, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lacey Davenport was a character in the long running political strip cartoon “Doonsbury” by Garry Trudeau.  Trudeau is easily the most successful political strip cartoonist of recent times, and “Doonsbury” is syndicated all round the world to an audience who repeatedly show their loyalty.  In Britain, when the Guardian decided that perhaps, after all, old man Trudeau was losing his touch just a little and might be pensioned off, they raised a campaign of such ferocity (I know, it’s difficult to imagine Grauniad readers getting their dander up) that the management were forced to climb down and reinstate the strip forthwith.

Although Garry Trudeau never admitted it, and indeed point blank said it wasn’t so, most readers and commentators have taken it that one of his best loved creations Lacey Davenport, was ever so loosely based on Millicent Fenwick, a member of the United States House of Representatives for New Jersey. 

Described by Walter Cronkite as “the conscience of Congress” Millicent, like Lacey, was many people’s idea of the perfect politician.  Whilst being old fashioned and fiscally conservative, she managed also to be surprisingly liberal at heart.  Widely travelled and a mover in quite the best circles, she had been everywhere and knew everyone and yet she was still utterly devoted to her constituents.  She therefore made the perfect foil for the young Garry to point up corruptions in the heart of politics.

Millicent Hammond Fenwick was born in 1910 and had already had quite a life by the time she turned to politics in 1974 aged 64.  By turns she had been a fashion editor of Vogue and, being possessed of a Katherine Hepburn-like quality, had also been a model for Harper’s Bazaar in her youth. 

And that makes Millicent Hammond another American politician who poses for magazines.  It is a trend then. We see it here and here and here.   But I still don’t understand why they are all Republicans?

Her ancestry though, is rather special.  To a father who was the Ambassador to Spain, and a mother who died on the “Lusitania”, we can add a grandfather who was a civil war veteran and General, one John Henry Hammond.  She was also descended from John Bubenheim Bayard who was Mayor of New Brunswick.

John Bubenheim Bayard was the brother of James Asheton Bayard, the United States Senator for Delaware, whose own descendants have produced two further United States Senators from Delaware and a Lt-Governor of Delaware, in the form of Alexis Irene du Pont Bayard (died 1985).

The great grand uncle of these two Bayards was one Pieter (Peter) Stuyvesant, the Dutch Governor of Nieuw Amsterdam from 1647 – 1664, before even the British had possession.

Apart from the Bayards, Peter Stuyvesant’s political descendants include the Fish family of New York. They have been in the thick of New York politics from Hamilton Fish, United States Senator in the nineteenth century, through Hamilton Fish IV, a twentieth century United States Representative from New York serving from 1969 to 1995, to his son, another Hamilton Fish, lately a candidate for the House of Representatives in 1988 and 1995.

A family tied into politics in the east coast for over three hundred and fifty years from before it was even British.

Although she never ran with it, Lacey’s campaign slogan could easily have been Millicent’s:

“She’s tidy.  A stickler for detail.  She brooks no unpleasantness.  She’s an absolute bear about over-runs and tardiness.  Let’s keep her! Davenport: as indispensable as sensible shoes”

An oligarch to her boots.