Why Post-Liberalism Failed

In 1884, Herbert Spencer, the Victorian intellectual who had become a household name before slipping away into obscurity and posthumous defamation as a “Social Darwinist,” wrote an essay on The New Toryism describing the numerous developments in England from 1860 onward that were turning against his vision of an industrious liberalism and the law of equal freedom. Factories acts, mine inspections, compulsory vaccination boards, restrictions on child labor, stricter medical licensing, bakehouse regulation acts, registration of lodging houses, inspection of cattle sheds, public works, compulsory schooling, nationalization of telegraphy, penalties on hawking without a certificate, train fare subsidies, and much more were instated by parliamentary legislation. “As we have seen, Toryism and Liberalism originally emerged, the one from militancy and the other from industrialism. The one stood for the régime of status and the other for the régime of contract—the one for that system of compulsory cooperation which accompanies the legal inequality of classes, and the other for that voluntary cooperation which accompanies their legal equality; and beyond all question the early acts of the two parties were respectively for the maintenance of agencies which effect this compulsory cooperation, and for the weakening or curbing of them. Manifestly the implication is that, in so far as it has been extending the system of compulsion, what is now called Liberalism is a new form of Toryism,” Spencer lamented.

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Commentaries on Karl Ludwig von Haller: the Restauration der Staatswissenschaft, vol. VI, on republics and free communities

[See also: the commentary on vols. I-IV dealing with patrimonial and military states, and the introductory essay.]

If in the volumes on patrimonial and military states we saw Haller as the defender of the pure private law theory of the state, the unterrified legitimist who doesn’t give an inch to the idea of a societas civilis, here in the sixth and chronologically final volume on republics we see Haller decrying poll taxes as an assault on the principle of equality, bemoaning wealth as a qualification for holding office, criticizing the privatization of the property of the commonwealth as something that “must be attributed only to the upheaval of our social state, to the declared war on all ancient and stable existences, and to the tendency to transform all the goods of the earth into private property, absolute, perpetually mobile and given over to individual egoism,” stating that a legally privileged patriciate “offends the just sentiment of equality and the self-love of other citizens,” and advocating measures against the extreme concentration of wealth (but not by direct expropriation).

A different tune, to be sure, but not a contradiction. It is in this volume that we see clearly the spirit of Haller, the young Bernese patriot and loyal servant of his city, for whom the great political error was confusing the monarchical and republican forms and giving advice and maxims that though appropriate for one form, would be damaging to the other. In his own words to Johann von Mueller in 1808, “as a Swiss, finally, I believe that I have done my subject a great service by thoroughly rescuing the republics and putting them on an equal footing with monarchies, while the sophists otherwise either want to turn everything into monarchies or everything into republics.”

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Commentaries on Karl Ludwig von Haller: the Restauration der Staatswissenschaft, vols. I-IV, on independent territorial lordship, patrimonial states, and military empires

[See also the biographical essay.]

Here it is: the Restoration of Political Science. This is a chapter-by-chapter commentary covering Haller’s critique of the state of public law, his theory on the genesis of enlightened absolutism and revolution, the principles of the patrimonial state, and those of the military state (empire).

I have deliberately chosen to immerse the reader in long quotations of Haller’s own words, not simply because this is my usual style, but because for a thinker as important yet undervalued in the English-speaking world I figured it would be best not only to relay his thoughts as they were, but to dispel various caricatures of his philosophy that have emerged from surface-level summaries.

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Karl Ludwig von Haller: his life and work

[Chapter-by-chapter commentaries on the Restoration: 1. patrimonial states and military empires; 2. republics and free communities.]

Opposed to both these tendencies of liberalism, separated from them by the breadth of the heavens, was Carl Ludwig von Haller, the dreaded “restorer of political science.” The Bernese aristocrat had seen the power of the Swiss patricians collapse amid the storms of the Revolution, and subsequently, as an exile in Austrian service, had constructed the political system which was “to re-establish monarchy upon its true foundations, to overthrow the presumptuous revolutionary science of the godless eighteenth century, and to make the Catholic church shine with renewed effulgence.”

With the proud consciousness of his claim to rank as a universal historian, he announced his doctrine, first of all in Allgemeine Staatskunde (1808), and subsequently, from 1816 onwards, in Restauration der Staatswissenschaft. It seemed to him a wonderful dispensation of Providence that from him in particular, the born republican and Protestant, should proceed the anti-revolutionary doctrine of salvation. And indeed the sledge-hammer dialectical blows of his severe reasoning fell with crushing force upon the imaginative structures of the doctrine of natural rights. It was the incontrovertible demonstrations of this blustering naturalist which first shattered the belief in the state of nature, in the social contract, and in the innate sovereignty of the people, even in those circles of the uninstructed who were unable to follow the ideas of the historical school of law. Yet all that he advanced in place of this obsolete doctrine was a crude popularisation of the principles of patrimonial law upon which had been based the authority of the Bernese aristocracy. Just as in former days the rulers of Berne had treated the conquered subject lands of Aargau and Vaud simply as the property of their glorious republic, so Haller founded the state solely upon the right of the stronger. Land belongs to a prince, a corporation, or a church; upon this property of a suzerain lord, and under his protection, settlers appear; if the people should disappear, the state would still continue to exist in the person of the prince, who can readily find new subjects. Consequently the state resembles any other association based on civil law, differing from others only because it is more powerful and independent, and because its prince is “an owner, a man equipped with absolutely independent rights”; he rules the nation through the instrumentality of his personal servants, is entitled to regard (it is even his duty to regard) himself and his house as the principal aim for which the state exists, but he must resist the dispersion of his own property and must protect his subjects with his own soldiers.

A caricature of the ancient feudal state, which even in the fourteenth century existed nowhere in such crudity as this, was now propounded as the universally valid political ideal, was announced with the same air of infallibility that had characterised the writers who constructed the model imaginary constitutions of the Revolution. The subordination of the citizen, established by constitutional law, became degraded to a state of servitude defined in terms of civil law. In a word, the restorer of political science practically abolished the state.

Nowhere did his doctrine seem more utterly devoid of foundation, nowhere did it seem to conflict more hopelessly with facts, than in Prussia, for nowhere else had the majesty of the state-idea been esteemed so highly as in Prussia, where the princes had always been the first servants of the state. It was precisely upon this that depended Haller’s fierce hatred of Frederick the Great, of that enlightened Prussian absolutism which had discovered the detestable conscription, and of the Allgemeines Landrecht [Prussian System of Common Law promulgated in 1794]. “Except on the title-page,” said Haller, “there is nothing to show that this system of laws may not be intended rather for Japan and China than for the Prussian state.” Yet it was in Prussia that Haller secured numerous and powerful adherents. The crown prince and his romanticist friends considered that in the idea of the state as private property they could rediscover the motley glories of the middle ages. Marwitz and the feudalists among the knighthood of the Mark hailed with delight this resolute thinker who reduced the monarch once more to the ranks of the landowners, who divided society once again into the three castes of teachers, warriors, and manual workers, and assigned such valuable privileges to those “who had the freedom of the land.” The absolutists found it satisfactory that in Haller’s state the prince was above all the people. The ultramontanes were delighted with the praise of theocracy, which the convert had extolled as the freest and best of all political forms. The timid found their own fears confirmed by the complaints of the Bernese fanatic who imagined that the entire world was endangered by the great conspiracy of the freemasons, the illuminati, and the revolutionaries. To all opponents of the Revolution, the victorious polemic against natural rights was welcome. Whereas amid the simpler and wider relationships of French political life, the feudal and clerical party was already the open enemy of bureaucratic absolutism, in Germany all the aspects of the counter-revolution were still indistinguishably confused.

Far less support was secured by the purely ultramontane political doctrine of the skilled sophist, Adam Mueller. The Roman Catholic system could not truly flourish in the homeland of heresy; not one of our clerical authors could go so far as the Savoyard noble Joseph de Maistre, who, glowing with all the ardour and religious fanaticism of the Latin races, demanded, now half jestingly and now again wrathfully, that the sinful world should be subjected to the pope, and who fiercely contested the “bestial” science of “the century of folly.” The able German convert lacked this emotional impulse, this crusadering enthusiasm. Adam Mueller, with clear insight, descried indeed many of the weaknesses of liberalism, especially in respect of its economic doctrines; he showed incisively how inadequate was the system of laissez-faire amid the struggles of social interest, how impossible was the complete international division of labour between independent nations, and prophesied that from the modem economic system would proceed a new plutocratic nobility more contemptible and more dangerous than the old aristocracy of birth. But in his Theologische Grundlegung der Staatswissenschaft we find no more than a repetition of Haller’s doctrines, adorned with some of the frippery of theology and natural philosophy. In a manner even more arbitrary than that of Haller, he artificially effected a “natural” classification of society, sometimes distinguishing the teachers, the warriors, and the manual workers as the respective representatives of faith, love, and hope, and sometimes classifying the population into nobles, burghers, and rulers. Mueller, like Haller, denied the distinction between constitutional law and civil law, and declared that every state must to all eternity be composed of a union of states. His ideal was a rational feudalism; he hoped to solve the contradiction between politics and law by the power of faith, elevated to the rank of law!

Thus everything which German political science had secured during the last century and a half, since Puffendorf had delivered our political thinkers from the yoke of the theologians, was once more put in question, and political doctrine was degraded anew to the level of the theocratic conceptions of the middle ages. Friedrich Schlegel hailed the church as the greatest of all guilds, after whose example all the other corporations of civil society should be reconstituted. [Franz von] Baader spoke of the teaching caste, the warrior caste, and the caste of manual workers, as the three orders of every nation, rejecting the expression “the state” as an impious modern discovery. “Corporation, not association,” was the catchword of the political romanticists, most of whom associated with this term no more than the indefinite conception of a debile state authority, limited by the power of guilds, diets of nobles, and self-governing communes, and in spiritual matters subjected to the control of the church.

— Heinrich von Treitschke’s verdict on Haller, from vol. 5 of History of Germany in the nineteenth century (1894)

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Saint-Bonnet, fire breather of the legitimists

Antoine-Joseph-Elisée-Adolphe Blanc de Saint-Bonnet (1815-1880) was a Lyonnaise legitimist, counterrevolutionary and ultramontane thinker, among the highest calibre of his kind. Combining a vivid Christian anthropology with staunch ultra-royalist views and lapidary, biting prose, he could be described as like Joseph de Maistre but without the fideism, occasionalism and absolutism that taint the latter with a certain heterodoxy. In another sense, he could be compared to Thomas Carlyle, except with a much crisper writing style compared to that of the meandering Scottish sage, and a devout Catholic traditionalist as opposed to an innovative romantic. Saint-Bonnet is extremely quotable, indeed his prose can be smoothly cited like aphorism without at all being aphoristically muddled in its thought. Some of it is intense, and can be felt as though a dagger is being thrust in your heart, twisted, removed, and stabbed right back in. For instance:

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Italia Addio: a counter-history of the Risorgimento

The highest moral virtue in our day is to “amplify marginalized voices.” Consequently, I want to share the story of the Italian legitimists: Parmese and Sicilian neoborbonicos, Modenese filoestenses [loyal to the House of Habsburg-Este], Austro-Lombardian legitimists, Savoyard conservatives who renounced the bogus cause of “Italian unity” so as to retain their own statehood, and of course those brave intransigent Catholic defenders of the temporal power of the Pope.

The Italian Risorgimento is a fascinating period to study since it is the most unambiguous example of how, i) the cause of “national unification” was in fact the first color revolution; ii) said cause served to extinguish the last remnants of the old regime that would not only irrevocably reconfigure world politics, but effectively reduce the political right to a state of unending impotence and mediocrity, detached from the legacy it was robbed of; iii) that there was no such thing as a good and noble “classical liberalism” that was hijacked, but that from the beginning the ideology of liberalism was a centralizing and totalitarian one that employed brutal police repression of those loyal to their deposed sovereigns in the Apennine duchies, and in the Italian South most horrifically reached proportions amounting to an ethnic pogrom that included conditions akin to concentration camps in the Fenestrolle Fort and plans for penal colonies in Argentina and Tunisia, all predating the Anglo-Boer wars; iv) the cause of national unity was an essentially liberal and Masonic elite ideology that led to ruthless wars of aggression and dismemberment of centuries-old states and cultures, and wrought economic impoverishment that spurred massive emigration, all with long-lasting repercussions.

In the first chapter I will give a summary of the ideological origins and practical execution of the Risorgimento, in the second I will discuss the unsung heroes who tried to prevent it, and in the third I will talk about the backward, misgoverned and contentious state that it created, i.e. the Kingdom of Italy.

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Why the Bourbon Restoration failed

The charter of Louis XVIII, the sinister mother of a restoration that restored nothing…

— Carl Ernst Jarcke, 1834

We are born, so to speak, before our own laws which are less the product of our experience than of our errors and our passions. We cannot affirm them on the authority of our fathers because the chain of time no longer exists for us.

— Etienne-Denis Pasquier, 1820

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The counterrevolution betrayed: Count Bismarck and his consequences

The reputation of Otto von Bismarck has fluctuated from the ambivalence of his contemporaries, to his canonization as father of the German nation following his dismissal in 1890 and particularly his death in 1898, to then being scapegoated as the embodiment of ghastly “Prussian militarism” and the predecessor to Hitler after 1945. Other than that, he is known for his handouts and his antagonism toward the Catholic Church. Oh, and unifying Germany, of course.

Few doubt his status as a paradigmatic conservative figure, however. It is a testament to how the world order he helped create (but as I will argue, was not actually that essential to, hence disputing his “Great Man” role) so thoroughly extinguished the legitimist cause that he ended up inheriting their legacy, with none of the substance.

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Mostly peaceful protests in Naples, 1860

If you think boldly proclaiming that violent street riots are peaceful demonstrations right while standing in the background of a blazing inferno is some kind of new level of degeneration by the press, you would be wrong.

From an article published in the South Australian Register, dated to September 10, 1860, which in turn cites a correspondent for The Times. This is in the context of the Garibaldian invasion of Naples and a last-minute constitutional proclamation by Francis II, giving an inch and having a mile taken from him:

The progress of events in Sicily caused great changes at Naples. By a Sovereign Act, under date of the 25th of June, constitutional and representative institutions, on national and Italian principles, were granted to the kingdom of Naples.


The tricolor flag was on the same day hoisted at the royal castle by the Neapolitan men-of-war, and was saluted by the guns of the foreign men-of-war in the bay. An illumination took place in the evening. We have other events to record which must be read in connection with the above. On the 5th of June the French Ambassador at Naples, Baron Brenier, while passing through the Strada di Toledo, received several blows on he head from a loaded cane. He fell senseless and was carried to the palace of the Legation. The injuries which he received did not prove dangerous. On the following day the King of Naples instructed the Marquis d’Antonini to express to the French Government his most sincere regret on account of the insult offered to Baron Brenier, and to promise every retribution upon the guilty parties. It has been ascertained that, at the time the Baron Brenier was attacked, the streets of Naples were filled with rioters. The disturbances seem to have lasted for some time, and reached a great height on the 28th. The Commissariats of the 12 districts of the city were on that day simultaneously ransacked and pillaged. The archives were burnt and the agents murdered. After this, Naples was proclaimed in a state of siege, and any assembling in the streets was prohibited. The state of siege did not last long; but the influence of the reactionary party in the councils of the King was so strong that at one period the aforementioned reform Ministry gave in their resignations. Everything we hear from Naples goes to show that there is almost a complete cessation of government in that city; the King being afraid to act on the traditional policy of his court and the so-called Constitution being anything but consolidated. Nevertheless the people conduct themselves on the whole in an exemplary manner. Probably, they see already the beginning of the end. The correspondent from The Times writes on July 17 : —

Three weeks have passed away since all authority has ceased to exist, and yet I have never known Naples so cheerful, and, taking it altogether, so orderly. You have to consider the moral and physical torments they have endured for so long a series of years to be able to appreciate the great forbearance of the people. True it is that they have hunted down, and are hunting down, the police where ever they can find them; unhappily true is it that in some cases they have killed them; but the majority they have consigned to the military or the magistrates, and as to robberies I have scarcely heard of any ; and yet these policemen have been their daily and hourly tormentors ; they have levied a tax on their labour, on their fruit or fish stalls, on their cafes or cabs ; they have denounced them, broken open their houses in the dead of the night, torn them from their families, and consigned them to dungeons such as those I described in my last letter; they have beaten them, and spat in their faces, and persecuted them to the death.’

There has been a great deal of talk within the last fortnight about a proposal for an alliance between Naples and Piedmont. The proposal was originated at the time when the new constitution was proclaimed in Naples, and it is understood to be strongly supported by the French Government. The Italian party are decidedly opposed to it; and, of course, it is extremely distasteful to Garibaldi, whose plan involves the absolute union of all the Italian states under King Victor Emmanuel, and who is meanwhile delaying the annexation of Sicily to Piedmont, simply because this annexation might interfere with the ultimate absorption of Naples. A deputation is now at Turin engaged in negotiations for the alliance. After the promise of concessions given on he 25th of June by the Neapolitan Government, the Revolutionary Committee of Naples issued a violent placard, warning the citizens of the snare laid for them by the Bourbons, the undercurrent of popular feeling manifested it the same time many uneasy symptoms. A letter of June 30 received by the Times from the correspondent at Naples furnishes some details with regard to the apathy with which the promises of reform were received, the disorganization of the police, the attack on the French Ambassador, and some other points.


Nothing new under the scorching sun of liberalism.

Judeo-reaction and the great COVID-19 swindle

Hi, I’m Nigel Carlsbad, and this used to be a blog about obscure 19th-century counterrevolutionaries that I haven’t updated or done research for in ages. Perhaps one day I’ll actually get back to it, but not likely at this point. I guess it has good kvlt value, though.

What I will be doing instead is temporarily resurrecting this place to pontificate about that novel coronavirus that has us all under house arrest in an indefinite state of emergency. It’s the Schmittian dream come true. It didn’t come from the expected source, but no matter. I’m quite confident that compulsively disinfecting every surface you touch, getting fatter while ‘sheltered-in-place’ and not getting some virus-disinfecting sunshine won’t in any way contribute to a particularly bad flu season next year. Like the one we’re in right now. Sorry, I know it’s not just the flu. You’d think someone would do a good comparative analysis on previously identified human coronaviruses like HCoV-NL63 and HCoV-OC43, but in ‘normal times’ not too many people care about those. How lethal are they, really? Who knows? Out of sight, out of mind — this is a common thread in all this.

I’m not an epidemiological expert by any stretch, but much like the rest of the West I am on the verge of becoming one overnight with all the free time to debate CFR, R0, ICU capacity, IL-6 levels, antibody testing and other things most people had no clue existed until last month.

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