Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) dismayed many of his Whig colleagues and infuriated his enemies, both of whom imagined the revolution ushering a glorious era of freedom. Burke’s masterpiece nerved the pen of Thomas Paine into a fury of scribbling to produce one of the most overrated works of political philosophy – The Rights of Man – taking Hobbes’s idea of the state of nature to its logical absurdity. Burke’s analyses of the Revolution’s action and theory contained a number of prophecies which in time proved accurate. The most extraordinary for its prescience and accuracy was the following:
In the weakness of one kind of authority, and in the fluctuation of all, the officers of an army will remain for some time mutinous and full off action until some popular general, who understands the art of conciliating the soldiery, and who possesses the true spirit of command, shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself. Armies will obey him on his personal account. There is no other way of securing military obedience in this state of things. But the moment in which that event shall happen, the person who really commands the army is your master — the master (that is little) of your king, the master of your Assembly, the master of your whole republic.
(Reflections, p. 342 Penguin Edition)
That man Burke foresaw was Napoleon. Napoleon mounted a coup in 1799 and with his French army attempted to take the revolution to the whole of Europe. The Duke of Wellington eventually stopped him at Waterloo. The revolution/Napoleon paradigm of social degeneration to dictatorship would repeat itself through the next two hundred years without its lesson sufficiently penetrating the consciousness of the people of Western Civilization.
Wellington greets his troops after the battle
The following links for a history of the Battle of Waterloo:
The Day that Decided Europe’s Fate
The Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo
Eyewitness to Waterloo
Edmund Burke’s Club is organizing a dinner to commemorate Magna Carta and the Battle of Waterloo at the Savage Club Melbourne for 16 June 2015. More details and the program HERE.
The British Library has a website devoted to Magna Carta, explaining the document’s history, legacy and crucial influence on the formation and development of modern democracies – HERE. Below is their introduction to the document, emphasizing the principle of the rule of law to safeguard the liberty of the individual in community with others.
MAGNA CARTA: AN INTRODUCTION
by Claire Breay and Julian Harrison
What is Magna Carta?
Magna Carta, meaning ‘The Great Charter’, is one of the most famous documents in the world. Originally issued by King John of England (r.1199-1216) as a practical solution to the political crisis he faced in 1215, Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. Although nearly a third of the text was deleted or substantially rewritten within ten years, and almost all the clauses have been repealed in modern times, Magna Carta remains a cornerstone of the British constitution.Most of the 63 clauses granted by King John dealt with specific grievances relating to his rule. However, buried within them were a number of fundamental values that both challenged the autocracy of the king and proved highly adaptable in future centuries. Most famously, the 39th clause gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial. Some of Magna Carta’s core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and in many other constitutional documents around the world, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).
It is perhaps not well known that Robert G. Menzies immensely enjoyed the social life of the clubs he was a member of. He had membership in three during his career: the West Brighton, the Savage, and the K.K. They provided a clean relaxing break from his busy life first in the law and then in politics. Sir John Bunting, Menzies’ Cabinet Secretary and Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, devoted several pages to Menzies’ ‘clubbability’ in his book R.G. Menzies: A Portrait. Those pages are reproduced below.
Edmund Burke’s Club is organizing a dinner to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta (15th June 1215) and the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (18th June 1815) at Melbourne’s Savage Club for the 16th of June 2015. As with the very enjoyable dinner on the eve of our Edmund Burke conference, the dinner will take its lead from R.G. Menzies.
MENZIES was a considerable club man. But that straight away needs an explanation, because the clubs he most used were not of the usually understood variety. There are various dictionary definitions of clubs. For what are now understood as the traditional clubs, the Concise Oxford formula seems to go closest: ‘body of persons combined for social purposes, and having premises for resort, meals, temporary residence etc.’ Clubs of this sort, modelled on British precedent, have always existed in Australia. They are social clubs obviously, but they are also clubs that people join for business and professional reasons. These were not really for Menzies. He visited them often enough, and the equivalent clubs elsewhere, and, as a guest, was perfectly at home and happy. But although he was in them, he was not of them, nor of their style. His main choices, in his home city of Melbourne, fell on three quite other clubs: the Savage, the West Brighton and the K.K. These were clubs for the inner Menzies. (I omit, which would be at my peril if he were to know, the Melbourne Scots, but it does not, I think, come into this narrative.) Continue reading
‘[Hilary] Mantel has chosen to make [St Thomas] More the singular object of her anti-Catholic vitriol. More does not appear in the book other than in a damning light; no one speaks anything but ill of him and he is not allowed a redeeming feature’
WOLF HALL AND THE REAL ST THOMAS MORE
By Graham Hutton
THE FIRST of a trilogy of novels about Thomas Cromwell by the successful English writer Hilary Mantel, ‘Wolf Hall’ has experienced a phenomenal success winning huge critical acclaim, selling over 1.2million copies and winning the Mann Booker prize. It has now been turned into a stage play and at both Stratford-upon-Avon and London’s West End this play, too, has been such a success that it is being described with such hyperboles as ‘a landmark’ and ‘a phenomenon’. No doubt the forthcoming TV series will reach even more people. Unfortunately, whatever the literary merits of the book, its popularity is something which Catholics can only regret. The great work of recent historians of the English Reformation such as Eamon Duffy, Christopher Haigh and Richard Rex, has done much to clear away the obfuscations of traditional English historiography around the medieval Church and the reformation. Continue reading
The infancy chapters 1 & 2 of
THE HOLY GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE
Translated by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1945
MANY have been at pains to set forth the history of what time has brought to fulfilment among us, following the tradition of those first eye-witnesses who gave themselves up to the service of the word. And I too, most noble Theophilus, have resolved to put the story in writing for thee as it befell, having first traced it carefully from its beginnings, that thou mayst understand the instruction thou hast already received, in all its certainty Continue reading
UNDERSTANDING THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION THROUGH THE BRITISH CULTURAL CONSTITUTION
by GARRETT WARD SHELDON
Professor Sheldon provides an explanation of the differences between the concepts of a written, a codified and an unwritten constitution. An understanding of these differences is essential for students of constitutionalism. The essay is aimed at American students but is nevertheless of interest to those who have forgotten or never knew the background of their constitutional monarchy
Reference is often made to the legal, philosophical, and historical progenitors of the American Constitution in ideas derived from Great Britain, such as the writings of John Locke or William Blackstone, and familiar documents like the Magna Carta or The Petition of Right of 1628. Perhaps an even more significant constitutional heritage may be found in our inheritance of the British appreciation for the customary or cultural foundations of fundamental law. This appreciation for what is often termed the “organic” constitution, beholden philosophically to Aristotle, Aquinas, and Burke, emphasizes how a society or nation is “constituted,” and the implications of that social constitution for the written or codified document. In this respect, the example of British constitutionalism may be helpful in understanding the proper approach to American constitutional interpretation. Read on here
How could one possibly understand a musical masterpiece like Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion with out being deeply acquainted with the New Testament? The same holds for so much of the West’s musical heritage.
9th November, 2014 – DEDICATION OF THE ARCHBASILICA OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOUR (LATERAN BASILICAL)
This is the anniversary of the day on which the Basilica of the Most Holy Saviour was dedicated, the first church of Rome to receive solemn consecration. It is the Cathedral church of the Pope, and consequently the chief church of the Catholic world. Several Councils have been held there.
He had entered Jericho, and was passing through it; and here a rich man named Zacchaeus, the chief publican, was trying to distinguish which was Jesus, but could not do so because of the multitude, being a man of small stature. So he ran on in front, and climbed up into a sycamore tree, to catch sight of him, since he must needs pass that way. Jesus, when he reached the place, looked up and saw him; Zacchaeus, he said, make haste and come down; I am to lodge to-day at thy house. And he came down with all haste, and gladly made him welcome. When they saw it, all took it amiss; He has gone in to lodge, they said, with one who is a sinner. But Zacchaeus stood upright and said to the Lord, Here and now, Lord, I give half of what I have to the poor; and if I have wronged anyone in any way, I make restitution of it fourfold, jesus turned to him and said, To-day, salvation has been brought to this house; he too is a son of Abraham. That is what the Son of Man has come for, to search out and to save what was lost.
The anniversary of the naval victory of the Christian States over Mohammedan Imperialism has just passed. Few people in our (former) Christian states today are aware of the historical event of the Battle of Lepanto and how critical it was to the survival of Western Civilization. There was a time when few school children had not heard of the Battle of Lepanto.
A brief military history of the battle is here.
Wikipedia account here
Gerard Wilson’s commentary on Jesse Norman’s book Edmund Burke: Philosopher, Politician and Prophet is reposted here with a few adjustments: A Commentary on Edmund Burke Philosopher, Politician, Prophet