Friday, October 24, 2014

The Warring Virgins of Mexico

There is no doubt that when it comes to religious iconography in Mexico there is no more prominent symbol than that of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There are, of course, many reasons for that, even aside from its miraculous origins. The Virgin of Guadalupe appealed to the natives of Mexico. It was a figure of the Virgin Mary with dark skin and straight, black hair, done in a style familiar to the natives of central Mexico. The devotion began with a miraculous vision on the Hill of Tepeyac where the natives had previously worshipped a pagan goddess, also a mother figure, called Tonantzin and it should come as no surprise that many natives in Mexico continued to refer to the Virgin of Guadalupe by that name. The devotion was also easily taken up by the Creole population (those of pure Spanish blood but born in Mexico) as a symbol of Mexican nationalism as it was a Mexican icon rather than one imported from Europe. As such, it highlighted the fact that Christianity first came to the mainland of the Americas in Mexico and was thus part of a narrative that placed Mexico as the ‘Eldest Daughter of the Church in the Americas’ and as a sort of Promised Land that would be prominent in the New World. Taken altogether, it is easy to see why the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was taken up by both revolutionaries and both of the ill-fated Mexican Emperors.

When the renegade (and heretical) priest, Father Miguel Hidalgo, launched the Mexican War of Independence he emblazoned the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his revolutionary standard and would carry it into each city he occupied on the way to the capitol with great ceremony as a way to rally the natives of Mexico against their Spanish rulers and those Mexicans of Spanish blood who were loyal to the Crown. His famous “Grito de Dolores”, which is still marked by Spanish presidents every year on September 16, climaxed with the cry, “Long Live Our Lady of Guadalupe!” and, “Death to the Spaniards!” Observers across Latin America, including no less a figure than Simon Bolivar, noticed that the use of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe inspired the revolutionaries with a religious fervor that was far stronger than anything any mere philosophy or political ideology could ever inspire. Even when Hidalgo failed in his efforts, and was eventually executed by the Spanish authorities, his successors carried on with the Virgin of Guadalupe as their badge. The symbol became so prominent that when Mexican independence was finally achieved, by a coalition led by General Agustin de Iturbide, the new Emperor made the highest national honor the Order of Our Lady of Guadalupe and when his short-lived monarchy was overthrown, the first President of Mexico changed his name to Guadalupe Victoria; Our Lady of Guadalupe victorious.

However, while certainly the most well known today given how things worked out, Our Lady of Guadalupe was not the only version of the Blessed Virgin Mary that played a prominent part in the Mexican War of Independence. In some ways, the war could be seen as a clash between two competing incarnations of the Blessed Virgin Mother. While the Mexican revolutionaries had Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Spanish royalists opposing them had a Virgin Mary of their own in Our Lady of Los Remedios. The devotion to the Virgin of Los Remedios has a history which long predates the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe but had the misfortune to be most associated with the losing side in the war. The devotion grew up in the Trinitarian Order in Spain during the bitter struggles for liberation from Muslim rule known as the Reconquista; the longest war in history. Over time, the Virgin de los Remedios became more and more associated with the Reconquista and, as such, with the ultimate victory of Catholic Spain over her non-Christian enemies. The devotion became very popular in Spain and, because of its origins and associations, was also quite popular with the conquistadores who set out for the New World and quickly clashed with a new, powerful, non-Christian enemy.

One of the soldiers of the great Cortes brought a small statue of the Virgin de los Remedios with him on that historic expedition to the Aztec Empire, making it the oldest Marian icon in what was to become New Spain and ultimately Mexico. More than one miracle was attributed to the Virgin de los Remedios by the Spanish soldiers during the conquest of the Aztecs, the most famous being related to the events of La Noche Triste (the ‘night of tears’) so well known to Mexican history. The soldier carrying the statue, Gonzalo Rodriguez de Villafuerte, hid it under a maguey plant while Cortes and his men were fleeing an Aztec attack. Not far away they were later forced into battle and several of the Spanish reported seeing a young girl, moving untouched across the battlefield, throwing dirt in the eyes of the Aztec warriors, allowing the Spanish to prevail. This was attributed to the Virgin of Los Remedios and after the conquest a chapel was built on the sight where the Virgin was said to have appeared. The Virgin de los Remedios was thus strongly associated with the Spanish triumph in Mexico, Spanish victory and, because of that, that Spanish rule was ordained by Heaven. Devotion to the Virgin de los Remedios remained very popular with the Spanish population in Mexico and amongst those who accepted Spanish rule and Spanish culture; it was a symbol of the winning side.

Of course, when the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe began to grow, it was taken up by many Spanish as well and by Catholics all over the world. Yet, the more that particular icon came to be associated with the revolutionary movement against Spanish rule, the more the Spanish and Mexican royalists were alienated from it. Given the history of the Virgin of the Remedios, it is not surprising that it was taken up in large part by the royalist side just as the Virgin of Guadalupe was taken up by the revolutionary side. When the War for Mexican Independence broke out seriously in 1810, the image of the Virgin de Los Remedios was removed from the cathedral in Mexico City and taken to Naucalpan (the place where the miracle occurred on the Night of Tears), dressed in the clothes of a general, where it was placed in the Sanctuary of Los Remedios and named “guardian of the Spanish army” (today this is in Los Remedios National Park). The revolutionaries did something similar when Padre Hidalgo named Our Lady of Guadalupe “Captain-General” of the rebel army. So, although it was never totally uniform of course, the battle lines of the war were drawn with the Mexicans and Our Lady of Guadalupe on one side and the Spanish with the Virgin of the Remedios on the other. This was fostered somewhat by the fact that Hidalgo was, to some extent, trying to spark a racial war, encouraging those of native blood to kill those of Spanish blood.

For those with such a mentality, the iconography made complete sense; it was the Mexican Virgin Mary against the Spanish Virgin Mary. There was the image of the Virgin made to a native, at a place sacred to the natives and with a native appearance arrayed against the imagine of the Virgin that had come from Spain, was beloved by the Spanish army and aristocracy and which had for centuries been invoked by Spanish soldiers against enemies from the Moors to the Aztecs. So intense did this rivalry become during the war that stories began to circulate of each side not only honoring their own Virgin Mary but denigrating that of the other such as the account of Spanish royalists putting images of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the souls of their shoes so as to tread on it with every step on the march. Whether such stories were true or were invented to inflame the hatred of the other side will probably never be known for sure. For both the Virgin Mary became a military figure as well as a religious one. For the rebels, every “viva” for Our Lady of Guadalupe was followed up with a cry of death to the Spanish and as the Captain-General of the rebel army, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was saluted as one would a superior officer. On the royalist side, the Virgin of the Remedios was the general and when the nuns of San Jeronimo dressed the figure in military attire they did not neglect to include a golden sword and baton to illustrate her rank.

Although Hidalgo failed in his campaign, his cause ultimately prevailed so that the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe is most remembered but the devotion by the royalists to Our Lady of the Remedios was no less significant at the time. In symbolic terms, it was the Virgin of the Remedios who had brought Christianity to the New World and began its spread across Mexico, she was the Conquistadora just as she had been in Spain against the Moors. Those who fought against the revolutionaries under the image of the Virgin of the Remedios were the heirs of Cortes and his men who had done the same against the Aztecs centuries before. With the defeat of Hidalgo, it seemed that the Virgin de los Remedios was victorious and the Catholic clergy in Mexico City, relieved to be saved from the advancing horde of native rebels, held a special procession and novena in February of 1811 to give thanks to the Blessed Virgin for their deliverance. For the time being, the side of the Virgin de los Remedios was victorious, Spanish rule was restored and those loyal to the Crown could breath a sigh of relief. However, as we know, that situation was not to endure. In reaction to events in Spain, the key moment came when Don Agustin de Iturbide, formerly a royalist, united with the revolutionaries to unite Mexican society behind the cause of independence, a unity illustrated by the famous embrace of Iturbide and Vicente Guerrero.

The alliance would prove short-lived and Guerrero would go on to briefly serve as the second President of Mexico before being overthrown. So it was that the Virgin of Guadalupe was further exalted to the status of a national icon while the Virgin of the Remedios (while retaining devoted adherents to this day) became a significantly less popular focus of devotion, being associated with the Spanish royalists or more bluntly the losing side. Of course, Our Lady of Guadalupe had her royalist devotees as well and in fact, though it is not something those in the Church wish to dwell on these days, the religious authorities at the time of the war (who were solidly supportive of the Spanish Crown) decried the use of the image by Hidalgo and his rebels as a sort of desecration. Likewise, the Zacapoaxtla Indians who opposed the forces of Hidalgo, were outraged at his use of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as they had long claimed her as their own special patroness. After the war was over, they received permission from the civil and religious authorities, in 1813, to build a church in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe who they credited with their own victories over Hidalgo and his forces. Given that, it is hardly surprising that even into the Twentieth Century, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was still being used by factions as diverse as the revolutionaries of Emiliano Zapata to the Catholic army known as the Cristeros in their struggle against the PRI.

It could be said that, in terms of the iconography, the Virgin of the Remedios won the battle but the Virgin of Guadalupe won the war. Today she is one of the most prominent Mexican symbols, encompassing every political ideology and even religious beliefs. As a famous Mexican writer once said, “not all Mexicans are Catholic but all Mexicans are Guadalupanos”. Since this devotion has become so widespread, it is perhaps all the more valid to remember that it might not have been so. If the royalists had been victorious, if the bonds of the Hispanidad had not been broken and the Spanish empire not fallen apart, it might today be the Virgin of the Remedios who would be best known around the world, a symbol of the unity and shared history of the Spanish-speaking peoples everywhere rather than a symbol of Mexican nationalism alone. With the history of the competition between the two images, it is also important to remember that they are supposed to represent the same person and while Our Lady of Guadalupe is supreme today, it should not be considered a slight to do honor to the Virgin de Los Remedios and remember those who were devoted to her and what they stood for 204 years ago.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Royalist Restoration in Romania?

There is an increasing reason to hope that the cause of monarchy may be making a comeback in Eastern Europe/the Balkans. Montenegro (which we recently discussed) has restored its monarchy in all but name, just requiring one more step really to make it official; in Serbia the Crown Prince enjoys widespread support, has the backing of the Church and has established connections with many influential figures; in Bulgaria, despite some setbacks in the past, politicians supporting a restoration have made gains recently; in Albania the heir to the throne is working with the government; in Hungary, although still a republic, the official designation of the country has dropped the word “republic” in favor of “The State of Hungary” of simply “Hungary” and the new constitution at least makes reference to the Holy Crown (of St Stephen) as part of the national coat-of-arms. And, finally, there is Romania where support for the former monarchy seems to be growing. Certainly it would be great to see the monarchy restored in the lifetime of King Michael, a fitting tribute to him personally and the correction of a gross historical injustice.

As more politicians are running for office who have voiced support for restoring the monarchy, more people in the halls of power in Bucharest or those hoping to be, have started to shift in a more monarchist direction. In the current presidential race going on, several of the top contenders have said they would like to see the monarchy restored while others have obviously concluded that monarchist support is considerable enough in Romania not to be discounted. Because of this, politicians who have a history of republicanism and who have not endorsed the idea of a royal restoration have, at least, tried to assure the people that they admire the Royal Family and have the utmost respect for the King. Opinion polls are still not quite where we would want them to be, however, from listening to Romanian politicians one cannot help but wonder if they know something we do not. Even those who have been adamant about being republicans have begun to say that, while they favor keeping the republic, would be supportive of having a referendum on the subject so that the public can vote on whether to restore the monarchy or not. The staunchly republican head of state, President Traian Basescu (a former communist) has said that he has no objection to a referendum and that the former monarchy will be an issue that the government will have to somehow deal with.

More and more Romanian leaders are saying that they either support the restoration of the monarchy or that, at least, they would not oppose putting the issue to a vote in a public referendum. This is, of course, positive news and would seem to indicate that there could be a groundswell of monarchist support in Romania. I would say there is every reason to be cautiously optimistic but keeping in mind that royalists have always had to fight against the odds. Once politicians have power and, aside from power, the most prestigious position in the country (head of state) they have never wanted to give that up. A public referendum that votes in favor of restoring the Romanian monarchy and a government that carries out this wish would be truly groundbreaking. Monarchies being restored is rare enough to be considered a positive phenomenon on its own and it is almost as rare to have a republic willingly give its people the chance to choose on whether to restore a monarchy that has fallen. When we look at modern examples of monarchies being restored, they have not looked like this. In Cambodia there were extraordinary circumstances. The Vietnamese had overthrown the previous regime, the United Nations was brought in and in that case the monarchy was restored without disturbing the existing rulers who had been put in place by Vietnam (and who have remained ever since). In Spain, Generalissimo Franco restored the monarchy in name fairly early on and then, rather than have a vote, designated Prince Juan Carlos to take power upon his death, after which the Spanish government made it clear that King Juan Carlos attained his throne based on hereditary right rather than the wishes of Franco.

That is an important point because, if the ruling elite in Romania were honest and honorable people (I know, it sounds absurd to even say) they would restore the monarchy immediately and then, if King Michael was agreeable and the political parties insistent, give the people a referendum on keeping it. That is because the current Romanian regime is completely illegitimate. King Michael lost his crown by the extortion of Soviet Russia and every government since his overthrow has been illegal. As soon as the communist bloc crumbled, the King should have been restored to his rightful place immediately after which a legitimate government could have decided where to take the country from there. If there is a referendum and if it ends in the way we would all hope, calling for the restoration of the monarchy, it would simply be recognizing what should already, justly, be the case -that Michael I is the King of Romania and always has been, by hereditary right and the long-established laws of the country.

I would, of course, be in favor of the government declaring the restoration of the monarchy tomorrow (if not today) on that basis alone, that King Michael is the legitimate monarch and has been since his accession (whichever of the two you may prefer). The fact that so many seem to be at least somewhat supportive of a restoration without doing this tends to make me rather skeptical and the conspiratorial part of my damaged mind starts to run wild. As stated above, the public opinion polls about a restoration are still not where most monarchists would like them to (like, 100% in favor) and so I cannot help but wonder why there is this sudden burst of support for the monarchy or, at the very least, a fall-off in those who are adamantly opposed to it. Politicians seeking election are the most untrustworthy of creatures and I fear that there one or two reasons behind this depending on the individual politician. On the one hand, I fear this is nothing more than political pandering; politicians trying to gain the support of the monarchist minority by pretending to be on our side only to then forget their promises as soon as they gain power. I fear this is like Hitler sending Goering to Doorn to pay court to the Kaiser. They don’t mean it, they have no intention of following through on it but they are just trying to say sweet things to the monarchists to get their votes.

On the other hand, I fear this sudden shift by such prominent republicans towards a referendum on the monarchy (rather than an immediate restoration on legal grounds) is a case of the ruling elite trying to head the monarchists off at the pass (if I can use a little western jargon). In other words, if they think that there are enough Romanian royalists to make a referendum happen, to make them have to deal with the monarchy as an issue, they may be trying to do it now at a time when most polls show that there is not yet majority support for a restoration. They may want to have the referendum sooner rather than later because, as things stand now, they are confident that they (the republicans) will win and then they can dismiss the issue as having already been dealt with, ‘the public has spoken, the cause is finished’. We know from other examples that this is how republicans tend to operate. When a referendum goes their way, the issue is settled but when it does not, that simply means there have to be more referendums until the public ‘gets it right’.

Again, everything that has happened has been very positive. It is good news and obviously preferable to the alternative. That being said, we have no reason to be too trusting when it comes to politicians and I will not desist in being critical until the monarchy is actually restored. I hope there will be a referendum, I would be glad to see one at a time when the public has been properly informed on the subject but just the promise of a referendum is not enough for me, nor would the referendum itself because this shouldn’t be about public opinion but rather about doing the right thing and restoring the last legal, valid, legitimate form of government Romania had before the period of communist enslavement. I would say to the loyal Romanians, support those candidates who support the monarchy but take nothing for granted and if they win, hold their feet to the fire to make good on their promises. Make it clear that your support is not unconditional and that the restoration of the monarchy is a non-negotiable issue. There is reason for hope here but no cause to be overly optimistic.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Monarch Profile: King Luis I of Portugal

HRH Prince Luis Filipe Maria Fernando Pedro de Alcantara Antonio Miguel Rafael Gabriel Gonzaga Xavier Francisco de Assis Joao Augusto Julio Valfando de Saxe-Coburgo-Gotha e Braganza was born on October 31, 1838 in Lisbon, the second son of Queen Maria II and King Fernando II of Portugal. As heir to the throne he was accorded the titles of Duke of Porto and Viseu. His older brother, King Pedro V, after less than a decade on the throne, died in the cholera epidemic that swept the country in 1861, devastating the Portuguese Royal Family. As he had no heirs, the throne passed to his younger brother who became King Luis I on November 11, 1861 during a time of great turmoil in the world. Civil war was raging in the United States and Mexico, war was about to break out in South America between Brazil and its southern neighbors, in Italy a new kingdom had just been formed and in Africa the competition for colonial expansion was well underway. King Luis would do his best to guide Portugal through these troubled waters, an apt analogy considering his background was in the navy. He was given his first naval command in 1858 and had served in the navy for some time, visiting the Portuguese colonies in Africa.

In 1862 King Luis married Princess Maria Pia of Savoy, daughter of King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. She became much loved by the Portuguese people as the “angel of charity” and “mother of the poor” for her humanitarian work. It seemed a winning match and the couple would have two sons born in 1863 and 1865. A year later another child was stillborn and the King and Queen would have no more children together. The King did have one other son by a mistress and his infidelity is widely believed to have been the cause of the depression Queen Maria Pia fell into after several early years of what seemed like a happy marriage. This, perhaps, fits in with the rather renaissance character of King Luis. He was highly educated, cultured and possessed a great deal of intellectual curiosity. He spoke several languages, was an amateur painter, composed music and enjoyed playing the cello and piano. He had a fondness for literature, writing poetry and spent time translating Shakespeare into Portuguese. Oceanography was paramount in his scientific interests and he spent a great deal of his own money on oceanographic research vessels as well as establishing one of the first aquariums in the world, in Lisbon, which can still be visited today, originally to display his vast collection of marine life.

When it came to politics and government, unfortunately, King Luis was not to enjoy a very tranquil reign. There was constant power struggles between the liberal ‘Progressistas’ and the conservative ‘Regeneradores’ with the King naturally being partial to the conservatives. Portugal was in a precarious economic condition and, in an attempt to alleviate this situation somewhat, a consumption tax was passed which proved so unpopular that it sparked rioting in late 1867. Political problems boilded over on May 19, 1870 when a military uprising broke out with the support of the (long-time schemer) Duke of Saldanha who was serving a brief stint as Prime Minister. He lost his office over the affair though he might have lost more; the usually non-political Queen Maria Pia saying that if she were the king she would have had him shot. It was rather out of character but, on the other hand, an Italian woman with a fiery temper is hardly unusual either. It was also in 1870 that King Luis I considered the idea of putting himself forward as a candidate for the vacant throne of Spain but, probably wisely, he ultimately decided against it. As most know, it was another potential candidate for the Spanish throne that sparked the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71. Such trouble was the last thing Portugal needed.

The Kingdom of Portugal had not been in the best of shape at the time of the invasion and wars with Napoleonic France and the situation had hardly had a chance to stabilize and recover since then. There was the split with Brazil, the “War of the Two Brothers” over the crown, problems with public health and modernization and a political scene characterized by corruption and power struggles edging out concern for the general welfare and the advancement of the Portuguese colonial empire. It all served to hamper Portuguese progress while other European countries surged further ahead. On the world stage, Portugal also suffered somewhat from the alliance with Great Britain, the oldest alliance in the world. In the past, Portuguese and British interests had never conflicted but tensions rose because of Africa. With the loss of Brazil, the Portuguese colonies in Africa became more critical than ever as leaders in Lisbon hoped that growth in Africa could revive the Portuguese economy. The largest colonies were Portuguese West Africa (Angola) and Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) on the Atlantic and Indian Ocean coasts.

After the abolition of the slave trade, the Portuguese launched military expeditions to expand these colonies from small coastal settlements deeper into the interior of Africa. The famous “Rose-Colored Map” illustrated the Portuguese desire to cross the continent and join East and West Africa together into one large Portuguese holding that would stretch from coast to coast. However, the British were expanding north from South Africa rapidly and negotiations were further put on hold by the Berlin Conference which set out to settle the disputed claims of the various European powers in the “Scramble for Africa”. Concessions were made to both the French and the Germans to obtain their support for the Portuguese claim to the interior which was considered even more vital after the Berlin Conference recognized Belgian rights over the Congo, further limiting the potential area of expansion for Portugal. It was, however, Portugal’s long-standing ally of Great Britain which thwarted the plan represented by the “Rose-Colored Map”. The Portuguese claim could simply not be reconciled with the desire espoused by Cecil Rhodes of British control of Africa from “the Cape to Cairo”.

King Luis I, however, would not be around to see the resolution of this situation. Any effort to look beyond the constraints of petty politics were thwarted by infighting between the two major parties with the King coming under criticism by the progressives who accused him of favoring the conservatives. By the end of his reign a number of more radically leftist parties were formed such as the Socialist Party and the Republican Party, both of which wanted to sweep away the entire history and traditions of the Kingdom of Portugal. King Luis I was caught in the middle of all of this and it was not an enviable position. For a man who admired so much the beauty of art and music, the political situation around him became increasingly ugly until his sudden death on October 19, 1889 at the age of only 50. He was succeeded by his son, King Carlos I, who inherited a very troubled kingdom. In 1890 the British government issued Portugal an ultimatum which threatened to break off diplomatic relations with Portugal unless the Portuguese withdrew all forces from the highlands of the interior of Africa and recognized British control over the territory between Angola and Mozambique. Carlos I had little choice but to agree or face a possible war and the public was outraged. Most considered it a betrayal by their oldest ally and the republicans used it to spread opposition to the monarchy, accusing the King of “selling out” Portuguese interests.

Today, many unfairly blame King Luis for the ills that befell Portugal later and which ultimately brought down the monarchy. To do so is to hold him responsible for events which were far beyond his control. He was certainly not responsible for the wars that preceded his reign and he was not an absolute monarch who could rule however he wished. All he could do was try to bring the feuding political elites together but despite his best efforts they simply would not be reconciled. He was a thoughtful, well-rounded man who had every quality for a successful constitutional monarch. His people recognized him as such even if subsequent generations have not, calling him “Luis the Popular” and “Luis the Good”. Had he been a masterful statesman things may have gone better, presuming the politicians would have listened to him, but even as it stood, the public recognized that he was still the most upstanding man in the halls of power and appreciated him for it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Papal Beatification in Rome

Today at the Vatican the Bishop of Rome (as he now prefers to be called) beatified his predecessor, now Blessed Pope Paul VI, best known for presiding over the close of the Second Vatican Council. For those keeping score, despite the immense problems the Catholic Church has had in recent times, it has apparently been blessed with an unprecedented abundance of saintly leadership. Of the past five Pontiffs who have gone to their eternal reward, Pius XII has been declared "venerable", John XXIII has been declared a saint, Paul VI has been declared "blessed", John Paul I has been declared a "Servant of God" and John Paul II has been declared a saint. In other words, every deceased Pope since 1939 either has or is set to become a recognized saint. Rather hard to imagine that the canonization of popes was once a rare thing.

Blessed Pope Paul VI

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Vision for the Future of Japan

The State of Japan today faces a number of challenges in terms of domestic and foreign policy. In a way, perhaps the biggest problem is a reluctance to address and deal with the most important issues Japan faces. However, if this reluctance can be overcome, I want to believe that there is hope for a bright future for Japan and for a return to a position of leadership in the East Asian region of the world. Probably the most critical long-term issue for Japan is demographic. The death rate is higher than the birth rate and this is causing cultural losses, societal problems and economic problems as the tax base grows ever smaller while the elderly population requiring government support grows massively larger. Unfortunately, when it comes to demographics, there is not much one can recommend in terms of policy. The only solution is the “natural” solution. Because of the ballooning national debt, something will have to be done and it will absolutely involve some pain and hardship to cut unnecessary expenditures. However, my vision for Japan includes some proposals that might help that situation in the long-term.

There must be a cultural revival in Japan to combat what the noted journalist Yoshiko Sakurai called “spiritual statelessness”. As she wrote, “That we Japanese alienated ourselves from the origin of our culture and civilization has been the single biggest cause of this condition that continues to plague us today”. That must be corrected through state action in education and privately in society with campaigns to reacquaint the public with the founding stories and ancient history of the country. There must also be an emphasis on traditional values, particularly family values which, hopefully, would lend itself to encouraging larger families. Obviously, the monarchy would be central to such an effort and this ties in with another major proposal which is constitutional reform. There are many changes that should be made but one that I would highlight is for HM the Emperor to be officially recognized, once again, as the Head of State. Conferring sovereignty would probably be unrealistic in this day and age and may not even be of much practical use but recognizing, in law, the Emperor as Head of State would be a major positive step.

In addition to this, the Self-Defense Forces should be reformed as a formal military (rather than an outgrowth of the police) with the Emperor as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. I have no doubt that virtually every member of the JSDF currently considers this the case in their hearts anyway but it should be made official in law for the sake of cohesion as well as tradition. A constitution that embodies the Japanese spirit and which has its roots in Japanese history and legal tradition is what is called for. Some streamlining would also be extremely helpful to cut through the tangle of bureaucracy that exists today so as to make changes for new situations easier. Certainly if the existing Constitution is to be maintained (as opposed to having a new one which might be just as well) it is essential to make it easier to amend with public support than is currently the case. Too often, the Diet is where ideas go to die, where measures to address a current crisis are strangled or delayed to the point that they are no longer useful by the myriad committees and sub-committees that all proposals have to circulate through. While I would like to see the House of Peers restored, this is probably unrealistic but it should at least be possible to see the old aristocratic titles restored to legal recognition.

As for the peace provision of Article 9, that may be retained. Doing away with it would probably be unrealistic and it is not absolutely necessary anyway. It does provide for taking action in self-defense, it is only that this should be used more energetically and not interpreted as meaning that Japan can never fight no matter what the circumstances. No country should want to be aggressive but there should be no hesitation in taking action against real threats nor should there be any hindrance in coming to the aid of a friend and ally that is in danger. This is largely what the current re-interpretation by the Abe government has been about and that should definitely continue. It would certainly be essential for the vision I have for Japanese foreign policy going forward.

It is based on the proposal made by two Catholic priests, Bishop James E. Walsh and Father James M. Drought who tried to reconcile the United States and Japan in 1940 and 1941. The proposal was for a Japanese “Far Eastern Monroe Doctrine”. My proposal would be slightly different of course, taking into account the considerable changes since 1940, particularly the end of European colonialism. Most simply it would mean that Japan would take a leadership position in East Asia and assume responsibility for safeguarding peace and stability in the region. If any threats arise it would be Japan that would handle them with no interference from outside powers (which would not exclude, of course, requested assistance provided with Japanese authorization). In 1940, the proposal of the two American Catholic priests was aimed primarily at stopping the spread of communism in China. Bishop Walsh was a very experienced missionary in China, understood the threat very well and was, in fact, the last missionary in China after the communist takeover. Today, such a doctrine would be aimed primarily at containing the communist threat as mainland China has become increasingly expansionist. Under this doctrine, Japan would stand ready to contain such aggression and assist any country targeted by the Chinese government.

Obviously, Japan would have to adopt a new and more assertive attitude and strengthen considerably to take on such a responsibility but it is not unrealistic that this could be accomplished. Naturally, China, Russia and Korea would oppose such a doctrine but there is no point in giving them much consideration as they practically oppose Japan simply drawing breath. However, one provision that would hopefully allay fears at least on the part of Korea would be that no existing alliances would be affected by this new policy. That would mean that the United States could retain its current defense agreements with Korea which would hopefully act as a ‘security blanket’ to reassure the South Korean government and mitigate any fears they harbor toward Japan. Long-term, it may also help alleviate tensions particularly on the part of South Korea and Taiwan by emphasizing the necessity of working with Japan for the sake of their national security and the stability of East Asia. As countries such as Mongolia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have all been threatened by Chinese expansion, a strong deterrent force is needed and Japan is uniquely positioned for such a role.

In 1940, the United States did not recognize the danger of communism (as Tokyo did) in China but, although they would never admit it publicly, it has shown by American policy to have realized this was a mistake by supporting Japan and opposing China. So, because of the lessons of history, what America and other western countries would have opposed in 1940, they are willing to support today. This is illustrated by how supportive the United States and Australia have been on the subject of the reinterpretation of Article 9 by the Abe government. If the Japanese public has the will to embrace such a leadership role, there would be no better time to do it. Currently, Japan has in the United States the most militarily powerful country in the world as an ally and so can strengthen the Japanese armed forces (as they should be re-designated) in safety until Japan is fully prepared to take on this responsibility with the support of countries on both sides of the Pacific. Should problems arise with China, Japan, particularly the strong naval tradition and very advanced warships of even the current JMSDF, would be strategically placed to cooperate with Taiwan and the Philippines to cut off the exports that the Chinese economy so heavily depends on. Also, with naval mastery, Japan is ideally placed to respond quickly to a crisis in almost any East Asian country.

The primary goal which must be achieved to bring this about is a change in the attitude of the Japanese public, on both sides of the political divide. The mainstream right seems most prepared but the left must be persuaded to discard the mentality of idealistic pacifism and dependency while the far-right must stop trying to re-fight the Second World War. Both are equally detrimental to Japan moving forward as a leader on the world stage, the one by trying to appease current enemies and ignore the Japanese spirit and cultural heritage, the other by holding on to past grudges that would retain and even encourage the hostility of countries currently unfriendly toward Japan while also adding to that by making enemies of current allies. In the years since 1945 Japan has rebuilt and become one of the most prosperous countries in the world, even with all of the current debt problems still the third leading economy on earth. It is simply improper for a country that has achieved such a level of success to continue to refrain from accepting a position of leadership and responsibility on the world stage.

The possibilities are almost boundless considering what Japan has achieved in the past combined with all the additional potential Japan has today with a much larger economy and far better relations with virtually every major world power other than the Sino-Russian bloc. Japan has a higher GDP than any country other than China and the United States, the Self-Defense Force is one of the most advanced in the world and Japan has a military alliance with the United States and security pacts with Australia and India. There has never been a better time for Japan to begin the move towards a position of regional leadership in East Asia. This, combined with a cultural revitalization of the national spirit would allow Japan to become a world leader in a mature and balanced way that was never attained in the past. The future can be the period of the greatest glory for Japan and all that is required is to strengthen militarily, cut down the debt, reform or replace the constitution, revive the national spirit and have more babies. None of these things are impossible, it is only the will to undertake this challenge that must be motivated.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monarchist Profile: Generaloberst Viktor Graf Dankl von Krasnik

The man who would become one of the most prominent generals in the last war and last years of life of the Dual-Empire of Austria-Hungary was born Viktor Dankl in Udine, Italy on September 18, 1854. Udine, near Venice, was at that time still being held by the Austrian Empire, as it had been ever since the Hapsburgs made a deal with the revolutionary First French Republic to divide what had been the Republic of Venice between them (after a successful campaign by an up and coming young general named Bonaparte). His father was from Venice and a captain in the Austrian Imperial Army so there was little doubt that young Viktor would one day carry on the tradition of military service to the Emperor of Austria. He attended German-language schools in Gorizia and Trieste as a boy before going off to a cadet school in Lower Austria. By that time, Prussia had surpassed Austria as leader of the German-speaking countries and the new Kingdom of Italy had regained Venice. Never before, it must have seemed, were talented military officers more needed. Young Viktor Dankl graduated and went on to study at the prestigious Theresian Military Academy (where Austrian officers are still trained today). After finishing he was posted to a dragoon regiment with the rank of sub-lieutenant.

After going back for further education in Vienna, Dankl joined the General Staff and by 1899 was head of the central office, having shown a notable dedication to duty and grasp of administrative affairs. He earned the respect of his superiors and in 1903 was given a field command, the 66th Infantry Brigade at Trieste (in what is now Italy, not far from where Dankl grew up) with a promotion to major general. After another brigade command in Trieste, Dankl was promoted to lieutenant field marshal and given command of a division in Croatia until in 1912 when he was transferred to a corps command with the rank of General of Cavalry. He had proven himself to be a dutiful officer, had performed well in command of combat units and in administrative posts but, of course, these had all been peacetime assignments. He lacked actual combat experience and would have to wait to show if his education and mastery of theory would be matched by accomplishments in battle. That opportunity was to come soon enough with the outbreak of the First World War in August of 1914. Dankl was as anxious of any of his fellow officers to see the long-standing tensions with Serbia settled and certainly there was no more loyal or ardent defender of Austria-Hungary and the Hapsburg monarchy than Dankl.

The studious, bespectacled general was given command of the Imperial & Royal First Army, made up largely of Slovak and Polish troops; a prestigious assignment. He would be on the flank of a massive offensive planned by the then-renowned strategist and chief of staff Graf Conrad von Hotzendorf to punch through the Russian frontier and cut off the so-called Polish salient. It was an ambitious plan but if successful it would have been a stunning blow to the Russians and the end of the Russian presence in Poland. At first, everything went as planned. Dankl and his troops pushed forward to the Galician frontier and met the Russians at the town of Krasnik (in what is now Poland but which was then Austria-Hungary). The Russians fought fiercely but the Austro-Hungarian troops were relentless and after three days of hard fighting the Russians retreated. Dankl had just won the first major victory for Austria-Hungary in the war and he was almost immediately catapulted to the status of a celebrity and war hero across the empire. With other victories by forces farther down the line, the Imperial & Royal Armies advanced as planned and Dankl was in the lead, pursuing the retreating Russians.

However, while things were going well enough on his own front, other sectors were less fortunate and soon Dankl had to stop and even fall back for fear of opening a gap in the Austrian lines. The Russians also rallied their forces and began to launch hard-hitting counter-attacks which took a heavy toll on the armies of Austria-Hungary. Ultimately, the offensive into Poland was stopped with very heavy losses and bitter fighting in Galicia would go on for some time to come. In the autumn, Austria-Hungary launched another offensive in cooperation with the Germans but the Russians soon took back the ground they gained at the start and a stalemate, which was all too familiar in the First World War, ensued. Attacks were followed by counter-attacks, taking and re-taking the same ground with few lasting changes. The focus of the fighting shifted to the Carpathians and Dankl and his First Army were left with little to do for the rest of the year.

The next major action came in the spring of 1915 with the launching of the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive, again in cooperation with the Germans. Hotzendorf came up with the plan which was initially rejected by the German chief of staff, Erich von Falkenhayn but later Germany agreed to go along with it with the German General August von Mackensen in overall command. It proved to be a major success with the Russians suffering much higher losses and only ending due to a combination of bad weather and logistical strain. Dankl, once again, led his First Army forward with much success but this initial success was later halted by stiff Russian resistance in his sector of the front and Dankl was sidelined for the rest of the offensive. It was more frustration for Dankl who had been so celebrated for his victory at Krasnik and from whom everyone always expected better. Because Krasnik had been the first great victory of the war, Dankl had been celebrated to an extent that many were expecting things from him that were almost impossible. He was a competent commander but, of course, could not work miracles. In any event, after the Gorlice-Tarnow offensive he was transferred away from the Galician front and assigned to defend the Tyrol.

In 1915 the Kingdom of Italy had entered the war and the Tyrol was a huge salient, plunging into Italian territory. As Austria-Hungary was fighting on so many other fronts, the Italians also had a significant numerical advantage over the Austrians. However, the Austrians did have a great advantage in the terrain. The high mountains served as natural fortifications superior to any that could be built by the hand of man. Dankl showed his talent in a string of battles as his outnumbered and poorly supplied but well placed forces repelled fierce and repeated attacks by the Italians. They had the advantage of the high ground but little else and yet Dankl was able to successfully defend his position until further reinforcements could arrive to strengthen the Austro-Hungarian lines. For most of the year his forces were on the defensive, making counter-attacks when possible but, for the most part, fending off Italian attacks and making them pay heavily for every foot of ground gained. In 1916, however, Austria-Hungary was finally prepared to go on the offensive. Dankl himself had also been given a new command, the 11th Army and a promotion to Colonel General.

Hotzendorf planned an offensive in Trentino on the Asiago plateau. The goal was to punch through to the Po River plain and cut off three Italian armies in the process, crippling their war effort. This time the Italians would be outnumbered, almost 3-to-1 in manpower and much more outmatched in artillery. German support was requested but refused, still, it seemed Austria-Hungary had sufficient forces for the attack to be a success. Dankl and his army were assigned the crucial responsibility of making the initial breakthrough after which more troops could be poured in to exploit the breach and split the Italian armies. On May 15 the offensive commenced and despite stiff resistance, Dankl and his troops succeeded in breaking through the Italian center. Once again, everything seemed to go as planned, but once again problems soon arose. The artillery could not be moved forward fast enough to support the continued attack and so the Austrian forces had to halt. By the time the guns were brought up the opportunity had passed. The Italians had reformed and strengthened their lines plus a new Russian offensive was wreaking havoc on the Eastern Front and forced the transfer of Austro-Hungarian units to head off a potential disaster there.

Many of the gains Austria-Hungary had made had to be abandoned as the troops were pulled back to more defensible positions. It was a crushing blow for Dankl and he was, perhaps unfairly, singled out for blame as to the failure of the offensive. Most of this was due to the fact that Archduke Eugen of Austria, the army group commander in the area, had ordered him to press on regardless of the lack of artillery support. Conrad von Hotzendorf took the side of the Archduke that the risk of heavy losses was acceptable if it could have meant a decisive victory over Italy. They may have been correct but rushing forward was not in the nature of an officer like Dankl. He was meticulous and methodical, perhaps a result of his experience as a staff officer and given his witnessing first hand of the horrendous losses Austria-Hungary had suffered at the beginning of the war on the Eastern Front, he may have been more careful of the lives of his men than others. Of course, sometimes a general must accept such losses to achieve victory but it is easy to sympathize with Dankl given that Austria-Hungary had already suffered losses that could not be made good and, fairly early on, was forced to work in conjunction with Germany for almost any major offensive operations for this very reason.

In any event, the unpleasant episode of the Asiago offensive, combined with poor health, prompted Dankl to hand in his resignation. He was relieved of his command and after undergoing medical treatment was posted to the Imperial Guard, eventually becoming the commander until being replaced by his former superior Hotzendorf. He remained with the Life Guard until the end of the war and the collapse of Austria-Hungary when he retired to Innsbruck. In the last years of the war his service was, thankfully, rewarded with his elevation to the aristocracy, first as Baron von Dankl and then as Count Dankl of Krasnik in recognition of his most famous victory. He was also awarded the Maria Theresia Order and, long after the war in 1925, became its chancellor. Other honors he received included the Order of Leopold, Marianer Cross of the Teutonic Order and the Prussian Iron Cross from Germany. After the war, Dankl showed what a man of great character he was.

Never losing his care and concern for the average fighting men he led into battle, Dankl worked for a number of causes to benefit veterans and took great pleasure in being given the task of decorating them for actions during the war. He defended them whenever they were criticized and rather than devote himself to justifying his own actions or trying to explain away mistakes on his part, he defended his soldiers, the army as a whole and the honor of Austria-Hungary. Despite the political changes, he remained steadfast in his loyalty to the monarchy, refused to cooperate in any way with the rising Nazi Party or the communists and never ceased to advocate for the restoration of the House of Hapsburg. He detested anti-Semitism and opposed the union with Germany, instead urging as he always did for a return to monarchy. Sadly, many came to view him as being a sort of quirky old man, out of step with the times but they were times one should have been out of step with and it is to his credit that Dankl never forgot his loyalty to his Emperor and his country. He died on January 8, 1941 (3 days after his beloved wife) at the age of 86. As he was well known for his opposition to the Nazi Party, he was denied military honors at his funeral. It is doubtful he would have wanted them from such a regime anyway.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Catholic Church and Mexican Monarchy - Follow Up

Prince Imperial Agustin Jeronimo
The problems between the Catholic Church and the Second Mexican Empire did not seem to have ever become so bad as to be personal. The heir to the first Mexican Emperor, Iturbide, the Prince Imperial Agustin Jeronimo, volunteered to fight on behalf of the temporal power of Pope Pius IX in Italy, joining the Papal Zouaves (by that time he had served closely with Bolivar in South America and against the United States in the Mexican-American War). He approved of the formation of the Second Empire and of Emperor Maximilian adopting two of his nephews; Don Agustin and Don Salvador. Prince Agustin became titular head of the Imperial House of Mexico after the regicide of his adopted father Maximilian but he renounced his claim to the throne in order to return to Mexico and serve in the army. He gained a fair amount of support from the Catholic Church in Mexico as well as monarchists when he took the dramatic step of publicly opposing the dictatorship of President Porfirio Diaz (who would eventually be brought down by the Mexican Revolution). For that, he was arrested, served time in prison and was later exiled from the country, returning to the United States. At least some in the Church may have also had cause to wish their predecessors had acted differently at the time of the brutal anti-Catholic campaign of President Calles, founder of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (which is back in power today), which resulted in the Cristero uprising.

Interestingly, during that war, one of the (many) rumors that was floated about concerning the Cristero leader General Enrique Gorostieta was that he believed himself to be the reincarnation of General Miguel Miramon, former leader of the clerical party in Mexico and one of the generals that was executed alongside Emperor Maximilian. Princess Maria Josepha Sophia, head of the Imperial Family after the death of Prince Salvador, was also known to be a very devout Catholic. But, saving the most interesting story for last, while I know nothing of the source of the information and cannot confirm it, according to an article on the website "Comer, Viajar, Amar" in 2011 the current head of the Imperial House of Mexico, Count Maximilian von Gotzen-Iturbide was received at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican by Pope Benedict XVI as the "rightful heir to the throne of Mexico". If that is true, at least under the previous pontificate, it seems that some in the highest echelons of the Church still recognize the Imperial Family of Mexico in spite of all their years of abandonment and exile.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Catholic Church and the Mexican Empire

The cause of the Roman Catholic Church was intricately bound up in the entire French intervention and the life and death of the Mexican Empire. In many ways, the Church was a primary factor in bringing about both the rise and the fall of the Empire of Mexico and the relationship between the Church on one side and the French and Emperor Maximilian on the other is marked by frustrating mistakes by both sides. In the internal strife in Mexico and certainly culminating in the Reform War the two sides could generally be categorized as belonging to the clerical party and the anti-clerical party. The Mexicans in Europe who lobbied for the French intervention and the establishment of a monarchy in Mexico, particularly men like Don Jose Maria Gutierrez de Estrada were staunchly in the pro-Church camp. On the other hand, the liberals and Benito Juarez in particular, were zealous in trying to break the power of the Catholic Church in Mexico that had existed since the first Spaniards arrived.

Napoleon III
When Don Jose Hidalgo peaked the interest of his old childhood playmate, now the Empress Eugenie of France, in the cause of Mexico it was very much the cause of the Church. Empress Eugenie was a devout Catholic and it was always her first instinct to rush to the defense of the Catholic Church and this played a part, at least to a certain degree, in the foreign affairs of the Second French Empire. Whether it was in Lebanon, Vietnam, Mexico or sending troops to defend papal rule over Rome the basically moderate-liberal rule of the French Emperor Napoleon III always tried to also play to French conservatives by acting as the defender of the Church when it was in his interests to do so. When Napoleon III began to be pointed toward the idea that it was in his interest to intervene in Mexico some of the loudest voices calling for that were those exiled conservatives of the clerical party. This was the background to the French intervention and the eventual establishment of the Mexican Empire.

Benito Juarez had made himself the enemy of the Church when he came to power and instituted his liberal constitution which seized all Church property, expelled Catholicism from education, secularized marriage and forbid clerical garb in public and so on. At one point, he even tried to establish his own government controlled papacy which fell through. When the French intervened their greatest support came from the pro-Church party in Mexico such as General Juan Almonte and the Bishop of Puebla Pelagio Antonio Labastida, who was living in exile and was soon named Archbishop of Mexico City. After the French had defeated Juarez and taken Mexico City they called an Assembly of Notables, mostly the friends and associates of General Almonte. This body fairly quickly came into opposition with their French benefactors, however, as the French were, well, French and they soon expressed their distaste of the regime and called Almonte a reactionary. The actions of the junta of Mexican conservatives certainly went against what had become the tradition of post-revolutionary France.

Priests and religious were allowed to wear their habits in public again, marriage became a Church matter again and numerous other laws were decreed including the law which required all people to kneel whenever the Most Blessed Sacrament was being carried in procession. However, the French stood firm on refusing to allow all of the property confiscated by Juarez to be returned to the Church. Part of this was because much of this land was then owned by French nationals; which requires some explanation. When Benito Juarez seized the property of the Church, which some have estimated included about one third of the country, no matter how many anti-clerical laws they passed they could not alter the fact that the vast majority of Mexicans were God fearing Catholics and so when these lands were put up for sale most Mexicans refused to buy them. In their absence, foreign investors stepped in and purchased the properties and in many cases these foreigners were Frenchmen. Dependent as they were on French arms, the conservative junta looked the other way on this and contented themselves with waiting for a formal monarchy of their own to be established.

At the time of the transfer of power the ruling junta established a council of regency which consisted of General Almonte, General Mariano de Salas and Archbishop Labastida; which formally invited the Archduke Maximilian of Austria to accept the crown of Mexico. Some of those involved on the French side were wary of the presence of Labastida; fearing that he would dominate the council and make Mexico a de facto theocracy. Allegedly it was Labastida himself who suggested Maximilian as a candidate for the throne but it is certain that the archbishop met with Maximilian while in Europe and therein lies one of the first mistakes made by the two factions of Church and Crown. Archduke Maximilian had, from an earlier visit to the Empire of Brazil (which he was much taken with), formed a very low opinion of the Latin American clerics and he did not make much of an effort to hide this opinion from the outset. Given that it was the pro-Catholic faction which was most involved in offering him the Crown of Mexico, this certainly did not bode well for the future that he was making such critical observations of what was to be his power base.

However, at that early stage, both sides seemed to be looking through rose colored glasses and seeing only the best of possibilities in each other. Maximilian looked at the Church and, as was his habit, saw only the best of intentions and assumed that all were as reasonable and liberal-minded as himself. For her part, the Church tended to look upon Maximilian and, despite some reservations at his liberal tendencies, saw only a Hapsburg archduke, a descendant of Emperor Charles V and the hope of a traditional, Catholic monarchy in the old style. Both, to some degree, saw what they most desired and, as such, both were set up for disappointment. However, all of that was still in the future, and for the time being all parties concerned were focused only on getting Maximilian to Mexico and establishing the Second Mexican Empire. Gutierrez de Estrada made the formal invitation and when Maximilian accepted he and his wife were hailed by the assembled Mexican dignitaries as the Emperor and Empress of Mexico. For the young imperial couple this was to be their chance to put all of their lofty ideals into practice and establish a new era in the history of monarchy. For the Church, they saw this as their opportunity to restore the old order and put right all that Juarez had put wrong. Archbishop Labastida made it very clear to the French that, on the key issue involved, Church support for the enterprise was entirely dependent on the restoration of their estates.

This was not made a secret, however, both Napoleon and Maximilian chose to ignore it since it did not fit in with their own ideals and temperament. Over time there would be no getting around the issue and it would become a stone around the neck of both Maximilian and the Mexican Catholic Church. Once Maximilian had accepted the Mexican Crown, the clerical bank holiday, so to speak, under the regency of General Almonte came to an end and the venerable officer was soon given a grand title and shipped off to Europe. Almost as soon as Maximilian and Carlota arrived in Mexico trouble began brewing with the Church. Empress Carlota was aghast at the ignorance of the native peasants and laid much of the blame for this at the door of poor catechesis on the part of the Church and her feeling was not entirely unfounded. However, as stated, it was surely a little less than prudent to so quickly begin to criticize the most powerful group in Mexico favorable toward the monarchy. On the other side, the hopes of the Church were also quickly disappointed.

Emperor Maximilian shocked and angered the clerical party when he refused to restore the lands confiscated by Juarez to the Church. He did repeal the other oppressive laws and offered to make Catholicism the official religion of Mexico, however, he also insisted on full freedom of religion. Maximilian saw this as a totally reasonable position and could not believe that he, a practicing Catholic who had been warmly received by the Pope upon leaving for Mexico, would not be acclaimed by the Church. However, to put it succinctly, the Church found this proposal totally unacceptable. They demanded that all their property be restored to them and that the Catholic faith be the only legal religion in the Mexican Empire. Essentially, they were holding fast to their goal to have a total restoration of their previous position in the Spanish period and the early years of independent Mexico. They viewed the position of Maximilian as almost a betrayal of his core supporters whereas the Emperor viewed their demand for the return of all lands and their opposition to freedom of religion as an archaic and bigoted attitude.

Given all that had happened in Mexico prior to the arrival of Maximilian he perhaps should not have been surprised. When the French had refused to restore their property Archbishop Labastida had left the regency council and closed all the churches. The French army forced them to open again but the other bishops followed the example of Labastida and went so far as to refuse the sacraments, even last rites, to men who had purchased former Church lands. On the whole, it seemed as though the Church saw total victory as finally being within their grasp and were not prepared to settle for anything less. However, given the situation on the ground and the trials being faced by the Church in the rest of the world, one cannot help but observe that they seemed to be beating their heads against a brick wall that was not about to come down.

Emperor Maximilian, with his winning personality, tried to reassure Church leaders that he was on their side and most meetings were friendly enough but in the end settled nothing. Maximilian did not want to be seen as being tied to the clerical party and even used his policy of religious tolerance to try to win over the United States which continued to support Benito Juarez. On this and other issues the Emperor seemed to learn only too late that there was absolutely nothing he could have done to win favor in Washington and the Church hierarchy was rapidly losing patience in dealing with him. When it became clear that Maximilian would not relent on his insistence for religious tolerance and the property issue the papal nuncio, Pedro Francisco Meglia, was recalled and the Church-state relationship that had been at a standoff turned almost into open hostility.

Many Mexican conservative elites more or less withdrew their support at that stage, openly or otherwise. In regards to the Church in Mexico, Emperor Maximilian had basically become bad to know amongst the most zealous members of the clerical faction that had been carrying on the struggle against Juarez and the liberals for so long. In political terms it seemed to be a disastrous policy for Maximilian. Those who would have been his core supporters often became lukewarm or occasionally hostile to the monarchy whereas no liberals were won over to the imperial cause because of it. They may have appreciated such a policy, but then, the most radical liberals often said that Maximilian was impossible to dislike, however, for those opposed to monarchy on principle and those who opposed a foreign-born monarch no matter how good a man he was or what his policies were, nothing Maximilian could ever do would manage to win them over. In short, he lost a lot and gained nothing.

Max, Carla & Pio IX
That being said, in hindsight it seems especially obvious, but should have been clearly visible even at the time as well, that the Church was being frustratingly unreasonable to the point of choosing to ignore reality rather than budge an inch on their position. In adopting such an all-or-nothing approach the Church practically guaranteed she would emerge with nothing. Given all that had happened in Mexico already and what was even then going on in the rest of the world, the Church should have been able to see that the old days of huge estates and religious monopoly were over and were not going to be coming back. They spurned the offer of being the official religion of Mexico if they could not be the only game in town and as a result hastened the day when they would have no official status at all in the country.

The bishops seemed to be ignoring the basic reality that, in the conflict that existed at that time, their only choices were Juarez or Maximilian; one of which had already proven himself openly hostile to their cause and the other who was willing to give them pride of place but not everything they asked for. By turning their backs on Maximilian the hierarchy, intentionally or not, only helped the cause of Juarez. This was increased by the fact that there was a tradition in Mexico for the lower clergy to sometimes be as radically liberal as the hierarchy was reactionary. The case of the famous Father Miguel Hidalgo is a prime example of this and eventually, after the Church seemed to withdraw its official support for Maximilian, one could find local priests throughout the country speaking of anyone killed by the imperialist side as a martyr. The fact that the cause these men were dying for, that of Benito Juarez, was an anti-clerical secularist cause which had tried to totally dominate if not stamp out the Church in Mexico seemed lost to them.

This basic situation seemed impossible to change even as the Mexican Empire fell on ever more hard times. Maximilian, in his desperation, wanted to bring it to an amicable end, however, as the French pulled out he also saw it as ever more vital to win over the liberals and the United States (a lost cause in any event) and if he gave in to the demands of the Church he would surely be labeled as an autocratic villain in the mold of the old myths of the Black Legend. He sent a loyal (though perpetually scheming) priest named Father Fischer to Rome to try direct negotiations with the Vatican but he accomplished nothing other than providing the Emperor with all of the latest gossip from the Roman aristocracy. The Church would not give an inch in their demands and yet Maximilian was more constrained than ever to hold on to his own position as well. With the end of the War Between the States in America it was even more necessary to try to stay on friendly terms with Washington (rather hard given that they had never recognized his government and vowed never to do so) and this also brought about a wave of immigration from the former Confederate States who, being predominately Protestant, would not settle unless religious freedom was assured.

Toward the end of the life of the imperial regime, Maximilian was extremely desperate and sent his strong-willed wife, Empress Carlota, to Europe to lobby for support. After Paris the most important place on her itinerary was the Eternal City of Rome. Empress Carlota had, if anything, an even lower opinion of the Mexican clergy than her husband. Almost as soon as she entered the country she was shocked by the poor state of education, the lack of proper catechesis, widespread religious practices that seemed eerily close to native paganism and other factors which she attributed to a failure on the part of the local clergy. She was also just as frustrated as her husband at the uncompromising attitude of the Church. However, by the time Carlota reached Rome she was already falling victim to the emotional breakdown that was to remain with her for the rest of her life. In order to avoid any embarrassment, the papal Secretary of State, the worldly-wise Cardinal Antonelli (whose name in any book is almost never mentioned without being in association with such terms as clever, cunning, devious and so on) informed the Empress that she should not expect any change in the Church position so long as the Emperor refused to restore all Church property and until Catholicism was made the one and only legal faith in Mexico. It would have been enough to push Carlota over the edge had she not already plummeted over in all likelihood.

The Pope, in any event, was in no position to offer any assistance. He was himself being sustained in Rome only by the presence of French troops. Having the moral support of the Church might have gained Maximilian some more support from the conservatives, but in reality it would have been, by that time, too little too late. Those who were behind Maximilian regardless of his stand-off with the Church would stay with him while those who had drifted away were unlikely to have returned in any great numbers had he obtained an agreement with the Pope since the odds seemed so much against him at that stage and most in Mexico of every social class tended to support whoever appeared to be winning at the time.

Father Augustin Fischer was probably the most prominent cleric to remain with Maximilian almost to the bitter end (he did not follow him to Queretaro) and while he is almost invariably vilified in books about Max and the empire he is also invariably credited with being the driving force behind convincing Maximilian to stay in Mexico and try to carry on the imperial enterprise without the support of the French army. Of course, it all ended in noble, tragic failure and the relations between the Church and Maximilian are perhaps best represented by the scene just prior to the Emperor being led away to his execution which has been immortalized in print, on canvas and on film; the image of Maximilian, the condemned man, comforting the priest who had been sent to prepare him. In the end, Maximilian did himself no favors by being so critical of the clergy in Mexico and seemed to rather take for granted his conservative base of support. However, especially in light of subsequent history, the attitude of the Church would be hard for even the most zealous Catholic to defend. Their demands were really unreasonable, they turned their back on what would have been a very strong and favorable position and by holding out for everything they ultimately ended up with nothing. The defeat of Maximilian meant that the anti-clerical regime of Juarez was back in power and then with absolutely no real conservative opposition at all things were to get much worse before they got better and even then, as far as the Church in Mexico has come in recent years, it has never even managed to obtain the status once offered by Emperor Maximilian.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Vision for the Future of the United Kingdom

Since this is the first foray into what might become a new mini-series of articles, allow me to establish a few guidelines as to what exactly I am going to be talking about. In short, this article (or “these articles” depending on how things go) will be on realistic policy proposals that I would like to see for the current monarchy in question (in this case Great Britain) for the not-to-distant future. By “realistic” I do not mean things that are likely to happen; that would be too great a leap for someone like me. My opinions are certainly not currently popular or anywhere close to being mainstream to suppose that. What I mean by “realistic” is that these are things which will be at least within the realm of possibility; things which are not so far-fetched as to be all but impossible. Were that not the case I would simply be relating a vision of my ideal future which would be extremely, gloriously reactionary but which is not grounded in reality and, while it might be fun, would be hard to argue as being in any way helpful. As I have said before, I am both a “theoretic monarchist” and an “active monarchist” in that, while interested in theory and ideals I am also about defending the monarchies that still exist in the world and restoring those that have fallen. That means that you have to work with the tools you have available to you, you have to match your tactics to the situation and recognize that, as Bismarck said, politics is the art of the possible.

So, I will be trying to temper my desires, at least as much as I can, by practical reality even though there will doubtlessly be those who will ignore everything I’ve just said and react as though everything I write here is my ideal. It is not, nor is most of it going to be all that likely but I am trying to at least meet the modern world I generally despise half way. These are things which probably will not happen but which could happen that I would like to see, perhaps unlikely but not totally impossible. And, as usual when it comes to policy matters, these opinions could change, depending on the circumstances or some new understanding on my part. Having gotten all of that out of the way, let us proceed with a proposed vision for the future of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

When it comes to internal politics, there seems to be no chance of really significant changes in policy when even UKIP is promising to maintain the NHS. When it comes to Parliament, similarly, while my greatest wish would be to see the restoration of the hereditary house of lords (with some reforms to make it more size-appropriate) that also seems to be beyond the pale given the current values of the public. Talk of lords reform, therefore, moves me very little because what exists today is no House of Lords at all and I cannot be very moved about changes to it or replacing it. The real thing (or what was left of it) was destroyed by Tony Blair, what exists now is a mockery and I have no time for it. What does seem increasingly likely though is the continuing trend of devolution and it seems, like it or not, probably that the future United Kingdom will consist of essentially autonomous “states” of Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and perhaps England. My best hope for this would be that such an autonomy would prove to the peoples of Britain which policies work and which do not as they would be forced to accept the consequences of their own decisions and, again being optimistic, this would ultimately cause the country as a whole to adopt wiser policies and be the better off for that. Aside from that, internally, much of the problems in Britain come down to matters of culture and much of that concerns the population and demographic changes. For the most part, those cannot be undone. Laws and policies can be changed but when a population is changed it is changed forever. Efforts can be made to minimize the impact but to a large extent there is simply no way to reverse things at this point for a moral people. It was possible in the days of Enoch Powell (whose statistical predictions have been proven to have been far too conservative even though he was accused in his day of being an alarmist), it is not possible anymore. My primary focus here though is to be on foreign policy.

In 2012 British Tory MEP Daniel Hannan spoke at the Manning Conference in Canada and in the Q&A period following his remarks was asked about an exchange of letters in the National Post concerning the Anglosphere. Mr. Hannan, in his remarks, had spoken a great deal about the Anglosphere and how much the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand had in common, at least in the conservative principles all have traditionally held and which are defended by the political right in these countries. A questioner, referencing the exchange in the National Post, asked Hannan’s opinion on the idea of the Anglosphere countries (presumably those named above) dropping out of the EU (for Britain), NATO and even the UN to form their own political, economic and military alliance. Hannan’s response was short and simple, “I’m in favor”. It is pleasing enough to me that his answer was so brief because, inevitably, when Hannan goes on at length he ends up saying things that offend my monarchist sensibilities so we will leave it at that as well.

I would be most ardently in favor of Britain getting out of the EU in particular and joining in a closer alliance with the Commonwealth Realms and, perhaps, in so doing become such an economic and trading powerhouse as to put the EU to shame. It is unfortunate that the current leadership of the Tory party does not share Hannan’s firm opposition to EU membership. However, another party that certainly does is the UK Independence Party and its leader, Nigel Farage, has spoken frequently of his vision for a United Kingdom that, once free of the constraints of the EU, renews closer ties with the countries of the Commonwealth, particularly those parts of the former British Empire which remain the most similar in their values, economies, language and principles. Indeed, Farage has spoken of Britain joining the EU almost as a betrayal, of turning their backs on the Commonwealth Realms with whom Britain has traditionally been most attached. The case for a new sort of Commonwealth alliance seems to be an increasingly easy one to make with support for the EU at record low levels in Britain and with the UN being seen increasingly as either a useless nuisance or an outright farce.

Since NATO has been mentioned and since the country has already been mentioned once, some comment should probably be made about the United States. Should this renegade republic be allowed into such a club? In economic terms it certainly has a market larger than any other potential member but I think a revived, new form of the Commonwealth would be a good idea with or without the United States involved. In matters of security, however, having America would be all but a necessity. Britain gave up an empire in order to fund a socialist welfare state and it has increasingly had to give up having a military in order to continue feeding this high tax - high benefits regime. As the commentator Douglas Murray recently said, whether one is pro-American or anti-American, the fact is that whenever people in Britain (or elsewhere) say that ‘something should be done’ what they really mean is that America should do something because only America has the military muscle to do almost anything these days. I would hope that, with or without America being included in the club, friendly relations would still be maintained. It is better to have the most militarily powerful country in the world as a friend rather than an enemy but the fact is that for the rest of the English-speaking world to say, “we don’t need American protection” they would have to start spending money on their militaries rather than on paying people not to work and paying for everyone’s old age pension and healthcare. That is a simple choice and as much as Kipling’s decedents have become fond of ‘hating those who guard’ them, I cannot in the foreseeable future see the other Anglosphere countries reverting back to individuals being responsible for their own retirement savings, rainy day funds and medical bills so as to restore their militaries to the point where they are at least capable of independent action.

That decision would have to be made but apart from that, whether America is in or out, this would still be a policy worth pursuing. Certainly for monarchists it would be extremely helpful for the Commonwealth Realms to work as closely together as possible, especially since so many republicans in the Commonwealth enjoy using anti-British bigotry to promote their cause. Finally, I would also say that it would be extremely helpful, and I know of no reason why it absolutely cannot happen, to have members of the Royal Family serve as Governors-General in the Commonwealth Realms. It would be an ideal way of educating the public about what the vice-regal office is really all about, it would further cement the idea of the Royal Family as being not just exclusively British while at the same time drawing the realms closer to Britain. I would also go further, though it is largely too late at this point, and say that if members of the Royal Family were to marry individuals from the Commonwealth Realms (if they are not going to marry other royals anyway) that would almost certainly, I think, spell the death of republicanism in the Commonwealth Realm in question.

In short, I would love to see the United Kingdom leave the European Union, shaking the dust from its boots as it goes, forming a new economic and political alliance, a revived sort of Commonwealth, with the rest of the English-speaking world. If it did so, I am confident it would be a great success and would form an extremely powerful bloc in the world that could do very well without the EU, NATO or the UN. They all have much more in common than with any other country or group of countries in the world. It would heighten the significance of the monarchy and if the members of the Royal Family were dispatched to serve as Governors-General it would make valuable use of the monarchy as a source of strength and unity for the English-speaking peoples around the world. However, for this to happen, there will have to be some big decisions made at home, perhaps the most fundamental being whether the British believe in themselves and have enough pride in themselves to reunite with their offspring, be more assertive and say, “We are not going it alone, we are family and families stick together”.
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