I finished listening to Jill Baird’s terrific bi­og­raphy of Queen Vic­toria on Audible last week. Baird mentioned one of those offbeat mo­ments in history that left me thinking: “Did I know about this?”

It didn’t sound familiar. But how could I have missed it?

Baird touched briefly on the story of Americans invading Canada. Notice I said “Americans” as opposed to “America.”

Not the U.S. gov­ern­ment, but a group of Irish-Americans, the Fenians, literally invaded Canada to try to seize territory from the British.

The Irish, of course, blamed the British for the infamous Potato Famine and wanted self-rule for Ireland.

Attacking England wouldn’t work so well, but they figured they could strike back at the British in Canada and make some inroads there.

They failed.

In five separate raids between 1866 and 1871, one involving as many as 1,300 armed men, the Fen­ians attacked Can­a­dian outposts. All five at­tempts failed, and the Brit­ish drove the invaders back.

This once again proves that truth is stranger than fiction. These raids pre­ceded the fictional cin­e­­matic version of Am­er­icans invading Canada — “Canadian Bacon” star­ring Alan Alda — by 120 years.


Friday’s column men­tioned how even the young­er generation is fam­iliar with music of the 1960s. I wonder if they recognize “Gallant Men.”

“Gallant Men” was a Top 40 hit in 1967 for the gravel-voiced Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Illinois.

Dirksen speaks — with martial drums providing a backbeat — about the brave warriors who gave their lives for America.

Bob Greene just wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal about Dirk­sen’s foray into the en­ter­tain­ment world. At the time, Dirksen, 71, was the old­est performer to crack the Top 40.

The song was written years earlier by Charles Wood, Greene writes, who was later known by his given name, Charles Os­good, the former longtime pop­ular CBS Morning News anchor.

Despite his hit song, Dirksen is probably best known for his quote about gov­ernment spending: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

He was extremely quot­able, also saying: “I am a man of fixed and un­bend­ing principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”

And: “When a member of the House moves over to the Senate, he raises the IQ of both bodies.”

I don’t think they allow humorous, colorful people in politics anymore.


Speaking of Bob Greene, I hadn’t seen any columns by him in years until I spotted the Dirk­sen piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Greene enjoyed an am­az­ing career as a col­umn­ist and author until the early 2000s when he threw it all away and the Chicago Tribune fired him.

It turned out that the married columnist with the homespun style abused his position to hit on young women, one of whom was still in high school.

Now it appears Greene has done his time and his name can once again appear in print.

It raises the questions again about what we’re see­ing so often today. Peop­le resign for #MeToo mo­ments or something ra­cial, either from the pres­ent or the distant past.

It is not clear who makes the rules, though. Are you banished for life for blackface or for an un­wanted advance? Are there any mitigating cir­cum­stances?

Can you come back from a racist, misogynist or homophobic comment? If so, when? If not, what do you do for the rest of your life?

I am not saying there shouldn’t be dire con­se­quen­ces for bad be­hav­ior. It just seems the stan­dards are all over the place. There’s no con­sis­tency.

Best advice: Don’t say or do anything you wouldn’t want to read about on the front page of the newspaper.

William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

As is often the case, truth proved stranger than fiction on the northern border.

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