Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Clash of Monarchies: The Third War of Italian Independence

The last of the three wars to secure the unity and independence of the Kingdom of Italy requires more than the usual background information. The preliminaries took longer than the war itself. The Second War of Italian Independence had seen the Austrian Empire beaten by the French and Italians at the bloody Battle of Solferino in 1859. Austria was forced to cede Lombardy to the King of Piedmont-Sardinia as well as the conquest of Modena, Parma, Tuscany and most of the Papal States in 1860 which were united with the rest of the northern half of the peninsula under the House of Savoy of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. However, the French ultimately won few friends and, by the time the smoke had cleared, came to be seen as duplicitous by both the Austrians and many Italians. Moreover, the Prussians had mobilized during the conflict but had not taken part. They too were pursuing a nationalist goal of reunifying all of the German states into one empire (Reich). Austria, rather than lead, stood opposed to this and the war in Italy was used by the Prussians as proof of both Austrian weakness and a greater concern for maintaining their rule over non-Germans than for resuming leadership of the German nation on the part of Austria.

Franz Joseph, Wilhelm I, Vittorio Emanuele II
All of that was simmering and would ultimately come to a boil when Bismarck was to provoke Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph into a war (just as Napoleon III had done in 1859 and others would do yet again). In the meantime, however, the unification of the Italian peninsula continued apace and in a shocking way. The famed Italian nationalist, Giuseppe Garibaldi, renowned for his exploits in South America and his defeat of the French in front of Rome in 1849, was as eager as ever to go on the attack. In 1849, Garibaldi, a lifelong republican and Freemason, had fought for the radical republicans of Giuseppe Mazzini. However, he had seen them prove totally incapable of governing and witnessed how easily they were defeated. Since then, he had seen King Vittorio Emanuele II and his royalists, deliver actual victories for the nationalist cause and Garibaldi was that rare case of a nationalist who did not put his own ideology before all else. If the republicans, who he favored, could not get the job done, he would fight his battles on behalf of a monarch if that meant the furtherance of the nationalist cause. However, given his background, his politics and his aggressiveness, the government of King Vittorio Emanuele II, led by Count Camillo Cavour, had to be careful in how it dealt with Garibaldi, to make use of him while not being seen too blatantly to make use of him in case his far-fetched scheme might fail.

The scheme he had in mind was nothing short of the conquest of the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies, ruled, at that time, by the cadet branch of the Spanish Royal Family. In May of 1860, with only a thousand volunteers, Garibaldi sailed out to take on the Bourbon monarchy which possessed a large army and a bigger navy than Piedmont-Sardinia. He and his little force of men, garishly dressed in red shirts, landed in Sicily, the garrison of which had been reinforced from 21,000 to 40,000 men when word of Garibaldi’s plan reached Naples. Garibaldi should have had no chance at all, however, he was a master at misdirection and the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies proved far less formidable in fact than it appeared on paper. Particularly in Sicily, the repeated rebellions of the previous decades had taken their toll and the King, Francesco II, had wiped out his Swiss mercenaries, his best troops, when they went on strike over better pay and conditions.

Battle of Calatafimi
Garibaldi could never have conquered Sicily with only a thousand men but many Sicilian peasants rushed to join his cause and more reinforcements would be arriving by ship later on. The first decisive action was the Battle of Calatafimi on May 15, 1860. If the Neapolitans had beaten Garibaldi there, he would have been ruined and his local support would have melted away. Yet, though outnumbered 3-to-1, Garibaldi managed to win, or at least not lose which was good enough for his purposes. Emboldened by this, and attracting a little over a thousand more local volunteers in the aftermath, Garibaldi launched a direct assault on the coastal fortress city of Palermo. He let prisoners out of jail which enlarged his forces and had little trouble rousing the city to rebellion (Palermo had a history of this) but the Neapolitan general, the elderly Ferdinando Lanza, managed to drive them back after which he and his offshore naval support shelled the city for three days, killing hundreds of civilians. This, obviously, did nothing to help the Bourbon cause in the long-run. Many have since accused Lanza of having been paid off by the British but I would be hesitant to believe such a thing without hard evidence. He did surrender the city to a force smaller than his own and which was practically out of ammunition but he did so only after his own counter-attack had failed. The enemy were in the city and it seemed impossible to dislodge them. He also had permission from his King to withdraw and on July 7 the Neapolitan army did just that.

Garibaldi & the King meet at Teano
Earlier that month King Francesco II had granted a(nother) constitution but it did him no good. Those who wanted one no longer believed the Bourbon monarchy trustworthy on this subject while the more reactionary supporters of the monarchy were put off by it. After Garibaldi’s forces won another victory at Milazzo, the Neapolitan commander surrendered the key fortress city of Messina less than a week later. The remaining Neapolitan garrisons on the island surrendered soon after. Garibaldi was master of Sicily and controlled access to the mainland. The next month he and his forces crossed over to Calabria, against the direct wishes of Cavour who had conspired with Garibaldi to make the invasion of Sicily possible. In Calabria there was little effective resistance as the large Bourbon armies simply melted away, many simply deserting and not a few even crossing over to join Garibaldi. In the meantime, the Piedmontese had invaded the remaining Papal States on the pretext of suppressing disorder. Pope Pius IX deployed his own army but held them back, certain that France or Austria would come to his aid. Neither did. Further south, the gallant, young, King Francesco II barricaded himself inside the coastal fortress of Gaeta with his few remaining loyal troops. The Piedmontese army and the army of Garibaldi linked up with Garibaldi handing all of his conquests over to King Vittorio Emanuele II of Italy. The siege of Gaeta dragged on to its inevitable conclusion, showing at least what an inspiring leader King Francesco II was and what he might have accomplished if he had taken to the field to defend his kingdom personally.

After 100 days of resistance, Francesco II surrendered and went into exile, the south was reunited with the north for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire and Vittorio Emanuele II was proclaimed King of Italy. Of the major Italian territories, only Rome and Venice remained out of reach. Rome was occupied by the French and Venice by the Austrians. Peaceful efforts to gain these came to nothing. The new King of Italy offered to purchase Venice from Emperor Franz Joseph, but was refused. Likewise, Pope Pius IX refused to hear of the offer of Cavour for absolute sovereign immunity for the pope and total power for him in all Church matters. The status quo, however, could not endure as the nationalist movement which had taken hold in Italy would never abide separation from Venice and Rome. Not long after, Count Cavour suddenly died and though the King had never liked him much, the two had learned how to work together and a period of some political instability ensued. Garibaldi, seeing his work still unfinished, recruited some more volunteers and made to attack Rome. The French and Austrians both threatened war if he was not stopped and so the Italian army did the job, halting the nationalist volunteers at the Battle of Aspromonte in August of 1862, even wounding Garibaldi himself in the process.

King Wilhelm I & Bismarck
This was what we would call today a public relations nightmare for the Italian government and to an extent broke the nationalist-monarchist coalition. The royalists accused the nationalists of being rash and foolhardy while the nationalists accused the King of caring more for the Pope than for Italy, taking the side of the French occupiers over the Italian people. All of this added pressure on the new Kingdom of Italy to take any chance that presented itself to regain its nationalist credentials. The government saw hope for regaining Venice when, also in 1861, Otto von Bismarck became chancellor of the Kingdom of Prussia. Bismarck was well known as a man who was determined to have a united Germany and if Austria would not lead, he would push them out of the way and Prussia would assume leadership. However, when Napoleon III proved not so positive toward Prussia and negative toward Austria as Bismarck had hoped, Prussia and Austria renewed ties under the German Confederation (just in time for a war with Denmark). Italian hopes for an alliance were dashed, but the reunion did not last long.

Conflict began to bubble up over disagreements between Austria and Prussia over the administration of the lands taken in the war with Denmark. Among German nationalists, there had also been a long standing division over whether or not the united Germany would include Austria due to the fact that Austria also ruled over so many non-German peoples that German nationalists cared nothing about. With the Austro-Prussian dispute, that matter was settled; Austria would be excluded and, as far as Bismarck was concerned, could go on having fun in her ‘majority minority’ empire. If Prussia were to take on Austria, there would be no better time as Habsburg foreign policy had managed to alienate just about everyone by this stage. Austria was sore at the French for allowing the incorporation of the central Italian states into the Kingdom of Italy and so, naturally, the French were sore at Austria in return. The Italians, naturally, wanted Venice back and so were certainly not going to take the side of Austria and, most importantly, the Russians were still furious at Emperor Franz Joseph for threatening to side against them in the Crimean War, effectively forcing them to concede defeat. The Prussians had also stood by the Russians in a recent rebellion in Poland, whereas the Austrians had not. The British, for their part, had no great love for either side and had no reason to care who won.

Bismarck, von Roon & von Moltke
Bismarck had only to prod Austria with the right words for Emperor Franz Joseph to demand a resolution of the Holstein issue by the German Imperial Diet which violated a treaty between Austria and Prussia, which was all Bismarck needed to go to war. Many have since pondered why the Austrian Emperor did such a thing after having been previously baited into a failed war with France and Piedmont-Sardinia not so long before. The most common explanation is that Austria was still not really looking toward the German states so much as the other ethnicities within the Austrian Empire, which were rather restive. The Hungarians, who had come under much more strict control since the Revolution of 1848, were looking particularly troublesome. The Emperor may have been hoping that a war with Prussia and Italy would unite the ethnic groups behind Austrian leadership and strengthen the empire.

In any event, on June 14, 1866 the war began with Prussian troops marching into Saxony and Bohemia. The Prussian army had mobilized rapidly thanks to the adept leadership of war minister Graf von Roon and the army commander Graf von Moltke. The Italian Royal Army was less well prepared, with elements of the north and south still not having coalesced very well. Some of this was due to personality issues, some due to organizational differences and sometimes simply the differences between the dialects of Turin and Naples. The Italian war plan was for the army of General Alfonso La Marmora to strike while the army of General Enrico Cialdini remained on the defensive. They would have superior numbers but the Austrians, with their powerful fortress cities of the Quadrilateral, would be able to concentrate their troops against any threat. The Italians, in typical fashion, came straight on with a bold offensive by the troops of La Marmora, accompanied by King Vittorio Emanuele II himself, who loved nothing better than being on campaign.

Archduke Albrecht
The Austrians were led by Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen, the Emperor’s cousin and a veteran of Radetzky’s victorious army from the First War of Italian Independence. He was not content to remain on the defensive but moved his army around to the north in an effort to get behind the Italians, cut them off from their base of operations and assault them from the rear. As it happened, the Italian army turned at just the right moment and the two sides collided at the Battle of Custoza on June 24. It was a very confused fight. The Austrian cavalry charged in, were mostly wiped out but spread confusion that stymied a sizeable number of Italian units. The Austrians drove the Italians out of Oliosi and seemed to be winning the day, yet were then met by an Italian division that exploited the gaps in their lines and refused to be dislodged, repelling fierce and repeated Austrian attacks at Monte Croce. The Austrians thought they were beaten, yet the Italians did not immediately reinforce Monte Croce and finally the forces there began to fall back. When reinforcements were sent and the Austrians moved to match them, the Austrians left another gap in their lines but the Italians failed to exploit it.

The Battle of Custozza
Each army believed they had been beaten, though neither actually had been. However, it was La Marmora who was the first to take action on this mistaken assumption and he ordered a retreat. As his forces moved back to secure the bridges over the Mincio, gaps in the Italian lines opened up which the Austrians were quick to exploit and Italian losses were heavy. By the end of the day, the Italians had retreated across the river after losing 8,147 men compared to losses of 5,650 for the Austrians. However, Archduke Albrecht did not follow up to destroy the Italian army, viewing his army as too bloodied and too exhausted to continue. As it was, most of the Italian losses had been men who were captured, as far as the number of dead and wounded alone went, Austrian losses were considerably higher. The Archduke retired to Verona, fearful of exposing his forces in case the French decided to get involved. Emperor Franz Joseph had advised him to ignore any political consideration and focus on annihilating the Italians, however, Archduke Albrecht seemed more concerned in not repeating the disaster that had befallen Franz Joseph himself at Solferino. As it was, Austria had won a solid victory and removed itself from immediate danger on the Italian front.

Battle of Bezzecca
In fact, the Austrian Empire seemed to be doing exceedingly well in the opening weeks of the conflict. They had defeated the Italians at Custoza and soon after halted the Prussians at Trautenau and the Austrian-allied forces of the Kingdom of Hanover also defeated the Prussians at Langensalza. However, at that point, everything began to go wrong. Only two days later the Hanoverians surrendered and the Prussians bested the Austrians at Gitschin on June 29. Most devastating of all for Austria was the decisive Prussian victory at the Battle of Koeniggraetz (Sadowa) on July 3. Subsequent defeats followed and in Italy, a small force under Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was still full of fight, was on the attack in the Trentino while the Italian high command planned their own counter-offensive. On July 21, Garibaldi and his “Hunters of the Alps” were attacked by two Austrian columns led by Major General Franz Baron von Kuhn at the town of Bezzecca. The Italians immediately counter-attacked and though they took heavier losses, managed to drive the Austrians out, providing a much needed morale boost for the Italian forces.

Battle of Lissa
The Italian war effort seemed to be on the rebound. General Cialdini was on the advance, this time with La Marmora holding back to cover the Austrian fortresses, Garibaldi had won a hard fought victory at Bezzecca and the Italian navy, widely regarded as the vastly superior force, was preparing to land troops on the Adriatic island of Lissa off the Dalmatian coast. However, it was then that everything was spoiled by the greatest disaster of the war for Italy. To the surprise of all, the much smaller Austrian fleet of Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff, attacked the Italian fleet while they were preparing to land their forces. The Italian commander, Admiral Count Carlo di Persano, was caught off guard and seemed totally bewildered. Two Italian ironclad warships were sunk while the Austrians lost none of their own, though one unarmored steamer was badly damaged. The Italians retreated and the Austrian sailors cheered. Ironically, most of the “Austrian” sailors were actually Italians, from Venice. It was a humiliating blow for Italy which was not helped by the fact that Persano first reported that he had won a great victory. This made it very awkward, needless to say, and all the worse when the truth came out.

The outcome of the war had, for all intents and purposes, mostly been decided at the Battle of Sadowa with the Prussians crushing the Austrian army there. However, the Austrian reinforcements on their way to Italy, combined with the stunning loss at Lissa, prompted Italy to come to the peace table too, in spite of the advances of Garibaldi and Cialdini and the hopes riding on them to make good on the loss at Custoza. It was not the glorious victory that had been hoped for, nor would the resulting peace treaty be easy for anyone. Italy was on the winning side but Prussia had been the ones to force Austria to the negotiating table. Even then, it was only thanks to the intransigence of Bismarck as most of the Prussian officers wanted to carry on and capture Vienna and perhaps more. Bismarck would not hear of it. All he wanted was a war to shove Austria out of the way so that Prussia could create a united Germany. He had no desire to see Austria humiliated or destroyed.

King Vittorio Emanuele II enters Venice
However, the Austrians were still Austrian and while they could grudgingly accept being beaten by Prussia, they would still insist on being condescending to the hated Italians. They refused to concede anything to Italy, yet Prussia was bound by their alliance not to make peace unless Venice was restored to Italy. However, the Austrian Empire refused to budge on this and so Prussia and Italy had to turn to Emperor Napoleon III of the French, who had been on side but taken no part in the conflict. The result was rather ridiculous. Austria finally agreed to make peace but by ceding Venice to the French Empire at which point the French then handed Venice over to the Kingdom of Italy. In a way, however, it was rather fitting given that Austria had first acquired Venice by originally dividing the Venetian territories with the first French Republic. So it was that Prussia proved to the minor German states that Austria would not be looked to for leadership and, after the appropriate referendum, Venice was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.

An unfortunate result of the Austrian intransigence during the peace process was to perpetuate the false impression that Italy had accomplished nothing during the war. The Italians had won battles and the naval engagement of Lissa was the only truly embarrassing loss. The battle of Custoza was two armies that basically fought each other to exhaustion, both thought they had lost and the Italians were simply the first to do anything about it and as they began to pull back the Austrians pounced. Garibaldi had won a hard fought victory in the north, the Italians had not been destroyed and were in the process of counter-attacking, were advancing back into Venetia, when the crushing victory of the Prussians brought the war to a close. The Austrians had not ‘run away with it’ so to speak. In any event, Italy had at least regained Venice, leaving only Rome still under foreign occupation. Prussia was clearly established as the leading German state, only one further step away from unification whereas the Austrian Empire had been humbled and was soon thereafter forced to make vast concessions to the Hungarians, leading to the compromise which turned the Austrian Empire into the “Dual Monarchy” of Austria-Hungary.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Monarch Profile: Emperor Bokassa I of Central Africa

The cause of monarchy in modern Africa has been a difficult one. In most of sub-Saharan Africa the tribal system of government persisted throughout the colonial period and still persists today under the surface of most regimes. Today, the only sovereign monarchies which exist in Africa are the Kingdom of Morocco and the small kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland which are, essentially, dependencies of South Africa. Previously, the only major Black African sovereign monarchy was the Empire of Ethiopia, restored by the British colonial and imperial armed forces during World War II and which was brought down by a communist coup in 1974. Many people in the African Diaspora (not quite so many in Africa itself) had looked to Ethiopia as the example they should aspire to. The same would not be said for the new imperial monarchy which sprang up thanks to one Jean-Bedel Bokassa of the Central African Republic which to many, then as now, strike most as farcical at best.

Jean-Bedel Bokassa was born in Ubangi-Shari in what was then French Equatorial Africa on February 22, 1921. Orphaned at a young age, he was educated in Catholic missionary schools, part of what the French proudly termed their ‘mission to civilize’ the primitive parts of the world. The young Bokassa proved himself to be not without ability, joining the French colonial army in 1939 as a private soldier. During World War II, he fought to secure the colony for the Free French forces from those of the Vichy regime and later fought on other fronts, including in southern France itself before the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany. He remained in the army, deciding to make that his career when a new conflict soon arose with the outbreak of war against the communist revolutionaries of French Indochina. Unlike America later, France never sent French conscripts to Vietnam and so relied heavily on native troops, the Foreign Legion and colonial soldiers from other parts of the French empire. Bokassa earned the Legion of Honor and the Cross of War before the French withdrawal from Vietnam, the young African private had become an officer and risen to the rank of captain. He had also married a Vietnamese girl and had a child before his tour ended but he abandoned them both. Were they still around when the North Vietnamese concluded the war, their fate could not have been a happy one.

The idea that such service was evidence of any great loyalty to the French colonial empire was, however, a false one and in Africa, as in Indochina, the movement gained strength for the independence of the French African colonies and the dissolution of the French colonial empire. In 1960 Ubangi-Shari was granted independence from France as the Central African Republic, led by President David Dacko, a distant cousin of Bokassa. Like most who would come to power in post-colonial Africa, Bokassa was the son of a tribal chief and had aspirations for leadership which did not include playing subordinate to his distant relative. President Dacko gave Bokassa, no doubt because of his military record with the French as a company officer, command of the armed forces of the new republic. Granted those armed forces amounted to only 500 men but it was something Bokassa took very seriously and it was totally in keeping with local custom in post-colonial Africa for new national leaders to stock the government with their relatives.

Soon, because of his obvious ambition, people in the Dacko administration began to fear Bokassa. Most, however, dismissed him as a vain and silly man who was not clever enough to be a real challenge to them. Bokassa worked to expand the army and his own prominence (because of the size of the army his rank was only colonel). However, the situation in the C.A.R. worsened quickly after independence. The economy stagnated and then began to decline, the bureaucracy totally broke down and foreign guerilla groups routinely violated C.A.R. territory. Dacko reached out to Communist China for help and soon communist propaganda was spreading throughout the country. The Chinese also made large loans to the Dacko government but most of this went into the pockets of government officials and the economy continued to decline. Bokassa began to make noise about stepping up to save the country from financial ruin and communist subversion and this finally caused Dacko to take notice. When Bokassa went to France for Bastille Day, Dacko refused to allow him to return until President Charles de Gaulle demanded that Dacko reinstate him, speaking of Bokassa as his “comrade in arms” from World War II.

This was done but, obviously, there was no longer any trust or loyalty between the two and Dacko began taking steps to replace Bokassa and disperse his supporters. However, he was not very subtle about this and Bokassa soon saw what was going on and decided to get rid of Dacko before Dacko could get rid of him. In the early hours of January 1, 1966, in what was called the Saint-Sylvestre coup d’etat, Bokassa and his chief subordinate Captain Alexandre Banza, seized control of the capital and, in due course, his forces captured and arrested President Dacko. Once in power, Bokassa promised a new era of equality for all, abolished the constitution and ruled through a Revolutionary Council. He promised that after his forces had eliminated corruption and communism, allowing the economy to stabilize, new elections would be held for a new national assembly and a new constitution. He banned opposition parties, outlawed begging and made employment mandatory. Anyone without a job could be imprisoned. However, he also banned polygamy and female circumcision, established a bus line in the capital, a ferry service on the Ubangi and used government funds to establish two national orchestras. He also broke off diplomatic relations with Communist China. In short, he did make some positive changes.

The new regime was troubled by the slowness of foreign powers to recognize them, particularly the French. The economy also showed no signs of improvement and when Captain Banza pointed out that the lavish spending of Bokassa was not helping, he was immediately demoted. Banza then began planning his own coup to unseat Bokassa but his actions were reported by a loyalist and he was arrested and executed after being beaten nearly to death. This caused a degree of disgust in France but French recognition did finally come. Colonel Gaddafi in Libya lent support to Bokassa, subtly at first, and a strange sort of normalcy finally seemed to settle. In 1972, having previously promoted himself to general, Bokassa declared himself president for life. This still was not good enough and General Bokassa was rather frustrated at the situation in his country. It was not as grand and prosperous as it should be and he felt he was not receiving the full respect of the international community that was his due. Ultimately, he seemed to believe that if he could make the C.A.R. look like a great power, it would become a great power. So, he decided to give himself another, major, promotion. He would become a Napoleonic-style monarch and make the Central African Republic the “Central African Empire”. He envisioned an advanced, dazzling, empire in the heart of Africa that would entrance the world and inspire Africans everywhere. And he was serious.

Bokassa at his coronation
At the end of 1976, Bokassa dissolved his government, proclaimed the country the Central African Empire, issued a new constitution and, having previously converted to Islam, converted back to Catholicism. On December 4, 1977, to mark this shift, he held a lavish coronation ceremony for himself. He had designer robes and gowns, a diamond-encrusted crown and a huge throne made of gold as well as 19th Century Napoleonic style French uniforms made for his soldiers, most of which was all imported from France. The cost was a staggering $20 million, the entire French aid package for that year or one third of the entire annual budget. It was, he claimed, the will of the people that he be elevated to “Emperor Bokassa I” and also that this would gain the respect of world leaders, raise the status of his country in the international community and bring global attention to Central Africa. In that last regard, he was certainly successful as he did get the attention of many people around the world with this spectacle but almost no world leaders attended his coronation and most were convinced that the man was completely insane.

Idi Amin and Bokassa
The situation in the new Central African Empire did not immediately improve with the change in style and Emperor Bokassa came under ever increasing criticism. Stories began to emerge of violent repression of dissent, torture and accusations that Emperor Bokassa practiced cannibalism. Such accusations, it must be said, were quite common at the time (and not unknown even now) for African leaders. Though, to be fair, it must also be said that this does not disprove such allegations as cannibalism was most widespread in the area of central Africa and this does tend to be where such accusations are most prevalent. His love of titles, uniforms covered in medals and the allegations of cannibalism caused many in the western press in particular to compare Emperor Bokassa with the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin Dada who had also proclaimed himself, “Conqueror of the British Empire” and, famously, King of Scotland.

In 1979 what little tolerance in the international community that Emperor Bokassa had been shown began to erode. Key elements of this were the emergence of his partnership with the notorious Libyan dictator Gaddafi and the massacre of a large number of people protesting against rising food prices and a considerable lack of food at any price in Bangui. The French, on whose assistance Central Africa continued to depend, began to waver and the French government began to wish for President Dacko to return. The “last straw” for many was the repression of a student protest in 1979. As part of his campaign to make the Central African Empire look affluent and modern, Emperor Bokassa had ordered all students to wear school uniforms with his portrait on them which were rather expensive and, some might argue, rather crass and tacky. When the students protested, about 100 were killed by government forces with Emperor Bokassa accused of severely beating several of the children himself.

This episode was publicized all over the world and brought down a torrent of condemnation on Emperor Bokassa, prompting the French government to intervene in their former colony. In September of 1979 the French government dispatched the First Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment of their special forces to topple Bokassa and restore President Dacko to power. Flying in from Chad, the French had little difficulty in seizing control as the operation had been timed to coincide with Emperor Bokassa being out of the country on a visit to Libya. Dacko was reinstalled as President and he announced the end of the empire and restoration of the Central African Republic. Bokassa first fled to the Ivory Coast but was later granted exile in France due to his being a veteran of the French army (for which he also continued to draw a pension). He wrote a book during these years but it was banned by the French government due to allegations he made about sharing women and giving lavish gifts to President Giscard d’Estaing.

Tried and sentenced to the death in absentia for repression and the murder of political rivals, Bokassa nonetheless returned to the Central African Republic in 1986. He was immediately arrested and charged with a long list of crimes including treason, murder, corruption and cannibalism. He pled not guilty and at his trial denied all charges made against him, often attributing the crimes to others in the government or denying them completely. He was finally found “not guilty” of cannibalism but “guilty” on all other counts and sentencing him to death. However, in 1988 the then-President Kolingba, commuted Bokassa’s execution and shortening his sentence to 20 years in 1989. In 1993 Bokassa was released as part of a general amnesty. His remaining years were not long but just as ‘colorful’ as his time in power had been. He added to his accumulated 17 wives and estimated 50 children, proclaimed himself to be the thirteenth apostle of Jesus Christ and said that he regularly met in secret with the Pope. He died of a heart attack on November 3, 1996 at the age of 75. In 2010 he was legally rehabilitated by President Francois Bozize and praised for the stability of his years in power and his love of country.

To date, no other African leader has tried to follow his example and in my experience most monarchists regard him as a despicable figure who made the institution of monarchy look ridiculous by his antics. That is probably true, however, his crimes were not that an unusual by the standards of post-colonial Africa were dictatorial leaders with big ambitions and no tolerance for opposition have been the rule rather than the exception. There were certainly others who were far worse.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

America's Path Not Taken

During the American War for Independence, then as now, a diversity of viewpoints were held by men on both sides. There were those of the Crown forces, adherents of the Whig party, who were quite sympathetic to the cause of the American Patriots. Such sentiments reached all the way up to the commander of the Crown forces in North America, Lt. General Sir William Howe, to HRH the Prince of Wales. Meanwhile, among the American leadership were those who espoused the eventually successful cause of independence in some sort of republican union but also those, not often remembered, who preferred the goal of greater concessions and self-government within the British Empire and under the ultimate sovereignty of the Crown. One of these men was Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania. Born in Maryland, his family moved to Pennsylvania and young Joseph studied law alongside William Franklin, illegitimate son of the famous Ben Franklin, eventually becoming a lawyer in Philadelphia. Originally a Quaker, he converted to the Church of England and married the daughter of a very wealthy and well-connected family. He became a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, later Speaker of the House until 1774 and, again alongside Franklin, was most known for his efforts to have Pennsylvania become a Crown Colony rather than a Proprietary Colony of the Penn family.

As his political career demonstrated, Galloway was no republican firebrand. Indeed, he has more than once been referred to as an Anglo-American nationalist, which would certainly make him unpopular today even if nothing else were known about him. He had objections to the state of affairs in the colonies but, again, like many, his objections were not to the British Empire itself but rather with the subordinate place of the American colonies within it. He believed that the British constitutional monarchy as it was then, was the best system of government in the world and that the British, be they in the home islands or North America, were the best people in the world. He felt that the only problem was that the British subjects in America were not governed in the same way as the British subjects in Great Britain and that if this inequality could be resolved, there would be no further animosity. Indeed, he was convinced that, like himself, most Americans were loyal to the British Crown and were only being driven to disobedience by agitators in America and thoughtless policies on the part of the Parliament in London. In 1774 he had sufficient prominence and popularity to be chosen as a member of the Continental Congress (or Philadelphia Congress) which had no validity as far as the British were concerned but which would be the primary governing body of the colonies during the War for Independence.

In this capacity, Galloway proposed something quite similar to what Benjamin Franklin had previously suggested at the time of the French and Indian War known as the "Albany Plan" ("Join or Die") which was for the unification of the North American colonies within the British Empire. This proposal became known as the "Galloway Plan" or "Galloway's Plan for Union" which called for what would later be termed "Dominion status" in which the American colonies would unite together under a common colonial government but still under the sovereignty of the British Crown. Effectively, under the Galloway Plan, the American colonies would become a self-governing, autonomous partner of Great Britain within the British Empire. The colonial assemblies would appoint representatives to a parliament of their own which would be on equal terms with the parliament in London and would be presided over by a President-General appointed by the King. The American parliament would have jurisdiction over all domestic affairs, including taxation, but the parliaments in both Britain and America would each have veto power over what the other passed so that neither could impose any action detrimental to the other. The British Empire would thus become an Anglo-American partnership of a sort.

Unfortunately for Galloway, Massachusetts enacted an anti-British boycott one month before his proposal came up for a vote which was a boon for the radicals and put moderates such as himself at a clear disadvantage. Nonetheless, in October of 1774, when his plan was voted on, it was defeated only by a single vote with five in favor and six opposed. Worse still, the radicals were worried that this would display a lack of resolve on their part in dealing with the British and so it was agreed that his proposal and the very narrow vote on it, be stricken from the record. Understandably outraged by this, and seeing little hope for a compromise, Galloway left Congress and made his plan public himself the following year. He could see that there would only be two choices allowed to any American colonist; to support the King or to support total independence and, forced to choose, he would take the side of the King. His objections to British tax policy and trade regulations was not so great as his fundamental loyalty to the hereditary monarch of his nation. In late 1776, early 1777 he joined General Howe and the British army in the campaign to take Philadelphia. Once accomplished, he was made chief of police and head of civil affairs, earning praise for his administrative talents and his organization of loyalist militia forces.

The following year, when the British abandoned Philadelphia, he withdrew with them to New York and from there, with his daughter, took ship to England where he became a prominent advocate for the American loyalists and an adviser to the British government on American affairs. Still thinking that this view of American public opinion was the correct one, he asserted to the British authorities that there were many American loyalists in the colonies who could be instrumental in bringing the conflict to a successful conclusion. His advice may well have influenced the southern campaign in which the British had counted heavily on an outpouring of support and volunteers from American loyalists. In the meantime, the same year he left for England, 1778, the Pennsylvania Assembly convicted him of high treason and ordered the confiscation of all his property. His wife, Grace, had stayed behind in Philadelphia in the hope of saving their property (which was actually her property rather than his) but, of course, this made no difference and she was forcibly evicted from their home. In Britain, Galloway was also called as a witness at the trial of General Howe over his conduct of the war in America in which Galloway had few positive things to say about the general. Howe, to be fair, had little positive to say of Galloway either, accusing him of meddling in military affairs during the occupation of Philadelphia.

When the war ended in defeat for the Crown forces, Galloway settled down to a quiet life in England, devoting himself to religious study and literary pursuits until his death in 1803. His plan has mostly been forgotten today but it is notable that something similar would ultimately become quite common within the British Empire as the colonies of Canada and Australia united to become self-governing dominions in due time. Would his plan have worked? It would certainly have worked in keeping the English-speaking peoples united but as we can see across the British Commonwealth today, may well have fallen victim to the liberal laxity which has affected so many others. Yet, the retention of the American colonies within the British Empire may well have brought about a dramatic change in world history in a myriad of ways one can only speculate about today. That, we can never know, but it remains true today that the view of Galloway, and the basis of his plan, that the people of one language and one nationality should be united, are still not without supporters even while so many push against the notion, just as they did in his own time.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Monarch Profile: King Reinaldo Frederico Gungunhana of Gaza

In the late Nineteenth Century, in the southern tip of what is now Mozambique, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers, existed the grandly named “Gaza Empire”. It was, like other African powers which later claimed the title, actually a collection of tribes ruled by whoever was able to seize control for as long as he could hold it. The Gaza empire consisted of tribes which migrated north out of what is now South Africa earlier in the century due to a combination of famine and the defeat of other African tribes following the “Great Trek” of the Boers after the British abolished slavery. The chieftains of Gaza continued to rely heavily on slavery with the Islamic slave merchants on the coast continuing to do business with them for a very long time. The other power in the neighborhood was, of course, the Kingdom of Portugal which had long claimed the whole area as Portuguese East Africa but whose actual control had, for centuries, been limited to the coastal area from which they did business with Africans who inhabited the interior.

Rough location of the "Empire of Gaza"
The man known by the Portuguese as Reinaldo Frederico Gungunhana was born around the year 1850 with the name Mdungazwe (or Mundagaz). His grandfather, Gaza, had been a local tribal chief who, during the migration, was able to accumulate several other chiefs subordinate to him and thus when they settled in what is now southern Mozambique and established themselves named their new country Gaza centered around the village of Chaimite. The Portuguese, long established in the region, though mostly farther north, sent a small delegation led by a junior army officer to establish relations with this new entity and negotiate a treaty with them on behalf of the King of Portugal. Though the envoys were received, Gaza refused to make any agreement with Portugal and small scale hostilities continued, mostly with other African tribes in the region and occasionally clashing with the Portuguese as well.

Gungunhana was thus born into a tribal society constantly in conflict and was raised with the sole purpose of being a great tribal warrior in the image of his grandfather. When his grandfather died, his father, Mzila, his uncle Mawewe and another chief all fought for dominance over Gaza. Mawewe was victorious and Mzila, with his son presumably, was forced to flee to the Transvaal in what is now South Africa as Mawewe, to prevent any threat to his hold on power, did his best to massacre his brother’s family which was fairly typical for the time and place. This upsurge in violence caused the Portuguese to peg Mawewe as a troublemaker and they arranged an alliance with the President of the Orange Free State (one of the Boer republics) to eliminate this mutual threat. Chief Mawewe did his best to prove the Portuguese correct, sending them a demand for tribute from every Portuguese colonist at Lourenco Marques under threat of their total annihilation. The Portuguese governor, not being the sort to tolerate such threats and having a flair for the dramatic, sent Mawewe a single rifle cartridge with the notice that this would be the only tribute he would receive from the subjects of the King of Portugal. The fact that their earlier offer of friendship had been rejected, naturally, did not make the belligerent attitude of Mawewe go down any better with the Portuguese.

This, however, gave Gungunhana’s father, Mzila, an opportunity to advance his own cause. Learning of recent evens in the autumn of 1861, Mzila went to the Portuguese and offered them his allegiance as a vassal of the King of Portugal if the Portuguese would help him to overthrow his brother and take control of Gaza. Portugal agreed, Mzila declared himself the rightful king of the Gaza and launched a war. He was able to rally some supporters with the help of having Portuguese backing him up and an November 30, 1861 won the decisive battle which secured his control of the area. The following month he signed a formal treaty in which the Portuguese recognized him as the chieftain of Gaza and which made him a subject of the King of Portugal. The war dragged on for several more years though the outcome was never really in doubt as Mzila, despite having initially a much smaller army, had 2,000 antiquated flintlock muskets provided by the Portuguese authorities which allowed him to dominate his enemy.

Gungunhana began to rise in prominence among the other children of his father during these years but as the decades went by, tensions began to rise too as warriors from Gaza attacked Portuguese colonists. New agreements were made and Mzila would offer apologies and expressions of friendship, but such attacks continued sporadically and bad feelings continued to fester. Around this time, as his reign was nearing its end, the “Scramble for Africa” was also starting to get underway. British rule in Africa was expanding rapidly and the Germans and Belgians were also arriving on the scene, eager to make agreements with native rulers for control of local resources. The Portuguese colonial authorities had to move to actually occupy the areas long claimed and to make sure none of the chieftains in these territories were wooed away by other powers.

After attacks on two Portuguese settlements, Mzila went to Lourenco Marques to make his apologies and again pledge his allegiance to the King in Lisbon. Although irritated by the attacks, the Portuguese gave Mzila a welcome full of pomp and ceremony as well as more tangible gifts such as rice, livestock and liquor. At his request, they also gave him a Portuguese flag to fly over his village. The Portuguese also sent an ambassador to his village shortly thereafter. However, not long after, in 1884, Mzila died. Gungunhana was not the heir to the throne but, again, in typical fashion, made war on his brothers and was successful in forcing the heir and other rivals for power to flee the country. By the end of the year he was firmly ensconced on the throne and took the name Gungunhana or “son of the lion”. With his authority covering 90,000 square kilometers of territory and over a million Africans, Gungunhana, at 34, undoubtedly felt at the top of his game. However, the encroachment of the British and the Germans in the area meant that Portugal had to have, not just treaties but an actual presence in every area under her flag, otherwise it would be seen as “fair game” to the more recently arrived European powers.

With the British in the midst of a flurry of expansion, the Portuguese colonial government dispatched Casaleiro Alegria as the Portuguese resident at the court of Gungunhana in 1885. The following year, representatives in Lisbon agreed to a new treaty which would allow Portugal a presence in Gaza, freedom of movement for the Portuguese in Gaza and granting Gungunhana the rank of Colonel of the Second Line in the royal Portuguese army. Unfortunately, that agreement fell apart and a new delegation had to be sent to Lisbon in 1887 to negotiate a new treaty. The Africans were much more cooperative after the recent suppression of the fearsome Zulu kingdom by the British. This was done but events began to unravel very quickly.

Gungunhana decided to move his capital farther to the south, to an area held by tribes that were less than friendly to his own (the Nguni) and this set off a series of conflicts and, again, some sporadic attacks on Portuguese colonists. One reason for this was the presence of some mines in this region which the Africans learned were highly prized by the Europeans and Gungunhana believed that if he could take undisputed control of this region, he could buy the support of the British in helping him divorce himself from the Portuguese. It did not help that at the same time the oldest alliance in the world was being tested with the British expansion into the interior of Africa between the Portuguese colonies in Angola and Mozambique. There were even threats of a naval blockade and relations between the British and Portuguese had scarcely ever been worse. The time for niceties was over and the Kingdom of Portugal had to get very serious or risk losing their territory. To oversee the occupation of Mozambique, Portugal dispatched the respected soldier Lt. Colonel (with brevet promotion to general) Joaquim Mouzinho de Albuquerque as governor.

Battle of Marracuene
Gungunhana, alarmed at the sudden ‘no-nonsense’ attitude of the Portuguese in Africa, went ahead with his scheme to enlist the British on his side. However, the governments in London and Lisbon, unknown to him, had already agreed on where the border between their colonial holdings would be. The spread of Portuguese authority also caused a backlash in areas far removed from Gaza and in 1894 in particular there were large native uprisings against the colonial government. At first, Gungunhana tried to assure both sides of his support but eventually he did have to mobilize his warriors, though he tried to reassure the Portuguese that he simply wished to review them. Portugal responded with a formal military campaign for the pacification of Mozambique. On February 2, 1895 a small Portuguese force led by Major Caldas Xavier defeated a much larger African army at the Battle of Marracuene thanks to the discipline and superior weaponry of the colonial army. That episode got the attention of some of the African leaders but a last effort at a diplomatic reconciliation with Gungunhana fails later the same year. Gungunhana continuously put off the Portuguese, still thinking that he would receive word from the British any day of their support for his cause.

Finally, that summer, Gungunhana refuses a last Portuguese ultimatum and threatens openly to ally himself with the British. This was effectively an outright declaration of war against Portugal. It does not go well for the Africans. At the Battle of Magul on September 7, 1895 a Portuguese column, having formed square, bloodily repulses a massive native attack with their superior firepower. Nearby villages were burned as the Portuguese army moved in. The Africans fighting at Magul, however, were not from Gaza as Gungunhana was still holding back, expecting the British to come fight on his behalf. He is even forced, eventually, to demobilize his army of 40,000 men as he simply could no longer feed them and the men needed to return home to see to their crops. He sends still more messages to the British in South Africa but, as usual, receives no reply. With no other native forces between his own and the Portuguese, Gungunhana became the focus of a direct attack by a heavily armed column of 600 Portuguese soldiers and 500 African colonial troops led by Colonel Eduardo Galhardo.

Battle of Coolela
Amazingly, Gungunhana seemed to think that, as he and his father had done in the past, the Portuguese might be mollified with apologies and renewed promises of friendship. This time, however, that will not be enough and Gungunhana is only able to mobilize a fraction of his previous strength, roughly 13,000 native warriors, to meet the Portuguese. The result was the famous Battle of Coolela on November 7, 1895 in which, again, the Portuguese forces decimate the native army, the African warriors of Gaza losing hundreds of men compared to only five Portuguese being killed. In the aftermath of this disaster, Gungunhana accuses his family of betraying him and announces that he will surrender to the Portuguese, again, still thinking that new promises of friendship will be enough. About four days later the Portuguese take the capital of Gaza, Manjacaze, but find the chieftain not at home. The kraal is burned and the troops march on. Gungunhana had fled to the old capital, the village of Chaimite, where his witchdoctors perform human sacrifice to arouse the spirit of his famous grandfather for protection.

The capture of Gungunhana
With other African chiefs eager to make themselves vassals of the King of Portugal in wake of the recent battles, including members of Gungunhana’s own family, Mouzinho de Albuquerque decided to go himself, with only a handful of men, to capture Gungunhana. The African chieftain tries to stop Albuquerque with gifts, sending ivory and over 500 pounds of gold, later more gold, livestock and even his firstborn son but all to no avail. On the morning of December 28, 1895 Mouzinho de Albuquerque enters Chaimite with its remaining 300 warriors fleeing at the approach of the tiny party. Gungunhana is taken prisoner and the village is destroyed. That was not the end of all resistance but it was the end for Gungunhana who was packed up, along with his seven wives and a few servants, and marched to the coast and put aboard ship for Lisbon. When journalists are allowed in to see him, they are confronted by the pitiful site of a bewildered man, crying hysterically, desperately trying to bargain for his life, convinced that he is to face a firing squad.

This, of course, does not happen and in the midst of a media frenzy the group is moved to a prison fortress where they are such a popular attraction that viewing stands are erected. Not long after they are moved to better accommodations and given their favorite foods, wine and medical care. Gungunhana repeatedly asked to meet with King Carlos, wishing to pledge his allegiance again but, though it is talked about, the King refuses to meet with him. The African chieftain was quickly becoming problematic for the government. Caring for them and the horde of spectators that gathered around them was expensive and while some in Portugal wished for nothing better than for Gungunhana to be shot as a faithless traitor, leftist agitators and enemies of the monarchy were also starting to champion his cause and condemn the pacification campaign as wanton cruelty. Finally, on June 22, 1896, the group was quietly shipped off to exile in the Azores.

The exiled king and his seven wives
The former ruler of Gaza was, on orders from the Portuguese government, treated with all due respect, spending his time hunting rabbits and weaving baskets for sale at the local market. To his dismay, the Catholic nature of the Portuguese monarchy would not allow him to retain his seven wives and so, to assuage him and his sons, weekly trips to the local brothel satisfied them. Eventually they all learned to read, write and speak Portuguese and in 1899 were baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. They adopted western clothes and customs and eventually became accepted, if unusual, members of the local community. Reinaldo Frederico Gungunhana, former king of Gaza, died of a cerebral hemorrhage on December 23, 1906. Some of his descendants still live in South Africa today.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

When Does the Republican Magic Work?

The liberal democratic republican model makes great claims for itself. Even more extensive are the claims of the socialist republican model which promises a communist utopia of absolute equality for all. Liberal republicans (who truly believe in their system) will join us backward reactionaries in noting that the revolutionary, socialist republican model has utterly failed everywhere it has been tried and only persists in countries where it is supported by foreign powers or has largely abandoned its original Marxist economic principles. However, the liberal republicans are less willing to look at their own record of success in living up to the great claims they make for themselves. They, to be fair, have never promised equality of outcome as the Marxists do but they have, nonetheless, claimed to be better than any other system for organizing human endeavor which the world has ever seen in the history of existence. That is quite a claim.

Most liberal republics, however, clearly do not have much of a record of success to back up such claims as we have detailed on these pages before. The republicans of France, for example, can hardly claim to have delivered maximum human happiness and contentment for their people considering that France is currently on her fifth republican incarnation in the fairly short historical period since the French Revolution. The liberal republican model in China hardly drew its first breath before degenerating into civil war, ending only in succumbing to a communist dictatorship. The republican records of success in places such as Latin America or Africa range from fair to appalling and in Europe the most successful countries have been and still are monarchies. On the continent, the most looked-to republic has been the Federal Republic of Germany which, again, does not have much success behind it.

The Weimar republic was a degenerate disaster which easily succumbed to National Socialism and the post-war republic has been fairly prosperous in economic terms but in virtually nothing else and could hardly be said to fit the ideal liberal republican model in any event what with its constant banning of political parties and speech codes which make it clear that the German people are not to be trusted. That is what republicanism is supposed to be all about and yet, the laws of Germany show that they do not trust their people but rather firmly believe that if they are ever able to hear the arguments for National Socialism, discuss or debate such a subject, or the Holocaust, the German people will immediately rush headlong into another Nazi dictatorship. That the Germans would be in the position they are today is hardly surprising, and the idea of the democratic “will of the people” might be seen as not such a priority, given that every generation of German children since 1945 have been routinely marched to museums on a regular basis to be told how terrible there are year after year.

The Italian Republic has certainly been no roaring success. There is much to admire about Italy and people around the world will talk about how great it is (I would too) but only in cultural terms. The people, the art, the music, the food, the antiquities are all great but no one ever boasts about the government which is top-heavy, corrupt and which has buried the future of Italians in crippling regulations and massive debt. The First Spanish Republic was so incompetent that it collapsed very quickly and the Second Spanish Republic almost immediately started down the path to Marxist dictatorship and quickly degenerated into mass murder and finally a civil war which saw it destroyed. Where is the great republican success story? The countries in Europe that people point to as the most successful and the ones which more people want to move to are all monarchies; the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

However, if all else fails, liberals can always point to the one country that mesmerizes people all over the world, the one which both her friends and foes make the center of all life on the planet; the United States of America. Even in America-bashing Europe, the liberals almost invariably point to the United States and to the Founding Fathers of America as the great success story and the example for others to follow. Yet, the liberals, and the left-liberals in particular, cannot seem to get their story straight. On the one hand, they believe that America is so wonderful and so superior to all other countries in the world that it is positively cruel and inhumane to expect people to live anywhere else, while on the other hand being the ones most eager to provide skeptics like myself with the longest list of American failures or to respond to the likes of President Trump with the assertion that, “America was NEVER great!”

That America has done better than other republics, I have never denied. However, I fail to see how the USA can be claimed as the great, liberal, success story when the liberals themselves continuously redefine their measure of success. For example, liberals certainly claim to believe in democracy but, what is democracy? Does it even exist? I ask the question in all seriousness because the supporters of this ephemeral thing do not seem to have a substantive answer. Originally, in the USA, democracy meant that all landowners could vote. Then, for most of early American history it meant that all free, White, adult men could vote. But that was not democracy because later it meant that all men of any race could vote. However, it turns out, that wasn’t really democracy either because later still women were given the vote and that was democracy. Now, in at least one state I know of, the definition is about to change again to include convicted criminals, so I do not see how anyone can say that we have democracy clearly defined even after several centuries have gone by in America.

Similarly, if the American liberal democratic model is all about freedom and liberty, why are we constantly hearing about the people who do not have these things and why are we still struggling to achieve them? There was the struggle to end slavery, the struggle for worker’s rights, the struggle for women’s rights, the struggle for civil rights, the struggle for “gay” rights and so on and so forth. Has everyone ever been satisfied with their state of affairs in the United States? I am sure the modern social justice warriors would say that only straight, white, males have been satisfied in America. If true, that is hardly a record of success and if, as the right-liberals would say, this is not true, they still cannot then explain how the American system which they so idolize failed to protect itself from the likes of the social justice malcontents and troublemakers. The more right-leaning liberals would also have a hard time explaining how such gross violations of constitutional rights was able to occur in the Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt administrations. Ah, but, we are told, those cannot be held against the liberal model because it was times of war and great national crisis when Lincoln used military force to suppress the state government of Maryland or when Roosevelt put American citizens in “internment” camps.

That could be a fair point, though the United States government was not at war when federal agents entrapped Randy Weaver into a minor firearms violation and then murdered his wife and son when he refused to be an informant for them. The USA was not at war when federal agents (some of the same ones in fact) stormed and incinerated a commune of religious oddballs near Waco, Texas. No one was ever punished for any of these atrocities, few people remember them or really care. You might even be scolded for caring at all on the grounds that Randy Weaver was probably a racist and the Branch Davidians were a creepy cult. Fine, except the liberal standard they set for themselves claims that people are not supposed to be punished for their opinions or religious beliefs no matter what others may think of them. Not that I am willing either to brush aside the earlier suspension of vast constitutional rights just because it was wartime. Is that not in itself a damning indictment of the liberal republican model that it can only be expected to work when everything is fine and there are no emergencies? Are the traditional monarchies of history ever extended this same courtesy?

The answer, of course, is no. Freedom of speech is widely trampled on in the liberal regimes of the world today, yet, again, the United States is upheld as the exception to this. When you point out that many people are silenced, the response will be that they are silenced by private companies and not by the government. This is a distinction without a difference, the people in question are still being silenced. Liberal republicans, of course, would not allow traditional monarchists to get away with this such as by saying, just as truthfully, that the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church never put heretics to death, the inquisitors simply determined if heresy was present and, if it was, handed the guilty party over to the secular authorities to deal with. No, the liberal republicans would say that the Church and the monarchy were both complicit in suppressing religious dissent. They would not say that when Czar Nicholas II closed the State Duma, as he was repeatedly forced to do, that, as with the actions of American presidents, that the circumstances of the time made such a thing necessary, they simply dismiss him as an autocratic tyrant regardless of the facts of the matter.

The bottom line is this: if liberalism is supposed to be all about the power of the people and allowing the people to do exactly as they please; why are so many people in even the most “successful” of liberal societies so constantly unhappy and discontented? The answer, as should be all to obvious by now given recent events in both Europe and America, is that the people are not actually ruling themselves, they never have done and doubtless never will. They are being ruled but not in an open and honest way and this means that they are being manipulated by those who are their rulers but do not wish to be seen as such. This, I think, is something no traditional monarch has or could ever be accused of doing. For them, such a thing would have been unseemly as well as unnecessary but in the liberal system of idealism, it must be done to maintain the charade, to keep hiding the truth that liberalism is just as totalitarian as every other political “ism” that has ever been devised.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Monarch Profile: King Gustav I of Sweden

In the Sweden of today, King Gustav I may not be as much remembered as he is no doubt quite politically incorrect, however, once upon a time, not so long ago, he was regarded as the “father” of his country. He was the founding monarch of the Vasa dynasty, something of a liberator and the man who took Sweden from the Roman Catholic to the Protestant camp in the division of Christendom that was going on at the time. For this reason he is sometimes referred to as the “Henry VIII of Sweden” though, not surprisingly, such a description will anger as many as it satisfies. He was, in any event, a giant figure in Swedish history, a man who changed the course of history in Sweden and thus, to receding degrees, that of the rest of Europe as well. In the long national story of the Swedish people, King Gustav I is one of those monarchs you absolutely have to know something about. If you understand Gustav Vasa, you will know what a formidable power the Swedish nation is capable of being.

Gustav Eriksson Vasa was born on May 12, 1496 to Erik Johansson Vasa and his wife Cecilia in his father’s castle northeast of Stockholm. This was during the period when Sweden was, along with Norway, under the Crown of the Kingdom of Denmark at the time ruled by King Christian II. It is no coincidence that this same monarch, a formidable figure in his own right, came to be known as “Christian the Tyrant” to the Swedes. This personal union of the crowns of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, known as the Kolmar Union, had been on rather shaky ground for a while and the Swedes were becoming increasingly restive. One of the leaders of the independence movement was Gustav’s father, though he was not the primary leader. Naturally, his son Gustav supported him and supported the struggle for Swedish independence from Denmark. At one point, Gustav was captured but escaped and maintained his resistance to Danish rule.

King Christian II of Denmark launched an attack on the pro-independence faction in 1520 and was successful. However, his victory was followed up by the mass execution of 80 to 90 nobles and clergymen who had been invited to the palace after his coronation as King of Sweden. Some were executed for treason, some on charges of heresy, though Christian II did try to play a bit of a double game on this point, apologizing to the Pope for having cut the heads off several Catholic bishops while telling the public that they had been heretical and that the Pope was about to place Sweden under the interdict if he had not taken such drastic action. In any event, this became known as the “Stockholm Bloodbath” and one of the most infamous events in Swedish history. Most pertinent to Gustav Vasa was that his father was numbered among the massacred. He had opposed Danish rule before, now Christian II had made it personal. Accusations of heresy being tossed around, as well as the story that this was done to assuage the Pope, combined with the fact that the King of Denmark had married the sister of Emperor Charles V of Germany and King of Spain, certainly made for “bad optics” as we would say today for the Roman Catholic Church in Sweden.

For the moment, however, Christian II was in charge and Gustav had to flee for his life, ultimately all the way to Norway. This period later became legendary in Sweden with all sorts of tales springing up about Gustav’s adventures in trying to arouse the national spirit of the Swedish peasants while dodging the authorities of the King of Denmark. Ultimately, he did manage to gather together a small but growing rebel army under his command and in April of 1520 won a smashing little victory over the pro-Danish forces after which support for his cause came pouring in. Shortly thereafter the local nobles elected him regent of the Kingdom of Sweden, causing many more Swedish nobles to abandon the Danish cause and rally to his banner. Those who did not fortified themselves in their castles but these began to fall to Gustav one by one.

By 1522 much of Sweden, though not Stockholm, was under his control and more support began to come in from the German city-states of the Hanseatic League which saw it as advantageous for them if the domination of the Baltic by the Kingdom of Denmark could be broken. This additional support provided sufficient momentum for the Swedish council of nobles to decide to elect Gustav Vasa to be their king. The representatives of the German city-state of Luebeck backed the decision, saying it was the will of God, and Gustav accepted. In light of later events it is interesting to note that Gustav had a very traditional, Catholic celebration to mark the occasion including Eucharistic adoration and singing of the Te Deum. In June of 1523 when the rebel forces finally marched into Stockholm, this was topped off with a mass of thanksgiving. Not long after, the remaining Danish garrisons in Finland surrendered and King Frederick I of Denmark (who had replaced the ousted Christian II) decided to quit before Gustav conquered any more territory. In 1524 the Treaty of Malmo was signed, ending the Swedish War of Liberation and dissolving the Kolmar Union, making the Kingdom of Sweden completely independence once again.

This, however, is when problems of a religious nature began to bubble up. The previous Archbishop of Uppsala and chief cleric of Sweden had been Gustav Trolle, who had taken the side of King Christian II of Denmark during the pro-independence movement, for which he had been attacked. Later, Archbishop Trolle was said to have, in response to this, prepared the list of the men to be massacred in the “Bloodbath of Stockholm”. As the tide turned against the Danes, he was forced to leave Sweden and take refuge in Denmark. As he was no longer in the country, King Gustav I considered his see vacant and wrote to Pope Clement VII requesting that Johannes Magnus be made archbishop in his place in 1523. However, Pope Clement VII absolutely refused and demanded that Archbishop Trolle be reinstated immediately, which is something that King Gustav, nor any other monarch in his position, would have ever done. Nor was Johannes Magnus, the King’s choice, in any way unorthodox, indeed, he would quickly make enemies due to his staunch opposition to the spread of Lutheranism.

Historians ever since have puzzled over the actions of the Pope on this issue. Given the recent change in Sweden, and the fact that the former Archbishop had been on the opposing side of the new king and even implicated in the murder of his father, combined with the fact that his proposed replacement was a solid Swedish Catholic, makes it difficult to say the least to understand why the Pope decided to force the King to choose between restoring such a cleric or separating the Kingdom of Sweden from the Catholic Church. The best that defenders of the Pope can propose is that he was simply not very well informed about the situation, though that too would raise questions about why he stubbornly insisted on the reinstatement.

The result, not surprisingly, was that King Gustav appointed his own choice anyway but was suddenly much more “tolerant” about the spread of Lutheranism in his country. When the King’s appointed Archbishop Magnus came into conflict with this growing support for Lutheranism, the Archbishop the Pope had opposed left the country, leaving a vacuum which the Lutherans were only too happy to fill. In fact, King Gustav had tried to go even farther when the Pope refused to confirm Magnus. He put forward other candidates but the Pope refused them all and when the King proposed other bishops to fill five vacant sees in Sweden, the Pope again turned down all but one of the King’s suggestions. With the Pope refusing to budge an inch, the King finally made the switch and in 1531 appointed a pro-Lutheran cleric to the post of archbishop, breaking with Rome and beginning the transition of the Kingdom of Sweden from a Catholic country to a solidly and officially Lutheran one. This, as was ever the case, ultimately led to a crackdown on those who continued to adhere to the Catholic Church, most of whom were also accused of being pro-Danish traitors. Obviously, the actions of the Pope only encouraged this view.

A series of generally small scale rebellions broke out in the aftermath of this change, sometimes due to taxes and other secular issues but also due to the confiscation of church lands by the state and the switch to Lutheranism. King Gustav was ruthlessly thorough in his elimination of all opposition to this new state of affairs, having the most famous of the rebel leaders quartered. It was an unfortunate and bloody business, however it is difficult to see how the King could be blamed for the break and his intolerance of opposition did spare Sweden from the sort of drawn-out religious civil wars that were seen in other European countries. It was because of these events, most of all the shift from Catholic to Protestant Christianity, that King Gustav is often compared to King Henry VIII of England who broke with Rome shortly thereafter. However, the two cases are actually quite different. There was a legitimate religious reason for the Pope to oppose King Henry and it also came at a time after Emperor Charles V had invaded Italy, defeated the papal forces, sacked Rome and basically taken the Pope prisoner, making it rather impossible politically for the Pope to have just given Henry his damn annulment for the sake of keeping England, a staunchly Catholic country, in union with Rome. No such circumstances applied in the case of King Gustav in Sweden.

Most of the rest of the reign of the first Vasa king in Sweden was spent dealing with the aftereffects of this religious change (he had his problems with the Lutherans too) as well as establishing the state of the Kingdom of Sweden as it would be for a very long time to come. As the leader of a victorious independence movement, King Gustav became a legend in his own time and showed a positive gift for what we would today call “public relations”. In no time at all he came to be viewed as a great heroic figure, a liberator from Danish rule and the stern but wise ‘father of his country’. A plethora of art, literature, coins, songs and books were produced hailing King Gustav as the champion of his country. Married three times in his life, the King fathered nine children, including three future Swedish monarchs, so he certainly did his duty as far as securing the succession was concerned.

The last, and largely only, foreign policy problem of his reign involved the Russian Empire where Czar Ivan the Terrible viewed the new Swedish monarch as an upstart. When King Gustav sent envoys to Moscow, the Czar refused to meet with them and in the message conveyed to them, basically said to tell Gustav that Russia is awesome and Sweden is a puny weakling (and I really am not exaggerating much at all there). This, as you might imagine, did not go over well in Stockholm and in 1554 the Swedes raided a Russian monastery and when a Russian envoy came to complain, he was taken prisoner. Ivan the Terrible launched a formal offensive and the Russo-Swedish War was on. However, neither side gained much satisfaction. The Swedes besieged Oreshek but failed to take it. The Russians, in turn, besieged Viborg but also failed to take it. Swedish diplomats also had no luck in enlisting other northern powers to join their fight against Russia, seeing it all as a silly and pointless enterprise and so, in 1557 a peace was signed and the two sides left each other alone.

By this time, King Gustav I was in obviously declining health and he finally passed away on September 29, 1560. Memories of King Gustav Vasa have changed considerably over time. For much of modern Swedish history, he was as much a figure of legend and folklore as anything else. Stories abounded of his cunning and daring escapes from Danish pursuers, his heroic rallying of the country to his cause to fight for independence and later, when Lutheranism became firmly established and accepted, as the king who had delivered them from the clutches of the “papists”, giving them a Swedish church for Swedish people rather than one ruled by an Italian prince in faraway Rome. Later, however, when Sweden became more liberal and “enlightened” (feel free to roll your eyes there), King Gustav was portrayed as a grasping and ambition man, still a national hero perhaps, but a bit on the tyrannical side. In truth, he was a brave man, a clever man and a hard man. He was a lover of music, a great patriot and, while not unreasonable or harsh without purpose, was certainly a man who would not tolerate defiance. The many legends about him may be simply that but in the context of his place in Swedish history, he was the sort of monarch about whom there should be legends. He really was the father of his country, or at least, the father of what it was for a very long time.
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