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To: KC Burke; Alamo-Girl; Askel5; beckett; cornelis; Diamond; Phaedrus; Slingshot; Dataman; ...
Fascinating to see the distance that had to be traveled by the continental minds...we don't reflect how lucky we are in our heritage.

Hello KC Burke! On this general question of Anglican vs. Gallican liberty and political order, the British Glorious Revolution of 1688 (with which John Locke was closely associated) and the French Revolution of 1789 are most instructive.

Two “revolutions” could not be more unlike. Our own American founding was on the first model; the Framers had explicitly rejected all the premises regarding human nature and sociopolitical order that the latter would soon instantiate, in terror and blood. Yet in our present day, professors and acolytes of the spirit of the French Revolution are working overtime to make sure it will yet again dominate the culture, and more importantly, the seats of political Power.

The following passage from Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) describes one of the French Revolution’s most striking innovations. The subject is the seizure of the Ecclesiastical estates, nominally to pay off the egregious national debts. Arguably, however, this business really had more to do with reducing the religious establishment (and any other “politically incorrect” establishment or individual for that matter) – so vital a part of traditional French national life -- to impecunity and impotence. [I have a facsimile of the 1790 edition that replicates the rather odd (from our modern point of view) orthography of the time. So I’ve taken the liberty of a little “updating.” Burke is addressing an unidentified French correspondent here.]

“Few barbarous conquerors have ever made so terrible a revolution in property. None of the heads of the Roman factions…in all their auctions of rapine, have ever set up to sale the goods of the conquered citizen to such an enormous amount. It must be allowed in favor of those tyrants of antiquity, that what was done by them could hardly be said to be done in cold blood. Their passions were inflamed, their tempers soured, their understandings confused, with the spirit of revenge, with the innumerable reciprocated and recent afflictions and retaliations of blood and rapine. They were driven beyond all bounds of moderation by the apprehension of the return to power with the return of property to the families of those they had injured beyond all hope of forgiveness.

“These Roman conquerors, who were yet only in the elements of tyranny, and were not instructed in the rights of man to exercise all sorts of cruelties on each other without provocation, thought it necessary to spread a sort of color over their injustice. They considered the vanquished party as composed of traitors who had borne arms, or otherwise had acted with hostility against the commonwealth. They regarded them as persons who had forfeited their property by their crimes. With you, in your improved state of the human mind, there was no such formality. You seized upon five millions sterling of annual rent, and turned forty or fifty thousand human creatures out of their houses, because “such was your pleasure.” The tyrant Henry the Eighth of England, as he was not better enlightened than the Roman Marius’s and Sulla’s, and had not studied in your new schools, did not know what an effectual instrument of despotism was to be found in that grand magazine of offensive weapons, the rights of men. When he resolved to rob the abbeys, as the club of the Jacobins have robbed all the ecclesiastics, he began by setting on foot a committee to examine into the crimes and abuses which prevailed in those communities. As it might be expected, his commission reported truths, exaggerations, and falsehoods. But truly or falsely it reported abuses and offenses. However, as abuses might be corrected, as every crime of persons does not infer a forfeiture with regard to communities, and as property, in that dark age, was not discovered to be a creature of prejudice, all those abuses (and there were enough of them) were hardly thought sufficient ground to such a confiscation as it was for his purposes to make. He therefore procured the formal surrender of these estates. All these operose proceedings were adopted by one of the most decided tyrants in the rolls of history, as necessary preliminaries, before he could venture, by bribing the members of his two servile houses with a share in the spoil, and holding out to them an eternal immunity from taxation, to demand a confirmation of his iniquitous proceedings by an act of parliament. Had fate reserved him to our times, four technical terms would have done his business, and saved him all this trouble; he needed nothing more than one short form of incantation – ‘Philosophy, Light, Liberality, the Rights of Men.’

“I can say nothing in praise of those acts of tyranny, which no voice has hitherto ever commended under any of their false colors; yet in these false colors an homage was paid by despotism to justice. The power which was above all fear and all remorse was not set above all shame. Whilst shame keeps its watch, Virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart; nor will Moderation be utterly exiled from the minds of tyrants.”

* * * * *

Whilst shame keeps its watch, Virtue is not wholly extinguished in the heart; nor will Moderation be utterly exiled from the minds of tyrants. Ah, there’s the rub in our age: We humans have become increasingly shameless. It probably has to do with the increasing general contempt for God, the foundation of moral order. And our shamelessness leaves us defenseless against the seductive blandishments of the avatars of tyranny. The rhetoric of “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" sounds so good and right and decent, how can it have been such a successful mask for so much Evil in the world, down to the present time?

Thanks so much for writing, KC.

59 posted on 02/08/2003 6:44:26 PM PST by betty boop
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To: betty boop
We humans have become increasingly shameless. It probably has to do with the increasing general contempt for God ["there is no God, only matter and its motion], the foundation of moral order. And our shamelessness leaves us defenseless against the seductive blandishments of the avatars of tyranny. The rhetoric of “Liberte [W/o God, as the French Rev illustrated, Liberty becomes meaningless], Egalite [Some men are more evolved that others, as Hitler showed us], Fraternite"[How does the brotherhood of man fit in with survival of the fittest?] sounds so good and right and decent, how can it have been such a successful mask for so much Evil in the world, down to the present time?

A mask for evil it was and a mask for evil it remains. Good thought!

67 posted on 02/09/2003 5:57:52 AM PST by Dataman
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To: betty boop; beckett; Askel5; Alamo-Girl; Dataman; cornelis
... all those abuses (and there were enough of them) were hardly thought sufficient ground to such a confiscation as it was for his purposes to make. He therefore procured the formal surrender of these estates. All these operose proceedings were adopted by one of the most decided tyrants in the rolls of history, as necessary preliminaries, before he could venture, by bribing the members of his two servile houses with a share in the spoil, and holding out to them an eternal immunity from taxation, to demand a confirmation of his iniquitous proceedings by an act of parliament.

In contrast to the French, Henry the Eighth had the grace to acknowledge his humanity by also acknowledging the immorality of his acts (and, yes, I do believe that human beings are, by nature, moral).

Most of all he emphasized that the new forms of politics, which hope to organize society around the rational pursuit of liberty, equality, fraternity, or their modernist equivalents, are actually forms of militant irrationality. There is no way in which people can collectively pursue liberty, equality, and fraternity ... Nevertheless, a form of collective rationality does emerge in these cases, and its popular name is war.

"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" is an adolescent formula, perfectly stylish but without substance, so like this Postmodern Age and so like the French, I 'm sorry to say.

Foucault’s Les mots et les choses, the bible of the soixante-huitards, the text which seemed to justify every form of transgression, by showing that obedience is merely defeat. It is an artful book, composed with a satanic mendacity, selectively appropriating facts in order to show that culture and knowledge are nothing but the “discourses” of power. The book is not a work of philosophy but an exercise in rhetoric. Its goal is subversion ...

Yes.

The revolutionary spirit, which searches the world for things to hate, has found in Foucault a new literary formula.

Yes.

Law is constrained at every point by reality, and utopian visions have no place in it.

Far less true in America today and thus a threat to civilization itself. Law is supposed to operate at the margin of society and to be boring but reliable. It is supposed to codify social wisdom, not be a playground for social experimentation. We lose reliable law at our peril. "The Law" today has become a perversion.

... aesthetic judgment matters ...

Here is a point that is vastly underappreciated IMHO and before we emerge from this Dark Materialist Age I believe we must come to understand that God in not only Truth, "He" is also Beauty. I am going to be accused of great pomposity for saying this, but I believe that a combination of careful thought, reasoning and acknowledgement of all that it means to be human will get you there.

He persuaded me that societies are not and cannot be organized according to a plan or a goal, that there is no direction to history, and no such thing as moral or spiritual progress...

Reductionist human plans and planning are not adequate, I would agree, but I do believe there has been spiritual progress (and this Intellectual Redneck will probably get beat up bigtime for saying this -- I do think I can defend it, though).

Most of all he emphasized that the new forms of politics, which hope to organize society around the rational pursuit of liberty, equality, fraternity, or their modernist equivalents, are actually forms of militant irrationality. There is no way in which people can collectively pursue liberty, equality, and fraternity ... Nevertheless, a form of collective rationality does emerge in these cases, and its popular name is war.

Society, [Burke] argued, is not held together by the abstract rights of the citizen, as the French Revolutionaries supposed. It is held together by authority—by which is meant the right to obedience ...

I see society more as organic, growing in accord with seminal ideas and adopting such forms for control of the aberrant as are necessary, but when the means of control are manipulated by those in control to tighten their contol and satiate their greed, we have tyranny. "Right" authority is selfless. American history is testimony to the power of right ideas.

The abstract, unreal freedom of the liberal intellect was really nothing more than childish disobedience, amplified into anarchy.

Yes, exactly and precisely. This is what the Liberals are foisting upon our children and upon society.

Burke’s provocative defense, in this connection, of “prejudice” —by which he meant the set of beliefs and ideas that arise instinctively in social beings, and which reflect the root experiences of social life—was a revelation of something that until then I had entirely overlooked.

... people distinguish seemly from unseemly conduct, abhor explicit sexual display, and require modesty in women and chivalry in men in the negotiations that precede sexual union. There are very good anthropological reasons for this, in terms of the long-term stability of sexual relations, and the commitment that is necessary if children are to be inducted into society. But these are not the reasons that motivate the traditional conduct of men and women. This conduct is guided by deep and immovable prejudice, in which outrage, shame, and honor are the ultimate grounds. The sexual liberator has no difficulty in showing that those motives are irrational, in the sense of being founded on no reasoned justification available to the person whose motives they are. And he may propose sexual liberation as a rational alternative, a code of conduct that is rational from the first-person viewpoint, since it derives a complete code of practice from a transparently reasonable aim, which is sexual pleasure.

Yes. Convention is codified social wisdom. Note that Scruton is also saying that individual morality is innate.

This substitution of reason for prejudice has indeed occurred. And the result is exactly as Burke would have anticipated. Not merely a breakdown in trust between the sexes, but a faltering in the reproductive process—a failing and enfeebled commitment of parents, not merely to each other, but also to their offspring. At the same time, individual feelings, which were shored up and fulfilled by the traditional prejudices, are left exposed and unprotected by the skeletal structures of rationality. Hence the extraordinary situation in America, where lawsuits have replaced common courtesy, where post-coital accusations of “date-rape” take the place of pre-coital modesty, and where advances made by the unattractive are routinely penalized as “sexual harrassment.” This is an example of what happens, when prejudice is wiped away in the name of reason, without regard for the real social function that prejudice alone can fulfill. And indeed, it was partly by reflecting on the disaster of sexual liberation, and the joyless world that it has produced around us, that I came to see the truth of Burke’s otherwise somewhat paradoxical defense of prejudice.

Yes, and the decline is real.

Rightly understood, [Burke] argued, society is a partnership among the dead, the living, and the unborn, and without what he called the “hereditary principle,” according to which rights could be inherited as well as acquired, both the dead and the unborn would be disenfranchized. Indeed, respect for the dead was, in Burke’s view, the only real safeguard that the unborn could obtain, in a world that gave all its privileges to the living. His preferred vision of society was not as a contract, in fact, but as a trust, with the living members as trustees of an inheritance that they must strive to enhance and pass on.

"Trust" is the stunningly appropriate concept.

With apologies for the length of this post, Burke and Scruton, as you see, did resonate.

70 posted on 02/09/2003 7:35:43 AM PST by Phaedrus
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To: betty boop
My Grandfather, a simple Mormon Mechanic, disliked Burke, and disliked the French Revolution mainly for its rejection of the past in law and heritage.

He felt that the Founders took the idea of continence to its logical end, we were from England and those laws and customs that we inherited and were compatible with a Republic should hold force.

149 posted on 02/15/2007 6:19:20 PM PST by Little Bill (Welcome to the Newly Socialist State of New Hampshire)
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