True son of our dear Mother, early taught With her to worship and for her to die, Nursed in her aisles to more than kingly thought, Oft in her solemn hours we dream thee nigh. – John Keble, “Charles Stuart, King and Martyr”, from The Christian Year
The word saint, has several different uses, but one basic meaning. It comes from the Latin word sanctus, which means holy, and it means “holy one”. This much everyone agrees on. It is when we come to the question of who is a saint or a holy one that disagreements arise. There is a kind of secular concept within Western culture of a “saint” as an extremely good person. In this sense of the term holiness is equated with goodness. Within the Christian faith, the term saint is sometimes used as a synonym for Christian, to refer to any believer in Jesus Christ. This use of the term is derived from the New Testament itself and reflects the original root meaning of the Greek and Latin words for holy, that of being consecrated or set apart. Believers in Jesus Christ are holy in the sense of being called out of the world, set aside, and consecrated for God. Many Protestant Christians recognize only this use of the word saint. Other Christians, including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans, while recognizing this use of the word saint, also use it in another way. In this other use, saint is a title bestowed upon a person as a way of saying that the Church officially recognizes his holiness.
Some Protestants object to this use of the term saint on the grounds that it is not the way the New Testament uses the word but I disagree. The New Testament does declare that all believers in Christ have been sanctified, i.e., made holy, consecrated to God, by the blood of Jesus Christ. It also declares specific individuals to be holy – like John the Baptist (Mark 6:20), the prophets (Luke 1:70, Acts 13:21, 2 Peter 1:21, 3:2, Revelation 22:6), and the apostles (Ephesians 3:5, Revelation 18:20). One of the books which calls the prophets and apostles holy also says that only God is holy (Revelation 15:4) indicating that either the Apostle John and the martyrs to whom he attributes the statement that only God is holy are in disagreement, or that the word holy has different senses in different contexts, one of which can only be rightly attributed to God, another of which can be ascribed to men like the apostles and prophets. The latter is the correct inference. As T. S. Eliot wisely said “We should not try to pin a word down to one meaning, which it should have at all times, in all places, and for everybody.” (1) The New Testament calls all believers saints but it does not contain an injunction forbidding the Church from doing what it does itself, applying the same term in a more limited sense to specific persons. After the Reformation, a major difference of opinion arose among the reformed Churches, regarding Church traditions. Some said that unless a traditional belief or practice can be shown to be found in and authorized by Scripture it should be abandoned. Others argued that unless a traditional belief or practice is said to be wrong or forbidden by Scripture it should be retained and honoured. Among English-speaking reformed Christians, the latter was the position of the Church of England, defended by the Elizabethan era Anglican divine Richard Hooker in his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. The former was the position of the Puritans whom Hooker argued against.
It is perversely appropriate therefore, that the Puritans were the ones who persecuted and martyred the man who is our subject today, the only man every canonized a saint by the Church of England after she was removed from under the authority of Rome. The canonization took place at the convocation of the ecclesiastical provinces of Canterbury and York in 1660, during the Restoration that followed the English Civil War and the Puritan protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. The man canonized as saint was Charles Stuart, who had reigned over England and Scotland as King Charles I until he was murdered by the Puritans on January 30, 1649.
Charles I was the second member of the House of Stuart to reign over England. The Stuarts had ruled Scotland ever since Robert Stewart, grandson of Robert the Bruce through his daughter Marjorie, succeeded his uncle David II as king in 1371. Prior to Robert II’s accession to the throne his ancestors had held the title High Steward of Scotland for six generations, from which the family’s patronym was derived. Charles’ father James, was already James VI of Scotland when he inherited the throne of England in 1603, upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth I was the third and last child of Henry VIII, and when she, like her brother Edward and sister Mary, died without issue, the House of Tudor became extinct and the line of succession reverted back to the descendents of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister and the daughter of Henry VII. Margaret had married James IV of Scotland, their son was James V, whose daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, was the mother of James VI.
The House of Stuart inherited its problem with the Puritans from the House of Tudor. Parliament, under Henry VIII, had passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 which declared the king to be the highest earthly authority over the Church of England, effectively removing it from under the authority of the Pope. This was not done out of sympathy with the doctrines of Martin Luther and John Calvin and the Church of England at first was little different after the Act than it had been before the Act. Later in Henry VIII’s reign other reforms were started. He authorized the production of an official English translation of the Bible for use in the Church, which came out in 1539 as The Great Bible. Thomas Cranmer, whom he had made Archbishop of Canterbury, also began work on an English language version of the liturgy. This became the Book of Common Prayer, the first edition of which came out in 1549, a couple of years after the death of Henry VIII during the reign of his son Edward VI. Edward, unlike his father, was a Protestant in doctrine, and, although he was in his minority for the duration of his brief reign, under him Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Thomas Ridley introduced further reforms, including an explicitly Protestant confession of faith. When Edward died at age 15, the throne passed, despite his efforts to install a Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, to his Roman Catholic sister Mary, who repealed the Act of Supremacy, reversed the reforms of her father and brother, and had Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley – among many others – burned at the stake. When she died childless in 1558 the throne then went to her Protestant sister Elizabeth. By this time, the polarization over religion threatened the stability of the government. Protestants had fled the realm during the persecutions of “Bloody Mary” to find refuge in places like Calvin’s, Geneva. Now under Elizabeth it was the Catholics who were fleeing to places like France and Spain and the Protestants were returning. Unfortunately, during their exile they had come under the influence, not merely of the Reformer’s better teachings like the authority of Scripture as the Word of God and justification by faith, but of more radical and obnoxious doctrines as well. Among these doctrines, popular in Calvin’s Geneva, were presbyterianism, the idea of getting rid of the bishops that had governed the Church since the Apostolic era and putting the governance of the Church in the hands of synods of presbyters, and anti-monarchical, seditious, republicanism. Thus, when Elizabeth became Queen, she had to deal with both Catholics who opposed her restoration of the reforms of her father and brother and Protestants who demanded that she get rid of the bishops and everything ritualistic, ceremonial and traditional that they objected to. Her response was to say that the Church would keep its bishops, rituals, and ceremonies, that it would follow the Book of Common Prayer, and adopt the Protestant Thirty-Nine Articles as its doctrinal confession, and that bishops and priests would be free to interpret its doctrines in as Catholic or Protestant a way as they liked, so long as they did not rock the boat, in which case they would be dealt with mercilessly. The Elizabethan Settlement was an ingenious attempt to split the difference between the wisdom of Solomon and the man who put on the colours of both sides in a war and got shot at by both.
This was the situation in England when the throne passed to the Scottish House of Stuart. The situation in Scotland was a bit different. There, the established Church had gone much further in the way of Calvinistic reforms. The bishops had been abolished and the Church had been given a presbyterian government. It was because of this that the English radical Protestants, who are known in history as the Puritans because of their desire to purify the Church and society of all they considered to be unbiblical, initially thought they had an ally in the new king who already reigned over a presbyterian country. They were very much mistaken. The new James I of England, as James VI of Scotland, had already tasted of the fruit of Puritanism. He had been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church which was the Church of his parents, Mary, Queen of Scots and her husband Lord Darnley. Before his first birthday his father was murdered and his mother was arrested by Protestant radicals. He never saw his mother again. She was forced to abdicate and he, crowned king at age one, was removed from her custody so that he would be raised as a Protestant. He was brought up under the tutelage of brutal presbyterian masters. He was captured and held prisoner for about a year by presbyterian noblemen when he was sixteen years old. When he inherited the throne of England he was already developed a strong dislike for extreme Protestantism. The Puritans, therefore, when they sent him the Millenary Petition as he travelled to London to claim his new throne, requesting that he abolish the sign of the cross in baptism, the rite of confirmation, the term priest, wedding rings and vestments, bowing at the name Jesus, etc., were already fated to be disappointed. He called the Hampton Court Conference for early 1604 to which he invited Puritan representatives and bishops of the Church of England. He allowed the Puritans to present their requests and the bishops to present counterarguments and then proceeded to deny their requests. The one exception was the request for a new authorized translation of the Bible. This he approved because he disliked the presbyterian and republican marginal notes of the then popular Geneva Bible. He was convinced that presbyterianism was the ally of republicanism while episcopalianism was allied to the reign of kings.
If it could be argued that James support for the Anglican status quo was politically motivated the same cannot be said for his son. Charles was baptized into the Church of England and raised in the Anglican faith – the first British monarch of whom this can be said. He was personally devout and when he refused to give in to Puritan demands it was for a sincerely held theological belief in the necessity of bishops in Apostolic succession.
“Rightly was King Charles surnamed the Martyr”, wrote Benjamin Disraeli, “for he was the holocaust of direct taxation.” He then went on to say “Never yet did man lay down his heroic life for so great a cause: the cause of the Church and the cause of the poor.” (2)
Disraeli wrote this assessment of King Charles in his novel Sybil which was first published in 1845. This was not typical of the way the martyred king was treated by the historians of Disraeli’s century. The nineteenth century was the era of triumphant liberalism. Liberalism, the ideology which encapsulated the spirit of the Modern Age, was born out of the anti-Christian doctrines of the Enlightenment Project. It championed the “liberty” of the individual against the traditional authority of kings and the Church only to bind the individual in slavery to the omnipotent State. In the English-speaking world liberalism’s pedigree went back, through the Whig Party of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to the Puritan Roundheads who deposed and murdered King Charles I. Naturally, therefore, the Whig historians of the nineteenth century were not inclined to include sympathetic interpretations of the king in their histories.
In the Whig interpretation of history King Charles was a tyrant, who sought to overturn the constitution of England, abrogate the rights and privileges of Parliament, and to impose his own arbitrary will upon the country. This interpretation is, like virtually every other idea liberals have ever come up with, pure nonsense.
Charles, like his father, believed in the Divine Right of Kings. Liberals see this doctrine as being a justification for autocratic government. This, however, reveals the anti-Christian, rationalistic thinking that is at the heart of liberalism. The doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings asserts that rulers derive their authority directly from God to Whom they are accountable. To say that this doctrine promotes autocratic government is to assert one’s practical atheism. For if we believe in the existence of an Almighty, Holy, God, Who holds men accountable in this world and for all eternity, the idea that kings derive their authority from and are accountable to Him is a strong deterrent rather than an incentive to tyrannical behaviour on the part of the king. It is a much stronger deterrent to tyranny than the liberal doctrine that government derives its authority from “the consent of the people”. (3)
It is, in fact, liberal, democratic theory that is the true recipe for tyranny. It actually removes inhibitions on the government’s powers to tax and legislate. If the government is the voice of the people, after all, whenever it uses those powers it is the people who are taxing and legislating themselves. This is not sophistry, it is borne out by the history of the last three centuries. As Western governments have grown more democratic, they have also grown exponentially, as have the laws which they have introduced, laws which now intrude into people’s private lives and businesses in ways that would have been unthinkable before modern democracy. Taxation has also become far more oppressive. Disraeli said that the death of King Charles was “the holocaust of direct taxation.” When Disraeli spoke of direct taxation he was referring to taxes levied directly by the sovereign as opposed to those which were created by the elected assembly. His claim that the taxes King Charles raised directly without Parliamentary consent were fairer than those imposed by Parliament was based upon the fact that the wealthy paid the former and the poor paid the latter. This was, in fact, the case, but there is an even stronger case to be made. The tax system that has evolved after the Crown was weakened and most of its powers transferred to the assembly brings in government revenue in much larger amounts, through taxes at much higher rates, collected in a much more oppressive way, than those conceived of by any feudal king.
This is quite easily demonstrable. Today, when we speak of direct and indirect taxation, we do not refer to the difference Disraeli had in mind but to the difference between taxes imposed directly upon a person and his livelihood, of which the income tax is the obvious example, and taxes which consist of charges added to economic transactions, such as tariffs and sales taxes. It should be fairly obvious that in this usage, direct taxation is the more oppressive of the two. To raise revenue through an income tax a government requires a large, permanent, tax bureaucracy which keeps extensive records on the employment, earnings, and spending habits of its citizens. It is by far the most oppressive form of taxation ever devised by man. It is like the tribute which the Romans demanded of the peoples they conquered as a symbol of their submission except that it is imposed by governments upon their own people. It is the creation of democratic governments and it was only in the last century that it became the norm throughout the Western world.
The reason many people do not recognize that the income tax, requiring them to turn over a percentage of their income each year to a government that keeps tabs on where they work, for whom, how much money they make, and how they spend it, is an unprecedentedly high and oppressive tax is the same reason why they do not recognize mandatory seat belt laws and other nanny-state regulations for the unprecedented government intrusion into their daily lives that they are. We can call it the “Brave New World” effect.
Tyranny consists of two elements. The first is the usurpation of authority, either by using force to seize an office of power for one’s self or by assuming to one’s office powers which did not previously belong to it. The second is the abuse of authority by harsh treatment of those under it. Neither of these elements was present in the reign of Charles I, except in the actions of the Puritans. Charles inherited his throne legitimately and, while some of his actions would be unconstitutional if committed by a monarch today, they did not violate the constitution in his own day.
Charles became king on March 27, 1625. On May 1st of that year he was married by proxy, to Henrietta Maria, the youngest sister of King Louis XIII of France, in Notre Dame Cathedral. On June 13th, he married her again in person, in Canterbury. Henrietta Maria was a Roman Catholic and, in the treaty with France in which the marriage was arranged, Charles had agreed that she would be allowed to remain a Catholic and to practice her religion freely. Charles also promised his new brother-in-law’s prime minister, Cardinal Armand du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu, that he would grant freedom of religion to the Roman Catholic recusants. It would take a rather sick mind to see these promises of religious freedom for Catholics as a threat to impose popery on the rest of the country. That, however, was the way the Puritans saw it and they, unfortunately, had a lot of clout in Parliament, which Charles called together five days after his marriage.
It did not have to be that way. John Williams, who had been appointed Bishop of Lincoln and Lord Keeper by King James, advised King Charles “to postpone calling parliament until his friends had time to ensure the election of trustworthy candidates.” (4) Charles ignored this suggestion, preferring to take the opposite advice from George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham had been King James’ favourite before he became Charles’ and, although the title and office did not yet exist, he was to all intents and purposes the Prime Minister of Britain until his assassination by Puritan John Felton in 1628. He was also a complete idiot and the advice he gave Charles was generally of the worst possible sort. Two years earlier, he had talked Charles into travelling incognito with him to Madrid, to attempt to woo the Infanta Maria, the youngest daughter of Philip III of Spain. The adventure was a disaster and when the two returned home, Buckingham urged war with Spain. Early the following year he got his way when, with Parliament enthusiastically behind the idea, James reluctantly declared war on Spain. Thus, upon Charles’ accession to the throne, Buckingham urged him to convene Parliament as soon as possible to obtain the necessary funds to fight the war.
Well, that went over like a ton of bricks. The House of Commons voted Charles two subsidies, but these were insufficient to cover the expenses of the war which the House itself had overwhelmingly supported the year previously. Then, to make matters worse, they voted to grant Charles tonnage and poundage for one year.
Tonnage and poundage were customs duties, charged mostly on imported wine. For three centuries these had been collected as part of the royal revenue and it was customary for Parliament to grant these to the king for life at the beginning of his reign. For the Commons to restrict the grant to one year was a major insult. The insult was intensified by the fact that it was tacked on at the end of the session, when most of the House had gone home, having voted for the insufficient subsidies after having side-tracked the discussion for several days with a harangue against Romanism filled with demands that the recusancy laws against Catholics be severely enforced. Thus began the conflict between the king and his Parliament, not with the king attempting to rob Parliament of its prescriptive rights and privileges, but with the Commons attempting to rob the king of his!
Buckingham then proceeded to really mess things up through his utter incompetence. Having recognized the insult to the king in the Commons’ vote - and the threat to his own plans for war – he convinced the Lords to reject the bill granting the king tonnage and poundage for a year. The result of this, of course, was that Charles was not granted these customs by Parliament at all! His officers continued to collect them, which they had strong prescriptive authority to do, but this only increased the opposition to the king in the Commons. The Commons then attempted to impeach Buckingham but were prevented from doing so by the king’s dissolving Parliament. This was more or less the pattern for the next two Parliaments as well. The third Parliament was suspended, rather than dissolved, in June of 1628, four months after it had been called, and in the recess Felton’s blade removed Buckingham permanently as a source of contention between Charles and his Parliament. This odious act of “murder most foul” was the most praiseworthy deed that can be attributed to the Puritans.
By this point in time, Buckingham had really fouled things up. Having talked both king and Parliament into war with Spain but failing to obtain for the king the funds necessary to fight the war, Buckingham proceeded to conduct the war by means of highly romantic adventures which he botched badly, such as the failed attempt to capture the Spanish port Cádiz. Then he managed to get England involved in a second war with France. He had promised, in the treaty with France that he had negotiated with Cardinal Richelieu over King Charles marriage to Henrietta Maria, that England would contribute ships to help Richelieu suppress the Huguenots at La Rochelle and the Ile de Ré. That hardly helped to dampen the suspicions of the Calvinists in Parliament that the government was sympathetic to popery, especially when Buckingham tried to carry these promises out. Then Buckingham broke with Richelieu and took English forces to aid the Huguenots! He was of no help to them whatsoever and in fact, they ended up saving him after his force was decimated, but having learned nothing from this embarrassment, he was organizing a larger force to come to their aid when Felton assassinated him.
The death of Buckingham brought harmony to the relationship between Charles and his queen which had previously been strained. (5) It was too late to repair the relationship between the king and Parliament, however. Three Parliaments had approved the wars but refused to vote Charles the money needed to fight the wars, or even the king’s traditional customs and duties, unless Buckingham was removed from office and the king had responded to their arrogance with stubbornness of his own, dissolving the first two Parliaments and proroguing the third. Placed in the position of being in Parliament-approved wars without Parliament-approved funding, the king continued to collect tonnage and poundage without Parliament’s authorization, and resorted to such means as forced loans and the billeting of troops to cover his military expenses.
This sort of thing, if done today, would be unconstitutional. It was not unconstitutional at the time. Parliamentary authority over all taxes was not yet an established part of the constitution and even without Parliamentary approval the king’s collection of tonnage and poundage was backed by prescription and precedent. Nor was this sort of thing unjust. These measures were not oppressive, especially when compared to the kinds of taxes that would later be imposed on people once Parliament had seized most of the king’s powers and authority. The Puritans in Parliament were not being reasonable. They were in favour of war with Spain and France because they wished to pillage and plunder the Catholics but they didn’t want to pay for it.
Justifiable and constitutional as these measures were at the time, they made Parliament furious. When the third Parliament resumed in January 1629 Buckingham was dead but it no longer mattered. Sir John Eliot and his Puritan followers launched an attack upon the king. They prepared three resolutions, two of which were about taxes and one about religion, and forcibly held the Speaker of the House in his chair while they read them out. The first resolution, the religious one, declared the person who tried to “extend or introduce Popery or Arminianism” to be a “capital enemy to this kingdom and commonwealth”. In this case “Popery” did not mean only literal allegiance to the Pope or Roman Catholicism, but also ceremonialism or ritualism. King Charles had just made appointed several Arminians and high churchmen to important ecclesiastical offices. These resolutions were not voted upon and the king dissolved Parliament. This time he did not call it together again for eleven years. At no time in the seventeenth century was Britain governed better than in those eleven years.
No longer under the influence of Buckingham and his romantic military adventurism, Charles quickly negotiated an end to the wars with France and Spain and from then on sought to negotiate a diplomatic end to the Thirty Years War. No other minister ever had the influence in his reign that Buckingham had and to advise him, he called together a competent Privy Council. Among these advisors, the two most important were as excellent as Buckingham had been foolish. One of these was Thomas Wentworth, who had initially been among Charles opponents in Parliament, but who had become a supporter of the king in 1628. Wentworth was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1632 and was made the Earl of Strafford in 1640. The other minister was William Laud, whom Charles had made Bishop of London and then later Archbishop of Canterbury, and who was also Chancellor of Oxford University. Both men were hated by the Puritans and met with the same fate as Charles.
As Lord Deputy of Ireland, Wentworth was an efficient administrator. He weeded out corrupt and inefficient officials, increased revenues and cut out wasteful spending, turning a large deficit into an even larger surplus. He put down the pirates who had been the terror of the Irish sea and administered justice fairly. Of his justice Derek Wilson wrote “He applied even-handed justice and won few friends in the process”. (6)
William Laud’s theology set him at odds with the Puritans. He rejected the Calvinist understanding of the doctrine of predestination in favour of the Arminian understanding of free will and he was a firm high churchman, believing that the legitimacy of the sacraments in the Church of England were derived from the Apostolic succession of her bishops. He agree with the Puritans on one thing – the Church was badly in need of reform. When he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633 at the age of sixty he promptly set out to bring in those reforms. His reforms, however, were not the kind the Puritans had in mind. He desired unity and order in the Church and he saw these things primarily in terms of ritual, ceremony, and decorum. This reeked of Rome to the Puritans, especially when the specific reforms, such as his insistence that altars be placed at the east end of the building and called altars rather than communion tables, brought the Church closer to the practices of Roman Catholicism. Laud was not particularly impressed with the kind of reforms the Puritans sought either. They wished for stricter enforcement of moral behaviour, such as the banning of recreational activities on Sundays. In Laud’s first year as Archbishop he convinced the king to reissue the Book of Sports which his father had passed in 1617. The Book of Sports was a declaration that after Sunday services, people could participate in such “harmless recreation” as archery, dancing, etc. This infuriated the Puritans who saw this as authorizing Sabbath-breaking. Charles ordered that the declaration be read from the pulpit by all clergy. Charles Carlton writes that one clergyman read the proclamation first, then the ten commandments, and told his congregation “You have heard the commandments of God and Man, obey which you please.” (7) However, he also noted earlier in the same paragraph that:
Although some opposed such Sabbath breaking, for most people it was the only day that they had for recreation. Admittedly the church ales could degenerate into drunken brawls, but again they were one of the few releases working folk had from the daily grind. (8)
If you think about what our Lord had to say regarding the Sabbath during His earthly ministry it is not difficult to figure out which side was closer to Him in spirit here. Here’s a hint. It wasn’t the Puritans.
This brings us back to Disraeli’s assertion that King Charles laid down his life for “the cause of the Church and the cause of the poor.” Anthony M. Ludovici made the same observation about Charles’ repeal of the Sunday observation laws that Professor Carlton did. He wrote:
In 1633 Charles I, to the intense annoyance of the Puritans, repealed the Sunday observance laws, which he felt were taking the spirit out of the working people, who had but that day upon which to play and enjoy themselves, and he ordained that, after attending evening prayers, everybody should be allowed to amuse himself in any decent way he might choose. (9)
In the chapter in which Ludovici wrote this he was making the case that King Charles, Archbishop Laud, and the Earl of Strafford had as one of the main goals of their policy, in both theory and practice, the protection of the poor from abuse by the rich. He does in fact make a very strong case for this. He points to the fact that Charles’s taxes, which Parliament made such a big deal over, were actually very light and that “An essential part of the real grievance was that the weight of this taxation fell entirely upon the trading and wealthy classes.” (10) He discusses Charles’ appointment of Commissioners to “inquire into the laws for the relief of the poor” and make sure the officials appointed to uphold these laws were doing their jobs. (11) Then he brings up the commissions Charles appointed to deal with depopulation. This was a problem that had been growing for centuries. In the open-field system of the Middle Ages, each village had a large community field, divided into strips that each year were allotted to the peasants in the village to farm. At the end of the medieval period these began to be converted to private use through a process called enclosure. Often they were converted into uses, like pasture for sheep, which were far less labour-intensive and a result of all this was depopulation – plenty of people lost their homes and livelihoods. This had become a major problem in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the process of enclosure-depopulation was strongly denounced by the Church and opposed by the Houses of Tudor and Stuart. Archbishop Laud in particular championed the traditional rights of the newly dispossessed peasantry and of all the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, Charles was the one who most actively combated this injustice, appointing several different commissions to deal with it in the eleven years he ruled without a Parliament, using his Star Chamber to prosecute offenders. Other measures Ludovici mentions by which Charles sought to defend the poor and the weak include his coming to the assistance of the Essex weavers in 1629, his efforts to keep the price of corn from rising in 1630, his 1633 proclamation “against the intolerable avarice” of those who were overcharging for victuals (which affected the poor most harshly), his legislation against various sorts of fraud, and his efforts to maintain high standards of quality for manufacturers. (12)
Now it needs to made clear that none of this was socialism. It would be socialism if done by a democratically elected assembly today. It was not socialism when done by a divinely ordained feudal king in the seventeenth century. If there is confusion on this point today it is largely due to twentieth century tendency to think about all issues in terms of polarized spectrums, in this case an economic spectrum between the poles of absolute freedom and government control.
When a king passes laws protecting the poor and the weak, he is fulfilling a duty that is inseparable from his office, a duty which has come down to him from God. A democratically elected assembly, however, derives its powers from the people and not from God. When it passes legislation like this it is a vulgar display of the lowest of human vices. At the time the events we have been considering took place, England was in a transition from feudalism to liberal capitalism. Charles, in defending the poor and the weak, was advocating their traditional rights under feudalism, against the forces that were sweeping capitalism in. Socialism is an advanced stage in the development of liberal capitalism.
This is an important fact which is far too often overlooked. Do not be confused by socialism’s anti-capitalist rhetoric. All socialists accept capitalism. As an ideology, socialism is built upon the same foundational concepts as liberal capitalism – the sovereignty of the people, society as a contract between its members, the superiority of reason and science over tradition and revelation, etc. As a system of economic organization, socialism like liberal capitalism, is based upon the concentration of production in large, mechanized, factories based in urban centres. The differences between socialism and capitalism are smaller and less important than what the two have in common, which distinguishes them both from pre-liberal organic, rural, agrarian, feudal societies rooted in a worldview derived from Christianity.
When Charles called Parliament back together in 1640, it was not a humbler, wiser, Parliament, but a much more arrogant Parliament. Two Parliaments were called that year. The first, the Short Parliament, was dissolved after three weeks. The second, the Long Parliament, would not be dissolved until 1660. Headed by John Pym, the Puritan party had more control over Parliament and made demands of a radical and revolutionary nature. They demanded that control of the army and navy, which constitutionally belonged to the king, be turned over to them. They introduced the Root and Branch Bill, in response to a petition they had received from London’s Puritan extremists in December of 1640, demanding the abolition of the episcopal hierarchy of the Church of England, denouncing such things as surplices and copes, standing for the reading of the Gospel, facing the East while praying, and calling the flock to the altar to receive communion, and calling for the severe persecution of Roman Catholics. They demanded a veto over all of the king’s appointments. .
They also went after the king’s ministers. They arrested Wentworth, now the Earl of Strafford. He had raised an army in Ireland and had advised the king in Privy Council to use that army to put down the rebellion by the Covenanters in Scotland. His rival Sir Henry Vane used his words against him, deliberately misinterpreting them as advice to use the army against Parliament. They charged him with treason and began the impeachment process but then they decided to condemn him through a Bill of Attainder instead. The difference between the two was basically this – to impeach him, they would have had to have had a trial before the House of Lords which would follow the procedure of an ordinary criminal court in which evidence would be required and Strafford would be allowed a defence, whereas by Attainder they simply passed a bill declaring him guilty of treason and ordering his execution. Unlike impeachment, however, Attainder required royal assent. They had decided to insist that the king himself sign off on their murder of one of his loyal lieutenants He refused to give his assent, promising Strafford that he would not sign, and telling Parliament that if they dropped the Attainder he would permanently dismiss Strafford from his service. They would not have it and Strafford released him from his promise, pleading with him to sign to save the kingdom. He did and the guilt of it would torment him for the rest of his life.
The execution of Strafford took place in May of 1641. Later that year they presented the king with the Grant Remonstrance, a document which had it not been written in the seventeenth century, would read like a Jack T. Chick comic book. It asserted that in order to effect a Roman Catholic takeover of Britain the Jesuits had infiltrated the House of Bishops, the Privy Council, and the king’s officers and ministers in general, and that in order to save the kingdom for the true faith from Popish influence it was necessary that the king abolish the powers of the bishops and give Parliament control over all his appointments. Laud was not mentioned by name but it was obvious they were singling him out as Jesuit-in-chief and three weeks after they presented the Great Remonstrance to the king, they impeached Laud and ordered him imprisoned in the Tower of London.
It was now absolutely clear that there could be no reasoning with the Puritans. Several members of Parliament who had earlier been supportive of Parliamentary opposition to the king now formed a Royalist party in Parliament. (13) Lucius Cary, the 2nd Viscount Falkland led the party along with Sir John Colepeper and Edward Hyde, who would become the Earl of Clarendon in the Restoration. The formation of the Royalist party in Parliament was too late, however, to affect a reconciliation between the king and his Parliament and prevent the conflict that was about to start. On January 4th, 1642, King Charles went personally to St. Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster where the House of Commons was assembled to arrest John Pym and four other Puritan leaders for treason, of which, unlike Strafford whom they had executed on the same charge, they were actually guilty. The attempt failed due to their having escaped but it was ill-advised to begin with. It violated the prescriptive privileges of Parliament, and while the Puritans were currently engaged in trying to subvert the very constitution from which those prescriptive privileges were derived, they were able to use this to stir up widespread anger against the king in London. The royal family fled London and the English Civil War began.
In Men at Arms, the first volume of his Sword of Honour trilogy, Evelyn Waugh’s protagonist, Guy Crouchback, explains the motive for his returning home to England and seeking to enlist to fight in World War II. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had formed an alliance, which meant that Britain was fighting against “the Modern Age at arms”, and he believed his place was in that conflict. Throughout the trilogy he gradually becomes disillusioned as he experiences how modern the British army itself had become and as Britain makes its dishonourable alliance with Stalin. While World War II did not live up to Crouchback’s expectations there are other conflicts which could accurately be described as fights against “The Moden Age at arms”. The internecine war between the American states from 1861-1865 was one of them. The English Civil War was another. Unfortunately in both cases the Modern Age won.
King Charles’s supporters were the Cavaliers – knights of chivalry, honourably fighting out of loyalty to their king. He had the support of the older, longer established, noble houses, of the poorer, rural areas, and of Oxford and its University. In terms of territory, the areas loyal to the king were the northern and western parts of the country. The south-east, where the big urban centres were located, the hub of industry and trade, was the base from which the Puritans operated. Their supporters were religious fanatics, tradesmen, and the nouveau-riche, especially newer landlords who had enriched themselves through enclosure and depopulation. It was the traditional and feudal on the one side versus the modern on the other side.
Unfortunately, the modern came with practical advantages. The Puritans had more money and their territory was united in one large area, whereas the Royalists’ territory was divided into two large areas. Moreover England’s ports were located in their territory which is one reason why the navy, furbished by the ship money Charles had collected, sided with the Puritans. In 1644 and 1645, Parliament passed the Self-Denying Ordinances which re-organized its forces into the New Model Army – a modern, professional, army, that was placed under the general command of Sir Thomas Fairfax. Under Fairfax, Sir Philip Skippon commanded the infantry and Oliver Cromwell commanded the cavalry. The New Model Army had all the cold, utilitarian, efficiency of a modern army and in the Battle of Naseby in June 1645, they defeated the Royalist army commanded by the king’s nephew Prince Rupert of the Rhine. King Charles and the remnants of his army retreated to Oxford, then in 1646 he went north and surrendered to the Scots who turned him over to the English Parliament in 1647. He was imprisoned at Holmby House in Northamptonshire, then at Hampton Court. While he was in captivity, his opponents began to fight among themselves and Charles used this division to his advantage as he negotiated with the various sides. He escaped from Hampton Court and went to the Isle of Wight where he placed himself in the custody of the unsympathetic Col. Robert Hammond, who promptly locked him up in Carisbrooke Castle. In 1648, his supporters in England and an invading Scottish army sought his restoration but the Puritan army quickly defeated them.
At this point the army took matters into its own hands. Following the defeat of the Royalists at the Battle of Preston the Long Parliament entered into negotiations with King Charles, hoping that he would sign a treaty limiting the royal prerogative and handing power over to Parliament in return for restoration to the throne. The army would have none of that. On Fairfax’s orders, Colonel Pride purged the Parliament, removing from it the majority that was in favour of signing the treaty with the king. The remainder, known as the Rump Parliament, rubberstamped the army’s decision that King Charles should be tried and executed for High Treason.
On January 4th, 1689 they authorized the establishment of the kangaroo court that assembled at Westminster Hall on January 20th to try the king. The court was presided over by John Bradshaw, a boorish, ill-mannered, homunculus, who showed up at the proceedings late and when he found that he had no answer to the arguments the king put forth in his defence, kept rudely interrupting him. The king spoke patiently and eloquently, pointing out that the court that presumed to try him as a “Tyrant, Traitor and Murderer, and a public and implacable Enemy to the Commonwealth of England”, had no legitimate authority to do so. The court was conducted in defiance of both the laws of God and of the constitution of England, having been called together by a “House of Commons” the majority of whom had been forcibly prevented from sitting, without the House of Lords or Royal assent, in the name of “the people” the majority of whose opinions they had not bothered to ask. There was, of course, no possible answer to this and, once the sentence of death by beheading was passed on January 27th, although he was initially asked if he wished to speak further on his behalf, Bradshaw prevented him from doing so.
On January 30th, 1646, he was taken to the scaffold, where he was allowed to address his people before his execution. In his final speech he neither backed down from the position he had been upholding nor falsely confessed to the crimes he had been wrongly accused and convicted of, but forgave his enemies and declared that although the sentence upon him was unjust in earthly terms, under God it was justly imposed because he had allowed a previous unjust execution to take place – that of Strafford. The crowd that had gathered to watch the execution was in sympathy with him and groaned out in sorrow when the executioner removed his head. (14)
The abolition of the Roman kings and establishment of the Roman Republic created a power vacuum, that eventually was filled by the rise of the Caesars. When the Bourbon monarchy was overthrown in France in the late eighteenth century it produced a tyrannical and murderous republican government and paved the way for the rise of Napoleon. The overthrow of the Romanov, Hapsburg and Hohenzollern dynasties in the twentieth century prepared the way for the creation of the Soviet Union and the tyrannies of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler. The murder of Charles Stuart was no different. The Puritans, who had accused him of tyranny, overturned the English constitution, abolished the office of king and the House of Lords, and eventually established Oliver Cromwell as dictator. Upon his death, England restored the constitution as best as they could, and placed Charles II on his father’s throne. Some of the damage could not be repaired but Britain was more fortunate than the other examples mentioned.
“Rightly”, Disraeli wrote, “was King Charles surnamed the Martyr.” When the Church of England canonized him a saint in 1660, they did so on the basis of his martyrdom, that he refused to save his life by betraying his people or his Church. His queen, Henrietta Maria, whom the Puritans hated and believed was conspiring to bring the king and England back under the authority of the Pope, had pleaded with him during the Civil War to save his life and his crown by accepting Presbyterianism. He wrote to her saying:
For the difference between me and the rebels concerning the Church is not a matter of form or ceremony, which are alterable according to occasion, but so real that if I should give way as is desired, here would be no Church, and no human probability ever to be recovered: so that, besides the obligation of mine oath, I know nothing to be an higher point of conscience. (15)
Today, five hundred years after the Reformation, most Protestant Christians, having been seeped in the ideas that religion is a private matter, that Christianity is a “personal relationship” between the individual and Christ, and doctrines and practices can be divided into the categories of basics and non-basics, the latter of which are completely unimportant and not worth dying for and into which category they would most certainly place church government, will find it very difficult to understand, let alone sympathize, with Charles’s position. If they try to make sense of it at all, they are likely to see the doctrine of Apostolic succession as something concocted by bishops and priests in order to justify their privileges, power, and position within the Church.
This is a shame because the real issue is far more important than that. One of the fundamental differences between modern liberal thought and pre-modern thought is the understanding of the nature of human society. Is a society a voluntary association of individuals formed by mutual contract? Or is a society a living organism, whose members are united in a whole in a way similar to the cells in a body, with a lifespan that exceeds any one generation but includes all past and future generations? Modern liberalism is based upon the contractual view. Pre-modern Western thought, however, saw societies and communities as organic. In the Bible, St. Paul puts forward an organic view of the Church in several of his epistles in which he expands upon the concept of the Church as the Body of Christ. Oddly, it is mostly in Protestantism, otherwise the most Pauline of the various Christian traditions, that the organic concept has been abandoned, at least with regards to the organized Church, for the liberal contractual concept in ecclesiology.
The Apostolic succession of bishops is important, not because it supports the powers and privileges of prelates, but because it contributes to an organic view of the Church. Christ founded His Church, ordained His Apostles to govern it, who ordained bishops (Gk episcopoi, administrators) to help them govern it once it spread far and wide, who once the Apostles died out continued to ordain other bishops. In saying that if this were eliminated “here would be no Church” Charles was saying that organic connection to the Church founded by Christ was necessary for a Church to be a Church.
His taking this position did not mean that he wished to bring the Church of England back under the authority of the Pope. This accusation was always ridiculous, whether directed against him or against Laud. Both men were Protestants. Both men were high Anglican churchmen, whose belief that the Church of England already had a valid Apostolic succession would not have been consistent with a drive to bring that Church back under the authority of Rome. When, in the nineteenth century, John Henry Newman crossed over to the Roman Catholic Church, he did so because he no longer believed in the validity of the Church of England’s Apostolic succession.
Like his defence of the rights of the Crown, divine and constitutional, against Parliament’s hypocritical attempts to enhance their own privileges and powers at the expense of those of the king, and of feudal rights against the encroachment of industrial capitalism, Charles’ defence of the Apostolic episcopacy of the Church of England, is best seen as part of an overall resistance to modernity, in its infancy in his own day, but which would soon grow and stretch forth its hand to try and strangle all that was left of the good, the true, and the beautiful from Western civilization, and all but succeed in doing so.
For that reason, the Church of England made no mistake in honouring this holy martyr with the title saint.
(1) T. S. Eliot, To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1965), p. 65. The quotation is from “Can ‘Education’ be Defined”, the first of four lectures on the subject of “The Aims of Education” which Eliot gave at the University of Chicago in 1950.
(2) Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil, or the Two Nations, Vol. 1, (London and New York: M. Walter Dunne, 1904), p. 331.
(3) Richard M. Weaver said that the Divine Right of Kings was “widely misunderstood”. Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), p. 76. He said this in the context of noting that the doctrine was often grouped with the concept of vocation – that “work is a divine ordinance” and that both ideas were now out of fashion. He goes on to confirm that the ideas are associated and that they are different variations on the answer to a single question “What is his real authority to act?” when asked of rulers and of workers. He extends the concept of “the divine right of kings” to all legitimate governments and quotes an unlikely authority – Puritan Governor of Massachusetts John Winthrop to explain the idea. Classic expositions of the concept of the “divine rights of kings” – which is, of course, entirely Scriptural and the plain teaching of both Jesus and St. Paul – include James I’s The True Law of Free Monarchies or The Reciprocal and Mutual Duty Betwixt a Free King and his Natural Subjects (1598), Basilikon Doron (1599) and Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha or the Natural Power of Kings (1680).
(4) Charles Carlton, Charles I: The Personal Monarch (London, Boston, Melbourne and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983), p. 69.
5) D. R. Watson, The Life and Times of Charles I, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972), p. 65-66. “The Queen complained that Buckingham came higher in her husband’s affections and that he was poisoning the King’s mind against her.” Derek Wilson, The King and the Gentleman: Charles Stuart and Oliver Cromwell 1599-1649, (London: Hutchinson, 1999), pp. 166-167.
(6) Wilson, op. cit., p. 298.
(7) Carlton, op. cit., p. 164. In the endnote to this anecdote Carlton writes “This story was associated with so many incidents that it may be worth telling more than it is worth believing.”
(13) Following the Restoration, the Royalist Party was succeeded by the Tory Party, organized in 1678 to resist further attempts by the Whigs (liberals) to mess with the Crown and the Church. It was in turn re-organized into the Conservative Party in 1834.
(14) The biographical and historical details in this essay have been largely drawn from the sources listed in footnotes four and five.
(15) Charles Stuart to Henry Marietta Stuart, January 11, 1646, quoted in D. R. Watson, op. cit., p. 147.
*Notice*Ordinarily it is my policy, once an essay has been published here, not to edit it other than to correct typos - mistakes, in spelling, punctuation, etc. In this case, however, I had pre-written this essay and scheduled it to be posted at a certain time, then, upon re-reading it, realized that there were three places where further words would improve the essay. I edited the essay as a Word document, the edits consisting of three new paragraphs. I intended to insert these into the essay here before the post-time but was prevented to do so by technical difficulties. I have now edited the essay to include them. They are the paragraph between the last paragraph in the general history of white/black relations in the United States and the first paragraph in the specific history of MLK Jr., the paragraph which begins with "While civil disobedience may start non-violently", and the paragraph that is the penultimate paragraph in the edited version of the essay. - GTN, January 22, 2013*End Notice*
Dorothy Sayers, in The Mind of the Maker, explains the reasonableness of orthodox Christian doctrine by drawing analogies between God as Creator and the artist, especially the creative writer. In her last chapter she applies what she had written in her previous chapters by arguing against “the purely analytical approach to phenomena” which she maintains is something that “has gone seriously wrong with our conception of humanity and of humanity’s proper attitude to the universe”. In this purely analytical approach, the difficulties that we experience are regarded as a series of problems to solve. Drawing upon her own experience as a mystery writer she argues that the detective story formula of problem-solution should not be regarded as a model for dealing with things that arise in real life because such stories are written to make the problem fit the solution. It is not only the writer of detective stories, that includes and excludes details to fit a solution, however. Sayers writes:
Somewhat similarly, the popular game of debunking great men usually proceeds by excluding their insoluble greatness from the terms of the roblem and presenting a watery solution of the remainder; but this is, by definition, no solution of the man or of his greatness. (1)
In other words, the virtues, strengths, and achievements for which the man is considered to be great are ignored by the debunker who instead focuses his efforts on debunking other, lesser, aspects of the man’s life and character.
The game of debunking great men has not gotten any less popular since The Mind of the Maker was first published. If anything it has gotten more popular. It is not a game to everyone, however. In the classroom and in the media progressive intellectuals frequently attempt to debunk the founders and leaders of their countries and of the Christian religion, and the writers, poets, artists, and thinkers who have contributed to Western civilization for the last three millennia. For whatever reason the progressive enjoys doing this – Robert Frost’s famous quip about a liberal being someone “who is too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel” comes to mind – he takes his self-appointed task as the debunker of a civilization and culture built on injustice very seriously indeed. His arguments, however, read like they were written to illustrate what Dorothy Sayers had written about debunking great men seventy two years ago.
It would be a very simple matter to debunk the subject of this essay in this way. Martin Luther King Jr. was ordained in a church whose doctrines he no longer believed in (2), was awarded a doctorate for a plagiarized dissertation (3), was a life-long womanizer and adulterer and had ties to subversive organizations allied with the power that was his country’s biggest enemy at the time. (4) By concentrating on these things one can attack his reputation without ever having to address the ideas, actions, and accomplishments that reputation is built upon.
That will not be the method of this essay. Instead, we will criticize the very things King's reputation is built upon. Whether this will be a more successful method of debunking remains to be seen.
There are three overlapping but distinct levels of admiration for Martin Luther King Jr. He is admired by black Americans as a leader of their people who fought for their equality, justice, and rights against racial segregation and discrimination. The American federal government by making the third Monday in January to be a holiday in his honour declared him to be a national hero of the United States to be revered by all Americans. Progressive liberals have declared him to be worthy of universal admiration and have essentially made an idol out of him.
This third level of admiration – or rather adoration – is the reason for this essay. The question of whom they choose to honour as heroes is one to be decided by blacks and Americans for themselves. The rest of us have no say in the matter although we are free, of course, to comment on the decisions they make. When, however, progressives trot out the images they have erected in the United States before the rest of the world and, like Nebuchadnezzar, demand that we all bow down and worship them it then becomes our business.
The same ideas, words, acts, and accomplishments are the foundation of King’s reputation at all three levels. If that foundation is strong enough to support the edifice that has been erected upon it at one level that does not mean it is capable of supporting the structure the next level up. If King’s actions on their behalf justify the esteem in which black Americans hold him that does not necessarily mean that they warrant his being considered a national hero by all Americans, and even if it could be argued that his actions benefited the country as a whole justifying his status at that level it does not follow that he is worthy of universal adoration.
Our examination of the life and achievements of King must begin by placing him within his historical context.
European settlers began to establish colonies in the Americas in the late fifteenth century and in the sixteenth century they began to import slaves. Most of these slaves were Africans, purchased by the Europeans from African tribes who had captured them in war or raids. In the eighteenth century, several British colonies in North America broke away Great Britain to form the American republic. These colonies – now states – disagreed among themselves as to what kind of country they wanted to build. Some, based primarily in the south, wanted a traditional, rural, agrarian country. Others, based primarily in the northeast, wanted a modern, urban, industrial country. The African slaves were caught in the middle of the conflict between these two sides. The plantations in the south were the primary destination of slaves brought into the United States, but northern merchants were the primary importers.
In the early nineteenth century Britain and the other European powers abolished the Atlantic slave trade. Realizing that they were about to be put out of business for good the northern slave merchants decided that the south should be made to bear the burden of their costs, sold all their remaining slaves to the south, then became abolitionists overnight. The conflict between the northern, urban, merchant-industrialists and the southern, rural, agrarians continued to escalate until, a little under a century after the Americans declared their independence from Britain, it grew into an outright war in which the south sought to break away from the American republic and the north went to war to impose its vision of industrial modernity upon the entire country. The north won and one of the first things they did after securing their victory was to pass the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery in the United States.
The question then, for north and south alike, was what to do about the fact that they now had a large population of newly freed ex-slaves on their hands. Initially the south could not do anything about it because they were under martial law, disenfranchised, and forced to watch while the northern opportunists they called carpetbaggers, aided by turncoats whom the other southerners contemptuously called scalawags, looted them. Once they regained control of their states they passed the Jim Crow laws establishing racial segregation. Under these laws blacks and whites would go to separate schools, drink from separate water fountains, use separate washrooms, etc. The north opted for a different approach. Initially, they banned free blacks from settling in their states altogether, then, when they realized they could use a supply of cheap labour, they invited blacks to move to northern factory cities like Detroit and Chicago. Needless to say these were not optimal circumstances for establishing good relations between the blacks who moved north and the northern white industrial working classes.
There is no way this history can be honestly interpreted so that blacks can be said to have been treated justly in all of this. The popular narrative, however, in which slavery and segregation are blamed for all of the problems black people currently face in the United States, is not a valid reading of this history either, and a case can be made that in fact the post-emancipation actions of the north has contributed far more to the present problems affecting American blacks than either slavery or segregation.
Thus was the setting of the historical stage when Martin Luther King Jr. made his appearance upon it. King was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. His maternal grandfather was the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, a position that would be taken over by King’s father when he was very young. Eventually, in 1960, King himself would join his father as co-pastor of this church. By that time he was already a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
King grew up in Atlanta and graduated from his father’s alma mater Morehead College. Deciding to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he pursued graduate degrees in theology at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and Boston University. The latter conferred upon him his doctorate in the spring of 1955. In December of that same year the incident took place that was to launch his career in the public eye. Rosa Parks was arrested and fined in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. King, who had become pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery the year before, led a boycott of the public transit system in protest. This brought King into the spotlight and during the next twelve years, with the help of the media, he built up his reputation as a civil rights activist who used non-violent civil disobedience to achieve his goals. Before discussing that career, however, we should take note of something that occurred the year prior to the Rosa Parks arrest because the timing of the two events is of some importance to how we interpret King and his career. The event in question is the Supreme Court of America’s final ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
Brown v. Board is not a textbook example of how a court is supposed to arrive at a decision. Indeed, it could be used to illustrate what a court is not supposed to do. Rather than making its ruling on the basis of the constitution, the law, and past precedent, the Warren Court based its decision to overturn the 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson and to rule segregation in schools to be unconstitutional, on a United Nations fatwa against racism and the arguments of sociologists and psychologists. (5) Regardless, it is the significance of the decision that is relevant to our discussion. That significance is this – Brown v. Board meant that the end of de jure racial segregation in the United States was inevitable. The decision met with resistance, of course, and the American federal government ended up sending in troops to enforce it. Some interesting things could be said about how all of this contributed to the triumph of an empire centred in Washington D. C. over local and regional cultures in the United States but this too is not the point here. If segregation’s death knoll had sounded with the Supreme Court’s decision in 1954, what does this say about the arguments King gave in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” justifying the civil disobedience of a career which began in 1955?
There is a lot of confusion about civil disobedience due to a subtle distinction that is easy to miss. Of actions that are against the law, some we say, are mala prohibita. This means that it is wrong to commit these acts only because the law tells you not to. Other actions are mala in se, which means that they are wrong in and of themselves regardless of whether there is a law against them or not. Now, if there are acts which are wrong in themselves, apart from any law, that means that there is a higher law than the laws made by human societies, by which the laws made by human societies are to be judged. It is on this basis that we speak of just and unjust laws. A just law is a law which conforms to the higher law not made by man whereas an unjust law is a law which violates the higher law. One way in which a law can be unjust is if it imposes upon people a requirement to do something which is malum in se, which is wrong in itself. Think of, for example, a law requiring you to sacrifice your first-born son to an idol. There is a moral obligation to disobey such laws. This, despite the fact that it is the sort of thing those who believe in civil disobedience will point to in order to justify their theory, is not what is meant by civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience is not merely a matter of refusing to obey laws which order you to do something horrible. It is a deliberate disobeying of the law, perhaps a law that is itself unjust but not necessarily a law that requires you to do something unjust – note the distinction, as a form of activism. There are different kinds of civil disobedience. There is the ‘non-violent resistance” variety, in which the person breaking a law he considers to be unjust, does so with the expectation that he will receive punishment in order to make a statement about the law and the government, with the idea that in doing so he will gain popular sympathy and support wherewith to convince or compel the government to change the law. This is the kind of civil disobedience we ordinarily associate with Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.. The nineteenth century American crackpot who dreamed up the idea of civil disobedience in the first place, however, Henry David Thoreau, did not limit the concept to such acts. A revolutionary and anarchist, he believed in violent civil disobedience both in theory, and in the practice of violent would-be reformers like John Brown.
In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, King attempted to give a prestigious pedigree to civil disobedience, by citing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the Biblical book of Daniel, the early Christians under Roman persecution, Greek philosopher Socrates, and the Boston Tea Party as examples. Only the last of these is a true example of civil disobedience. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to break the law of their God by obeying Nebuchadnezzar’s decree that they bow down and worship his golden statue. They did not do so as a protest against the injustice of the king, whose authority they respected. Civil disobedience is against both the teachings and example of Jesus and His Apostles and the response of the early Christian apologists, to the unjust persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, was to write defences of the Christian faith which included the argument that Christianity made people better, more law-abiding, citizens. Of all the examples King gave, Socrates is the most hilarious. King may have been thinking of Socrates’ refusal to take part in the arrest and execution of Leon of Salamis but this was a matter of not carrying out an order that commanded him to do something unjust. In Plato’s Crito, which is set three days before Socrates’ death, Socrates is visited by his lifelong friend Crito, a wealthy Athenian farmer, who informs him that his death is imminent and urges him to escape, offering his assistance. Socrates’ response is that while the Athenian judgement against him was unjust, it would be wrong for him to commit an injustice against Athens and its laws in return, which he would be doing so if he rejected their authority and made his escape.
We have a moral obligation to obey the law and we are only excused from this obligation when the law itself tells us to do something that morally wrong. Civil disobedience, the breaking of laws one disagrees with even if they do not require one to do something wrong, as a means of effecting social change is morally wrong. It is all the more inexcusable when the desired change is already in the process of happening which, as we have seen, was the case with Martin Luther King, whose career in civil disobedience began after the Supreme Court had made the end of segregation inevitable.
While civil disobedience may start out non-violently it does not stay that way. It goes beyond both lawful dissent and the refusal to commit a morally wrong act that is required by an unjust law. The deliberate breaking of the law in order to achieve one's ends, however noble those ends, and however restrained and conscientious one might be in choosing the laws one breaks encourages others to follow one's example and to go further than one would oneself. One of the problems afflicting the black community in the United Stated today is crime. While most blacks are law-abiding citizens, a disproportionately large percentage of blacks compared to the general population, commit and are victims of crime. Progressives, when they acknowledge this problem at all, rather than denying it and blaming black overrepresentation among the arrested and convicted on police racism, say that it is the result of slavery, segregation and white racism in general. Surely, however, any reasonable person would agree that a significant contributing factor must be the establishment and glorification of King, a man who used defiance of the law as a means to achieve his ends, as a hero of their people.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was in a number of ways a-typical of King’s activism. It was just a boycott, for one thing, which under most circumstances would be perfectly legal and therefore not be considered an act of civil disobedience. In this case he was charged with breaking an obscure law, but the point remains that it was far more reasonable and less deliberately provocative than would be typical of his subsequent actions. For another thing, it took place within the city where he lived and pastored at the time. Far more typical of King was the Birmingham incident of 1963.
In Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. did what he had been doing throughout the southern United States in the previous seven years and what he had established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to do. He came into a community where he was an outsider, bringing with him media agents who were even further removed from the community than he was, and stirred up trouble between local blacks and the authorities, so that his media friends could take pictures and write stories that placed the authorities in the worst possible light and made him out to be a saint. (6)
Although King continued to be an activist until an assassin ended his life in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, he reached the peak of his career in 1963. Later that year, in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, he delivered the speech which contains his most famous words. The Civil Rights Act which the American Congress passed the following year was largely in response to the demands made in this march. In terms of its impact, this Civil Rights Act is King’s greatest achievement.
But what kind of achievement is it?
The Civil Rights Act did not just make de jure racial discrimination, i.e., racial discrimination enshrined in law, illegal in the United States. It forbade racial discrimination on the part of private individuals and businesses as well. This was the reason Republican Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona voted against the Act. It had a number of consequences.
It created, for example, the kind of situation in which a civil rights organization approaches an employer and says “you are located in a city where x percentage of the population is black, but only y percentage of your employees are black, you are guilty of racial discrimination and we are going to sue you.” How does the employer prove that racial discrimination was not a factor in his hiring decisions? It is virtually impossible to do so and in a sane legal system no one would ever be called upon to prove such a thing. Anti-discrimination legislation like the American Civil Rights Act, however, place employers accused of racial discrimination in the situation of having to try and prove their innocence.
To avoid being at the mercy of the civil rights shakedown employers had to set aside a certain number of jobs for blacks. The fact that this too was a form of racial discrimination did not matter – for the courts and civil rights organizations, discrimination only flowed in one direction.
Then the courts ruled that employers could not use competency tests in hiring if those tests had a “disparate impact” upon blacks or other racial minorities. In other words, if one of the results of the test was that less than the required percentage of blacks or other racial minorities, even if this was not intentional on the part of the employer or the person who made the test, the test was discriminatory and could not be used. (7)
None of this would have been possible without the Civil Rights Act the effects of which extend beyond the borders of the United States as imitation bills began to pop up in other Western countries – the Race Relations Bill of 1968 in the United Kingdom, for example, or the 1977 Canadian Human Rights Act. The American bill paved the way for these other bills which often went even further than the American bill.
The raising of King from a hero of American blacks, to an American national hero, to a universal figure to be revered by all, is based on the idea that in fighting for the rights of his own people, which earned him their esteem, he combated racism which is an evil that hurt the United States as a whole and indeed the entire world, therefore his fight against it deserves the respect of the entire world. At first glance that seems quite reasonable.
What is racism however? The word is of recent origins, however old the phenomenon it is supposed to denote may be, being no older than the 1930s, and there was a time in living memory when there was a consensus as to its meaning. It could be defined either positively or negatively. If defined positively, it meant the belief in the superiority of one’s own race. If defined negatively, it meant the dislike of and/or mistreatment of people of other races, whether this meant a general dislike of everyone who is not of your own race or a specific dislike of members of a certain race. Today, however, it is used in ways that seem to have no relationship with these definitions.
Take, for example, a rapper who fills his lyrics with hatred towards white people, expressed in violent and even genocidal terms. The term racist is far less likely to be applied to him than it is to a white person, who with no conscious belief in the superiority of his own race or dislike towards other races, gets an education, finds a job, builds a career, marries and has kids, and basically goes through life trusting the system to work for him. Progressive liberals, whose thought is pervasive throughout academia, the news and entertainment media, most churches, and, at least on this subject, all political parties, insist that the former is merely expressing his legitimate anger due to his disenfranchisement, whereas the latter’s refusal to acknowledge that he benefits from “white privilege” generated by “institutional racism” is itself a form of racism. Clearly, whatever these people think the word racism means, if they even know themselves, has little if anything to do with what everyone used to think the word meant. It is also clear, at least to those who are fortunate enough not to be trapped in this kind of Orwellian doublethink, that this kind of thought is itself racist against white people because it establishes a way of thinking in which white people are always racist, even if they have no conscious belief in their own superiority or conscious dislike of other people, whereas other people are never racist even if they consciously hate white people.
There are many that would claim that this is no part of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Such people insist that King was a classical liberal, whose vision was of a society where everyone was evaluated as an individual, and who would be as opposed to reverse discrimination and anti-white attitudes as he was to discrimination against his own people. For evidence of their claim they point to his “I have a dream” speech. Others, however, believe that King’s vision was much more radical than this, that he believed that racism pervaded the very structure of American society, which would need to be torn down and rebuilt to eliminate the injustice created by slavery and segregation. While this debate has to be regarded as the inevitable result of King’s apotheosis – those who accept the new deity but hold opposing visions of society each try to claim the deity for their own side - it is quite clear from his words and actions which side he, a self-avowed Marxist, leaned towards.
As for King's dream of a day when his children would be judged by the content of their character rather than the colour of their skin, consider what happened in the United States five years ago and again last year. "Race is only skin deep", progressives insist confusing the outward indicators of race, such as skin colour, with its essential meaning, which is lineage, ancestry, and descent. In 2008 a man was elected President of the United States, whose skin colour was all that he really shared with the American black community. Barack Obama's father was a Kenyan - his ancestors were not brought to America as slaves, nor did they live through segregation. His mother was a white liberal. When he was elected he received a huge percentage of the black vote and much of the white vote as well and his skin colour was a significant contributing factor to his receiving both the black and the white liberal vote. His victory was declared by many to be the triumph of King's dream. The largest irony in all of this is that they were absolutely right. Obama's election was the ultimate triumph of Martin Luther King, over logic and common sense, if not over racism.
For this reason, we must, in obedience to the higher law, refuse to prostrate ourselves before this new idol the progressives have commanded us to worship.
(1) Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1970), p. 211. The book was first published by Harcourt, Brace in 1941.
(3) See Theodore Pappas, The Martin Luther King Jr. Plagiarism Story (Rockford, Illinois: The Rockford Institute, 1994).
(5) See the discussion of this in Paul Craig Roberts & Lawrence M. Stratton, The New Color Line: How Quotas and Privilege Destroy Democracy (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing Inc., 1995), pp. 21-50.
Kristor, a regular contributor to the website the Orthosphere, is organizing a prayer vigil for traditionalist commentator Lawrence Auster who is seriously ill. The prayer vigil is scheduled to take place tomorrow, Sunday January 13th, 2013. The details are available here: http://orthosphere.org/2013/01/06/a-prayer-for-lawrence-auster/
I would encourage you to participate if you can and, of course, to keep Mr. Auster in your regular prayers. He has provided insight and inspiration to many on the traditionalist Right, including myself, for years. His excellent liberal-skewering commentary can be found at his website, View From the Right, here: http://amnation.com/vfr/.
Before his retirement, Charley Reese was a conservative opinion columnist with the Orlando Sentinel. He believed that writers owed it to their readers to regularly give a full disclosure of their biases. He put this belief into practice by writing, once a year, a column in which he gave such a disclosure, generally around the time of New Year’s. I consider this to be a practice worthy of emulation and so began the last two years with essays in that style. In “Here I Stand” I stated my basic religious, political and cultural beliefs. In “The Testimony of a Tory – A Brief Memoir” I gave an autobiographical sketch that told how I came to my positions, beliefs, and prejudices.
Despite the predictions, based upon the Mayan calendar cycle, that the world would end last December, a new year is upon us, which means that it is once again time for one of these essays. This year I have decided upon a format of alternating positive positions with negative ones. First I will state in one paragraph something I am for, something I believe in. Then in the next paragraph I will state something I am against. I am arranging these in sets, so that the negatives in one paragraph will go together with the positives in the paragraph immediately preceding it, like opposing sides to a coin.
I am a small-o orthodox Christian. I believe the faith declared in the Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. I accept the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures as the authoritative and unerring, written Word of God. I worship the One God Who is eternally the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. I am a sinner, a member of Adam’s fallen race, who will be judged according to his works on the day when Jesus Christ returns in glory to judge the quick and the dead. My faith and hope, for today, for that day, and for all eternity, rest entirely in the love, mercy and grace of God, given to the world in the Incarnation, sacrificial Atonement, and Resurrection of our Saviour Jesus of Nazareth Who is Christ the Lord, the Son of the Living God.
I reject and oppose the arrogant, anthropocentric concepts of materialism, rationalism and positivism. Materialism is the idea that the physical world, which we know and experience through our senses, is all that is, all that can be known and/or all that matters. Rationalism is the notion that human reason, aided by empirical science, can sufficiently explain all things without recourse to divine revelation. Positivism is the belief that human knowledge has advanced from mythology through theology and religion to a materialistic and rationalistic understanding of the world, and that this latter understanding is superior to the “superstition” that preceded it.
I am a Canadian patriot and nationalist. I am an old-fashioned “blood and soil” kind of patriot, whose country consists of real people, living in real territory, with real institutions, rather than a set of abstract ideals about human rights and democracy, that anyone on the planet can theoretically subscribe to. My country is the Dominion of Canada which was founded by the Fathers of Confederation in 1867, out of the English and French speaking provinces and territories of British North America, which has her own Parliament under the Sovereign we share with the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth. I am proud that my country was not born out of rebellion and revolution but was founded by Loyalists within the established tradition they had received from their forebears.
I despise the phony “Canadian nationalism” of the liberal political, academic, and media elites who hate Canada’s British roots and traditions and dismiss our country’s history prior the premierships of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau as our “colonial past.” This pseudo-nationalism consists of little more than support for the socialism, multi-culturalism, and left-wing ideology in general that the Liberal Party shoved down our throats in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, combined with anti-Americanism of the crudest, most vulgar sort. I equally loathe the anti-Canadianism of many so-called “conservatives” in Canada, who love the United States but hate their own country, and never miss an opportunity to put down Canada and to compare her unfavourably with the American republic.
I am a conservative. I believe that man is a social animal and that it is therefore human nature for men to live together in societies. I believe that the flaw in human nature that theologians call “Original Sin” is the root source of the evils, injustices, and other ills human beings suffer from. It is because of this flaw that men need laws to govern and order their societies. Since governments, the institutions that make and administer laws, are themselves composed of human beings tainted by sin, governments have a tendency to abuse their power and authority and to become tyrannical. For this reason, I believe that government powers and laws should be limited to what is absolutely necessary to maintain order.
I am against both classical and progressive liberalism. Classical liberalism is individualism, which places the individual before the nation, society, community, and even the family and which in its most extreme anarchist form, would sacrifice order in the name of individual liberty. Progressive liberalism is a form of statism which regards the modern democratic-bureaucratic state as the agent of social progress, and believes that the state’s powers to tax and legislate should be used to eliminate the social and economic inequality that the progressive liberal regards as the cause of evil and injustice. Both forms of liberalism are based upon mistaken views of human nature. Classical liberalism wrongly thinks that people are first individuals who by mutual agreement form families, communities, and societies when, in reality, people are born into their families, communities, and societies and within the context of these, later develop into who they are individually. Progressive liberals wrongly think that social and economic inequality are themselves evil and unjust and are the source of other evils and injustices. The root error of both forms of liberalism is the idea that flaws in the organization of society rather than flaws in human nature are the cause of the evils and suffering that plague mankind.
I am a High Tory. I believe in the institution of monarchy, in particular the parliamentary monarchy that developed in Britain and which was inherited by Canada and other Commonwealth countries. I believe in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the organic community and organized institution established by Christ and His Apostles, which administers the Sacraments instituted by Christ and has been governed, since the Apostolic age by the bishop-successors of the Apostles, and especially the English branch of that Church which is both catholic and reformed. I believe that for there to be order in society, there must be hierarchy, and that a ruling class is inevitable, although the ruling class may govern poorly and often does. I believe that an essential task of the upper classes is to sponsor the creation and preservation of high culture. High culture is the true mark of a higher civilization, rather than technological advancement as is the assumption of most modern thought. Culture is the creative expression of a community, society, or civilization and the means whereby that community, society, or civilization transmits its understanding of itself and the world down through the generations. High culture is part of both a particular culture and a universal culture. It consists of the best literature, music, and other art produced within a particular culture, and what makes it the best is that it transcends its particular culture and speaks to all people, in all places, and at all times. It elevates a culture and society, by directing them upwards towards the classical and universal ideals of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
I disagree strongly with modern democratic theory. I do not object to public offices being filled by popular election when the established constitution and prescription call for them to be so filled but I object to the notion that popular election is the best way of filling public offices. It is, in fact, the worst, because someone who runs for public office by means of popular election, demonstrates in doing so that he seeks power and that he is willing to obtain power by means of a contest as to who can successfully deceive the greatest number of people with his lies. While I have nothing against the classical Greek republican ideal of government constituted so as to govern for the public good, I do not accept the Roman republican ideal of a government headed by an elected official rather than a king or queen. I most vehemently oppose that ideal when it is proposed by would-be reformers in Canada who wish to turn our country into a republic by replacing our hereditary head-of-state with a politician. I reject Rousseau’s concept of the General Will of the people, the foundational doctrine of both modern democracy and totalitarianism, and Jefferson’s idea that governments derive their authority from the consent of those they govern. Bottom-up theories of government are great for populist rabble-rousing, which I detest, but are irrational and unsound. All real authority is either intrinsic or delegated from above. In arguing against the Divine Right of Kings, John Locke, father of modern liberalism, rejected the only true check on the abuse of government power – the recognition that it comes from God (Rom. 13) and that the governor is therefore answerable to God for how he used or abuses his authority. I do not believe in secularism or the modern dogma of the “separation of church and state”. Church and state are distinct institutions with distinct functions but the idea of “separation of church and state” forbids government’s from acknowledging God’s higher authority and undermines religion by privatizing it. Belief is a private, personal, matter, but religion is not. From the Latin word that means “to bind together”, religion is organized, community, worship which cannot, by definition, be private, and which cannot perform its essential role in society, if it is declared to be private and personal. I consider most of the art funded by modern governments through bureaucratic arts councils to be fraudulent, especially that which is called “modern” and “post-modern”. I object to public funds going towards its creation, although I also strenuously object to the defunding and closing of institutions which make preserve and make available to the public, the artistic and cultural heritage of the past. I deplore the way genuine popular culture, i.e,, song, stories, and art produced by people for their own use, has been largely replaced by “pop” culture – canned culture, mass-produced in culture-factories in Hollywood or some other equally horrible place, to be mass-marketed for mass-consumption. If true high culture elevates a society, pop culture, which to be mass-marketed must appeal to the lowest common denominator and which is therefore oriented to the lowest part of human nature, drags us down into the mud.
I am a communitarian. I believe in community, which is more than just a group of individuals who happen to live in the same place at the same time. It is people who are connected with each other and the place they live in so as to form an organic whole. The ties that bind a true organic community together stretch into the past and the future so as to include previous generations and generations to come. The indispensable elements of an organic community are race and culture. Race is the biological descent of the present generation of a community from all preceding generations and its biological ancestry of all successive generations. Race is not absolute and pure – people can and do enter and become part of communities from the outside while other people leave – but a community cannot exist if it is altogether absent. Culture, of course, is everything non-biological that is passed down from generation to generation in a community. Together, race and culture form the commonality, which binds a community into an organic whole. Simone Weil explained best what community provides to its members: “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future.” (1) The spirit of community is stronger in rural than in urban areas and in smaller rather than larger neighborhoods.
I oppose both the liberal individualism that breaks down and dissolves communities, alienating individuals and atomizing societies, and the collectivism that swallows up individuals and communities alike into large, faceless, masses.
I am a traditionalist and a reactionary. I believe in tradition, prescription, and continuity. Not all change threatens continuity and some change is necessary for the preservation of traditional order and institutions. Beneficial change is ordinarily slow and can only truly be said to be salutary after having been shown to be so through a long period of testing. If an innovation is harmful, however, this is often apparent almost immediately. When an innovation is shown to be harmful the wisest choice, when it is available, is not to continue down the path opened up by the innovation but to return to that which is known, time-tested and true.
I don’t believe in progress, the idea that man through reason, science, and innovation, will continually build newer, brighter and better futures for himself. The doctrine of progress comes in two varieties, technological and social, and I don’t believe in either one of them. The concept of technological progress is more than just the obvious fact that we invent new tools and techniques and improve upon old ones. It is the idea that by merging human knowledge with human innovation man will be able to solve every problem that comes his way as he extends his dominion over himself and over nature. Social progress is the idea that man, by leaving aside traditional social arrangements and institutions, and eliminating inequality between individuals, classes, the sexes and the races, can rationally design a new society, free from the evils of the past. Both versions of progress are doomed to failure and will only make things worse. Both are attempts by man, exiled from Paradise for his sin, to regain Paradise through the force of his own efforts, rather than through reliance upon the grace of God.
I believe in a class system with a high degree of social and economic freedom and mobility. For as long as human beings live together as families, in which fathers and mothers raise their children together, they will form classes. A class is a group of families with similar social and economic status. Sons, partly because they inherit half of their fathers’ genes and partly because they are raised by their fathers, have a tendency to follow in their fathers’ footsteps and take up their trades, crafts, professions, labour and careers. This tendency and the fact that human societies value and reward different kinds of work differently, make class inevitable. Neither of these factors, the human family or the fact that society places different values on different kinds of work, is something any sane person would want to change. Class is not a bad thing but a good thing, which contributes to the order of society. It is not absolute, however, anymore than race as an element of community, is absolute. The tendency of sons to follow their fathers is universal only in the sense that it is observable in every place and time, not in the sense of being true of every son without exception. Individual talents, strengths, desires, and ambitions vary greatly. Sometimes a son lacks the strength or talent to take up his father’s profession, at other times a son might be strongly gifted for a specific vocation that is different from that of his family. There should be social/economic freedom for individuals to pursue the work their talents best fit them for.
I disagree with those who wish to see either element in the balance of class and social freedom and mobility for individuals removed. I do not think that classes should harden into castes in which a person’s social and economic status, role, and labour are inflexibly predetermined from birth. Nor do I believe in the ideal of a classless society. I do not agree with the liberal individualist who would redefine class as “level of income” and otherwise have pure social mobility. I especially disagree with the Marxist who regards the existence of classes as the source of conflict and oppression and who holds to the ideal of communism in which both class and individual liberty are eliminated. In this desire for a classless society the liberal individualist and the Marxist communist are strange bedfellows.
I am a libertarian of sorts. While I do not believe in the underlying philosophy of libertarianism – the classical liberalism mentioned above – I generally accept the basic libertarian theory that the law should only forbid and penalize that which is actually and quantifiably harmful to other people. This is not the only input a society should have into how its members live their lives, but for the most part social and moral order is better maintained by other authorities and institutions than government. Too much government and too many laws actually harm the social and moral order because the concentration of control in the government weakens these other social institutions and authorities. For this reason I believe this kind of libertarianism complements rather than contradicts social conservatism and I also believe it to be the position most consistent with the emphasis upon personal freedom in the English tradition.
I do not like laws that are not necessary either for the maintenance of public and social order or for our protection against the violence of others.
I believe in property. A man has a right to that which he can legitimately and honestly obtain, whether as payment for his labour, as a gift, in exchange for other goods he already possessed, or by inheritance. If a man can honestly and legally obtain enough property that he can hire others to work that property and live off of the profits, there is nothing wrong with that and much to be praised in it for he provides a living to others as well as himself in doing so. If this right to what is one’s own is not secure and protected, no other right will be either. For this reason property ownership and the right thereof are the foundation of all other rights and of any true concept of justice.
I consider, therefore, all forms of socialism to be loathsome and evil. All nineteenth century socialisms, from Proudhon’s anarcho-syndicalism to Marx’s communism, were based upon the idea that property is the source of inequality and that inequality is the source of injustice and evil. However much they may have disagreed amongst themselves, they agreed that property must be done away with and replaced with a form of collective ownership. This idea continued into some socialisms in the twentieth century, but what we ordinarily call “socialism” today is something different. This kind of socialism calls upon government to play the role of Robin Hood, to rob from the rich and give to the poor. All forms of socialism are ideological expressions of the Deady Sin of Envy.
I believe in business. I agree with Dr. Johnson that “there are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money.” (2) I think that a man’s business is his own, and that government should not try to run it for him. While I prefer small farms and businesses to large companies, I do not think that there is anything wrong with a business prospering and growing.
I disagree therefore with those who speak of business as if it were something dirty, and those who attack the profit motive. I disagree with those who think that government action should be taken to limit the growth of businesses within their borders or that the size and prosperity of a business is a reason for that business to be penalized. I think those people to be mentally and morally sick who think that it is right to place a larger portion of taxes upon people and business that have prospered and who actually have the audacity to call the tax burden they wish to place on the prosperous “their fair share”.
I am an economic nationalist. I believe that while government would be horrendously incompetent at running a man’s private business for him, it should be capable of administering the economic interests of the country as a whole. It is in the interests of a country that it have domestic production of essential goods so as not to be entirely dependent upon the importation of such goods from foreign sources. It is in the interests of a country that it not be stripped of capital and jobs. It is the government’s duty to look out for the country’s interests by protecting protection if necessary to maintain domestic production of essential goods and by penalizing companies that move capital and jobs out of the country. While no government should punish a business for growing and prospering within it’s borders, all governments have legitimate reasons to curtain the activities of companies that operate across national borders and which are accountable to the laws of no society being able to move activity that is illegal in one country into another where it is legal.
I detest globalism and the ideology of “free trade”, that seeks to integrate the economies of the world into one big market, that respects no borders, that dissolves national identities, undermines national sovereignty, and is effectively building a “new world order”, paving the way for the global government that liberals and socialists have dreamed of for centuries.
I believe in the “one nation conservatism” of Benjamin Disraeli and John G. Diefenbaker. The constitutional order requires broad support from every class and element of society in order to ensure its security and stability, and to have that broad support the order must ensure that belonging to the society and commonwealth is beneficial to all its members. For this reason, and in order to take the wind out of the sails of demagogues and revolutionaries, a social safety net to catch members of the commonwealth who are for whatever reason unable to meet their own basic needs and who do not have anyone else to do so for them, is necessary.
I do not believe that it is healthy to allow such a social safety net to grow too big, however. It should not have been allowed to grow into what we call “the welfare state” today. In the early twentieth century, Hilaire Belloc predicted that both capitalism and socialism would evolve into “the servile state”, in which the middle classes would shrink away, the vast majority of people would belong to a wage-labourer class which the government would agree to maintain in periods of unemployment, for when the small class of capitalists needed them again. Today’s “welfare capitalism” or “socialism” resembles Belloc’s “servile state” in many ways, and has other unattractive features as well. Welfarism kills the spirit of charity and compassion among those who are better off and kills the spirit of gratitude among its recipients. To raise the kind of government revenue necessary to support welfarism requires taxes on business or personal income, the former of which discourage enterprise, the latter of which are unjust and intrusive. Welfarism is the foundation of the “nanny-state”, in which the government, citing the fact that it is paying for people’s health, welfare, and upkeep as justification, intrudes into their lives and businesses and bosses them around “for their own good”.
I believe in environmental stewardship. God placed man upon a limited world with resources that are limited but mostly renewable if they ware watched over with care and wisdom. We have a duty to preserve and not waste these resources. We are to use them but not to use them up. We are to look upon God as the owner of the earth’s resources, and ourselves in the present as having been entrusted with the use and care of them, with the understanding that we will make sure that they continue to be available for future generations.
I have no use, however, for the kind of environmentalism that worships nature as a goddess, opposes human industry and activity, embraces a culture of death for human beings, and makes wild predictions about immanent global catastrophes.
I believe that conflict among human beings is inevitable. As individuals, groups, and as entire societies we frequently argue. While it is always preferable, it is not always possible that these disputes be settled peacefully. One of the basic functions government is the arbitration of disputes between individuals and groups so as to arrive at an agreement without violence. Government has the force of law to back up its rulings. The arbitration of disputes between governments and nations is more difficult and such disputes will, from time to time, break out into war. War is highly destructive of human life, liberty, property, and civilization and for this reason it is always deplorable. It is not, however, the supreme evil to be avoided at all costs. Sometimes it is necessary and right for a country to go to war. If one’s country goes to war, one has a duty to heed the call to arms, if and when it comes. War provides a unique opportunity for certain virtues, especially those of bravery and sacrifice to be exercised, and when such virtues are practiced they deserve the reward of honour.
I disagree, therefore, with pacifism, non-resistance, and other doctrines that forbid men from answering the call of duty. Such doctrines may be sincerely believed but they have the effect, if not the intention, of encouraging free riding – the enjoyment of the benefits of being part of a civil commonwealth without making the contributions to the commonwealth expected of its members. I am skeptical of plans for world peace. I regard the efforts to build a universal council/court in the United Nations to provide the arbitration between nations that national governments provide between individuals, as doomed to failure. Either the United Nations will be ineffective because it lacks the power to enforce its rulings, or it will have the power to enforce its rulings in which case it will have too much power and will cause a host of other problems. Powerful empires have served as efficient arbitrators between arguing nations and governments in the past, but they did not prevent all wars, no empire lasts forever, and empires are prone to waging war themselves. I am also skeptical of most things governments say in justifying their wars. I do not believe in sending the military to topple foreign governments we do not like if our own country’s people, territory, security, and other vital interests are not threatened. I do not believe war is appropriate as a means of attaining humanitarian ends. While I do not believe in appeasing bullying tyrants, neither do I believe in sabre-rattling and I think that many who practice the latter have drawn the wrong lesson from Neville Chamberlain’s experience at Munich. I have nothing but contempt for the doctrine of the American neo-conservatives who believe that their country’s war-machine should be used to bring liberalism and democracy to the utmost parts of the earth.
I believe that it is necessary for a society to have rules about sex. Sex is a fundamental fact of human nature. It is the division of the species into its two most basic categories, male and female, the internal force that attracts them to each other, and the relationship between them. The sexual libido is among the most powerful of the human passions. For there to be order and harmony in a society, people must be governed by the law. For an individual to be governed by the law he must himself govern his own passions and appetites. If he does not govern his passions, he will be enslaved by them rather than governed by the law. For this reason, and the fact that families, communities, societies, civilizations, and the species itself, unlike the individual, all have intergenerational lifespans and so depend upon sex, the means of reproduction, for their survival, society needs to have a say when it comes to sex. Society should uphold the pattern of a man and a woman marrying and raising their children together as father and mother as the expected norm, encourage behaviour that supports this pattern such as premarital abstinence, marital fidelity, and monogamy, and discourage behaviour that undermines this pattern such as promiscuity, adultery, and divorce. While these sorts of behaviour should be encouraged or discouraged among both males and females alike there are also roles appropriate to each sex which society should encourage. The role of motherhood – conceiving, bearing, giving birth to, and nursing children – has been biologically assigned to women by God and nature, and cannot be reassigned. It is in society’s own interests to encourage and expect women to perform this role. The role of fatherhood has only been biologically assigned to men in the limited sense of siring children. Society should encourage and expect men to perform the role of fatherhood in the fullest sense of taking responsibility for, providing for, and protecting their children and the mothers of their children, and raising those children in partnership with their mothers. These roles are what society should expect and encourage of men and women as groups. The roles are complementary and complementarity, not “equality” or “subservience” is the best word to describe the relationship between the sexes. Specific men and women may, for one reason or another, be incapable of fulfilling or unsuited for the role assigned to their sex. Such individuals should be accommodated and tolerated but not to the extent that society abandons the roles of wife-mother for women and husband-father for men as the general expectation and pattern. These roles, the pattern of the family, and rules regarding sexual behaviour, are best taught in the family, by fathers to sons and by mothers to daughters, with the support of the church.
I strongly disagree with the belief that all matters pertaining to sex are to be left up to the individual. This belief spread rapidly in the latter part of the twentieth century and has been taken to absurd extremes. In the decades after World War II, the sexual liberation movement pointed to the development of effective artificial birth control as the technological justification of its message that traditional moral rules concerning sexual behaviour were now obsolete, as if those rules had existed solely to protect the individual from inconvenient consequences of his behaviour, and not to guard society’s interest in human reproduction. The second wave of feminism, the so-called “women’s liberation movement”, declared that different societal roles for men and women were part of a conspiracy on the part of men to oppress women, that society should ignore sex and treat men and women only as individuals, and to ensure equality between the sexes and “women’s rights”, demanded that abortion be legalized and made accessible to all women, that universal public daycare be made available, and that marriage laws be re-written to allow for no-fault divorce, and encouraged women to put off marriage and motherhood and pursue careers instead. Yet that was only the moderate, liberal, branch of the movement! Both movements I consider to be despicable. They are the most significant contributing factors to the devaluation of human life and embracing of the “culture of death” that has swept Western civilization. A third movement, that demands that society cease to uphold marriage between a man and a woman as the norm, recognize same-sex erotic relationships as being of equal value with traditional, heterosexual, marriage, acknowledge as valid the decisions some individuals make that they are of a different sex – whether the opposite or a new one of their own creation – than their biology would indicate, and change all of its rules and traditions to accommodate the small minority of people who are attracted to their own sex or are in some other way confused as to their sexual identity, has arisen and is rapidly seeing Western societies give in to its demands. This movement’s advocates and defenders, who frequently profess ignorance of the existence of such a movement and pretend that these changes are just natural social evolution, like to ask questions like how expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples will harm other people? Such questions miss the point. This movement and its success is the symptom, not the disease. It is an indicator of just how badly society, morality, and the institution of marriage have already been damaged.
An unapologetic man of the Right, I believe in the importance of race and nationality. Race is not a matter of morphological differences such as skin and hair colour, as progressives would have us believe, but is rather the biological succession of generations that is a fundamental element of every level of social organization, from the family up through the community to the nation, and which also exists at the level of the species, hence the expression “the human race”. Race is the factor that makes it possible for families, communities, nations, and even the species itself, to exist as groups across the lifespans of multiple generations. Nationality is our sense of identification with those with whom we share a common language, a common religion, common customs and manners, a mutual history, and the same stories and songs. Race and nationality are indispensible elements of our social existence and we should regard them as contributing positively to that existence rather than bemoaning them and dreaming of a world in which they are reduced to insignificance or eliminated.
There are two opposite dangers with regards to race and nationality, both of which I try to avoid. These are the dangers of attaching too much importance to race and nationality on the one hand and not attaching enough importance to them on the other hand. When we make race and nationality so important that we demand that all smaller loyalties and attachments, to family, for example, or to friends and neighbours, be sacrificed for the good of race and nation and do not recognize even the most basic sense of a shared humanity with those beyond our own race or nation, we have made idols out of race and nation, and no good can come out of this. On the other hand, when we insist that natural ties of race and nation be ignored, and that our loyalty and attachment to our own, race, nation, and people be sacrificed for the good of a greater human unity, we make the same mistake on a much larger scale. I am not a “white nationalist” for, although I agree wholeheartedly with white nationalism’s indignation at the way the progressive spirit of the age expects all white nations and only white nations to commit racial suicide through a combination of mass immigration and antinatalism, self-loathing and idolatrous worship of “the Other”, I do not agree with the way white nationalism – or any other kind of racial nationalism – demands that a man’s race be his highest or only loyalty, and I dislike it’s Nietzschean tendency to blame Christianity for the evils of liberalism. I also do not agree with the way some white nationalists revere Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, although I tend not to hold this against them because I detest the way self-appointed progressive thought police, whose own political soulmates worship Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Castro, and “Che” Gueverra, insist that pariah status be conferred upon anyone who shook hands with someone who lived next door to the third cousin, twice removed of the college roommate of a person who once expressed the opinion that Hitler might have been something less than the absolute incarnation of all evil who makes the Antichrist look like a saint in comparison. Having said all this, it is clearly the opposite danger, that of undervaluing race and nation and making an idol out of a greater human unity, that is the threat in this day and age, at least in the Western world.
I believe that we have both universal and particular duties towards other people. I believe that while we have a general duty to treat all people with justice and mercy we have more specific duties to those to whom we are connected by ties of kinship, friendship, shared culture, faith, and citizenship, and propinquity. For example, we have a duty to respect our elders in general, but we also have a stronger and more specific duty to honour and obey our own father and mother. I believe that our specific duties to our family, friends, neighbours and countrymen must come first, before our general duties to all people.
I consider the thinking that is currently prevalent about inclusiveness and equality to be very harmful. Equality is not justice. To say that we should treat all people equally is to say that we should treat our friends like enemies, our family like strangers, our countrymen like foreigners. This is the reality of egalitarianism, lurking behind the ideal which is stated as the opposite of this, i.e., that we should treat our enemies like friends, etc. I abhor the recent phenomenon, now ubiquitous amongst Western intellectual elites, that Roger Scruton calls oikophobia, “the repudiation of inheritance and home.” (3) Oikophobia is a far greater evil than racism. Specific duties are more important than general duties and if racism is the evil of denying to other people, because of their race, the justice and mercy we are commanded to show to all people, oikophobia is the evil of denying to one’s own family, friends, neighbours and countrymen the specific loyalty, love, and duty owed to them. White liberal anti-racists are typically oikophobes, who accuse their own people of the evil of racism, whenever they practice the virtue of piety.
Recognizing that all men, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are sinners, and have their failings and weaknesses, I honour and respect the “dead white males” from Homer and Virgil to Dante and Milton, from Pindar and Horace to Tennyson and Kipling, from Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hobbes and Richard Hooker, from Sophocles and Aeschylus to Shakespeare and Marlowe, from Aristophanes and Juvenal to Dean Swift and Stephen Leacock, from Cicero and Cato to Edmund Burke, Lord Salisbury, Sir John A. MacDonald and Sir Winston Churchill, from Palestrina to Haydn and Mozart to Wagner, from Michelangelo and Raphael to Caravaggio and El Greco to Rembrandt and Rubens, the architects and builders of Western civilization, and all their achievements.
I refuse to bow my knee to the human idols erected in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, whether they be rock stars and rappers, professional athletes, television and movie actors, or other media-manufactured celebrities like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela.
Happy New Year everyone and God save the Queen!
(1) Simone Weil, The Need For Roots: Prelude to a Declaration of Duties Towards Mankind (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1952), p. 41.This is a translation by A. F. Wills of a work first published in French in 1949.
(2) Quoted by James Boswell in his Life of Johnson, the entry for March 27, 1775.
A Protestant Christian, patriotic Canadian, and a reactionary High Tory with a libertarian streak, at the same time a monarchist, indeed a royal absolutist, and a minarchist.
You can e-mail me at gerrytneal(at)hotmail(dot)ca