Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Thursday, 14 August 2008

"Reactionary Prophet"

IF THE DEVIL WROTE A POLEMIC ON GOD, it might faithfully reflect Christopher Hitchens' grudging respect of Edmund Burke. Begrudging because use of the label "reactionary" is meant to be pejorative and a political epithet; respect and even praise in that "prophet" is an admission that Burke's prophetic indictment of what would become of revolutionary France proved almost eerily exact.

"Reactionary Prophet" is no shamelessly self-promoting screed against Mother Teresa, but in actual fact a fairly balanced critique of Burke by a modern day Paine - Hitchens at his least repugnant. As delightful as it is to read fellow Burkeans such as Russell Kirk and Roger Scruton praising the philosophy and prescience of Burke, it is criticisms by the unconverted that are the more fascinating, and even more so if the unconverted are utterly godless talents like Christopher Hitchens. For here is an unrepentent Trotskyte declaring victory over the patriarch of traditional Anglosphere conservatism, and castigating him for dismissing the ideals of the Enlightenment as nothing more than the "vulgar, base and profane language" of the mob. Burke may have been right early on but he was wrong in the long run. The revolution in all its parts had indeed succeeded, eventually devouring the whole of the West in its ravenous wake.

To which the Burkean answers why yes, why yes it has, but just how, pray, is that a good thing, exactly? Just how is our increasingly anti-monarchist, anti-Christian, hyperliberal, suprastatist, politically correct and amusement-sodden dystopia an improvement over the more stoic values and ordered liberty of yesteryear? Please point to us the virtues and general worth of leveling modernity. Todays glories and wealth can be summarised with a Trollope: "But the glory is the glory of pasteboard, and the wealth is the wealth of tinsel". Somewhere along the way our character and majesty got reduced to plastic and tinsel, and some of us are not very happy about it.

I fervently hope this is not what Hitchens the anti-theist and neo-imperialist wants to export to the rest of the world. Burke was prophetic alright - vulgar, base and profane everywhere you look. But hey, the republicans have their priorities. It's the Queen that must come to an end.


Tweedsmuir said...

Excellent post. I admire the photo blog, but we were overdue for some thought provoking blurb. So thank you.

By the way, I wear the epithet "Reactionary" with intense pride. I consider it a badge of honour.

J.K. Baltzersen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.K. Baltzersen said...

Magnificent post, sir.

The baloney that the Whig Theory of History is self-evident needs to be debunked.

Thank you, sir!

J.K. Baltzersen said...

BTW, I'll take the younger Hitchens over his brother any day of the year. Of course!

Sir Walter Scott said...

Resplendent post.

Beaverbrook said...

Great post, Smitty. Feel free to use "Birkenhead" to elevate your status. Remember that Churchill's closest friend was raised to the peerage, though he is probably more famously recognized as F.E. Smith.

The reactionary Peter Hitchens may not be as talented as his older brother, Christopher Hitchens, but he more than makes up for this deficiency by being right. But I very much enjoyed reading Christopher Hitchens' take on Burke.

Shaftesbury said...

"Anglosphere conservatism"?

This is a myth. A falsehood, even. Conservatism is particularist, not universalist.

Only England and Canada share a similar variant of the tory tradition. There were some similar adherents in Scotland and Ireland, but they were never a very large segment of the population.

An Australian Political Scientist would scoff at the very idea of "Australian conservatism." There was never any such thing. Of course, there were "Loyalist liberals" in Australia - but they were liberals and the inheritors of the tradition of Adam Smith, James Mill, JS Mill, Richard Cobden, and John Bright more than anything else. Liberals to a man. Note that there has never been a modern political party in Australia that calls itself "conservative" or "tory." Have you ever wondered why this is? Do you know why this is?

Gentleman, please restrain yourselves. When it comes to philosophy, many of you have succumbed to the "American disease" where you view concepts like individualism and free-markets as "conservatism." They are not - and from the perspective of Uppper Canada and England - and never were.

Disraeli opposed Peel over the repeal of the Corn Laws you know ...

F.E. Smith said...

Hogwash. There were indeed New England Tories, and there is a large body of paleoconservative opinion in the United States that is very much Burkean. Ever read Kirk? Many do refer to Burke as the father of Ango-American conservatism, which by the way is a different thing than Toryism. Burke was less a Tory, and more an Old Whig, and only switched when Whiggism got dangerously radical.

Theodore said...

I've never understood what it is that makes Peter Hitchens less "talented" than Christopher, though I've seen that view expressed before, and also by those closer to Peter's views. There are passages in "The Abolition of Britain" so powerfully written that I doubt anyone sharing the sympathies of this blog could read them without emotion. I disagree with his ambivalent stance on the Civil War--but like the Cavaliers, who were "Right" AND "Romantic," Peter is right AND at least as good a writer as his brother.

Sir Walter Scott said...

Christopher Hitchens is probably more talented a performer in the media, but I personally find his literary criticism and articles in the Atlantic essentially unreadable. They halt and totter every which way, a far cry from the doughty pith and hard-won simplicity of Peter's prose. I feel sea-sick reading some of those C. Hitchens sentences.

Peter deserves a knighthood in the next decade.

F.E. Smith said...

Gee, I don't know about that. Me saying Shakespeare is more talented than Kipling, does nothing to blunt the genius of Rudyard. I would have to agree with Beaverbrook: Christopher is the more talented one, but Peter is the only one I'll toast.

Shaftesbury said...

FE Smith:

Balderdash yourself. If a New England Tory was to remain a Tory, then he would have to come to Canada, or go back to England. You cannot remain a Tory without upholding allegiance to the Crown. The British Crown.

Yes, Burke was a Whig - which means in the parlance of his times that he was a liberal. Despite the fact that I admire the man's life and work, that does not make him a Tory.

What you are peddling here is at least Whiggery, and at the most, classical liberalism.

And that ain't toryism.

Wanna try again?

Shaftesbury said...

For the record, I don't have a huge problem with Loyal Whigs, but I do have a problem with two things here:

*Equating Whiggery with Toryism;

*Claiming that such a thing as a "universal" conservatism exists.

As a Canadian Tory, I look upon American "Conservatives" with great disgust, as they are monarchist & conservative (in the English tory tradition that matters)as much as I am the "Man on the Moon". In other words: not very much at all.

If you ever called an Australian a "tory" or a "conservative", you had better be ready to have a beer bottle crahsed against your skull.

John Howard was a liberal in the Australian tradition. The Liberal Party is the right-wing party in that land. And to ANYONE with a classical education (that is, anyone outside the USA), that makes perfect sense.

In the spirit of cordiality, I must ask why any American feels compelled to come here and share port with Loyal Britons. I can only surmise that one would be trying to undermine what we have built here in this Club. If you want to become a conservative, move to Canada or England and take the Oath of Allegiance. Maybe then.

An American "paleoconservative" (what a ridiculous proposition by-the-way ...) would have to admire Pat Buchanan, and I cannot more imagine a person I would choose to snub than him. Pfffffft.

Theodore said...

I agree with Shaftesbury and have no use for American "conservatism" for the same reasons...but alas I happen to live in the United States, by no choice of my own. I consider my allegiance to be British at heart and my ideology to be that of a true Tory, whatever my passport says. I hope that Americans with pictures of HM on their walls who always substitute "Queen" for "State" when they listen to Choral Evensong are still welcome in the "club"!

Shaftesbury said...


Yes, I would consider you welcome here - but strictly because you seem to understand the difference between a legitimate tory and an American classical liberal.

Unrestricted capitalism leads to plutocracy. I prefer Aristocracy.

Aristocrats and the Gentry took their men into battle at Mons in 1914; Plutocrats stayed home and minted fortunes on the depsair of the heroic and their kin.

Large differences that.

F.E. Smith said...
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Neil Welton said...

"I hope that Americans with pictures of Her Majesty on their walls, who always substitute "Queen" for "State" when they listen to Choral Evensong, are still welcome in the "Club"!"

This be an excellent qualification.

Now let the nation decide. Barack Oblair, John Mistake or Her Majesty The Queen. I have to admit I find this choice easier - only one of them is a true stateswoman.

Anonymous said...

Shaftesbury, I thank you for having written, here in this comments section, some of the best words ever to appear on the site. Cheers.