“Peppers Pleece”


You ever wonder who invented passports?  I mean, really, who had the bright idea to require a passport to enter a foreign country?  A passport, by itself, does not entitle a person to enter a foreign country; it is merely a document issued by a national government that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder.  But, you can’t go anywhere without one; I’m okay with that, but how did it get started?   Brilliant!

My first recollection of anything remotely connected to passports was an old B&W movie where the jack-booted border guard stands at attention near the gate of a barb-wire fence.  Behind him are two other guards with sub-machine guns.  There is a long line of fearful travelers in ragged clothes waiting to get through the gate.  The border guard clicks his heels together, holds up his hand, and, speaking in heavily accented English says, “Peppers pleece”.  I remember that scene every time I go through customs.  Disregarding invading armies, the common courtesy of requesting permission to cross someone’s land or kingdom goes back a long way, even to Biblical times.  

I think about great explorers and travelers like Magellan and Marco Polo.  Did they have some kind of passport or permission to enter foreign lands?  Thinking of invading armies like Alexander the Great (300 BC), sitting around the campfire with his field generals the night before entering what is now Afghanistan, that famous line from “Blazing Saddles” comes to mind, “Shucks, Alex, we don’t need no stinkin’ passports!”

Thought for the Day:  In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.  Mark Twain

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