Thursday, January 15, 2009 70 Comments

A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 2)

We have swallowed the red pill, which now makes its way to the stomach. The coating dissolves. The rotor spins up and the device begins to operate. Inside, the sodium-metal core remains intact.

And we begin the treatment. Again, our goal is to detach you - by "you," of course, I mean only the endogenous neural tissue - from the annelid parasite which now occupies a significant percentage of your cranium, and of course is fully integrated with your soul.

This worm goes by many a name, but today we'll just call it democracy. Once we've severed its paradendritic hyphae, you can remove your little guest safely in your own bathroom - all you need is a Dremel tool, a Flowbee and a big plastic bag. Pack the cavity with Bondo, wear a wig for a few weeks, and no one will suspect you've become a reactionary imperialist.

Of course, you came to us. So the worm must be a little loose already, or otherwise unwell. Which is great - but doesn't really assist us in the procedure. UR is a scientific operation. Everyone gets the same cuts on the same dots. So for the purposes of our red pill, we'll assume you remain an orthodox, NPR-loving progressive. Continue reading at your own risk.

We'll start by detaching you from the party line, your parasite, democracy, on exactly one point. You'll feel a kind of faint plucking sensation behind your right ear. It might hurt a little. It is not the sodium core. We are certainly not solving the problem here and now. Yet our point is a substantial one, and detaching it should give us plenty of slack to pull on.

What we're going to do is to replace your perspective of a major historical event, one which you have never considered controversial, but one which is vital to your understanding of the world you live in. And how will we accomplish this? By the most orthodox of scholarly methods. The only tools in our little black bag are (a) primary sources, (b) forgotten works by reputable historians of the present, and (c) modern works by respected academics.

When all I knew of surfing was surf videos, I used to wonder how surfers swim through all those big broken waves out to where it's glassy. When I learned to surf (I am a terrible surfer), I learned the answer: there's no trick. At least, not one that works. You just have to paddle out faster than the crazy, roaring mess can push you in. (Okay, if you're a shortboarder, you can duck-dive. But shortboards are for teenagers.)

Similarly, there is no magic key to history. If you want to make up your own mind about the past, you cannot do so by going there. So you have to find sources you trust. The Sith Library makes this about as easy as it's going to get, but it will always be work.

Anyway. Our point is the conflict you call the American Revolution. For a quick self-test, ask yourself how close you are to agreeing with the following statement. (You're not expected to take this on faith - we will demonstrate it quite thoroughly.)
Everything I know about the American Revolution is bullshit.
Orwellian antihistory, at least high-quality antihistory (and remember, kids, democracy is anything but mildly evolved), tends to fit Professor Frankfurt's handy definition: bullshit is neither truth nor fiction. It is bullshit. If it uses any factual misstatements, it uses them very sparsely. If it has any resemblance to reality, the match is a coincidence.

The typical structure of antihistorical bullshit is an aggregate of small, accurate and unimportant facts, set in a filler of nonsense and/or active misinterpretation. This mix hardens quickly, can support tremendous architectural loads, and looks like marble from a distance.

Especially if you've never seen actual marble. When I find out, or at least flatter myself that I have found out, the actual picture behind my 10th-grade matte-painting view of some event, I am always reminded of something that happened to me in 10th grade. I was listening to a shitty '80s Top 40 station - in the actual '80s. Presumably in a desperate attempt to familiarize myself with actual American culture. When, as some kind of game or promotion, they played a Stones song - Paint It Black, I think. And that was basically it for Cyndi Lauper. This is the difference between real history and antihistory: the difference between Mick Jagger and Cyndi Lauper.

Of course, unlike Cyndi Lauper, antihistorical bullshit has an adaptive function. It exists to fill the hole in your head where the actual story should be. Duh. If everything you know about the American Revolution is bullshit, you know nothing about the American Revolution. This is the basic technique of misdirection, popular with magicians everywhere since time immemorial. You can't see the rabbit going into the hat if you're not looking at the hat.

So: let's put it as bluntly as possible. At present you believe that, in the American Revolution, good triumphed over evil. This is the aforementioned aggregate. We're going to just scoop that right out with the #6 brain spoon. As we operate, we'll replace it with the actual story of the American Rebellion - in which evil triumphed over good.

Yup. We're really going to do this. You're on the table. It's the real thing. In the terms of the time, at present you are a Patriot and (pejoratively) a Whig. After this initial subprocedure you will be a Loyalist and (pejoratively) a Tory. Obviously, a challenging surgical outcome. But hey, it's the 21st century. If not now, when?

Some would just try to split the difference, and convince you that it wasn't black and white - that the "King's friends" had a point, too. Your modern academic historian (as opposed to his more numerous colleague, the modern academic antihistorian) is terribly good at this trick of dousing inconvenient truths in a freezing, antiseptic bucket of professional neutrality.

This is pretty much why you can't just walk into your friendly local bookstore and buy a red pill. It was black and white. It was just black and white in the other direction.

How on earth can we possibly convince you of this? We'll read an old book or two, that's all. No actual incision is needed. The metaphor is just a metaphor. Relax and breathe into the mask.

Let's call our first witness. His name is Thomas Hutchinson, and he is the outstanding Loyalist figure of the prerevolutionary era. His Strictures upon the Declaration of the Congress at Philadelphia is here. It is not long. Please do him the courtesy of reading it in full, then continue below.

Now: what do you notice about Hutchinson's Strictures? Well, the first thing you notice is: before today, you had never read it. Or even heard of it. Or probably even its author. What is the ratio of the number of people who have read the Declaration to the number who have read the Strictures? 10^5? 10^6? Something like that. Isn't that just slightly creepy?

The second thing we notice about the Strictures is its tone - very different from the Declaration. The Declaration shouts at us. The Strictures talk to us. Hutchinson speaks quietly, with just the occasional touch of snark. He adopts the general manner of a sober adult trapped in an elevator with a drunk, knife-wielding teenager.

Of course, as Patriots (we are still Patriots, aren't we? Sorry - just checking), we would expect some cleverness from the Devil. Everyone knows this is the way you win an argument, right or wrong. Pay no attention to Darth Hutchinson's little Sith mind tricks. But still - why would Congress make it so easy? Why are we getting stomped like this? Because ouch, man, that was painful.

The third thing we notice is that Hutchinson actually explains the Declaration. As he begins:
The last time I had the honour of being in your Lordship's company, you observed that you were utterly at a loss as to what facts many parts of the Declaration of Independence published by the Philadelphia Congress referred...
In other words: these Congress people are so whack-a-doodle-doo, half the time your Lordship can't even tell what they're talking about. Presumably "your Lordship" is Lord Germain. Dear reader, how does your own knowledge of the Declaration compare to Lord Germain's? Weren't you amused, for instance, to learn that
I know of no new offices erected in America in the present reign, except those of the Commissioners of the Customs and their dependents. Five Commissioners were appointed, and four Surveyors General dismissed; perhaps fifteen to twenty clerks and under officers were necessary for this board more than the Surveyors had occasion for before: Land and tide waiters, weighers, &c. were known officers before; the Surveyors used to encrease or lessen the number as the King’s service required, and the Commissioners have done no more. Thirty or forty additional officers in the whole Continent, are the Swarms which eat out the substance of the boasted number of three millions of people.
or, most intriguingly, that
The first in order, He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good; is of so general a nature, that it is not possible to conjecture to what laws or to what Colonies it refers. I remember no laws which any Colony has been restrained from passing, so as to cause any complaint of grievance, except those for issuing a fraudulent paper currency, and making it a legal tender; but this is a restraint which for many years past has been laid on Assemblies by an act of Parliament, since which such laws cannot have been offered to the King for his allowance. I therefore believe this to be a general charge, without any particulars to support it; fit enough to be placed at the head of a list of imaginary grievances.
What is this fraudulent paper currency? Hutchinson is referring to this episode. The experienced UR reader may well ask: what is it with America and paper money? We'll definitely have to revisit the question.

But suffice it to say that you, personally, do not have the knowledge to produce any kind of coherent response to Hutchinson's brutal fisking of our sacred founding document. You can't say: "actually, Governor Hutchinson, I was in Boston in 1768, and I can tell you exactly why the Assembly was moved to Cambridge. What really happened is that..." For all you or I know about Boston in 1768, of course, Hutchinson could just as easily be the one yanking our chains. But why, then, are we so sure he's wrong?

Of course, you don't really think of the Declaration as a list of factual particulars. You think of it as a deep moral statement, about humanity, or something. Nonetheless, it does contain a list of particulars. Isn't it odd that it strikes us as odd to see these particulars closely examined? One simply doesn't expect to see the Declaration argued with in this way. And, reading the Strictures, one gets the impression that the authors of the Declaration didn't, either.

Which should not surprise us. What we learn from the Strictures is that, as in the rest of American history, there is absolutely no guarantee that a detailed and rational argument about a substantive factual question will prevail, whether through means military, political, or educational, over a meretricious tissue of lies. So why bother - especially if you're the one peddling the lies? Perhaps Hutchinson is yanking our chain, and King George really did dispatch hordes of ravenous bureaucrats to America, etc, etc. But one would expect to have seen the point at least disputed.

But, okay. Whatever. We are still Patriots. So let's advance to the second primary: Peter Oliver's Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion.

Peter Oliver was Chief Justice of Massachusetts and Hutchinson's brother-in-law. His brother Andrew was Hutchinson's lieutenant governor. Like Hutchinson, the Olivers spent most of the '60s and '70s trying to survive the Boston mob, by whom Andrew Oliver was more or less hounded to death. Hutchinson and Peter Oliver died in exile.

The Origin & Progress was written in 1781, but not published properly until 1961 (with an excellent introduction by the historian Douglass Adair). The copy on archive.org is a bank error in your favor, as Adair's edits should still be under copyright. I recommend downloading the PDF. If Hutchinson has already sold you on Toryism, great. Otherwise, please read the whole book, then Adair's introduction.

If you are feeling especially impatient, and/or confident in your knowledge of 18th-century political theory and the history of early New England, I suppose you can skip Oliver's "procathartick Porch" and go straight to chapter II (page 57), where the story starts to really motor. But I don't recommend it. As Oliver writes:
Methinks Sir! I hear you ask me, why all this Introduction? Why so long a Porch before the Building is reached? Let me answer You by saying, that you desired me to give You the History of the american Rebellion, because You thought that I was intimately acquainted with the Rise & Progress of it; having lived there for so many Years, & been concerned in the publick Transactions of Government before the Rebellion burst its Crater. I was very willing to answer your Request. I, on my Part, must ask you to oblige me, by permitting me, in the epistolary Walks, to indulge my Fancy in the Choice of my Path. Besides, you may perhaps, in the Sequel, find some Analogy between the Porch & the Building, & that they are not two detached Structures; altho' a good Architect might have produced a better Effect, by making either or both of them a little more tasty. However, if you will excuse the Hibernicism, you need not enter the House by its Porch, but open the Door of the main Building which hangs at the End of the Porch, & adjoins to it.

Before I introduce you to the House, let me remind you, that I shall confine myself, chiefly, to the Transactions of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, as it was this Province where I resided, & was most intimate to the Transactions of; & as it was the Volcano from whence issued all the Smoak, Flame & Lava which hath since enveloped the whole British american Continent, for the Length of above 1700 Miles. If I deviate into other Colonies, my Excursions will be few & short. I promise You that I will adhere most sacredly to Truth, & endeavor to steer as clear as possible from Exaggeration; although many Facts may appear to be exaggerated, to a candid Mind, which is always fond of viewing human Nature on the brightest Side of its Orb.
The Origin & Progress is obviously a very different animal from the Strictures.

What's so neat about Peter Oliver's little book is that, besides being a primary source of considerable historical value, it is also an artistic work of considerable literary merit. The tone, as we see, is almost postmodern. Oliver has a voice, and even here in the benighted 21st century (where we think "candid" means "honest," rather than "naive"), we can hear it. This is a man you could have a beer with. Even from the strongest revolutionary characters, TJ and John Adams, it is hard to get such a three-dimensional presence.

The past, as they say, is a foreign country. Imagine you were a hippie backpacker visiting, say, Armenia, having read a few newspaper stories about how the Armenian Democratic Front is struggling nobly against the iron oppression of the Armenian People's Party - this being roughly comparable to the average American's knowledge of prerevolutionary Massachusetts politics. But leaving the airport in Yerevan, you meet Vartan ("call me Varty!"), a die-hard APP man, and wind up drinking with him and his boho friends until four in the morning. Of course, you'll leave Armenia a dedicated supporter of the APP. This is roughly how we intend to convert you into a Loyalist. You can't actually have a beer with Peter Oliver, but you can read his book.

Speaking of John Adams, there's actually another point of contact: you can rent the first disc of the HBO miniseries by that name. I gave up after an episode and a half - I have put a little work into my picture of the 1770s, and I don't want it contaminated with Hollywood's. But I will say this: HBO's Samuel Adams, as a sort of 18th-century Al Sharpton, is dead on. As Oliver puts it:
I shall next give you a Sketch of some of Mr. Samuel Adams' Features; & I do not know how to delineate them stronger, than by the Observation made by a celebrated Painter in America, vizt. "That if he wished to draw the Picture of the Devil, that he would get Sam Adams to sit for him:" & indeed, a very ordinary Physiognomist would, at a transient View of his Countenance, develope the Malignity of his Heart. He was a Person of Understanding, but it was discoverable rather by a Shrewdness than Solidity of Judgment; & he understood human Nature, in low life, so well, that he could turn the Minds of the great Vulgar as well as the small into any Course that he might chuse; perhaps he was a singular Instance in this Kind; & he never failed of employing his Abilities to the vilest Purposes.
His beer sucks, too. And few will forget this portrait of John Hancock, as the dim young Trustafarian, and general Wallet of what Oliver calls "the Faction":
Here I am almost necessarily led into a Digression upon Mr. Hancock's Character, who was as closely attached to the hindermost part of Mr. Adams as the Rattles are affixed to the Tail of the Rattle Snake. Mr. Hancock was the Son of a dissenting Clergyman, whose Circumstances in Life were not above Mediocrity, but he had a rich Uncle. He was educated at Harvard College, was introduced into his uncles Warehouse as a Merchant, & upon his Death was the residuary Legatee of 60,000 pounds Sterling. His understanding was of the Dwarf Size; but his Ambition, upon the Accession to so great an Estate, was upon the Gigantick. He was free from Immoralities, & Objects of Charity often felt the Effects of his Riches. His Mind was a meer Tabula Rasa, & had he met with a good Artist he would have enstamped upon it such Character as would have made him a most usefull Member of Society. But Mr. Adams who was restless in endeavors to disturb ye Peace of Society, & who was ever going about seeking whom he might devour, seized upon him as his Prey, & stamped such Lessons upon his Mind, as have not as yet been erased. Sometimes, indeed, by certain Efforts of Nature, when he was insensible of the Causes of his self, he would almost disengage himself from his Assailant; but Adams, like the Cuddlefish, would discharge his muddy Liquid, & darken the Water to such a Hue, that the other was lost to his Way, & by his Tergiversations in the Cloudy Vortex would again be seized, & at last secured.
Put your John Hancock on that! Of course, dissenting doesn't mean Mr. Hancock's father was an open-minded dissident, like me. It means he was a Dissenter - ie, a Puritan, and thus a member of what Mr. Otis called his black Regiment. (The Olivers and Hutchinsons were Anglicans.) Don't miss Peter Oliver's discussion of the role of the Puritan clergy in the disturbances, which will not be even slightly surprising to the experienced UR reader.

And yes, the Origin & Progress really is pretty much all this good. Read the whole thing. Consider it a small revenge on your 10th-grade history teacher. And chuckle along with Peter Oliver, when he writes:
I have done Sir! for the present, with my Portraits. If you like them, & think them ornamental for your Parlour, pray hang them up in it; for I assure You, that most of them justly demerit a Suspension.
Black humor - cheap black humor - from the 18th century. And there is more to Oliver than his Portraits. If you want action, skip to the Stamp Act (chapter III, p. 76):
In this Year 1765, began the violent Outrages in Boston: and now the Effusions of Rancour from Mr. Otis's Heart were brought into Action. It hath been said, that he had secured the Smugglers & their Connections, as his Clients. An Opportunity now offered for them to convince Government of their Influence: as Seizure had been made by breaking open a Store, agreeable to act of Parliament; it was contested in the supreme Court, where Mr. Hutchinson praesided. The Seizure was adjudged legal by the whole Court.

This raised Resentment against the Judges. Mr. Hutchinson was the only Judge who resided in Boston, & he only, of the Judges, was the Victim; for in a short Time after, the Mob of Otis & his clients plundered Mr. Hutchinsons House of its full Contents, destroyed his Papers, unroofed his House, & sought his & his Children's Lives, which were saved by Flight. One of the Riotors declared, the next morning, that the first Places which they looked into were the Beds, in Order to murder the Children. All this was Joy to Mr. Otis, as also to some of the considerable Merchants who were smugglers, & personally active in the diabolical Scene. But a grave old Gentleman thought it more than diabolical; for upon viewing the Ruins, on the next Day, he made this Remark, vizt. "that if the Devil had been here the last Night, he would have gone back to his own Regions, ashamed of being outdone, & never more have set Foot upon the Earth." If so, what Pity that he did not take an Evening Walk, at that unhappy Crisis; for he hath often since seen himself outdone at his own outdoings.
You see what I mean by "evil." You probably also remember, dimly, your 10th-grade history teacher plying you with propaganda that glorified this kind of spontaneous popular action. If you want to know how decent people can support evil, find a mirror.

Enough of Peter Oliver. Perhaps he is just not your style, and you remain a Patriot. In that case, there is no further escape. You will have to cope with the long S, and read Charles Stedman's History of the Origin, Progress, and Termination of the American War (vol. 1, vol.2), our third primary source.

I regret to report that there is no such thing as a neutral primary source. Charles Stedman, though, is Colonel Stedman to you. Call him Chuck, and you're shit out of luck. Not only was he a Colonel in the British Army, he was born in Philadelphia - and commanded a Loyalist corps against the rebel forces. Moreover, he is a trained lawyer and clearly has read his Thucydides, of whom his tone and content are quite reminiscent.

Colonel Stedman's history is accurate, clear, and not at all dry. Like Governor Hutchinson, he lets only a few cold digs slip through. The following is a fair sample:
When the assembly of this province [Massachusetts, of course] met in the month of January [1773], the governor [Hutchinson] probably intending to give them an opportunity, if they were so disposed, of doing away the evil impressions which might have been made by the unqualified resolutions of the town meeting at Boston, took occasion in his speech to insist on the supreme legislative authority of the king and parliament.

But if he hoped to benefit government by bringing on this discussion, he was entirely disappointed. The assembly, instead of endeavouring to moderate and qualify the doctrines contained in the resolutions of the town meeting, seized the opportunity of the address which was to be presented, to fix them more firmly and in their utmost extent. They openly denied the authority of parliament, not only to impose taxes, but to legislate for them in any respect whatsoever; adding, "that if there had been in any late instances a submission to acts of parliament, it was more from want of consideration or a reluctance to contend with the parent state, than a conviction of the supreme legislative authority of parliament."

This address also recapitulated a number of new grievances which had not heretofore been complained of. And such was its improper tendency, even in the opinion of the Assembly, upon cooler reflection, that six months after, in a letter to the earl of Dartmouth, Secretary of State for American affairs, they thought it necessary to apologize for it, imputing the blame of their intemperate proceedings to their governor, who had unnecessarily brought the subject of parliamentary authority under their consideration.

In this letter they say, "that their answers to the governor's speech were the effect of necessity, and that this necessity occasioned great grief to the two houses;" and then, in a style truly characteristic of puritanical duplicity, they exclaim, "For, my lord, the people of this province are true and faithful subjects of his Majesty, and think themselves happy in their connection with Great Britain."
Trust me: if you have actually read all three of these selections, you will be under no illusion whatsoever as to what style is, or is not, truly characteristic of puritanical duplicity.

If not, please do so. Feel free to stop reading Colonel Stedman as soon as you are sold, or if you get to the point where the war has actually started and you still are not sold. In that case, we move on to the secondary sources: W.E.H. Lecky's American Revolution (Britain, 1898), Sydney Fisher's True History of the American Revolution (1902, US). And if you are still a Patriot after that, we have to get into the tertiary sources. (Anything post 1950 deserves the "tertiary" warning label, I feel.) Read Bernard Bailyn's Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967).

If you actually read all this, yet remain a damn'd Whig - congratulations Sir! You are poffeffed of an unusually thick Skull - not unlike yr. ancestor, the Pithecanthropus. Indeed Samuel Johnson put it best: the Devil was the first Whig. And to him with you Sir! For the Remedy hath failed.

Otherwise, congratulations on completing the first step of the procedure. Don't worry - the worst is still to come. Also, we need to quickly install your new Tory history.

The outcome of our little reading list is that, if even a tenth of what Hutchinson, Oliver and Stedman say is true, your desire to remain a Whig is now somewhere between your desire to join the Crips and your desire to volunteer for the Waffen SS. Whereas you formerly thought of the values of the American Revolution as liberty, truth and justice, you now see the hallmarks of the American Rebellion as thuggery, treason, and - above all - hypocrisy.

Therefore, since you can no longer be a Whig, you have no option but to become a Tory. The conflict was, after all, a war. No one was neutral. There is no third side.

But what - since we are now Tories - actually happened? What truth are we to install in the freshly-scraped neural cavity?

What happened is that the executive cohesion of Great Britain had weakened considerably since the golden age of Pitt. For most of the 18th century, there was no such thing as a Tory in British politics. The country was a one-party Whig state. As Colonel Stedman puts it: "... that party distinction of Whig and Tory, which had been dormant since the reign of Queen Anne." It may (or may not) surprise you to know that this was considered a bad thing.

The event that triggered the Rebellion was an attempt by certain elements of the British leadership, a group not at that time distinguished by any great talent, to restore full lawful authority to the American colonies. Especially in New England, smuggling was rife, and it was not at all clear how far the king's writ ran.

Moreover, Massachusetts in particular was swarming with unreconstructed Puritans, who had never been properly disciplined for the failure of the previous republican revolution. In contrast to the home country, which had enjoyed 28 years of restored Stuart rule, the attempted New England restoration of the Andros period had lasted only three years, at which point it was terminated by the treasonous Whig coup of 1688.

British politics in the 1760s was coming out of its one-party phase and had stretched out a good bit, developing Whig radicals on the left and proto-Tory "King's friends" on the right. Naturally, the former tended to be low-church and Dissenter/Nonconformist, the latter tended to be high-church and Anglican. George III never pretended to anything like Stuart authority, but he was making the last ever attempt to render the British monarchy a serious arm of politics.

Therefore, everyone had a reason to do what they did. The King and his friends had a reason to try to reassert authority over the colonies. The colonies had a reason to try for independence. Note, however, that the law was entirely on the side of the former. This gave the rebellion the generally mendacious and criminal quality described above, which is why we are Tories. The rebels could rebel or they could think, speak and write honestly, but not both.

Humans being what they are, it is not terribly surprising that quite a few took the former path. Fortunately, this included many individuals of genuine character and substance, such as George Washington and John Adams, who may have been deluded by ideology but were not seduced by cupidity. The rebellion could easily have ended up where France's did, and its failure to do so is more than anything due to the High Federalists, who once they saw what republicanism meant in practice ended up with very similar attitudes toward mob politics that we see in Hutchinson and Oliver - twenty years before the Thermidorean reaction that created the Constitution. Most of history consists of going around in circles, learning nothing.

As Colonel Stedman says, the rebels could and should have been crushed easily. In a fair fight, their real chances against the British military were slim to none. As the Union later found, suppressing guerrilla warfare, even in the wilds of North America, is not difficult given sufficient energy. Britain failed because it lacked that crucial ingredient in every war: the will to win.

Britain in the Revolution was politically divided. Large numbers of mainstream political figures - most famously, both Pitt and Burke - sympathized with the Americans. Moreover, although the tea outrage finally created a nominal consensus for a military response, and finally made it imprudent for a British politician to openly urge surrender, a new lobby developed which urged conciliation, conciliation, and more conciliation.

What we see, in other words, is the familiar pattern of two conflicting prescriptions for maintaining the integrity of the state. The Whig prescription says: conciliate the truculent, assuage their grievances whether real or feigned, loosen the ropes at every complaint. The Tory prescription says: enforce the law, and do not bend an inch in response to violence or any other extralegal pressure. As Oliver puts it (p. 125):
Timidity, in Suppression of Rebellion, will ever retard the Subdual of it.
With our corrected Tory vision, we see the answer clearly. In every case, concessions made to dispel conspiracy theories, reassure the Americans of Britain's fundamental benevolence, and in general appease a fit of calculated insanity, have the obvious effect of displaying Timidity and encouraging further demands. First internal taxation is a violation of American rights, then all taxation, then all parliamentary legislation. The only actual principle that can be discerned is one of unremitting chutzpah and hypocrisy.

The relationship between Britain and Massachusetts, in particular, was much like that between a parent and a teenager. Independence or loyalty: it could go either way, at least for the moment. Scenario: your teenager starts cutting class. So you take her car keys away. So she throws your widescreen TV out the window. So you give her car keys back. Is this pattern of behavior more likely to result in independence, or loyalty?

But this is basically the American policy that the Whigs prescribed. And with the repeal of the Stamp Act, thanks to Burke (who at least later learned better) and the Rockingham Whigs, it's the policy they enacted. And even when the left Whigs were not, precisely, in the driver's seat, they were in the passenger seat, yelling. While sold as a policy for the reconciliation of Britain and America, Burke's policy could hardly have been a better design for the encouragement of an American rebellion and the prospects of its success - which was, of course, achieved.

For example, General Howe among other British military figures is known to have had strong Whig sympathies. His role in America was also twofold: he was there to either defeat the rebels, or make peace with them. Obviously, the latter would have been greatly to his political advantage. Whether his failures in the war were the result of this conflict of interest, or of simple incompetence, can never be known. But the former is surely a reasonable suspicion.

Colonel Stedman, in his dedication, sums it up both well and not impolitically:
The pain of recording that spirit of faction, indecision, indolence, luxury, and corruption, which disgraced our public conduct during the course of the American war...
What, from the historiographic perspective, is particularly galling, is that the explanation that was generally accepted, even in Britain, for most of the 19th century is the Whig one. The rebellion succeeded not because it was not dealt with quickly and decisively, but because the Americans were not conciliated enough. (Alternatively, it succeeded because the Americans were militarily invincible - another common Whig trope.)

This is the secret of puritanical duplicity: no shame, none whatsoever. Every quack who hopes to outlast chance must learn the trick. If you bleed the patient and he dies, obviously you didn't draw enough blood. Never concede error. Counter every criticism with a barrage of even more gloriously inflated claims. You can see why the likes of Hutchinson and Oliver had no chance at all against the black Regiment.

Evil is typically more powerful than good. Bad men delight in weapons that good men spurn. Success in past conflicts, political or military, is not Bayesian evidence of moral superiority. It is just the opposite. Which is why it's a problem that the winners write the history books.

So: we've completed the operation, at least as far as the American Rebellion is concerned. We've created a clean separation between the parasite, democracy, and your understanding of the 18th century, and we've replaced the infected Whig mass with a small dose of healthy Tory history. Presumably the counter-democratic nature of the latter is obvious, if not definitive.

In retrospect, your former support for the Whig cause was a classic received opinion, installed without any sort of thought on your part. In other words, it is not something you were reasoned into. It is to your credit as a thinker that you've let yourself be reasoned out of it. If you think of Patriot v. Loyalist as a lawsuit and yourself as a juror, not only had you never heard a single word from the defense, you hadn't even really heard a proper prosecution. There was never any need. The annelid just raised your hand to convict. Megaloponera foetens, thy name is you.

Note, from an almost military perspective, the curious weakness of your convictions in this regard. What made the "Revolution" an easy target is that you had no particular emotional attachment to it - at least, not compared to some other wars we could mention. Your attachment to the Patriot cause seemed rock-solid. But it disintegrated on contact with the enemy. It was all hat and no cattle.

But our red pill is most certainly not an information-warfare device - at least, not a democratic one. It is a tool for your personal enlightenment only. As we can see easily from this first target. If UR were, say, a political party, would the first plank in our platform be repudiation of the American Revolution? This should attract about twelve supporters, all of whom are homeless schizophrenics. It will repel many more, of course.

Of course, this only makes it easier for you to swallow the red pill. The parasite has strong defenses against most attacks of this kind - certainly all which are of democratic relevance. This position is intellectually significant, yet undefended because of its negative political value. Turning you into a Loyalist does not solve the whole problem by any means, but it's a foothold, and we can use it to excavate other annelid coprolites in more delicate areas of your brain.

Reversing this one point is not sufficient to replace your entire picture of American history. In fact, it's entirely possible that, if you stop reading UR immediately, you'll eventually relapse and become a Patriot again. (Some may prefer this outcome.)

What we've done, however, is to establish a second narrative. You now have two realities in your head. You have the reality in which there was an American Revolution, which was a triumph for liberty, truth and justice. You may no longer believe in this reality, but you have no way to forget it. And you have the reality in which there was an American Rebellion, which was a triumph for thuggery, treason, and hypocrisy.

So, for example, we can now then ask the question: in the second narrative, the one in which the American Rebellion was a disaster, what is happening in 2009? Whatever the answer is, the two seem quite unlikely to have converged.

But surely we've done enough for this week. I'm afraid the series will require a third.

70 Comments:

Blogger nagydani said...

Discuss this article over at Thiblo.

January 15, 2009 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

America was an accident of politics made possible by an accident in geography. As was England once.
What has happened in America would have happened sooner or later without the rebellion. This is the natural state of man. We have tired of our resposibilties.

January 15, 2009 at 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Primary sources are great things, aren't they?

Noting the comment on Sam Adams's beer, I'm not sure whether it relates to the present product by that name, or the original. Samuel Adams was in fact a failure as a brewer. Then he tried his hand at collecting taxes for the Crown. He failed at that, too, before finding his true métier as a rabble-rouser.

I think MM is a bit hard on the Continentals, if only because the British government had, since the accession of George I, been under Whig domination itself. George could not speak or read English and delegated his authority to Sir Robert Walpole, the epitome of a crooked factor, and probably the first example of a political boss on the modern model. Whig domination continued under George II. The attitude of these administrations towards the colonies was one of inattention bordering on negligence. Only when North America became a theatre in the Seven Years' War, and France began fighting with the British colonies in what was here known as the French and Indian War, did Britain take up a more active interest in them. The costs of maintaining military forces in North America led to taxation of the colonies to provide for their defense by the British. This appeared perfectly reasonable in London - see Samuel Johnson's "Taxation no Tyranny."

Unfortunately, British handling of its colonies in North America went from simple neglect to active mismanagement. George III, who succeeded to the throne at the age of 22, being none too bright, was surrounded by the entourage of his late father, Frederick, the prince of Wales; his mother, the dowager princess of Wales, and confidant (and possibly lover) the Earl of Bute. Frederick had a hostile relationship with his father George II. He was as a consequence brought into the ambit of Bubb Dodington, the crony of "Hell-fire" Francis Dashwood, and a circle of politicians who, not really Tories in the old-fashioned Stuart sense, were nonetheless disaffected from the Whig establishment set up under the first two Georges by Walpole. These people took as their guide a tract by the discredited Tory politician Lord Bolingbroke "The Idea of a Patriot King." It was this crowd, and their adopted manifesto, that occasioned Samuel Johnson's observation that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Xlbrl is therefore right that "America was an accident of politics," though it was not entirely made possible by an accident in geography. It was also made possible by deades of incompetence on the part of British colonial government.

January 15, 2009 at 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, British handling of its colonies in North America went from simple neglect to active mismanagement.

You can't argue that unless you argue that the home country was also "actively mismanaged". All the "outrages" that were supposedly inflicted on the colonies were also inflicted on the inhabitants of the home islands. In some cases (such as taxes) the people at home were hit even harder, and compared to many other colonies, North America was managed with a very lenient hand. Yet the people in the home islands did not rebel, and people in other colonies did not rebel.

January 15, 2009 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Cleanthes said...

So, a bunch of New England Puritans, political ancestors to the inestimable John Kerry, ginned together support for a war against the preeminent naval power of the world.

This is not Whig vs. Tory. This is madness.

Ah, but they depended on the intervention of the French navy! In 500 years of conflict, the French managed to put together back-to-back victories over the English only ONE time. Yeah, neither were crushing Trafalgar-style victories, but they sufficed for the USA to win its independence.

I see the hand of Almighty Providence in this. Some say God loves the USA. Some are right.

January 15, 2009 at 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is it with America and paper money? Of all the grievances against Britian only the imposition of the bank of England's fraudulent paper against the will of the wise people of Pennsylvania strikes as a true justification for revolt. Call me a thick skulled whig if you like, but I'd suffer nearly any thuggery, treason or hypocricy if it meant throwing off the Federal Reserve Bank. It is a tyrant, in that it is "not merely an absolute and arbitrary, but a cruel, merciless sovereign."

Ryan Glinski

January 15, 2009 at 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Anon., of course the home country was mismanaged. Open violence broke out repeatedly in eighteenth-century Britain. There were Jacobite risings in 1715 and 1745, and active Jacobite sentiments persisted even after thr '45. John Wilkes arose as a radical agitator, and following his scandalous publications, the Crown's attempts to suppress them, his outlawry and imprisonment in 1768, public demonstrations erupted and British troops fired on the unarmed crowd. This parallelled the Boston massacre of 1770.

Dashwood's cider tax of 1763 (4 shillings per barrel, payable by the maker) led to widespread agitation, and his biographer Eric Towers writes:

"...inflammatory stories were spread, exaggerated tales printed in the newspapers, petitions organized in the City of London, and mobs paid to riot. Lord Egmont wrote to Bute in alarm: 'Gloucester is already in flames - Bristol, ever disposed to riot, is a very near neighbour - the Welsh counties adjacent, Monmouth and Hereford, are made of struff to kindle with a very little fire, and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall are divided from Glamorgan bu the Severn only...'"

The cider tax unrest was parallelled by that over the Stamp Act in the colonies, and the later tea tax that led to the Boston Tea Party.

Of course, it was much easier for the British government to suppress civil unrest in the home country than it was across the Atlantic, where the logistics of supporting an armed force to put it down were much more difficult, and where there was moreover a well-armed local militia upon the loyalty of which the Crown could not rely. As an illustration, three of my ancestors served the royal government of Virginia in such a militia during Lord Dunmore's War against the Shawnee and Mingo in 1773-4; all of them later fought against the British in the American Revolution. One ended up a captain of the Continental Line. The potential for such a turning of coats on the part of a significant armed force did not exist in the home country. Indeed, the erstwhile radical Wilkes commanded soldiers defending the Bank of England from the mob during the Gordon riots in 1780.

So, while the mismanagement of the British government extended to both sides of the Atlantic, it was able to save its bacon at home, while losing it on the other side of the pond.

January 15, 2009 at 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, but they depended on the intervention of the French navy!

Read the Sydney Fisher book he links to. They depended not on the intervention of the French Navy but on the treason of Whigs in England and the cooperation of General Howe with the Whig program. Howe could have crushed the Patriots long before the French showed up if he was serious about it.

January 15, 2009 at 8:01 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

The outcome of our little reading list is that, if even a tenth of what Hutchinson, Oliver and Stedman say is true, your desire to remain a Whig is now somewhere between your desire to join the Crips and your desire to volunteer for the Waffen SS. Whereas you formerly thought of the values of the American Revolution as liberty, truth and justice, you now see the hallmarks of the American Rebellion as thuggery, treason, and - above all - hypocrisy.

Seems to me all you have shown, even accepting your books and nothing Whiggish, is that some of the leaders of the Patriots, particularly in the immediate pre-revolutionary period, were thugs, traitors, and hypocrits. But that does not generalize to "the values of the American Revolution". The common people may have been tricked by these sneaky, duplicitous Puritans into believing that their liberty was threatened. And that the right to govern springs from the will of people. (How silly that is!) But they were no less sincere for that.

Therefore, since you can no longer be a Whig, you have no option but to become a Tory. The conflict was, after all, a war. No one was neutral. There is no third side.

Dude, that wasn't even true then. There were lots of people trying not to be involved. But us?? This is 2009. We are most emphatically not in the middle of the American Revolution. We most certainly do have the option to be neutral.

There is plenty of room for other opinions, indeed, an infinity of them. We can pick and choose our villians, for example, excoriating both the rabble who would threaten to kill children and an ineffectual general laying down for his politically cherished rebels.

January 15, 2009 at 10:08 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Just finished Hobbes' Leviathan. Couldn't help but think of Mencius, and must thank him because the preparatory work here at UR was invaluable in understanding Hobbes' position fully.

But here's the thing; the natural state of man may indeed be a war of all against all, but the state of the state is not divine - it is exploitation. The state is made up of men, and so the war continues. Was the English Revolution a return to a state of war as Hobbes contends? Was the American Revolution? Sorry, but no. Not a return. A continuation. Again, the natural state of the state is exploitation, i.e., war, not of all against all, but of exploiters against exploited - war - still. Leviathan is simply ultimate exploitation - and the appropriate response to exploitation (war) is war.

January 16, 2009 at 3:33 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Seems to me all you have shown, even accepting your books and nothing Whiggish, is that some of the leaders of the Patriots, particularly in the immediate pre-revolutionary period, were thugs, traitors, and hypocrits. But that does not generalize to "the values of the American Revolution".

Que?

The leaders are thugs, but their message is golden?

How can this be? Do as I say, not as I do is always bad management.

January 16, 2009 at 5:56 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

The leaders are thugs, but their message is golden?

Yes. Is this so hard to understand? Men are men, and undoubtedly many are bad men, even who believe good things. More than that, even men who are doing good are often animated by the normal, base drivers of homo sap -- i.e., love of power. Thus, MMs insightful criticism of modern progressive scutworkers, and their expressed desire to "make a difference". Yes. In plain English, they want power, but that sounds so crass, doesn't it?

In any case, it's not so much that leaders of the Revolution were thugs, it's that they were in the grips of one of Mencius' mind-worms. Blue pill. I.e., they believed in "natural rights"; they had a theory of political legitimacy that could be used for revolution; they believed that England was in the process of becoming despotic and locking them down, both in church and state.

Now, MM will tell you that the very notion of natural rights is a fantasy. Well, yes. I cannot put a right under a microscope and show it to you. And yes, the very idea of rights is poison to Mencius' vision of the state. But I think even MM would eventually revolt against a sufficiently bad state. And certainly he would love to see a military coup in the USA to restore its rightful Stuart owner, or perhaps emplace a corporation to brand us all. He would not justify this sort of thing by "right", though, but that the current state is inefficient, and educates people with untruth. And those can actually be shown, at least to a degree. That's a real advantage. On the other hand, the moral sentiments that underlie rights ideology are human universals, that is, we can agree on them. Whereas, I don't really think that there is any universal human sentiment against inefficiency; we rather like laziness when we can get it. And I doubt the same of untruth -- we rather like that, too.

Is holding a state to a reality-based standard that most people don't care about better than holding it to a fantasy-based standard that most people do care about?

January 16, 2009 at 6:43 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

In short answer, yes.

"Most people" don't care about anything but snacking, sleeping, and shagging.

On the other hand, the moral sentiments that underlie rights ideology are human universals, that is, we can agree on them.

Wasn't the opposite of this one of the points made by Hutchinson? That he didn't have the time, nor was it necessary, to refute just how "unalienable" these rights were?

January 16, 2009 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Also, what the hell is up with the Thiblo thing? What's the point?

January 16, 2009 at 7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, what the hell is up with the Thiblo thing? What's the point?

Beats me, but if I want to discuss this article, I'm going to do so here.

The leaders are thugs, but their message is golden?
Yes. Is this so hard to understand?


Since the Left applies the same logic to Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, and is willing to forgive them any atrocity because their intentions were good and their messages were golden, it should be no surprise that some people are willing to forgive the Patriots for their thuggery as well.

January 16, 2009 at 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mencius's writing reminds me of the Brin Star Wars essays where he argues that Darth vader is good, and Kenobi and yoda are in fact the evil ones.

http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/06/15/brin_main/

http://www.kithrup.com/brin/starwarsarticle.html

January 16, 2009 at 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whoops, here are the links:

link one

link two

January 16, 2009 at 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brin was right in those essays!

January 16, 2009 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

I've left a couple of (negative) comments on the Thiblo site. Frankly, I think Mencius' ideas for supporting argumentation are a lot more interesting than his highly questionable theories of history.

Oh well, may as well repeat them here: it's quite true that most people have a comic-book level understanding of history, with good guys and bad guys. But the answer to that is not to invert the comic so that good and evil are now represented by different sides; but to understand that history and human motivation are complex and not reducible to such an impoverished schema.

So while it's certainly interesting to hear the loyalist point of view and realize that they weren't some kind of Nazi-like villains, but had perfectly reasonable motivations and arguments -- it doesn't make them automatically right and their opponents wrong. I have a hard time understanding how someone can be as intelligent and well-read as Mencius and still be under the impression that history is composed of good guys and bad guys.

January 16, 2009 at 11:30 AM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

I was debating someone over at the Inductivist blog about whether blank slate doctrine got off the ground because of the deformed Protestant, WASP led progressive movements.

I took Moldbug's side in saying that the modern social/economic engineering state was established largely by Protestant WASP progressives and I thought I would post my two replies here because even posters on UR don't quite believe Moldbug when he says modern AngloLeftism is a deformed Protestantism:

http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2009/01/sometimes-theyre-all-same-and-different.html

At 10:22 AM, The Undiscovered Jew said...
"Mencius Moldbug's suppositions have little connection to reality."

Moldbug is to a certain extent correct to assign the origins of modern leftism to the Northeast, though I wouldn't go so far back as to blame the Puritans.

Modern American leftism has its origins in the old progressive and New Deal eras, and these were for the most part WASP-New Englander dominated.

For example, the reason blank slate scientific theories such as Boasian anthropology and Watson-Skinner behaviourist psychology took off among social scientists living in the progressive and New Deal ereas was because blank slate ideology allowed progressives and New Dealers to justify all sorts of government interventions to mold a newer and better society of people.

Sam Francis also found the Progressives and New Dealers as key to getting the modern leftist state off the ground:

http://www.amren.com/ar/2003/07/

Sociologist and historian E. Digby Baltzell in his classic work, The Protestant Establishment, also discussed the importance of Boas as well as of John B. Watson, founder of behaviorist psychology, and his brother-in-law, New Deal Interior Secretary Harold C. Ickes, who was so solicitous of blacks that he was sometimes called the “Secretary for Negro Affairs.” “It is important to see,” Baltzell wrote (p. 271), “that the New Deal’s efforts to change the economic and cultural environment, largely through legislating greater equality of conditions between classes of men, were a reflection of the whole intellectual climate of opinion at the time. In almost every area of intellectual endeavor — in the theories of crime, in law, in religion, and in the arts — there was general agreement as to the sickness of the bourgeois society and the need for environmental reform.”

Prof. Farron describes the reforms of the Progressive and New Deal eras as consisting of “direct election of senators, referendum and recall at the state and municipal level” and “social security [and] the National Labor Relations Act.” These were certainly reforms of those eras, but much of their theoretical rationalization as well as that of the many other measures supported by reformers in these periods was grounded in the environmentalism advanced not only by Boas and Watson, but also by even earlier environmentalists such as Charles H. Cooley, Lester Frank Ward, John Dewey, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. As Baltzell also writes (p. 162), “All were opposed to racism, Social Darwinism, imperialism, and all forms of hereditary determinism; and all assumed the malleability of human nature which was capable of responding to improved social conditions,” and (quoting Dewey), “there must be a change in objective arrangements and institutions; we must work on the environment, not merely in the hearts of men.”

Samuel Francis, Arlington, Va.

At 7:18 PM, The Undiscovered Jew said...
"Are you on drugs? New England is the region where Roosevelt and the New Deal were least popular."

That's because the Northeast and the WASP upper class was heavily Republican at the time.

What I meant wasn't that all Yankees were progressives but that the progressive movement leadership was strongly Yankee.

Furthermore, my main point (and I think Moldbug's point) is that the modern social/economic engineering state's foundations lies in the Progressive and New Deal eras.

This is why Keynesian economics, behaviourist psychology and Boasian cultural anthropology became so influential - all of these three and related academic fields allowed the progressives and New Dealers to justify heavy government intervention into the economy, culture and society.

The whole leftist experiment going back to the French Revolution has been built around the idea that mankind's nature can been be changed and the progressives and New Dealers picked up on any scientific field that justified human malleability.

And if you don't think Moldbug is correct in seeing heavy Protestant overtones in the Progressive movement then I suggest you start reading historians other than Kevin MacDonald.

See Murray Rothbard:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard28.html

Progressivism was, to a great extent, the culmination of the pietist Protestant political impulse, the urge to regulate every aspect of American life, economic and moral – even the most intimate and crucial aspects of family life. But it was also a curious alliance of a technocratic drive for government regulation, the supposed expression of "value-free science," and the pietist religious impulse to save America – and the world – by state coercion. Often both pietistic and scientific arguments would be used, sometimes by the same people, to achieve the old pietist goals. Thus, prohibition would be argued for on religious as well as on alleged scientific or medicinal grounds. In many cases, leading progressive intellectuals at the turn of the twentieth century were former pietists who went to college and then transferred to the political arena, their zeal for making over mankind, as a "salvation by science." And then the Social Gospel movement managed to combine political collectivism and pietist Christianity in the same package. All of these were strongly interwoven elements in the progressive movement.

All these trends reached their apogee in the Progressive party and its national convention of 1912. The assemblage was a gathering of businessmen, intellectuals, academics, technocrats, efficiency experts and social engineers, writers, economists, social scientists, and leading representatives of the new profession of social work. The Progressive leaders were middle and upper class, almost all urban, highly educated, and almost all white Anglo-Saxon Protestants of either past or present pietist concerns.

From the social work leaders came upper-class ladies bringing the blessings of statism to the masses: Lillian D. Wald, Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch, and above all, Jane Addams. Miss Addams, one of the great leaders of progressivism, was born in rural Illinois to a father, John, who was a state legislator and a devout nondenominational evangelical Protestant. Miss Addams was distressed at the southern and eastern European immigration, people who were "primitive" and "credulous," and who posed the danger of unrestrained individualism. Their different ethnic background disrupted the unity of American culture. However, the problem, according to Miss Addams, could be easily remedied. The public school could reshape the immigrant, strip him of his cultural foundations, and transform him into a building block of a new and greater American community.28

In addition to writers and professional technocrats at the Progressive party convention, there were professional pietists galore. Social Gospel leaders Lyman Abbott, the Reverend R. Heber Newton, and the Reverend Washington Gladden were Progressive party notables, and the Progressive candidate for governor of Vermont was the Reverend Fraser Metzger, leader of the Inter-Church Federation of Vermont. In fact, the Progressive party proclaimed itself as the "recrudescence of the religious spirit in American political life."

Many observers, indeed, reported in wonder at the strongly religious tone of the Progressive party convention. Theodore Roosevelt's acceptance address was significantly entitled, "A Confession of Faith," and his words were punctuated by "amens" and by a continual singing of Christian hymns by the assembled delegates. They sang "Onward, Christian Soldiers," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," and finally the revivalist hymn, "Follow, Follow, We Will Follow Jesus," except that "Roosevelt" replaced the word "Jesus" at every turn.

January 16, 2009 at 7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"mencius's writing reminds me of the Brin Star Wars essays where he argues that Darth vader is good, and Kenobi and yoda are in fact the evil ones."

I wonder how Mencius would respond to Brin's raging progressivism since he fervently attacks LOTR for its romanticism, which is integral to all reactionary thought.

January 16, 2009 at 8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

those "Brin essays" are populist trash. What they have to do with Mencius, if anything, eludes me.

January 16, 2009 at 10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And another thing about the Rebellion, every occasion of civil strife is seized upon by the unscrupulous as a chance to avenge real and imaginary wrongs on their neighbours, drive them away and steal their land and possessions, yet the history books never allude to this as a motive for any of the Patriots.

January 17, 2009 at 3:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've left a couple of (negative) comments on the Thiblo site.

Comment here, not there!

January 17, 2009 at 8:30 AM  
Anonymous n/a said...

Cleanthes: New England Puritans, political ancestors to the inestimable John Kerry

Can't let this go. A (half-Jewish) Catholic who models himself on JFK is hardly a political descendant of New England Puritans.

January 17, 2009 at 10:44 AM  
Anonymous n/a said...

I'll go ahead and repost my replies to Undiscovered Jew:

Modern American leftism has its origins in the old progressive and New Deal eras, and these were for the most part WASP-New Englander dominated.

Are you on drugs? New England is the region where Roosevelt and the New Deal were least popular.

The 1932 election brought about major shifts in voting behavior, and became a permanent realignment, though some scholars point to the off-year election of 1934 as even more decisive in stabilizing the coalition. Roosevelt set up his New Deal forged a coalition of Big City machines, labor unions, liberals, ethnic and racial minorities (especially Catholics, Jews and African Americans,) and Southern whites.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Deal_coalition

This sort of basic ignorance of historical fact seems to be a prerequisite for being a follower of Moldbug.

Let's look at some of the names mentioned in your post.

Not Yankees:
- Franz Boas: German Jew
- John B. Watson: "Watson was raised in Greenville, South Carolina and attended Furman University. "
- Harold LeClair Ickes: "Born near Altoona, Pennsylvania. Ickes moved to Chicago at the age of 16 and attended Englewood High School there. After graduating, he worked his way through the University of Chicago, finishing with an B.A. in 1897."

Yankees:
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind . . . three generations of imbeciles are enough." Not quite what I would call an "environmentalist".
- John Dewey: At last we come to a New Englander who shows noticeably in the firmament of modern leftism. Shockingly -- since New England is known to all 12 UR readers as the wellspring of all leftism -- Dewey, like Marx, happened to be greatly influenced by Hegel. Even more saddeningly, I am unable to think of any even half-plausible sophistry with which to blame Hegel on Calvinism.

Yankees not mentioned in your post:
Charles B. Davenport
Henry Fairfield Osborn
Francis Amasa Walker
William Z. Ripley
Lothrop Stoddard
Henry Goddard
David Starr Jordan
Calvin Coolidge
Henry Cabot Lodge
Carleton Coon
Carleton Putnam
William B. Shockley
etc.


"Modern American leftism has its origins in the old progressive and New Deal eras, and these were for the most part WASP-New Englander dominated."

"What I meant wasn't that all Yankees were progressives but that the progressive movement leadership was strongly Yankee."

Again, thinking like this requires ignorance of history on the most basic level.

Here are the names and backgrounds of members of FDR's Cabinet and his Supreme Court picks (known or probable New England Puritan descendants in bold):

Vice President
John Nance Garner - Texas
Henry A. Wallace - Iowa (of Scotch-Irish descent in paternal line at least)
Harry S. Truman - Missouri

State
Cordell Hull - Tennessee
Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. - "Stettinius was born in Chicago, the younger of two sons and third of four children of Edward Reilly and Judith (Carrington) Stettinius. His mother was a Virginian of colonial English ancestry. His father, of German descent, was a native of St. Louis;"

War
George H. Dern - Nebraska
Harry H. Woodring - Kansas
Henry L. Stimson - New York (Puritan ancestry)

Treasury
William H. Woodin - Pennsylvania
Henry Morgenthau, Jr. - Jew

Justice
Homer S. Cummings - Connecticuit (Puritan ancestry)
Frank Murphy - "Frank Murphy was born in Harbor Beach in 1890 to Irish parents, John T. Murphy and Mary Brennan,[1] who raised him as a devout Catholic."
Robert H. Jackson - Pennsylvania
Francis B. Biddle - "Biddle was one of four sons of Algernon Biddle, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He was also a great-great-grandson of Edmund Randolph,[1] and a half second cousin four times removed of James Madison."

Post
James A. Farley - "Farley was born in Grassy Point, New York, one of five sons whose grandparents were Irish Catholic immigrants."
Frank C. Walker - Pennsylvania

Navy
Claude A. Swanson - Virginia
Charles Edison - New Jersey (his father considered himself of Dutch ancestry)
Frank Knox - Massachusetts
James V. Forrestal - "Forrestal was born in Matteawan, now Beacon, New York, the youngest son of James Forrestal, an Irish immigrant"

Interior
Harold L. Ickes - Pennsylvania

Agriculture
Henry A. Wallace - Iowa
Claude R. Wickard - Indiana

Commerce
Daniel C. Roper - South Carolina
Harry L. Hopkins - Iowa (Puritan [plus Scottish-Canadian] ancestry)
Jesse H. Jones - Texas
Henry A. Wallace - Iowa

Labor
Frances C. Perkins - Massachusetts

Supreme Court appointees
* Hugo Black - Alabama
* Stanley Forman Reed - Kentucky
* Felix Frankfurter - Jew
* William O. Douglas - "Douglas was born in Maine Township, Minnesota, the son of an itinerant Scots Presbyterian minister from Pictou County, Nova Scotia."
* Frank Murphy - "Frank Murphy was born in Harbor Beach in 1890 to Irish parents, John T. Murphy and Mary Brennan,[1] who raised him as a devout Catholic."
* Harlan Fiske Stone (Chief Justice) - New Hampshire
* James Francis Byrnes - South Carolina
* Robert H. Jackson - Pennsylvania
* Wiley Blount Rutledge - Kentucky

Not seeing an overrepresentation of New Englanders, particularly considering that New Englanders and Puritan descendants were disproportionately well-educated and civic-minded. [Added: Note also that two of the handful of New Englanders listed above were Republicans appointed to military roles.] I see healthy (probably over-) representation of Jews, Irish Catholics, Pennsylvanians, and Southerners.

And if you don't think Moldbug is correct in seeing heavy Protestant overtones in the Progressive movement then I suggest you start reading historians other than Kevin MacDonald.

I suggest you start reading historians, period.

America was a Protestant country. Of course America's homegrown leftists were mostly Protestant. Strangely, for the UR-initiate, Protestant-infused American strains of leftism were quite a bit less radical than those circulating in Central and Eastern Europe and among Jews.

I think the Progressive reaction to the flood of non-traditional immigrants was entirely understandable -- and very much preferable to toxic modern leftist stances.



But modern American leftism isn't Marxist in origin.

Yes. It. Is.

January 17, 2009 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

Well, at least there was some new stuff this week. But I can't say I see much relevance in it. Maybe Sam Adams was a moral reprobate, and maybe he wasn't, but if someone wanted to claim that the French and Russian revolutions were disasters he wouldn't be reduced to assassinating the character of relatively minor participants. He'd point to the tyrannical systems that resulted, the mass murder of those who expressed dissenting opinions on trivial points, the declaration of war on the rest of the world in a deranged desire to export their revolutions. The things that DIDN'T FUCKING HAPPEN HERE.

What did happen was, a backwater went on to become the most powerful, most prosperous, and arguably the freest the world has yet seen. Maybe we're in our decline, maybe not but either way we've had a good run. Maybe things would have gone even better had the American colonies continued under British subjugation, but how plausible is that?

January 17, 2009 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Dear n/a, as we should know from the passing administration, Republican can often equal progressive.

To wit from la wik:

In 1906 the local Republican committee nominated Coolidge for election to the state House of Representatives. He won a close victory over the incumbent Democrat, and reported to Boston for the 1907 session of the Massachusetts General Court.[25] In his freshman term, Coolidge served on minor committees and, although he usually voted with the party, was known as a Progressive Republican, voting in favor of such measures as women's suffrage and the direct election of Senators.[26]

Right. A Progressive Republican. In New England. Hm.

Wait. . . isn't that what all New England Republicans were generally referred to as? What was the term . . . Rockefeller Republicans?

Hm.

January 17, 2009 at 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George Weinberg said,

"the mass murder of those who expressed dissenting opinions on trivial points, the declaration of war on the rest of the world in a deranged desire to export their revolutions. The things that DIDN'T FUCKING HAPPEN HERE."

Dissidents don't receive jackbooted State compassion here? Hello, Waco Massacre?

Likewise--though this is more of a Leftist talking point, really--it is at least arguable that the Anglo-American Alliance spent most of the Twentieth Century waging war against the rest of the planet in an attempt to bomb them into being more like us, in Iraq most explicitly (though the economic warfare we waged against Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa, late of the First World, now heading rapidly for failed-state status as a direct result of US support for the Mandela-Mugabe mob may kill more people in the long run), not that Making the World Safe for Democracy wasn't invoked to justify the incineration of hundreds of thousands of women and children in Dresden and Hiroshima.

I'm just sayin', dude.

January 17, 2009 at 2:37 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

George Weinberg wrote "the tyrannical systems that resulted, the mass murder of those who expressed dissenting opinions on trivial points, the declaration of war on the rest of the world in a deranged desire to export their revolutions. The things that DIDN'T FUCKING HAPPEN HERE."

Let's have a look:-

- "the tyrannical systems that resulted" is rather the point at issue here; supposing they didn't result is itself based on values created by the systems.

- "the mass murder of those who expressed dissenting opinions on trivial points"; you'd better consider what happened to the Mormons. It wasn't just a matter of isolated incidents happening to one group, e.g. the extermination order - other groups got the same, e.g. Beaver Island.

- "the declaration of war on the rest of the world in a deranged desire to export their revolutions". This clearly was attempted right at the beginning, with Canada (twice). There are also the cases of the Floridas, Texas, California, Hawaii and Puerto Rico even before you reach cases outside the modern USA like Liberia, the Philippines, and much of Central America (I won't list Cuba as that would be double counting with Puerto Rico). You could plausibly add the conduct of republican plebiscites in post-war Italy and Belgium and possibly pressure for Britain to leave Palestine in order to create Israel (though others were more involved there), and then you get onto regime change and destabilisation efforts of recent years. All these things were attempts to export US systems, to a greater or lesser degree.

January 17, 2009 at 5:43 PM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

i think that's the first time i've ever seen "recrudescence" used positively.

January 17, 2009 at 11:33 PM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

The public school could reshape the immigrant, strip him of his cultural foundations, and transform him into a building block of a new and greater American community.

has anyone got a nice short quote from addams on this? I'm thinking it'd make great t-shirt/bumper-sticker fodder. (sg like mencius' beloved "public housing to reduce crime" new deal poster)

January 17, 2009 at 11:36 PM  
Blogger racketmensch said...

"If you want to know how decent people can support evil, find a mirror."

That's going on my headstone, if I can afford one.

January 18, 2009 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

This might be more appropriate to the previous post, but here's some evidence of how leftists actually believe a lot of the same things as Mencius. Glenn Greenwald has an interview here with a Journalism Professor, and while I don't assign any credibility to that position, it can serve as an example. There's a throwaway reference to Chomsky's Manufucturing Consent (although I don't think this prof is nearly so radical), and in the linked piece a mention of how opposition to separation of church and state is in the "sphere of deviance" excluded by the media as a topic of legitimate discussion, while reverence for Abe Lincoln is in the "sphere of concensus". It is also claimed that the internet is breaking down the power of Big Media and so the center cannot hold. All stuff that would not be surprising coming from Mencius, although there is no mention of Michelle Malkin and Amanda Marcotte's followers fighting in the streets. For my own part, I long ago noted how I disagreed with Greenwald and his idealistic refusal to admit that The People are to blame. I think Mencius is also guilty of that demotist delusion, though not to as great an extent.


Everything I know about the American Revolution is bullshit.
That's a bit like saying "This sentence is false". If you learnt that what you previously believed was bullshit, it would no longer be what you "know".

in which evil triumphed over good.
Again, you're an atheist so why do you even believe in such concepts?

Your modern academic historian (as opposed to his more numerous colleague, the modern academic antihistorian)
Could you give some representative examples of both categories?

It was black and white. It was just black and white in the other direction.
That's a mighty rare occurrence in history.

What is the ratio of the number of people who have read the Declaration to the number who have read the Strictures? 10^5? 10^6? Something like that. Isn't that just slightly creepy?
I presume there are many commentaries on Hamlet that have a similarly low ratio of readers to the original.

we are still Patriots, aren't we? Sorry - just checking
Maybe not Charles Beard or Howard Zinn or some other types somewhat popular with the left. Or Bryan Caplan. I got a series of posts started on whether the war of independence was worth it at The Art of the Possible and encourage everyone to read back through the links.

by whom Andrew Oliver was more or less hounded to death
That was not at all convincing. No violence was committed against his actual person. The link states that he was old and had often been ill and it would not have been surprising if he had passed away even without the Patriots.

This is roughly how we intend to convert you into a Loyalist.
You're really not supposed to admit to tactics which have nothing to do with the truth of the disputed matter. Be more subtle in your flim-flamming!

a very ordinary Physiognomist would, at a transient View of his Countenance, develope the Malignity of his Heart
Are you saying we should believe in Physiognomy?

open-minded dissident, like me
You once wrote a post titled "The generalist's stone: a stable mind".

You see what I mean by "evil."
As with your remark about "Holocaust-grade evil" you've got people talking about murder without actually committing it. I'm reminded by your remark about the dangerous animal which defends itself when attacked. I don't have any sympathy for a governor trying to restrict trade whose house is ransacked by smugglers (I presume under neo-cameralism people won't even remember that such an occupation existed), although admittedly his kids hadn't done anything.

Also, we need to quickly install your new Tory history.
I'd prefer being neither Whig nor Tory.

Therefore, since you can no longer be a Whig, you have no option but to become a Tory. The conflict was, after all, a war. No one was neutral. There is no third side.
The past is, as you say, another country. Other countries frequently have wars in which we (by which I mean us individuals, if not our government) do not take sides. No one know needs to decide whether they are a Blue or Green. To insist we must join at least one side is the height of foolishness.

had never been properly disciplined for the failure of the previous republican revolution
I think the people responsible were in England. Although I don't know how many of them were disciplined either.

the treasonous Whig coup of 1688
Which, again, took place in England and so doesn't help your contrast much. Also, I'm still curious as to how you changed your mind about "the one revolution which ever was glorious". You've endorsed coups elsewhere (pretty much all of the third-world), so you can't be objecting just to the fact that it was a coup against the established government.

This gave the rebellion the generally mendacious and criminal quality described above, which is why we are Tories
There are plenty of laws on the books today that we object to (and must, if we are to be reactionaries). Why must we have any respect for those laws?

its failure to do so is more than anything due to the High Federalists, who once they saw what republicanism meant in practice ended up with very similar attitudes toward mob politics that we see in Hutchinson and Oliver - twenty years before the Thermidorean reaction that created the Constitution
Ah, I've been waiting for you to get to the Federalists! Now this is curious, because previously you seemed more sympathetic to the Articles of Confederation which were replaced as illegally as colonial rule. You really seem to hate Hamilton and Lincoln for creating the E.U-like Washcorp with central banking & fiat paper we know and loathe today, so I'm surprised to see you compare the Articles to the Committee on Public Safety.

As Colonel Stedman says, the rebels could and should have been crushed easily
Ah, the Dolchtosslegend. Are you going to tell us if Hitler was right about said legend?

As the Union later found, suppressing guerrilla warfare
Neither the American war of independence nor the "civil war" was characterized by guerrilla warfare. Many paleos even insist the Union would have been defeated if it had been used (I think that was the thread I was banned from the Mises blog about, as I disagreed).

Burke (who at least later learned better)
Did he ever actually express any regret about his prior Whiggery? I recall reading in his Reflections he takes great pains to distinguish the Glorious Revolution from the French one.

New readers may went to go back to Mencius' previous post on Fisher's "True History of the American Revolution". A number of comments there are relevant here as well, but I don't feel like repeating them when you can just click the link.

Success in past conflicts, political or military, is not Bayesian evidence of moral superiority. It is just the opposite.
The whole concept of "moral superiority" is nonsense. Don't be a whiny loser talking about how your side is too noble to fight effectively.

This should attract about twelve supporters, all of whom are homeless schizophrenics.
Also Bryan Caplan, but perhaps he'll be too dissapointed at your failure to give him a "rhino-sized reaming" that he'll be unable to put any stock in your campaign promises.

a triumph for thuggery, treason
All armies consist of thugs and I'm with Lysander Spooner. I never owed any loyalty to the people governing me and it is No Treason to secede.


Michael S:
Kudos on some excellent comments. Daniel Larison has written a good deal about Bolingbroke and the "The Whig Party's Treason" at his old blog and new.


Leonard:
We are most emphatically not in the middle of the American Revolution. We most certainly do have the option to be neutral.
Thank you for pointing out what I would hope is obvious.


Randy:
Mencius seems to be a fan of Robert Filmer. Filmer wrote "Observations concerning the Original of Government upon Mr Hobbes's Leviathan, Mr Milton against Salmasius, and H. Grotius' De jure belli ac pacis", which critiques Hobbes along with Grotius and Milton.


G. M. Palmer:
How can this be?
Let's assume such a "golden" message/cause. It appears likely to be succesful and so some ambitious thugs join and attain leadership positions. They fear the loss of support if they seriously pervert the message, so they don't although they do engage in thuggery. Is anything about this hypothetical terribly implausible? I don't think so. Whether it applies to the American war of independence is another story.


Leonard:
Now, MM will tell you that the very notion of natural rights is a fantasy.
Don't just take it from him, buy the republished edition of L. A. Rollins' The Myth of Natural Rights, with a preface from yours truly. Not only does it demolish all the nonsense on stilts libertarians have spouted for so many years, it tackles subjects Mencius would be scared to touch with a ten-foot pole.


On Brin and Star Wars: The Weekly Standard made a similar argument in The Case for the Empire. I'm no fan of Brin (although I do like the idea of the Transparent Society). I also liked when he pointed out that people like to complain about how the media/Hollywood push for conformism, when they explicit message they make is that non-conformism is cool.


mtraven:
I have a hard time understanding how someone can be as intelligent and well-read as Mencius and still be under the impression that history is composed of good guys and bad guys.
Always remember, J. B. S. Haldane was a communist.


Anonymous (CHOOSE A HANDLE!):
romanticism, which is integral to all reactionary thought.
I think MM objects to romanticism. He's not at all a fan of Byron, for instance.


George Weinberg:
Thanks for pointing out the difference between the American "revoluiton" (nothing of the sort, really a secession that was viewed as conservative by many of its participants) and the French & Russian versions. MM here seems to be saying the the Thermidorean reaction of the Federalists saved the day, but America under the Articles was hardly like the Reign of Terror.


n/a:
I know you don't have a high opinion of me, but I really appreciate you taking a critical lens here. Mencius likes to make sweeping claims based less on solid evidence that their production of a nice narrative, and this is an example. I think he's right to closely examine the Roundheads and Jacobins as predecessors of the Bolsheviks, but he'll butcher facts like the stuff about New England along the way. I'd like to point out that in Daniel Flynn's "Conservative History of the American Left" he distinguishes between the indigenous form of American leftism, which was more prone to hippie-style utopian communities and the variety imported by European immigrants. He calls them the "freedom left" and "force left" which makes clear which he finds more sympathetic, but with a more neatural label I think it's a distinction that could catch on. Razib of GNXP has had a thorough examination of the GSS to compare Protestant (dubbed "Yankee") New Englanders and their Catholic neighbors, along with southerners. It does make it seem like Catholic immigrants assimilated to much of the attitudes of the existing culture. I forget if it was David Hackett Fischer or Steve Sailer who said that Ralph Nader, despite being of Lebanese ancestry, is culturally quite the Puritan.

January 18, 2009 at 6:18 PM  
Blogger Steve Sailer said...

Sam Adams was a dubious character. So, to attract wide support, he had to bring his cousin John Adams in on the deal, because John wasn't a dubious character. They then gave military power to the least dubious character on the whole continent, George Washington.

Basically, American elites had been running the colonies de facto during the reigns of George I and George II and doing a pretty good job of it. When George III wanted to retake control, the American elites felt they were ready to rule de jure.

And they were.

January 19, 2009 at 1:01 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Steve Sailer, that comment is almost accurate, except that the last sentence is wrong and it doesn't clarify that the "pretty good job", like that of the Whigs in England around then, consisted largely in letting sleeping dogs lie - "masterly inactivity" not from any superior merit that would warrant the adjective "masterly" but from a consciousness of the lack of it, the lack of any true moral authority. And that's why they veered off course once they subscribed to a spurious basis of legitimacy (and had driven underground, massacred or exiled any who didn't subscribe to it); they started actively governing, as of right (so they and their remaining victims thought - or pretended to think if they knew what was good for them). Since there's a deal of ruin in a nation the ill effects were not great at first. However, they can be discerned accumulating from the very beginning, which is evidence that your last sentence is wrong. The plain truth is that nobody is either fit or worthy to govern, and the tragedy is that, quite often, that may well apply to individuals attending solely to their own private concerns too; damned if you do and damned if you don't.

January 19, 2009 at 4:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the Union later found, suppressing guerrilla warfare
Neither the American war of independence nor the "civil war" was characterized by guerrilla warfare. Many paleos even insist the Union would have been defeated if it had been used (I think that was the thread I was banned from the Mises blog about, as I disagreed).


Much depends on your definition of the term "guerrilla". Numerous authors have argued that the American Revolution and Civil War were indeed characterized by guerrilla warfare - in the American Revolution, Marion, Sumter, and Pickens were guerrilla leaders, and in the Civil War, Forrest, Morgan, and Mosby were Southern guerrilla leaders.

This author argues that the South did indeed try to fight a guerrilla war during the Civil War, but the North defeated them.

January 19, 2009 at 6:45 AM  
Anonymous cranky matron said...

That was actually really fun, MM, particularly in the wake of the day-long foul mood brought on by 12 hours of unrelenting Obamavision in my mother-in-law's kitchen.

Was just cursing you for ruining what would have been an otherwise mildly inspiring teevee spectacle without providing any sustenance to replace what's gone.

So, thanks.

It is as if I have been abruptly informed that the fast food I was raised on is actually pretty poisonous, but my informant didn't really describe how to find anything really worth eating.

January 19, 2009 at 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Libra said...

TGGP and George Weinberg-

I suggest reading Chapter 8 of Sydney's Fisher's book. No, the American rebellion was not as bad as the French revolution. But it was still very nasty.

American has a history of prosperity and freedom due to having lots of freaking land, a good stock of people, and a tradition of English common law. All of these factors were in place pre-revolution. And for these reasons, even pre-revolution America was a free and prosperous land.

The main effect of the revolution was introducing democracy and its accompaniments (at first corruption, lynch law, and polarized politics culminating in a civil war. Later, conscription and eventually the quasi-socialist new deal state). While these developments were not bad enough to cancel out America's natural gifts, I do not see them as positives. Therefore, I do not think the revolution was a positive event.

January 19, 2009 at 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Libra said...

TGGP-

All armies consist of thugs and I'm with Lysander Spooner. I never owed any loyalty to the people governing me and it is No Treason to secede.

How do you distinguish from a governor and a property owner? If someone is renting a house, would you consider it just if that person decides to "secede" from the landlords' control, and uses weapons to prevent the landlord from collecting rent?

January 19, 2009 at 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The term "natural rights" is an oxymoron.

"Rights" are the obligations of the State to the citizen under the social contract.

Any other formulation is wishful thinking at best, willful obfuscation at worst.

January 19, 2009 at 7:54 PM  
Anonymous n/a said...

TGGP: I know you don't have a high opinion of me

My opinion of you has in fact improved over time. Obviously we have divergent ideas of what's important, but you're clearly one of the more serious people posting here.

The "force" vs. "freedom" left distinction sounds useful, but:
(1) I would stress that America has never actually been insulated from European thought. I'm familiar with Flynn's book mainly through this review by piece of shit Thomas DiLorenzo, who sees nothing significant in the fact that Rapp, Owens, and Fourier were all non-American and uses the review purely as an opportunity to trash "Yankees".
(2) The more important distinction for me is between sane and insane policy from the standpoint of the ethnic interests of the progeny of America's founders. Today's (insane) racial orthodoxy grows from overwhelmingly Marxist and/or Jewish foundations.

I don't buy Nader as Puritan -- that's quite a large stretch. Nor do I think razib's analysis proves much of anything. Who assimilated who? Late-twentieth-century New England culture is not 19th-century New England culture -- much less 17th-century New England culture.

January 19, 2009 at 11:12 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Anonymous,

""Rights" are the obligations of the State to the citizen under the social contract."

There is no "social contract", and there are no "rights". The political class is simply acting in its own best interest. Treating the general population in accordance with what the population generally believes to be "fair" is practical - it brings in more revenue than making them slaves outright.

January 20, 2009 at 4:02 AM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

*Don't be a whiny loser talking about how your side is too noble to fight effectively.*

but this is exactly the problem humanity faces. the systems most effective at aggressive expansion are also the systems that provide us with shitty standards of living.

January 20, 2009 at 4:53 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Anonymous Anonymous of January 19, 2009 7:54 PM supposes that '"Rights" are the obligations of the State to the citizen under the social contract. Any other formulation is wishful thinking at best, willful obfuscation at worst.'

Not so. Consider, for instance, the right to put geese on the local common. This merely involves not doing anything, on everybody else's part - a fundamental philosophical and practical difference between today's positive rights that require a counterparty to do something and such negative rights that were formerly the norm. It only gets rearranged into that form once the state lays claim to everything and can represent even negative rights as "providing" by not interfering. It might, say, assert that it was keeping others off the common, which is true in a sense but overlooks the fact that by inserting itself it prevented the commoners from doing that.

January 21, 2009 at 4:54 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

The discussion of Puritans should bear in mind that Puritanism covered a multitude of sins. It was not monolithic, and its different strains agreed only in their common hatred of "popery" and everything suspected of it (including the episcopal Church of England and Archbishop Laud's "beauty of holiness').

English Calvinists preferred a Congregational polity. This suited a small city-state like Calvin's Geneva well enough, but in a larger country like England, it permitted the development of doctrinal differences that were disturbing to many Puritans. John Knox - Swift's 'Knocking Jack of the North' - had 'solved' this problem in Scotland with Presbyterianism, which enabled centralized discipline over faith and morals without resorting to the hated institution of episcopacy. By the time of the English civil war, some Puritans favored Presbyterianism, and others - called Independents - did not.

In Butler's great satire on the Roundheads, his knight-errant, Sir Hudibras, was a

"...Presbyterian true blue;
For he was of that stubborn crew
Of errant saints, whom all men grant
To be the true Church Militant;
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
Infallible artillery;
And prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolick blows and knocks;
Call fire and sword and desolation,
A godly thorough reformation..."

Just as Don Quixote had his Sancho Panza, so Hudibras had his squire Ralpho, who was an Independent:

"His knowledge was not far behind
The Knight's, but of another kind,
And he another way came by 't:
Some call it GIFTS, and some NEW-LIGHT;
A liberal art, that costs no pains
Of study, industry, or brains.
...
Whate'er men speak by this New Light,
Still they are sure to be i' th' right.
'Tis a dark-lanthorn of the Spirit,
Which none see by but those that bear it:
A light that falls down from on high,
For spiritual trades to cozen by,
An Ignis Fatuus that bewitches
And leads men into pools and ditches..."

English Puritanism fell into chaos after the death of Oliver Cromwell, and this led, as I've observed in earlier posts, to the disillusion of ex-Parliamentarians like Monck, who brought about the restoration of Charles II and the Church of England.

In New England, on the other hand, conflict between 'orthodox' Calvinists of a presbyterianizing bent and a variety of Independents persisted. Quakers were hanged on Boston Common and Baptists were exiled to Rhode Island, which Cotton Mather called "the fag-end of civilization." Nonetheless, the history of the established Congregational church in New England is one of slow retreat on the part of strict Calvinism, and the gradual advance of various heterodoxies. Yale University, founded in 1701 as "The Collegiate School," was a product of this anabasis, as its Wikipedia entry notes:

"... a rift was forming at Harvard between its sixth president Increase Mather (Harvard A.B., 1656) and the rest of the Harvard clergy, whom Mather viewed as increasingly liberal... The relationship worsened after Mather resigned, and the administration repeatedly rejected his son and ideological colleague, Cotton Mather (Harvard A.B., 1678), for the position of the Harvard presidency. The feud caused the Mathers to champion the success of the Collegiate School in the hope that it would maintain the Puritan religious orthodoxy in a way Harvard had not."

Such hopes proved baseless, and the direction of Puritan New England throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth century was ever leftward, until the final disestablishment of state churches in Connecticut (1817) and Massachusetts (1833). One victim of this trend was the Revd Abijah Holmes, a trinitarian Calvinist pastor who was ejected from his benefice by his flock when they became unitarians. This Holmes was the father of the 'autocrat of the breakfast table," Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., and grandfather of the Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

When MM speaks of the Puritans as forerunners of today's secular progressives, "Brahmins," etc., we should understand he is referring not to the to the line of Sir Hudibras, which petered out long ago, but to the intellectual descendants of Squire Ralpho, the 'liberal' Harvard clergy with whom Increase Mather lost his argument at the turn of the eighteenth century, nineteenth-century unitarians and religious utopians, and their successors to the present day.

January 21, 2009 at 12:30 PM  
Anonymous mcarlin said...

Cyndi Lauper has (had?) an adaptive function, you pointy-headed numpty.

Her function (shared with many pop stars) is (was?) to flood the artificial radio market with easily accessible, pleasant-enough stuff, thereby drowning out really good music, framing the "debate" so that the choice is (is!) between bad music and merely mediocre music, allowing the record companies to dictate any and all music industry terms, because they own all the popular music. Cyndi Lauper is to good music as Alan Colmes is to socialism.

(By the way, the Stones are a serious Blue Pill. You may still be a few revelatory experiences away from musical enlightenment, o brilliant scholar)

January 21, 2009 at 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is this anti-American crap? You think we should go back to being in the British Empire? We're the greatest country in the world! Other nations should be in OUR Empire. We should have never rebelled? Look at England now, you want us to be like that? The American People (and by this i mean descendants of immigrants before the Irish, Italians, and other muds) are the greatest, most intelligent, most warlike people in the world. Only a half Jew elite could say such American hating nonsense as you do.

January 22, 2009 at 7:58 PM  
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February 9, 2009 at 12:45 AM  
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February 10, 2009 at 7:57 PM  
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February 19, 2009 at 9:32 PM  
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February 19, 2009 at 9:45 PM  
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February 21, 2009 at 12:25 AM  
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February 21, 2009 at 12:25 AM  
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February 21, 2009 at 12:30 AM  
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February 21, 2009 at 12:31 AM  
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February 21, 2009 at 12:49 AM  
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February 21, 2009 at 12:52 AM  
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February 21, 2009 at 12:56 AM  
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February 21, 2009 at 1:00 AM  
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February 21, 2009 at 1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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February 21, 2009 at 1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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February 21, 2009 at 1:09 AM  
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February 21, 2009 at 1:12 AM  
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February 21, 2009 at 1:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 18, 2009 at 4:33 AM  

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