Dear John Francis Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil IV (Jack)

Bill Branyon

by Lord Robert Cecil (as channeled and quoted by Bill Branyon)

I am writing to you as one of your many distinguished Cecil relatives. This group includes your first cousin, William Cecil, who owns Biltmore Estate. My full name is Edgar Algernon Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood (1864-1958.) According to Wikipediawe are both descended from another William Cecil, 1st Baron of Burghley, “principal adviser to England’s Queen Elizabeth I through most of her reign.”

I was awarded the 1937 Nobel Peace Prize for fighting against war and the military-industrial complex. Whereas you, as CEO of Biltmore Farms, control much of the land that George Vanderbilt originally bought for his Biltmore Estate and are in great part responsible for Buncombe County’s new Pratt & Whitney plant that makes weapon parts. In other words, we are working at cross-purposes.

The Nobel Committee said it was presenting me with its peace award in recognition of my “tireless effort in support of the League of Nations, disarmament and peace. … Three statesmen who occupied leading positions during World War I were so deeply struck by the deprivation of human life and economic resources, by the futility of war as a social institution, and by its amorality, that they became convinced pacifists and, throughout the rest of their lives, spared no effort to prevent such a calamity from ever again overtaking mankind.”

The other two statesmen were my friends Woodrow Wilson, the American president, and French Prime Minister Aristide Briand, both of whom had previously received the peace prize. My father, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, served as prime minister of England under Queen Victoria three times. Whereas you and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners arranged for tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer and other subsidies for the Pratt & Whitney factory which, among other things, builds airfoils for an extremely DEADLY jet called the F-35 Lightning. And then you said, according to, “The vision for this facility [Pratt & Whitney] to become a lighthouse location of innovation for the aerospace industry and for our region was inspiring.” It appears that you hope to make Buncombe into a major center for weapons production.

Armament maniacs

Still, I believe you have inherited the good heart that characterizes most of the Cecil family. After all, our family motto is “Cor unum via una,” which is Latin for “One heart, one way.” Thus, you probably believe either that creating ever more and ever more destructive weapons prevents wars or that wars are inevitable and the weapons at least help America win those inevitabilities. In one of my four books, The Way of Peace, I called this “the old preparedness heresy.” I continued: “I recognize that force may still be an unavoidable element of international life as it is in national life. But it must be the force of the whole community directed against the lawbreaker and not legalized international brigandage.”

Indeed, stopping international brigandage was one of the major reasons that President Wilson and I started the League of Nations. So, despite what the Nobel committee contended, neither of us was a pacifist. And not so long ago, your country inflicted this same brigandage on humanity, killing hundreds of thousands of people based on the fraudulent claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

So, I’m asking you to consider that building excessive numbers of weapons factories may actually be causing war rather than preventing it. As I wrote in my autobiography, A Great Experiment:

“We read sometimes in the papers of terrible cases of human beings who have become addicted to some of those horrible drugs, morphine, cocaine or the like, and they go taking more and more of them until they are ruined body and soul. We call them drug maniacs. I fear very much that there are some armament maniacs still left among the nations of the world. …

“What keeps alive armaments is one thing and one thing only: It is the fear and suspicions of the nations for one another. We must have a new spirit in international affairs. We must get rid of the idolatry of force.”

Please consider that you and the Buncombe County commissioners who approved this factory may unknowingly be part of this idolatry of force. And I believe it inevitably leads to unnecessary wars because:

“Pretty soon an atmosphere is produced in which everyone talks of war and when that happens, war almost always follows. This is no fancy picture. People of my age have seen the process going on more than once — a kind of automatic drive toward war which, when it breaks out, is justified to the peaceful majority in each country as a war of self-defense.”

This is what I believe happened in the war that formed my opinions, World War I. Please consider that the same thing may now be happening to you, the Buncombe County commissioners and America with regard to Ukraine, Russia and China.

Merchants of death

In 1934, I was one of some 500,000 volunteers who organized a Peace Ballot in England to try to influence Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald. More than 11 million registered voters took part, the vast majority of whom agreed that the manufacture and sale of armaments for private profit should “be prohibited by international agreement.”

Those millions believed that private weapons manufacturers were a threat to peace. And the Nye Committee, which your own U.S. Congress convened for almost two years from 1934-36, called these private manufacturers “merchants of death.” According to Wikipedia, Senator Nye, many war critics and members of the American public concluded that the U.S. entered [World War I] for reasons of profit, not policy.” Please consider investigating whether Raytheon Technologies, the parent company of Pratt & Whitney, is also doing this. Consider, too, whether you and America are caught in an automatic drive toward a war with Russia and China orchestrated by such merchants of death.

Some analysts believe that the reason the U.S. has continued to support expanding NATO membership by admitting countries adjacent to Russia despite having given the Soviet Union indications that it wouldn’t do so was in order to sell American weapons to Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe.

Your war promoters may claim that a war with Russia or China can be controlled. But as I contended in The Way of Peace: “When war begins, no one can limit its extent. That is the truth which history teaches, and which all intelligent men and women should recognize.” Thus, the Ukraine War, or a direct war with Russia or China, could easily become World War III. And, as my friend Albert Einstein once said: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

You often say that you try to see “the bigger picture.” But I submit to you that the biggest picture is preventing nuclear annihilation. You could use your obviously great powers of charisma, organization and persistence to destroy war — perhaps forever — and in the process save civilization. You can do it! After all, you’re a Cecil. We’ve been saving civilization since 1588, when our common ancestor William helped the Virgin Queen sink that enemy of freedom of religion, the Spanish Armada!


Lord Robert Cecil

Freelance historian Bill Branyon is a member of the activist group Reject Raytheon Asheville (, which is trying to stop Jack Cecil and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners from bringing more weapons factories to the area.


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24 thoughts on “Dear John Francis Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil IV (Jack)

    • Prospect Joe

      I’m on the pipe and can’t comprehend what he’s talking about. Nonsense.

    • Michael

      Lord Cecil’s mindset and peace prize activities were quickly forgotten after Hitler began (true to his word) his conquest of Europe, when England found itself woefully unprepared (just as it was woefully unpersuasive in its weakness). Tyrants, alas, like Putin feast on good thoughts and well wishes.

  1. Voirdire

    hey Bill, go try living in the Ukraine ..or Russia or China for a few months and see how well that works for you when you find outside of your comfy little entitled Cecil bubble. Oh, and such a clever and insightful little ploy of yours…. the whole long lost great uncle Lord Cecil thing from a century ago…. too bad the less entitled sane weren’t listening then either… your men Hitler/ Stalin et al would have so much more accomplished on their lovely laundry list. Honestly, what planet are you living on?

  2. indy499

    Bill, you are a one beat drummer banging out repetitive nonsense. Join the real world.

    We get it. You and your tiny shrinking band think we should all just get along. We can’t unless there are no bad guys.

    Hint which almost everyone else knows: There are bad guys in the world. And there will be.

    • Chris B

      Hi indy. I suspect both the late 1st Baron of Burghley and Bill Branyon are quite aware of bad guys around. The question is how to deal with them in ways that do not come back to bite us. Yes, we are all still working on that. Do you have ideas to contribute?

  3. John Barton

    Bill, what are you talking about? It sounds like you have too much free time. Buncombe County needs school bus drivers; maybe you should apply.


    Einstein said: “The splitting of the atom has changed everything, save our mode of thinking, thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” This brilliant person warned us that our thinking about conflict has to evolve from our primitive brain. Jack Cecil’s ancestor saw this, too. Bill’s article is a brilliant attempt at warning us all. It is well researched, imaginative and important. Sadly, most eyes and ears are not able to see or hear. Einstein also said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Can we even imagine a world in which war is abolished? Thank you, Bill! Not to mention that Cecil allowed 100 acres of forested land bordering our French Broad to be clear cut for this plant! In a time of increasing climate disruption…not very imaginative or far sighted, I’d say…

    • Cynthia Heil

      Totally agree with this ^^^ comment. As one who worked in the Navy Dept’s Trident missile project management office, those who think the US needs war with Russia and China, rather than being a leader toward a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine and further to peace and nuclear disarmament, should research ICBMs and MIRVs. You and your future generations will not survive such a war. BTW, how many who are dissing this article have been in war???

      • Prop Joe

        Cynthia – No-one wants or thinks we need war with Russia and China. We should probably start there. I believe you’re over-complicating this whole thing. Head in the clouds Bill thinks we should stop making weapons that deter MANIACS (see what I did there Bill). He thinks if we stop making these weapons the MANIACS will stop making them and magically lose the itch to invade other countries. That would be incredible but the sad reality is that it would only embolden Xi to invade Taiwan and Putin to put the ole USSR band back together again. Ennagiarc’s comment that Bill’s view is brilliant needs to be dissed. It’s entraining (most of Bill’s ramblings are entertaining) but should be taken with a grain of salt. One doesn’t need wartime or military experience to know that. Oh, and Ennagiarc is Anne Craig, another head in another cloud.

        • Susan Oehler

          Prop Joe –

          How many examples do you need to understand that when the USA wages war in or on a country, they are not doing anything to help the people of that country? I am also another “head in the cloud” because I have seen what our wars have done – CREATED A LIVING NIGHTMARE FOR ORDINARY PEOPLE.

          EXAMPLE: IRAQ
          EXAMPLE: LIBYA
          EXAMPLE: SYRIA
          EXAMPLE: YEMEN

          The US government and the BLOB in DC don’t care that Israel is taking away land from the Palestinians, so why would they care if China takes over Taiwan or Russia takes over Ukraine? Why would any sane person think that US giving weapons or troops to another country is going to improve anything? Those folks in DC do not care one bit about the welfare of the people of Ukraine. They don’t even care about the rank and file in the US military or US citizens.

          There are different reasons that we are sending weapons to Ukraine. We want to weaken Russia so that we can stay top dog. And we are willing to sacrifice every Ukrainian to achieve this goal.

          The blob in DC feels the same way about China.

          This country did not spend loads of money to prepare for war prior to WW2, and yet we still managed to get our act together and win that war with the help of the Russians. Ever since then, we are endlessly preparing for war, and getting involved in wars, and achieving nothing good.

      • Prop Joe

        And I see you’re a Reject Raytheon’er as well. I couldn’t figure out how so many people (2) could support Bill’s fantasy writings. Now that I see you’re both part of his club it makes sense.

    • Voirdire

      Einstein was very clear… he was referring to imagination, not delusion. As for the “imaginative” Lord Cecil ploy… alas, more delusion devoid of anything but entitled hubris.

    • Prop Joe

      Bill isn’t brilliant but he does go hard on the imagination and light on actual knowledge..

  5. cheil17

    It is unfortunate that the USA is leading the world toward world war rather than peace and disarmament. As one who worked on the Trident missile project, I can say that no one will survive a nuclear war, and in fact, who would want to? Radiation sickness is a horrible way to die. If you don’t know about ICBMs and MIRVs, you might want to research that for the sake of your children and future generations. Have you ever been in a war zone or even an area that experienced war?

  6. Susan Oehler

    I think this op-ed is brilliant! We need to pursue peace and diplomacy rather than preparing for more useless wars. The USA has not “won” a war since WWII, except for Genada.

    • kw

      That is true! The USA is a big bunch of dysfunctional losers when it comes to waging war. Maybe they need to hire some consultants like Asheville to right the sinking ship.

  7. Clare Hanrahan

    It is refreshing to read historian Branyon and his unique approach to one of the most critical issues of these times—Militarism and war profiteers such as Raytheon. The U.S. reliance on belligerence and threat rather than diplomacy and cooperation is a clear and present danger.

  8. Bruce Elliott

    The U.S. has indeed won a war since WWII. Though technically the Korean War was a “police action” it was clearly a war, one which lasted 3 years to the day. The United Nations, led by the United States, intervened to stop unprovoked North Korean and Chinese aggression into South Korea. The defenders of freedom succeeded in ousting the invaders and an armistice was reached that has kept the peace until the present day. And we see what has happened to the North Koreans under a maniacal dictator as compared to the South Koreans being governed in a democratic way. The first has among the lowest qualities of life of any country in the world, and second is among the highest. By some measures, South Korea has a higher quality of life than does the U.S. War is “all hell boys, and there’s no getting around it” said Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. He was right, but as horrible as it is, it is sometimes necessary. And it is always necessary to be well-prepared for war or the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Putin, Xi and others will roll their tanks and flatten us.

  9. Ken

    Bill has a nice gift for cloaking his deadly serious message within a clever and entertaining literary device. And his serious message is right on point. To put it as plainly and simply as possible for those who either can’t see it or are determined to believe in the US propaganda machine: (1) the US is the world’s empire, known globally as the #1 threat to world peace in its relentless quest for world domination – we are not the good guys; (2) the US provoked and is deliberately prolonging the proxy war in Ukraine in its avowed intention to effect regime change in Russia – and China is next on our list, as we set Taiwan up to be the next Ukraine (note that Taiwan is not a separate country – it is a province of China. The whole world, including the US, has officially recognized this); (3) a primary driver of this endless horrific warmaking is that it is extremely profitable – for the war profiteers like Raytheon, for Wall Street, for oil companies, for many other multinational corporations – but never for regular people who are mostly just struggling to get by in our austere economy sucked dry by the military-industrial complex. The commenters here who seem so self assured in belittling Bill and others who see the truth in Bill’s article are the ones with their “heads in the clouds,” believing that we are better off, and safer, by continuing to sink our wealth into the merchants of death. The more looming and ominous clouds, though, are mushroom shaped and portend our extinction as a species. With his light and inviting touch, Bill is trying to wake us up to this reality. To laugh him off as some kind of kook is a delusional denial at its best. A smug death wish for others – and ultimately for us all – at worst.

  10. Clare Hanrahan

    Glad to see Bill Branyon’s essay. “The idolatry of force” is an apt description of the U.S. expenditures on weapons that fuel these horrific wars that are killing the sacred Earth. The obscene war profiteers that extort millions from our communities are the essence of radical evil. How many ways does it have to be said? War is a crime. Thanks, Bill for saying it again.


    Thank you Bill for you thoughtful, friendly, informative and insightful article. According to the Washington Post survey on May 15th, the one word that explains why Americans feel they need guns is protection. Safety is both an internal and external issue, personally and nationally. True safety lies in our being able to be honest with ones self and to communicate with words effectively with others. It takes practice… we say to young children, “use your words” rather than having a tantrum or all out slugging another. Learning to use words to express needs, to negotiate, and find solutions that work at least somewhat for everyone is the goal. Guns don’t make us safer and preparing for war does not make us safer. Learning to find mature solutions based upon communication, cooperation, collaboration and in the current case, diplomacy allowing everyone “an off ramp”. This would be a novel approach for American Foreign Policy. So often, as Susan Oehler noted, the 8 wars of aggression and proxies have perpetrated unimaginable suffering to the people living in those countries. The essence of true power is not power over but power with. I was so sad that our government would not invest in creating a Department of Peace many years ago.(Of course it is not too late.) Such a vision takes deep care and imagination, to actualize the potential of life on this Mother Earth. Our planet and people are being decimated with wars and weapons sponsored by fossil fuel extractors and weapons manufacturers. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the US became true world citizens, by looking at a big picture that honors different cultures, respects the planet that is providing for us all. I don’t have my head in the clouds, I have a vision for getting off the dead end that war leads to: disarmament and creating peace. Peace is created and it takes work, internal and external work. I have a deep understanding that we are headed to annihilation. Bill’s article is a plea to Jack Cecil to reckon with his folly and offered us all an opportunity to use our words as skillfully as possible to have others understand differing points of view. Thank you for your vision and clarity.

  12. indy499

    This a great story in that it gathered the 4 or 5 clueless in one place. We get it. America bad. Xi and Puting good.

    Fortunately you are the real one percent.

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