the fifth of November:
Gunpowder Treason and Plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!"
It is Guy Fawkes day or night, or Bonfire Night.
Guy Fawkes [who in 1605 called himself Guido since he had been fighting for Spain in The Netherlands] was a member of a group of 13 associates who made the decision to blow up both Houses of Parliament during the opening session on the Fifth of November 1605. Guy was a versatile fellow and was also known as John Johnson, caretaker of a cellar directly below the House of Lords, so the gang was able to secure a lease on the cellar and somehow managed to get 36 barrels of gunpowder down there. Just doing that must have been an interesting achievement. Their aim was to light the fuse timed to blow up every member of Parliament and possibly take out King James I as well. How rude!
Guy & Friends were Catholic and felt repressed and wanted to do something dramatic. Maybe they thought that by blowing up the government, all the citizens would cheer and rally to restore Catholicism in England. The group of friends shared anti-Scotland sentiment as well. Not to get too deep into the murky maze, the plotters thought they had it all figured out. I suspect that they could have partaken of too much Scotch or Irish whiskey, but I wasn't there and didn't have anything to do with that. One thing for sure, they wouldn't have been drinking good Kentucky Bourbon or American Rye whiskey in 1605.
In the event, the plot was uncovered and Guy Fawkes was the only one caught down in the cellar holding the match next to the 36 barrels. Even though Robert Catesby was the real ringleader, Guy was the first, and for awhile the only one caught and so his name is most often associated with the Gunpowder Plot. That's probably a good thing, as Guy Fawkes had that look that made the subsequent Guy Fawkes masks unique. No one I know of has ever made a Robert Catesby mask. Eventually, the other plotters were caught as well. They were tortured until they confessed to everything and more just to stop the torture, which finally ended when they were executed in 1607.
The day became an official celebration occasion when Parliament passed the Observance of November 5th Act. Over time, the hooliganism during the celebrations became increasingly rowdy and annoying, so Parliament rescinded the Act in 1859. And here I thought that the English were a fun-loving people. In the U.S.A. we also pass silly laws, like the 18th Amendment known as Prohibition to make alcoholic beverages illegal so we would all stay sober. As the years went by and more alcohol was made than before Prohibition, the enforcement laws were tightened after which even more alcohol was made. Al Capone (who described himself as "just a businessman fulfilling a need") knew that the tighter the squeeze, the more desire the public had to get some. The French reportedly thought we had lost our senses, and when Winston Churchill, before he became P.M., visited the U.S.A. during Prohibition, he brought with him a prescription written by the King's Physician, prescribing a bottle of gin per day for medicinal purposes. The prescription was filled. In 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt called Prohibition "the great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far reaching in purpose." I'm sure FDR snickered as he said that, because when Prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment, FDR is said to have celebrated with the consumption of a dirty martini, his favorite alcoholic drink.
Today, at least in the U.S.A., the name Guy Fawkes and the iconic mask is usually thought of as an anti-government symbol. When I looked at the websites for information about Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night celebrations, it was not clear whether the English celebrated that Guy & Friends tried to blow up Parliament, or celebrated that Guy was caught before the big bang and thus their government leaders were kept safe and in power.
I'm always trying to learn stuff, so if any of you in the UK can shed light on how the citizens there really feel about this subject, I would like to read it.
Now, where did I leave that match...?
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
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