Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Vision for the Future of Great Britain

Since this is the first foray into what might become a new mini-series of articles, allow me to establish a few guidelines as to what exactly I am going to be talking about. In short, this article (or “these articles” depending on how things go) will be on realistic policy proposals that I would like to see for the current monarchy in question (in this case Great Britain) for the not-to-distant future. By “realistic” I do not mean things that are likely to happen; that would be too great a leap for someone like me. My opinions are certainly not currently popular or anywhere close to being mainstream to suppose that. What I mean by “realistic” is that these are things which will be at least within the realm of possibility; things which are not so far-fetched as to be all but impossible. Were that not the case I would simply be relating a vision of my ideal future which would be extremely, gloriously reactionary but which is not grounded in reality and, while it might be fun, would be hard to argue as being in any way helpful. As I have said before, I am both a “theoretic monarchist” and an “active monarchist” in that, while interested in theory and ideals I am also about defending the monarchies that still exist in the world and restoring those that have fallen. That means that you have to work with the tools you have available to you, you have to match your tactics to the situation and recognize that, as Bismarck said, politics is the art of the possible.

So, I will be trying to temper my desires, at least as much as I can, by practical reality even though there will doubtlessly be those who will ignore everything I’ve just said and react as though everything I write here is my ideal. It is not, nor is most of it going to be all that likely but I am trying to at least meet the modern world I generally despise half way. These are things which probably will not happen but which could happen that I would like to see, perhaps unlikely but not totally impossible. And, as usual when it comes to policy matters, these opinions could change, depending on the circumstances or some new understanding on my part. Having gotten all of that out of the way, let us proceed with a proposed vision for the future of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

When it comes to internal politics, there seems to be no chance of really significant changes in policy when even UKIP is promising to maintain the NHS. When it comes to Parliament, similarly, while my greatest wish would be to see the restoration of the hereditary house of lords (with some reforms to make it more size-appropriate) that also seems to be beyond the pale given the current values of the public. Talk of lords reform, therefore, moves me very little because what exists today is no House of Lords at all and I cannot be very moved about changes to it or replacing it. The real thing (or what was left of it) was destroyed by Tony Blair, what exists now is a mockery and I have no time for it. What does seem increasingly likely though is the continuing trend of devolution and it seems, like it or not, probably that the future United Kingdom will consist of essentially autonomous “states” of Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and perhaps England. My best hope for this would be that such an autonomy would prove to the peoples of Britain which policies work and which do not as they would be forced to accept the consequences of their own decisions and, again being optimistic, this would ultimately cause the country as a whole to adopt wiser policies and be the better off for that. Aside from that, internally, much of the problems in Britain come down to matters of culture and much of that concerns the population and demographic changes. For the most part, those cannot be undone. Laws and policies can be changed but when a population is changed it is changed forever. Efforts can be made to minimize the impact but to a large extent there is simply no way to reverse things at this point for a moral people. It was possible in the days of Enoch Powell (whose statistical predictions have been proven to have been far too conservative even though he was accused in his day of being an alarmist), it is not possible anymore. My primary focus here though is to be on foreign policy.

In 2012 British Tory MEP Daniel Hannan spoke at the Manning Conference in Canada and in the Q&A period following his remarks was asked about an exchange of letters in the National Post concerning the Anglosphere. Mr. Hannan, in his remarks, had spoken a great deal about the Anglosphere and how much the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand had in common, at least in the conservative principles all have traditionally held and which are defended by the political right in these countries. A questioner, referencing the exchange in the National Post, asked Hannan’s opinion on the idea of the Anglosphere countries (presumably those named above) dropping out of the EU (for Britain), NATO and even the UN to form their own political, economic and military alliance. Hannan’s response was short and simple, “I’m in favor”. It is pleasing enough to me that his answer was so brief because, inevitably, when Hannan goes on at length he ends up saying things that offend my monarchist sensibilities so we will leave it at that as well.

I would be most ardently in favor of Britain getting out of the EU in particular and joining in a closer alliance with the Commonwealth Realms and, perhaps, in so doing become such an economic and trading powerhouse as to put the EU to shame. It is unfortunate that the current leadership of the Tory party does not share Hannan’s firm opposition to EU membership. However, another party that certainly does is the UK Independence Party and its leader, Nigel Farage, has spoken frequently of his vision for a United Kingdom that, once free of the constraints of the EU, renews closer ties with the countries of the Commonwealth, particularly those parts of the former British Empire which remain the most similar in their values, economies, language and principles. Indeed, Farage has spoken of Britain joining the EU almost as a betrayal, of turning their backs on the Commonwealth Realms with whom Britain has traditionally been most attached. The case for a new sort of Commonwealth alliance seems to be an increasingly easy one to make with support for the EU at record low levels in Britain and with the UN being seen increasingly as either a useless nuisance or an outright farce.

Since NATO has been mentioned and since the country has already been mentioned once, some comment should probably be made about the United States. Should this renegade republic be allowed into such a club? In economic terms it certainly has a market larger than any other potential member but I think a revived, new form of the Commonwealth would be a good idea with or without the United States involved. In matters of security, however, having America would be all but a necessity. Britain gave up an empire in order to fund a socialist welfare state and it has increasingly had to give up having a military in order to continue feeding this high tax - high benefits regime. As the commentator Douglas Murray recently said, whether one is pro-American or anti-American, the fact is that whenever people in Britain (or elsewhere) say that ‘something should be done’ what they really mean is that America should do something because only America has the military muscle to do almost anything these days. I would hope that, with or without America being included in the club, friendly relations would still be maintained. It is better to have the most militarily powerful country in the world as a friend rather than an enemy but the fact is that for the rest of the English-speaking world to say, “we don’t need American protection” they would have to start spending money on their militaries rather than on paying people not to work and paying for everyone’s old age pension and healthcare. That is a simple choice and as much as Kipling’s decedents have become fond of ‘hating those who guard’ them, I cannot in the foreseeable future see the other Anglosphere countries reverting back to individuals being responsible for their own retirement savings, rainy day funds and medical bills so as to restore their militaries to the point where they are at least capable of independent action.

That decision would have to be made but apart from that, whether America is in or out, this would still be a policy worth pursuing. Certainly for monarchists it would be extremely helpful for the Commonwealth Realms to work as closely together as possible, especially since so many republicans in the Commonwealth enjoy using anti-British bigotry to promote their cause. Finally, I would also say that it would be extremely helpful, and I know of no reason why it absolutely cannot happen, to have members of the Royal Family serve as Governors-General in the Commonwealth Realms. It would be an ideal way of educating the public about what the vice-regal office is really all about, it would further cement the idea of the Royal Family as being not just exclusively British while at the same time drawing the realms closer to Britain. I would also go further, though it is largely too late at this point, and say that if members of the Royal Family were to marry individuals from the Commonwealth Realms (if they are not going to marry other royals anyway) that would almost certainly, I think, spell the death of republicanism in the Commonwealth Realm in question.

In short, I would love to see the United Kingdom leave the European Union, shaking the dust from its boots as it goes, forming a new economic and political alliance, a revived sort of Commonwealth, with the rest of the English-speaking world. If it did so, I am confident it would be a great success and would form an extremely powerful bloc in the world that could do very well without the EU, NATO or the UN. They all have much more in common than with any other country or group of countries in the world. It would heighten the significance of the monarchy and if the members of the Royal Family were dispatched to serve as Governors-General it would make valuable use of the monarchy as a source of strength and unity for the English-speaking peoples around the world. However, for this to happen, there will have to be some big decisions made at home, perhaps the most fundamental being whether the British believe in themselves and have enough pride in themselves to reunite with their offspring, be more assertive and say, “We are not going it alone, we are family and families stick together”.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Anglo-American Empire

It is true that, ultimately, considering what are known as alternate histories is a waste of time. We can never know for sure what would have happened, what might have been or how this or that would have worked out. However, if kept in its proper place, such speculation can be of at least some benefit. As well as providing some creative exercise that might generate valuable ideas, I also have found it a good tool for bringing people to an understanding of free will, that the way the world is today did not just happen inexorably but was the result of past decisions. If different decisions had been made, we would be living in a different sort of world. Actions have consequences and this is a point that can be brought home by considering alternate possibilities. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. But in ourselves” as Shakespeare wrote and the life we have is what we have made it, to a large extent, because of the actions or inactions of ourselves or people like ourselves. As we recently saw the annual celebration of America’s Declaration of Independence, it may be worthwhile or at least entertaining to consider what might have happened if such a declaration had never been made. Likewise, if it had, what might have happened if Britain had won the war and the American colonies remained in the British Empire?

First of all, despite the way most people make it sound, America would not be some sort of oppressed, downtrodden land of miserable tyranny. Under the British Crown the American colonies already had a higher standard of living and more individual freedom than most people in the world. King George III was no tyrant, he did not get his way all the time and he never refused Royal Assent to any acts of Parliament. In many ways, life would not be all that different in America if the war had never happened or if the British had won. After all, standards of living are not terribly different in the modern United States compared to Australia or Canada. Given that calls for greater unity in the colonies already had a history by the time of independence, it seems likely that they would have come together under one government. The United States would also probably look much the same as it does today. It could be argued that the French Revolution might never have happened if the American Revolution had not been successful but that seems doubtful. If it did not happen, America would probably be smaller but the safer bet would be that it would have happened anyway. The “Enlightenment” mentality that helped inspire the American Revolution had been spreading in France far longer and there were major problems in France that were exacerbated by intervention in America but which were not caused by it or restricted to it. So, let us assume the French Revolution broke out as it occurred in history.

America would have then expanded just as it did, with Anglo-American forces seizing the Louisiana Territory during the war with France. During the time when Spain and France were allied it is also likely that Anglo-American forces would have seized Florida and possibly even more but that becomes increasingly less likely. With North America supporting the British war effort rather than hindering it, the allied victory over France might have been easier or come a bit sooner and the British Empire might have expanded even more but perhaps in different areas. Would India have been such a priority for Britain, for example, if all of North America was part of the empire, including the cotton states of the deep south, the coal fields of Pennsylvania and West Virginia? Suppose that British North America expanded southward in a way similar to the United States and, just like the United States, was drawn into a war with Mexico over border disputes. In actual history, Britain tried to prevent the war because it would disrupt their lucrative trade with Mexico, however, events on the ground could have provoked such a conflict in any event and there probably would have been less trade with Mexico if what became the United States had remained in the British Empire with the increased inter-imperial commerce that would provide.

The events after the conflict might have been different though. In reality, the USA annexed the northernmost reaches of Mexico but paid compensation for it and resisted the urge to take over the whole country -which would have been too blatantly imperialist for the United States even though there were a few in Mexico at the time who thought that would have been best. Over time, a number of Britons expressed amazement that the US did not just annex Mexico and be done with it, rather than having to return to intervene periodically. As Britain certainly had no problem with imperial expansion, perhaps British North America would have grown to include Mexico. From there, it would only be a short step to expand into Central America. Britain had interest in the region (British Honduras, the Mosquito Coast) and might have been compelled to go further once France started looking into the idea of building a canal across Panama. From Gibraltar to Singapore, control of strategic maritime “choke points” has long been a priority for Britain. Given that, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the British Empire would have expanded into Central America and, with all of this going on, Britain might have been too busy to have intervened and expanded into other areas or perhaps not to the same extent as happened in history.

In Africa, for example, the foothold in South Africa would have happened in any event as it was a result of the Napoleonic Wars. However, it might have stopped there with Britain content to let the Boers move into Botswana and perhaps the Portuguese might have been able to realize their dream of linking their east and west coast possessions, an aspiration thwarted by Britain in actual history which put some strain on the oldest alliance in Europe. The American Civil War would, of course, have been averted both because energy would be expended toward grander schemes and because the slave areas would have had much more opposition as well as a government that was not averse to giving compensation for slave owners. The war with Spain would likely have been avoided. A young Winston Churchill observed the rebellion in Cuba and came away convinced that the island would be much the worse off under their rule than that of Spain and hoped that the United States would not compel Spain to give up the “Pearl of the Antilles”. Many did not share his view and he later approved of the U.S. conquest of the island (being a lifelong admirer of America) but in the event, it is possible Britain would have stayed out of the conflict so long as Germany or some other colonial rival did not intervene.

As it concerns Germany, the First World War might not have happened at all if America had remained in the British Empire or, at least, it might have been a much smaller conflict. Britain, like many countries, had no real reason to get involved but anti-German hysteria had been growing in Britain for some time due to the perception of Germany being a rival in the colonial, naval and economic spheres. More or less since the time of the industrial revolution, combined with the extensive trade routes controlled by the Royal Navy, Britain had been the largest economy in the world. However, in 1870 it was surpassed by the United States and has never regained the top spot ever since. If, however, America had remained in the British Empire, the economic powerhouse of America would have been a boost to Britain and might have allowed Britons to view the German economic rise more dispassionately. Even at its height, it would never have been a challenge to the economic supremacy of a British Empire that included North America. If, however, Great Britain still became embroiled in World War I, with the manpower, money and industry of America within the British Empire, it would likely have been a much shorter conflict, ending in a swift Allied victory.

Had such a thing occurred, the Russian Empire might not have collapsed, if the war had ended before the situation in Russia became too severe and thus the subsequent Cold War and all the proxy conflicts that entailed would never have happened. Similarly, a swift end to the war might have meant that the German and Austrian empires would have come to terms before being overthrown and so there might have been no World War II at all and we would all be living in a world with a balance of powers rather than one or two superpowers in constant standoff. And yet, if the Social Democrats in Germany managed to use the defeat to their advantage and bring down the monarchy, giving room for the rise to power of Hitler and so on, World War II might have happened anyway. In that event, it would have certainly been a much shorter and more localized war. American strength would have been present at the outset rather than only from 1942 onwards and it would have been focused on Europe alone. This would mean that the war might have ended in a German defeat even before the invasion of the Soviet Union and thus there would have been no Eastern Bloc and Soviet domination of half of Europe. It would also mean a completely different picture of Asia.

The British Empire and the Empire of Japan had been close allies after all and it was only when the United States demanded that Britain choose between friendship with America or friendship with Japan that Great Britain repudiated the Japanese alliance in favor of pleasing the United States. If there was no United States but a British North America, that would never have happened, the alliance would likely have been maintained and while Britain was focused on defeating Germany in Europe, few would have likely cared if China was being defeated by the Japanese. Japan would also have had no reason to go to war in 1941 as the primary source of vital resources, North America, would have been an ally. So, even if World War II had happened, it would have likely ended with Poland and Czechoslovakia independent, the Kingdoms of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Albania intact (though possibly under the Italian Crown, depending on how things might have changed for Italy). With monarchy being so dominant, and the war ending without massive Soviet involvement, perhaps it would even have been that the Hapsburgs would have been restored to at least some portion of their former territories. In Asia there would still be an Empire of Japan, an Empire of Manchuria and a Kingdom of Tibet with a less expansive China. It would likely also mean that it would be the Republic of China rather than the communist state that exists today. With monarchy such a strong force in the world, and trends and fashions do matter immensely, whether they should or not, the Chinese might not have embraced republicanism at all.

Similarly, without the influence of the American Freemasons, Mexico might have remained a monarchy under the Iturbide family though the rest of Latin America (outside Brazil) is more doubtful given that Spain was reluctant to recognize the independence of rebel colonies whereas Britain supported this. Much of Africa would also be a very different picture. Without the United States and Soviet Union competing during the race for de-colonization, the African colonies might have gained independence at a more moderate pace and in cooperation with native elites as Britain tended to favor doing or more newly independent countries might have chosen to maintain ties with the Crown as Commonwealth Realms. And, even in the event that this did not happen, the British Empire such as it was would have remained a dominant force considering that the primary source of strength would be North America and Australia where the people had greater bonds of history, culture and nationality with Britain as opposed to India which did not. In actual history, the loss of India was a blow from which the British Empire never recovered as India was, as one German observer put it, “the strength and greatness of England”. If, however, North America had remained and grown up united with the British Crown, the strength and greatness of the empire would have been in a land more loyal and less likely to cut ties but remain in union with the Crown as Canada, Australia and New Zealand have done.

Of course, this is all inherently speculative. The point is to simply provide some ‘food for thought’ for those who tend toward the Wilsonian view of the United States as the “savior of the world” and who tremble at the thought of America losing her War for Independence. That is quite a negative view, but it might have been more positive such as in the scenarios laid out here. Rather than suffering under British rule (which had never happened in the first place), things might have worked out quite well if the American colonies had remained under the British Crown. With all of the strengths, resources and admirable qualities of both, I tend to take a more positive view that if America and Britain had remained together, it would have been beneficial for both. I have long thought and often said that the Americans suffered, consciously or not, from being cut off from the rest of the English-speaking world and from the lack of the shared loyalty to the monarchy and that, likewise, the British Empire suffered from its lack of Americans, American resources, energy and vitality. They would, I think, have been stronger together and a great many others may well have benefited as a side-effect as well.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Today in Canadian History

The Battle of Ridgeway
On this day in 1866 Irish republicans of the Fenian Brotherhood crossed over from New York to invade Canada. Most of these men were veterans of the Union Army, fresh from victory in the American Civil War in which Irish immigrants fought for the northern side in large numbers. Some American authorities were content to look the other way because of the lingering antagonism between Britain and America over the War Between the States in which many in the north viewed the British Empire as favoring the Confederates. The amount of sympathy for the south in Britain was probably exaggerated in the minds of many northerners but it did make them less than vigilant in trying to stop what was, effectively, a private, criminal enterprise from attacking a neighboring country. There were actually a series of attacks over a wide area and a number of years, known as the "Fenian Raids". The goal of the Fenians (and these were the first to use the name 'Irish Republican Army') was to effectively hold Canada hostage, or at least some part of it, in order to force Great Britain to grant independence to Ireland. Obviously, it was quite a far-fetched plan and none of the raids came anywhere close to success. Despite the presence of many hardened veterans and some that were very well equipped (many even wearing full US Army uniform) the republicans proved no match for the British regulars and Canadian militia. In fact, this was something of a preview of things to come as many of the Canadian militia opposing the Fenians were Protestant "Orangemen" from Northern Ireland who had a special disdain for the Catholic nationalists. American authorities also did finally take action to stop the attacks on the south side of the border and the Fenian raids came to nothing.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Current Problem in Nigeria

Right now, despite terrible things happening all over the planet, the attention of much of the world is focused on Nigeria and the roughly 300 girls who have been kidnapped by a radical Islamic fundamentalist group opposed to “western education” (read: education). They have threatened to sell the girls into slavery (so the slave trade still seems to be going on) and have already claimed to have converted the girls to Islam (the kidnap victims being predominately Christian). Recently the Nigerian president asked President Obama of the United States for help and the governments of America, Britain, France and China have all said to be sending some form of assistance to help get these girls back. This experience has raised many questions though. How could Nigeria have allowed this to happen in the first place? How is it that a terrorist group could act with such impunity without the government and Nigerian military being able to stop them? The usual answer given is a combination of poverty, corruption and incompetence. Yet, how can this be? Nigeria has the largest population and the largest economy in the whole of Africa. In the old days of the British Empire it was considered the African country most prepared to assume full independence. Was ‘most prepared’ perhaps not sufficiently prepared?

From around 1800 the British began to take an interest in the region, particularly after the abolition of the slave trade and the stationing of a Royal Navy squadron in the area to interdict slave trafficking. In 1886 the Royal Niger Company was established, spreading its influence in the region and when the local kingdoms fought back there were a number of small colonial wars in which British troops were successful in suppressing opposition and establishing a northern and southern pair of protectorates over the region. With the establishment of a German colony in Cameroon there were increased concerns about security and the two halves were united in 1914 as the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. The coastal areas of the south, where the British presence was most concentrated, progressed rapidly, spreading education and higher standards of living while the more isolated north lagged behind. In fact, slavery was not wiped out in the north until 1936 but as the British presence expanded it was wiped out as it was something that would not be tolerated. Especially around the time of World War II, Nigeria grew increasingly prosperous and was considered one of the best success stories for the British Empire. Soon, Nigeria was on the fast-track to independence and in 1954 the Federation of Nigeria gained total autonomy as a Commonwealth Realm and adopted its current flag.

It might have been better if things had stopped right there but, in the wake of World War II, nationalist and anti-colonial sentiment was on the rise all across Africa and soon the demands for total independence and a complete break with Britain were growing. After a change in government, Britain also gave up on any idea of trying to retain colonies or former colonies to create the “Third British Empire” in Africa that Anthony Eden had envisioned. In 1960 Nigeria declared complete independence and became a republic. Unfortunately, things went ‘downhill’ from there. Election results were never widely accepted, accusations of corruption became commonplace and soon the standard method of changing the government was by one coup after another, starting with an attempt by radical leftists to seize power (the usual suspects). Left fought right, north fought south and from 1967 to 1970 civil war raged across Nigeria. The infrastructure built up in the colonial era was all but wiped out, disease returned, starvation set in and these, combined with the fighting and occasional atrocities resulted in millions of Nigerians being killed.

During all this time, and still today, the royals of the old native kingdoms carried on, as best they could, throughout the changing conditions. Some, like Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, who was Chief Justice of the Nigerian Supreme Court and son of King Ladapo Ademola II of the Alake and Egba clans, worked for the government. Some were themselves a focus for violence like Sir Olateru Olagbegi II, King of Owo, who was deposed and when the civil war broke out, his supporters took the opportunity to strike back at his enemies. King Akenzua II of Benin tried to promote peace and reconciliation but most traditional monarchs were pushed aside. Their status has only ever been recognized in an honorary sort of way and they have been forced to either take part in the political struggle or remove themselves completely and focus on religious and cultural affairs for their particular people. For Nigeria as a whole, even when the civil war ended, conditions did not drastically improve as the country came under the rule of a succession of military dictators. This situation persisted until 1999 when democracy was restored along with the previous complaints of fraud and corruption with every election.

It is true that Nigeria has seen immense wealth burst up from the country, not only because of the large market of the country but also with the discovery and exploitation of oil on the Nigerian coast and other valuable resources. However, rather than an orderly marketplace and increased prosperity for the country, this had led to a wealthier government but poorer people and increased violence as factions fight over the profits from oil revenues. Elections continue to be condemned, not only by the losing parties but by international observers as well as being corrupt and unfair. In short, as is seen in so many failed states around the world, Nigeria has all the ingredients to make for a very successful country but is squandering those resources thanks to corrupt and dishonest politicians who care more about themselves than the national wellbeing. Now we have reached the point where 300 young girls can be snatched from their schools, sold into what amounts to sexual slavery and the government is impotent to do anything about it. Moreover, the fact that political leaders put their own pride and public image before the general welfare is proven by the fact that immediately after this happened the United Kingdom offered help to the Nigerian government but was refused.

Why would British assistance be refused when only a short time later the President was practically begging for any help from a number of foreign countries? Who can say what is going on his mind, but I would assume it would involve the appearance of having to accept help from the first country of the former British Empire. However, the fact remains that if one is obliged to call in foreign countries to assist in what amounts to maintaining law and order in your own country, then no matter what the law or international community says, you are not really independent at all. Why keep up the pretense? Naturally, I think restoring Nigeria as a monarchy would be of help but, as I have said before, monarchy is not a cure-all and it would all depend on how it was done. As far as placing a native monarch on the Nigerian throne, that would be a difficult proposition. No one monarch represents the whole of the people and it could lead to more civil strife rather than less. That being said, I will not hear any complaints about the map of Africa being drawn arbitrarily by European colonizers. The independent African countries of today could redraw the map if they wish but I don’t think anyone wants to see the break-up of their country, so that is simply a distraction. So, what about restoring the Queen to the throne as in becoming a Commonwealth Realm again?

Nigeria becoming a Commonwealth Realm with Queen Elizabeth II as sovereign would, of course, be controversial. It could be done but even I don’t think it would necessarily make things better. It certainly could but only if it was done in a much more ‘old fashioned’ way than most would find palatable. First of all, no country likes even the idea or image of being ruled by someone else, that is natural and understandable. My ideal for colonial empires is helping along less developed countries to fully developed status to become self-governing members of a wider family of nations with things in common. By going back to an older style of government, I do not mean that Britain should be put in charge of governing Nigeria. That would never be tolerated and it would not even be good for Nigeria. Things might be run better and it might stop hundreds of girls being kidnapped but it would not improve the quality of the Nigerian ruling class and, frankly, I have not been impressed lately by the ability of the British to govern themselves much less others. However, how I think a Commonwealth Realm for Nigeria could be beneficial is to have some viceroyal oversight for the country. That means a Governor-General who is not just appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, that would be useless. It means having a Governor-General, possibly a royal (British or perhaps even Nigerian) who is impartial and can ensure that things are being run correctly. It does not mean a royal-appointee having power over everyone, but simply have someone there who is not elected, cannot be influenced, who can keep an eye on things to make sure that those who do hold power are following the rules and raise the alarm when they do not.

That, I think, would be the best solution possible that could happen, though of course the odds of such an idea gaining sufficient support would be infinitesimally small. Pride and past grudges should be set aside though. Things have obviously not worked out well for the government of Nigeria or things like these massive kidnappings would not be going on. With a large market, a willing population and natural resources there is no reason for Nigeria to still contain so much poverty or to be incapable of maintaining law and order and keeping its people safe. Something needs to change. Foreign assistance may enable these poor girls to be rescued, but the American Secret Service cannot be the answer to every problem and they cannot solve the fundamental problems that afflict Nigeria. It is time to learn from the past, be frank about past mistakes that have been made, set aside the personal pride of politicians and do what is in the best interests of the country.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

King William IV

Fair or not, it is a fact that the life and reign of King William IV has been largely overshadowed in history by his successor Queen Victoria. It is not uncommon for King William IV to be given barely a mention simply as the predecessor to the Queen who gave her name to an age and became the longest-reigning monarch in British history. However, while he may not stand out much from the ranks of British monarchs, he was a solid overseer of his dominions and led a life of remarkable service that should not be forgotten. The future monarch Prince William Henry was born on August 21, 1765 at Buckingham Palace, the third son of Their Majesties King George III and Queen Charlotte of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. With two elder brothers ahead of him in the line of succession, no one ever thought he would one day wear the crown himself. He did not have much of a childhood, spending most of his early years at Richmond but, in those days, children were expected to grow up rather quickly. When he was only thirteen his private education ended and he was shipped off to the Royal Navy as a midshipman, learning the ropes (literally and figuratively) to become an officer.

To the modern reader this may seem somewhat shocking but 13-year old midshipmen were not uncommon in those days, some, in fact, were younger than that and boys working as “powder monkeys” onboard ship could be considerably younger still. The teenage prince was, of course, a special case but received very little special treatment. He took his lessons with the other young gentlemen, took his turn performing menial tasks, played pranks, had fights and got in trouble like all the rest. He also saw combat at the battle of Cape St Vincent in 1780 during the American War for Independence. He served ashore in New York and was even the focus of a kidnapping plot by the rebel forces of the Continental Army. However, British intelligence learned of the scheme and assigned a guard to the prince, so the plot was called off. Prince William was a dedicated officer who loved the navy and the navy life. In 1785 he earned his commission as a lieutenant and in 1786 was appointed captain of HMS Pegasus, serving in the West Indies under the famous Admiral Horatio Nelson. The legendary admiral had a high opinion of Prince William and the two became fast friends with the Prince giving the bride away at Nelson’s wedding to Frances Nisbet in 1787. Later, the Prince was promoted to command a frigate and in 1789 became a Rear Admiral. That same year King George III granted him the titles of Duke of Clarence and St Andrews and Earl of Munster.

This entitled him to a seat in the House of Lords and, like his brothers, tended to associate himself with the Whigs in opposition to his father the King. This ended up costing him more than he would have ever expected. Having resigned from active duty in the Royal Navy upon entering the political fray, he found it difficult to return to the service he loved. Probably just as a thoughtless show of rebellion, he opposed the British declaration of war on France. It was a stupid thing to do and when he was applied to return to the navy, eager to take part in the war at sea, he was denied. Even after publicly changing his position and speaking out in support of the war, the conflict with France would pass without the Prince being given any significant command or seeing any front-line service. This left him with nothing to do but argue politics in the House of Lords and he would have been much better suited to a career at sea as his political views tended to be scattered and inconsistent. He thought the laws related to marriage and family were too harsh and that the penalties against dissenting Christians were oppressive but saw nothing wrong with the continued legality of slavery in the British colonies. It might have caused some to remember the nickname Prince William was given by his family as a youth; “Silly Billy”.

Perhaps because of this, views on the Duke of Clarence tended to be divided. In many ways he quite liberal, being a staunch advocate of Catholic emancipation but he was also more supportive of his family and was never able to be as cruel toward his father as his older brother King George IV had been. Most liked him, whether viewing him as forward thinking or just a good natured, simple sailor. He lived, for a time, with his mistress, a London actress, but later married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Coburg-Meiningen. Not considered a great beauty, she was nonetheless an excellent wife, faithful, supportive and very religious. Unfortunately, the two never had any children who long survived so that the only offspring of the Duke of Clarence were the ten illegitimate children he fathered during his years with his mistress “Mrs. Jordan”. Still, he had a happy and genuinely good marriage with Princess Adelaide who, perhaps, helped reform him just a bit. The choice he made was also more important than it may have first appeared since his only surviving elder brother, King George IV, had only one legitimate child who predeceased him. So it was that, at a fairly advanced age for the time, the Duke of Clarence became heir to the throne. For most of his life he had given it very little thought, but once the Crown was within reach, he took great care to live to obtain it. He went to great lengths in an effort to remain in good health.

On June 26, 1830 at six in the morning, the Duke was awakened and told that his brother was dead and he was now King William IV of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Hannover. He said he had always wanted to sleep with a queen and went back to bed with his newly elevated wife Queen Adelaide. However, once he was later fully awake, few other monarchs displayed such unabashed joy as King William IV. He dashed off, alone, driving his own open carriage through the streets of London, shaking hands with his new subjects, offering a ride to those who desired one and even getting some kisses of congratulations from some prostitutes. Some were aghast at his behavior, particularly after all the preening and finery of George IV, but many others viewed it favorably. Many ordinary people were pleased that their new monarch seemed so “normal” and viewed him as a good man of common sense who would sort things out in the government. It seemed rather heart-warming to have the new monarch actually approach common people on the street and tell them how happy he was to be their new king. Needless to say, his coronation on September 8, 1831 was a much less extravagant affair than that of his brother, whose coronation had been the most lavish in all of British history. King William IV was a practical, unassuming and dedicated monarch who was all about the “business” and not about the “show”. Still, he was not without a sense of humor. When the Privy Council was first brought in to him and dropped to one knee, he mischievously asked, “Who is Silly Billy now?”

Despite the outrage of the more grand members of the court and aristocracy, the great majority of the people cheered King William IV for his simplicity and care to spend as little of their tax money as possible. King William looked to the future with the hope and optimism of the reformer, and perhaps with the naiveté of one as well but that would fade quickly. Queen Adelaide, on the other hand, remained the nervous one. Always preparing piously for the end of the world, as Queen she prepared for a possible revolution, admiring the late Queen Marie Antoinette and hoping she could behave with such stoic courage when the mob came for her. She need not have worried. When King William IV, not waiting for any preparations to be made or for guards to line the streets, dashed over to Westminster, hurriedly placed the crown on his head at an odd angle and declared Parliament dissolved (clearing the way for the passage of the Reform Bill) the public cheered him mightily for sending the politicians home. The Whigs adored him, thinking he was firmly on their side, which, of course, he was not. He was a dutiful monarch who was not about to support anything he thought detrimental to the welfare of his people.

King William IV was nothing if not a hard worker. His first prime minister, the Duke of Wellington, said that he accomplished more with William IV in ten minutes that he had been able to get done with George IV in ten days. He got along well with Earl Grey, the Whig Prime Minister who had replaced Wellington but he was not about to be the servant of the Whig party either. When King William became convinced that reforms were becoming too much and being done too quickly, he determined to apply the brakes. In 1834 he dismissed the Whigs from office and appointed Sir Robert Peel to the post of Prime Minister but Peel found it impossible to form a government and, in the end, the King had to invite the Whigs to come back again. King William IV would be the last British monarch to appoint a Prime Minister without the support of Parliament and while he supported many liberal ideas for reform and greater democracy, he did so in an effort to win support for the existing institutions and seemed rather shocked when this did not always prove to be the case. He had seen his father, King George III, dismiss ministers, call new elections and have the people vote in accordance with his wishes for the most part. However, with the reforms, King William saw himself lose popularity for doing the same and came to accept that the scales of power were tipping in favor of Parliament and the House of Commons during his reign.

On the world stage, King William IV was friendly with the United States, supported Belgian independence and the candidacy of Duke Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to be King of the Belgians. However, he opposed unnecessary intervention in foreign countries and never even visited his Kingdom of Hanover in Germany. Under the system that existed then, the Austrians actually had more influence in Hanover than the British did and when the brilliantly conservative Austrian Chancellor Prince Metternich took action to prevent the spread of liberalism in Germany, it was only with difficulty that King William IV saw this pushed back. He gave Hanover a new constitution that was friendlier to the middle class and gave much more power to the parliament but it was a flash in the pan, more suited to Britain than Germany and after his death, the next King of Hanover would see these changes done away with. In his domestic life, King William was mostly troubled by disputes and drama within the Royal Family. As he had no children of his own, the most intense of these involved the succession and his adamant opposition to his sister-in-law the Duchess of Kent, mother of Princess Victoria who would succeed William on the throne. The King took great offense at the Duchess disrespecting Queen Adelaide, disliked her tyrannical nature and was suspicious of the influence the controller of her household, John Conroy, seemed to have over her. King William was determined to live long enough to see Princess Victoria reach adulthood so that the Duchess of Kent would never be able to hold the power of regent for her daughter.

Determined to the end, King William IV managed to do exactly that. He died on June 20, 1837 at Windsor Castle, just one month after his niece turned eighteen. Today, his relatively short reign is often overlooked but it was a crucial period in British history. Despite his earlier opposition, King William IV signed the abolition of slavery in the British colonies, enacted laws to stop child labor and provide assistance for the poor. On the negative side, his reign marked the ascendancy of Parliament dominated by the House of Commons but it would be wrong to paint William IV as being a man of any particular political ideology. He opposed the extremes of both the left and the right and was a thoughtful, competent constitutional monarch. Like the sailor he started off as, King William IV provided a steady hand on the wheel of the great ship of state and steered it along a moderate course through political waters that would have upset things and caused great disasters in less capable hands.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The history of British-Irish relations has often been unpleasant and controversial. Irish independence was a struggle, the establishment of the Republic of Ireland was controversial. The partition of Ireland outraged not a few and out of that grew “The Troubles” that both sides had to deal with. However, in time, the governments and people of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland came to accept the situation and the problems became localized to Northern Ireland between republican terrorists and loyalist militias (whose tactics often matched terror for terror). The Irish Republic, for all their brave talk, was just as glad to have Northern Ireland be London’s problem rather than their own and as much as they might claim to want a united Ireland, they have never wanted it bad enough to actually put up an honest fight for it. Things might then have settled down to a relative routine of simply keeping republican terrorists in Ulster under control were it not for the schemes, sell-outs and no less than treason on the part of numerous British politicians. Northern Ireland went from being the six counties everyone wanted to that bit of Ireland which London seems desperate to get rid of but which Dublin refuses to take. So, even while Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, with Queen Elizabeth II as Sovereign, it has continually been pushed aside to the point of being a semi-independent micro-state of its own. British troops left, a local government was established (even including republican terrorists) and lately even the Union Jack was hauled down as if in surrender. Certainly, in regards to this small corner of her realm, the Queen has been ill-served by many of her ministers and in the current scandal, it should come as no surprise, the culprit is once again that former ‘boy wonder of the Labour Party’ little Tony Blair.

Here is what happened: As most know, “The Troubles” were brought to an end by a peace agreement known as the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Under the terms of that agreement, all of the republican terrorists held by Great Britain were given an early release from prison but this did not apply to suspected terrorists or those who had previously escaped from prison but were still wanted men by Her Majesty’s government. These came to be known as the “on the runs”. Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, wanted the British government to allow these escaped terrorists and suspected terrorists to be able to return to the United Kingdom without fear of arrest, in other words, to wipe the slate clean with a complete and total amnesty for all of their beloved republican terrorists. Naturally, the British government balked because the public would stand for no such thing, especially as, when these demands started to be made, the IRA had still not disarmed. All of that changed with the coming to power of the despicable, smiling Tony Blair. It turns out that in 2000 Prime Minister Blair wrote to Sinn Fein president (and former republican terrorist) Gerry Adams saying that if the republicans would share information about these wanted terrorists, something could be worked out on a case by case basis.

In 2003 a proposal to make this agreement law was made public and was to be tied to the disarmament of the IRA. British loyalists were outraged and Sinn Fein rejected the proposal as well (and why accept a deal when the other side seems always prepared to give more) but the traitor Tony Blair was determined to press on. He wanted all loose ends tied up so he could be hailed as the man who brought “peace” to Northern Ireland after all. So, in 2007 a secret operation was put into effect to find and evaluate the “on the runs” by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. None of the public knew anything about this until recently when the deal was brought before a judge at the Old Bailey. It was then that we learned from Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein that some 187 of these republican terrorists had received letters from the British government assuring them that they were in no danger of arrest or prosecution for the crimes they committed as part of the IRA. One of the particular cases to emerge was that of John Downey who was suspected of murdering four soldiers in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing by the IRA. The judge ruled that he could not be prosecuted because of the letter he produced, from the proud traitors in Her Majesty’s government, promising him immunity.

The current government is now left to deal with this messy and embarrassing situation with Prime Minister “Call Me Dave” Cameron going before the House of Commons to call the letter that was sent to Downey a “dreadful mistake”. A mistake? A mistake he calls it?! What about all the rest? According to the Attorney General’s office of Northern Ireland, 149 of the letters were sent out by the previous Labour governments of Little Tony Blair and Gordon (is alive!) Brown but 38 have been sent out by the current coalition government of little Davy Cameron and his nagging wife Nick Clegg since 2010 with the last being sent in 2012. And if that were not outrageous enough, consider that no loyalists were given such amnesty for attacks on republicans nor have any of the British troops who participated in the events of “Bloody Sunday” been allowed to go free. Right now there are calls for a special investigation by Northern Ireland which London seems to have placated with a sort of half-way measure but from where I sit the damage has been done and it all started with that one-man wrecking ball of the United Kingdom: Tony Blair. As the judge in the Downey case said, regardless of the circumstances and what may happen from this point on, these letters being sent out have spoiled the game as far as any sort of justice goes and it would be impossible to bring any of these terrorists to trial in the future since they can argue that they had either been given an official amnesty or, if not, were misled by the British government to think they had been so that in any event a prosecution would be impossible.

Perhaps it should not be that surprising, given how, aside from these “on the runs” the British government seemed positively giddy to let all republican terrorists go free anyway. Nonetheless, it is positively outrageous that any of Her Majesty’s officials should have endorsed such a plan when dealing with people who were the open and avowed enemies of the Crown and who wished to do any and all harm possible to Her Majesty’s government and any and all of Her Majesty’s loyal subjects. Yet, starting with the actions of Tony Blair (he must have been doing this in his free time when he was not undermining the monarchy and destroying the House of Lords) this represents just one more step in the slow surrender of the United Kingdom to the republican terrorists in Ulster. It would be nice and easy if the Republic of Ireland could somehow be blamed in all this but, shamefully, this is an entirely British affair. It is not as though they are bowing to pressure from the Irish Republic, it is not as though this is a struggle between two powers for a disputed territory. No, this is a surrender to one faction of treasonous republicans who lost their war against the Crown and yet who continue, even to this day it seems, to reap the spoils of victory.

I say that if these republican terrorists can no longer be brought to justice then satisfaction must be had by bringing the crypto-republican terrorists inside the British government, past and present, to justice for making this possible. As long-time readers will know, I am perfectly capable of angering both sides of the Northern Ireland issue. I am not without compassion for the plight of the Irish Catholics who were subjected to British rule for centuries and who endured horrible sufferings on numerous occasions. I am well aware that a united Ireland under the British Crown was almost achieved only to be thwarted by the Protestant Unionists in the north and I am well aware that the partition created an artificial majority in Ulster to keep those six counties within the United Kingdom. I know all of that but I would hope that any fair-minded person could see the despicable nature of these tawdry, back-room deals. After all, Irish republicans should ask themselves how they would feel if the shoe were on the other foot and the loyalist militias who used IRA-style tactics against Irish Catholics were suddenly set free in their neighborhoods with promises to never be called to account for their actions? What about the suggestion to grant the same treatment to the British troops who participated in the tragic events of “Bloody Sunday”? How does the prospect of that make you feel?

This is positively outrageous and I think it is no exaggeration to say that those responsible are guilty not only of a “dreadful mistake” as “Call Me Dave” Cameron said but of nothing less than treason to their Queen and country because like it or not (and many certainly do not) the six counties are part of the United Kingdom and Her Majesty the Queen is the lawful sovereign over them and any who undertake the death or overthrow of the Queen or the Queen’s legitimate governments are by definition traitors. Given what these people were involved in and given the behavior of the government in endeavoring to set them free, I fail to see how it can be considered as anything else.

Sunday, January 26, 2014