Art Buchwald is on assignment for a few weeks trying to find out if there are any Cuban troops on Cape Cod. He left behind his all-time favorite columns.

The question came up at dinner the other night when people were discussing the Tory victory in Great Britain.

"Why is it that the English were able to rule the world for almost 200 years, while the United States has been unable to hold on for less than 25 years?"

An Englishman at the table replied, "It's quite simple, my dear chap. There was no television."

"Of course," someone else said, "television hadn't been invented then."

"On the contrary," the Englishman said, "it had been invented, but we were wise enough not to let the secret out."

We all looked at him in amazement.

"Lord Cashmere of Ruthland invented television in the year 1775," he said. "You can look it up in the secret archives of the British Museum. He was actually trying to invent the radio; but rather than sound, he got a picture on his box instead."

"What kind of picture?" a skeptical guest asked.

"A picture of a Redcoat in Boston flogging an old Colonial man."

"It is hard to believe," someone said.

"Quite. In any case, Lord Cashmere kneww he was onto something big, so he took the box to King George III and demonstrated it to the court, which at the time was meeting on the Television Moors in Wales."

"So that's where the name came from," someone said.

"It's all in the secret archives," the Englishman said. "The Court was aghast at what they were seeing. There were large burly Redcoats beating on the poor Colonials, kicking women and children, setting fire to their homes and committing unbelievable atrocities in the villages.

"'Lord Cashmere,' The Archbishop of Canterbury said, 'what in God's name have you wrought?'

"Lord Cashmere said, 'I'm not sure, but it's possible that this invention could change all of mankind. Just think, my noble friends, that with this box our people would bear witness to the great news events of our time. No longer would we be dependent on ships for our news. We could actually see our victories as they were happening. What a boost for the morale of the empire.'

"A cheer rent the air over Television Moors. But then Sir Ronald Paley, the king's adviser on military affairs, spoke up: 'I do not with to dash cold water on this box, but may I point out to you gentlemen that this invention could be the end of the empire? Do you believe our young people would remain silent after watching what we were doing in the Colonies or, for that matter, anywhere else? The country would be split asunder. The strength of England is that her people have no idea of what we're up to abroad.'

"King George III spoke up. 'Sir Ronald is right. If we're to wage war in the Colonies, we don't want the people at home to know what we're doing.

"'Besides, if we have to pull out, I want to do it without the whole world watching us. Lord Cashmere, you have done your country an ill deed by this damnable contraption. I order you at the pain of losing your head never to reveal your secret. We shall bury the box here on the moors, and Britannia will rule the waves.'"

The Englishman paused as we hung on to his every word.

"Then you kept the secret all these years," someone said.

"That's correct," the Englishman said. "Thirty years ago an American anthropologist, digging around the moors, discovered the box. He turned it over to RCA which, without thinking of the consequences, started to manufacture them on a large scale. I image you can date the difficulties of the United States as a world power from the day Lord Cashmere's box was made available to the world."

"What a great story," I said. "Do you mind if I write it?"

"Go right ahead," the Englishman said. "It can't do Britain any harm any more."