Monday, March 31, 2014

It was a human life

“Everyone knows that on a large scale democracy is
pernicious nonsense.” —Jack Aubrey

That will be the gate leading to the common,’ said Jack. ‘I wanted you to see it in any event, a lovely piece of country.’ They walked quickly through, and there on the path some thirty yards beyond there was a white scut bobbing along. Jack whipped up his gun; the rabbit made a somersault; the spaniel raced out and brought it back, breathing deep with satisfaction.

‘So this is the common,’ said Stephen, looking over a broad expanse of rough pasture, fern-brake, scattered trees, with here and there a pool; the whole agreeably undulating, autumn-coloured, with a fine great sky over it, adorned with the whitest sailing clouds. ‘An elegant common too, so it is; but my ideas are all confused. I had supposed your father and his friends had inclosed it, to your great distress, when we were on the far side of the world.’

‘Certainly they inclosed Woolhampton common and it did grieve me. But this is another piece of common land called Simmon's Lea – it was always my favourite – and now they want to inclose it too. Over my dead body! Such fun I had here when I was a boy [...] Well, now, an inclosure usually starts with those who have most right in the common agreeing that it should be divided up into separate parts, into single freeholds proportionate to their rights. I do not mean all those concerned, but a good many. Then, with the blessing of the parson, the patron of the living, and as many of the gentlemen, yeomen and freeholders as are of their opinion or whom they can persuade, they appoint proper people to measure and chart everything. When this is done they present a petition to the House, begging leave to bring in a private bill, so that parliament may authorize the sharing out–so that it may become law.’

‘On the face of it, that seems fair enough. After all, the country is run on those lines: the majority is always right, and those who do not like it may lump it – an expression I heard in the mouth of an officer leading a press-gang, when one of the captives expostulated with him.’

“As for a man-of-war, it is either an autocracy or it is nothing.”

‘It would be perfectly fair, if it were like a jury or even a vestry, where every man has a voice, and where all the others know him and value his opinion according to his reputation in the village. But in this case the majority is determined not by counting heads but by counting shares: that is to say the value of the holdings. Griffiths, a fairly rich newcomer, has perhaps ten thousand pounds’ worth. Harding and all his relations in the farms and cottages have come by holdings worth two or three hundred in the last two or three hundred years. So what will their vote amount to?’ [...] ‘There may be such men, but Griffiths and his friends are not of that nature. They want all they can get and be damned to the means; and what they and the bigger farmers hate is the possibility of the labourers growing saucy, as they call it, asking for higher wages – for a wage that keeps up with the price of corn – refusing to work if they do not get it, and falling back on what they can wring from the common. No common, no sauciness.’ [...]

‘After all, the country is run on those
lines.’ —Stephen Maturin

‘Jack,’ said Stephen, ‘I have been contemplating on your words about the nature of the majority, your strangely violent, radical, and even – forgive me – democratic words, which, with their treasonable implication of “one man, one vote”, might be interpreted as an attack on the sacred rights of property; and I should like to know how you reconcile them with your support of a Tory ministry in the House.’

‘Oh, as for that,’ said Jack, ‘I have no difficulty at all. It is entirely a matter of scale and circumstance. Everyone knows that on a large scale democracy is pernicious nonsense – a country or even a county cannot be run by a self-seeking parcel of tub-thumping politicians working on popular emotion, rousing the mob. Even at Brooks’s, which is a hotbed of democracy, the place is in fact run by the managers and those that don't like it may either do the other thing or join Boodle’s; while as for a man-of-war, it is either an autocracy or it is nothing, nothing at all – mere nonsense. You saw what happened to the poor French navy at the beginning of the Revolutionary War...’ 

‘Dear Jack, I do not suppose literal democracy in a ship of the line nor even in a little small row-boat. I know too much of the sea,’ added Stephen, not without complacency. 

‘...while at the other end of the scale, although “one man, one vote” certainly smells of brimstone and the gallows, everyone has always accepted it in a jury trying a man for his life. An inclosure belongs to this scale: it too decides men's lives. I had not realized how thoroughly it does so until I came back from sea and found that Griffiths and some of his friends had persuaded my father to join with them in inclosing Woolcombe Common: he was desperate for money at the time. Woolcombe was never so glorious a place as Simmon’s Lea, but I like it very well – surprising numbers of partridge and woodcock in the season – and when I saw it all cleared, flattened, drained, fenced and exploited to the last half-bushel of wheat, with many of the small encroachments ploughed up and the cottages destroyed, and the remaining commoners, with half of their living and all their joy quite gone, reduced to anxious cap-in-hand casual labourers, it hurt my heart, Stephen, I do assure you. I was brought up rough when I was a little chap, after my mother's death, sometimes at the village school, sometimes running wild; and I knew these men intimately as boys, and now to see them at the mercy of landlords, farmers, and God help us parish officers for poor relief, hurts me so that I can scarcely bring myself to go there again. And I am determined the same thing shall not happen to Simmon’s Lea, if ever I can prevent it. The old ways had disadvantages, of course, but here – and I speak only of what I know – it was a human life, and the people knew its ways and customs through and through.’

—Patrick O’Brian, The Yellow Admiral.

Friday, December 20, 2013

He reigns, but does not govern

“The king does not administer, he does not govern; he reigns. [...] To reign is a very elevated thing, a very difficult thing for certain princes to comprehend, but that English kings understand perfectly. An English king is the first gentleman of his kingdom. He is, to the highest degree, everything that a highborn Englishman can hope to be: he hunts, he likes horses, he is curious about the Continent and visits it when he is prince of Wales...”

—Adolphe Thiers, Du gouvernement par les chambres
in le National, 4 February 1830.

“In the 18th century [in France], all parish affairs were managed by a certain number of functionaries that were no longer agents of the seigneurie, nor were they chosen by the lord. Some were chosen by the province's intendant, others by the peasants themselves. [...] The lord, in truth, was no more than a denizen separated and isolated from all the others by his immunities and privileges; his condition was different, not so his power. The lord is but a first denizen, as intendants took care to write in letters addressed to their subordinates. [...]

When the nobility possesses not only privileges but also powers, when it governs and administers, its particular rights can be at the same time greater and less perceived. In feudal times, the nobility was looked at more or less as government is looked at today: the burdens it imposed were borne in light of the assurances it gave. Nobles had burdensome privileges, they possessed onerous rights, but they also assured public order, rendered justice, executed the law, came to the aid of the weak, managed common affairs. As the nobility ceases to do these things, the weight of its privileges seems heavier and their very existence ceases to be understood. [...]

Feudality remained the biggest of all our civil institutions once it ceased to be a political institution. So reduced, it excited even greater hate, and it can truthfully be said that by destroying one part of medieval institutions, what remained was rendered even more odious.”

—Alexis de Tocqueville, The Ancien Régime and the Revolution, Book I, Ch. II.

Monday, May 27, 2013


"Unjust inequality is not remedied with equality, but with just inequality."
-Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Escolios a un texto implícito.

"The word revolution itself, from the latin revolvere, means wheeling back, returning, suffering once again, rekindling. [...] The French Revolution unfolded in the name of a self-contradictory and unrealizable slogan, "liberty, equality, fraternity." But in the life of society, liberty, and equality are mutually exclusive, even hostile concepts! Liberty, by its very nature, undermines social equality, and equality suppresses liberty―for how else can it be attained?"
-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, address during the inauguration of the Vendée 
memorial at Lucs-sur-Boulogne, 25 september 1993. 
Translation based on these incomplete fragments.

"Where equality allows freedom to enter, inequality slips in."
-Nicolás Gómez Dávila, Id.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Citizen Capet

He was a priest and pope of royalty more than he was a king.
-Charles Maurras on Henry V of France, Count of Chambord, 
and his refusal to reign under the tricolor flag.

Their great concern is to have Chambers. The rest should be held as secondary. Legitimate king, king by accident, emperor, republic... Anything goes, provided they have Chambers.
-Arthur, Count of Gobineau,  

Public opinion, dragged by a tendency that I deplore, presumed that I would consent to becoming the legitimate king of the revolution. [...] But we have a great task to accomplish together. I am altogether ready to undertake it whenever it should be wanted of me, tomorrow, tonight, this moment. That is why I want to remain wholly what I am. Diminished today, I would be powerless tomorrow.
-Henry V in his letter to Chesnelong dated 27 October 1873.

The day that France cut off the head of her King, she committed a suicide. France cannot be compared to those small ancient States composed more often than not of a city with its surroundings, where everyone was related to each other. France was a great society of stockholders built by a first-class speculator: the Capetian House. The stockholders thought they could do without the chief and continue business on their own. This works as long as business is good; but, when business starts going badly, there will be calls for liquidation. France was made by the Capetian dynasty. [...] Finally, why is Paris, hardly a central city, the capital of France? Because Paris was the city of the Capetians, because the Abbot of Saint-Denis became the King of France. Unparalleled naivety! This city, which claims over the rest of France an aristocratic privilege of superiority and owes this privilege to royalty, is also the center of the republican utopia.
-Ernest Renan, The Intellectual and Moral Reform.

Montjoie! Saint-Denis!

From the end of the 9th century, the great lords of the Kingdom, that is, the territorial princes and the bishops, felt strong enough to choose the king by themselves, making use of the elective principle to the detriment of heredity within the Carolingian family. For a century, between 888 and 987, Carolingian and non-Carolingian kings alternated thus. The latter, apart from Rudolph of Burgundy from 923 and 936, belonged to the Robertian family. Victors over the Normans, marquesses of Neustria and later dukes of the Franks, they held the greater part of the counties from the Seine to the Loire and controlled as lay abbots the greatest abbeys, starting with Saint-Martin of Tours and Saint-Denis. [...] The son of Robert I, Hugh the Great, was the strongman of the 10th century, but he left the royal title to the Carolingians. However, when the young Louis V died accidentally and without a direct heir in 987, the great lords of the Kingdom, urged by Archbishop Adalberon of Reims, elected for the third time a Robertian as King: the son of Hugh the Great, Hugh Capet (this nickname appeared later and evokes, perhaps, the numerous copes of lay bishop possessed by Hugh).
-Jean Carpentier and François Lebrun,
 Histoire de France, ch. 9.

Cope or cappa pluvialis.

In 1793, the Convention in Paris tried a prisoner called Louis Capet. Several months before, it had ceased to recognize him as King. It was Louis XVI himself that had put his person and his family under the protection of the assembly when the revolutionary mob storming the Tuileries made him fear for their lives. The assembly, in turn, used this trust to make him a prisoner in the Temple tower before even abolishing the monarchy. It was now going to judge him. But before killing their King, they would insult him.

"Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake" (Matthew, v, 11)

And yet, as they degraded him to "citoyen Capet" they did not realize that these two very words are the origin and greatness of his line. That its founder, before wearing the pomp of royalty, had no other vestment with which to cover his bare citizenship than the episcopal cope from which his family derives its name. A cope that blanketed the whole of Christendom as the Capetians married into all future royal houses. A cope that should have impressed upon them the sacral and apostolic meaning of Christian monarchy, even though many of their members throughout history preferred the toga picta of absolute empire or, more recently, the silken servility of the eunuch. The Count of Chambord, on the other hand, understood that the cope props up the scepter, leaving it crooked or toppled when it is removed. His intransigent refusal of the tricolor flag as substitute for the white fleur-de-lys was not a sentimental caprice that ruined, all on its own, his chances at a sure throne during the failed restoration of 1873. It was a publicly recognizable way to assert a principle of very real and practical consequences, surpassing the mere symbolism of the flag: he would not reign under the system of the Revolution, as those Chamber-seekers would have him. Henry V was a true citizen Capet, and no less a King for being first of all a priest.

"Il a été prêtre et pape de la royauté plutôt que roi."

-F. et R.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Exhaustive summary of all secular-media Conclave coverage

(Also valid for future ―God-willing― conclaves)

From: Catholic Memes

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A useful prejudice

Edward Gibbon

Of the various forms of government which have prevailed in the world, an hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest scope for ridicule. Is it possible to relate without an indignant smile, that, on the father's decease, the property of a nation, like that of a drove of oxen, descends to his infant son, as yet unknown to mankind and to himself; and that the bravest warriors and the wisest statesmen, relinquishing their natural right to empire, approach the royal cradle with bended knees and protestations of inviolable fidelity? Satire and declamation may paint these obvious topics in the most dazzling colors, but our more serious thoughts will respect a useful prejudice, that establishes a rule of succession, independent of the passions of mankind; and we shall cheerfully acquiesce in any expedient which deprives the multitude of the dangerous, and indeed the ideal, power of giving themselves a master.

"...approach the royal cradle with bended knees..."

In the cool shade of retirement, we may easily devise imaginary forms of government, in which the sceptre shall be constantly bestowed on the most worthy, by the free and incorrupt suffrage of the whole community. Experience overturns these airy fabrics, and teaches us, that in a large society, the election of a monarch can never devolve to the wisest, or to the most numerous part of the people. The army is the only order of men sufficiently united to concur in the same sentiments, and powerful enough to impose them on the rest of their fellow-citizens; but the temper of soldiers, habituated at once to violence and to slavery, renders them very unfit guardians of a legal, or even a civil constitution. Justice, humanity, or political wisdom, are qualities they are too little acquainted with in themselves, to appreciate them in others. Valor will acquire their esteem, and liberality will purchase their suffrage; but the first of these merits is often lodged in the most savage breasts; the latter can only exert itself at the expense of the public; and both may be turned against the possessor of the throne, by the ambition of a daring rival.

"The only order of men sufficiently united to concur in the same sentiments."

The superior prerogative of birth, when it has obtained the sanction of time and popular opinion, is the plainest and least invidious of all distinctions among mankind. The acknowledged right extinguishes the hopes of faction, and the conscious security disarms the cruelty of the monarch. To the firm establishment of this idea we owe the peaceful succession and mild administration of European monarchies. To the defect of it we must attribute the frequent civil wars, through which an Asiatic despot is obliged to cut his way to the throne of his fathers. Yet, even in the East, the sphere of contention is usually limited to the princes of the reigning house, and as soon as the more fortunate competitor has removed his brethren by the sword and the bowstring, he no longer entertains any jealousy of his meaner subjects. But the Roman empire, after the authority of the senate had sunk into contempt, was a vast scene of confusion. [...] The right to the throne, which none could claim from birth, every one assumed from merit. The daring hopes of ambition were set loose from the salutary restraints of law and prejudice; and the meanest of mankind might, without folly, entertain a hope of being raised by valour and fortune to a rank in the army, in which a single crime would enable him to wrest the sceptre of the world from his feeble and unpopular master."

"...every one assumed from merit."

-Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I, Ch. VII.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever

"And if he commit any iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men."

A quick overview of the Messianic prophecies or promises that we have encountered in the Genesis lets us see how the indications about the Savior of the world become more and more precise. Thus, salvation will come from:

1. The offspring of the woman (Genesis iii, 15): "I will put enmities between thee [the snake] and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush [Footnote in the Douay-Rheims Bible: Ipsa, the woman; so divers of the fathers read this place, conformably to the Latin: others read it ipsum, viz., the seed. The sense is the same: for it is by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman crushes the serpent's head.] thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel."
2. The race of Seth (v, 29): "And he called his name Noe, saying: This same shall comfort us from the works and labours of our hands on the earth, which the Lord hath cursed."
3. Sem’s branch (ix, 26 et seq.): "And he said: Blessed be the Lord God of Sem, be Chanaan his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Sem, and Chanaan be his servant."
4. Abraham’s family (xii, 3, al.): "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee, and IN THEE shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed."
5. Isaac’s family (xxvi, 1-4): "[...] And the Lord appeared to him [Isaac] and said: Go not down into Egypt, but stay in the land that I shall tell thee. And sojourn in it, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee: for to thee and to thy seed I will give all these countries, to fulfill the oath which I swore to Abraham thy father. And I will multiply thy seed like the stars of heaven: and I will give to thy posterity all these countries: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."
6. Jacob’s family (xxvii, 29; xxxv, 9 et seq.): "And let peoples serve thee, and tribes worship thee: be thou lord of thy brethren, and let thy mother's children bow down before thee. Cursed be he that curseth thee: and let him that blesseth thee be filled with blessings." "And God appeared again to Jacob, after he returned from Mesopotamia of Syria, and he blessed him, saying: Thou shalt not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name. And he called him Israel. And said to him: I am God Almighty, increase thou and be multiplied. Nations and peoples of nations shall be from thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins."
7. The tribe of Judah (xlix, 10): "The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations."
"Juda, thee shall thy brethren praise: thy hands shall be on
the necks of thy enemies: the sons of thy father shall bow
down to thee. Juda is a lion's whelp." (Gen xlix, 8-9)

In order to get to the Messiah’s crib with certainty, we have only to get to know the family of the tribe of Judah that will give him birth. This is what the prophet Nathan will teach us. (II Samuel, vii, 5-16):

"[...] And now thus shalt thou speak to my servant David: Thus saith the Lord of hosts: I took thee out of the pastures from following the sheep to be ruler over my people Israel:  
And I have been with thee wheresoever thou hast walked, and have slain all thy enemies from before thy face: and I have made thee a great man, like unto the name of the great ones that are on the earth.  
And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and I will plant them, and they shall dwell therein, and shall be disturbed no more: neither shall the children of iniquity afflict them any more as they did before,  
From the day that I appointed judges over my people Israel: and I will give thee rest from all thy enemies. And the Lord foretelleth to thee, that the Lord will make thee a house.  
And when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.   
He shall build a house to my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.   
I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son: and if he commit any iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.   
But my mercy I will not take away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before my face.  
And thy house shall be faithful, and thy kingdom for ever before thy face, and thy throne shall be firm for ever."

-Footnote commentary at the end of Genesis in the Crampon Bible, a French translation after the original texts. The English quotes are from the Douay-Rheims.

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