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04 June 2020


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blue peacock

Col. Lang,

I'm not certain that any current political leader from Trump to Biden, Nancy and Schumer have spent even 30 minutes reading and contemplating the debates surrounding the Declaration of Independence and the constitutional convention.

Contemporary politics is all about faux rhetoric and ideology with the simple intent to acquire power to profit from it personally.

While not condoning the looting of stores by anarchist mobs, I am wondering where all the voices for "law & order" went when the real looting to the tune of trillions of dollars by the 0.1% has taken place over the past decades?

Keith Harbaugh

Perhaps I have misread you, but the impression I have gotten from your writings over the years is that you are not exactly positive towards "the [culture] which prevailed among New England Puritans", nor towards that of Puritans and Calvinists in general and the Mathers in particular.

However, to my knowledge, you have never stated explicitly just WHY you view them negatively.

I agree with you on many issues, but not on this one.
Could you state explicitly why, if you do, view such Protestants so negatively?

I seem to recall you stating your wife's family had suffered at the hands of Protestants. (Pardon an imprecise recollection.)
If so, simply to better understand at least one view of past history, would it violate privacy to give some clues on the issues there?

Let's get real.
There were wars of religion in Europe following the Protestant Reformation.
Is all the blame to be put on one side?
I find that impossible to believe.

BTW, speaking about wars in Europe,
Arnold Toynbee arranged those wars into four cycles each of which bore a structural similarity to the others:

Brutus canneloni

So,just when a nice head of steam,so to speak,was building up,against China,out pops the riots.There is absolutely no doubt covid 19 was developed and released in China and yet all the anger has been turned inward against American citizens.When are western countries going to wake up and burn down Chinese businesses.
Failure to keep an eye on the ball
A cucked nation now erasing its historical memory is one thing but turning a blind eye to China's aggressive strategy is shameful.Send them home.Break there chains of influence.Wake up.


Keith Harbaugh

You either have a failing memory or are being disingenuous. We have discussed this matter several times. My father's family were in both the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies. This has nothing to do with my wife and it does not have anything to do with my Catholicism. IMO Calvinist Puritanism is a grim, dark, view of Christianity based on the idea of pre-destination and an overwhelming belief that if anyone, anywhere is having a good time, he must be a sinner who is condemned in God's mind as not being among the elect. My ancestors sat in the pews and listened to Puritan divines lecture them about things like "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." To hell with the Puritans and their modern admirers.

Barbara Ann

Dangerously uncontextualized heretical thinking - I couldn't agree more with Lord Acton's positions.

Lee may be gone and the principals of limited Federal government may no longer be embodied geographically in the South, but those "fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization" are still doing so - against formidable opposition. And the fate of "all the races of mankind" still depends on the outcome.

I am hopeful the American project will yet prove a success and so keep the beacon of true liberty burning for all to see. The alternative is unthinkable.

What a great read, many thanks for posting this Colonel.


"emancipation. It has been an act of war, not of statesmanship or humanity. They have treated the slave-owner as an enemy, and have used the slave as an instrument for his destruction."

BLM is being used as an instrument for the destruction of what is left of the constitutional republic. "The North has used the doctrines of Democracy to destroy self-government." Governor Whitmer ordered business closed for months, yet today she says it is safe to walk side by side to protest the "police brutality" - yet don't get a haircut, that is still forbidden and the State is still after the 70 y.o. barber who opened his business.

Governor Whitmer is also one of democratic politicians who ordered covid19 infected patients be readmitted to nursing homes, ensuring the infection and death of hundreds, mosly black, residents of Michigan. "...the State as an instrument to mould as well as to control society." as Acton put it. I think he would be expecting another war for independence given what is being done by the State(s).


I'm with you colonel. I absolutely abhor the censorious neo-Puritan control freaks of today. The only nonconformists they seem to tolerate are transgender people. Others are likely to be shamed, hounded, harassed and/or ostracized. That a person can't even express a simple love for our flag and country anymore without being vilified by smug, self-righteous assholes is beyond insane. They mock people of faith yet practice their sense of moral superiority with religious zeal that far exceeds most churchgoers. And without the least sense of irony, THEY have the nerve to label people who disagree with them Nazis. SMH...


"Whatever the case, the bare fact stands: Acton believed that the wrong side won the American Civil War, and his judgment was shared by many prominent English Catholics."

English Catholics in general did sympathize with the Confederacy, and it is interesting that this sympathy showed itself across the spectrum from liberal to conservative.

Pope Pius IX spoke firmly to Confederate envoys with regard to the importance of emancipation but also sent Jefferson Davis consoling words and gifts during the latter's postwar imprisonment.

English Outsider

From the essay -

" Would Americans recognize and correct their system’s creep toward a monolithic, unitary nation-state by emphasizing constitutional limits upon the central government’s authority? Or would the American project degenerate into a “consolidated” mass democracy, which is to say one whereby a few select mandarins unrestrained by legal limitations dictate life to unseen, unknown subjects far and wide?"

Not only a question for Americans, Colonel!

But after 2016 I no longer place much store in those "constitutional limits". Those "limits" might be a composite of accepted precedent and written prescription, as in the English case, or they might be based, at least formally, on written prescription, as in the American case. In neither case are those "limits" worth a rush, nor the "Constitutions" they derive from, if they do not represent living tradition.

Failing that they are merely scraps of text for lawyers or the unscrupulous to play with as they please. As we saw with the constitutional aberrations in the UK parliament after 2016 and, more dramatically, with the partisan manoeuvres in the States aimed at overturning or at least crippling the new President.

No living tradition there. Merely manipulation and special pleading. The Constitution, Law itself, becoming merely a screen for clever rogues to hide behind.



Acton looks pretty good, eh?


I am hopeful the American project will yet prove a success and so keep the beacon of true liberty burning for all to see. The alternative is unthinkable.

What a great read, many thanks for posting this Colonel.

Posted by: Barbara Ann | 04 June 2020 at 07:19 PM


What 'American project'? What 'beacon of true liberty' and for whom precisely, Barbara Ann? I understand there is MAGA and now KAG. That's it?

beacon=light unto the nations?

Maybe I misunderstand.

Acton’s astonishing confession to Lee: “I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.”

Trump's MAGA project, is the 'American [liberty] project'?

The spurious liberty of the United States is twice cursed, for it deceives those whom it attracts and those whom it repels. By exhibiting the spectacle of a people claiming to be free but whose love of freedom means hatred of inequality, jealousy of limitations to power, and reliance on the State as an instrument to mould as well as to control society, it calls on its admirers to hate aristocracy and teaches its adversaries to fear the people. The North has used the doctrines of Democracy to destroy self-government.



Is English your mother tongue?

Barbara Ann


I'm glad you asked. IMO the US Constitution, starting with the Articles of Confederation, is Mankind's best effort so far at constructing a durable framework within which men can remain relatively free from state oppression and live with a large degree of self-rule at state level. Its implementation is of course an ongoing project, not a one-time achievement. This is the American project.

Foreigners like Tocqueville have greatly admired this extraordinary achievement and Pax Americana, for all its flaws, has stood as a beacon of hope to the millions living under tyrannical regimes across the world.

It is important here to note that growing political corruption and neocon influences on foreign policy, among other things, have not only tarnished this image, but led to some in the West to look forward gleefully to the collapse of the US - Moon of Alabama's blog springs to mind as an example. Such people glorify totalitarian regimes like China's. IMO a future Pax Sinica under control of the CCP would effectively end all hope of personal liberty as we in the West understand it - possibly indefinitely. If that is your beacon then fine, but if so (Colonel please correct me if I am wrong) you have no place on this blog.

Trump is a symptom of rebellion again the corruption mentioned above and also a visceral demonstration that US democracy has not yet been so corrupted that the will of the people can be ignored by the Deep State. MAGA and KAG are slogans and these are helpful in rallying people behind the cry to end the corruption and creeping Federal power. The jury is out on to what extent Trump has the intent or will to actually "Drain the Swamp", but at a minimum the fact that the swamp is now in the public consciousness is a good thing.

Spurious liberty can still be replaced with the genuine kind and the curse lifted - if the American people will it. Christine Helms' "explosively contagious force" applies as well to the American people as it does to the Arabs and we are seeing an awakening of this force right now. Trump is not an archetypal champion of liberty, but what of it?

I think it is worth again quoting Mencken on the illogic and tragic irony of Lincoln's Gettysburg speech:

"The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination — “that government of the people, by the people, for the people,” should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i. e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle an absolutely free people; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and vote of the rest of the country—and for nearly twenty years that vote was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely any freedom at all."
Do you disagree with Acton's position, with Mencken's?


Barbara Ann


Just because a tradition does not appear to be living does not imply it is necessarily dead. See my comment to blum on Helms' point about the dormant historical memory of a nation.


Thanks for posting this, Col. Lang.

I learned about Lord Acton from a Teaching Co. series of lectures; his correspondence with Robert E. Lee, also quoted in the essay you referred us to, was at the front of my thinking in the Charlottesville debacle: the permit-holding rally members sought to preserve a statue of Lee in a park in Charlottesville.

This morning I heard Northam (gov. of Virginia) declaim that the verdict is finally final: the Civil War was NOT about state's rights, it was about slavery; the statue must come down lest "some little Black girl look up to it" and wonder why she should look up to someone who oppressed her people.

Yet the evidence of history is larger and heavier than the 12 ton statue on a high pedestal: Because power is centralized in USA, aggression is unchecked and, apparently, uncheckable, just as Acton feared.

Today an extremely important government monopoly, that of the use of violence, theoretically in the hands of elected representatives (i.e. answerable to the people), is being toppled as certainly as the statue of Robert E. Lee.
The social contract is broken: in exchange for citizens's waiver of the right to use violence, government was granted that monopoly. If government fails to responsibly exercise its monopoly, then the citizen has no option but to take his defense into his own hands.

Toppling Lee is more significant than even the destruction of the Buddha.

English Outsider

Colonel - I thought he was brilliant. An acute contemporary observer who saw what it was all about. I hadn't known much about Acton until I met him on your site.

Keith Harbaugh


My ancestors sat in the pews and listened to Puritan divines lecture them about things like "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."
To hell with the Puritans and their modern admirers.

Posted [above] by: turcopolier | 04 June 2020 at 07:01 PM



One of my ancestors was a Puritan minister who was among the founders of [Harvard].
[P]ilgrims, I do not believe humans are innately good, quite the opposite.



So which is it, Colonel?

Puritans should be condemned for their description of man as being born into sin,
and their exhortations to their flock to overcome that state in order to be reunited with the Lord,
or praised for those much-needed moral exhortations?

BTW, for the historical views of such Christians, this is an excellent reference:

Also, as to my view as to our current problems,
they are exemplified by the total stress of Martin Baron and Fred Hyatt's WaPo on "Rights" and "Victimhood",
and it's avoidance of such topics as Virture and Responsibility.

Keith Harbaugh

An issue implicit in the above is the distinction/difference between Puritans and Presbyterians/Calvinists.
I have made an effort to assay that difference.
The most helpful web reference of which I am aware is:


Keith Harbaugh

Most of the Presbyterian minister that I know don't believe in much of anything. I heard one preach a sermon at Easter without mentioning Jesus. They are really social worker. Nevertheless, the constipated attitudes of 17th Century puritans in New England are still present all over the US.


Keith Harbaugh

I believe that humans can be saved from their nature through God's grace obtained by faith and good works. I do not believe in pre-destination. You are becoming boring over this.


Let us pause for a moment in this great paean of praise for another of the American nation's English enemies and give thanks to Czar Alexander II of Russia.
Had England and France prevailed in 1863 there would have been two nations instead of one. A low tariff exporting nation and a high tariff protective nation. A glance at the map of the two nations should suffice to show even the purblind that the north would not have survived long from the effects of smuggling English industrial crap across the Mason Dixon line or wherever the English imposed peace treaty would have ended up.
Lord Acton just another sore loser in the long and uninspired history of English haters of America.
Nations have neighbours and interests. America has four neighbours and three of them have disliked and worked against American interests since 1776. From 1776 until 1881 our other neighbour shared our interests and worked peacefully with us.
It is a shame what was lost with the British pushed influx of Ukrainian immigrants after the assassination of Czar Alexander II.


Thanks Barbara Ann,

You: Christine Helms' "explosively contagious force" applies as well to the American people as it does to the Arabs and we are seeing an awakening of this force right now. Trump is not an archetypal champion of liberty, but what of it?

Me: Yes, I recall the passage, although, not sure, Helms might want to differ between Arab (pan-Arabism) and Islamic 'awakening'. I am no expert:

Helms:the Shah realized that historical memory of a nation is not merely a repository of the future ... This memory [partly citing Foucault] ... It may wait for decades, patiently dormant, only to be reactivated suddenly as an explosive, contagious force.

Do you disagree with Acton's position, with Mencken's?
Posted by: Barbara Ann | 05 June 2020 at 11:23 AM

I found Mencken amusing, entertaining, no doubt. Something of course felt highly familiar. ...

Acton's letter to Lee and Lee's answer, I found more than interesting. Two characters thrown into times around them. Complex characters, fascinating characters. No doubt.


Below: Acton's review of the two volume work by a fellow Brit vs the earlier French observer:

The quote below is from John Dalberg-Acton review of James Bryce, The American Commonwealth:
It has been said that Tocqueville never understood the federal constitution. He believed, to his last edition, that the opening words of the first section, "all legislative powers herein granted," meant " tous les pouvoirs 1égislatifs déterminés par les représentants." Story thought that he "has borrowed the greater part of his reflections from American works [meaning his own and Lieber's] and little from his own observation." The French minister at Washington described his book as " interéssant mais fort peu exact"; and even the Nation calls it "brilliant, superficial, and attractive." Mr. Bryce can never be accused of imperfect knowledge or penetration, of undue dependence upon others, or of writing up to a purpose. His fault is elsewhere.

James Bryce, Introduction: The American Commonwealth, Vol I:
"What do you think of our institutions?" is the question addressed to the European traveller in the United States by every chance acquaintance. The traveller finds the question natural, for if he be an observant man his own mind is full of these institutions... They represent an experiment in the rule of the multitude, tried on a scale unprecedentedly vast, and the results of which every one is concerned to watch. And yet they are something more than an experiment, for they are believed to disclose and display the type of institutions towards which, as by a law of fate the rest of the civilized mankind are forced to move, some with swifter, others with slower, but all with unresting feet.



I used to know Christine Helms quite well. She worked for me in the next office for a year or so. So far as I remember her comments about this piece from her writings, she did not have any particular content in mind when discussing a nation's cultural baggage.

Babak makkinejad


What you have quoted from Bryce, in my opinion, goes to the heart of problematic that afflicts political philosophy, viz. the normativeness of Western European & North American political history for the rest of mankind.

I tried to argue against this insidious belief, and its imbibing by non-Western political thinkers and intellectual classes through Makkinejad Thesis.

Yet the belief persists, utterly disregarding the rooted-ness of these political institutions in the culture of the West.

Coild anyone but people from English stock operate the machinary of Westministerian Democracy?

I think not.

English Outsider

Barbara Anne - My comment lacked precision. I agree that there's a living tradition. Not only exemplified by such as William Barr - that is, not only held to by those in positions of power - but embedded in the people.

My point is that it can seemingly be breached openly and with impunity, and was in the two examples given.

You say - "Trump is a symptom of rebellion again the corruption mentioned above and also a visceral demonstration that US democracy has not yet been so corrupted that the will of the people can be ignored by the Deep State."

I sincerely hope that's how it's going. I don't myself find the concept of the Deep State useful - I think of it more as the consensus supporting the status quo - but whatever it is it's certainly diametrically opposed to the welfare of the mass of the people, and to their will, and I think it reasonable to hope that the Trump phenomenon will serve to redress the balance.

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