Sunday, November 23, 2014

King, Byng, and Canada’s Parliamentary Monarchy


A conservative is a traditionalist, i.e., someone who believes strongly in preserving all the good things – ideas, customs, habits, institutions, rules, etc. – that have been passed on to us in the present from the past, as a trust for future generations. A progressive is an innovator, i.e.. someone who believes that the road to a better future starts by moving away from the past through radical experimentation guided by the light of reason and science.

The terms “Tory” and “Whig” are synonyms for “conservative” and “progressive” respectively, but they have more specific connotations. They are the old names for the parties which were re-organized and re-named into the Conservative and Liberal parties in the nineteenth century. The old names were used from the late seventeenth through to the early nineteenth century. The Tories were the champions of the rights and privileges of the Crown and of the established Church of England. The Whigs were the champions of the elected legislature and of the dissenting, non-conformist, Protestant sects.

The term “Tory” is still widely used, mostly as a nickname for the members of the Conservative Party. I use it as a self-descriptive label in a somewhat different sense, to indicate that my conservatism is the older type of royalist and religious conservatism rooted in established institutions that the Tory Party stood for before it changed its name, and not primarily a conservatism of low taxes and free markets, although I have nothing against those things per se.

The term “Whig” has not survived as well. The American Republic was founded upon Whig principles in the eighteenth century and for a time the term was used as the name of an American political party, albeit one whose policies differed somewhat from those of the English Whigs. This was dissolved in 1860 and the Republican Party took its place. Canada was founded upon Tory principles as a confederation of provinces that had remained loyal to the British Crown in the American Revolution. Here, we do not refer to the members of the Liberal Party as Whigs in the way we speak of members of the Conservative Party as Tories, we call them “Grits” instead.

Nevertheless, Whig ideals have often been on display in the policies and actions of the Liberal Party in the Twentieth Century. Likewise, Canadian history, once written by such stalwart Tories as Donald Creighton and W. L. Morton, in the last half of the Twentieth Century began to bear a marked resemblance to what Sir Herbert Butterfield called “The Whig Interpretation of History”, when a new school of Liberal historians, including such notables as Pierre Berton and Peter C. Newman arose. Whereas the older school of historians were patriots of the Dominion of Canada founded in 1867, who believed in its founding principles, and saw its British heritage of Common Law, the Westminster Parliamentary system, and the Crown itself as an indispensable part of what Canada was all about the newer school were advocates of a newer kind of Canadian nationalism, heavily promoted by Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau in the 1960s and 1970s, which sought to create a new Canadian identity by stripping Canada of as much of her British heritage as possible and de-emphasizing the rest, while emphasizing the traditions and heritage of French Canadians, Canadian Indians, and new immigrants from the Third World. This new Canadian history can be seen at its most Whiggish, however, when it discusses a 1926 event known as the King/Byng affair.

To understand this it would be helpful to define the basic difference between Tories and Whigs under the Westminster system. A Tory and a Whig can both support the system of parliamentary monarchy. They view it differently, however. A Whig has a natural distrust of kings and regards the powers of the elected assembly as a fundamental check on the potential for tyranny in the royal office. A Tory’s natural distrust is of mobs and the demagogues that stir them up, and he regards the office of the king as an essential check on demagoguery, political opportunism, and the “tyranny of the majority” that Alexis de Tocqueville warned the Americans about.

The Whig interpretation of history, as Butterfield explained it, is the theory, predominant in the histories of the Whig historians of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in which the past is seen as one endless series of progressive events leading up to the liberal democracy of the present. Every event in which royal power is limited is regarded as a positive step towards the rights, freedoms, and democracy of the day, regardless of whether the king at the time was behaving tyrannically, as was the case with King John, or was a good man defending the traditional rights and prerogatives of his office, from unscrupulous fanatics, as was the case with King Charles I.

In classrooms across Canada, the King-Byng affair, if discussed at all, is given the Whig treatment. It is portrayed as an important step in Canada’s becoming a sovereign country with full control over her own affairs. While this view conforms to the 1926 election propaganda of William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Liberals it does not conform to the facts.

The events leading up to the affair began with the 1925 federal election. At the time King was Prime Minister, the Liberals having won the 1921 election with 118 seats. This was reduced to 101 in the 1925 election. Arthur Meighen’s Conservatives won 116 seats. Ordinarily this would have resulted in the Conservatives being asked to form a minority government. King, however, went to Lord Byng of Vimy, the Governor General (viceroy) at the time, and told him that he had obtained the support of the Progressive Party for the continuation of his government. Byng reluctantly accepted this.

Before the year was out, King’s government was rocked by scandal. Here is how John G. Diefenbaker described it in his memoirs:

Within weeks of the 1925 election, the entire range of corruption began to emerge. Canadian customs officers were involved in a smuggling ring operating in Windsor-Detroit, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and throughout the New Brunswick-Maine boundary. Directing much of these operations was a senior Customs Inspector and implicated was the former Liberal Minister of Customs and Excise, the Honourable Jacques Bureau, who, instead of being sent to jail, had been appointed to the Senate by King prior to the 1925 election. (John G. Diefenbaker, One Canada, Volume I, p. 146)

A House committee was appointed to investigate and when its report was in, the Conservatives called for a vote of censure against the King government, the socialists called for a Royal Commission to investigate the customs corruption further, and finally a proposal was put forward that combined both of these calls.

Desperate to avoid a vote of censure, and having obtained an adjournment, King went to Lord Byng and asked him to dissolve Parliament. Byng, in Diefenbaker’s words “rightly and properly refused King’s request” for:

Never before in Canadian or in the whole of British parliamentary history had such a request been granted to a Prime Minister facing the censure of the House of Commons. (Ibid. p. 147)

Byng instead, asked Arthur Meighen, leader of the Conservative Party – which had won the largest number of seats in the preceding years election – to form a government. It was entirely within his rights and prerogatives as representative of the Crown to do so. As it so happened, Meighen’s government lost a confidence vote shortly after being formed and an election was called anyway. During that election, King lied through his teeth about the whole affair. Here is how Diefenbaker described it:

Mackenzie King then produced one of the most transparent falsehoods of any man in any generation of our country. He claimed that Canada was in the midst of a constitutional crisis, that the Governor General, Lord Byng, had acted on instructions from Downing Street in inviting Meighen to form a government, and that he, MacKenzie King, would save the common people of our nation from colonial peril. King’s “challenge of imperialism” was so phoney it made Barnum look like an amateur. There was no substance in it, either in law or in logic. But it attracted the public imagination, or at least King’s performance did. (Ibid., pp.147-148)

What the last sentence means is that King’s Liberals won the election. This doesn’t speak well of the electorate at the time that they would buy King’s spurious charge of interference from London when the Prime Minister had clearly asked for a dissolution of Parliament for entirely self-serving reasons, showing utter contempt for the legislative body that was about to censure his government for corruption. This charge was all the more spurious given that in King’s letter to Lord Byng, resigning his premiership he reminded the viceroy that:

in our recent conversations relative to dissolution I have on each occasion suggested to Your Excellency, as I have again urged this morning, that having regard to the possible very serious consequences of a refusal of the advice of your First Minister to dissolve parliament you should, before definitely deciding on this step, cable the Secretary of State for the Dominions asking the British Government, from whom you have come to Canada under instructions, what, in the opinion of the Secretary of State for the Dominions, your course should be in the event of the Prime Minister presenting you with an Order-in-Council having reference to dissolution. (William Lyon Mackenzie King to Lord Byng, Governor General of Canada, June 28, 1926)

Lord Byng, far from acting under orders from Downing Street, had rejected King’s advice that he consult with London, before doing his constitutional duty of refusing to dissolve a parliament just so the Prime Minister could avoid a vote of censure.

Far from being a champion of Canadian sovereignty against imperial interference in Canada’s domestic affairs, King was a sleazy politician, desperate to cling to power and avoid the censure his government richly deserved. While the Whig interpretation of this event is taught in history classes around the country, the Tory interpretation of this event, as explained by John Farthing in his posthumously published Freedom Wears a Crown is more in keeping with the facts. According to Farthing, the King-Bing-Thing, damaged the traditional constitution of parliamentary monarchy that is the foundation for our country’s form of democracy and tradition of personal liberty. King, in insisting that Byng should have granted his dissolution request, showed contempt both for the constitution role of the King, whom Byng represented, and of the Parliament that wanted to censure him. He did not want his government to be accountable either to the Crown or to the elected assembly. Here is how Farthing put the matter:

If a Prime Minister either receives or is threatened with adverse vote in Parliament has he the right to demand of the King the immediate dissolution of the Parliament? Must the Sovereign or the Governor General accede to any and every such request on the part of a Prime Minister? If so, then it follows by the same logic that Parliament itself also becomes a puppet of the same Prime Minister. (John Farthing, Freedom Wears a Crown, p. 67.)

If the King or his viceroy must grant a dissolution whenever the Prime Minister asks for one and for whatever reason, even if it is to prevent the Prime Minister from being held accountable to Parliament, then the Prime Minister and his cabinet have usurped the rightful, constitutional powers of both the King and Parliament. Ever since Stephen Harper became Prime Minister of Canada the Liberals and NDP have accused him of showing contempt for Parliament and running the government as if he and his cabinet were accountable to nobody. If this is the case, he is following the precedent of Liberal Prime Ministers going back until Mackenzie King in the 1920s.

The solution to the problem is not one either the Grits or the NDP are likely to accept, but it was identified by John Farthing years ago, who wrote:

I suggest that only when its true and rightful priorities are restored to the Canadian Constitution – when the King is recognized as of prior significance even to the Prime Minister – will the Cabinet take its true place in our national government and fulfil its democratic function. (Ibid. p. 68).

Bibliography

John Farthing, Judith Robinson ed., Freedom Wears a Crown, Toronto, Kingswood House, 1957.

John G. Diefenbaker, One Canada: Memoirs of the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker, Volume One: The Crusading Years 18695 –1956, Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1975.

Letter from William Lyon Mackenzie King to Governor General Byng, 28 June 1926 found here:
http://www.canadahistory.com/sections/documents/news/1926%20King%20Byng.html

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Yes, It Is the Twenty-First Century. So What?


The local left-liberal newspaper, the Winnipeg Free Press, recently ran an article on the angst, humanists, atheists, and agnostics were feeling over the Christian faith of Devon Clunis, the chief of the Winnipeg Police Force. Several people wrote to the editor to comment on this. One of the letters printed on November 12th, attributed to the pseudonym “OBSERVER6” asked “Why, in the 21st century, are these practices still around?” The practices in question were those of offering Bibles to police recruits and using material prepared by John C. Maxwell in leadership seminars.

OBSERVER6’s remark is a variation of words that are frequently used by progressive, forward-thinking people as a one-size fits all answer to everything they find objectionable. Those words are “this is the twenty-first century”. The number of situations in which progressives seem to think this is an unanswerable argument is astonishing.

Do you still believe the teachings of the Christian faith? If so, do you allow your Christian faith to affect how you live your life in every aspect, publicly as well as privately, including professionally and politically? “Get with the program”, the progressive says, “This is the twenty-first century” as if the truth of Christianity and the validity of Christ’s claims as Lord over the entirety of the lives of His believers are determined by the date on the calendar.

Do you think that men are men and women are women, that it is more meaningful and more important to be a man or a woman than it is to be an “individual”, that men and women are different and complementary rather than equal and interchangeable, and that men are made by God and nature for women and women for men? If so, you are really out of step with the times and the progressive will say to you “This is the twenty-first century.”

I could go on giving other examples but I think you get the idea.

As an argument “This is the twenty-first century” makes little sense. Whether a person ought to believe the teachings of Christianity or not does not depend upon what year, decade, century or even millennium it is. It depends upon whether or not those teachings are true. Did Jesus of Nazareth, after being crucified by the Romans to appease the Jewish mob, rise from the dead? If so, this validates His claim to be the Christ, the Son of God come down from Heaven to save mankind, which in turn validates everything else He ever said. As it so happens, the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth did indeed rise from the dead is very strong – strong enough that more than one, convinced skeptic who set out to disprove it ended up converting. The empty tomb that prevented the account of the Resurrection from being snuffed out by the Romans and Jewish leaders in the first century, the transformation of the Apostles from the men who fled at Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion into men who went to their deaths as martyrs for their conviction that He had risen from the tomb, the five hundred plus eyewitnesses that St. Paul could refer to as being still alive when he wrote his first epistle to the Corinthian church, and indeed the conversion of St. Paul himself, from a man hostile to the faith to its foremost proponent due to an encounter with the Risen Christ, provide a very strong case indeed for the truth and historicity of the Resurrection of Christ. The truth and historicity of the Resurrection and of Christianity itself do not diminish the longer in time we are removed from the event. Indeed, the truth that the Son of God came down from heaven, lived among us, was crucified and rose again, cannot help but be the most important truth in human history and will remain that way throughout human history. Indeed, the fact that we are in the twenty-first century since these events took place – note that we date the centuries from these events – makes it more important than ever that we believe these truths and live our lives accordingly because one of the things Jesus said, that is verified by His being the Son of God, which in turn is verified by His having risen from the dead, is that He will come back to judge the living and the dead, and event which inevitably grows nearer the further removed from His Ascension that we get.

When progressives say “this is the twenty-first century” to dismiss Christianity, traditional ethics, private property, the differences between the sexes, monarchy, the survival of Caucasian ethnicity, and everything else from the past that they despise, they are clearly not making a valid argument as far as sound reasoning goes. They are expressing an attitude, an attitude held by all progressives, and by far too many who would not consider themselves to be progressive. Thanks to C. S. Lewis we have a term for that attitude – “chronological snobbery”.

In Surprised by Joy Lewis tells how he himself had held this attitude in his earlier days, how he had dismissed old ideas and customs as belonging to older and therefore outdated periods. He was cured of the attitude by his friend Owen Barfield who demolished all the assumptions it rests upon. Lewis described chronological snobbery as “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited”.

Now it is true, to an extent, that we have more knowledge in the sense of accumulated information available to us in the present than was available in the past. I say “to an extent” because information is lost as well as accumulated with the passing of time. This fact, however, calls for a very different attitude than that of chronological snobbery. . The knowledge that we have available today that was not available in the past is knowledge of the past – the knowledge of what has been thought and said, done and accomplished, discovered and accumulated, by all the generations that have preceded us. This ought to command an attitude of respect towards the past – not an attitude of “who cares what they thought in the past, we know so much more today.”

Of course people thought things in the past that are not true. People continue to think things today that are not true. I do not mean the things that have held over from previous ages that are dismissed with “this is the twenty-first century” but ideas that are modern, progressive, and in keeping with the prevalent spirit of the present age. An ideas being new and modern, is no guarantee of its being true, and an ideas being old and unfashionable is no guarantee of its being false.

Indeed, if it were to come down to a question of the presumption of truth, with regards to ideas that cannot be demonstrated to be false, then the presumption of truth ought to go to ideas that are older in the sense of having been held for long periods of time in the past (as opposed to older in the sense of having been thought up millennia ago and discarded in the first generation) rather than to ideas that are new and innovative. Their having endured the passing of ages past, is an argument in their favour, rather than against them.

So the next time some progressive tries to dismiss a timeless truth as being outdated by the fact that it is "the twenty-first century" congratulate him on being able to read the date on the calendar and ask "So what?"

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Random Thoughts on Recent Events



Someone had the bright idea of filming a young woman as she walked through the streets of New York to “create awareness” of the “harassment” women face as they go about their daily routine. The video, which includes multiples cases of catcalling, went viral and has generally provoked one of two responses. Among those who still possess a degree of sanity it raised the question of when, exactly, the words “How are you?” became offensive and began to fall under the category of harassment. Progressives, on the other hand, noted that two thirds of the men who whistled, or hooted, or asked the young lady how her day was going were non-white. Now the only explanation progressive thought will allow for non-whites being presented in a less-than-flattering way in a video is racism on the part of the video-maker. So began the great progressive moral dilemma of which is the greater outrage – that young women have to endure such offensive remarks as “how do you do”, or that the feminists who produced this video were so insensitive as to fail to edit their film in such a way as to show only white men doing the “harassment”.

Speaking of feminists, back in the 1970s a famous squabble took place between Betty Friedan, whose The Feminine Mystique launched “The Women’s Liberation Movement”, also known as second-wave feminism, in the 1960s, and Simone de Beauvoir, the French existentialist philosopher whose more academic The Second Sex had laid the intellectual foundation for a more radical form of feminism fourteen years prior to Friedan’s book. In a 1975 interview, Friedan proposed a voucher system by which women who have stayed at home and raised their children could receive cash value for their work, to which Beauvoir responded by saying:

No, we don’t believe that any woman should have this choice. No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.

Friedan saw this as taking things a bit too far and she expressed her disagreement saying that “there is such a tradition of individual freedom in America that I would never say that every woman must put her child in a child-care center”.

Someone apparently forgot to inform the current president of the United States about that “tradition of individual freedom” because he is now echoing Simone de Beauvoir. On October 31, Barack Obama turned up on Rhode Island where he gave a speech on public, pre-school, day care. In this speech he said:

Sometimes, someone, usually Mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.

So let’s get this straight. Barack Obama is notoriously “pro-choice”. Almost as pro-choice as Liberal and NDP leaders Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair here in Canada who will not allow the members of their parties any choice about being pro-choice. The choice in question, however, is the choice they believe every woman should have as to whether to allow the new human life growing in her womb to survive or to snuff it out. That choice, Obama – and Trudeau and Mulcair – insist must be left to the woman, and the state should not interfere even to protect the interests of the unborn. If, however, a woman should choose to leave the workplace, and devote her time to raising her children at home – that is a choice he does not want Americans to make?

How appropriate that Obama chose Halloween as the day on which to make such a ghoulish remark.

On the subject of ghoulishness, up here in Canada the ultra-ghoulish Bill C-36 has just received Royal Assent, having passed the Senate on Tuesday the 4th, and the House of Commons a month earlier on October 6th. This Bill, introduced by Justice Minister Peter McKay earlier this year, is designed to replace the prostitution laws that were struck down by the Supreme Court last December. The problem is that the laws this Bill introduces are a gazillion times worse than the ones they will be replacing.

Prostitution is by definition the exchange of sexual intercourse for money. Ordinarily it is a man who is offering money in the exchange and a woman who is offering sexual intercourse. In a country that does not wish to make sexual immorality itself illegal, it makes no sense to pass laws against prostitution, which is distinguishable from other sexual immorality only by the fact that money passes from one hand to another. It makes even less sense to pass a law that makes it legal to offer sex in exchange for money but illegal to offer money in exchange for sex. Yet this is exactly what Bill C-36 does. It is a fundamentally bad law.

All you need to do to see that this is a terrible law is to try and imagine any other law that would take the same form. What if the Prohibitionists, rather than declare the sale of alcohol to be illegal, had told the saloons they were free to stay open and peddle their wares but that all of their customers would be arrested? Imagine a law that would allow a drug dealer to peddle dope while punishing his customers for buying it!

Advocates of this law will argue that prostitution is often connected with other evils such as kidnapping, abuse, slavery, drug addiction, etc. This is true, but there are already laws against kidnapping, human trafficking, slavery, and all these other evils. When a new law is proposed to combat evils that are already covered by existing laws you can be sure there is something nasty to be found in the deal somewhere. Think of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act which has finally been removed from the law. This was included in the CHRA in 1977, because the prosecution in Ontario found it too difficult to proceed against John Ross Taylor under the “hate propaganda” laws that Pierre Trudeau had added to the Criminal Code in 1970. These were themselves unnecessary because the laws against incitement were already sufficient to deal with the one or two demagogues out there who might try, with little success, to stir up a mob to racial violence. Canada has suffered a tremendous loss of freedom because we piled up unnecessary laws on top of the perfectly good laws against incitement. There is more suffering down the road due to Bill C-36, I am afraid.

Bill C-36 takes its inspiration from the laws of Sweden, which were based upon Marxist feminist ideology. According to this ideology the relationship between the two sexes has historically been that of an oppressor class (men) and an oppressed class (women). Prostitution, this ideology states, is a form of patriarchal oppression in which men (pimps and johns) conspire to keep women (prostitutes) in sexual slavery. Therefore, according to this ideology, social justice demands that the law liberate the oppressed and punish the oppressor. It is from this starting point that the architects of the “Nordic Model” came up with the idea of making prostitution legal while criminalizing the purchase of a prostitute’s services.

This is a very deceptive ideology. The fact that many prostitutes enter the sex trade by being kidnapped while young, addicted to drugs, and forced into it, is distorted into the lie that all prostitutes enter the trade in this way. The fact that prostitution would be nobody’s first choice in earning a living is twisted into the lie that no woman would ever choose prostitution apart from coercion. Prostitution is presented, not as an exchange of sex for money between two desperate people, but a conspiracy by men (pimps and johns) against women.

Prostitution is a distortion of the natural relationship between the sexes. Men are primarily attracted to youth, beauty, and other indicators of fertility in women, whereas women are primarily attracted to strength, wealth, confidence, and status, indicators of the ability to provide and protect in men. Optimally, this results in a marriage in which a man and a woman find what they are looking for from each other in a context of mutual love, self-sacrifice, and lifelong commitment. Human nature being what it is, this does not always happen and in prostitution you have the opposite of marriage. Man’s desire for a fertile mother for his children is reduced to a desire for sex, and woman’s desire for a strong, resourceful, husband to protect and provide for her and her children is reduced to a desire for cold, hard, cash, and the one is exchanged for the other as a business transaction. Things have to have gone terribly wrong somewhere for both the man and the woman before they could come to this kind of arrangement.

Bill C-36 will not solve the problem and it is not a step in the right direction. That this bill has been put forward by the Conservative Party and endorsed by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is a sad indicator of the extent to which Marxist and radical feminist ideology has infiltrated the Canadian right and evangelical Christianity.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The ISIS Crisis Comes to Canada

In my last essay I talked about how an alliance of Western countries, including Canada, was coming together to fight ISIS or the Islamic State, a jihadist terrorist organization that has seized a large chunk of territory in Iraq and Syria, declared itself a caliphate, and has been kidnapping young women, committing ethnic cleansing against groups like the Yazidis, beheading Western journalists and behaving atrociously in general. I talked about how the rise of ISIS was made possible by the folly of the current American President and his predecessor. The governments of Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad, while despicable in many respects, were capable of keeping jihadist groups like the one that became ISIS in check. In their confidence in the ability of liberal democracy to create a new and better world, George W. Bush removed Hussein and Barack H. Obama threw his support behind the rebels seeking to oust Assad. I talked about how the war against ISIS was being fought on behalf of an unworthy cause, of liberalism, the disease that is killing Western civilization from the inside out, rather than Christianity, the faith which resisted Islam’s onslaught on the Western world from the Battle of Tours to the Gates of Vienna. I also talked about how the Bush doctrine of taking the fight to the terrorists, i.e., waging wars overseas to wipe them out before they can attack us at home is the mirror image of what we ought to be doing. We should be trying to keep jihadists out of Western countries so that we do not need to waste Western lives and Western money waging war overseas. Dr. Srdja Trifkovic has said that “The victory will come not by conquering Mecca for America, but by disengaging America from Mecca and by excluding Mecca from America” (1) and if we substitute “Western civilization” for “America” I think that is about right.

Within days of having completed this essay another aspect of the problem presented itself.

On Monday, October 20th, a young man named Martin Couture-Rouleau ran down a couple of Canadian soldiers with his Nissan Altima inthe Quebec city of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. One of these, a fifty-three year old Warrant Officer named Patrice Vincent, died from the injuries the next day. After the attack Couture-Rouleau called 911 to boast of what he had done “in the name of Allah”, then took off in his vehicle with the police in hot pursuit and ran into a ditch, escaped his vehicle, attacked the cops with a knife, and was shot down dead. He had converted to Islam last year, renamed himself Ahmad LeConverti, and had his passport confiscated because he wished to go overseas to join ISIS.

Two days later, another young man named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, went to the National War Memorial in Ottawa and shot Corporal Nathan Cirillo, one of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, from behind with a rifle. He then fled the scene of the murder, arrived at Parliament Hill, jacked a vehicle which he drove to the Peace Tower, entered the Parliamentary buildings and engaged the House of Commons security forces in a gun fight in the Hall of Honour before being taken down by Sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers. Zehaf-Bibeau had converted to Islam ten years ago.

These incidents, which were apparently unrelated, present another aspect to the problem in that the perpetrators here were home-grown. Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau were Canadians, and not just in the same sense that Omar Khadr, who had been born in Toronto, to a family that raised him in Peshawar, Pakistan and Jalalabad, Afghanistan is a “Canadian”. They were both born and raised in Canada, to Canadian families, and were brought up in mainstream Canadian culture. Their conversion to Islam was one side of a coin, the other side of which was a rejection of the society into which they had been born and its culture.

Now clearly a strategy that focuses on keeping jihadists out of the country with a sensible immigration policy and strong border security cannot prevent attacks from homegrown terrorists who have rejected the country, society, and culture into which they were born and have by choice embraced the culture of jihad. Indeed, a preventative strategy against this sort of attack is likely to prove elusive. Measures like tightening up security in places that are at high risk of being targeted and increasing domestic surveillance can only do so much and come with a heavy cost in terms of freedom lost. We have only just now, in the last few years, began to recover the freedom that was stolen from us by the father of the present leader of the Liberal Party back in the 1970s and can scarcely afford to lose any more.

Speaking of Trudeau père, it was he who in 1971 declared Canada to be officially multicultural. This is a huge part of the problem we are dealing with. Multicultural, as Trudeau used the term, means something more than mere cultural plurality. Culturally, a society can be either homogenous or plural. There are different kinds of homogeneity and plurality. The city-states of ancient Greece or Renaissance Italy had one type of cultural homogeneity, the nation-states of post-Renaissance Europe had another. The Roman Empire, in which a multitude of local cultures were tolerated so long as they recognized the supremacy of Rome was a different kind of cultural plurality from that which came about in Britain when the king of Presbyterian Scotland inherited the throne of Anglican England.

Canada has always been a culturally plural country. In the original Confederation of 1867 there were four provinces, three of which were primarily English and Protestant, one of which was French and Roman Catholic. The plurality, the Fathers of Confederation had in mind for the country they established, was a plurality along the lines of that which then existed in Austria-Hungary in which culturally distinct nations were joined by a common loyalty to a Christian royal House. This is not the kind of plurality Trudeau had in mind when he declared Canada to be multicultural.

Trudeau’s multiculturalism is a pluralism based upon the idea of equality – that all cultures are equal. This is not the same thing as saying that under the Crown all citizens have the same rights and are subject to the same laws regardless of their culture. The latter idea is not culturally neutral but is distinctive of certain cultures and not present in others. If all cultures are equal then a culture that contains this idea is no better for doing so than a culture that does not and the opposite of this concept is equally valid. The only way in which all cultures could be equal would be if all cultures were equally worthless. Multiculturalism or cultural egalitarianism is cultural nihilism.

This applies to religion, which T. S. Eliot rightly said was the heart and centre of culture, as well. Religions do not all teach the same thing. Therefore, the only way in which all religions could be equal would be if they were all wrong. This would seem to be exactly what many progressives think or at least assume, even if they are unwilling to admit it. This assumption could only have developed in the vacuum created by the loss of faith in the religion that has been at heart of Western culture and civilization for almost two millennia. Perhaps that vacuum might help explain how two young men, born and raised in the Western country of Canada, could so reject their country, its culture,and the larger civilization to which it belongs as to embrace, in a zealous and violent way, the religion that has sought to conquer that civilization by force since the seventh century. If Trudeau fils is still looking for "root causes" of jihadist violence that is one he might consider.

.

(1) In Defeating Jihad: How the War on Terror May Yet Be Won In Spite of Ourselves, (Boston: Regina Orthodox Press, 2006).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The ISIS Crisis

In the op/ed columns of newspapers and on blogs on the internet and in commentary on television and radio, a debate is raging over the necessity of “boots on the ground”. The question is one of how to deal with ISIS – not the ancient Egyptian goddess but the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – the Sunni jihadist organization that has seized control of a large chunk of territory on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border and which earlier this year proclaimed itself to be a caliphate. We have been hearing news stories about the atrocities this group has perpetrated, from the ethnic cleansing of the Yazidi to the mass kidnapping of Christian girls to the beheading of Western journalists, for months and for those carrying out the aforementioned debate, it is a matter of whether air strikes would be a sufficient response or whether a ground invasion is necessary. It is taken as a given by both sides that military intervention of some sort or another is necessary..

That military action against ISIS is necessary is certainly the position of our Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Last month he declared the Islamic State to be “a direct threat to the security of this country” and promised that Canada would not “stand on the sidelines and watch” in the fight against ISIS but that we would “do our part”. What doing our part entails, apparently, is the sending of Canadian CF-18 Hornet fighter jets, along with support vehicles and military personnel, to take part in an international coalition fighting against ISIS in Iraq. The House of Commons approved this action by a vote of 157-134 on October 7th and polls indicate that it has broad support among Canadians.

That support is not universal, of course, and while Prime Minister Harper’s rhetoric does raise the interesting question of what he would have proposed to do about this “direct threat” to Canada’s security if an international coalition had not already existed and neither the USA, UK, not UN showed any interest in fighting ISIS, perhaps the best argument in favour of the government’s position is to contrast it with the alternative position of the vapid and vainglorious leader of the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau. Trudeau insists that Canada’s role in this conflict should be one of providing “humanitarian assistance” rather than combat, i.e., providing food, shelter, and other necessities to the victims of ISIS rather than helping to take out the terrorist organization that is victimizing them. This is rather akin to the man in the old anecdote about the insane asylum who proves that he is worthy of abiding in that institution by continuing to mop up a floor flooded by an overflowing sink rather than turn off the tap.

Recently, former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien weighed in on the matter, supporting Trudeau’s position, pointing to all the thankful remarks he still receives from Canadians for keeping us out of the 2003 Iraq War and saying that providing humanitarian assistance has been Canada’s way for fifty years. That is somewhat of an oversimplification, which ignores the fact that Canadians had a combat role in the War on Afghanistan authorized by Mr. Chretien himself or that we had a combat role in the original war against Saddam Hussein in 1991.

Yes, Jean Chretien was right to keep us out of the 2003 Iraq War. It was probably the only time in his life he was ever right about anything but you know what they say about a stopped clock. The invasion of Iraq began in the March of 2003, one year and a half after the attack by Islamic terrorist organization Al Qaeda upon the United States on September 11, 2001. It was this latter event that took the administration of then American President George W. Bush down a militaristic path. Now the United States, at least to any sane person, had in the 9/11 attack a clear justification for retaliation. It seemed odd, therefore, that so soon after 9/11, while its broadly supported efforts to take out the terrorist organization responsible for the attacks and the Taliban regime that sheltered them were still underway and incomplete, the Bush administration would concentrate so much effort on taking out the Saddam Hussein regime which had no plausible connection to the attacks.

The Bush administration’s official reason for toppling the Hussein regime was their claim that Hussein was developing Weapons of Mass Destruction which it was cleverly hiding from UN inspection teams. That seemed then as it seems now to be an excuse, a pretence that hid the Bush administration’s real motives. At the time those of us, left and right, who thought the Iraq War was a mistake, did so because a costly war of regime change in Iraq did not make sense when the War in Afghanistan was still underway and because we suspected that the actual motives of the Bush administration were less than noble. Whether those suspicions were warranted or not, now, looking on it from the perspective of eleven years of hindsight, another reason for considering the Iraq War to have been utter folly is apparent. Namely, that it is the removal of Saddam Hussein that made the rise of ISIS possible.

The Ba’ath government of Saddam Hussein was reprehensible in many ways, of course, but what it had going for it was that it was capable of keeping jihadist groups like the one that eventually became ISIS down. If what Iraq needed was a stable government, with something vaguely resembling law and order if you looked at it from far enough away, where Muslims other than those of the predominant sect, Christians, and other groups would enjoy a degree of protection and not be completely trampled on, then Saddam Hussein was the best of all possible bad options.

Whatever the non-ideological motivations of the Bush administration might have been, two overarching ideological principles can be seen to have guided its military actions. The first is the idea of “taking the fight to the enemy”, i.e., going overseas to take out the terrorists before they can attack us in Western countries. The second is the idea is that terrorism is the product of and supported by non-democratic governments which should therefore be replaced by democratic ones wherever possible. If the “War on Terror” was an expression of the first idea, the Iraq War embodied the second.

The current President of the United States has been criticized by many for his handling of international affairs. Frequently this takes the form of comparing him negatively to George W. Bush – whereas the latter was decisive, firm, and strong, Obama is indecisive, wishy-washy, and weak. However much truth there may be in this, I would suggest that with regards to international affairs, Obama deserves the most criticism for the area in which he and Bush are most alike, namely their naïve belief in democracy as a universal force for good.

By removing the dictator who kept such forces at bay in Iraq, in the name of democracy, Bush created the conditions that led to the rise of ISIS there, just as his insistence upon democratic elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip only empowered and gave a sort of pseudo-legitimacy to the terrorist organization Hamas. Obama received much criticism for not following through on the “line in the sand” rhetoric he directed against the government of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War, but, while this did cause the United States to lose a great deal of “face”, perhaps the bigger problem was that he had thrown his support behind the rebels, when the weakening of the Assad regime is precisely what led to the rise of ISIS on the Syrian side of the border. Consistently, Obama like Bush before him, has supported rebel groups against strongman governments in Egypt, Libya and all across the Middle East and, as with Bush before him, the largest benefactor has been Islamic jihadists.

Indeed, if you are looking for a sound case against Canada’s involvement in the coalition against ISIS, ignore the twaddle coming out of the mouth of the son of our worst ever Prime Minister, the fact that Barack Obama is the leader of the coalition is a good place to start. To that, we could add that the coalition includes the biggest jihad-sponsoring countries in the Middle East but none of the governments that have effectively kept down and contained jihadist terrorism in the past. The same was true of the coalition George W. Bush put together for his War on Terror which is why that War was for the most part a sad and sick joke. Finally, we could make the case ironclad by pointing out that while our opponents, by establishing a caliphate, have sought to stoke the fire of zeal among their followers by conjuring up imagery from the earliest history of Islam when it was united, strong, and a virtually unstoppable juggernaut, we are once again marching into battle against them not under the aegis of the faith that defeated their fathers at Tours and the Gates of Vienna, but in the name of liberalism, the disease that is killing us from the inside.

Perhaps one day Western leaders will awaken to the fact that the best strategy for dealing with groups like ISIS is the reverse of the Bush doctrine. Instead of taking the fight to the terrorists overseas in the hopes of averting terrorist attacks on Western soil it would make much more sense to close the borders of the West to the Islamic world so that we do not have to involve ourselves in their conflicts over there. Despite the disturbing number of “Western” youth being recruited by organizations like ISIS, however, this strategy is less acceptable to progressive liberals and leftists like Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair than outright war. In the meantime, we should be thankful that Prime Minister Harper, however grandiose his rhetoric, placed very careful and specific limits on the military action for which he sought and obtained Parliamentary approval. The United States is not so fortunate. Their president is clearly in over his head and in the long run could potentially have them bogged down in a quagmire that would make George W. Bush’s look like a little mud puddle in comparison.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Couple of Deadly Sins


In the traditional moral theology of the Christian Church, seven “sins” were identified as being particularly deadly. These were Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Avarice (Greed), Gluttony and Lust. I place “sins” in quotations not because I question the Church’s judgement of these as being wicked, but because they are actually vices rather than sins. A sin is an evil act like murder, robbery, or lying. A vice is an evil character trait or habit – the opposite of a virtue which is a good character trait or habit. These seven obviously fall within the vice category, and in classical Christian moral theology are ordinarily contrasted with seven Christian virtues, but the name “Seven Deadly Sins” somehow became attached to the list, has the weight of centuries of prescription behind it, and, if it comes down to that, has a better ring to it than “Seven Deadly Vices.”

Dorothly L. Sayers, who was a mystery writer, Christian apologist, and medieval scholar in the early to mid twentieth century, gave an address to the Public Morality Council at Caxton Hall in Westminster, in 1941, entitled “The Other Six Deadly Sins.” The text of her address can be found a number of collections of her essays, including Creed or Chaos? and The Whimsical Christian. The six which are the topic of her talk are those other than Lust and the point of her discussion was that these six had come to be neglected and Lust overly emphasized in popular Christian teaching. “Perhaps the bitterest commentary” she said “on the way in which Christian doctrine has been taught in the last few centuries is the fact that to the majority of people the word ‘immorality’ has come to mean one thing and one thing only.”

Ironically, in traditional Christian theology, as reflected in Dante Aligheri’s Divine Comedy - of which, incidentally, Sayers produced a translation – Lust was considered to be the least of the seven. Pride – the sin of Lucifer and the original source of all other sin - was considered to be the worst. The order in which I listed them in the first paragraph of this essay goes from worst to least – traditionally, the Church would list from least progressing to worst, beginning with Lust. As Virgil leads Dante up the mountain of Purgatory in the Purgatorio, they encounter the faithful being purged of their vices in order of their seriousness, beginning with lust and ending with pride.

If Dorothy L. Sayers was right in saying that popular Christian ethics had come to focus too heavily upon Lust to the exclusion of other sins, and she was, there is now a tendency in certain circles to make Avarice into the sum and total of all evil. Sayers used the term Covetousness for this vice. Both terms are now rather archaic but they are also more precise than the most common contemporary equivalent, Greed, which in its ordinary, everyday usage, includes Gluttony as well as Avarice. Avarice was the third least of the Seven Deadly Sins in traditional Christian ethics but those who seek to wed Christian theology to socialism often seem to consider it to be the worst. This is because they see Avarice as the driving force behind the capitalism they hate so much.

Whether Avarice actually is the force behind capitalism is debatable – much depending, of course, on how one defines capitalism. We will return to that momentarily. What is indisputable, however, is that Envy – traditionally, the second worst of the Seven Deadly Sins - is the force behind socialism. Nobody put it better than Sir Winston Churchill who said “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery”. Envy is hate and resentment of other people because of what they have. It is the very essence of socialism.

Now to be fair a distinction needs to be made here. In North America an unfortunate tendency has developed to lump every law and every government program that is aimed at - whether effectively or not - bettering the conditions of the less advantaged under the label of socialism. This is not what the word socialism has historically meant and it is certainly not what Churchill meant by it in the above quotation. Indeed, laws and programs intended to better the conditions of the less advantaged have historically, often been introduced by conservatives, like Otto Von Bismarck in Germany, Benjamin Disraeli in the United Kingdom, and R. B. Bennett and John G. Diefenbaker in Canada for the purpose of combating socialism. In an interview with the Paris Review in the early 1970s, Anthony Burgess remarked that “to take socialism seriously, as opposed to minimal socialization (which America so desperately needs), is ridiculous”. This is the necessary distinction so let us borrow Burgess’ apt terminology for it. The laws and programs that comprise minimal socialization are not based upon Envy, but Envy is the essence of true socialism.

Socialism began in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and has been formulated in many different ways and has spawned many different movements which often bear little resemblance to one another.. Some socialists were anarchists who wanted to get rid of the state, others saw the state as the instrument by which their goals would be achieved. Some believed violent revolution was the path to their collectivist utopia, others insisted upon working peacefully and lawfully within the established system. Beneath all of these differences, what the various socialists had in common, is the idea that the private ownership of property is itself evil and unjust and that it is the source of most or all other evils and injustices in society. Originally, socialists proposed as a “solution” to this “problem” that private ownership be replaced by some form of collective or common ownership. Today, many, perhaps most, socialists have abandoned the advocacy of collective ownership in favour of a combination of confiscatory taxation, a heavily regulated market and an expansive welfare state that is far beyond anything that could be described as “minimal socialization”. What they have not abandoned is the basic idea of socialism that blame for the ills from which society suffers is to be placed on the “haves” for having so much. This hatred of the “haves” for having, continues to permeate all socialist rhetoric and it is precisely this attitude which the Church has traditionally condemned as the cardinal vice of Envy.

The relationship between socialism and Envy, therefore, is undeniable. Socialism is an ideology, and its basic concept reduces to Envy. If there is a relationship between capitalism and Avarice it is by no means as clear as this. Capitalism is an economic arrangement in which people own property on or in which commercial goods are produced (farms, mills, mines, factories, etc.), hire other people to work on or in that property, and market the goods, living off of the profit, that which they receive for the sale above what is necessary to cover the costs of operating their property. If some or even most capitalists (property owners) show Avarice in overcharging for their goods or underpaying their employees this does not mean that capitalism itself is based upon Avarice in the way that socialism is based upon Envy. (1)

Not only is the connection between socialism and Envy clearer and more fundamental than the connection, if any, between capitalism and Avarice, Envy is in the traditional teachings of the Christian Church the worse of the two vices. Let us consider why the Church traditionally ranked these vices in this way.

Avarice is similar to Lust and Gluttony in that it is a natural, God-given desire that has been perverted by excess into a vice. God, the Bible tells us, created man male and female, and ordered him to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Sexual desire, therefore, in and of itself, cannot be the bad thing that the Bible and the Church condemn as Lust. Lust is sexual desire taken to a vicious excess. Similarly God created us so that we require sustenance and gave us an appetite for food. If we did not have that appetite we would starve to death, but when that appetite is indulged to excess it becomes the vice of Gluttony. If Lust is the perversion by excess of the good, natural, and God-given sexual appetite and Gluttony is the perversion by excess of the good, natural, and God-given appetite for food, Avarice is the perversion by excess of the good, natural, and God-given appetite to have material possessions.

Jesus said that all of God’s commandments could be summarized in the greatest two – to love God and to love our neighbour. It follows from this that all vices and sins must be defects in our love for God and other people. This tells us how the vice of Avarice is to be distinguished from the natural, God-given, desire for material possessions. It is not sinful to want “things”. If however, we put our trust in material wealth, looking to our possessions as our source of personal security, then we have failed to love God properly because we have committed idolatry by giving to our material possessions the faith that we owe our Creator. The desire to have – even to have more – is not in itself Avarice. It becomes Avarice when we look at others and think “I don’t want them to have any, I want it all for myself”.

Envy is a different sort of vice altogether. It is not a twisting or a perversion of a natural desire but consists entirely of ill will towards others.. Envy resents another for what he possesses. The resentment is based upon the fact that it is his and not mine regardless of whether I actually want it for myself or not. Envy wants to see what the other person has taken away from him even if oneself is not thereby enriched or benefited in any way. As Dorothy L. Sayers said of Envy:

Envy is the great leveller: if it cannot level things up, it will level them down; and the words constantly in its mouth are “My Rights” and “My Wrongs.” At its best, Envy is a climber and a snob; at its worst, it is a destroyer-rather than have anybody happier than itself, it will see us all miserable together.

It is closely related to Pride, which in the traditional view is the only one of the Seven worse than itself. Pride is the worst of the Seven because it is the true “Original Sin” in the sense that it was the first sin, the sin of Lucifer, the root from which all other sin sprang. If Pride is the root sin, Lucifer’s sinful attitude towards himself, the second sin, the first to grow out of the root of Pride in the heart of Lucifer was Envy, his sinful attitude towards his Creator.

The Church’s traditional ranking of the vices seems entirely right and sensible. Envy is the second worst after Pride because the two are inseparably intertwined, almost the same sinful attitude in two different aspects, Pride looking inward and Envy looking outward. They are satanic in the most literal sense of the word – the sins that brought about Lucifer’s fall – and thus the spring from which the tainted river of sin and vice flows. Avarice, like Gluttony and Lust, is a lesser vice, a natural, God given desire that has been twisted and taken to excess, by the corrupting influence of the root sins of Pride and Envy.

Thus traditional Christian theology sheds much light on the kind of modern theology that looks more sympathetically towards socialism, the heart of which is Envy, than towards capitalism, which socialists claim promotes Avarice. (2)

(1) This essay will probably come across as an apology for capitalism, which I suppose it is if we associate no other connotations with capitalism beyond the definition in the eighth paragraph. The term usually has other connotations of course. These include mass production, industrialization, urbanization, technology, progress, and basically all the concepts that are wrapped up in the word “modern”. I make no apology for a capitalism that includes these concepts, each of which I look upon with varying degrees of suspicion and disgust. These are as much a part of socialism, however, as they are of capitalism.

(2) Dorothy L. Sayers, whose speech “The Other Six Deadly Sins” I have referred to throughout this essay, said that “If Avarice is the sin of the Haves against the Have-Nots, Envy is the sin of the Have-Nots against the Haves.” While I understand why she would say this, I question it. Anybody who has worked or volunteered for an organization that distributes food, clothing, etc. to the Have-Nots and has had to try and prevent those who are ahead in the distribution line from hoarding everything from those who are behind them in the line, will know that Avarice or Greed is hardly an unknown vice among the Have-Nots. On a somewhat related note, V. S. Naipaul has the narrator of one of the stories in his In a Free State comment “But no, like all poor people they want to be the only ones to rise. It is the poor who always want to keep down the poor.” I would also suggest that if one wants to observe Envy, on a truly spectacular scale, one has to look among the Haves.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Independence Movements


On Thursday, September 18th, Scotland voted in a historical referendum on the question of whether or not they wanted independence from the United Kingdom. The devolution of power to the Scottish assembly under Labour governments in the last four decades and the growth of the Scottish independence movement under the leadership of a small but organized group of zealots had made the referendum inevitable. The referendum had a very high voter turnout – 84.59% and in the end the no side won with 55.3% of the votes.

This outcome is pleasing to those, such as myself, who did not wish to see the United Kingdom break up. It was also not particularly surprising. Here in Canada, the Quebec separatist movement failed twice to win their independence in referendums. Quebec is far more culturally distinct from English Canada than Scotland is from the rest of the United Kingdom. Quebec is a French speaking province – the rest of the country speaks English, Quebec is traditionally Roman Catholic, English Canada is traditionally Protestant, and so on. Yet despite this, the secession movement lost twice, albeit by a much narrower margin the second time around than the Scottish independence movement, and is now basically dead. When the Parti Quebecois made it an issue in the last provincial election earlier this year their overwhelming defeat by the Liberals sent the message loud and clear that no further such referendums were welcome.

The unity of England and Scotland goes back much further than that of English and French Canada. The English and the Scots have had the same sovereign since 1603, the year that the King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne from the last English monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, becoming King James I of England. Note that the Scottish king inherited the English throne. This can by no means be construed as England conquering Scotland. In 1707, during the reign of Queen Anne, the parliaments of the two kingdoms that had shared a monarch for a century voted to unite and form a single country. England and Scotland were both better off for it and the union thus formed proved greater than the sum of its parts. The idea that after three centuries as a united whole one part of this whole should be able to unilaterally vote on whether to break or maintain the union is perverse.

There are some who might charge me with holding to double standard on the matter of secession. When the subject of the war the American states fought between themselves from 1861 to 1865 comes up I ordinarily put forward as my opinion that the South was in the right. In that conflict it was the Southern states that had seceded from the American union to form the Confederate States of America. Recently, when the anti-European Union nationalist parties scored major gains all across Europe in the European Parliamentary election, while progressives were wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth in frustration I was rejoicing.

My answer to the charge would be to say that it is unreasonable to insist that if someone supports one independence movement he must therefore support all independence movements or that if he opposes one he must therefore oppose all. “A foolish consistency”, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” To insist that secession must be either supported or opposed across the board is surely to insist upon a foolish consistency.

If independence movements arise in different countries their reasons for wanting to secede are unlikely to be identical and even less likely to be equally valid. Surely the question of whether we favour or oppose these movements should be more influenced by our evaluation of the reasoning behind these movements than some abstract ideal that supposedly settles the question of independence at a general level.

The leaders of the independence movement among the American colonies in the eighteenth century expressed their intention of seceding from the British Crown in terms of accusations of tyranny and oppression levelled against King George III and lofty sounding ideals about natural rights and democracy drawn from liberal philosophy. The accusations of tyranny were completely bogus and would have been so even if they had been levelled against the elected Parliament that had deliberated and decided upon all the acts to which the American colonists objected. The liberal philosophy behind the lofty ideals was unsound. At any rate, the accusations and ideals both concealed the real reasons for the drive for American independence, not least among which was the fact that the King’s guarantee of the French language and Roman Catholic religion in Canada interfered with their goal of creating a united, English speaking, Protestant, North America. My opinion, of the American independence movement of three centuries ago, is therefore rather low.

When the leaders of the Southern states declared their secession from the American republic a little less than a century later they justified their decision on the grounds of “states’ rights” a phrase which expressed both their objection to federal interference in what they regarded as the domestic affairs of the states and their theory of the American constitution, i.e., that it was a federal union of sovereign states which retained the right to secede at any time. This was one of two constitutional theories that had been competing with each other since the founding of the American republic. Ultimately, the argument was settled in favour of the other side by a bloody internecine war but a strong case can be made that by the terms of the American charter, the South was in fact in the right and that constitutionally, the members states of the federal republic of the United States had the right to secede. (1)

Of course, although the matter was decided by the war, at least from a historical perspective, the states did not divide and fight each other over a disagreement in constitutional theory. Nor did they divide and fight each other over slavery, despite what the politically approved history of the day will tell you, or over tariffs as pro-Confederate libertarians will tell you. Slavery and tariffs were both peripheral issues.

The antebellum Southern states comprised a society with an agrarian economy and an Old World culture with traditional codes of honour and chivalry, presided over by a landed patrician class. By contrast, the society of the north-eastern states was a dynamic society, with an economy that was rapidly being modernized and industrialized, a culture shaped by Puritanism, presided over by a class of wealthy merchants and factory owners. When the latter society succeeded in unilaterally electing a Republican president the leaders of the former society could see the handwriting on the wall – the forces of innovation, modernization, and industrializing now had complete control of the United States and their older style, more rooted, traditional society would be swept away. Secession was a last ditch effort to prevent this, albeit one that ultimately failed and resulted in their society being ravaged by the merciless war machine of the North.

The South, therefore, politically correct propaganda about race and slavery be damned, fought for their independence over what I would regard as a worthy cause – the preservation of a traditional, honourable, chivalrous, rural, society against “the Modern Age at arms” to borrow a phrase from Evelyn Waugh. By contrast, the separatist movement in Quebec arose precisely at the time when that province had thrown off most of its traditional elements and embraced modernity.

As for the Scottish independence movement, it sought to break up a kingdom that has been united for centuries, that was united peacefully by mutual acts of the English and Scottish parliaments a century after the Scottish king inherited the English throne, the union of which has stood the test of time. Let us hope that after this defeat at the polls it will soon be as dead as Quebec separatism.

(1) The case is based upon the ninth and especially the tenth amendment to the US Constitution.