The Prince, The People, and Fritz Pendleton in Between

[After much delay…]

Half a year ago, Fritz Pendleton attempted to draw lessons from Bonapartism (my response here). Most recently, he has presented us with a treatise that is strange in just how conventional and neutered it is.

Pendleton is nominally aiming to pursue the same direction as a Karl Ludwig von Haller: a comprehensive theory of a top-to-bottom anti-liberal/anti-radical statecraft. Instead, he has somehow ended up repackaging the most vanilla English (or perhaps French) constitutional monarchism imaginable. Something went off the rails along the way, and so we learn that Bishop Stubbs, rather than Whig history, actually provided a metapolitics of counterrevolution all along.

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Every once in a while, you stumble upon an obscure jurist barely anyone has heard of with visibly dated (?) ultra-royalist leanings, who turns out to be a true gem. Is there a value to pursuing this? The value, I think, lies in helping you tell the difference between a monarch and a Bonapartist. It is understandable that the left often can’t tell it, but increasingly large numbers of the people on the right are also finding themselves incapable.

Next up will be my response to Fritz Pendleton’s latest. Until then, a word from Jean-Baptiste-Victor Coquille (1820-1891), a lawyer who hated lawyers, in Les légistes: leur influence politique et religieuse (1863), p.375-9:

The doctrine which gives the right of property to the State is not so foreign to our legislation as one would be tempted to believe at first sight; admirers of our Codes can easily be convinced. Roman law, especially with regard to property, is alive again in our civil law. The gradual abolition of customs, undertaken under the combined influence of jurists and royalty, was to lead to the triumph of absolutism and the denial of the right of property. In Rome, the State alone is invested with the right of property; the Roman citizen is only a member of the political congregation. It alone has the right of ownership. This primitive communism has left many traces in the archaism of the law. Outside the sovereign city, there were only inferior and subordinate rights. Thus the provinces did not enjoy the right of property; the Roman people attributed to themselves the eminent domain, the legal property of all the conquered countries. They abandoned the property to the inhabitants only precariously. The inhabitants were only mere possessors. That is the right of which the Roman jurists have deduced the consequences with precision. Caesar, the legal representative of the Roman people, was thus invested with the total property of the submissive world. This universal confiscation was intended to weaken the subjugated nations, extinguishing in them all sentiment of personality. This system succeeds wonderfully; and when Rome, after centuries of fierce struggle, sank under the weight of the Barbarians, the provinces remained powerless and unable to govern themselves. A brilliant civilization, a perfected administration, did not save them. These advantages, indeed, do not replace, at the time of the great struggles, the energetic instincts of an independent nationality. Gaul got up with the Franks, who placed at their service a valiant and devoted sword, and soon became with the Gauls a single people. From this melee of Gallo-Romans and Franks was born, under the action of the Catholic Church, feudal France. Feudalism is the glorification of the right of property; it causes all political rights to flow from property. The hierarchy of lands corresponded to the hierarchy of functions; the land paid for the function. Royalty was the greatest of the fiefs, but it was of the same nature as the other fiefs, and was transmitted like them, from male to male and by order of primogeniture. The ancient possessions were also transformed into incommutable and perpetual fiefs. As a result of this change in the organization of the right of property, justice no longer had the autocratic character it derived from Roman law. The Roman emperors were the supreme legislators of the world; their will had the force of law, which was principally established, legis habet vigorem. To this justice emanated from the imperial arbitrariness succeeded a territorial justice based on custom. The peoples freed themselves from the Roman law, and only raised themselves, their manners, and their traditions. Caesar lost his powers as legislator and judge. This was the moderate character of feudal royalty. From the principle that the law was territorial, the consequence was that the men of every custom, of every locality, were the only interpreters of the law. This state of affairs has been undermined by two claims successfully supported by the lawyers. The first is that the fiefs were a usurpation on the royal estate; the second is that “all justice emanates from the King.” The French monarchy, by a fatal ambition, became drunk with these fatal doctrines, and demolished with its own hands the edifice of which it was the coronation. Once the foundation of the company was shaken, the ridge was soon overturned. In hatred of the Church and feudalism, the lawyers brought us back under Roman servitude. Roman law, in its application to the provinces, was a code of servitude; it choked under its cold logic all the spontaneous germs of development among the conquered nations. The jurists at an early age began to invoke royal power against customs; in the long run they relocated France under orders and good pleasure. Their triumph has made France the privileged land of bickering and procedure. But their action was above all mortal to public liberties; they have entirely sacrificed the right of property to their pagan prejudices. Almost all French soil was constituted into fiefs; if the fiefs went back to the royal authority, it followed that the right of property was a concession of royalty. Louis XIV professed this theory as clearly as the most advanced socialists of our day. “All the goods of our subjects are ours,” he wrote in his instructions to his grandson. The remains of feudalism disappear in 1789.

The theory of the State that owns the national soil will emerge from the discussions and events with remarkable speed. By virtue of this principle, the property of the clergy and the nobility are declared State property: the spoliation takes the air of a claim. Let’s get to the Civil Code. “Property,” says section 544, “is the right to enjoy and dispose of things in the most absolute manner, provided that they are not used in a manner prohibited by law or by regulation.” Surely all this is very strange. What is an absolute property subject to the laws and regulations that any legislator will imagine? The drafters of the Code were incapable of raising a clear notion of the principles of the legislation. They recalled the definition of Robespierre, who saw in property only the right, for every citizen, to enjoy the portion of property guaranteed to him by law. Even today collective property needs, in order to be born, a prior authorization; and the legislator would think it right to dissolve it after having authorized it. The State therefore considers the right of ownership to be a delegation, since it gives and withdraws it at will. The law of inheritance and gift gives us a striking example of the influence of this idea, that above the individual property resides the superior right of the State. Substitutions are prohibited by the Civil Code. Why, if I am the absolute master of my thing, can I not dispose of it in an absolute manner, am I a simple usufructuary, have I only a life-giving right limited to my earthly existence? The testament is sacred to all peoples, because, in spite of death, it is the expression of an ever-living will. The last wills suppose the immortality of the soul. By what right to limit the effect of our last will on the things that are ours? England has never known Roman law; it leaves the property right free. It is permissible in England to dispose of his thing in perpetuity, by means of substitutions. This is the right in its complete autonomy. The Civil Code attributes to us only a kind of usufruct. There is no exaggeration of our property tax that does not seem to attest a kind of co-ownership on the part of the State. It is about one-fifth of the income; it is about the tax formerly levied by the Roman fisc in the provinces. What will we say about the property of the communes or public institutions some of whose directors claim that the State has the right to order the sale? Is not this still an appeal to the primordial right of property which belongs to the State? The Code can not be explained dogmatically; but it is impossible not to see in the series of its provisions relating to the right of property an inspiration of Roman law, as opposed to customary law, of which the Revolution has effaced the last vestiges.

It isn’t true that “England has never known Roman law,” but overall the judgment holds up. Now many people will probably jump that the author is advocating unrestrained alienation, but read more closely the idea is that having dominium directum disconnected from territorial rulers claiming regalian rights, and instead transferred to the Crown, which let us not forget by the time of absolutism became a mere corporate fiction thanks to the doctrine of capacities, and of indivisible sovereignty (which paradoxically held that the sovereign was absolute, but not absolute enough to parcel his demesne lands into fiefs), ultimately led to the institution becoming a meaningless redundancy — with the jurists dealing the final death blow by simply formalizing Crown into the Council that it had been for so long.

Scientifically historicizing progress

A 2006 essay by Ralph Seliger, himself a left-liberal Zionist, remains one of the best article overviews of the oft-cited relationship between neoconservatism and Trotskyism. Its stated purpose is to debunk the “Jewishness” of the neoconservatives, but the author’s retelling of events that he was sometimes a first-hand witness to speak for themselves.

Unlike virtually everyone else, I don’t regard neoconservatism by itself as ever having been a significant phenomenon. It’s nothing more than the Jewish wing of Wilsonianism, and the perspectives of neoconservatism and mainline gentile liberal internationalism do not differ significantly from each other, except that some of the first-generation neocons did partially criticize various Great Society programs — like Nathan Glazer did. Even without the neocons, it is unlikely to me that the US and Israel’s cozy relationship (beginning with LBJ, thus predating AIPAC influence) would have differed. Before PNAC, there was the UDA. The Old Right had already dissolved by that point, and in fact I’d say that realistically it was the final defeat of the Taft Republicans by Eisenhower during the debates on the Bricker Amendment that was far more traumatic to American conservatism than in whatever influence the social democratic ideas of the Partisan Review and neoconservatism may have had.

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Comte de Ferrand on the factions of the Estates-General

From Le rétablissement de la monarchie (1793) by Antoine François Claude, comte Ferrand, pp.33-38:

They had succeeded in speaking incessantly to man of his rights, and raising the body politic against wisdom; in the Estates-General they were given the opportunity to assemble their hitherto isolated attacks, and to ensure their success by giving them a national character:

1. Protestants. Enemies of the royal authority and of the Catholic religion, they had in the last but one century attempted to destroy both: both had resisted their efforts; but they had not lost the hope of renewing them: their deputies arrived at the Estates-General, with the same plan to divide France into departments: a project which they had conceived at a time when they were persecuted, & whose execution they came to attempt at the moment when the goodness of Louis XVI. had assured their repose, their fate, and their civil status. Although in general the Protestants practice religious precepts more exactly than Catholics, their hatred of the church brought them closer to the Atheists, who in their writings had always sided with them, not so much by error as by aversion to the truth. They will implore their help in the name of tolerance; and the philosophers, whose secret had been revealed to one of them, when he had said, that if the philosophers should become masters, they would be more enlightened than the others, they would prefer to be with the passion carried with it by the Protestants, and so they flattered the latter’s credulity with espousals of revenge, and congratulated themselves for having acquired, by granting the protection which they were asked, an additional means of attacking the Christian religion which they had sworn to destroy.

2. All those whose irreverence, pride, and ambition had believed that the moment had come to declare themselves legislators, to give the calculation of their interests, or that of their abstract ideas, as the result of a wise political conception. Each of them pretended to honor or to give a constitution to France; each one in his own way, but all too systematic, too proud, or too little educated to lend themselves to the proprieties of the times, things, and people, and so they wanted a clean slate on which they could be destined without constraint and without obstacles. The first step which they all had to make was thus to destroy what existed; & in following the execution of this plan, the oldest establishments were to be the first to be proscribed.

3. The partisans of anarchy. This class is always numerous, because, to disturb a state, it leaps with more audacity than talent; but it multiplies itself in public discords, because anarchy presents to all passions the success of one hand and the inability of the other. The Estates-General convened near the capital, in a moment of want, in a corrupt century, in the midst of all the rising parties, offering to the eyes of those men who always inspire terror or contempt, the hope too well probed of a rich harvest of profits and iniquities. To ensure its enjoyment, it was sufficient to destroy everything; and of the multitude of interests which were to work in the overthrow, were to be born countless difficulties which, by delaying the renewal/restoration, prolonged the anarchy or the triumph of all crimes.

4. Supporters of bicameralism [monarchiens].

To see from that moment what interest, what means and what desire they had to kill and to overthrow the old regime, they only jumped at the opportunity for their arrival at the Estates-General. Already being sounded by others as the deserters of all orders, they could not hide from themselves that they were exposing themselves to being rejected by all; they wished, therefore, to create a new one, the entrance of which could only be opened to a small number, but could be promised to a multitude whom this chimera would not fail to seduce. It was by betraying their order and their oath that they had to begin; and it was easy to conceive what such a beginning would produce; that nothing would cost the legislators, who gave themselves their mission, and who established it on a perjury. These transgressions of honor and truth offer to their proselytes a seductive appeal, in the humiliation and destruction of their own bodies. For those who are not equal, all the distinctions which apprehended the happiness of their equals, were not the object of a sacrifice. When men of birth are made to go to discontent, they despise their own order, in proportion to the degree to which their arrogance gives them the idea of their own merit.

Lastly, this party was dangerous, because it endeavored to show in a favorable light the example of a neighboring and powerful nation [England]; and because it took care to conceal the local differences and the definite inconveniences. It seduced thus those who judge with enthusiasm, without reflection, and who content themselves with seeing things en masse. It seemed to wish to clarify the three powers/branches of the state, and it announced itself as respecting property…

The monarchiens and Necker, he lambasts a lot. On the former, see also: “Old school cuckservatism.”

In general, these four factions are a recurring pattern: the Protestants (1) are a stand-in for ethnic spoils (complete with their advocacy by philosophes), the (2) managerialist, the (3) rent-seeker and the (4) ineffectual reformist conservative.

Royalist and Rousseauist all the same

Proprietors, whoever you are, beware of supporting a false doctrine. Men who have nothing are not your equals.

— Antoine Joseph de Barruel-Beauvert, Cri de l’honneur et de la vérité aux proprietaires (1792)

What little we know of Antoine Joseph de Barruel-Beauvert’s (it appears his nobiliary particle is disputed) biography presents quite the fascinating picture. Born in 1757, he serves as a militiaman, was an attempted savior of Louis XVI, a royalist newspaper editor after the Thermidorian reaction, then is pursued and hides out over at the house of the co-founder of probably the single most leftist organization of its time in the 1790s alongside Thomas Paine, then becomes a Bonapartist and dies a Bourbon legitimist in 1817, shortly after the (Second) Restoration — after the brief interregnum involving Napoleon’s Hundred Days.

But, what really caught my attention is the fact that he is credited as writing the first biography of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in 1789. Not a takedown, either, but one of strong admiration.

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Charles Reemelin’s critical review of American politics (1881)

[Best read as an appendix to the previous article on electoral violence.]

Charles Reemelin was a man who hated America. Not out of envy, spite or hatred, but out of in-depth personal experience. Sure, he insisted on simply being a patriot who sought to deliver America from the tyranny of partyism, but the subtext is obvious, especially in his case. On the other hand, his vision of what America’s political future ought to be was, sans a few of his Teutonic eccentricities, on the money in terms of predictive ability. He can be regarded as one of the most adroit and cultivated apostles of the managerial class, with a penchant for citing the primary sources of the new cameralism he endorsed — Lorenz von Stein, Wilhelm Roscher and Rudolf von Gneist, to name a few. Born Karl Gustav Rümelin in 1814, he emigrated in 1832 and embarked on a political career leading up to the Ohio Senate.

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Communalists and constitutionalists

Liberalism and democracy are not the same, as I’ve mentioned in the context of the doctrinaires and ancients v. moderns.

“Illiberal democracy” is used as an epithet to refer to various top-heavy presidential or parliamentary republics where elections serve a mostly symbolic role to give the dog (the public) a bone. And I don’t mean blow them like in the AC/DC song. Although, figuratively, this may indeed be it.

But that’s quite a limited way of grasping the distinction. Instead let’s use a dichotomy of “communalism” and “constitutionalism.” Such as between, say, the Swiss mountain cantons of the Grey League, and… Luxembourg. Luxembourg? Yes, not even the venerable Grand Duchy was spared from the Great European Chimpout of 1848. Grand Duke William II conceded a constitution.

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