevelt to ask that Graves be detached from duty in Washington to coach in Cambridge. The president subsequently wrote a note to Secretary of War William Howard Taft, a Yale man, no less, informing Taft, "I was a Harvard man before I was a politician. Please do what these gentlemen want."
Haughton and Graves built much of the Harvard offense and defense around their right tackle. In 1910, Camp referred to Fish as "a leader of men." On defense Fish was, in Camp's words, "a certain and deadly tackle," while on offense he "was as equally good."
Tackles were then eligible to receive passes, and the combination of senior quarterback John Cutler, who later married Fish's sister, Rosalind, and Fish became a vital part of the Harvard attack. "No man who has been developed since the introduction of the forward pass could equal him at receiving the ball," Camp wrote of the 6 ft. 4 in., 190-pound Fish. "And the stretch of his arms up into the air, as can be readily appreciated, is considerable. Furthermore, he had a way of so planting himself upon his feet that the men whose province was to knock over the man receiving the pass invariably found Fish immovable." Overall, Camp pronounced that Fish was "the best rounded-out of all the tackles that have played that position."
Early in the 1908 season, Harvard captain Francis Burr, an All-America guard and a senior, suffered an injury that ended his football career. Haughton named Fish, a junior, as acting captain. Fish, in turn, named his classmate, John Reed, as the cheerleader, because, he says, "I knew him very well, and I liked him." The archconservative Fish liked Reed's politics less as time went on. After graduating, Reed was reputed to have taught striking workers songs with proletarian lyrics that he had set to the tunes of Harvard fight songs, and he wrote Ten Days That Shook the World, an account of the Russian revolution. When Reed died in Moscow of typhus in 1920, an appreciative Lenin honored him by having his body buried at the Kremlin wall.
In its first five games of the 1908 season, Harvard ran up 93 points and held its opponents scoreless. Then came a 6-6 tie with the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. Despite the tie, Harvard was still in contention for the Ivy League championship, which at that time was tantamount to being national champion. The Crimson beat Brown 6-2 and then faced its biggest test: undefeated, untied Carlisle with a sensational new back, Jim Thorpe.
"Pop Warner was the Carlisle coach," Fish says, "and they believed they were going to win the national championship. Before they played us, they beat Syracuse, a very strong team that year. Pop Warner had sewn the covers from old footballs onto the jerseys of his three backs and two ends so that Syracuse would have a difficult time distinguishing who really had the ball, and they beat Syracuse 12-0. Syracuse was furious. They rang me up, and I called my squad to a meeting. I said, `You are Harvard men, you're supposed to be intelligent, I want you to take the rule book and see if there is anything against putting the cover of a football on the backs and ends.' They came back in the morning, and said, `We can't find anything against it in the rules.' But we had a very fine, intelligent coach in Percy Haughton, and he outsmarted Pop Warner. The home team provided the football, and Percy Haughton had the football colored crimson, the same as our jerseys, and Pop Warner had to send his three backs and two ends back to change their jerseys. We beat Pop Warner's team, and Jim Thorpe, 17-0.
"Thorpe was the best player I ever saw," Fish continues. "He was recognized at the time as the best man, he really was. He could do anything. He had the speed, he had the strength, he had the know-how, he could go through the line, he could run the ends, he had all the tricks. When we beat them, I believe it was the first time he didn't score. I tackled him more than anyone else."
Harvard went on to defeat Dartmouth and Yale -- neither opponent scored a point -- and was declared Ivy League champion. In 1909, the Crimson looked like a good bet to repeat. There was a close call against Williams, which led 6-0 at the half because Haughton started second-stringers, but then he sent in the regulars, including Fish, who had been sidelined by ptomaine poisoning, and Harvard won 8-6.
After an 11-0 win over Brown, The Boston Globe reported, "Captain Fish was prominent in one of the most spectacular plays of the game." It occurred when Ted Frothingham, the Harvard halfback, picked up the ball on the Harvard eight-yard line and headed downfield with Adrien Regnier, Brown's captain, in pursuit, closely followed by Fish. "The two captains raced along yards behind Frothingham," The Globe reported, "and when they reached the middle of the field Fish threw himself at Regnier and knocked him down. Fish fell on the Brown leader and whenever the latter would strive to rise Fish would stiffen out his arms and legs, taking care not to hold his rival. Regnier tried half a dozen methods to free himself, but could not do so, while the 16,000 spectators laughed. Finally when Frothingham had crossed the goal line Fish rolled off Regnier and the latter somewhat sheepishly regained his feet." Fish's clever heroics were to no avail; it turned out that the referee had called the ball dead before Frothingham had broken loose.
Undefeated Harvard next played Army. At the time, the rules prohibited a player from returning to the game once he was taken out. Eugene Alexis Byrne, the Army captain, played opposite Fish and proved no match for him. "I could see that he was pretty well in at the end of the half," Fish says, "and I said to my coach, `You ought to send word to the West Point coach that the captain is all in and might get hurt.' I suggested that Byrne be taken out for a substitute, but he wanted to play. Shortly after, in the second half, we had the ball. We gave the ball to our 200-pound fullback, Dono Minot, a rugged fellow. Strangely enough, on this particular play, I was shifted over to the other side of the line, and the West Point captain came through the line fast, smashed into our fullback and fell to the ground. He couldn't move and became unconscious. We had to stop the game -- we were way ahead -- and he died the next day from a broken neck. That's when football changed the rule so that you could take a man out and put him back in again, and that's a very good rule."
Harvard followed with an 18-0 victory over Cornell and a 12-3 defeat of Dartmouth to set up a dream game -- Harvard vs. Yale. These two unbeaten teams, archrivals at that, were meeting to decide the national championship on the final day of the season. Harvard, 8-0, had outscored its opponents 103-9. Yale had gone 9-0, but the Elis were unscored upon and boasted six All-America players, including Ted Coy, the fullback and captain whom Camp would name his alltime All-America fullback. In profiling Coy, Camp wrote: "It was almost impossible to stop him in front when he had acquired full headway."
Anchored by Fish, who was playing with badly damaged ribs suffered in the Dartmouth game, Harvard held Coy and Yale to only 100 yards and two first downs, but Yale won the game and the championship 8-0 on a safety and two drop-kick field goals by Coy. "I never played a better game," Fish says. "I'd rested up, my tackling was perfect, but I couldn't attempt to catch a pass because I couldn't lift my left arm [because of his injured ribs]. We would have beaten them though if I'd been able to lift my arm."
After graduating from Harvard cum laude, Fish declined an offer to teach history and government at his alma mater and served as secretary to his congressman father, Hamilton Sr. Once back home in Garrison, N.Y., Fish formed a baseball team that played every weekend in a field next to the sprawling family estate. "I broke into politics through baseball," Fish says. "Three or four hundred people would come every Saturday or Sunday we played, and that's how I got known. I played first base, we had a lot of good players, and we won most of the time. We even played in Sing Sing state prison." Fish served in the state assembly from 1914 though 1916 as a member of the Progressive Party, led by former president Theodore Roosevelt.
Assemblyman Fish had been friendly with state senator Franklin Delano Roosevelt of Hyde Park, a fellow Hudson Valley patrician and Harvard graduate. "We became great friends," Fish says. "Franklin Roosevelt was then a fine Jeffersonian Democrat. Sometime after he became assistant secretary of the Navy in 1913, he came to me and said, `I want you to succeed me in the state senate. I'll get you the Democratic support, you have the independents, and most of the Republicans will vote for you anyway.' I said, `Thank you very much. I'd love to do it, but I can't do it because I intend to enlist for the war.' "
Fish served as a captain in a National Guard unit that would become the legendary 369th Infantry, a black regiment from Harlem. During its training in Spartanburg, S.C., the 369th was stationed next to an all-white regiment from the Deep South. Ugly words were exchanged that eventually led to the southern regiment's threatening to attack the black soldiers. The lore of the 369th has it that Captain Fish offered to settle matters once and for all by challenging three officers to a fistfight.
"The newspapers said I challenged each of them to fight, but that was an exaggeration," Fish says. "The men from the southern regiment had said they would attack us. As captain, I served notice to my men that if we were attacked, we would fight to the death. I trained all the men and armed them to attack. Late one night, someone, I don't know who, stupidly blew a bugle. My men came pouring out of their tents ready to fight and kill. I told them to stay where they were, and I went out to meet the southerners. I uncocked my pistol, went out and met several southern officers. Standing in the dark with my cocked pistol, I said, `You must stop. My troops are under orders to fight to the death. It will simply be a massacre on both sides and one of the worst things to happen to our country.' There was no trouble."
In combat in France with the 369th, Fish won the Silver Star and the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action. When the war was over, Fish served as chairman of the Committee of Three, which wrote the preamble for the newly founded American Legion.
In 1977, filmmaker William Miles used long-forgotten footage to make a movie, Men of Bronze, about the 369th. Fish and Ham III attended the premiere together at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. "We sat up in a box with other members of the cast, separated from the rest of the audience in the theater," Ham III recalls. "It was a remarkable and moving film. When the lights went on afterward, the 2,000 people in the audience, many of them liberals from the Upper West Side, turned and looked up at my grandfather and gave him a standing ovation."
After World War I, Fish and Roosevelt remained friendly, but when FDR won the presidency in 1932, the friendship soured. It did not help that Fish was congressman from Roosevelt's Hudson Valley home district. If FDR were alive, he doubtless would have his side of the story about the estrangement, but Fish says, "I put the start of the change in Roosevelt to his work in the Navy in World War I. Money began to mean nothing to him, and he had power. Lord Acton said, `Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' That's what changed the whole life of the man I was once very fond of and who wanted me to succeed him."
Fish was the ranking minority member on the House of Representatives' Rules and Foreign Affairs committees, which provided him with plenty of power of his own, and he stridently opposed the New Deal almost from the start. He also objected to Roosevelt's effort to pack the Supreme Court, fought against recognition of the Soviet Union, and after World War II began in Europe, accused Roosevelt of attempting to lead the country into the war.
Relations between the two men deteriorated to the point that the president barred Fish from the White House. "Yes, he hated me, and he had a right to," Fish says. "I didn't hate him," he adds with a chortle. "I despised him."
On Oct. 28, 1940, in a campaign speech delivered at Madison Square Garden, FDR scathingly denounced by name his three principal Republican opponents in Congress. The Rooseveltian refrain of "Martin, Barton and Fish," the last name drawn out with almost a hiss -- F-i-s-s-s-h-h-h -- became part of the national political vocabulary.
Fish was defeated for reelection to Congress in 1944, and he returned to New York. Nevertheless, his speeches on behalf of various organizations and his letters to the editor that frequently appeared in newspapers and magazines kept his name before the public. In 1960 his wife, the former Grace Chapin Rogers, whom he had married in 1920, died. In the fall of 1970, his oldest sister, Janet, died in Washington. The newspapers reported that her funeral would be held on Nov. 21 at St. Philip's Church in Garrison. "Then," says Aldrich, "the word came from Uncle Ham that the date conflicted with the Harvard-Yale game, and that he was not about to miss it. The funeral would have to be rescheduled." It was.
In 1967, Fish married for a second time. His wife was Marie Blackton, a Russian emigre who lived in a Park Avenue apartment.
After Marie died in 1974, Fish, then 86, was married for a third time, to Alice Desmond of Newburgh, N.Y., the widow of a state senator. They endowed a 20,000-volume library in Garrison, the very library in which Fish was first to meet his current wife, Lydia, after Alice and he were divorced in 1984.
Throughout the vicissitudes of life, Fish has remained an ardent football fan. At Harvard, where the band serenaded him and Lydia before last year's Yale game, he is given seat 21 in row 1, section 32, right on the 50-yard line of Harvard Stadium. Yale accords him a similar honor in years The Game is played in the Yale Bowl. And when he attends U.S. Military Academy games at West Point, in his old home district, he gets the best seat available in Michie Stadium. Ham III, who since childhood has regularly accompanied his grandfather to Harvard games, recalls times when "I had to restrain him from running down the stairs to upbraid coaches or players for not performing up to snuff."
Fish remains ever ready to deliver a speech, and he does so without notes or a microphone. Recently, he was an honored guest at a dinner of the Theodore Roosevelt Association in New York where he, author Tom Wolfe and Paul Nitze each received the association's medal for distinguished service. Fish spoke on Americanism, and he says, "By the time I had finished, Nitze was crying."
"I'm very privileged to be married to him," Lydia says. "He's living history. Life is exciting, it's interesting. It's never dull."