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Monday, February 29, 2016

Unmasking the Devil

       "But when a man's fancy gets astride on his reason;  when imagination is at cuffs with the senses, and common understanding, as well as common sense, is kicked out of doors;  the first proselyte he makes is himself;  and when that is once compassed, the difficulty is not so great in bringing over others;  a strong delusion always operating from without as vigorously as from within. . .And, first, with relation to the mind or understanding, 'tis manifest what mighty advantages fiction has over truth;  and the reason is just at our elbow, because imagination can build nobler scenes, and produce more wonderful revolutions than fortune or nature will be at expense to furnish. . .How fading and insipid do all objects accost us, that are not conveyed in the vehicle of delusion!  How shrunk is everything, as it appears in the glass of nature!  So that if it were not for the assistance of artificial mediums, false lights, refracted angles, varnish and tinsel, there would be a mighty level in the felicity and enjoyments of mortal men.  If this were seriously considered by the world, as I have a certain reason to suspect it hardly will, men would no longer reckon among their high points of wisdom, the art of exposing weak sides, and publishing infirmities;  an employment, in my opinion, neither better nor worse than that of unmasking, which, I think, has never been allowed fair usage, either in the world, or the play-house."  Jonathan Swift, A Tale of a Tub (p.119)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

English and French Constitutions Compared

         "They {French revolutionists}measured their land, and divided it into equal geometrical departments, without the slightest regard to difference of soil or population, variety of manners, or diversity of temperament;  and in this Laputan state that great country still remains. . . .If for its associations, could not these Utilitarian legislators understand that, in destroying the associations that clung to the name of Brittany and Burgundy, they were destroying so many wholesome elements of vigorous and enduring government?  Their sentiment required that they should still dwell in Paris, beautiful and famous Paris.  Were they so blind as not to see that the outraged sympathy, which would have recoiled from styling the capital "the city of the Seine," was equally offended when the old dweller in Toraine found that he was suddenly transformed into an inhabitant of the department of the Loire? . . .In France, thanks to Equality and its crabbed fruits, there were no prejudices to shock;  but when we read of the sudden transplantation {by Louis XVIII} of institutions gradually established in the course of centuries by the phlegmatic experience of a Saxon people {i.e. England} into the most southern soils of Europe, the glittering and barbaric Sicilies, and a country which is the link between Europe and Africa, and which in the fertility of its soil, the temperature of its climate, and the character of its inhabitants, resembles Morocco more than England, we seem to be perusing the mad pages of a political novel poured forth by the wild and mystic genius of some inmate of a German University. . . .Are we never to learn that a Constitution, a real Constitution, is the creation of ages, not of a day, and that when we destroy such a Constitution we in fact destroy a nation? . . .The Constitution founded on the Sovereignty of the People has run even a shorter career than the Constitution founded on the Equality of Man:  one of the most gifted and civilised nations that ever existed is enthralled by an iron despotism;  the liberty of the press is utterly destroyed;  trial by jury virtually abrogated;  arbitrary imprisonment in daily practice;  the country covered with Bastiles, and the Bastiles crowded with State victims. . . .English equality calls upon the subject to aspire;  French equality summons him to abase himself.  In England the subject is invited to become an object of admiration or respect;  in France he is warned lest he become an object of envy or of ridicule.  The law of England has invested the subject with equality in order that, if entitled to eminence, he should rise superior to the mass.  The law of France has invested the subject with equality, on condition that he prevent the elevation of his fellow.  English equality blends every man's ambition with the perpetuity of the State;  French equality, which has reduced the subject into a mere individual, has degraded the State into a mere society.  English equality governs the subject by the united and mingled influences of reason and imagination and aspiring to reason, has, in reality, only resolved itself into a barren fantasy.  The Constitution of England is founded not only on a profound knowledge of human nature, but of human nature in England;  the political scheme of France originates not only in a profound ignorance of human nature in general, but of French human nature in particular;  thus in England, however vast and violent may be our revolutions, the Constitution ever becomes more firm and vigorous, while in France a riot oversets the government, and after half a century of political experiments one of the most intellectual of human races has succeeded in losing every attribute of a nation, and has sought refuge from anarchy in a despotism without lustre, which contradicts all its theories and violated all the principles for which it has ever affected to struggle."  Benjamin Disraeli, Vindication of the English Constitution (1835) 

Tory Manifestos, Part Three

       "But the republican model of the House of Russell was Venice;  of their plebian allies, Geneva.  The Peers, to reduce the power of the Crown, now supported by the great majority of the nation, called in the aid of the Puritans, and to obtain the aid of the Puritans attacked the Church:  the Puritans, to insure the destruction of the religious establishment, allied themselves with the Peers in their assault upon the King, whose office, apart from the ecclesiastical polity, they were inclined to respect, and even to reverence. . . .Their cry was, "Civil and Religious Freedom"--that is, a Doge and no Bishops:  advocating the liberty of the subject, the Peers would have established an oligarchy;  upholding toleration, the Puritans aimed at supremacy. . . .Instead of "swamping" the Tory House of Commons by a Septennial Act, they have moulded it to their use and fancy by a reconstruction which has secured a prepondering influence to their sectarian allies:  instead of restricting the royal prerogative in the creation of Peers, they have counselled its prodigal exercise;  but before they had only to confirm their power in the House of Lords, now they have to create their power. . . .The House of Commons remodelled, the House of Lords menaced, the King unconstitutionally controlled, the Church is next attacked, then the Corporations, and they do not conceal that the Magistracy is to be the next victim:  and the nation is thus mangled and torn to pieces, its most sacred feelings outraged, its most important interests destroyed, by a miserable minority arrogating to themselves the bewildering title of "the People," and achieving all this misery and misfortune, all this havoc and degradation, in the sacred name of liberty, and under the impudent pretence of advancing the great cause of popular amelioration, and securing the common good and general happiness."
                                           Benjamin Disraeli ,Vindication of the English Constitution                                                                             (1835)

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Tory Manifestos, Part Two

       "The vast majority of the people is unrepresented and must ever be represented.  No Government of any form or frame can last without the existence of some irresponsible power in its structure, and if the House of Lords were rendered elective to-morrow, what is to check, what is to guard the people of England against the irresponsibility of the constituency and the Representatives of that constituency styled the House of Commons?. . . .But the Commons of England have exercised despotic power before this, and compared with their infamous tyranny {ed.--the Long/Rump Parliaments}the recollection of the rule of the stoutest tyrant that ever waved in this island a solitary sceptre is a dream of bliss.  Let us not, in God's name, try them again;  but if we are mad enough the Republic of jobbers will not last long.  Some brawny arm will soon be extended to 'take away this bauble.' . . .Never let us forget that the House of Commons, when they had got rid of the House of Lords, voted 'trial by Jury' a breach of privilege;  that they doubled the taxes of the country, and loaded it at the same time with enormous debts;  that they divided the public money openly among themselves;  bored men's tongues with red-hot irons who refused to answer their questions;  and sequestered the property and imprisoned the persons of all whom they styled, or chose to consider, malignants."  Benjamin Disraeli, Peers and People (1835)