In “Real Diversity” (Views, September), Dr. Roger McGrath implies that the Cornish are virtuous or otherwise worthy of praise because they could serve their East Anglian, whiggish industrial masters with ant-like aplomb and distinction. He praises just those qualities that a mechanized society of robotic workers would covet. In his mind, the Cornish people were “good” to the extent they obeyed the still, small voice of modernity. Their temperance and their shrewdness served them well. Dr. McGrath argues, in the scramble to build a society that mirrored the machinations of America’s industrial dynamo. They receive an additional pat on the head for contributing, through their mining efforts, to the abstraction of all work and commodity value into “money.”

I disagree: A true Cornishman doesn’t share the vision of such men as Jay Gould, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates. A Cornishman belongs on his own patch of land, no matter how hardscrabble. He deserves to till the miserly mead until it yields enough barley and malt for a keg of beer. He claims a wife, a few healthy animals, and the fish of the stream.

Rendered docile by the directors of America’s industrial consolidation, Dr. McGrath’s Cornishman probably had little time to reflect on his self-sufficient, honor-bound ancestors: the men who routed the Parliamentarian forces at Braddock Downe in 1645, who fought for the king with pitchforks and thrown stones.

The earl of Clarendon was more generous when he observed that the Cornish “were always more sparing than is usually known in civil wars, shedding very little blood after resistance was given over, and having a very noble and Christian sense of the lives of our brethren: insomuch as the common men, when they have been pressed by some fiercer officer to follow the execution, have answered they could not find it in their hearts to hurt men who had nothing in their hands.'”

For Dr. McGrath, this Christian ideal is subsumed in the interest of economic utility. It is a secondary, sociological phenomenon. For the Cornishman of old, such virtue was the only thing that mattered.

        —M. Edward Tobin
Pleasant Hill, CA Dr.

McGrath Replies:

My description of Cousin Jacks as the “best hardrock miners in the world” inspired all of this? My father-in-law, whose father was a Cornish immigrant, found room for criticism also, admonishing me for devoting half of the article to the Pennsylvania Dutch.