Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Ephemeral Republic: Part 2 of 2

In the last essay, we noted that Evangelical Protestantism was in the ascendancy in the South after the War.  With this corresponds the republican form of government (i.e., classical liberalism, government by the consent of the people, which we also saw in the second stage of Southern history), about which Donoso Cortes, whom we heard from last time, said the following:

“The liberal school,” he said, “ placed between two seas, whose constantly advancing waves will finally overwhelm it, between socialism and Catholicism.... It cannot admit the constituent sovereignty of the people without becoming democratic, socialistic, and atheistic, nor admit the actual sovereignty of God without becoming monarchical and Catholic....”xxxix

“This school is only dominant when society is threatened with dissolution, and the moment of its authority is that transitory and fugitive one, in which the world stands doubting between Barabbas and Jesus, and hesitates between a dogmatical affirmation and a supreme negation. At such a time society willingly allows itself to be governed by a school which never affirms nor denies, [italics in original] but is always making distinctions.... xl“Such periods of agonizing doubt can never last any great length of time. Man was born to act, and will resolutely declare either for Barabbas or Jesus and overturn all that the sophists have attempted to establish....”

Source:  Fr Seraphim Rose, Orthodox Survival Course, ‘Lecture 8: Meaning of Revolution’, p. 129,, downloaded 12 Feb. 2017

The South, Cortes is telling us, instead of delighting in her republicanism, ought to be searching for an alternative to it, since it can only be a brief, wavering stage in her history, not something of permanence and stability. 

One of the reasons this is so, as Cortes said elsewhere, is that republicanism is a denial of God’s rule over this world (e.g., ‘Discourse on the General Situation of Europe’, speech given to the Spanish Parliament on 30 Jan. 1850, found in Donoso Cortes: Readings in Political Theory, Herrera, edr., Ave Maria, Flor.: Sapientia Press, 2007, pgs. 74-5).  If we believed in His providence, we would have no trouble believing that He would provide a king to govern each nation according to His will.  But since at some level we really do not believe in that anymore, we have taken the reins of government into our own hands, relegating to God the role merely of Creator of the cosmos, while we ourselves are now the rulers.

The Orthodox priest-monk Father Seraphim Rose of California (+1982), who spoke well of Cortes’ thoughts in some of his own lectures, had some things of his own to say about republicanism/liberalism:

The Liberalism we shall describe in the following pages is not--let us state at the outset--an overt Nihilism; it is rather a passive Nihilism, or, better yet, the neutral breeding-ground of the more advanced stages of Nihilism. Those who have followed our earlier discussion concerning the impossibility of spiritual or intellectual "neutrality" in this world will understand immediately why we have classified as Nihilist a point of view which, while not directly responsible for any striking Nihilist phenomena, has been an indispensable prerequisite for their appearance. The incompetent defence by Liberalism of a heritage in which it has never fully believed, has been one of the most potent causes of overt Nihilism.

The Liberal humanist civilization which, in Western Europe, was the last form of the Old Order that was effectively destroyed in that Great War and the Revolutions of the second decade of this century and which continues to exist--though in an even more attenuated "democratic" form--in the free world today, may be principally characterized by its attitude to truth. This is not an attitude of open hostility nor even of deliberate unconcern, for its sincere apologists undeniably have a genuine regard for what they consider to be truth; rather, it is an attitude in which truth, despite certain appearances, no longer occupied the center of attention. The truth in which it professes to believe (apart of course, from scientific fact) is, for it, no spiritual or intellectual coin of current circulation, but idle and unfruitful capital left over from a previous age. The Liberal still speaks, at least on formal occasions, of "eternal verities," of "faith," of "human dignity," of man's "high calling" or his "unquenchable spirit," even of "Christian civilization"; but it is quite clear that these words no longer mean what they once meant. No Liberal takes them with entire seriousness; they are in fact metaphors, ornaments of language that are meant to evoke an emotional, not an intellectual, response--a response largely conditioned by long usage, with the attendant memory of a time when such words actually had a positive and serious meaning.

No one today who prides himself on his "sophistication"--that is to say, very few in academic institutions, in government, in science, in humanist intellectual circles, no one who wishes or professes to be abreast of the "times"--does or can fully believe in absolute truth, or more particularly in Christian Truth. Yet the name of truth has been retained, as have been the names of those truths men once regarded as absolute, and few in any position of authority or influence would hesitate to use them, even when they are aware that their meanings have changed. Truth, in a word, has been "reinterpreted"; the old forms have been emptied and given a new, quasi-Nihilist content. This may easily be seen by a brief examination of several of the principal areas in which truth has been "reinterpreted."

In the theological order the first truth is, of course, God. Omnipotent and omnipresent Creator of all, revealed to faith and in the experience of the faithful (and not contradicted by the reason of those who do not deny faith), God is the supreme end of all creation and Himself, unlike His creation, finds His end in Himself, everything created stands in relation to and dependence upon Him, Who alone depends upon nothing outside Himself, He has created the world that it might live in enjoyment of Him, and everything in the world is oriented toward this end, which however men may miss by a misuse of their freedom.

The modern mentality cannot tolerate such a God. He is both too intimate--too "personal," even too "human"--and too absolute, too uncompromising in His demands of us; and He makes Himself known only to humble faith--a fact bound to alienate the proud modern intelligence. A "new god" is clearly required by modern man, a god more closely fashioned after the pattern of such central modern concerns as science and business; it has, in fact, been an important intention of modern thought to provide such a god. This intention is clear already in Descartes, it is brought to fruition in the Deism of the Enlightenment, developed to its end in German idealism: the new god is not a Being but an idea, not revealed to faith and humility but constructed by the proud mind that still feels the need for "explanation" when it has lost its desire for salvation. This is the dead god of philosophers who require only a "first cause" to complete their systems, as well as of "positive thinkers" and other religious sophists who invent a god because they "need" him, and then think to "use" him at will. Whether "deist," "idealist," pantheist," or "immanentist," all the modern gods are the same mental construct, fabricated by souls dead from the loss of faith in the true God.

 . . .

In the Christian order politics too was founded upon absolute truth. We have already seen, in the preceding chapter, that the principal providential form government took in union with Christian Truth was the Orthodox Christian Empire, wherein sovereignty was vested in a Monarch, and authority proceeded from him downwards through a hierarchical social structure. We shall see in the next chapter, on the other hand, how a politics that rejects Christian Truth must acknowledge "the people" as sovereign and understand authority as proceeding from below upwards, in a formally "egalitarian" society. It is clear that one is the perfect inversion of the other; for they are opposed in their conceptions both of the source and of the end of government. Orthodox Christian Monarchy is government divinely established, and directed, ultimately, to the other world, government with the teaching of Christian Truth and the salvation of souls as its profoundest purpose; Nihilist rule--whose most fitting name, as we shall see, is Anarchy---is government established by men, and directed solely to this world, government which has no higher aim than earthly happiness.

The Liberal view of government, as one might suspect, is an attempt at compromise between these two irreconcilable ideas. In the 19th century this compromise took the form of "constitutional monarchies," an attempt--again--to wed an old form to a new content; today the chief representatives of the Liberal idea are the "republics" and "democracies" of Western Europe and America, most of which preserve a rather precarious balance between the forces of authority and Revolution, while professing to believe in both.

It is of course impossible to believe in both with equal sincerity and fervor, and in fact no one has ever done so. Constitutional monarchs like Louis Philippe thought to do so by professing to rule "by the Grace of God and the will of the people"--a formula whose two terms annul each other, a fact as equally evident to the Anarchist [5] as to the Monarchist.

Now a government is secure insofar as it has God for its foundation and His Will for its guide; but this, surely, is not a description of Liberal government. It is, in the Liberal view, the people who rule, and not God; God Himself is a "constitutional monarch" Whose authority has been totally delegated to the people, and Whose function is entirely ceremonial. The Liberal believes in God with the same rhetorical fervor with which he believes in Heaven. The government erected upon such a faith is very little different, in principle, from a government erected upon total disbelief, and whatever its present residue of stability, it is clearly pointed in the direction of Anarchy.

A government must rule by the Grace of God or by the will of the people, it must believe in authority or in the Revolution; on these issues compromise is possible only in semblance, and only for a time. The Revolution, like the disbelief which has always accompanied it, cannot be stopped halfway; it is a force that, once awakened, will not rest until it ends in a totalitarian Kingdom of this world. The history of the last two centuries has proved nothing if not this. To appease the Revolution and offer it concessions, as Liberals have always done, thereby showing that they have no truth with which to oppose it, is perhaps to postpone, but not to prevent, the attainment of its end. And to oppose the radical Revolution with a Revolution of one's own, whether it be "conservative," " non-violent," or "spiritual," is not merely to reveal ignorance of the full scope and nature of the Revolution of our time, but to concede as well the first principle of that Revolution: that the old truth is no longer true, and a new truth must take its place. Our next chapter will develop this point by defining more closely the goal of the Revolution.

In the Liberal world-view, therefore--in its theology, its ethics, its politics, and in other areas we have not examined as well--truth has been weakened, softened, compromised; in all realms truth that was once absolute has become less certain, if not entirely "relative." Now it is possible-and this in fact amounts to a definition of the Liberal enterprise-to preserve for a time the fruits of a system and a truth of which one is uncertain or skeptical; but one can build nothing positive upon such uncertainty, nor upon the attempt to make it intellectually respectable in the various relativistic doctrines we have already examined. There is and can be no philosophical apology for Liberalism; its apologies, when not simply rhetorical, are emotional and pragmatic. But the most striking fact about the Liberal, to any relatively unbiased observer, is not so much the inadequacy of his doctrine as his own seeming oblivion to this inadequacy.

This fact, which is understandably irritating to well-meaning critics of Liberalism, has only one plausible explanation. The Liberal is undisturbed even by fundamental deficiencies and contradictions in his own philosophy because his primary interest is elsewhere. If he is not concerned to found the political and social order upon Divine Truth, if he is indifferent to the reality of Heaven and Hell, if he conceives of God as a mere idea of a vague impersonal power, it is because he is more immediately interested in worldly ends, and because everything else is vague or abstract to him. The Liberal may be interested in culture, in learning, in business, or merely in comfort; but in every one of his pursuits the dimension of the absolute is simply absent. He is unable, or unwilling, to think in terms of ends, of ultimate things. The thirst for absolute truth has vanished; it has been swallowed up in worldliness.

Source:  Nihilism,, opened 18 April 2017

Comparing Rev Dabney’s words from last time with this passage, clearly the South was heading in the right direction in the years prior to the War.  There were even calls in some quarters for the restoration of a monarchy in the South as secession loomed.  It is unfortunate, to say the least, that these developments were interrupted by the War, Reconstruction, and their aftermath.

Howsobeit, liberalism is what Dixie has ended up with, but, as much as possible, republics and their kin ought not to be befriended, per the above.  To use the imagery of the family, the republican system is like the children gathering together ‘in convention’ and deciding that they would expel their God-given father and rule themselves according to a ‘constitution’ of their own making.  Such a thing is demonically inspired and of course would end in the worst chaos, but it is what the South and most European countries have done politically with their kings:  The disorder and brutality of the modern world are testimony to it. 

Let us hear once more from Cortes:  ‘Gentlemen, the true cause of the deep and profound evil which afflicts Europe is that the ideas of divine and human authority have disappeared.  . . .  Because of this, peoples are ungovernable.  . . .  In the nations which are ungovernable, the government necessarily takes republican forms’ (‘Discourse on the General Situation of Europe’, p. 73).

However, buried beneath the republicanism overlying the South of today lies the foundation of patriarchy (M. E. Bradford, ‘The Colonial Origins of the Southern Tradition’, A Better Guide Than Reason, New Brunswick, Nj.: Transaction, 1994, p. 179).  It is mostly forgotten or mostly despised now by the worshippers of modern freedom, but it is there nevertheless.  And with proper care and nurture, it could be restored. 

To bring back the landed aristocracy of the Old South would be a great improvement over the atomistic conditions of today, but to have them without a king is to have an arch without a capstone.  Every family has a God-given head - a father; every nation, which is an extended family, will also have a God-given head - a king.  The fulfillment of patriarchy is a king.  ‘To the cultural anthropologist monarchy is a patriarchal institution.  Its underlying ideology is thus “familistic.”  The ideal monarch is a father—a concept expressed in the symbolic pictorial representation of kings and emperors’ (Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality, Front Royal, Va.: Christendom Press, 1993, p. 138, italics in original).

There is an example from Southern history that would serve us well to mull over.  It involves the actions of Virginia during the English Civil War.  Robert Beverley related it in his The History and Present State of Virginia:

        §. 65. At last the King was traiterously beheaded in England, and Oliver install'd Protector. However, his Authority was not acknowledged in Virginia for several Years after, till they were forced to it by the last Necessity. For in the Year 1651, by Cromwell's Command, Capt. Dennis, with a Squadron of Men of War, arriv'd there from the Carribbee Islands, where they had been subduing Bardoes. The Country at first held out vigorously against him; and Sir William Berkeley, by the Assistance of such Dutch Vessels as were then there, made a brave Resistance. But at last Dennis contriv'd a Stratagem, which betray'd the Country. He had got a considerable Parcel of Goods aboard, which belong'd to Two of the Council; and found a Method of informing them of it. By this means they were reduced to the Dilemma either of submitting, or losing their Goods. This occasion'd Factions among them; so that at last, after the Surrender of all the other English Plantations, Sir William was forced to submit to the Usurper on the Terms of a general Pardon. However, it ought to be remember'd, to his Praise, and to the immortal Honour of that Colony, that it was the last of all the King's Dominions that submitted to the Usurpation, and afterwards the first that cast it off.

 . . .

        §. 68. The strange Arbitrary Curbs he put upon the Plantations, exceedingly afflicted the People. He had the Inhumanity to forbid them all manner of Trade and Correspondence with other Nations, at a Time when England it self was in Distraction; and could neither take off their Commodities, nor supply them sufficiently with its own. Neither had they ever been used to supply them with half the Commodities they expended, or to take off above half the Tobacco they made. Such violent Proceedings made the People desperate, and inspired them with a Desire to use the last Remedy, to relieve themselves from his Lawless Usurpation. In a short time afterwards a fair Opportunity happen'd: For Governor Mathews died, and no Person was substituted to succeed him in the Government. Whereupon the People apply'd themselves to Sir William Berkeley, (who had continued all this time upon his own Plantation in a private Capacity) and unanimously chose him their Governour again.

        §. 69. Sir William Berkeley had all along retain'd an unshaken Loyalty for the Royal Family; and therefore generously told the People, That he could not approve of the Protector's Oppression; and was resolved never to serve any Body, but the lawful Heir to the Crown; and that if he accepted the Government, it should be upon their solemn Promise, after his Example to venture their Lives and Fortunes for the King, who was then in France.

        This was their dearest Wish, and therefore with an unanimous Voice they told him, That they were ready to hazard all for the King. Now, this was actually before the King's Return for England, and proceeded from a brave Principle of Loyalty, for which they had no Example. Sir William Berkeley embraced their Choice, and forthwith proclaim'd Charles the Second King of England, Scotland, France, Ireland and Virginia, and caused all Process to be issued in his Name. Thus his Majesty was actually King in Virginia, before he was so in England. But it pleased God to restore him soon after to the Throne of his Ancestors; and so that Country escaped being chastised for throwing off the Usurpation.

Source:  1705 edn., pgs. 53-6, © UNC Chapel Hill, 2006,, opened 18 April 2017

Joining this with a statement from Rev Benjamin Morgan Palmer will help us understand what seems to us a big part of the South’s place in history:

In determining our duty in this emergency it is necessary that we should first ascertain the nature of the trust providentially committed to us. A nation often has a character as well defined and intense as that of an individual. This depends, of course upon a variety of causes operating through a long period of time. It is due largely to the original traits which distinguish the stock from which it springs, and to the providential training which has formed its education. But, however derived, this individuality of character alone makes any people truly historic, competent to work out its specific mission, and to become a factor in the world's progress. The particular trust assigned to such a people becomes the pledge of the divine protection; and their fidelity to it determines the fate by which it is finally overtaken. What that trust is must be ascertained from the necessities of their position, the institutions which are the outgrowth of their principles and the conflicts through which they preserve their identity and independence. If then the South is such a people, what, at this juncture, is their providential trust? I answer, that it is to conserve and to perpetuate the institution of domestic slavery as now existing.  . . .

Source:  ‘Thanksgiving Sermon’, 29 Nov. 1860,, opened 10 April 2017

Rather than the perfection of the Christian republic (a contradiction in terms, as we have seen) that Rev J. H. Thornwell and others thought so important, the role of the South in the world, particularly in the West where liberalism has caused so much havoc, is to help call it back to Christian hierarchy/monarchy.  This is what we need to understand about the South’s defense of slavery:  Only superficially was it a defense of the subjugation of black Africans to white Europeans.  At the core of the slavery argument was the idea of upholding sacred order (i.e., hierarchy) against modern nominalism, wherein the divinely ordained ghostly and matterly union of everyone and everything is broken apart and replaced with the beastly ‘cash nexus’ spoken of by Richard Weaver.

It should be kept in mind that we are not advocating for the stripping away of anything good in Southern political tradition, only the adding back of something essential that was taken away more than 200 years ago.  Other institutions would of course exist alongside the king, cooperating with him in governing the people, among them venerable old bodies like the Senate, county courthouses, and so on.  The Southern king we could reckon to be fairly mild in his rule as well, as most gentlemen-planters before the War were of the easy-going kind.

We do not fault anyone for their ardent defense of republican forms of government.  It is simply what has been preached as correct doctrine for hundreds of years now, which makes it easy for folks to get caught up in the strong currents of the times and swept away by them (we ourselves were also quite enamored with them at one time).  But with a little deeper look into history and theology, we hope most Southerners will come back home to Christian hierarchy and kingship - as our forefathers Sir William Berkeley, Rev Palmer, and others are asking us to do, as well as more recent Southern leaders like Richard Weaver and Wendell Berry - for the sake of the South and, by way of example, for the sake of others who have imbibed the deceptive ideologies of Modernity.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð!

Anathema to the Union!

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