Napoleon III’s proposals for a European Union in 1863

Before Coudenhove-Kalergi (how did that get memed so successfully, anyway?), there was another plan by the “liberator of Italy” himself, the plebiscitary caudillo Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, to the loud cheers of applause from the Daily Telegraph. It was to be a Congress of Nations going beyond the Metternichian concert. Lord Russell would not let it pass though, and much consternation followed in what has since become a footnote usually mentioned in the context of the Schleswig-Holstein crisis.

On Dec 4, 1863, the New York Times reports of “Napoleon’s Proposition for a European Congress of Sovereigns.” The NYT remarks that Bonaparte desires a Congress of Paris, but with a great peculiarity – to settle disputes before and not after war. This congress would then judge “not on the basis of facts as they stand, but of facts as they ought to stand, and would stand if reason and justice had supreme sway.” All in all, a singularly magnanimous cause, one that fires the sensibilities of poets and philanthropists. The NYT concludes that, suspicions by other sovereigns aside, “to whatever impulse it is due, the fact that all those who are summoned to the meeting, approach sword in hand, and port-fires lighted, proves to us that the mutual confidence and respect which can alone make all nations as one is still to grow up.”

This was but a brief addendum to an earlier Nov 22, 1863 report on “Napoleon and Poland.” Here we learn that the motivating factor was the Russo-Polish crisis borne of the January Uprising, still ongoing at the time. We also have a much less optimistic tone: “He seeks to place Europe in the position from which he hopes to extricate his own precious person and empire. He aims to transfer from the shoulders of France to those of the assembled States of Christendom, the responsibility and the perils of the threatening conflict. But, despite the rumors to the contrary, he will fail in the effort. The conditions on which the Russian Minister offered to submit the Polish question to the decision of a general Congress will never be fulfilled.”

However, we have a much more striking expose from the pseudonymous author of Anomia; or Liberalism and its Napoleonic messiah (1866), where the fawning of the English liberal press is sampled in wide array:

The purpose to be served by the Congress of 1863 is as plain as that of 1815—we will not say as legitimate. Then, as now, the assembling of the representatives was occasioned by a Napoleon. It was that Napoleon who brought on the war, as it is this who threatens to bring on such a formidable peace; but the grand difference is that the former Congress was held to settle things on the total defeat of the first Imperator of Rome, as well as of France, while the second is convoked by the Imperator Of Rome And France, who intends to assist at it, if not to Preside.—Daily Telegraph, on Emperor’s speech, November 10, 1863.

To substitute the reign of law for that of force, to “regulate the present and secure the future,” to satisfy the just desires of oppressed nationalities, and place the peace of Europe on a safe and lasting foundation—this is the object of the mission to which the Emperor Napoleon conceives himself to have been destined.

The doctrine which the first Napoleon practised, and the second has preached, amounts virtually to this, that human affairs can be best arranged By One Will And One Intellect.—Daily Telegraph, November 13. 1863.

M. de Girardin, be it known, proposes a Congress of Nations, with a view to proclaim Paris the capital of the world, and the Emperor of the French Emperor Of Peoples.—Le Temps, on new pamphlet, published in Standard, December 3, 1863.

It should be our pride as Englishmen, and whatever our differences of political opinion may be, to acknowledge the sagacity and magnanimity displayed in the treatment of a subject in which we, with our bygone political difficulties, should fully sympathise—displayed by a monarch who has disappointed his detractors and confuted his revilers, by acting, under good and evil report, not only towards England, not only towards Europe. but towards the world, as a wise ruler and an honest man.—Daily Telegraph, November 6, 1865, on Louis Napoleon’s Manifesto on Algeria.

There is that about the proposition contained in the famous letter which would make its writer a leader of men, if he were not a ruler.Does not the master of France, weary of war and doubtful of resources, dream of a future Europe with a Napoleon for its federal lord ?—Daily Telegraph, November 18, 1863.

It is probable that this able and energetic but restless ruler has rather in view his own exaltation than any real change for the better in the public law of Europe. Those who consider the Emperor’s character and position will be convinced that it is his object to gain And Maintain A Preponderating Authority In European Councils. His own ambition prompts him to this; his relations to a democratic people prompt him to it also.—Times, November 12, 1863.

The Committee of the London Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace ask permission most respectfully to express to your Majesty the extreme satisfaction with which they have observed the proposal recently laid by your Majesty before the various sovereigns and states of Europe for assembling an International Congress, &c, &c.

To your Majesty belongs the signal honour of having taken the initiative in proposing to the States of Europe to substitute the arbitration of reason and justice for that of the sword.—Memorial of Peace Society to Emperor, Daily Telegraph, March 11, 1864.

To which the Emperor sent a gracious, though brief, reply :—

Justice must confess the grandeur and inherent truth of the Emperor’s latest idea. – The idea is an imperial idea; it wears the purple of intellectual royalty, as well as that of such lower kingship as votes can confer or coronations affirm. Let us look at it from the stand-point of philosophy rather than diplomacy, and do homage to a thought which history will certainly not rank among the least elevated of the human mind.—Daily Telegraph, November 18, 1863.


All of Thermidor Magazine’s readers are gay

But there is an opportunity for penance, as Thermidor is now dead and gone for good.

A queer little publication — not quite NRx, not quite Christian integralist, idiosyncratic and muddled, but with plenty of interesting contributors (Walter Devereux and Richard Greenhorn are the two most memorable, in the earlier days there was also H.D. Alemann who caught my eye.) P.T. Carlo recently made the decision to terminate it, in order to pursue other projects, and so that was the end of it.

I’m not in a position to say much at the moment, but a good deal of Thermidor’s more worthwhile essays will be reposted to a future publication still in the works. NRx is mostly deceased by now, and that’s probably for the better. There is an opening for a post-liberal current with recent examples like Patrick Deneen and Adrian Vermeule cutting some space for it without being completely ravaged. I believe the intent is to pursue such a course without being bogged down in older labels that have since acquired legacies of ambiguity. I look forward to watching this development.

Paris Peace Treaties (1947) and the civil rights revolution

Underexplored area: role of foreign policy in the assembling of the civil rights therapeutic state.

When the Paris Peace Conference was being held between July and October 1946 by the Allied powers to discuss the reparations, territorial adjustments, etc. that the vanquished Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Finland would owe, pursuing the course of action suggested in the Potsdam Conference, the final treaties in 1947 all contained a clause along the lines of the following (here, the case of Hungary):

Hungary shall take all measures necessary to secure to all persons under Hungarian jurisdiction, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion, the enjoyment of human rights and of the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, of press and publication, of religious worship, of political opinion and of public meeting.

In Hungary’s specific case, there was a further stipulation to legal integration and not simply equality:

Hungary further undertakes that the laws in force in Hungary shall not, either in their content or in their application, discriminate or entail any discrimination between persons of Hungarian nationality on the ground of their race, sex, language or religion, whether in reference to their persons, property, business, professional or financial interests, status, political or civil rights or any other matter.

Clearly, such ideas were already established at the time. Moreover, there is likely no willful element of humiliation or a consciously cynical ploy.

Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, who was involved heavily in postwar reconstruction as a counsel to Truman, gave a radio address from Washington on Oct 18, 1946 discussing this. Byrnes served many positions in federal and state government, but as a South Carolinian Democrat and later on governor there, he was a racial conservative with a record for voting down anti-lynching bills — though he would go on to significantly moderate school segregation in his home state, and he despised the much more virulent agrarian populism of Ellison DuRant Smith. Nonetheless, this is not a person you’d expect to bloviate unreservedly about the brotherhood of man.

Nonetheless, in said address, we get the confident proclamation that “It is my earnest hope that Czechoslovakia and Hungary and Rumania and Hungary may find by common agreement somewhat similar solutions to their complicated nationality problems on the basis of working together as friends and as neighbors. We in America know that people of many different races and stocks can live together in peace in the United States. They should be able to live together in peace in Europe.” Moreover, that “it is our hope that in international democracy, as in national democracy, experience will prove that appeals to reason and good faith which unite people count for more in the long run than appeals to prejudice and passion which divide people.” All this is ended on a commitment to oppose privilege at home and abroad.

As it seems, the defiant postures of “cotton is king and white is supreme” quickly bend over at an opportunity to be part of the Fabian dining club. Even if initially you feel like you’re just going through the motions and you’re “in on the joke,” the joke will eventually get in on you.

Copperheads go where no #Liberalist dares tread

The Old Guard (1863-1867) was probably the most incendiary of the Copperhead journals. Staunchly anti-abolitionist, pro-states’ rights, Jeffersonian in direction, and anti-Lincoln, its editor Charles Chauncey Burr was himself a former sympathizer of abolitionism and also an early publisher of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry. Devoted on its masthead to the principles of 1776 and 1787, it lionized the South often more vigorously than much of Dixie’s own men.

An example of their brutal consistency is in an August or September 1863 issue where they pose the question “Shall the American Principle Fall?” There are two pillars: consent of the governed, and free discussion:

The man who will not allow free discussion, is both a tyrant and a coward — more fit for a dungeon himself, than for a post of office among a free people. No! he aids rebellion who denies the right of free discussion; for he teaches the people to disregard the Constitution, and himself sets the example of rebelling against the very soul of its existence. If we cannot suppress rebellion without destroying liberty, and abolishing the constitutional form of our government, then rebellion has an indefeasible right to succeed. But, “have we not a right to preserve the Union?” Yes: that right is sacred — it is eternal — and no man, who loves his country, will count his own life too great a sacrifice for its salvation. If you are saving the Union — if you are preserving the glorious old Constitution which was the bond of our Union — then we shall stand by you in life or in death for the accomplishment of that great end. But, if you are trampling upon that Constitution — if you are making the salvation of the Union an impossible thing — if you prefer the enlargement of negroes to the reconstruction of the “Union as it was” — then we shall not go with you — no, not even though you fill this once free land as full of prisons as perdition is of fiends! Your tyranny we denounce, and your threats we despise. We hold you as traitors, more to be condemned than the abhorred rebellion of the South; because you aim, not like it, at the mere territorial integrity of the Union, but at its fundamental life — at the very soul of liberty and self-government. To “destroy” the South, is not to save the Union. To sweep over the territory of revolted States, with all the savagery of unrestrained vengeance is not to bring them back. To “exterminate” them, is not to enforce the laws, for there are no laws for the extermination of States. Let us understand this matter: once establish the right to destroy — to hold as colonies — and the government which was established by the great men of the Revolution, perishes forever. This is a thousand times worse than secession; for that makes no war upon either the spirit or form of the government. To secede from a government, is not to destroy it. But this thing, that the abolitionists propose to do, sweeps down the whole temple of the Constitution and laws together, and leaves upon its ruins a gigantic despotism, which inaugurates its advent by threatening to cut the throats of all who do not adopt their degrading notions of negro equality with the white race. — Suppose these men should succeed in destroying slaveholders, how long may it be before they will begin to destroy some other portion of the people, who hold opinions different from their own? If we have not a right to differ with them on the subject of negroes, do we not lose the right to differ with them on any subject? If we allow them to strike down our liberty in this matter, where is our liberty in any thing else secure?

To preserve this Union, then, the people have not only to overcome the crime and folly of secession, but they have also to strike down this bloody, liberty-destroying monster of Abolition. The crimes of the secessionists are territorial and external — those of the abolitionists are fundamental, striking at the heart of the Constitution, and sweeping away the whole edifice of popular self-government.

I sure would like to watch that debate on the Rubin Report.

Hyphenated Americanism and the sense of place

One common complication of applying the identitarian maxim of “become who we are” in the American case, is how to deal with the phenomenon described by Theodore Roosevelt as “hyphenated Americans.” Ought total submission to an American nationality be demanded or can vestiges of Old World roots safely be preserved?

Count Joseph Alexander Huebner, an Austrian envoy to Milan, ambassador to the Holy See, among many other positions served, had in his ramble ’round the world of 1871 plenty of pertinent observations to make about the relative assimilation of the various ethnicities inhabiting the West and East Coast. Stepping off from the Sherman House in Chicago at night, the German emigrants are described like so:

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Benjamin Kidd and the decline of left-wing Social Darwinism

Benjamin Kidd was a drunk paddy mick and civil service brat who made a good name for himself in the 1890s with a book called Social Evolution (1894). He had Darwin, he had Weismann, he had a grand unified theory of Western social development (or a pretense of one in the making). He was, the closest comparison I can think of, the Malcolm Gladwell of his day. Consulted by such figures as Joseph Chamberlain, Arthur Balfour and Alfred Milner, read by many others including Theodore Roosevelt (“Social Evolution” sold over 250,000 copies), approved by Alfred Russell Wallace, Kidd was a man who had Important Things To Say. Another book of his, Principles of Western Civilization (1902), was translated into Chinese by Yen Fu and later heralded as a “great light to the future” by Liang Qichao, a mentor of Mao Zedong. For a long time, mainstream historiography typecast him as a Social Darwinist racist-capitalist-imperialist bogeyman, but in reality he was much worse than that — a smug, derivative and overinflated apostle of New Liberalism, bringing the people’s budget and family planning at home, with the white man’s burden exported abroad. No big admirer of Galton or Pearson, he was nevertheless a Darwinian sociologist in the literal sense, though an excessively melioristic one, and a fine example of a time when such reasoning was acceptable to fashionable people. Also a fine example of how such reasoning can trivially be spun to serve the ends of therapeutic-managerial Leviathan.

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Patriotism and the social classes

It is the necessity which makes the multitude of the poor feel that they can not exist without the small number of the rich; it is this providence, and its majesty is tranquil when it functions… Yes, necessity is more human than philosophy, because it is nature that makes it necessary, and it is we who make our philosophy.

The rich is made to spend a lot;
The poor are made to amass many things:
And work, won by softness,
Slowly open the road to wealth.

These relationships are eternal. It is from the inequality of conditions that the shades and days that compose the picture of life result. The innovators hope in vain to annihilate this harmony. Absolute equality among men is the mystery of philosophers. At least the Church was constantly building up; but current maxims only tend to destroy. They have already ruined the rich without enriching the poor; and, instead of the equality of goods, we still have only the equality of miseries and evils.

I understand what the philosophy of an individual is, what is a man freed from the manners of the people, and even passions, a philanthropist, a cosmopolitan, for whom all the nations form that one and the same family; but what is the philosophy of a people? What is this philanthropy, this general liberty of commerce, this charity which consists in renouncing all the advantages that others would not have? What would a people, without passions, who would open all its ports, destroy its customs, share unceasingly its treasures and its lands with all the men who would present themselves without fortune and without talent? A man is a philosopher only because he is not a people; so a philosophizing people would not be a people, which is absurd. The true philosophy of the people is politics; and while philosophy preaches retreat and contempt for riches and honors to individuals, politics cries out for nations to enrich themselves at the expense of their neighbors, to cover the seas of their ships, and industry and their activity, the preference in all the markets of the universe; for two nations are among themselves, in a state of pure nature, like two savages fighting over the same prey.

Besides, we must not be deceived; patriotism is the hypocrisy of our age; it is the ambition and the fury of dominating that disguise themselves under popular names. The places were taken in the social order; it was therefore necessary to reverse everything in order to come out. It is not in fact the people, it is not the poor, in whose name they have done so much harm, who have won the revolution, you see, the misery is greater, the poor more numerous, and compassion is extinguished: there is no more pity, no more commiseration in France. We gave much when we thought that we owed compensation, charity constantly filled the gap between children and adults, vanity and pride turned to the benefit of humanity: it was not a sword, it was prayer that armed poverty.

— Antoine de Rivarol, “Philosophie politique” (Ouevres de Rivarol)