Posted by: Martin Scherer | 24/02/2011

Its the Welsh that did it

Excerpt from Two Dragons, (2010) an autobiography by Howard Marx, a Welshman. This excerpt is set in a US prison at the time Clinton became US President,

Then one day, Tee Bone Taylor, a fellow prisoner, told me he had listened to a programme about the Welsh on the radio, which stated that Hillary Clinton was of Welsh descent on both sides of her family. Further, the mother of Bob Hope, his favourite comic, was Welsh, as were five of the first six American Presidents, and eighteen signatures of the American Declaration of Independence, the outlaw Jesse James, Bank robber Pretty Boy Floyd, and the gangster Murray “The Camel” Humphreys.

I had never heard any of this. I simply did not believe Tee Bone but I had to check. I could not stand the shame of knowing less about my home country than some random Chicago crack dealer, who had not a drop of Welsh blood in his veins. I ordered every book from the prison library I could get on connections between American and Welsh History.

Tee Bone had got it right, but there’s more. True, America’s first president, George Washington, was not a Welshman but his mother was. The next five, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy were all Welsh, as were the 18 signatories, and several who helped write the US constitution. America’s wild west anti-hero’s, Jesse James, Pretty Boy Floyd and Murray “The Camel” Humphreys, were all Welsh. And the most widely known cannabis smoker is an American President.

Suddenly, America stopped being such an alien country. It was full of us Welsh, to whom it seemed America owed its very existence and frontier spirit.

Who is Howard Marx? Well, he’s a Welshman with a top degree from Oxford, and contrary to his namesake Karl Marx, he was one of the world’s wealthiest capitalist entrepreneurs. He was also top of America’s most wanted list. Despite hardly ever going to America, he was arrested in a Spanish resort and extradited to America. The US government claimed he was the biggest importer of cannabis into the USA. Of course he wasn’t.

Howard’s problem was he could talk the talk, had a mischievous smile and like all Welshmen, he did it all for fun and rebellion against authority. He was a bit of a Robin Hood rebel. His underworld pseudonym was Mr. Nice.

Where would America be today, if it wasn’t for such independent spirit.

These days Howard Marx makes more money from writing books and doing book tours. He typically arrives on stage and lights up an enormous spliff. Who’s going to arrest him? Of course, he is still not allowed to visit the USA, he is still considered too dangerous. Imagine the riot of spaced-out, peace loving hippies that would greet him today if he were to arrive in L.A.’s airport.

Howard Marx’s first autobiography, Mr. Nice (1996), an international best seller that is reissued almost every year and was made into a film last year.

Enjoy, reflect on the wisdom of the founding fathers who rebelled against the established order. Smoke a spliff and giggle at the stupidity of today’s politicians on both sides of the pond.

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