Flashback Friday: Christmas and its Symbols

It’s Christmas!  Another magical day to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

2020 was a tough year, but Christ is mightier than The Virus.  Thank God—literally!—for sending His Son.

Have a wonderful, safe, loving Christmas Day.  God Bless all of your for your support and generosity, and for being such amazing readers.

Here’s 25 December 2019’s “Christmas and its Symbols“:

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TBT: History of Conservative Thought Update: Edmund Burke

The Summer 2020 session of History of Conservative Thought is really going well.  Yesterday, the three young man each gave brief presentations on three excerpts from Edmund Burke’s writing, summarizing Burke’s main points and ideas.

It was made for a lively, far-ranging discussion.  One of the students is taking another summer course, Terror and Terrorism, a popular summertime offering from one of my colleagues.  I had the pleasure to fill-in last summer for the French Revolution portion of that class while my colleague was away at an AP Summer Institute.  Apparently, that course just covered the French Revolution again, so it dovetailed nicely with our discussion of Burke’s Reflections on that bloody affair.  We had a good time contrasting Burkean “ordered liberty” and Rousseau’s “general will.”

As such, I thought this edition of TBT could look back to Summer 2019’s HoCT update, “History of Conservative Thought Update: Edmund Burke“:

A bit of a delayed post today, due to a busier-than-usual Monday, and the attendant exhaustion that came with it. The third meeting of my new History of Conservative Thought class just wrapped up, and while I should be painting right now, I wanted to give a quite update.

Last week, we began diving into the grandfather of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke. Burke prophetically saw the outcome of the French Revolution before it turned sour, writing his legendary Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1789 as the upheaval began. Burke argued that the French Revolution ended the greatness of European civilization, a Europe that governed, in various ways, its respective realms with a light hand, and a sense of “moral imagination.”

To quote Burke reflecting on the Queen of France:

“I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroick enterprise is gone! It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honour, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.”

What a powerful excerpt! The “sophisters, economists, and calculators,” indeed, reign in the West. What Burke was driving at here was that the rationalistic, abstract bureaucrats who would abandon tradition in their quest for a perfect society would sacrifice everything that made their country great, and life worth living.

Burke was also arguing that there is more to obedience to a government or king than the mere threat of power. People are invested in their country and society—and willing to submit to authority—because of organic culture from which it grows. Uprooting the great tree of tradition in favor of abstract foundations merely destroys the tree, and plants its seedlings in shallow ruts of stone. What grows will be anemic and pitiful by comparison.

Volumes could and have been written about Burke, but I’ll leave it here for now. Next week we’re getting into the development of Northern and Southern conservatism, which should make for some pre-Independence Day fun.

The Magna Carta Turns 805

Good old Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day observes that King John signed the venerable Magna Carta 805 years ago today.  The beleaguered king signed the great charter essentially at sword point, as his barons had him cornered at Runnymede on 15 June 1215.

The Magna Carta’s history is a fascinating one.  King John challenged the document’s legitimacy almost immediately, but his son reaffirmed it.  Essentially, the Magna Carta was not a sweeping guarantee of the rights of all Englishmen; rather, it was a guarantee of the rights of a narrow band of English nobility (the aforementioned barons), and that the king was subject to his own laws.  No taxes could be levied on the nobility without their consent.

It took another four hundred-odd years, during the events leading up to and following the English Civil War, for the Magna Carta to be applied more broadly.  The Stuart monarchs sought to aggrandize the monarchy, turning it into a form of absolute monarchy in the mode of the French kings.  Parliament—jealous of its prerogatives—dug up the Magna Carta and used it in its legal case against absolute monarchy.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Conservative Revolution

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.  NEW TIER: $3 a month gets one edition of Sunday Doodles every month!

Friday’s post, “The Cultural Consequences of the American Civil War,” has enjoyed more traffic than my usual posts thanks to a.) the controversial topic of the American Civil War (gasp!—someone’s not denouncing the South!) and b.) and Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown graciously sharing the post far and wide.  Thanks, Doc!

It’s put me in a bit of a historical mood.  In history, the important points—the Truth—is often in the details, but I’ve always appreciated the contemplation of the philosophical implications of historical events.  Thus, my mini-essay on the American Civil War focused more on the cultural and political costs of the war than the nitty-gritty details.

The costs were, of course, considerable.  Historians of a conservative bent will sometimes refer to “reconstitutions” in United States history, with the Progressive Era and its immediate offspring, the New Deal, often cited as a major “reconstitution.”  The 1964 Civil Rights Act, which elevated anti-racism and social justice above the freedom of association, was another such reconstitution.

Similarly, the American Civil War, as I detailed yesterday, resulted in a reconstitution of the Constitution, as it served to centralize more power in the hands of the federal government, curtailing States’ rights in the process.

An observant reader will note that each of these “reconstitutions” reflected some revolutionary fervor or upheaval:  the horror of war, the agitation of Progressive reformers, the privations of the Depression, and the struggle for equal rights.  They almost all resulted in an increase in federal power, too, often to intrusive degrees.  In each instance, the ratchet turned towards more centralization and fewer liberties overall.

But the American Revolution—which made the Constitution possible—is nearly unique in the annals of modern history—much less American history—in that it was a conservative revolution.  That is, it was a revolution that sought to conserve—or, perhaps more accurately, to preserve—a set of traditions and privileges, rather than to tear them up, root and branch.

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Independence Day

The day has finally come—after three-and-a-half years, Great Britain is finally leaving the European Union.  The British people are regaining their sovereignty and will begin their way back to enjoying their traditional English liberties.

The European Union is an overweaning, elitist, supranational tyranny.  It is a progressive dream, which is why the Leftists are melting down over Brexit, and attempted to thwart it for so many years.  Progressives today—just like progressives in the early twentieth century—are gaga for technocratic rule and elitist dominance.

It’s not about “democracy”; if it was, they would have accepted the outcome of the 2016 referendum.  Democracy only matters to progressives when it advances their ends.  That’s why progressives hold elections and referendums—repeatedly, if necessary—until they get the outcomes they want—and then the matter is settled forever.  If that doesn’t work, courts or the bureaucracy will effectively veto the voters’ “incorrect” choices.

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Christmas and its Symbols

It’s Christmas!  Imagine “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” played on an uptempo French horn and a crackling fire.  That’s how I imagine Christmas morning—like a 1970s Christmas variety show.

In all seriousness, it’s truly the most wonderful time of the year.  Christ is born!  It’s a day for celebrating His Birth with family and friends.  Just like the Wise Men of yore, we exchange presents to celebrate (and to stimulate the economy).

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TBT: The Influence of Christianity on America’s Founding

My high school American history classes are getting into the American Civil War—or the War of Northern Aggression, or the War for Southern Independence, or whatever you’d like to call it—this week, so we’ve been talking about beginnings a good bit.  The Civil War had deep roots that go back not just to the 1840s or 1850s, and not even to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Indeed, the fundamental division dates back to the English Civil War in the 1648, when the Puritan Roundheads under Oliver Cromwell ousted and beheaded Charles I, and established the English Republic (which—the English having little taste for radicalism or dictatorships, fortunately collapses in 1660 with the restoration of the Stuart monarchs).  Loyalists to the king and the monarchical order were the aristocratic Cavaliers.  Those same Puritans of East Anglia settled heavily in Massachusetts following the Pilgrims’ famous landing at Plymouth Rock, and the Cavaliers—in body and spirit—dominated the tidewater plantations of the South.

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