Tuesday 9 June 2009

An essay in morals and logic regarding the American Revolution

This is the old chestnut that will not die.

Let me first invite all those Americanists reading this article to do their best, if they can, to put aside their particular prejudices and try to view this issue objectively.

I realise that for some that is simply mission impossible.

Well, I am sorry for them but I believe that there will be some who - with a bit of effort - can do it.

It is to them - and not the blinkered bigots - that I address the argument that follows.

All men feel a strong affinity to and for their own country - and so it should be - but that should not ever blind them to their country's particular faults. Indeed, if they really love their own country then they would be at pains to discover its faults, admit them and try to do something to overcome them.

The man who says "my country, right or wrong" does not truly love his country.

In the case of America the problem is trebly exacerbated by the false myth that so many Americans naively believe that their own society and system of government is the best that the world has ever seen and ought to be aspired to by all peoples throughout the world. This blinkers their capacity to view their own country objectively more than the people of most other countries.

The Americanist idea that America is the acme of civilisation and that it has the right to spread its own culture and form of government to the rest of the world is part of the purely exploitative myth of so-called "manifest destiny".

It was devised by the Founding Fathers to give themselves an excuse to invade and annex territory that belonged to Spain and to the native American Indians and, later, to control Latin America for the benefit of rich Yankees rather than the common good.

The Americanist doctrine of "manifest destiny" was a self-fulfilling, circular argument of zero logical weight invented by Yankee revolutionaries and supremacists as a convenient philosophical veil to cover the gross and grotesque rape of the native American Indians, and of the Spanish territory upon which they mostly dwelt, solely for the private profit of Yankee Americans. That is the truth about "how the West was won".

It was little more than a cloak for greed and exploitation - exploitation that even continues to this day, in new and different forms.

There is very little that is just in such a viewpoint and much that is very unjust. Blind bigotry and false loyalty to such a view is not a virtue but rather a species of sin.

On the other hand, honest and decent Americans are fine people, many some of the finest, who have given the world much and can do yet more for the world in the future. They are the Americans who are able to distinguish the virtue of love of country from bigotry and America from the error of Americanism.

Since America is now the world's policeman, it is all the more important that its citizens understand their own history and understand the flaws as well as the triumphs.

Failure to do so has already cost lives and the prospect of peace in a number of countries.

The Serbs were able to throw back in the face of the American negotiators the simple fact that America had staged its own revolution, that it had believed in its own "manifest destiny", that it had "ethnically cleansed" the country of native American Indians and that it still believed in its own intrinsic superiority over other nations.

Madeleine Albright's typically Americanist negotiating stance was to say to the Serbs that they had 2 choices: hand over their country now or else America would invade and take it over. What kind of preposterously arrogant negotiating position was that for any responsible country to take?

Moreover, the decision to invade Iraq for a second time might have been viewed more circumspectly if the American leaders had understood a bit more about their own history and its particular flaws.

Just War

What makes a war just?

The traditional teaching is set out in the writings of St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas particularly.

It can be summarised as follows.

Jus ad bellum (the morality of going to war) requires all of the following 6 conditions to be fulfilled:

1. A just cause - e.g. righting a wrong, protecting the innocent or restoring rights wrongfully denied or taken away. Vengeance or reprisals or the prestige of the sovereign are not sufficient reasons.

2. Proportionate cause - the cause must be sufficiently weighty to justify the very serious step of waging war with all its attendant evils.

3. Right intention - we must have a good intention, as with all moral acts e.g. to create a better situation than the situation pertaining before the war.

4. Right authority - only those with the proper, sovereign, legislative authority to declare war may do so. War may not be declared by private citizens.

5. Reasonable prospect of success - quixotic gestures are not appropriate in going to war.

6. Last resort - every reasonable way of avoiding war must first be exhausted. Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.

St Augustine of Hippo: the greatest of the Latin Fathers of the Church, first codified teaching on a just war

Jus in bello (morality in waging war) requires the following conditions to be met:

1. Discrimination - we must not deliberately attack the innocent and the non-combatant.

2. Proportionality - we must not take action which might cause disproportionate harm relative to the likely benefit of the war. This is similar to the doctrine of "minimum force" necessary to achieve one's military aim.

Was the American revolution a just war?

American children are taught from an early age that it is axiomatic that the American Revolution was a just war.

It has become a dogma of the Americanist faith and American children are not permitted even to question it, let alone challenge it.

Any objective person (which rules out most Americanists) must, however, consider the case on its merits. A fortiori, a Catholic must do so, too.

All 6 of the reasons are considered by many authors to be lacking in the American revolutionary war but I will consider but one which I think sufficient to call into question the morality of the whole enterprise.

It is this: the lack of right authority.

By what authority did the American rebel colonists claim the right to rebel against their sovereign?

The simple fact is that they had no such authority. Neither did they claim it. Instead they simply adopted the view of the English Whigs, going back to Oliver Cromwell, in claiming the right to decide if and when the sovereign was ruling unjustly and on that basis gave themselves the "right" to rebel.

This, of course, is not only completely contradictory to Christian and Catholic doctrine and principle but is, also, a recipe for anarchy.

Imitating but exceeding the Americans, the French liberals went on to stage a disgustingly savage revolution of their own. The result was that the revolutionary leaders themselves later went to the guillotine, like Maximilien Robespierre, the leader during the "Great Terror" but later himself executed (above).

If any group of citizens can give themselves the right to overthrow the sovereign state whenever they consider that ruler to be unjust then no society is safe.

It is true that no-one is morally obliged to obey an unjust law and that they may refuse to obey it but that is a very different thing from going on to the much further stage of actually overthrowing the maker of the law.

It is also true that if the sovereign state attacks the individual or the group unjustly that the individual or group may take reasonable and proportionate means to defend themselves from such attack but, again, that is a far cry from intentionally plotting to overthrow the sovereign state.

The principle of double effect would allow an intentional defence against the attacks of the sovereign state even if that foreseeably, but not intentionally, opened up the possibility of the state falling but, again, that is a far cry from intentionally plotting to overthrow the sovereign state.

St Thomas puts the matter thus (De Regimine Principum, Cap 6, 45-6):

"If the excess of tyranny is unbearable some have been of the opinion that it would be an act of virtue for strong men to slay the tyrant and to expose themselves to the danger of death in order to set the multitude free... but this opinion is not in accord with apostolic teaching."

There you have it.

St Thomas Aquinas, greatest of all Catholic theologians, condemned revolution as "not in accord with apostolic teaching"

St Thomas explains that this is because St Peter admonishes us to be reverent and obedient to our masters both good and bad (1 Pet 2:12-20) and that we cannot overthrow our masters.

A sovereign person or body may only be overthrown by that which is higher, teaches St Thomas. For example where a king is chosen by a senate or a popular assembly then either of those bodies may depose the king since they are prior to the king but if the king is chosen through birth then he cannot be deposed by any of his subjects since they are not, then, prior to him.

The American rebel colonists simply and wholly rejected this teaching of St Thomas, just as the rebellious Protestants did at the Protestant Reformation, just as Cromwell did and just as the English Whigs did. Indeed, the American rebel colonists expressly and openly averred that they were following the English Whigs in overthrowing King George III, just as the English Whigs had overthrown King James II, our last Catholic king.

There is simply no escaping this. Americanist Catholics must simply just get used to it.

The suggestion that the American rebels were not rebelling because the Hanoverians had no right to rule is contradicted by the American rebel colonists themselves. The American rebel colonists were certainly not seeking to restore the Stuarts. On the contrary, they were even more anti-Stuart than the English Whigs.

In any case, one rebellion does not legitimate another because two wrongs do not make a right and one may not do evil that good may come of it, as St Paul teaches us (Rom 3:8).

King George III in coronation robes

King George III had the right to ratify legislation. The American rebel colonists did not. The de facto government has all the authority of a real government unless it is open to realistic challenge. The alternative would simply be anarchy which is always wrong. By the reign of King George III no-one was really challenging his right to rule in place of the Stuarts.

Moreover, Henry Benedict, Cardinal Duke of York and the Stuart successor, recognised King George III. By the time of King George III the rule of the Hanoverians had become legitimate, recognised by pope, emperor and pretender alike.

One of the most loyal of Stuart loyalists and the very person who had hidden, nursed and nurtured Prince Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie") after the Battle of Culloden in 1745 was Flora MacDonald.

Flora MacDonald receiving Prince Charles Edward Stuart when he was on the run from the English and Scottish Whig rebels after the Battle of Culloden. She later went to America and was there a Loyalist, rejecting the American Whigs just as she had the British Whigs.

She later went to America and there she and her husband were active loyalists, supporters of King George III as King of America and strongly opposed the rebel colonists whom she regarded as unnatural rebels against proper authority, just as she had earlier regarded the English Whigs as rebels against the proper authority of the Stuarts.

That is, I think, precisely illustrative of the true Catholic position and shows the sound Catholic sense of Flora MacDonald.

Prince Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York and the head of the House of Stuart after his brother's death. He recognised the rule of King George III during his life (despite leaving the matter ambiguous in his will). He sent the Scottish coronation heirlooms to King George and received a pension from the King.

What I would ask is this: how can anyone defend the rebellious Yankees, if they reject as rebellious the Hanoverians?

The American War of Independence was not made just by British injustice. As St Thomas teaches, private citizens do not have the right to pass judgment on their own sovereign and to overthrow him, even if that sovereign is passing unjust laws and acting unjustly.

In any case, it was the American rebels who behaved unjustly, at least as much as the British government. A mere "feeling" that one can "no longer bear British rule" does not even begin to satisfy the traditional tenets for a just war.

George Washington, leader of the rebel colonists

The rebel colonists were, in truth, a parcel of Whigs and they had imbibed the false and treacherous teachings of the English Whigs and men like Cromwell and had persuaded themselves that they could make out a case for overthrowing the relatively mild rule of King George III, make themselves the rulers and so profit handsomely from a revolution.

In short, it was they who were unjust far more than King George. Indeed, the rule of King George III and his government was milder than that of the rebel colonists and it was during his reign that the unjust penalties against Catholics and dissenters had begun to be withdrawn or not enforced.

Though it must be admitted that King George still retained prejudices against Catholics, his reign was a vast improvement on that of his odious predecessors and it was during his reign that the first Catholic chapel was built. This was on the Lulworth Castle estate of Sir Joseph Weld, Bt, in Dorset.

Indeed, King George's government had passed the Quebec Act which recognised Catholicism as the religion of the French Canadians. How did the American rebel colonists react to this? They called it an "intolerable Act" and cited it as an example of the "tyranny" of King George!

Thus one can readily see the extent of the anti-Catholic bigotry of the American rebel colonists.

The rebel colonists also saw a huge financial advantage to themselves personally from the revolt and the example of the Boston tea party is a good case in point.

Far from there being expensive tea imported, the British government had allowed tea imports to provide cheaper tea to the colonists. The rebel leaders, however, stood to lose the considerable profit they were making on their own expensive tea by these cheaper imports and so they staged the "Boston tea party" to oust the competition against their own tea monopoly.

They were, in short, not only anti-Catholic bigots but also greedy profiteers at the expense of their fellow American colonials.

Tom Paine: atheist radical and model for many of the American revolutionists

They then tried to turn their greed and selfish profiteering into a principle by pretending that the whole colony was being oppressed by the British government when, in fact, the opposite was true. It was they who were oppressing their fellow colonials.

They also oppressed the non-white minorities and kept slaves for their own benefit and profit. It was of these rebel colonists that Dr Johnson so rightly said:

"Why is it that the yelps for liberty come loudest from the drivers of slaves?"

The American revolution was illegitimate from the beginning and was a war by, and for the benefit of, a small group of colonial oligarchs who sought to enrich themselves by overthrowing the legitimate government and putting themselves at the head of a new, oligarchic government which was thereafter run chiefly for their own benefit and profit.

Thomas Jefferson: Dr Johnson had him in mind when he wrote "Why is it that the yelps for liberty come loudest from the drivers of slaves?"

A government that is run for the profit and benefit of the few and not chiefly for the common weal is called a tyranny (or unjust oligarchy), as St Thomas teaches.

Such were the American rebel colonists. Moreover, their revolution was not a just war.

Generations of American children have been taught the opposite. They have, however, been taught wrongly and falsely. An objective person can see this. A prejudiced person - as most Americanists unfortunately are - cannot.

The real absurdity is that so many modern Americans have been duped into thinking that their own society which, even now, is not run for the benefit of all but chiefly for the benefit of the few rich, is the very acme of freedom.

They have so much imbibed the myth and the propaganda that they can no longer even recognise what freedom really is.

They slave away for employers who exploit them and give them only 2 weeks "vacation" and they honestly think this is the very pinnacle of freedom.

The new slaves have persuaded themselves to love their own enslavement, even though it is often far more oppressive than the conditions of most slaves in the old South.

Does this mean that America should now be forced to recognise the Queen (or even the Duke of Bavaria) as their head of state?

I only pose this question because I am sure that some dumb bunny will try to raise it (whether stupidly or sarcastically) in order to try and make a cheap point.

The answer, of course, is no.

No - no more than should the British Crown be forcibly handed back to the Duke of Bavaria, even though he is undoubtedly the true head of the legitimate House of Stuart.


Because to do so would once again require an insurrection or, at the very least, a coup d'etat both of which actions would fail miserably to satisfy the criteria for a just war, almost as much as did the American revolutionary war fail to satisfy the same just war criteria.

HRH Francis, the Duke of Bavaria, with his niece, HRH Princess Elizabeth, who is expecting a child. The Duke remains the head of the excluded Catholic House of Stuart.

Of course, if the Duke could become King (assuming that he was willing which is at best doubtful) by voluntary means, by the consent of Parliament and people, then, of course, there could be no objection.

But is that likely? No.

Jacobites (like myself) can entertain the just and pious hope that the legitimate Stuart king might one day be restored to the throne of Britain but we cannot for one moment ever seriously entertain the entirely fanciful notion that any such restoration should today be imposed by force of arms or by coup d'etat.

The time for that sort of action - right though it may have been in 1715 and 1745 - is now long, long gone and it would be the height of immorality, unconstitutionality and folly to attempt such a criminal enterprise with any degree of seriousness. In attempting such, we would be no better than the terrorists of Al Qaeda or the IRA.

The issues are currently under discussion, however, due to the proposal by Gordon Brown to scrap the Act of Settlement 1701 which excludes all Catholics from the British Crown. See this report:


It is even less likely that the Congress and the people of the USA would ever consent to a return to the Queen as head of state.

Indeed, the issue is irrelevant to the point of this essay.

My aim was to examine the conditions for a just war and see if they applied to the original American revolutionary war and then to see how the continued "dogma" of faith in the recititude of the American revolution influences and affects modern US cultural and political discourse and policy.



Patricius said...

"A government that is run for the profit and benefit of the few and not chiefly for the common weal is called a tyranny, as St Thomas teaches."
I like it! Would you, please, supply a reference for this.

Anonymous said...

In reality of course there were more Catholic monarchies on the side of the American Revolutionaries than there were against them. Specifically both King Louis XVI of France and King Charles III of Spain supported the Americans against the Protestant King George III.

In 1778, with the odds stacked against them, the Americans formed an alliance with the France of King Louis XVI, which evened the military and naval strengths. They later brought Spain into the conflict, by their own alliance with France, as well as the Dutch Republic.

Spain entered the War in June 1779, in a renewal of the Bourbon Family Compact, even though the Spanish monarchy was not keen on encouraging similar anti-colonial rebellions in the Spanish Empire. Even before its formal entry into the war though, Spain had been providing weapons and other supplies to the rebels through the port of New Orleans.

Tribunus said...


De Regimine Principum, Cap 1, 10-11 which reads:

"If, therefore, a multitude of free men is ordered by the ruler toward the common good of the multitude, that rulership will be right and just, as is suitable for free men. If, on the other hand, a rulership aims, not at the common good of the multitude, but at the private good of the ruler, it will be an unjust and perverted rulership. The Lord, therefore, threatens such rulers, saying by the mouth of Ezekiel: 'Woe to the shepherds that feed themselves (seeking, that is, their own interest): should not the flock be fed by the shepherd?' [Ezech 24:2]. Shepherds, indeed, should seek the good of their flocks and every ruler the good of the multitude subject to him...

If an unjust government is carried on by one man alone, who seeks his own benefit from his rule and not the benefit of the multitude subject to him, such a ruler is called a 'tyrant'..."


Anonymous said...

The quote by Dr. Johnson is not exactly correct, but that's a quibble. An excellent essay, says this American (NOT yankee).


Tribunus said...

Thanks Romulus. I perhaps should add that I'm not against Yankees as such just the Americanist ideology of some of them!

Tribunus said...


What's your point? Or are you just giving your knowledge an airing?

And do not forget that the almost all European monarchies were run by Freemasonic prime ministers at the time (Pombal, Aranda, Choisel, Kaunitz etc) and not by the Catholic kings themselves.

You seem to have overlooked this vital fact.


PS. Your other post has been excluded by this Blog's pedantry-excluder. Sorry but the rule is strict: pathetic pedantry politely prevented - permanently.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. T.,

My point, I would have thought, is not complicated. Whatever the motives of some or even a majority of the American Revolutionaries may have been, the American War of Independence was not wholly, exclusively or necessarily either anti-Catholic of anti-monarchist. (Sorry to write like a tax wonk, but...) Washington himself could easily have become the first King of America, just as Cromwell could have become King of England.

Your point about Freemasons is curious. I know of no evidence that the Comte de Maurepas (the French Prime Minister at the time) and the Conde de Floridablanca (the Spanish Prime Minister) were Freemasons. In any event, was England in the eighteenth century less freemasonic than France and Spain? King George III was not a Freemason, but his son, who went on to become King George IV, was. (He is claimed as such on the United Grand Lodge's website.)

My other point, very simply, was that America was not and is not a tyranny. According to Aristotle's definitions you, I would have thought, would classify America as an oligarchy.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for another very interesting post. I have some comments and questions, and I am neither a Yankee nor a Hanoverian.

Firstly you quote St Thomas regarding the overthrow of a tyrannous rule. This does not seem to me to accord with your earlier posts about Graf von Stauffenburg. Will you please explain how Stauffenburg and his colleagues were right in principle if the American 'Founding Fathers' were wrong?

Secondly, are you sure that the Just War principles automatically apply in a civil war situation? If so, would the rebellions of 1715 and 1745 not also fail under this test? This also raises further questions in relation to such issues as the Carlist Wars and the Spanish Civil War, amongst others.

Thirdly, by what right did Henry IX have to abandon his claim on behalf of his heirs?

Lastly, I think it is irrelevant to try and apply St Thomas to the American War of Independence, which was essentially a war between two Protestant oligarchies. I am not aware that either faction professed any more adherence to Thomism than any Hindus or Mohammedans.


Tribunus said...


You point was neither complicated nor uncomplicated - it was simply conspicuous by its absence.

However, you now (finally) explain yourself, or at least attempt to.

"My point....is...the American War of Independence was not wholly, exclusively or necessarily either anti-Catholic of anti-monarchist".

Interesting point but I think you will have to admit that you are probably in a tiny minority in holding such a view.

I suspect that the American colonists would have been rather surprised to learn that they were not fighting to replace a monarchy.

Washington and Cromwell could doubtless both have become kings if they had wished it but it will not have escaped your notice that neither of them did so or even attempted to do so.

Indeed, Cromwell deliberately had carved on his sarcophagus the words "No King but Christ". A bit of a giveaway, isn't it?

There is certainly evidence that Maurepas was a Lodge member and he was praised highly by Condorcet, the archetypical French Freemason.

Moreover, he recalled the old Parlement members who opposed the King and he supported the American Revolution keenly.

Floridablanca, despite being in a different faction from Aranda, was the classic freemasonic liberal (although preferring the English masons).

Indeed, he was rewarded with his title in 1773 expressly for successfully bullying the Pope into suppressing the Jesuits.

Moreover, they were both made chief minister only at about the time of the American revolt and it was largely the work of their predecessors which laid the foundation for their respective countries' later support of the rebels.

You ask was England in the eighteenth century less freemasonic than France and Spain?

No - but so what?

The fact makes no difference to the injustice of the revolutionary war.

Your "other point" was mere pedantry. It remains so.

Aristotle regarded it as a bad thing for any government to rule for its own benefit and not that of the common good. That was the point of the discussion - not a pompous quibble over semantics, particularly when today the word "tyranny" is not so restricted in use as Aristotle's usage. Both terms were terms for bad government in Aristotle's terminology. That is the important point.

If you still disagree then presumably you also use Aristotle's term for bad government by the many?

He called it "democracy".

Get the point, now?

Tribunus said...

Dear Dion,

Thank you for your kind comments.

You ask: "Firstly you quote St Thomas regarding the overthrow of a tyrannous rule. This does not seem to me to accord with your earlier posts about Graf von Stauffenburg. Will you please explain how Stauffenburg and his colleagues were right in principle if the American 'Founding Fathers' were wrong?"

A very good question and, indeed, the very same question was asked by Stauffenberg himself.

In the end, he was persuaded that Hitler had achieved power illegally and thus was an usurping government and not the true one. His use of Article 34 of the Weimar Constitution was illegal as was his passage of the Ermaechtigungsgesetz and self-appointment as Fuehrer in place of Chancellor.

That, however, was not the end of the matter. To be just, an uprising must seek to restore and not to supplant. Where was the government which could be restored? The Weimar leaders were all compromised, dead or unwilling.

In the end, the plotters decided that it would be just to establish a provisional government until the mechanisms of the old Constitution could be restored and that this could be done with the help of the Allied powers who were fighting Germany.

That seems a reasonable position.

You next question is easier to answer.

You ask: "Secondly, are you sure that the Just War principles automatically apply in a civil war situation?"

Of course. If not, then one would have to explain why civil wars are permitted to be unjust.

See next post continuation for further answers.


Tribunus said...

Dear Dion,

You next ask: "If so, would the rebellions of 1715 and 1745 not also fail under this test? This also raises further questions in relation to such issues as the Carlist Wars and the Spanish Civil War, amongst others."

The Jacobite rebellions were the locus classicus of uprisings to oust the usurper and to restore the true ruler and constitution.

They are thus not revolutions but rather just wars, justly called by the true, legal ruler - in this case King James III and VIII.

The injustice was perpetrated by those English Whigs who immorally plotted and overthrew their own true and rightful king, namely King James II and VII.

The same applies to the Carlists who were not revolutionaries but rather sought to restore the true ruler of the Spains, namely Don Carlos and his rightful Catholic heirs and successors against the usurping Isabellinist liberals.

For the Spanish Civil War to have been started justly by General Franco and his allies, it would, I think, need to be shown that the elections of early 1936 were fraudulent or unconstitutional or that the government seized power by coup d'etat and illegally.

That is demonstrated by the report of the electoral commission that same year which showed that the elections were fixed. The new Popular Front government buried the report and, instead, thereafter illegally gave themselves more power.

Franco therefore sought to restore the King and Constitution by uprising.

Next, you ask: "Thirdly, by what right did Henry IX have to abandon his claim on behalf of his heirs?"

He was entitled to abandon on behalf of himself but it is, I tend to agree, questionable that he could abandon for his heirs.

However, by this time any war to overthrow King George III could not, I think, pass the test for a just war. Thus it was that the Jacobite claims lapsed.

Your last argument is this: "Lastly, I think it is irrelevant to try and apply St Thomas to the American War of Independence, which was essentially a war between two Protestant oligarchies. I am not aware that either faction professed any more adherence to Thomism than any Hindus or Mohammedans."

We are debating this subject as a question of Natural Law.

Accordingly, it is irrelevant whether the protagonists accepted Thomism or not.

Natural Law applies to all men, not just to those who agree with its precepts. Murder is wrong for all men - not just those who agree that it is wrong.

If that were not so, then a man need only declare his disbelief in the Natural Law to be morally permitted to break it.

Would you, as a judge or juryman, be convinced by an argument that ran like this: "I did blow up innocent people but I did so as an Islamic revolutionary act which I believed to be just. I reject your Western idea of Natural Law".

Would you acquit him on the basis that he did not believe in the Natural Law and so could not be expected to obey it?


Thomas More said...

Your reasoning is flawed.

First, Bishop Sheen thought our revolution was justified and that our goal and purpose was honorable. I'll take his philosophical conclusions much more seriously than yours.

Second, you stat that a higher authority can depose a lower one. Well, the King of England deposed himself as sovereign when Henry VIII broke both the Magna Charta and the Oath of Coronation which obliged him to maintain the independence of God's Church. His and every subsequent "sovereign" other than his daughter Mary have violated these fundamental laws of England upon which the validity of the English King depends. Henry VIII's and every King of England's authority is dependent on God, when he and the subsequent Sovereigns of England rejected the authority of God they rejected their own authority which was built upon the authority of the Church and God. George III was not a legitimate sovereign, he was a tyrant who happened to exercise the power of government.

Plus Archbishop Carrol and his brother (Catholics and Founding Fathers) would find your characterization of our Founders as anti-Catholic odd I think.

You do not have a King anymore. All you have is a figurehead plaything of Parliment. It has been that way ever since after Charles I. Stop taking out your frustration regarding this fact on us Americans who exposed England for being the morally weak country that it had become and still is. We were entitled to representation as Englishmen, a right denied us by an imperial, anti-catholic and oppressive regime in England. We had a right to be free and asserted it. Just ask the lawyers at Middle Temple at the time that supported the legality of our cause.

God Bless America.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for this good post. I too am an American who does not believe the revolution to have been a just war. And herein lies the root of the problem in this country. If "the People" (i.e. a group of persons presuming to speak in the name of all and with the power to effectively impose their will upon all) can unjustly overthrow their lawful king, what else can they do? In our own age they have taken to murdering the innocent and making telling us that sterile sexual perversion between two persons of the same sex consitutes "marriage", that is, it is equivalent to the lifelong union of a man and a woman that engenders and brings up children. My question is, can such a government be considered legitimate? And if not, what is one justified in doing about it? I am not suggesting violent revolution (given your just war theory above), but how does one otherwise deal with such tyranny? I pray for the conversion of my country, but what else? With this I wrestle.

Unknown said...

This is an excellent post. Surely St. Thomas would not say that a private citizen should bear *any* level of injustice imposed upon him, correct? To use an example from modernity, would a private citizen in say, the Soviet Union, China, Cuba or North Korea be justified in rebelling against the dictatorship?

I suppose it was not your intention to consider a related topic at length, but 'Manifest Destiny' is really an outgrowth of the theology of certain Protestant groups (they may be Calvinists) that has the 'God is on our (America's) side' since the days of the colonists through the Presidency of George W. Bush. Hearing Bush defend the Iraq War on the basis of doing God's will and spreading democracy was no surprise to those of us who grew up hearing this theology.

To them, America is a kind of branch on the tree which is Israel, and thus enjoys the status of 'chosen people' much as they believe the nation of Israel is first in God's eyes.

Unknown said...

1. What relevance is it to the question of Just War when the subject is a private (Catholic) citizen rebelling against a non-Catholic government? Does it matter what form the government is (monarchy, democracy, communist, tyrant), or whether it is oppressive towards Catholicism, or Christianity in general? At what point does a secular government, tyrant or otherwise, become so oppressive to a Catholic society as to merit rebellion? I have in mind your response on 10 June at 14:51 and your comment s regarding the alleged Freemasonic affiliations of the European Prime Ministers.

2. In your reply to Ollie you offered that his view was that of a ‘tiny minority’; I wonder what relevance does this have? Did you mean that in terms of having any bearing on a contemporary public that it is not relevant because it is impractical, or because it was not widely held at the time, or only that it is so obscure as to be discarded for purposes of discussion?

3. As you have explained your understanding of the application of Just War principles to this particular conflict, I wonder whether you believe the Crusades to have been just? What about the First War of Independence by the Scots?

4. In your reply to Dion, you asked a (rhetorical?) question as to how he would conclude as to the guilt of a Mohammedan claiming justice as the motivation for a act which resulted in the death of innocents; I wonder if by this you mean to imply that combatants whose actions result in the death of other combatants in wars which you believe to have been unjust are guilty of murder? Or does the responsibility for the justice of the war rest solely on the civil authorities to whom God has granted this responsibility? Is his culpability greater because the innocents were his targets, as opposed to a combatant who knows there will be innocent lives loss by his actions but which are otherwise unintended?

5. I am curious if you know of any declarations since 1789 by Roman Pontiffs declaring a major conflict to have been unjust.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tribunis

Thank you for your thoughtful and reasoned responses. As you delicately pointed out, I had indeed in my haste forgotten the foundational importance of Natural Law in Thomism. Perhaps a summary of (or at least a reference to) it should lead off any relevant discussion.

I think the heart of this issue lies in the nature of legitimacy. In most societies this now effectively means domination by the faction which is determined to shout the loudest and pursue any means. The heirs of the Enlightenment have been very successful indeed. Not for nothing is democracy also known as the dictatorship of the 51%.

Nonetheless, and without disparaging any arguments presented here, the reality is, whether you speak of 1688 or 1776, or 1931, or 1933 or 1949 - as Mao Tse Tung phrased it, "all power ultimately comes from the barrel of a gun." Of course he was only referring to Earthly power.

Thank you again and I look forward to agreeing (and disagreeing) with you in the future.


Emanuel said...

Not all revolutionaries shared the same ideas. More than anyone else, the real problem was Parliament, who seemed to have the king in their pocket. They claimed sovereignty over both him and the colonists, whom they treated like vermin even though they supposedly shared the same rights since 1688. The colonists who made the best case believed that the Parliament had no right to tax them and that only their own legislators had the right to do so. Even you believe that Parliament was a tyrant (because you're a Jacobite).

What should one expect from colonists who for so long had governed themselves completely independently since the beginning? You can say anything you want about the "rebels," but the club of monarchs in Europe with their centralizing power over church and state as well as a protective wall barring free trade were not very prudent (and in fact were no less rebellious than the colonists when you think about it).

The American revolution was pretty conservative anyway. Jefferson wanted the states to be sovereign and Hamilton wanted a traditional monarchy. The real revolution was the War between the States of 1860-65, with some radical changes in culture before that (mainly the birth of the democracy in America--which started with Jackson--and the market revolution--which also took place in England).

But regarding the revolution, we sort of see the same thing in Europe several times. The British themselves supported the Dutch revolt from Spain. You also see the establishment of Prussia as its own kingdom and later on steal Selisia from the very same monarchy they obtained their crown from.

The problem with America is the changes that came later, and the lives and works of the founders worked into these changes by historical revisionists. The American Constitution today means something completely different than what it meant before the War between the States and "Reconstruction," and Americans are generally plagued with a sort of nationalism that isn't so alien to Europeans (in fact, European nationalism has left Europe desolation to this day; America still has a little life left in it).

Moreover, the nations of Europe have engaged in rapacious expansionism as well, and were arguably more brutal than the Americans ever were.

Tribunus said...

Dear Thomas More,

You may have overlooked the fact that St Thomas More was an Englishman, not an American. Perhaps you should choose another nom de plume?

Bishop Fulton Sheen, good chap though he may have been, was not infallible. Merely to quote him, then, is hardly a rebuttal of anything.

You may choose to follow whomever you wish but you are kidding yourself if you think Fulton Sheen a better guide than a Doctor of the Church like St Thomas Aquinas.

The remainder of your "arguments" - if they can be called such - consist in further unsupported assertions and non-sequiturs that will persuade no-one.

Henry VIII and every subsequent "sovereign" other than his daughter Mary have violated these fundamental laws of England upon which the validity of the English King depends. Henry VIII's and every King of England's authority is dependent on God, when he and the subsequent Sovereigns of England rejected the authority of God they rejected their own authority which was built upon the authority of the Church and God.

Even Henry VIII did not reject God and King James II was as good a practising Catholic as any king that ever ruled in Britain. The American revolutionaries, who copy-catted the English Whigs, hated him as much they did and for the same reason: his Catholicism.

But you, in your ignorance of history, did not know that, did you?

Moreover, if your "argument" were right then none but Catholic kings could ever be regarded as rulers. If that be so then, by the same token, no US President could ever be a legitimate ruler either.

You have demolished your own argument without any need for further comment from me.

George III was not a legitimate sovereign, he was a tyrant who happened to exercise the power of government.

You provide no evidence whatsoever of his tyranny but, equally, you provide no support whatever for your unsupported assertion that a tyrant automatically ceases to be ruler without further ado.

Who is to decide he is a tyrant? Who is to decide that he is deposed thereby? A group of rich, Freemasonic landowners in 18th century Virginia? If so, why?

I raise these questions in my post but you give no answer to them. Why? Because you can't.

Actually, King George III was far less of a tyrant than the American revolutionary leaders.

He was certainly less anti-Catholic.

Praying in aid the brothers Carroll is particularly laughable given their notoriously heterodox views.

You are a fairly typical example of a Yank whose prejudice prevents him from answering any of the issues.

All you are able to do is simply to parrot the same old re-cycled prejudices.

That is exactly what prejudice and bigotry consist in.

You do not answer the simple fact that the American revolutionaries were anti-Catholic and called "intolerable" the establishment of the Catholic religion in Canada.

You refuse to face the fact that the Founding Fathers were mostly enthusiastic supporters of slavery - whilst hypocritically yelping for liberty - and louses like Jefferson even had children by his own slaves and then enslaved the resulting offspring.

At the same time, as Somersett's case in 1772 proves, slavery was illegal in England.

I certainly agree with the sentiment "God Bless America" but I add "May God save America from the ignorant bigots who give her a bad name".

Tribunus said...


Your whole argument is little more than a re-run of the morally bankrupt line that I'm OK because the other guy is worse.

That was always a perfectly ridiculous argument.

Like many you claim that the American colonials were ill-treated but provide not a jot of evidence.

Actually, the reverse is true. The Americans were very well treated by the British government (except, of course, for Catholics and other minorities who were, of course, treated even worse by the colonials).

The American colonials had not the slightest basis for arguing that the government had no right to tax them and that they were empowered to tax themselves.

As I have already shown, if the British government was illegitimate because they usurped the Stuarts then the American usurpers were far more illegitimate.

In fact, by the time of King George III, pope, emperor and pretender all recognised him as king.

The American revolutionaries were no more than a parcel of robbers and thieves.

You are quite wrong to suggest that the American colonists had governed themselves completely independently since the beginning.

That is simply historical nonsense.

You can say anything you want about the "club of monarchs in Europe with their centralizing power over church and state" but that does not validate or legitimate the American rebellion.

Two wrongs do not make a right and, as St Paul teaches, you may not do evil that good may come of it.

Moreover, not all the European monarchs were as you describe but chiefly those under the power of the same Freemasonry that was the principal belief of the American rebels.

Moreover, the American rebels were not in favour of free trade.

Indeed, the Boston Tea Party was a demonstration against the free trade tea allowed in by the British government. The rebels wanted to protect the high prices which enriched the American tea-traders at the expense of the American people.

The American revolution was not conservative but deeply radical and a blatant and deliberate attack upon traditional Christian principles.

Jefferson claimed that he wanted the states to be sovereign but no more meant it than he meant that all should enjoy liberty (he kept slaves, remember!).

Hamilton most certainly did NOT want a traditional monarchy. He wanted something very new.

Jackson did not invent American democracy so much as the rotten form of government masquerading behind that name which has since become closely associated with the politically corrupt party that he founded.

Jackson was a racist, a power-hungry dictator and an oppressor of the poor and vulnerable.

For rapacious expansionism, there is little to equal the brutal rape of the Spanish and Indian West which was carried out by the racist, Protestant "Manifest Destiny" Americans.

In so doing they may have been copying the European Freemasons but they exceeded them in many ways.

Those nations of Europe which remained Catholic, such as Austria, never engaged in colonialist expanionism but grew by dynastic alliance and self-defence.

It was for this reason that the phrase was coined: Alii bella gerent, tu, felix Austria, nubes - "Others make war but thou, O happy Austria, simply make love [i.e. marry]".

A plague on you racist, revolutionary Freemasons, whether European or Americanist Yankees!

No Catholic should have anything to do with either of them.

Anonymous said...

Great essay. The truth will out!