The History of the The Decline and Fall of the European Empire

I just came across this hilarious post from the President of the European Commission.

Juncker

Of course, Mr. Juncker, this has happened before. It was the Gothic War of 376-382, and it is firmly my view that we should read, absorb, and remember exactly what happens when we allow tens of thousands of barbarian migrants escaping from other barbarians to cross our border.

As I am convinced that you are not interested in avoiding history’s mistakes, but rather replicating them, reproduced below is Vol. II Ch. XXVI Part III from Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in the hope that others are dissuaded from following your moralising.

Chapter XXVI: Progress of The Huns.—Part III.

After Valens had terminated the Gothic war with some appearance of glory and success, he made a progress through his dominions of Asia, and at length fixed his residence in the capital of Syria. The five years which he spent at Antioch was employed to watch, from a secure distance, the hostile designs of the Persian monarch; to check the depredations of the Saracens and Isaurians; to enforce, by arguments more prevalent than those of reason and eloquence, the belief of the Arian theology; and to satisfy his anxious suspicions by the promiscuous execution of the innocent and the guilty. But the attention of the emperor was most seriously engaged, by the important intelligence which he received from the civil and military officers who were intrusted with the defence of the Danube. He was informed, that the North was agitated by a furious tempest; that the irruption of the Huns, an unknown and monstrous race of savages, had subverted the power of the Goths; and that the suppliant multitudes of that warlike nation, whose pride was now humbled in the dust, covered a space of many miles along the banks of the river. With outstretched arms, and pathetic lamentations, they loudly deplored their past misfortunes and their present danger; acknowledged that their only hope of safety was in the clemency of the Roman government; and most solemnly protested, that if the gracious liberality of the emperor would permit them to cultivate the waste lands of Thrace, they should ever hold themselves bound, by the strongest obligations of duty and gratitude, to obey the laws, and to guard the limits, of the republic. These assurances were confirmed by the ambassadors of the Goths, who impatiently expected from the mouth of Valens an answer that must finally determine the fate of their unhappy countrymen. The emperor of the East was no longer guided by the wisdom and authority of his elder brother, whose death happened towards the end of the preceding year; and as the distressful situation of the Goths required an instant and peremptory decision, he was deprived of the favourite resources of feeble and timid minds, who consider the use of dilatory and ambiguous measures as the most admirable efforts of consummate prudence. As long as the same passions and interests subsist among mankind, the questions of war and peace, of justice and policy, which were debated in the councils of antiquity, will frequently present themselves as the subject of modern deliberation. But the most experienced statesman of Europe has never been summoned to consider the propriety, or the danger, of admitting, or rejecting, an innumerable multitude of Barbarians, who are driven by despair and hunger to solicit a settlement on the territories of a civilised nation. When that important proposition, so essentially connected with the public safety, was referred to the ministers of Valens, they were perplexed and divided; but they soon acquiesced in the flattering sentiment which seemed the most favourable to the pride, the indolence, and the avarice of their sovereign. The slaves, who were decorated with the titles of præfects and generals, dissembled or disregarded the terrors of this national emigration; so extremely different from the partial and accidental colonies, which had been received on the extreme limits of the empire. But they applauded the liberality of fortune, which had conducted, from the most distant countries of the globe, a numerous and invincible army of strangers, to defend the throne of Valens; who might now add to the royal treasures the immense sums of gold supplied by the provincials to compensate their annual proportion of recruits. The prayers of the Goths were granted, and their service was accepted by the Imperial court: and orders were immediately despatched to the civil and military governors of the Thracian diocese, to make the necessary preparations for the passage and subsistence of a great people, till a proper and sufficient territory could be allotted for their future residence. The liberality of the emperor was accompanied, however, with two harsh and rigorous conditions, which prudence might justify on the side of the Romans; but which distress alone could extort from the indignant Goths. Before they passed the Danube, they were required to deliver their arms: and it was insisted, that their children should be taken from them, and dispersed through the provinces of Asia; where they might be civilised by the arts of education, and serve as hostages to secure the fidelity of their parents.

During the suspense of a doubtful and distant negotiation, the impatient Goths made some rash attempts to pass the Danube, without the permission of the government, whose protection they had implored. Their motions were strictly observed by the vigilance of the troops which were stationed along the river and their foremost detachments were defeated with considerable slaughter; yet such were the timid councils of the reign of Valens, that the brave officers who had served their country in the execution of their duty, were punished by the loss of their employments, and narrowly escaped the loss of their heads. The Imperial mandate was at length received for transporting over the Danube the whole body of the Gothic nation; but the execution of this order was a task of labour and difficulty. The stream of the Danube, which in those parts is above a mile broad, had been swelled by incessant rains; and in this tumultuous passage, many were swept away, and drowned, by the rapid violence of the current. A large fleet of vessels, of boats, and of canoes, was provided; many days and nights they passed and repassed with indefatigable toil; and the most strenuous diligence was exerted by the officers of Valens, that not a single Barbarian, of those who were reserved to subvert the foundations of Rome, should be left on the opposite shore. It was thought expedient that an accurate account should be taken of their numbers; but the persons who were employed soon desisted, with amazement and dismay, from the prosecution of the endless and impracticable task: and the principal historian of the age most seriously affirms, that the prodigious armies of Darius and Xerxes, which had so long been considered as the fables of vain and credulous antiquity, were now justified, in the eyes of mankind, by the evidence of fact and experience. A probable testimony has fixed the number of the Gothic warriors at two hundred thousand men: and if we can venture to add the just proportion of women, of children, and of slaves, the whole mass of people which composed this formidable emigration, must have amounted to near a million of persons, of both sexes, and of all ages. The children of the Goths, those at least of a distinguished rank, were separated from the multitude. They were conducted, without delay, to the distant seats assigned for their residence and education; and as the numerous train of hostages or captives passed through the cities, their gay and splendid apparel, their robust and martial figure, excited the surprise and envy of the Provincials. But the stipulation, the most offensive to the Goths, and the most important to the Romans, was shamefully eluded. The Barbarians, who considered their arms as the ensigns of honour and the pledges of safety, were disposed to offer a price, which the lust or avarice of the Imperial officers was easily tempted to accept. To preserve their arms, the haughty warriors consented, with some reluctance, to prostitute their wives or their daughters; the charms of a beauteous maid, or a comely boy, secured the connivance of the inspectors; who sometimes cast an eye of covetousness on the fringed carpets and linen garments of their new allies, or who sacrificed their duty to the mean consideration of filling their farms with cattle, and their houses with slaves. The Goths, with arms in their hands, were permitted to enter the boats; and when their strength was collected on the other side of the river, the immense camp which was spread over the plains and the hills of the Lower Mæsia, assumed a threatening and even hostile aspect. The leaders of the Ostrogoths, Alatheus and Saphrax, the guardians of their infant king, appeared soon afterwards on the Northern banks of the Danube; and immediately despatched their ambassadors to the court of Antioch, to solicit, with the same professions of allegiance and gratitude, the same favour which had been granted to the suppliant Visigoths. The absolute refusal of Valens suspended their progress, and discovered the repentance, the suspicions, and the fears, of the Imperial council.

An undisciplined and unsettled nation of Barbarians required the firmest temper, and the most dexterous management. The daily subsistence of near a million of extraordinary subjects could be supplied only by constant and skilful diligence, and might continually be interrupted by mistake or accident. The insolence, or the indignation, of the Goths, if they conceived themselves to be the objects either of fear or of contempt, might urge them to the most desperate extremities; and the fortune of the state seemed to depend on the prudence, as well as the integrity, of the generals of Valens. At this important crisis, the military government of Thrace was exercised by Lupicinus and Maximus, in whose venal minds the slightest hope of private emolument outweighed every consideration of public advantage; and whose guilt was only alleviated by their incapacity of discerning the pernicious effects of their rash and criminal administration. Instead of obeying the orders of their sovereign, and satisfying, with decent liberality, the demands of the Goths, they levied an ungenerous and oppressive tax on the wants of the hungry Barbarians. The vilest food was sold at an extravagant price; and, in the room of wholesome and substantial provisions, the markets were filled with the flesh of dogs, and of unclean animals, who had died of disease. To obtain the valuable acquisition of a pound of bread, the Goths resigned the possession of an expensive, though serviceable, slave; and a small quantity of meat was greedily purchased with ten pounds of a precious, but useless metal, when their property was exhausted, they continued this necessary traffic by the sale of their sons and daughters; and notwithstanding the love of freedom, which animated every Gothic breast, they submitted to the humiliating maxim, that it was better for their children to be maintained in a servile condition, than to perish in a state of wretched and helpless independence. The most lively resentment is excited by the tyranny of pretended benefactors, who sternly exact the debt of gratitude which they have cancelled by subsequent injuries: a spirit of discontent insensibly arose in the camp of the Barbarians, who pleaded, without success, the merit of their patient and dutiful behaviour; and loudly complained of the inhospitable treatment which they had received from their new allies. They beheld around them the wealth and plenty of a fertile province, in the midst of which they suffered the intolerable hardships of artificial famine. But the means of relief, and even of revenge, were in their hands; since the rapaciousness of their tyrants had left to an injured people the possession and the use of arms. The clamours of a multitude, untaught to disguise their sentiments, announced the first symptoms of resistance, and alarmed the timid and guilty minds of Lupicinus and Maximus. Those crafty ministers, who substituted the cunning of temporary expedients to the wise and salutary counsels of general policy, attempted to remove the Goths from their dangerous station on the frontiers of the empire; and to disperse them, in separate quarters of cantonment, through the interior provinces. As they were conscious how ill they had deserved the respect, or confidence, of the Barbarians, they diligently collected, from every side, a military force, that might urge the tardy and reluctant march of a people, who had not yet renounced the title, or the duties, of Roman subjects. But the generals of Valens, while their attention was solely directed to the discontented Visigoths, imprudently disarmed the ships and the fortifications which constituted the defence of the Danube. The fatal oversight was observed, and improved, by Alatheus and Saphrax, who anxiously watched the favourable moment of escaping from the pursuit of the Huns. By the help of such rafts and vessels as could be hastily procured, the leaders of the Ostrogoths transported, without opposition, their king and their army; and boldly fixed a hostile and independent camp on the territories of the empire.

Under the name of Judges, Alavivus and Fritigern were the leaders of the Visigoths in peace and war; and the authority which they derived from their birth was ratified by the free consent of the nation. In a season of tranquility, their power might have been equal, as well as their rank; but, as soon as their countrymen were exasperated by hunger and oppression, the superior abilities of Fritigern assumed the military command, which he was qualified to exercise for the public welfare. He restrained the impatient spirit of the Visigoths till the injuries and the insults of their tyrants should justify their resistance in the opinion of mankind: but he was not disposed to sacrifice any solid advantages for the empty praise of justice and moderation. Sensible of the benefits which would result from the union of the Gothic powers under the same standard, he secretly cultivated the friendship of the Ostrogoths; and while he professed an implicit obedience to the orders of the Roman generals, he proceeded by slow marches towards Marcianopolis, the capital of the Lower Mæsia, about seventy miles from the banks of the Danube. On that fatal spot, the flames of discord and mutual hatred burst forth into a dreadful conflagration. Lupicinus had invited the Gothic chiefs to a splendid entertainment; and their martial train remained under arms at the entrance of the palace. But the gates of the city were strictly guarded, and the Barbarians were sternly excluded from the use of a plentiful market, to which they asserted their equal claim of subjects and allies. Their humble prayers were rejected with insolence and derision; and as their patience was now exhausted, the townsmen, the soldiers, and the Goths, were soon involved in a conflict of passionate altercation and angry reproaches. A blow was imprudently given; a sword was hastily drawn; and the first blood that was spilt in this accidental quarrel, became the signal of a long and destructive war. In the midst of noise and brutal intemperance, Lupicinus was informed, by a secret messenger, that many of his soldiers were slain, and despoiled of their arms; and as he was already inflamed by wine, and oppressed by sleep he issued a rash command, that their death should be revenged by the massacre of the guards of Fritigern and Alavivus. The clamorous shouts and dying groans apprised Fritigern of his extreme danger; and, as he possessed the calm and intrepid spirit of a hero, he saw that he was lost if he allowed a moment of deliberation to the man who had so deeply injured him. “A trifling dispute,” said the Gothic leader, with a firm but gentle tone of voice, “appears to have arisen between the two nations; but it may be productive of the most dangerous consequences, unless the tumult is immediately pacified by the assurance of our safety, and the authority of our presence.” At these words, Fritigern and his companions drew their swords, opened their passage through the unresisting crowd, which filled the palace, the streets, and the gates, of Marcianopolis, and, mounting their horses, hastily vanished from the eyes of the astonished Romans. The generals of the Goths were saluted by the fierce and joyful acclamations of the camp; war was instantly resolved, and the resolution was executed without delay: the banners of the nation were displayed according to the custom of their ancestors; and the air resounded with the harsh and mournful music of the Barbarian trumpet. The weak and guilty Lupicinus, who had dared to provoke, who had neglected to destroy, and who still presumed to despise, his formidable enemy, marched against the Goths, at the head of such a military force as could be collected on this sudden emergency. The Barbarians expected his approach about nine miles from Marcianopolis; and on this occasion the talents of the general were found to be of more prevailing efficacy than the weapons and discipline of the troops. The valour of the Goths was so ably directed by the genius of Fritigern, that they broke, by a close and vigorous attack, the ranks of the Roman legions. Lupicinus left his arms and standards, his tribunes and his bravest soldiers, on the field of battle; and their useless courage served only to protect the ignominious flight of their leader. “That successful day put an end to the distress of the Barbarians, and the security of the Romans: from that day, the Goths, renouncing the precarious condition of strangers and exiles, assumed the character of citizens and masters, claimed an absolute dominion over the possessors of land, and held, in their own right, the northern provinces of the empire, which are bounded by the Danube.” Such are the words of the Gothic historian, who celebrates, with rude eloquence, the glory of his countrymen. But the dominion of the Barbarians was exercised only for the purposes of rapine and destruction. As they had been deprived, by the ministers of the emperor, of the common benefits of nature, and the fair intercourse of social life, they retaliated the injustice on the subjects of the empire; and the crimes of Lupicinus were expiated by the ruin of the peaceful husbandmen of Thrace, the conflagration of their villages, and the massacre, or captivity, of their innocent families. The report of the Gothic victory was soon diffused over the adjacent country; and while it filled the minds of the Romans with terror and dismay, their own hasty imprudence contributed to increase the forces of Fritigern, and the calamities of the province. Some time before the great emigration, a numerous body of Goths, under the command of Suerid and Colias, had been received into the protection and service of the empire. They were encamped under the walls of Hadrianople; but the ministers of Valens were anxious to remove them beyond the Hellespont, at a distance from the dangerous temptation which might so easily be communicated by the neighborhood, and the success, of their countrymen. The respectful submission with which they yielded to the order of their march, might be considered as a proof of their fidelity; and their moderate request of a sufficient allowance of provisions, and of a delay of only two days was expressed in the most dutiful terms. But the first magistrate of Hadrianople, incensed by some disorders which had been committed at his country-house, refused this indulgence; and arming against them the inhabitants and manufacturers of a populous city, he urged, with hostile threats, their instant departure. The Barbarians stood silent and amazed, till they were exasperated by the insulting clamours, and missile weapons, of the populace: but when patience or contempt was fatigued, they crushed the undisciplined multitude, inflicted many a shameful wound on the backs of their flying enemies, and despoiled them of the splendid armour, which they were unworthy to bear. The resemblance of their sufferings and their actions soon united this victorious detachment to the nation of the Visigoths; the troops of Colias and Suerid expected the approach of the great Fritigern, ranged themselves under his standard, and signalised their ardour in the siege of Hadrianople. But the resistance of the garrison informed the Barbarians, that in the attack of regular fortifications, the efforts of unskillful courage are seldom effectual. Their general acknowledged his error, raised the siege, declared that “he was at peace with stone walls,” and revenged his disappointment on the adjacent country. He accepted, with pleasure, the useful reenforcement of hardy workmen, who laboured in the gold mines of Thrace, for the emolument, and under the lash, of an unfeeling master: and these new associates conducted the Barbarians, through the secret paths, to the most sequestered places, which had been chosen to secure the inhabitants, the cattle, and the magazines of corn. With the assistance of such guides, nothing could remain impervious or inaccessible; resistance was fatal; flight was impracticable; and the patient submission of helpless innocence seldom found mercy from the Barbarian conqueror. In the course of these depredations, a great number of the children of the Goths, who had been sold into captivity, were restored to the embraces of their afflicted parents; but these tender interviews, which might have revived and cherished in their minds some sentiments of humanity, tended only to stimulate their native fierceness by the desire of revenge. They listened, with eager attention, to the complaints of their captive children, who had suffered the most cruel indignities from the lustful or angry passions of their masters, and the same cruelties, the same indignities, were severely retaliated on the sons and daughters of the Romans.

The imprudence of Valens and his ministers had introduced into the heart of the empire a nation of enemies; but the Visigoths might even yet have been reconciled, by the manly confession of past errors, and the sincere performance of former engagements. These healing and temperate measures seemed to concur with the timorous disposition of the sovereign of the East: but, on this occasion alone, Valens was brave; and his unseasonable bravery was fatal to himself and to his subjects. He declared his intention of marching from Antioch to Constantinople, to subdue this dangerous rebellion; and, as he was not ignorant of the difficulties of the enterprise, he solicited the assistance of his nephew, the emperor Gratian, who commanded all the forces of the West. The veteran troops were hastily recalled from the defence of Armenia; that important frontier was abandoned to the discretion of Sapor; and the immediate conduct of the Gothic war was intrusted, during the absence of Valens, to his lieutenants Trajan and Profuturus, two generals who indulged themselves in a very false and favourable opinion of their own abilities. On their arrival in Thrace, they were joined by Richomer, count of the domestics; and the auxiliaries of the West, that marched under his banner, were composed of the Gallic legions, reduced indeed, by a spirit of desertion, to the vain appearances of strength and numbers. In a council of war, which was influenced by pride, rather than by reason, it was resolved to seek, and to encounter, the Barbarians, who lay encamped in the spacious and fertile meadows, near the most southern of the six mouths of the Danube. Their camp was surrounded by the usual fortification of wagons; and the Barbarians, secure within the vast circle of the enclosure, enjoyed the fruits of their valour, and the spoils of the province. In the midst of riotous intemperance, the watchful Fritigern observed the motions, and penetrated the designs, of the Romans. He perceived, that the numbers of the enemy were continually increasing: and, as he understood their intention of attacking his rear, as soon as the scarcity of forage should oblige him to remove his camp, he recalled to their standard his predatory detachments, which covered the adjacent country. As soon as they descried the flaming beacons, they obeyed, with incredible speed, the signal of their leader: the camp was filled with the martial crowd of Barbarians; their impatient clamours demanded the battle, and their tumultuous zeal was approved and animated by the spirit of their chiefs. The evening was already far advanced; and the two armies prepared themselves for the approaching combat, which was deferred only till the dawn of day. While the trumpets sounded to arms, the undaunted courage of the Goths was confirmed by the mutual obligation of a solemn oath; and as they advanced to meet the enemy, the rude songs, which celebrated the glory of their forefathers, were mingled with their fierce and dissonant outcries, and opposed to the artificial harmony of the Roman shout. Some military skill was displayed by Fritigern to gain the advantage of a commanding eminence; but the bloody conflict, which began and ended with the light, was maintained on either side, by the personal and obstinate efforts of strength, valour, and agility. The legions of Armenia supported their fame in arms; but they were oppressed by the irresistible weight of the hostile multitude the left wing of the Romans was thrown into disorder and the field was strewed with their mangled carcasses. This partial defeat was balanced, however, by partial success; and when the two armies, at a late hour of the evening, retreated to their respective camps, neither of them could claim the honours, or the effects, of a decisive victory. The real loss was more severely felt by the Romans, in proportion to the smallness of their numbers; but the Goths were so deeply confounded and dismayed by this vigorous, and perhaps unexpected, resistance, that they remained seven days within the circle of their fortifications. Such funeral rites, as the circumstances of time and place would admit, were piously discharged to some officers of distinguished rank; but the indiscriminate vulgar was left unburied on the plain. Their flesh was greedily devoured by the birds of prey, who in that age enjoyed very frequent and delicious feasts; and several years afterwards the white and naked bones, which covered the wide extent of the fields, presented to the eyes of Ammianus a dreadful monument of the battle of Salices.

The progress of the Goths had been checked by the doubtful event of that bloody day; and the Imperial generals, whose army would have been consumed by the repetition of such a contest, embraced the more rational plan of destroying the Barbarians by the wants and pressure of their own multitudes. They prepared to confine the Visigoths in the narrow angle of land between the Danube, the desert of Scythia, and the mountains of Hæmus, till their strength and spirit should be insensibly wasted by the inevitable operation of famine. The design was prosecuted with some conduct and success: the Barbarians had almost exhausted their own magazines, and the harvests of the country; and the diligence of Saturninus, the master-general of the cavalry, was employed to improve the strength, and to contract the extent, of the Roman fortifications. His labours were interrupted by the alarming intelligence, that new swarms of Barbarians had passed the unguarded Danube, either to support the cause, or to imitate the example, of Fritigern. The just apprehension, that he himself might be surrounded, and overwhelmed, by the arms of hostile and unknown nations, compelled Saturninus to relinquish the siege of the Gothic camp; and the indignant Visigoths, breaking from their confinement, satiated their hunger and revenge by the repeated devastation of the fruitful country, which extends above three hundred miles from the banks of the Danube to the straits of the Hellespont. The sagacious Fritigern had successfully appealed to the passions, as well as to the interest, of his Barbarian allies; and the love of rapine, and the hatred of Rome, seconded, or even prevented, the eloquence of his ambassadors. He cemented a strict and useful alliance with the great body of his countrymen, who obeyed Alatheus and Saphrax as the guardians of their infant king: the long animosity of rival tribes was suspended by the sense of their common interest; the independent part of the nation was associated under one standard; and the chiefs of the Ostrogoths appear to have yielded to the superior genius of the general of the Visigoths. He obtained the formidable aid of the Taifalæ, whose military renown was disgraced and polluted by the public infamy of their domestic manners. Every youth, on his entrance into the world, was united by the ties of honourable friendship, and brutal love, to some warrior of the tribe; nor could he hope to be released from this unnatural connection, till he had approved his manhood by slaying, in single combat, a huge bear, or a wild boar of the forest. But the most powerful auxiliaries of the Goths were drawn from the camp of those enemies who had expelled them from their native seats. The loose subordination, and extensive possessions, of the Huns and the Alani, delayed the conquests, and distracted the councils, of that victorious people. Several of the hords were allured by the liberal promises of Fritigern; and the rapid cavalry of Scythia added weight and energy to the steady and strenuous efforts of the Gothic infantry. The Sarmatians, who could never forgive the successor of Valentinian, enjoyed and increased the general confusion; and a seasonable irruption of the Alemanni, into the provinces of Gaul, engaged the attention, and diverted the forces, of the emperor of the West.

The Start of an 800 Year Decline

Profoundly frustrating for the reactionary remains the obsession with Magna Carta that has been running unabated in centre-right political circles for the past months. Indicative of the attitude is this piece in the Telegraph, from which the excerpts below come.

Most people are understandably a little hazy about the charter’s contents (it runs to 63 clauses and over 4,000 words). But they are aware that it was a “good thing”

Vague belief that status quo is a good thing, underpinned by ignorance. Sounds about right. Most people readily absorb passive ideology. What Moldbug noted as the shifting political centre is a representation of this phenomenon. It belies the fundamental lack of understanding about the world, and a desire to remain ignorant. Politics is not as old as any individual, but to those who have taken on board second-hand ideology, we see this attitude. Right, so far as they can conceive, is not a dim reflection of yesterday’s progress ageing badly, but rather the most right-wing that has been seen.

At the same time, most people think of John himself as a “bad king”, not least because he crops up as the villain in the tales of Robin Hood.

The left get a huge amount of their narrative straight from fiction, and that’s something that the right needs to internalise better. Sometimes it’s the evil capitalist and a factory that is designed solely for the purpose of destroying the environment, in others it’s a thief who history glorifies because those in power we’re giving the people their pound of welfare.

Despite occasional attempts to rehabilitate him, his reputation among academics remains extremely poor.

One can only imagine what King John would say of academics. The defeated are always history’s most marginalised voice, and must be kept that way if they don’t conform to the demands of progress.

Most of all, John was shockingly cruel. In a chivalrous age, when aristocrats spared their enemies, capturing them rather than killing them, John preferred to do away with people by grisly means. On one occasion, for example, he ordered 22 captive knights to be taken to Corfe Castle in Dorset and starved to death. Another time he starved to death the wife and son of his former friend, William de Briouze. In 1203 he arranged the murder of his own nephew and rival for power, Arthur of Brittany.

Oh no. Death by starvation. That’s definitely better than hanging, drawing, and quartering, a much more civilised way of taking out the trash. Maybe if he had dealt with treason the way his successor Henry III and future monarchs did, we wouldn’t be in this mess. He just wasn’t progressive enough. And killing a rival? Unheard of! Clearly the most evil king in history. I bet he died by a blade, or perhaps asphyxiation, instead of the far more forward thinking burning at the stake.

SalemAt least the 17th century knew the dynamic, enlightened way to deal with things

John might have got away with such nefarious acts had he not also been politically incompetent. At the start of his reign in 1199, he inherited the greatest dominion in Europe

You mean he oppressed people from a huge number of backgrounds, who finally were able to have a head of state from their own country. I thought that’s what everyone needs. No Francophone tsars, no damn English on Australian currency. Finally, they could be free.

This is, however, the most legitimate criticism of King John. A king who loses from the realm robs not just his heirs, but all of his subjects. King George VI was, by this standard, the worst king of our history. With allies like the international socialists (the Soviet Union) and the democratic socialists (New Deal USA), who needs national socialists for an enemy?

Contemporaries put this down to a lack of boldness on John’s part, calling him “Soft-sword”, and he did indeed lack the necessary martial skill that his brother Richard had possessed in spades.

Perhaps Richard would have liked to spend some more time at home. Philip II was making noises for long enough in his reign. It’s easy enough to escape the blame game when you’re futzing around in the Middle East instead of doing your job as king.

To raise the massive armies and fleets this enterprise would require, he wrung unprecedented sums of money from England. Taxes were suddenly demanded on an almost annual basis. Nobles were charged gargantuan sums to inherit their lands. Royal justices imposed exorbitant fines for trifling offences. The lands of the Church were seized, and the Jews were imprisoned and tortured until they agreed to pay up. John’s reign saw the greatest financial exploitation of England since the Norman Conquest.

It’s a good thing we had Magna Carta then. It would suck to have ‘almost annual’ taxation. What next? Tax on income or consumption? And don’t get me started on inheritance tax for the rich, or ridiculous fines for (say) growing tobacco, or speeding when it’s obviously safe to go above the current limit.

Today the detail is no longer relevant.

It never is.

What we now celebrate is the famous sentiment in the middle of the charter, which declares that a free man shall not be imprisoned, exiled, deprived of his property or otherwise destroyed simply because it is the king’s will.

And if that was all it said, then great, it makes good business sense for there to be nothing arbitrary in the law. But of course, it didn’t. It opened the door for the aristocracy to undermine the power of the King through Parliament, and set in motion a chain of disastrous events, from the English Civil Wars (English, Transatlantic, and American respectively), to the sickening French Revolution, symbolic monarchy, and the 20th century, the bloodiest and most contemptible in human history. This we can trace, at least in part, to the barons.

John’s crime was allowing the Angevin Empire he inherited to dissolve under the onslaught of Philip II of France, who proved an abler monarch and transformed France into the unquestioned first power of Western Europe. For those who complain about King John’s treatment of the Jews, it’s worth noting that Philip forced them from France, and that the policy was pragmatically motivated rather than necessarily ideological. Because Jews were allowed to practice usury and not much else, they were a relatively wealth foreign target for a king to bleed should the need arise. This led to his preferred stance of apathy to give way to extracting tax from them when Normandy fell. Let’s not forget that the Magna Carta has a number of explicitly anti-Jewish clauses in it, especially preventing intergenerational debt.

As is to be expected this writer supports King John, at least to the extent that he condemns the barons, who on no lawful authority opened the door to a world they would immediately disavow, should the opportunity to view it arise. His taxation was more moderate and his reasons more legitimate than any modern British or Australian government’s policy.

King JohnIOANNESANGLIÆREXDEIGRATIA

Socialist Signalling

I’m currently studying post-graduate governance, and while most of the programme so far has been as casually leftist as I expected (although I’m genuinely enjoying the course about why we should stop growing the pie in favour of increased rent-seeking, and surrender our collective will to the UN, because trees are nice), I am particularly shocked by one of the courses that I am taking. I had made the terrible assumption that a course regarding the law, and its relation to policy would have been an interesting study of the development of bureaucracy, legalism, and so on. Instead, the entire course has sought to indoctrinate the students into believing that the law is an exercise in ideology (a non-contentious position) and that it should constantly be updated, constitutionally and otherwise, to reflect new ideologies, because that would be the progressive thing to do.

Half the battle is with the man himself. His main employment is in the state government where he works to prosecute corporations. That is, of course, basically a big red flag that the man is not going to be reasonable. Each seminar consists of three hours of him frantically signalling that he is a progressive: a republican, in favour of constitutional amendment to put down terra nullius once and for all, against the former Queensland LNP government and the current Federal government &c. And what’s worse is that every domestic student other than myself signals as hard as they can back to him that they are also progressives who think the good things. If there were only international students and myself, the whole ordeal would be markedly more manageable.

‘Hey, are you a progressive?’ ‘Yes!’ ‘I AM ALSO A PROGRESSIVE!’

But most triggering of all was related to NZ’s Treaty of Waitangi. In response to my suggestion that the reason Maori tribes were given a treaty when Aborigines were not was due to their recognisable system of government, he claimed that government came later, and asserted (if I recall correctly) that the Treaty came out of a series of wars, in which Maoris fought for their sovereignty, and were therefore equivalent to Aboriginal Australians who fought by didn’t get a treaty (because the white man is an oppressor, you see). Unwilling to challenge him without fact checking first, I let it slide.

But now I have fact checked. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in February 1840, after Great Britain was asked to intercede on behalf of white settlers and a number of Maori chiefs, who had been exhausted during the Musket Wars (1807-1845) and desired a lasting peace. Negotiations were difficult, not least because of the language barrier which would cause problems later on, especially over the concept of ‘sovereignty’. Maori were not unsophisticated, Stone Age people. They had a clear system that was recognisable to Europeans, including earth hill forts called pa. They adapted European technology into their martial culture, and were briefly considered to be equal in intelligence to Europeans, although later testing has shown that they have a lower IQ, in the area of 91 (see Lynn, 2008, The Global Bell Curve, ch. 11, especially p. 219-21). By way of comparison, Lynn also canvasses tests performed by Aborigines, and shows that the mean result for that group is 62 (ibid, p. 45-50).

Following the acceptance of the treaty by as many as 540 chiefs, a series of wars broke out (1845 to 1872). Known as the New Zealand Wars (originally the Maori Wars), the Maori used guerilla tactics and rapid redeployment from hill forts to fight back against the acquisition of land. I cannot comment on the application of the Treaty of Waitangi, but considering the chronology alone, no one could argue without some serious ideological block that the treaty was established as a result of conflict, but rather, two parties, one superior, the other inferior, negotiating a settlement as best they can.

In short, the story that the Maori defended their land and so could enforce a treaty is a nonsense of modern rationalisation used to justify the reality that Australia was terra nullius, that is, land without an owner, while NZ was not (although the South Island was declare so in May 1840 in response to the threat of a French colony). Even if the Aborigines fought a series of skirmishes against the colonists, it does not suggest a form of recognisable sovereignty, and therefore, with no authority with which to negotiate, and no ability of those who subsisted here prior to Great Britain to ‘establish those relations of intercourse with other states which are recognised by the rules of international law’ (Davis, 1900, The Elements of International Law, p. 66), there is no justifiable comparison to be drawn between Maori and Aborigines.

Nationalism and NRx

If there should prove to be a core purpose of NRx, it is the restoration of a pre-ideological framework for considering issues.  Rather than the contemporary situation in which cohesive, internally consistent ideologues compete with the expressed purpose of temporary rent-seeking at the expense of the governed in exchange for platitudes, NRx is concerned with the nature of government itself, and finding a model of government that produces optimal results. Knowing from contemporary experience that this cannot be democratic, but still must remain at least casually demophilic, Moldbuggian neo-cameralism is the orthodox position endorsed by this blog.

With this in mind, ideological nationalism should never be a part of NRx. Nationalism is a construct that seeks to shoehorn an artificial unity over a people, against their rulers. It is an inherently democratic phenomenon, and one with limited regard for the people it rules at that. On the occasion of his murder, King Charles I said:

For the people. And truly I desire their Liberty and Freedom as much as any Body whomsoever. But I must tell you, That their Liberty and Freedom, consists in having of Government; those Laws, by which their Life and their Gods may be most their own. It is not for having share in government (Sir) that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a soveraign are clean different things, and therefore until they do that, I mean, that you do put the people in that liberty as I say, certainly they will never enjoy themselves.

The tendency for nationalist ideology to be used to dispose of legitimate authority cannot be disputed, whether in the German Empire or elsewhere. It is well known in reactionary circles that where a ruler comes from is far less important than either how he rules or the simple fact that he does rule.

However, the construction of nationalism is based on the simple reality that, as a general rule, the area in which you live would be the one in which you share the most common ancestors, prior to the advent of modernity. NRx is still reactionary, in that it seeks to rebuild the fences we find broken and electrify the ones we find intact.

As an aside, the sneaky Socrates is my least favourite debate method to see, as it is almost always used in bad faith. To use the sneaky Socrates is to place yourself on top of a mountain that everyone who disagrees must surmount before they can even begin to engage with the material. It is used to say nothing, set the scope of the debate, become status quo, and shift all responsibility onto those you disagree with, who probably ought just to ignore you. If you ask a question, but have an preconceived answer to that question that you are too lazy to articulate, just don’t. If you have a position that you want to discuss, state and support it, and enter a good faith debate over whether or not you are right. The Socratic method should only be used didactically, never when you are seriously interested in a conversation among equals.

Glib not-so-sneaky-Socrates moments aside, animals do act in ways that improve their unique genes chances of replicating. Animals are more likely to sacrifice themselves for a family member than for a non-family member, and for a closer relation than a more distant one. Of course mammals don’t assess every other animal in the area and establish some fatuous hierarchy of similarity for which they would sacrifice themselves for should the need arise. Of course they are broadly disinterested in another mammal if the latter dying increases the chances that the former will pass on its genes.

Even the lack of propensity to kill members of your species in competition for mating rights demonstrates that sacrificing species members is generally not adaptive. Perhaps it speaks to the smaller population sizes of animals, or the relatedness of localised populations of species that violence between groups of humans that generally shared more ancestors intra-group than inter-group has proven to be so adaptive, and why fictionalised accounts of Aryan Germans and promises of land in which to spread your offspring to proved both popular with the masses and wildly potent as an ideology with which to galvanise seemingly (and traditionally) disparate people together, unless we forget how short a period of time a united Germany has existed.

To suggest that animals do not exhibit pro-genetic altruism, especially towards closely related members, or that mutually beneficial predator defence does not exist between species is ridiculous. Equally, to suggest that generalisations cannot be made about the various human races is ridiculous. Not all of the issues surrounding the problem of diversity are rooted in genetics. Rather, the fact that diversity causes social problems regardless of genetic justification is sufficient cause for scepticism.

If I was to suggest a NRx compatible position, it would simply be that generally, it should be expected that in any given area, one would find more overlapping family trees, and that leftists should be entitled to neither eliminate nor enforce this situation. Over time, there will always be human movement, and it is undesirable to simply exclude all potential migrants because of an overblown, artificial sense of group identity. High trust societies will inevitably be abused by members from low trust societies, even if physical/ genetic justification for concentric loyalty peters out after more than a couple of movements. That we understand inherited genetic variation does fade into the background noise of the broader population should not be considered a justification for insanity. To suggest that having a large and growing segment of a population from the Third World, with utterly foreign ways, and no desire or ability to cause their assimilation is unprofitable, and therefore undesirable. While white nationalists and Wilmot Robertson ethno-statists are problematic, they are basically powerless. Anti-nationalist progressives, that is to say progressives who actively seek to replace white majorities with non-white populations are in power, and therefore hugely dangerous.

And if NRx is the intellectual status quo ante immunised against the revolutionary virus, there must be a place for common ancestry in it as a general rule. To try and remove any vestige of ethno-centricism from neoreaction would be to render it not reactionary.

Colonies and Immigration

A favourite trope of the left is to compare illegal immigration today to past colonial ventures by the white man.

AboriginalOf course, Radish Issue 12 was comprehensive in its full frontal assault on 20th century anti-colonialism. But, as he always does, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn provides an essential underlying historical point (p. 340):

EvKLIt would seem improper to take land from a people who were civilised and had formed a state to demonstrate their sovereignty id est where no vacuum exists.

For civilisation, I would suggest that any two of a written language, the wheel, and monolithic buildings would be sufficient to qualify. Unless there is something so well hidden that we haven’t discovered it at some point between 1776 and today, Aboriginals did not have any of these markers of civilisation. They retained the same level of achievement that we moved beyond quite a while ago.

For the definition of a ‘state’ we will rely on those provided by Oppenheim in International Law (1912) (p. 108) and Davis in The Elements of International Law (1900) (p. 34-6).

OppenheimDavis 1Knowing there was a pre-existing people in an unsettled country, who governed Australia? No one. The concept of ‘Australia’ is purely a European one. Aboriginals had no concept of a single political organisation that would rule over the island continent, and they certainly wouldn’t have called it the ‘South Land’ (in Latin no less!). The ‘first Australians’ were those with political rights in 1901 because that is when the concept came to fruition.

As best as could be argued, tribal elders, old family members, controlled socially unacceptable behaviour, which was perfectly reasonable for a Stone Age, hunter-gatherer people. But the reality is that this is insufficient for the various tribes to be considered ‘sovereign’ according as the definition requires.

From Davis, there was no equality of states between Aboriginal culture and European civilisation. There was no institution to allow for loans, they had no ambassadors, and they had no ability to make treaties that formalise international relations. They did not hold the same number of rights as states, and therefore were not.

‘Immigration’ began to occur in 1901 with the declaration of Australia’s sovereignty, and was immediately controlled to ensure that Anglo-Australians would form the backbone of the new ‘nation-state’. Prior to that, there was colonisation of a non-sovereign territory, and the displacement of the primitive inhabitants by a superior power. Nothing sinister. Nothing unusual. Nothing that requires reparation. Only acceptance of an inevitable new status quo.

And, of course, Davis bears out my argument (p. 66):

Davis 2But the High Court of Australia disagreed in 1992. But it wouldn’t have from 1901 until well into the latter half of the 20th century. And now, with a precedent set by an activist judiciary that had no interest in the original intention of the Constitution, we are subjected to a barrage of revisionist, leftist propaganda equivocating the political situation in Europe with the territories of the various tribes.

There is one piece of cognitive dissonance that never fails to amuse me, though. Ethnic replacement was terrible for the Aboriginal people, but it enriches us, and is essential for the future.

Colonies are not ‘immigration nations’. They are a deliberate act by a superior civilisation to expand into non-sovereign territory with the intention of increasing the area that the coloniser has to breed in. To argue otherwise is the worst kind of sophistry.

Lysis and the Democratic Disconnect

Lysis 1

Lysis 2

Lysis 3It’s worth noting that this conversation was didactic, but not for the sake of Lysis. Rather, Hippothales, in love with Lysis, was praising the boy in poetry and songs, and needed to be shown the proper way to treat young men. The role of older men was to teach boys to be humble and unpretentious, introspective and thoughtful rather than brash, self-aggrandising and modern in the most vulgar sense of the word. The good old Greeks knew what was up. After all, a reactionary spirit embiggens the smallest man.

Essentially, the argument is for technocracy, and as Moldbug pointed out, it is only through vestigial technocracy in the form of the public service that we find any good in the USG at all. In Australia, it’s down to one thing: the government fears the election after listening to the policy advice of the people far more than it fears the election after not listening to them. In a long winded piece in The Monthly, Richard Cooke has argued that the people should be listened to more closely, but presumably only on the issues he agrees with.

Noting that Australia’s political settlement is broadly in favour of less-un-free markets and social conservatism on issues other than immigration, he points to the polling that Australians are a bunch of Arthur ‘Two Wongs don’t make a White’ Calwell’s voters: progressive on government, progressive on society, but please stop importing new people.

This dissonance helps explain why the last two election campaigns were so shambolic. They were failed sales jobs, repetitive, mendacious and joyless attempts to win over slivers of the population. The most recent, in 2013, managed to limbo even under the abysmal standard of the 2010 campaign. Several political veterans described it as the worst they had ever seen.

But, in his world view, that means we should bankrupt ourselves by truly and sincerely listening to the people, and doing what they tell us, unless the policies would harm the ‘economically weak’ (his rhetoric, not mine). He can’t accept the possibility that it’s not because ‘special interests’ are strong, but rather that they are right when they advocate for lower taxes and less regulation, just as David Marr needed to be shocked into realising that the people didn’t always conform to his progressive faith on the death penalty. How bizarre it is that the people could ever have the temerity to disagree with the Brahmin taste-makers.

The current government has just concluded negotiations on a preferential trade deal with China (a follow on from similar agreements with South Korea and Japan), which will, generally, be good for Australia. After all, without ideological bluster, capitalism is just trade. But there is no way such a deal would have been passed if the people had been allowed to vote on it directly. Even the agrarian party, the Nationals, have been out spruiking the benefits to their sceptical, generally protectionist electorate.

Living in the hangover of Whitlam’s three chaotic, reckless years, less intolerable governments from both the Coalition and Labor have tried their best to contain the explosive spending he saddled the nation with. But there has been a battle against the idea of introducing a $7 fee for visiting the doctor, or paying marginally more for your Bachelor of International Socialism. Our gimmedats are under threat, quick, someone call the activists!

A French aristocrat had far more in common with a Russian aristocrat than he did with the people over whom he ruled, but in terms of what he wanted (a little rent-seeking, deference, and no challenges to his authority), he was far closer in his attitudes to the people he governed (who generally wanted to be left alone, and were willing to tolerate a little rent-seeking, being deferential, and accepting the status quo in order to get it). We did not see government embrace fundamentally different things to the people in terms of the policies enacted. But now, thinking that they have seized power, the demos gets upset when they aren’t listened to.

You wouldn’t feed your child 10kg of sugar everyday because that’s what they ask for. Nor would you feed a horde of zombies brains because a lot of them are shambling towards you. Those who know nothing (but don’t have the capacity to know that they know nothing), claim to have some special right to get their own way based on the sheer virtue of their numbers. Breeding frequently cannot be sufficient for political power, and we should be sprinting away from the idea of greater popular rule than we already have, instead of acquiescing to yet another round of activism. Most of the trouble seems to stem from the fact that there is so little competition in the governance market.

And the treasurer of this government, constantly decried as it is for being filled to the brim with right-wing extremists (it isn’t) wants to put a stop to what little tax competition exists in the world today. This is on the back of the usurpation of income tax by the Federal Government in 1942, and the Ermächtigungsgesetz-by-referendum in 1946. The premise of a federated system is not for the federal government to seize the powers of the originally empowered states and raise the overwhelming majority of tax, but rather to coordinate a common policy on defence, border protection, and foreign affairs. But the moment you introduce the element of voting into this fragile balance, you inevitable find that people will happily vote away the competition that slows the Overton Window’s leftward movement. Hell, if team red turns out to be rubbish, we can always just vote in team blue in three years. And if team blue turns out to be super mean and say that there should only be a 7% increase in government spending, good old reliable team red can come back and make it 15% again. The only question is whether or not modern vulgarity is triumphing fast enough.

The ultimate technocracy is Patchwork. It produces a system of non-ideological government that is self-perpetuating. Given the chance, even a single patch would swiftly capture a large portion of the world’s wealth, and in-so-doing, cause others to follow suit.

But surely support for techno-commercialism, social Darwinism, and traditionalism constitutes an ideology. Neoreaction is not an ideology. Patchwork and/ or monarchy tells us nothing about the policies that will be enacted by that system. A leftist fights for a favourable system of government (democracy) and then uses it to claim power over the people, giving them their own money back in bribes every election (minus a hefty fee, of course). Vestigial competition in the market forces technocratic policies from the elected officials, which pushes their attitudes far from those of the people they claim to represent. Neoreaction has the supposition that in a highly competitive, for-profit government market, orthodox economics (econography) will become more prevalent, and that people will fall out of the gene pool if they are not fit, and that traditional values won’t generally be supplanted, and has created a system that is favourable to those outcomes, but it does not suppose that any of us would be in a position to directly shape the outcome following Restoration. We rely on the function of the system itself to produce positive outcomes, and while predicting what they would be (if only as a function of the critique of progressivism), are cogs in the machine, moving as a part of it, not as its director.

Nicolás Gómez Davila once noted:

Modern man believes he lives amidst a pluralism of opinions, when what prevails today is a stifling unanimity.
Of course, he was quite correct. There is only one model of government in the West: democratic republicanism, with only progressive modernism as its ideology. Patchwork is the opposite: a model of competitive governments which must produce tangible benefits to their residents in order to keep them there. For government to produce these benefits it needs to be professional, and to be professional, it cannot be popular. We understood the division of labour in a healthy state long ago. A king to rule, an upper class to serve at his pleasure, a middle class to grow wealth, and a working class to be left generally to their own devices.
Lysis 4The people know what they want, but not what they need. It should be left to those who do, and can demonstrate that fact in measurable ways. The last word belongs to Pope:
For Forms of Government let fools contest;
whatever is best administered is best.

Escape

For all of its faults, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal often tackles the topic of AI and the future, and inevitably produces something worth reading. That is especially true of this notably bleak one, offering a perfectly plausible explanation as to why there has been no sustained radio signals from other solar systems, and (as far as I can tell) only that ‘Wow!’ signal in 1977 to be teased by.

The only real question is who would retreat into the machine. If it removed a significant number of the brightest and most accomplished people from the species (the likely early adopters), there’s no reason to think that the result would be anything less than a catastrophic brain-drain, as those who can escape do. Pleasure without limit is a temptation to the productive: it’s why the affluent use mind-bending substances. What is left collapses into primordial chaos, and either ends in extermination or the cycle repeats.

Technology truly is the Great Filter, but it is a seducer whispering in the ears of its victims rather than an axe-wielding maniac smashing the door. Rejection of technology means the home planet is the limit, embrace means being absorbed.