Sunday, June 27, 2010

Monarchy Is Not Tyranny


There are many who, ignorantly or otherwise, equate monarchy with tyranny. Unfortunately, some ill-informed monarchists also push this point-of-view as a positive (since such people view totalitarianism as a good thing). This has been a plague for monarchism and I see it time and time again. It is engrained in the minds of so many people that a monarch is either a tyrant or a totally ceremonial waste of money. At one time the common model of the constitutional monarch could be used to counter this belief but even that model, which worked well for a time and became fairly widespread, has been reduced today because constitutional monarchy is today equated with a totally ceremonial monarchy since monarchs are threatened with extinction if they dare use those powers that are legally their own.

I know it confuses many people when I state that my ideal is a monarchy that is absolute but not arbitrary. This inevitably leads to confused looks and it can be rather difficult to explain. To get around that difficulty I point to the words of the French monarchist Bishop Jacques Bossuet who wrote extensively on the powers, the obedience owed to and the responsibilities of princes. After explaining in detail the absolute, sacred and inviolable nature of monarchy Bossuet addressed what he termed arbitrary power to which he attributed four things. These four attributes of arbitrary government were (I) that subjects are born slaves and none are free, (II) no one possesses private property, the prince controls all sources of wealth and there is no inheritance, (III) the prince can dispose of the property and the lives of all in his realm at his whim and finally (IV) there is no law but the will of the ruler.

For those who would advocate such a system so long as there is a monarch in charge rather than a republican leader one could be forced to split some minute hairs over what exactly constitutes a monarch. For example, the communist government of North Korea would fit every one of the above criteria for an arbitrary state and they are ruled by a hereditary leader chosen from a single family. Would this be considered a true monarchy? Would putting a crown on Stalin make him a Tsar? Monarchists must ask themselves if there is really anything more to their beliefs than titles and decorations. Once again, Bishop Bossuet explains it quite well:

It is one thing for a government to be absolute, and another for it to be arbitrary. It is absolute with respect to constraint - there being no power capable of forcing the sovereign, who in this sense is independent of all human authority. But it does not follow from this that the government is arbitrary, for besides the fact that everything is subject to the judgment of God (which is also true of those governments we have just called arbitrary), there are also [constitutional] laws in empires, so that whatever is done against them is null in a legal sense [nul de droit]: and there is always an opportunity for redress, either on other occasions or in other times. Such that each person remains the legitimate possessor of his goods: no one being able to believe that he can possess anything with security to the prejudice of the laws - whose vigilance and action against injustices and acts of violence is deathless, as we have explained more fully elsewhere. This is what is called legitimate government, by its very nature the opposite of arbitrary government.”

We can see another explanation of this in the supposed trial of King Charles I of Britain, who was certainly held (by himself and his royalists) to be absolute, holding a sacred and inviolable position, but who stated at his trial that his use of absolute power was to defend his people against the arbitrary power of the parliamentary military forces of Cromwell. After being condemned Charles I addressed his enemies one last time saying, “I must tell you that the liberty and freedom [of the people] consists in having of Government, those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having a share in Government, Sir, that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things. If I would have given way to an arbitrary way, for to have all laws changed according to the Power of the Sword, I needed not to have come here, and therefore I tell you…that I am the martyr of the people”.

Taken as a whole, it can be seen then a monarch, to fulfill their own obligations and duties before the Almighty, must not be constrained by the whims and fancies of passing majorities. As the martyred Tsar Nicholas II saw it, his absolute power was a divine imposition that he could not shirk by passing his responsibilities to others. At the same time however, such power cannot be arbitrary and holding all people as mere cattle for the ruler but must be exercised in upholding, as the Stuart king said, “those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own”. The ruler of a state in which all property and the entire public is in every way “owned” by that state is no true monarchy but is the very definition of the communist state whether the ruler wear a workers cap, a top hat or a crown. The true monarch, like many who have gone to their martyrdom for this principle, fight for their absolute power (or divine right if you like) not out of personal ambition but because in so doing they are fighting for the absolute right of every one of their people to all that is justly their own.

16 comments:

  1. As I see it, the constitution ought to be arranged so that the monarch is powerful enough to be able to act for the public good, independently of party whims, but restrained enough to prevent his or her ruling arbitrarily. A difficult balance to achieve.

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  2. This very issue I think the aforementioned bishop addressed when he said (keeping in mind his stated difference between absolute and arbitrary power) that, "Without this absolute authority, he [the King] can neither do good nor suppress evil: his power must be such that no one can hope to escape him; and, in fine, the sole defense of individuals against the public power, must be their innocence. This doctrine is in conformity with the saying of St Paul: "Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good." (Rom. 13:3)

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  3. The balance should be simple to achieve. Simply write a Constitution which limits the Power of the King to only Lawful actions, and have an independent Aristocracy which can Challenge the Monarch should he cross a moral or ethical line. This Aristocracy must also include the Bishops or other Senior Clerics.

    In this manner, the King can rule with real Power, but his power can be blocked if, and only if he abuses it.

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  4. Indeed, and this was the basic set-up, in Europe anyway, throughout the Middle Ages sans the written constitution (though some had something similar). In "the Spains" for example, in the old days the nobles and reps etc would swear allegiance to the new King, "as long as you obey our laws, and if not, no" -simple as that. The monarch or particularly the monarchy was essential, sacrosanct and so but the monarch could not do absolutely anything/everything he pleased.

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  5. True indeed. That led to some spanish scholars to conclude that the power of the God is transmited to the kings through the People.

    It was not a defence of democracy, but of tradition.

    Thank you very much for this post.

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  6. It could, perhaps, more simply stated this way: in such a system everyone has absolute power over all that is legitimately their own. Just as the monarch cannot simply take life, limb or property from his nobles or people at his whim, because they have absolute right to it, neither can the people, at their whim take the Crown or royal authority from the monarch.

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  7. Zarove, I agree the balance may be simple to achieve, in theory. In practice, though, the danger is that, over time, the monarch's power will either become so eroded that he cannot act effectively, or, at the other extreme, that it will gradually become more and more expanded, so that he can no longer be prevented from acting arbitrarily. However well one designs a constitution, with human nature being as it is, there are bound to be power struggles between the groups in the state that may cause the whole system to unravel.

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  8. That, if I may say, is one reason why religion is important and why, imho, every great civilization has always had a religion or at least a shared morality based on common religious values. Even then, of course, people are imperfect and there will be troubles. Such is the reason that I have never held any particular system or government formula to be "the answer". No constitution can cover everything and no matter how intricate the balancing act of powers nothing will ever be full-proof. Especially when it comes to government -no government is ever going to be the be-all and end-all. As long as mankind is imperfect there will never be a full-proof perfect government.

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  9. In Monarchy, philosophically the Throne is more a form of duty than right. The advise Queen Anne gave to her son the future King Louis XIV, the scaling of the Pharaoh's heart by the Deity Anubis in the Ancient Egyptian religion, the concept of the cycle of dynasties developed in China by Taoist and later Confucian philosophers, and the metaphor a Monarch is an owner of a house while a president is a mere tenant in some literatures are just a few examples which strengthen the idea that the Throne is more a form of duty than right.

    History also teaches us that every time the Throne is weighted more as a right than duty by the occupiers then coup d'état, civil wars, dynastic changes or even revolution will soon follows. Royal tyrants and degenerates under monarchism are viewed as traitor to their own Throne.

    Therefore, there is a distinction between the Throne and the Crown. The Throne will always be sacred because it is the embodiment of God's desire and presence for / in earthly realms. The Crown is mere executor of the Throne. Joan of Arc once stressed this view to King Charles VII, she said to him "remember; that France is not yours, she is God's".

    The concept of the separation between the Throne and the Crown ironically makes, the mottos by the people (the people are in the end who toppled tyrants and degenerates) and for the people (the Throne as a form of duty) inherent to monarchism.

    Personally, I think to emphasize the authority of the Monarch solely on the divine rights of the Kings was an error, because in my opinion the authority of the Monarch lies in His / Her ability and will to fulfill His / Her Regal duties both to his people and to God.

    Republic in other hand always incorporated the Throne and the Crown (the state and the presidency) as one and views them as mere right, which is why republicanism main foundation always emanates from the motto "from the people". Idealistic as they come, this concept would finally dismantle the sanctity of the State and end up making the presidency as a mere object that can be claimed either by everyone with wealth or charm to win the masses or by those who are considered the most docile or pose no threat by the MPs.

    Atheistic secularism, majority populism and even corporatocracy in the modern republics stemmed from the communalization of the state and her executor.

    If you started on the right path but deviate in the way, you still can trace back that right path but if you started on the wrong path from the beginning, it will be very difficult to find the right path, especially after more deviations are made.

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  10. In part, this issue also stems from the problems with simply defining monarchy and republicanism.

    As you so ably said in your reply MM, the monarch is constrained by the fact that all people own that which is legitimately theirs. Any government, republican or monarchical, that violates this erodes the freedom of its subjects and ultimately devolves into tyranny, and thus revolution.

    Whereas monarchy permits one to maintain an unwritten constitution based on precedent and tradition and a few founding documents (such as the Magna Carta in England and later Britain, and perhaps, one day, the Declaration of the Rights of Man from 1789 in France), which defies arbitrariness by those founding documents and traditions (as you have demonstrated in Rome with your Emperor's Library series), but which is versatile enough to maintain itself come thick or thin.

    By contrast, the use of tradition cannot hold in a republic, because the ambition of individuals to high office is basically the only determining factor. Someone such as myself, who has no real desire to attain political power (on principle as much as desire) will never get it in a democracy. We are naturally excluded. And the ambitious, no matter how idealistic or noble their intent may be, will, on attaining power, use it. And they may violate traditions by using it (FDR is the longest serving president of the US because he flouted the tradition of only two terms as president, which was later resurrected and embedded into your constitution).

    Ergo, it is that emphasis on tradition that is the most important thing. A society that violates its own traditions violates its history, and thus its culture, and ultimately, its existence.

    From this, republicanism is actually an exceedingly dangerous form of government, especially when captured by interests contrary to the constituting society (eg secularists in a Christian country, etc). A monarchy is far superior in conveying tradition to its people, and while a republic can do it, it is not necessary to being a republic (after all, Nazi Germany and every communist nation on the planet were all republics, and they did away with every tradition they could manage).

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  11. In the work which I quoted (Politics Drawn from Holy Scripture) Bossuet does discuss at length the duties of princes and King James VI & I of Britain wrote a good piece on the subject with 'Basilikon Doron'. Bossuet was the chaplain at the court of King Louis XIV and did not shirk preaching on the duties, responsibilities (and the proper behavior) of his monarch for which he was at times out of favor (but never for too long). Monarchy is, in my view, inherently superior in that regard because it is something that is imposed on an individual rather than something that is sought and struggled for as in republics. Royals are thus more apt to view their position as an obligation rather than something they achieved (like politicians) and 'deserve' to use to their own advantage.

    History proves that no legal document is proof against corruption. Republican idealists thought to eliminate the possibility of change which they saw in organic governments based on tradition rather than a single document by codifying everything but, even in republics that have worked comparitively well, such as the USA, such documents can not only be changed but "re-interpreted" out of all recognition to their original intent.

    Real freedom, at least in my mind, stems not from being able to do any/everything you like but in being independent; part of which means you do not depend on the government to take care of you from cradle to grave. Something which, I am convinced, no government has ever done well anyway and, as we are seeing now, cannot afford to do in any event. I cannot help but think of those "bad old days" of wealthy royals and noble lords who built magnificent palaces and monuments, architectural wonders, commissioned great works of art and great pieces of music from their own pocket. Give all that money to bureaucrats and you get slum-like ghettos of public housing, public television propaganda pushing the liberal PC-agenda and dignity-robbing welfare stamps which can be used at your local gambling establishment as well (ugh!).

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  12. Interesting post--thanks!

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  13. The trouble is, it took the Republics about 150 years to get tot he point you described, or in the case of America nearly 200 years. By this time the Origional republican Idealists had died, and nowadays peopel are so ignorant of Hisory that they just don't think about what life was like before 50 years ago, and when they do, and think of Monarchy, its all "Off with their heads!" dictatorships n which the King did whatever he pleased and the Populace existed ina state of Slavery.

    Today, many Americans have no idea that the Seperation of Church and State was origionally designed to protect the Church from Governmental onterferance, and assume based on common mythology that the reasof or it was because the Founders feared that Religion woudl take over Government and become a tyranny as it always had int he past. ( It is just assume that every time Religion dominated a Society, it was a Dictatorship.)

    More to come.

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  14. cONT.


    Democracy to them is the Goal, and Dmocracy means that whatever the Majoirty says shoudl be law. We also shudl all be made Equel.

    Under this Democratic and Equality Rubric, we find those who want to Abolish the Electoral College and have the President Direclty Elected. Why? Because its more Democratic. never mind the Consequences. Some in America even want more Senators added tot he Senate, allowing the more populace States a greater Number of Senators, because it would be more Democratic. This woudl undermine the entire point of the Senate, but they think it'd make the Senate more reflective of the Nation as a whiole and thus is better.

    An sicne all men were Creaed Equal, and sicne all men Deserve Liberty, all men shoudl be made Financially secure and all men shoudl be given equel acces ot everythign wiht any advantage one possesses beign removed by Governemnt to give peopel a Fair Say. That is the nature of the mentality w fight, and it is rootdint he ideal of a Democratic order.

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  15. Brilliantly written, sir. An excellent article. Your readers may also enjoy this:

    http://swellanddandy.blogspot.com/2009/10/monarchist-manifesto.html

    Vive la Monarchie!
    God Save the Queen!

    P.

    www.swellanddandy.blogspot.com

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  16. First and foremost, there never was and never will be a utopian form of government. We all agree with said fact. All forms of government have flaws owing to the sinful nature of man. We can look back to our first parents, Adam and Eve, for that problem. Nonetheless, I consider monarchy, especially a constitutional monarchy (hereditary or elective), to be the better form of government. Monarchy has proven itself stable and to be politically, socially, and economically sound compared to other forms of government. As history proves, man allows his sinful nature to go beyond his lawful responsibilities and duties, thus becoming tyrannical. Regardless of the form of government and regardless of hereditary or elective, man will always seek power. There examples of monarchs and emperors ridding each other to achieve power. The Word of God and history overall proves this fact. Power is a disease in the human character.

    Mr. Thomas Jefferson once opined, "Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question." History answered your question long ago, Mr. Jefferson. Ruled by a monarch, ruled by few, ruled by majority, or ruled by one's self; man cannot be trusted at all since man is a sinful creature. Yes, our Creator endorses monarchy, but His creation cannot even make that right owing to sin.

    Establishing a balance of power is, theoretically speaking, easy, but in practice, it is not easy. The founding fathers of the U.S.A. hypothesized and written "checks and balances" and "separate but equal powers" into their constitution. Has it worked? No written document, even written by the most intelligent among men, will be perfect and it is impossible to vet the imperfections. The founding fathers recognized such reality owing to their weak and limited faculty.

    It all boils down to sin, gentlemen. We are sinful creatures and we will never witness a perfect form of government or ruler, expect Christ Jesus and His father's kingdom. Until we pass from this world, we must deal with what we have here.

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