Friday, 12 November 2010

L'etat, C'est Moi – a response to Adam


OK, Adam, with reference to your argument set out in The Autocratic Republic on your One Nation blog let’s strip things back to first principles. Monarchy simply means rule by a single person. While it is normally associated now with royalty there is no reason, no etymological or philosophical reason, why this should be so. According to your definition it implies “feudal hereditary selection.” But this is a contingent, not a necessary relationship. Go back to early history and you will find plenty of examples of elective monarchies: Rome was an elective monarchy before the advent of the Republic, with no hereditary selection, a tradition that was later revived in the Holy Roman Empire. And on the subject of Holy and Roman, the Vatican continues to be governed by an elected monarchy, again with no feudal or hereditary selection.

Look at the history of the Roman Empire: between the creation of the Principate by Augustus and its end under Diocletian it was governed for the most part by a single individual, though stable and hereditary succession was to be elusive in the extreme. After the death of Nero it was the exception, not the rule. During the most stable period of imperial history, from the ascent of Trajan to the death of Marcus Aurelius, reigning emperors simply chose the best man, meaning the strongest man, as a potential successor by cooption. It fell down when Commodus, the son, succeeded Aurelius, the father, simply by right of primogeniture, the feudal principle at its purest.

So, monarchy is not necessarily royalty. If you need a further example, one closer to home, then I give you the Protectorate. England was a republic in strict legal terms, but Oliver Cromwell was a monarch, a king in all but name; he was even referred to as “Your Majesty”. A dictator, an autocrat, he even managed to pass his ‘crown’ to his son in a non-elective, non-feudal hereditary succession. Closer to our time there is the example of the United States, which began as a revolution against monarchy...only to give monarchy an entrenched constitutional position. It is no accident that by the time of 'King' Andrew Jackson his opponents are referring to themselves as the Whigs. Bringing matters up to the present day look at North Korea. Is there any better example of a hereditary and absolute monarchy without any kind of feudal element?

Now let’s consider France. To begin with I have to say that you overestimate the importance of the Third Republic in general and Jules Ferry in particular, a figure of passing and transient significance. French history between 1792 and 1958, as I have already argued, is the history of a nation in search of a stable and lasting form of government. And what a bewildering picture it is –republic, empire, restoration, empire, restoration, bourgeois monarchy, republic, empire, republic, new state, republic, republic. Only the last stage, the Fifth Republic, reached a resolution because it finally answered the long question, the long struggle between parliamentary and monarchical governance in favour of monarchy.

Previous republics, even the long lasting Third, were driven by a system of parliamentary rule, weak to the point of self-destruction. Time and again the Third Republic sank into crisis, the most serious of which came with the riots of February 1934. I have said that it only survived because its enemies were weaker still, because they could not agree on an acceptable alternative. In the end the Republic committed suicide. Many people assume that Philippe Petain was a German puppet ruler. He was not. He was the embodiment of the state; he was a new Napoleon III. All power was accorded to him by the National Assembly, by the Republic itself.

De Gaulle was a politician of genius. He knew that the parliamentary republic was a failure; it always had been. Still, the outward trappings of monarchy were impossible, either in an imperial or a hereditary and kingly form. The solution was a Presidential Republic, a non-hereditary monarchy; the solution was the Fifth Republic, quite different from all of its predecessors. In many ways it resembles Weimar Germany under the presidency of Paul von Hindenburg than any previous French regime. Or, if you prefer to stick to the French example, De Gaulle was Napoleon I, Napoleon III and Marshal Petain all in one: he was the state. During his rule he was most often depicted by cartoonists as Louis XIV. Everything that you wrote about him in The Autocratic Republic confirms his stature, confirms his monarchy. The Fifth Republic, barring some unforeseen political disaster (never say never when it comes to France), is his abiding legacy. Against this background Ferry was a little man, an irrelevance. Modern France owes little or nothing to him; modern France scarcely remembers him.

21 comments:

  1. Please forgive me; I'm in a bit of a rush. I won't be able to consider follow up points or criticisms until Sunday at the earliest.

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  4. Actually the idea that the American Revolution was a revolt against monarchy is a myth succesfully spread by liberals to cover their tracks. Most of the acts that the colonists were fighting were actually decisions of parliament, and parliament continued to undertake such stifling, oppressive, sectarian actions in India. The actual truth is somewhat shocking and horrifying, that a few particular founding fathers (including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine) who were somewhat left-wing decided to embark on a personal vendetta against Monarchs, the result being that they were able to pass certain laws and standards that forced the cancellation of all ties to nobility, angering the Scottish Highlanders in North Carolina.

    The result was a much bloodier and less certain American revolution that America almost lost. Probably half as many Americans would've died in the American Revolution were it not for the foolishness of liberals in making a judgement that would anger a substantial ethnic group and lead to the creation of a 2000 strong Highlander regiment out to get General Washington (a tradition of ethnic conflict that continues in America to the present day).

    On the flip side however, it also settled Central Florida (hence Inverness and Dunedin) and Oregon Country as fleeing Highlanders recently kicked out of the new United States set up camp in a Florida recently restored to the Spanish crown, which had been a long-time friend to Highlanders since the Jacobite Revolts. In Florida they learned how to raise cattle and tend to large ranchos, and when Florida was ceded to the United States, some of them stayed, but many of them instead took up the British flag again and headed to Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Over time, they gradually warmed to the idea of joining up with America, and when America finally claimed most of the areas in question they were finally willing to stop ramblin around.

    The whacky thing about this story is that even though Highlanders were traditionally the poorest Scots, in America the wealthiest Scottish ethnic group is the Highlanders because they settled the most favorable and fruitful lands before anyone else got to the West, which is the reason why even today a lot of wealthy rancheros have last names like Gordon, Campbell, MacDonald, MacGregor, MacRae, and Mackenzie, and a lot of American businesses have highlander names. The Highlander tradition and influence continues to push the Northwest ahead to have the highest number of Medal of Honor winners of any American region, and Washington State in particular is the only American state with MOH winners in every military branch.

    But if those Highlanders had been fighting with General Washington as opposed to against him (and there is no especial reason why fighting the British is against the Scottish character) the Revolution would've been shorter, less bloody, and America would've had less debt afterwards.

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  5. Western Europe is now a Socialist Republic ,The EU has caused this .

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  6. The British Royals are of German lineage of the house of Hanover ,This was changed to Windsor in 1917 to sound more British. Face it most of the English are German ruled by Germans.

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  7. Jules? I prefer Brian's work.

    Yes, well placed kicks. The lost souls in these islands who fight against the dreaded republic call themselves monarchists. They call themselves "Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy" and apparently believe that they are defending the stauts quo. The royal sovereign hasn't been a monarch at least since King John whacked his chop on the first Magna Carta and probably not for a long while before that.

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  8. Ana, I know you're a fan of Enoch. I thought you might appreciate an hômage at my blog.

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  9. Adam, I really think you are missing the point. It's quite irrelevant if De Gaulle's career ended in failure. I certainly think your assessment of his rule as 'reactionary' is really wide of the mark. He came to power as a reactionary, as the champion of the Algerian colonists, but quickly realised in his pragmatic way that theirs was a lost cause. The underlying argument here is about power and the expression of power. De Gaulle established France on a new basis, a monarchical basis, which continues to the present day. On that I rest.

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  10. Jeremy, thanks for that interesting amplification. Inevitably in a brief summary like this some of the subtleties are lost. But I think, as a general principle, it's still correct to say that the American Revolution was based on a rejection of distant and arbitrary royal power.

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  11. Sucio, Adam is more of a fan than I but I will be delighted to have a look. I'll come along a bit later this evening. I'm going for a long soak as soon as I've finished here!

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  14. Retarius and Adam, I'm being silly; I do know who that is. It's Otis Ferry's father, a fellow hunt enthusiast (Otis, that is!).

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  16. I think it was more a rejection of distant and arbitrary power no matter what the source, hence the continuation in Texas not too long after.

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  17. There is, actually, a contemporary list of many of the reasons for which American dissidents declared their independence. In fact, it is helpfully labeled The Declaration of Independence. I'm certain it does not represent every nuance and shade of opinion of the American colonials - how could it? But I think it is fair to say that there is a fair probability that those who signed it agreed with the contents. There were many colonists who disagreed with the dissidents, but their opinions did not prevail; hence Canada.

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  18. Jeremy, I can see you and I glaring at each other from opposite corners of a Federalist Paper. :-))

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