Sunday, July 31, 2016

Flag Day in Hawaii

Today is flag day in the state (and former kingdom) of Hawaii or Ka Hae Hawaii day. Among the state flags of the United States, Hawaii stands out. It looks like it belongs but not in the present day. It looks more like a flag from New England during the move towards independence. Indeed, there were flags used by New England regiments in the War for Independence that were very similar, almost identical. However, the state flag of Hawaii is, like the flag of Texas, the same flag as had been the national flag of Hawaii. It was intentionally made to reflect the styles of both the British Empire and the United States, the two foreign powers the Kingdom of Hawaii had most contact with. Originally, of course, Hawaii was not a country and no one had a flag or even really an idea of what one was. It was a totally foreign concept. However, that all changed with the arrival of the British and the Hawaiians took their example from the British. When King Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian islands into a single country under his rule, he used the British flag and the Red Ensign remained the only national flag used by the Kingdom of Hawaii until 1816.

By that time, things were changing around the world. The United States of America had established itself as a power that was here to stay and was starting to make contact with other nations around the world. Some stories say that the U.S. objected to the King flying a British flag during the War of 1812 but that is doubtful. In any event, advisers did warn the King that flying the flag of a foreign power, even an ally (as they regarded the British), was bound to cause problems with other foreign powers. So, the Hawaiians wanted a distinct flag of their own but one that would also show their friendship with United States as well as reflecting their history of close relations or protectorate status with the British Empire. The result was the Hawaiian flag as we know it today, the Union Jack in the canton as a reference to Great Britain and the field of stripes as a reference to the style of the American flag. The alternating white, red and blue stripes, eight in total, represent the eight inhabited islands of the Kingdom of Hawaii; Hawai'i, O'ahu, Kaua'i, Kaho'olawe, Lana'i, Maui, Moloka'i and Ni'ihau. This standardization of the number of stripes to represent the islands was done by King Kamehameha III.

The Kingdom of Hawaii was later overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup by American settlers who proclaimed a republic, however, rather like the short-lived "Republic of California" it was never regarded as a legitimate country, recognized by foreign powers but was simply a stepping stone on the road to annexation as a U.S. Territory. That happened on August 12, 1898 and so the flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii was retained and continued in use throughout the period and after Hawaii was accepted as a state of the Union on August 21, 1959 and on to today. The current heir to the throne of Hawaii is Quentin Kawananakoa or Prince Kawananakoa, who followed the tradition of his family in being involved in politics as a member of the Republican Party. Hawaii, however, being a very liberal, pro-Democrat state, some Hawaiian natives have rejected him because of this and give their support to members of other family lines whose political views are less conservative and more in line with their own.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Italian Empire, A History to Take Pride In

The Italian colonial empire was a short-lived affair but one that had far more extensive roots than most people realize. As a united country, the Kingdom of Italy is often described as the last to obtain an empire and the first to lose it but Italians had been colonizers for a very long time. One need not go back to the Roman Empire when the whole Mediterranean basin was ruled from Italy but simply going back to the Middle Ages or the Renaissance shows that various Italian states had minor colonial holdings of their own. The Republic of Genoa held territory on the Crimean peninsula, the Kingdom of Sicily held Tunisia for some time and the Republic of Venice had extensive holdings down the coast of the Adriatic and in the Aegean Sea as well as controlling Crete and Cyprus. The Grand Duke of Tuscany sent a preliminary expedition to South America with the intention of establishing an Italian colony in the New World but he died before the project could be completed. Unlike virtually every other colonial power, Italians were most often not treading on new ground but simply returning to lands which their ancestors had held, sometimes for centuries, before them.

Governor's Palace in Eritrea
The colonial empire of the Kingdom of Italy had humble beginnings. It started when the Rubattino Shipping Company bought land around the Bay of Assab on the coast of the horn of Africa from the Sultan of Raheita in 1869 to establish a coaling station. This holding was later bought by the Italian government and expanded to become the first overseas colony of the Kingdom of Italy with the first Italian settlers arriving in 1880. Hearkening back to the old Roman name for the Red Sea, the Italians named the territory Eritrea. In 1888 the first railroad in the country was built and another improvement of particular pride was the Asmara-Massawa Cableway which was the longest in the world at the time (the British later dismantled it after World War II). Laws against racial mixing were imposed but no one seemed to mind much as, for the first time in their history, the local Africans had access to modern medical services, improved sanitation, transportation and improvements in agriculture. Italy lost money in the enterprise on the whole but the lives of the natives certainly improved, particularly because of the Italian colonial army which prevented raids on the country from Ethiopia, particularly from the Tigray region.

As a result, many Eritreans enlisted in the Italian colonial army and many gained quite a high reputation. Marshal of Italy Rodolfo Graziani considered the Eritreans the best of the Italian colonial soldiers and the famous cavalry officer, Amedeo Guillet, referred to them as the ‘Prussians of Africa’. During the Fascist era there was also a huge increase in industrialization in Eritrea and a subsequent boom in the population, both African and Italian. Before the outbreak of World War II, Asmara was a growing, prosperous city dotted with coffee shops, ice cream parlors, pizzerias and even its own race track. The fact that it was a “planned” city meant that it had many modern conveniences that even some cities in Italy lacked and boasted scenic wide boulevards lined with trees. These many improvements as well as the threat from Ethiopia worked together to ensure that Eritrea remained a loyal colony.

Not long after the first foothold in Eritrea was established, Italy also gained new territory on the southern side of the Horn of Africa in Somalia. In 1888 Sultan Yusuf Ali Kenadid of Hobyo made his province an Italian protectorate. The following year the Sultan of Majeerteenia did the same and the colony of Italian Somaliland was established. Here, development was somewhat slower as the Italians left local affairs in the hands of the local rulers, paid them a pension and focused on foreign relations, defense and the establishment of port facilities. In 1905 the Italian government decided to establish a formal colony in the region, partly because it was discovered that the local company had been turning a blind eye to the continued operation of the slave trade in the region. By 1908 the legal formalities were finished to establish Italian Somaliland as a formal colony. The most determined problem, early on, was the trouble caused by Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, aka “the Mad Mullah” but that violent movement was duly done away with and in the Twentieth Century development began to spread from the coast further inland.

Prince Luigi Amedeo formed an Italian-Somaliland Agricultural Society that established new, model plantations in the colony for the growing of sugar, bananas and cotton. The same year, 1920, saw the first modern bank established in Somalia when the Banca d’Italia opened a branch in Mogadishu. Surveys were done, after which more development proceeded such as the establishment of model farms, schools and hospitals. Before the end of the decade, Crown Prince Umberto had come to witness the opening of a new Catholic cathedral in Mogadishu and the region’s first international airport was established. The Sultan of Hobyo was usually very loyal to the Italians, the only problem occurring when he was excepted to allow British troops to land in his territory and Somalis tended to resent the British for their colonial rule over Somali tribes in the north (British Somaliland). After this, the Sultan was replaced by the Italian authorities and the population was disarmed but there were no major problems in the future and the Italians continued to abide by their agreements and allow the original, northern protectorates to govern themselves in their own way. Somalians were also enlisted in the Italian colonial army and included such colorful units as a corps of camel-born artillery.

The Battle of Adowa
There were, of course, bound to be setbacks. When the Italians took control of Eritrea, one of the local chieftains who had given his approval was one Sahle Maryam of Shewa. In exchange for this, Italy gave him support such as modern weapons in defeating his rivals to take control of Ethiopia as Emperor Menelik II. A treaty was signed that was supposed to ensure peace between the two, however, there was a discrepancy in the wording as it read differently in the Italian-language and Amharic-language versions. One established, essentially, an Italian protectorate over Ethiopia and the other said that Ethiopia could have Italian protection but only if and when they wanted it. Each side, of course, accused the other of changing the text in their version, Menelik II broke off diplomatic relations with Italy, effectively declaring war. A small Italian colonial army of a little over 17,500 men was later attacked by an Ethiopian army of around 100,000 and almost totally wiped out, ending, for the time being at least, any idea of Italy establishing any sort of control or influence over Ethiopia.

Italian troops landing in Libia
However, of all overseas territories, none seemed more near at hand to Italy than Tunisia. Not only was it extremely close, but it had a sizable Italian population that had been present for a very long time. In the “Scramble for Africa” the Italian government sat back, taking the moral high road as it were, only to see Tunisia snatched up by the French. This caused quite a backlash in Italy and a renewed effort to make sure that such a thing did not happen again with the other north African lands south of Italy, three provinces still held by the Ottoman Sultan of Turkey, known to Italians as “the fourth shore”. Determined not to let another power snatch this region away from them, the Italian government began investing in the area and when the Turkish government started to clamp down on the increased Italian interest, Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire in September of 1911. Italian military forces landed on the coast and quickly seized control of the major ports while the Ottoman forces, largely Arab raiders with Turkish officers, fell back into the interior to strike at any Italian attempt to move south. The situation produced a stalemate as Italy had been counting on the support of the local Arab population and resources had not been allocated for a major campaign in the desert interior of the country. The Turks, likewise, could rule the desert but proved incapable of dislodging the Italians from the coast or of challenging Italian naval supremacy.

In 1912 the Turks finally agreed to come to terms with Italy, prompted by the Italian seizure of Rhodes and other nearby islands and the threat of an attack on the Dardanelles, which all powers were anxious to avoid. The former Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan were ceded to Italy which, in due time, merged them into one colonial administration, resurrecting the old Roman name for the region, “Libia”. Actual Italian control, however, continued to remain mostly on the coastal region and during the First World War, attacks by Islamic insurgents, backed up by Turkey and Germany in an effort to restore Ottoman Turkish control over the whole of north Africa, forced the Italians back into the major port cities as the overwhelming bulk of Italian military strength was concentrated on the critical border region with Austria. However, all of that changed after the acquisition of power by Benito Mussolini and his Fascist party. From 1923 until 1932 a fierce irregular war raged in the region, known as the Pacification of Libya. Stopping the terrorist attacks on Italian settlers and ending the insurgency took time but finally Italian forces resorted to repressive measures and the rebellion was ended, with the primary insurgent leader actually being captured by a troop of Libyan cavalry fighting on the Italian side. The first modern roads were built, port facilities were modernized and new model farming communities were established. Much progress was made under the governorship of Air Marshal Italo Balbo and when he was killed at the start of World War II, witnesses remarked that the Libyans showed more grief than the Italians at his loss because he had made things so much better.

Victory parade in the Ethiopian capital
The next colonial acquisition for Italy was Ethiopia, which, of course, was the cause of much controversy. It was sparked by an attack on an Italian outpost which was on land that the Ethiopians claimed as their own. The fact that this was not something instigated by Italy is evident enough by the amount of time it took to transfer military forces to Eritrea and Somalia to fight the actual war. The League of Nations opposed this and the issue became larger than Ethiopia but was, rather, seen by Mussolini as a struggle against the leaders of the existing international world order, embodied by the League. The fighting was harsh but, in the end, Italian forces conquered Ethiopia in seven months and merged it, administratively, with Eritrea and Somalia into “Italian East Africa”. Tensions were high at first and when the Viceroy, Marshal of Italy Rodolfo Graziani, was badly wounded in an assassination attempt, there were bloody reprisals. However, he was replaced by the Duke of Aosta under whose administration the country was at peace and began to see considerable improvements, including the abolition of slavery in the country. Plans for the modernization of the capital and other projects were ultimately canceled by the outbreak of World War II.

Italian troops enter Durazzo, Albania
The Kingdom of Albania was occupied by Italian forces with practically no opposition by the native population shortly before the outbreak of World War II, however, again, the fact that Italy joined World War II so shortly thereafter, and the Italian presence was removed after 1943, meant that the Italians were able to have very little impact on Albania. Although, it is worth pointing out, that the period of union with Italy, following the conquest of Greece and Yugoslavia, was the only time that the nationalist goal of “Greater Albania” was actually achieved, albeit for a short time. Before World War II had ended, all Italian colonial possessions were, of course, taken away and given independence or, short of that, given nominal independence under the temporary stewardship of a parent country. It is worth pointing out though that, at the time of Italian entry into World War II, there was no widespread opposition to Italian rule in any of the colonies.

The Italian presence in Albania was not entirely welcomed but not entirely opposed either and most of those in the Albanian government had previously been in the government of Ahmed Zog, the previous potentate of the country. Libya, Eritrea and Somalia were all quite calm and peaceful under Italian rule, the only place where any opposition at all existed was in Ethiopia. That is understandable given that, unlike all the others, the Ethiopians had a history as a previously independent country with their own sense of nationhood. However, even there, serious opposition had been dealt with and most accepted the change and got on with things. In fact, of all the colonial troops who served in the Italian royal army in World War II, the only native soldier to earn the highest Italian decoration for bravery was an Ethiopian. So, even there, considerable levels of support and devotion did exist. What is illustrative of the Italian colonial enterprise overall, and why Italians should not be ashamed of their short-lived period of imperialism, is the fate of the former Italian colonies after Italian rule was removed and these places became independent.

Colonial Mogadishu
The Kingdom of Albania was occupied by the Germans and then, after the Allied victory in World War II, fell to the communists of Enver Hoxha who established a Marxist tyranny, so fanatical and so murderous that it alienated Stalinist Russia, Maoist China and Tito’s Yugoslavia in turn. Albania fell into oppressive poverty and had the lowest standard of living of any European country. To this day, it has not fully recovered. Italian East Africa was occupied by the Allies (mostly British imperial troops) and broken up into the countries that exist today. Somalia was under the military administration of Britain and became nominally independent though in 1949 stewardship over the country was given to the Italian Republic until 1960 when it was joined with the former British colony of British Somaliland to create the country as we know it today. And, as we know, Somalia has become the go-to example in the world for a “failed state”, being reduced by poverty, crime and internal warfare to a state of total chaos. When one thinks of Somalia today it is only as a place of anarchy, warlords and a nest of pirates. Somalis have fled their failed independent homeland in huge numbers, going as far abroad as Minnesota and Sweden to get as far away from their nightmarish native land as possible.

Asmara station, Eritrea
In Eritrea, the first Italian colony, the British military ruled the place until 1950 because no one could decide what to do with it. One person who knew exactly what he wanted to do with it was the de-throned Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie who was pushing for Allied support for the Ethiopian annexation of Eritrea even before British imperial forces had set him back on his own throne. The United Nations, in the 1950’s, finally agreed that Eritrea would be joined with Ethiopia in a “federation” with Eritrea officially remaining independent. That charade ended in 1962 when Haile Selassie dissolved the Eritrean parliament and unilaterally declared the country to be part of Ethiopia. Not surprisingly, war broke out immediately as the Eritreans fought the Ethiopians in a brutal conflict that spanned the next thirty years, only ending when the Eritreans made an alliance with a faction of Ethiopian rebels after which the UN stepped in to hold a referendum. This, of course, resulted in the Eritreans voting for their independence in 1993. Eritrea got it, established a dictatorship and haven’t had another exercise in democracy since. Needless to say, thirty years of war, terrorism and finally Marxist dictatorship have left the country an impoverished wreck.

Haile Selassie & Winston Churchill
Ethiopia, again, is really in a class by itself and cannot entirely be compared to the others. Still, the post-Italian period has not been pleasant for the country, though it would also be worse than the pre-Italian period as well. Haile Selassie was put back in control of the country and money poured in from the victorious Allies through various aid funds. Still, this did not benefit the country overall as serious divisions and problems remained which Haile Selassie struggled to deal with. He championed the cause of pan-African unity and opposition to European colonialism in Africa (even while imposing his own sort of colonial rule over the unwilling population of Eritrea) but this ultimately proved to be not so beneficial to the “Conquering Lion of Judah” as he styled himself. Most of the anti-colonial movements in Africa were communist and after some particularly hard times the communists managed to overthrow Haile Selassie in 1974. This time there was no British Empire to put him back on his throne again and he was murdered the following year. His replacement was a communist dictatorship so vicious and so oppressive that it must rank among the very worst in the entire world. Oppression, murder and misery prevailed to the point that the very name of Ethiopia became synonymous with “starvation” in the rest of the world. Again, even after the communist regime officially fell, the country has still not recovered from the decades of murderous misery the communists inflicted on it.

King Idris
Finally, we have the case of Libya. British military rule gave way to the creation of a new monarchy under the former Emir of Cyrenaica who became King Idris I of Libya in 1951. The British and Americans established close ties with the new regime, built military bases there and in 1959 Exxon discovered vast deposits of oil in the country which changed things considerably. New wealth brought greater resentment and efforts to promote unity failed, mostly because neither the King himself nor any of his people recognized him as a “Libyan” but rather as the Emir of Cyrenaica who had been imposed by western powers over the whole country. He was accused of favoring his own circle when it came to dishing out the oil revenues and of being too friendly with foreign powers and foreign oil companies. This culminated in King Idris being overthrown while on holiday by a military coup led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 1969.

Gaddafi with African chiefs
Gaddafi, as we know, established a brutal and farcical dictatorship over the country, marked by tyranny at home, support for terrorism abroad and for the increasingly bizarre behavior of Gaddafi himself. Whether it was his painfully long orations at the UN, his threats of war against Switzerland or his bevy of buxom female bodyguards, no one could accuse Gaddafi of being boring. He also used the threat of floods of illegal immigrants to extort huge financial benefits as well as groveling apologies from the Italian government. In 2011 the hated dictator was overthrown, with air support from NATO, and given mob justice on the streets of Sirte. Since that time, Libya has fallen into chaos and is increasingly becoming a hotbed of terrorism, economically stagnant, politically unstable and extremely dangerous. Certainly, a far cry from what it had been during the tenure of Air Marshal Italo Balbo to be sure. And this in a country, it is worth remembering, where Italian-born Roman legions marched long before the first Arab ever cross the Sinai or the name of Mohammed was known to the world.

The wartime peak of Italian expansion
No, the historical record clearly shows that Italians have no reason to feel ashamed of their colonial past overall. Certainly there were unpleasant episodes in a couple of places but, on the whole, these parts of the world often saw their only periods of sustained stability and progress while under the Italian flag and the Crown of Savoy. Without exception, none of them have fared better after Italian rule was withdrawn. On the contrary, their record as independent states has been a record of failure. That does not mean, of course, that anyone in any of these places is nostalgic for the colonial past. National and racial awareness exists today in a way that did not exist in those days, though it is interesting to note that the Albanian government recently requested the return of the Italian military to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants (aka “refugees”) into their country, many of them fleeing former Italian colonies that have since become failed states. That, in itself, rather tells the story doesn’t it? European rule once came to Africa and, now that it is gone, Africans (and others) are now coming to Europe to live once more under their former imperial rulers.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

If Japan is Fascist, Then So Are You

Last week, the conservative periodical “National Review” took time out from calling Donald Trump a fascist to take a swing at America’s most important ally in East Asia with an article by Josh Gelernter called, “Japan Reverts to Fascism”. The author wrote with great alarm that Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and the coalition it leads recently won a large enough majority in both houses of the legislature to amend the Japanese constitution, the constitution which Japan has had since the end of World War II and which has never been amended to date. He describes all of the ways that, in his mind, Japan is reverting to a fascist state which seems an odd thing for a conservative American magazine to say about a conservative government that is America’s staunchest ally in the region and easily one of our most important allies in the world. Calling someone a “fascist” is usually the trademark of the left. In fact, today, about the only definition of a fascist is anyone who the left doesn’t like. It is a bizarre and inflammatory accusation to make just at the outset. But, he made it and so must back it up. What evidence does Mr. Gelernter present to justify such an accusation?

He begins by pointing out that Prime Minister Abe and many of his compatriots belong to a nationalist group called Nippon Kaigi which portrays the Japanese as the ‘good guys’ in World War II who were simply trying to liberate East Asia from the clutches of the wicked white race only to become the victims of the overpowering force of the Allies. This is, admittedly, his strongest point as a failure to understand and recognize the mistakes of the past leaves a country vulnerable to repeating them and World War II was certainly a mistake for Japan. The Empire of Japan was destroyed by it, so obviously that wasn’t good for Japan or anyone else. However, as troubled as people in the west have every right to be about being vilified, the effort to refute the vilification of Japan is not something that should be considered troubling or at all unusual. Western countries have done immense damage to themselves by indulging in a masochistic guilt-complex and Japan would be wise to avoid a similar mistake. Also, the fact that the Japanese would have a different point of view, whether you think it right or wrong, about World War II should not be considered that outrageous.

For the sake of a largely American audience, allow me to point to some examples that will best illustrate why this is a double-standard. Most Canadians have a very different view of the War of 1812 than most Americans. Most Mexicans think they were the ‘good guys’ in the War for Texas Independence and the Mexican-American War. Although it is not the case today, for much of American history, most British people had a very different view of the American War for Independence than most people in the United States. Does this bother anyone today? Again, until relatively recently, most Americans in the south still thought they were the ‘good guys’ and the United States were the ‘bad guys’ in the Civil War. It is actually normal for countries to have different points of view about conflicts depending on which side you were on. Now, Japan has not been entirely consistent on this point, particularly concerning the other Axis powers Japan willingly joined before the war started but it is perfectly natural for any country to give their own side the benefit of the doubt compared to others. I could also point out that China and Russia also both have different opinions about World War II compared to the western Allies but no one seems to mind that very much.

However, while that first exhibit on the part of Mr. Gelernter may have some, small, bit of merit to it as something America and other western countries should be concerned about, his case goes from that rather shaky bit of ground to fall headlong into a bottomless pit of ridiculousness. He says that the people in power in Japan are still mad about the Japanese Emperor being forced to renounce his divine status, which is something that is debatable but which, in any event, is something that anyone in Japan should have every right to be upset about. He mentioned fairly early in the piece, which I reserved bringing up until now, that part of the proposed amendments to the constitution that the Japanese government is seeking were described by the LDP with the words, “several of the current constitutional provisions are based on the Western European theory of natural human rights; such provisions therefore [need] to be changed.” Mr. Gelernter takes great exception to there being anything objectionable about “Western European theory of natural human rights”. However, isn’t one of those human rights the freedom of religion? Shouldn’t the Japanese be free to practice the form of Shinto, their own native faith, however they choose? Don’t they have the freedom to believe in the divinity of their Emperor just as other people believe in the divinity of Jesus? Isn’t this one of the main points of the version of human rights he’s defending?

This is why I say that, by the logic of Josh Gelernter, if the Japanese are fascists, then so are you, so am I, so is almost everyone reading these lines. Does wishing to worship according to your own beliefs make you a fascist? He goes on from there to point to such things as people flying the Japanese naval ensign, aka “the Rising Sun” flag which was formerly the flag of the Imperial Japanese Navy, is currently the flag of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and so has been in use long before World War II and is still in use today. Does flying a flag of your country make you a fascist? Probably the most absurd thing he points to as evidence, however, is the Japanese national anthem. He seems to have an obsessive paranoia about this song, the lyrics of which are the oldest national anthem in the world so, again, something that was around long before World War II, long before fascism ever existed. It is a song wishing for a long reign for the Emperor which makes it about as “controversial” as the British national anthem, “God Save the Queen”. Does singing your own national anthem make you a fascist? If you think that is a silly question, why does this only seem to apply to Japan whereas in every other country, flying a historic flag or singing your national anthem is considered the most basic and inoffensive forms of patriotism and nothing sinister at all?

He also points to certain words and international rankings about the media to imply that freedom of the press is being restricted in Japan. He warns that the NHK, the state broadcasting network, is a mouthpiece for the government, implying that it spouts nothing but right-wing propaganda. Anyone can watch the NHK (it has an English-language channel) and see for themselves that this is ridiculous. If anything, the content on NHK is viewed by most Japanese on the political right as being skewed toward the left. This should not be considered surprising given that anyone with any honesty will say the same about the BBC in Britain, the CBC in Canada or the ABC in Australia. In the United States, given what is put out by the likes of CNN, MSNBC or FNC, I have a hard time taking such concerns about Japan seriously. The media itself is the biggest threat to a free press these days given how widespread, around the world, dishonesty and bias is. There is a reason why most Americans, in a country that prides itself on its free press, considers the media extremely dishonest and untrustworthy.

Finally, he also mentions the changes regarding the armed forces in Japan and the degree to which Japan has recently been strengthening the Self-Defense Forces. For an American conservative magazine to make an issue of this is appallingly ignorant. The United States has been urging Japan for decades to strengthen itself so as to be a stronger ally. A strong ally is a help whereas a weak ally is liability. That is a fact so basic that anyone should be able to grasp it. Japan is also in a very dangerous neighborhood. Russia still occupies Japanese territory, North Korea is constantly firing missiles in their direction and Communist China has been building up its military forces at an alarming rate while also making claims to Japanese territory. Any other country in the world with any sense at all would be doing everything they could to strengthen themselves in such a position. I will say again, if flying a flag, singing the national anthem and wanting a strong military is evidence of fascism, then almost every other country in the world would be considered fascist as well.

No, there is obviously a double-standard at work here and it just might have to do with those “Western European” theories about human rights Mr. Gelernter is so fond of. The nations of Western Europe and North America have, sadly, adopted a very liberal, internationalist mindset and guilt-complex that is destroying western civilization. An entire people seems bent on suicide and the people of Japan would only be showing great wisdom in wishing to take a different path. Are we holding up these same values at all anymore anyway? Freedom of religion is one Mr. Gelernter does not seem willing to extend to Japan and in the west it seems these days that some religions have more freedom than others. Freedom of speech also seems to be ever more restricted these days. Freedom of assembly doesn’t seem to be evenly applied anymore, it depends on what you are assembling for. Did anyone notice that the Bush family boycotted the recent Republican National Convention? I know, they oppose Donald Trump but it certainly paints an odd picture that a man like George W. Bush who would go to war to spread democracy would stay home and pout when the democratic process in his own party does not go the way he wanted it to.

The left, and now apparently the National Review, has become so fond of labeling anyone they disagree with a “fascist” that the term has effectively lost its sting. Taking a righteous pride in the symbols of your own country, like your flag or your anthem, to revere your monarch, to want strength and security for your nation and, yes, even to defend the honor of your forefathers should not be considered negative things and the fact that some would shows only that there is something very wrong with them, not with Japan. Of course, anyone can agree or disagree with certain points taken by the Japanese government, one can agree or disagree with their views on World War II but to make such accusations as this article does, for the reasons that it does, is simply disgusting and more alarming than anything coming from Tokyo. To love your country, to wish it to be strong and secure and to take your own side in an argument is natural and would previously have been accepted by everyone as simple common sense. If, however, that is the current measure of what it means to be a fascist, then, all I can say, is that the western democracies must owe a profound apology to the spirit of Mussolini.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Brief Thoughts on the Terrorist Attack in Nice

I will not go into the grisly details of the recent terrorist attack in Nice, France as I am sure everyone already knows them. It was simply the latest in a now all-too-long list of attacks by Muslim terrorists, some fanatics, some hypocrites who simply wish to attach themselves to a cause, against western countries and France has certainly been a prominent target. In fact, France was still in a state of emergency from the last such terrorist attack. This one, however, happened on Bastille Day, the national holiday held on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, traditionally the event used to mark the start of the French Revolution. In a way, such an attack on Bastille Day was disgustingly appropriate. The French Revolution, the damage that it did and the mentality that it caused to take root in France, is directly responsible for the current state of affairs which made such an attack possible. Will the French ever truly come to grips with this? It seems doubtful, certainly the response by French leaders has been no different and showed no greater urgency than after previous attacks, and so the body count of innocent victims will continue to rise while people cling desperately to their delusions. And that is what this is, make no mistake about it.

The motto of the French Revolution and, subsequently the French republics, is "Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood". There is a delusional start for you right there. Liberty is a rather subjective term, equality is an impossibility and if you are determined to try to make equality possible, you make liberty impossible. As for brotherhood, that may have been fine when considering only the French alone but, of course, the revolutionaries never intended it that way and France has been paying the price ever since. The idea of spreading the revolution to France's European "brothers" led to years of disastrous wars that resulted in France being weakened and the Germans being united. Today the mentality has widened to include people from all around the world; Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal and so on. However, even when such people are brought to France, taught French history, had the values of the Revolution pounded into them, even if they are born and raised in France, it does no good when they have another "brotherhood", one of race or religion that runs far deeper than a liberal civics examination. Any Frenchman worth his snails would look at any of these recent attackers, even those born in his country and say, 'I like the word "Fraternity" but still I draw the line / He may be a brother of Francois Hollande but he ain't no brother of mine'.

No, for France to triumph over this crisis, not simply the terrorist attacks which are a symptom of a deeper problem, all the idealistic, ideological nonsense of the French Revolution has to be kicked to the curb in favor of a revival of that older France, that nobler France that the Jacobins worked so hard to eradicate. The terrorists like to refer to the western powers as "Crusaders", which, of course, no western country today is at all but they damn well should be and no one was more prominent in the era of the Crusades than the Kingdom of France. France needs to forget this "fraternity" nonsense and remember the likes of Charles Martel or St Joan of Arc and how they dealt with invaders. If you want crusaders, France has had plenty, there was hardly a crusade in which the French didn't play a major part. The Kingdom of France was officially and proudly Catholic. That did not, as most know, prevent France having good relations and even alliances with Islamic countries or those of other religions, but it was always perfectly clear that France was a Christian nation and expected to remain so. "One king, one law, one faith" as the ill-fated Louis XVI put it.

That France, the France that restored Christianity in the near east, that explored the interior of North America, that frustrated the combined armies of Europe and built the Palace at Versailles, that France would have no problem dealing with this current crisis, because it had all the tools with which to do so. It had a will to survive, ambition to do great things, loyalty to a single leader and the faith of the "Eldest Daughter of the Church". When the France of today, revives and restores the values of that France, the current crisis can be swept away.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Thoughts on the Boer Republics (and their consequences)

I have, from time to time, been asked about my opinion on the Boer Republics and/or the Boer War which saw them fall to the forces of the British Empire. It is a subject I have mixed feelings about considering that I have a great deal of sympathy for both sides of the British-Boer divide. The fact of my own contrariness also plays a part as, during the Boer War, the vast majority of world opinion was on the side of the struggling, little Boer republics and very much against the big, bad British Empire that was at its peak of Victorian splendor and I get very nervous whenever I find myself in agreement with popular opinion. I also dislike the sort of envy-driven hatred that manifests itself against any country or people when they reach the pinnacle of success. It happened to Spain, in happened to Britain more than once, it happened to Germany in the build-up to World War I and it has been happening to the United States and I detest each and every instance of it. The British Empire is dear to my heart and, despite popular opinion today, was inarguably a force for good in the world taken as a whole. However, even Anglophile that I am, I cannot deny that there were occasions in which the British Empire behaved badly as is the case with any country or any people in the world from time to time.

The British Empire had a record of success in Africa that would be difficult to surpass and, again despite what modern detractors would say, it was generally more humane than otherwise. The African lands touched by the British Empire benefited greatly from it with the forces of the British Empire wiping out slavery, introducing modern medicine, agriculture, education and government and they tended to work with traditional native leaders whenever possible. However, no person and no people are totally immune from error and misdeeds and just as the British acted benevolently in India in eradicating certain barbaric practices, the British also acted quite badly such as in forcing opium on the Chinese. The British Empire was a force for good in suppressing the slave trade and yet, in Africa itself there was also instances of Britain acting in a less than altruistic way. The Boer War itself, I think, shows both negative and positive aspects of the character of the British Empire. Greed often seemed to be the driving force behind the start of the conflict and British actions in fighting the war were, sometimes inadvertently though few today would admit it, quite cruel. And yet, the conquered Boer republics were taken into the British Empire and became even more successful still and, after the conflict, the British were generously magnanimous toward their former foes.

For those who complain that I never have anything good to say about any republics, ever (even my own, which is certainly not true), take note that I have no fundamental objection to the Boer republics and moreover that I think the Boer republics had much to recommend them. The Boers were a rough-hewn, rugged, frontier type of people who were excellent horsemen, crack shots with a rifle and devoutly religious -all of which are qualities to admire in my book. Unlike the republics in places such as France or Russia or China, I have no problem with the creation of the Boer republics because of the nature of their birth. They were not born out of any sort of radical, revolutionary upheaval. If France or Russia represent the extreme left in the birth of republics, the United States would be much more to the right but the Boer republics would be even further to the right still. To explain, and for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the story, a brief summary of how the Boer republics came to be is probably in order.

The Dutch arrive on the Cape
Before the British ever arrived in the area, the Cape of Good Hope region of southern Africa was a Dutch colony, part of the very businesslike empire of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. However, then the French Revolution broke out, the French invaded the Netherlands, the Prince of Orange was overthrown and a French puppet state called the Batavian Republic was erected. This meant the ruin of Dutch trade and the loss of most of the Dutch empire with the British swooping in and, after a brief battle, seizing control of the Cape for the British Crown. As many of the locals, mostly Dutch but including some other peoples in the mix, did not desire to live under British rule, they packed up their wagons and left British territory to head deeper into the interior of Africa (the famous “Great Trek”). It was these people who finally established what eventually became known as the Boer republics.

The British became more established in the region and the Boers lived in peace beside them, mostly as farmers and ranchers. They lived simple lives but were accustomed to the hardships of frontier life and were content. However, things began to change when it was found that the Boer republics sat on top of extremely lucrative mineral deposits. They were quite literally ‘sitting on a gold mine’ (and a number of diamond mines too). This, of course, attracted more and more British settlers who moved into Boer territory and that, of course, began to arouse the opposition of the Boers. They began to enact laws to curtail the flow of the British into their territory and the influence they had. That was only natural. It was also then, only natural, for the British to object to their rights being restricted and the British Empire, also not surprisingly, took up the cause of their fellow countrymen against the Boer republics and soon this led to the outbreak of war. Looking back at the overall situation there are few historians who would try to deny that the bottom line was simply this: the Boers had control of vast riches that the British wanted for themselves and they were prepared to fight and conquer the Boer republics in order to obtain control of these mineral deposits. Would any other power, similarly placed, have done otherwise? Probably not. Still, it was hardly Britain’s finest hour.

Boer President Paul Kruger
The world was amazed though by how tenacious the Boers proved to be when confronting the greatest empire in the history of the world. The war, or actually “wars” were long and bitter struggles with the Boers putting up one Hell of a fight. They were not professional soldiers but their way of life had made them a tough and tenacious people and before it was all over you could say that they made the British earn all the gold under Johannesburg the hard way and the payment for all that wealth was in blood. In fighting the war, which eventually devolved into a guerilla conflict with those Boers who refused to surrender, the British resorted to methods that were brutal but effective. The most notorious strategy was to isolate the Boer commandos (a local term the British adopted for their own special forces later on such was their fighting reputation) from their civilian base of support by ‘concentrating’ the Boer population in guarded camps. So it was that the British invented the “concentration camp”.

Today, the unthinking mob tends to think of a “concentration camp” as a “death camp” thanks to the influence of Nazi Germany on the popular imagination. However, this should not be so and the British certainly did not put Boers into camps in order to systematically exterminate the Afrikaner people. Which is also not to say that these were nice places. They were certainly not and large numbers of civilian men, women and children died in these camps from disease, malnutrition and poor sanitation. It was, however, not due to intentional British cruelty but rather to supply shortages, logistical failures and bureaucratic log jam. In fact, it was a British woman who came to the rescue of the imprisoned Boers, raising a public outcry over the conditions in which they were being held and who mounted the effort to relieve their suffering through much more efficient private, charitable channels. Obviously, if the British were a cruel and heartless people, no one would have cared about the concentration camps, there would have been no public outcry and no massive effort to put a stop to it. The British also proved themselves to be gracious victors when the brutal bloodletting was over. Rather than rule the Afrikaners as a conquered people, the British made them partners in the new colonial enterprise that became South Africa and, as a result, many of the men who had fought the hardest against the British became ardent supporters of the British Empire, even taking up arms again to defend it in World War I.

Louis Botha, Boer leader
So, for me, though I am a great admirer of the British Empire, I also see much to admire in the Boer republics, I am not unsympathetic to them and, as republics go, they were acceptable in my book. The important point, for me at least, is that they were foundationally legitimate republics rather than illegitimate revolutionary republics. The Boer republics were, if you like, a ‘creatio ex nihilo’ which did not detract from any existing, established authority to which they should have held allegiance. At the time they were severed from their own, original, mother-country, that (republican) state had been deprived of its own legitimate government. The transfer of territory to the British was not applauded by the Boers but they did nothing to oppose it, preferring to move inland and carve out their own country from the wilderness. The first French Republic, by contrast, was plainly illegitimate but the Boer republics were clearly not and so I have no fundamental problem with them in their origins nor do I know of anything objectionable about their operation when they existed. As such regimes go, they were okay in my book.

Battle of Blood River
There was, it must be mentioned, one aspect to the Boer republics which attracts the most criticism today, given modern, liberal, western sentiments and that was their attitude toward the Black population. I think this deserves to be mentioned, not simply for the sake of full disclosure, but to show that the British Empire was not only hardly as terrible as it is often portrayed but that it acted in a way in which modern-day liberals would have demanded and yet has absolutely nothing to show for such benevolence. First of all, the idea that the Boers should receive no sympathy because, ‘the British stole land from the Boers which the Boers had stolen from the Africans’ is a false, simplistic notion based on current fashionable opinion and not the actual facts. The Boers who made the “Great Trek” came as settlers, not conquerors. They obtained land by peaceful purchase, some Boer families still having the records of such sales from the Black Africans of the time, but most of the land was unoccupied due to the previous wars of conquest by the Zulus who had annihilated much of the previous Black population of the region. There were of course, inevitably going to be clashes, such as the famous Battle of Blood River, by which the Boers fought hard and paid a heavy price for the land they settled but the idea that the whole enterprise was some massive, armed heist is simply not true. The Boers did, however, have a very different attitude toward race in contrast to the British.

The British had long abolished the slave trade and expended a great deal in suppressing it, had abolished slavery long before across the British Empire and even in Victorian times, while certainly not possessing the thinking about race that modern Britons do, tended to look on racism as something terribly uncivilized at the very least. The Boers, on the other hand, took a more old-fashioned and Biblical view of race. They outlawed slavery too though some observers felt that was more in name rather than fact and they certainly viewed Blacks as a people to be kept apart from themselves, people who were different and to be treated differently. Black Africans could not become citizens in the Boer republics, they had fewer rights and freedoms and all the rest of it (any non-Boers and anyone not Protestant also faced degrees of discrimination as well). British society tended to look down on how Blacks were treated in the Boer republics and the inferior position of the Black Africans in the Boer republics was one of the ways that British public opinion was turned in favor of military action against them though it could hardly be argued that this was ever the primary reason for the war. Nonetheless, that was an aspect which enemies of the British Empire today tend to overlook. The vast majority of Black Africans supported the British because the British offered them more rights and more equal treatment than the Boers.

This, of course, eventually culminated in the collapse of the British Empire in Africa as the British government supported granting the franchise to Blacks, effectively handing them total control over South Africa (and other colonies) from the white minority. This led to an ugly stand-off with Rhodesia and British participation in international boycotts against apartheid South Africa, forever alienating the white populations of these countries. Critics of the British Empire today willfully ignore the fact that in South Africa, and other Black-majority countries across the continent, the British government took the side of the Black Africans against the White Africans, their own kith & kin many of them, something unprecedented in the history of all peoples all around the world. This is a fact, yet, from a monarchist perspective, one is forced to conclude that did nothing at all to benefit the Crown, British influence or even goodwill towards the UK.

By taking the side of the Black Africans, another race against those of their own blood in South Africa, the Boers and other White Africans tended to view the British as race-traitors, the people who sold out their own kind and it is easy to find people still today who have never forgiven the British for the part they played in the eradication of the White population in South Africa. The Crown, as usual, does not escape such criticism due to the way people view the monarch as the pinnacle and representation of all British people, society and government. However, while that was to be expected, the actions of Britain have obviously not immunized the British from accusations of racism and upon attaining political power, the Blacks of South Africa did not rush to restore the monarchy and become a Commonwealth Realm again. No, as we all know, the republican form of government was one thing about apartheid South Africa that the new regime wished to retain. Some do still think well of the British in South Africa, but it is not something that can be expressed openly without a severe backlash, even if you are a prominent African chief. And, today, Red China has far more influence in South Africa than Great Britain does. Taken altogether, it is simply a fact that neither Britain nor the British monarchy gained anything tangible nor even in terms of much goodwill and gratitude from its history of pro-Black policies in Africa.

Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts
No one figure better represents the change in attitude towards the British monarchy on the part of Boers than the great Prime Minister and Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts. He fought against the British in the Second Boer War, yet later became pro-British and a staunch monarchist after it was over. When some Boers, during World War I, allied with Germany and tried to instigate a rebellion, Smuts and the loyal Boers suppressed them on their own. He was a major military leader in World War I on the side of the British Empire in Africa and was again one of the most prominent leaders on the Allied side in World War II, fighting for the British Empire against the Axis powers (he was even the favored candidate to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom if something were to happen to Mr. Churchill). He also supported racial segregation in South Africa and was very popular but later White South Africans came to view him less favorably as Britain took action against the racial policies of the country. When Black rule came to South Africa, Smuts fared no better as was seen in 1994 when the airport in Johannesburg, named in his honor, was renamed to the ‘Johannesburg International Airport’ and in 2006 was renamed again in honor of a prominent Black politician of the African National Congress. The Boers had fought fiercely against the British Empire but most later came to accept it and rose to prominence in South Africa. Many of them fought for the British Empire in World War I and World War II yet they reverted to republicanism due to British opposition to their racial policies and today one would be hard pressed to find a Boer in South Africa with much regard for Britain or the British monarchy. Thus did British opposition to apartheid alienate the Boers while still not garnering enough support among the Black population to restore the monarchy in a post-apartheid South Africa.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Royal Response to American Independence

The news of the outbreak of the American War for Independence was received in the royal courts of Europe in a way that many today would probably be shocked to know. Post-war perspectives have caused many to take a slanted if not outright false view of how the conflict, and the new country it created, was viewed by the crowned heads of Europe. Most of the major monarchs of Europe actually took a favorable view of the American rebels, each for their own reasons based on the fashionable political trends of the time, their own national histories and, of course, realpolitik. Some of those most would expect to embrace the American cause, actually did not and, contrarily, some of those who did make common cause with the Patriots of America, did so reluctantly and with great misgivings about the whole affair. Simplistic thinking about the period will doubtless cause many to be surprised to know how even the British Royal Family looked at the rebel colonists in North America. It was not what most people probably assume.

King George III
Starting with the royals most affected, the British, the first thing that must be done is to set aside the entire list of crimes cited as “evidence” of the tyranny of King George III in the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson. It is as close as one could possibly get to being completely untrue. King George III was not a tyrant, never acted against the wishes of his government and never overstepped his legal authority. It was only that the King presented an easier target to vilify than the nameless, faceless members of Parliament who passed the legislation which the American colonists objected to. In fact, if one reads his own words on the subject, King George III was at every step leading up to the outbreak of war, always anxious to avoid conflict and resolve the matter peacefully. He was prepared to be reasonable but certainly felt that what was being asked of the colonists was not at all out of order. Once violence did erupt, however, he was the most committed in all of Britain to continuing the war until victory was secured. He threatened, more than once, to abdicate rather than accept American independence or to accept the Whig party into government who would push for such a thing.

As the war went on, the King became understandably bitter and voiced contemptuous views of the American populace, despite the fact that two-thirds were active or passive loyalists. However, as he said to John Adams, the first U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, while he was the last to agree to the independence of America, he was indeed the first to extend a hand of friendship to the new nation and work to retain it as part of the British trade network and commercial empire. What many would find more surprising though, is that the King’s son and heir, the Prince of Wales and future King George IV, was allied with a political faction that practically cheered every American victory in the war. This group was backed by the Prince of Wales and focused around Charles Fox, the Marquis of Rockingham and Edmund Burke. Members of this group even took to wearing the colors of Washington’s Continental Army to show their solidarity with the American cause and most of these men were wealthy and/or aristocratic which says something about just how “revolutionary” the war in America really was. Fox and Burke would later part company over the much more revolutionary war in France with Fox supporting the revolutionaries and Burke staunchly opposing them.

Ben Franklin meets the King & Queen of France
Of course, no monarchy was more central to the American cause than was the Kingdom of France. Indeed, France would prove the most critical in not only securing the existence of the United States but also establishing the first political divisions in the new country. King Louis XVI was the first foreign ruler to recognize the independence of the United States and then formed a military alliance with the Americans against the British. Yet, at the same time, King Louis XVI was, by almost all accounts, very reluctant to ally his country with the United States. As a Church-backed, absolute monarch brought up to believe in the “Divine Right of Kings”, helping largely republican rebels fight against their own King was very troubling for him. However, as his family had a history of supporting the Stuarts, there were plenty of people to assure him that King George III was no legitimate monarch anyway and anything they could do to weaken the British Empire would be beneficial for France. As it turned out, it gained France very little but the French had been nursing a grudge for some time since their defeat in the French and Indian War and previous conflicts at the hands of the British.

In the end, no one did more than King Louis XVI of France to ensure victory for the United States in the War for Independence. Many Americans were truly grateful for this and never forgot it. Portraits of King Louis appeared in taverns around the country and the town of Marietta, Ohio was named in honor of Queen Marie Antoinette. However, one problem was that the most Francophile of the American founders were also the most radically republican. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, for example, were extremely pro-French but very anti-monarchy, though they did effectively make common cause with Napoleon Bonaparte. On the other side of the political divide, the more conservative Americans such as George Washington remained essentially Anglophiles and never forgot that the French had been pursuing their own interests rather than being truly committed to the American cause. Washington was convinced that the King Louis had been more the enemy of England than a friend of America and so he too, after independence, was quick to be friendlier with the British than the French.

King Louis XVI
Ultimately, the only major impact the war in America had on France was in putting even more strain on an economy that was threadbare to begin with. Ideologically, the two sides had little in common. Some of the French officers who fought in America embraced the Revolution, others remained royalists. The death of King Louis XVI gave the U.S. the opportunity to break off the previous agreements made with France and the first foreign war the U.S. fought, known as “The Undeclared War” was against republican France. George Washington was adamant that the French Revolutionary spirit not be allowed to spread to America. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, was quick to embrace the French Revolution and is the one who purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon. Another Francophile, President James Madison, was the one who started the War of 1812 with Great Britain at a time to coincide with Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, effectively putting America on the same side as Napoleonic France. Unfortunately for Madison, the war was a disaster for the United States. As this illustrates though, the earliest political divisions in the United States were centered on one faction that favored friendship with Britain and another that favored friendship with France. Sadly, none had much time for King Louis, one side because he was French and another because he was a king.

The other monarch which, after France, contributed the most to the eventual American victory was King Carlos III of Spain. His reaction to the war in America was very much similar to that of his cousin in France. Being one of the “Enlightened Despots”, he too was supportive of the American push for representative government, welcomed the colonies being able to trade outside the British Empire and was also anxious to recoup previous Spanish losses to Britain from past conflicts. Yet, he too was rather hesitant about coming to the assistance of the Americans. Unlike France, the Kingdom of Spain still possessed a massive empire in the Americas, stretching from roughly the modern Canadian border to the southern tip of what is now Chile and Argentina. King Carlos III was less concerned about the cost involved as he was that some of his own colonial subjects might try to follow the example of the British-American colonists.

King Carlos III
As it turned out, such fears were unfounded as the Spanish, unlike the French, took a more national as opposed to political view of the conflict. They tended to regard the American colonists as British, regardless of what flag flew over them, and never expected there to be long-lasting animosity between the British and Americans. King Carlos III viewed the British Empire in North America as a threat to his own colonial domains and thus an American victory would divide the forces of the English-speaking world while those of the Spanish-speaking world would still be united under the Spanish Crown. So it was that he entered the conflict as an ally of France rather than the United States directly and rather than sending ships and soldiers to fight alongside the Americans, as the French did, waged his own parallel war against Great Britain which proved very successful, regaining Minorca, Florida and control of most of the gulf coast. The recapture of Gibraltar was the only Spanish operation that did not end in victory for King Carlos III.

Prince Willem V
The other major European power that came to the aid of the Americans, with both recognition and joining in the war against Britain was The Netherlands or, as it was known at the time, the United Provinces. This, however, represents a very different case from France and Spain which had monarchs who were reluctant to help the Americans but eventually came around to giving the United States absolutely vital assistance to the winning of the ultimate victory. The Netherlands was a republic at the time but one which was divided between a more republican faction and a more royalist faction known as the “Orange Party” for their wish to see the Prince of Orange given more power and ultimately to become outright monarch of The Netherlands. The republican faction was whole-heartedly sympathetic to the American cause, for both political and business reasons. American colonists boycotting British goods had been the best of customers to the Dutch merchant class and they were very hostile to the British and the competition in trade the British Empire represented. The Prince of Orange, Willem V, however, took the opposite position. He had succeeded his father as Stadtholder in 1766 and was very much supportive of the British and King George III. The anti-Orange faction had the power and the Dutch government recognized the United States and went to war with Britain but it was very much against the wishes of Prince Willem V who did everything he could to hinder efforts to help the Americans.

Frederick the Great
If it seems surprising that the leading royal figure in a country allied with the United States would be so hostile to it, one might find it even more surprising just how friendly toward the American cause the very absolutist and militaristic King of Prussia was. Britain had traditionally been an ally of Prussia and the attitudes of America certainly did not seem to be aligned with the attitudes of Prussia. However, as with others, America benefited from the intense hatred so many monarchs had for the British. King Frederick the Great of Prussia had previously had Britain as his only major European ally. Yet, when new governments disengaged Britain from the continent to focus on colonial expansion, Frederick the Great took this as a betrayal and never forgave the British for it. He viewed the British as false, duplicitous and thoroughly treacherous and never made much secret of his sentiments. He was, of course, not in a position to help the Americans or go to war with Britain but he nonetheless was jubilant to see Britain lose the largest portion of her empire (as it existed at the time) and cheered every American success. He was so exuberant that he later sent George Washington an ornate sword with a greeting, in his words, “from the oldest general in Europe to the greatest general in the world” which shows that “Old Fritz” was letting his enthusiasm for the American cause run into extreme exaggeration. No doubt this zealous moral support also played a part in some Americans considering the Prussian monarch’s younger brother, Prince Heinrich, as a potential ‘King of America’.

In the neighboring Kingdom of Denmark, a major power at the time, the war in America coincided with a political division between proponents of absolutism and constitutional government as well as a lack of royal leadership due to the insanity of King Christian VII. There was widespread support for the Americans among the Danish public and even more in the Danish colonies which, of course, was a cause for concern by those in the government. The outpouring of support in the press for the Americans was also embarrassing given that Denmark was, at the time, allied with Great Britain. Those pushing for constitutional government naturally sympathized with the Americans but there was also economic realities to consider. Denmark was, for example, a major importer of rice from South Carolina and this caused considerable resentment against the British for the Royal Navy blockade of the American coast. These facts had an impact on Danish popular opinion but it likely would have amounted to nothing more were it not for another royal friend of the United States which was Empress Catherine the Great of Russia.

Catherine the Great
Here again was a case of sympathy for America being driven by a hatred of the British. King George III had tried to enlist the Russians as allies on more than one occasion as well as trying to hire Russian troops as mercenaries to fight the American rebels. The Russian Empress responded to all such requests with an adamant “nyet!” The feeling was largely mutual as King George III remarked about how uncivil the Russians were in their response and spoke condescendingly of them as a barbaric and uncivilized people. The Russian Empress was likewise never slow to speak out about how much she detested King George III and found fault with all he did. While being careful to suppress any American political ideas in Russia, Empress Catherine was determined to do all she could, short of war, to hinder Britain and aid the United States. The Russians really played a major part in making sure that Britain was diplomatically isolated while American envoys were able to freely make appeals across the continent.

It was the Russian Empress who organized the League of Armed Neutrality to thwart the Royal Navy blockade of the American colonies as well as other countries at war with Britain. Many of these countries had little to no trade with the American colonies directly but they did do a great deal of business with France and Spain. Ultimately the League included Denmark (and Norway), Sweden (and Finland), Prussia, Austria, Portugal, Naples and even Turkey along with Russia. The Netherlands was set to join but the British acted first, seizing a Dutch ship and prompting The Netherlands to declare war on Britain, making them a participant in the war rather than a neutral. This made life very difficult for the Royal Navy which was trying to enforce a blockade but was hindered by the threat of making enemies out of all of these neutrals if they did so. As a result, of all the neutral powers of the time, the Russian Empire was doubtless the most helpful to the Americans in ultimately winning the independence of the United States. As it happens, when that came about, Empress Catherine derided King George III for recognizing American independence, which she had done all she could to help, saying that she would sooner commit suicide than to grant such recognition to any rebellious subjects of her own.

Emperor Joseph II
For a fledgling republic, the struggling United States actually had more monarchial support than the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland did. However, while still neutral, one major monarchy that was most sympathetic to Britain was one many might find surprising; Imperial Austria (nominally the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, but by that time *very* nominally). The Empress-Mother, Maria Theresa, wrote to King George III, offering him moral support and Emperor Joseph II was even more vociferous, saying to the British ambassador in Vienna that, “The cause in which England is engaged…is the cause of all sovereigns who have a joint interest in the maintenance of due subordination…in all the surrounding monarchies.” Just as the American cause was fairly popular with elites in Britain, it may surprise some that a monarch known as “the People’s Emperor” was so opposed to the idea of American independence but Joseph II, while regarded as an “Enlightened Despot” was very much a royal absolutist and feared that the example of America might be followed by people in his own domains, particularly the Austrian Netherlands, what is today Belgium.

In this, Emperor Joseph II was not wrong as toward the end of his reign the Catholics and liberals in that land came together to depose him and declare independence as “The United States of Belgium”, the first bid for Belgian independence which Joseph’s brother and successor later suppressed. However, realpolitik also played a part in the Austrian attitude toward America and the rather cold reception that John Adams received when he came to Vienna to make the case for the Patriot cause. The Austrians had been trying to improve relations with Great Britain so as to isolate the Kingdom of Prussia which Emperor Joseph II had fought, unsuccessfully, early in his reign. However, the issue was complicated by family politics. The Emperor’s little sister, Marie Antoinette, was, after all, Queen of France which was America’s strongest ally. That marriage had been arranged to bind together France and Austria and the last thing the Austrian Emperor wanted was for Britain and France to be at war, since he desired friendship with both.

Emperor Joseph II
The result of all this was that while Emperor Joseph II was the most supportive of King George III among the crowned heads of Europe, he was prevented from taking any actual steps to help him and rather urged the British and French to make peace but that peace could only be obtained along with American independence so it really placed the Hapsburg monarch in an impossible situation from his point of view as the circumstances came together to favor the Franco-American cause at the expense of Britain. Another monarch, as he was at the time, was Pope Pius VI who had been a consistent critic of Emperor Joseph II (the effects of which were seen in Belgium to be sure) and while he certainly was opposed to many of the principles behind the American war, regarding it mostly as a feud between Protestants and, in the end, could hardly be very critical considering that the biggest foreign supporters of the United States were the Catholic kingdoms of France and Spain, whose support the Pope needed particularly since his relations with the Austrian Emperor had been rather strained. Catholic Poland sent soldiers of fortune to help the Americans and the Church had long supported the Irish in opposition to Great Britain (though the French Revolution would change attitudes dramatically on that front). It was at the invitation of the papacy, interestingly enough, that papal ports were opened to American trade in 1784 and the Pope later gave permission for the establishment of a U.S. consulate in Rome in 1797.

So it was that, among the crowned heads of the world, the United States of America was met with more support than opposition. King George III did not want it to come to war but, of course, pressed the fight zealously when it did. King Louis XVI of France and King Carlos III of Spain, after some initial hesitation, backed the Americans and gave absolutely vital support to the winning of independence for the United States. The Dutch backed the Americans though the Prince of Orange supported Britain, the King of Prussia cheered the Americans and the Empress of Russia worked to isolate Britain and make the United States acceptable in the halls of power across the Old World. The Austrian Emperor sympathized with Britain but more than anything else wanted there to be peace between Britain and France which could only benefit America. King Gustav III of Sweden was quick to recognize the United States, making Sweden the first neutral power to do so. Part of the reason for this was what was politically fashionable at the time but realpolitik proved the bigger factor as did the extent of the unpopularity of the British. British success had garnered a great deal of jealousy, past British victories left many thirsty for revenge and British policies had alienated former friends such as Prussia.

St Mark's republic
The Europe of the 18th Century was, of course, a very monarchial place but not exclusively so. What is just as interesting as the outpouring of royal support for the fledgling United States is the reaction of the European republics. The Dutch, as mentioned, gave staunch support but, interestingly enough, the oldest significant republic in Europe did not. That was, of course, the “Most Serene Republic of Venice” in Italy. The Venetian ambassadors in France and Spain met with the American envoys but, perhaps surprisingly, the Republic of Venice refused to recognize the independence of the United States or to have any formal correspondence with the Americans whatsoever. One effort at formal communication was made, by the Americans, but this was ignored by the Venetian government. The Republic of Genoa did finally come around to recognizing the United States, after independence was won, in 1791 but the Republic of Venice never did the same. There has been some speculation as to the reason for this but the most likely reasons are the opposition of Austrian Emperor Joseph II to American independence and the extent of trade ties that Venice had with the British Empire. In any event, we are presented with the rather humorous fact that an American Patriot like John Adams had more praise for the government of the British Empire than he did for the Republic of Venice, the oldest significant republic in Europe.

Washington at the raising of the Grand Union flag
What does all of this boil down to? At the time of the outbreak of the American War, Britain seemed to be on top of the world and one thing that always accompanies the top spot is the fact that there is no shortage of those wishing to bring you down and who are quick to blame every misfortune of their own on your success. Spain, France, Germany, and more recently the United States itself has been in this position and faced similar opposition. The war in America offered all the major powers other than Britain an opportunity to advance themselves or at least see British power reduced and supporting the United States was the way to make that happen. If this seems to reveal a glaring lack of solidarity on the part of the monarchies of the world, one should also keep in mind that because monarchy was the dominant form of government in the late 18th Century, most did not suspect that the institution itself was in any great danger. The Americans, moreover, were not behaving as the French later would. King George III faced the threat of a loss of territory and prestige, not the loss of his throne or his life and there was no drive to wage an ideological war against the monarchies of the world, again, as the French would later do. On the contrary, the American leaders tailored their message to its audience and actively sought recognition and support from the crowned heads of Europe. As we have seen, they overwhelmingly received it. And, for those monarchs who looked with disdain on the republican Americans, they were confident enough in the superiority of monarchy to assume that the American experiment would soon fail on its own while they, upheld by the hand of God, would endure forever. That, however, is another story for another time.
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