This post is a response to an email message I received from a friend of mine named Luke Douglas, who operates the blog known as the Fearless Freeman. He and I don’t agree in principle on some things; he’s much more patriotic than I regarding America and not a monarchist, but in practical terms we’re largely on the same side and I always enjoy reading his work. His writing is in bold and my response in standard type.
You may wish to comment on this on your blog, and do feel free to put it wherever you like, but I decided to take it to you directly.
Thanks for the questions. I find them quite fascinating and I hope that this conversation will edify both of us as well as the readership of this blog, which, admittedly, by all accounts, is to the blogosphere what Liechtenstein is to the monarchies of Europe: a bastion of true monarchism, but with a miniscule readership.
Since you hold a constitutional monarchy as an idealogical ideal among the forms of government, do you have a theoretical model as to how it could be built in America? This is not to say that I agree with it but I find the thought process of transition rather interesting. We can assume that whatever we attempt will work pragmatically in order to discuss the legitimacy of the matter.
Hmm. Well, I suppose there are two points here. First is whether I actually propose the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in the United States. I’m far from settled on this issue. Although I admit mixed government(think Westminster system, but the one they have in theory, not the joke it’s become in practice where the Commons control everything) as an ideal, I also place an extremely high value on national identity and tradition, and as a conservative, I live by the maxim ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Hence I would never advocate monarchy for San Marino, and I almost certainly would never oppose the continuation of the republican system in Switzerland; at least, things would have to get pretty bad there before I would advocate for the coronation of a Swiss King.
And of course we, Americans, as a nation, have a long tradition of republicanism and even antimonarchism. I think that our hatred for foreign monarchs and monarchies is definitely something that needs to be countered, but our tradition of republicanism may be worthy of respect.
That said, given my doubts regarding the legitimacy of our Revolution and the long monarchical tradition Americans and their ancestors had under England and Great Britain and other monarchies including Spain and France, and a certain Loyalist leaning on my part, I could see supporting the establishment of a monarchy over the territory now controlled by These United States.
And, on a somewhat lighter note, I would point out that America once before had a monarch.
Off hand, I suppose it would require either a revolution (which I define as a fundamental change of government by means not provided for by the existing system, violent of otherwise) or a sweeping constitutional amendment.
I suppose so.
Even with the ratification of an amendment, America has no royal family with the vast hereditary property that a western-style monarchy requires. We could imagine some vast measure of power being ceded by constitutional amendment to the person to be chosen by, well, I don’t know who. Anyway, suppose the federal land holdings were ceded to a new monarch. Suppose control of the federal reserve system were ceded to a new monarch. Suppose control of the military were ceded to him. Any of these things could allow the new head of state to exercise considerable political and contractual control over the civil government.
Also, if you want the aristocracy you have mentioned, that would require constitutional overhauls in at least some states. So would it be a top-down monarchy (King of the United States covenants with the Earl of Oregon by trading development rights over a fief (the land currently held by the United States) within the state or perhaps a share in the monetary system in exchange for fealty, contribution to the armed forces of the United States and financial tribute) or a bottom-up monarchy (Baron of Clackamas contracts with the Earl of Oregon who in turn contracts with the King of the United States, each ceding a portion of the capital under their control and authority in their jurisdiction in exchange for the promise that it will be expended in the general good)? How would the families be chosen? How would they obtain land and power to begin with?
Well, these paragraphs bring up several interesting points. After noting the minor quibble that I’d likely abolish the Federal Reserve rather than handing it over to a monarch, I’d like to address the easiest point first, and that is ‘Who would be the monarch if America became a monarchy?’
This is actually a great obstacle to the theoretical problem of monarchy in America, but your stipulation that I can pragmatically do anything I want makes it easier. I would propose importing a foreign royal as the best solution. As to which foreign royal, my first choice would be to enter the Commonwealth of Nations(or, as it ought really to be called, the British Commonwealth) and take Her Majesty Elizabeth II as our Head of State, with the stipulation that She would have significant real powers here, unlike Her other realms.
This failing, I would suggest importing a deposed Christian European king, preferably one who already speaks good English, or perhaps a second son from a reigning dynasty. Possible candidates include:
His Majesty Constantine II, King of the Hellenes(though I’m not sure about his English)
His Majesty Michael I, King of the Romanians(though I’m not sure about his English and don’t know enough about his reign or personal life to say to what degree I’d support him).
His Majesty Tsar Simeon II of the Bulgarians(same caveats as above).
His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales(He obviously speaks English; as for his personal life and training for monarchy, I’m no expert).
Since I’m no expert on most of the above, they’re only tentative examples of people who could be imported as American monarch. Another option would be to make His Royal Highness Prince William, Duke of Cambridge our King and enter the Commonwealth and the associated Personal Union when he becomes King of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms.
My key stipulations would be that our first monarch must be a Christian who speaks good English and has experience in affairs of state.
The second one regards land holdings. I fear that when I say ‘Constitutional Monarchy with a mix of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy’, you envision a feudal system, where there is a king at the top who provides military protection and probably conflict arbitration to great lords in exchange for their military service and/or tax revenues, and that they in turn do the same for lesser lords until you reach the level of the mere manorial seigneur, who rents land to tenant farmers for them to work in exchange for a share of their produce or a money tax.
This system, however, in its original form, would almost certainly not work now. I don’t condemn it or those who engaged in it for the time that it existed, and I don’t want to cut historical ties with institutions like monarchy and nobility that owe to it their existence, at least in their present forms. However, that system emerged in a pre-industrial economy fundamentally based on land. The modern economy is simply not built on this foundation. We’re an industrial and now technological society with a money economy. As a result, feudalism in its original form would be quite inadequate.
One could possibly create a kind of technocratic feudalism where powerful CEOs and the wealthy were granted peerages and formed an upper house of the legislature. The advantage to this is that it guarantees the rich representation in the government separately from the masses, a notion that might not be popular these days but would be a bulwark against socialism.
Alternately, there could be an upper house composed of an ‘aristocracy of virtue’ selected by the King and possibly local governors(be they elected, appointed, or hereditary) to serve for life. They would ideally be selected on the basis of virtue and lifetime service to the kingdom and their respective localities or states. This might be an improvement over our present system of direct election of Senators, but has the disadvantage of taking a body that really ought to be a check on royal power and making it in large part a group of royal appointees and appointees of governors. If the governors are not themselves hereditary, the problem is compounded as the upper house is now composed of political appointees and royal ones, limiting its ability to check both the elected politicos and the supreme executive power of the hereditary monarch.
A third option is to create an aristocracy of virtue as before, but to allow its members to pass on their seats in what we might call the House of Lords or House of Peers by hereditary succession. This system would make the initial heads of noble households royal appointees but would allow them to become quite independent rather quickly. I would also propose having them vote in blocs based on which Peerage they hold; one bloc for the Peers of the Realm and one bloc for each of the major subdivisions(perhaps the subdivisions now called States could be reorganized as Duchies), with each bloc having one vote in the House, except perhaps for the bloc of the Peers of the Realm, which might have a few more. This would prevent the King or any one governor(or preferably Duke) from taking over the House by flooding it with new Peers. This last system is the one employed in a Constitution I recently drafted for a hypothetical micronation.
Alternately, and perhaps a better idea, a numerical limit could be placed on peerages, possibly with the ability to expand the limit if the nation grows more populous or geographically larger, or peerages could be associated with governmental responsibilities over particular areas of minimum sizes or populations, with all the Peers having the right to sit in the upper house but the greater Peers(those who ruled greater areas and had more levels of peerage under them) having more power and influence. Alternately, as a way of decentralizing power, we might even give the greater Peers less power in the House to counterbalance their greater power in local government.
In sum, the goal of having Peers is to create a body whose interests will be different from those both of the King and of the majority of the common people and/or their representatives so as to check both the monarchy and the politicos. Thus I can see the advantage of tying it to wealth, but I think it would be best to select the nobles based on accomplishment in a more general sense; heroic military leaders, virtuous and successful businessmen, et al. These people would generally be well-to-do, but I wouldn’t make a specific income a prerequisite. I also think it should be possible to extinguish a Peerage in the case of gross moral failing or high crime by its holder, though this solution need not be used in every case; often one could simply impeach the Peer and let the peerage pass to the next individual in the line of succession.
As far as royal land holdings go, I don’t think we need a lot of them. Royal lands would have the obvious and necessary benefit of providing the Crown with a source of revenue not dependent on the will of the legislature, but there might be other ways to do that too.
My goal is not to make the king able to run the whole country without Parliament, but he should be able to feed himself and his family and live comfortably without it. Possibilities for fulfilling this goal include entailing a present government monopoly like the Postal Service(an entailment, for those of my readers who don’t know, is a property law arrangement whereby an interest in property is conferred that passes by operation of law through a fixed succession and that the current holder has no right to alienate with reference to his heirs; that is to say, if the family manor is entailed and passes in due course to me, I have the right to use it, to keep you out of it, to grow vegetables in the garden, etc., and even to sell it, but if I do sell it, the sale is only valid during my lifetime and the manor on my death will pass to the heir in the course of law regardless of my sale), but I’m not a huge fan of the idea as it is still a monopoly, which as a free market capitalist, I’m against in principle, though it wouldn’t be any more of a monopoly than we have now.
One could grant the Crown lands similar to what they have in Britain in, for example, the Duchy of Lancaster, which it seems is what you assume would be necessary to create a ‘Western-style monarchy’. This might require the use of eminent domain.
My preferred option for a potential American transition to constitutional monarchy(a term I use because it’s strictly accurate but which, however, I begrudge because it is generally associated with powerless monarchies like those in Britain or Sweden) is a via tertia. I would take the Postal Service, deprive it of monopoly status, and entail it to the Crown; which is to say that ownership of the Service would pass automatically to the reigning monarch. I would then transfer either all or a large part of the state’s interests in corporations to the Crown and entail them. Ideally these companies would be administered by Royal appointees under the overall supervision of the Sovereign and the rather closer supervision of the heir apparent or presumptive, who will not be as busy as the Sovereign and thus will have more time for such things but at the same time has a hereditary interest in the long-term success of the Crown’s business interests and can rein in the Crown’s representatives when they fall prey to the high time-preference that characterises all representatives. Individual Sovereigns, moreover, would have the right to sell these interests, but such agreements would not bind their successors, who could resume ownership at any time.
Such a system would allow the Crown to have diversified interests, which, hopefully, could weather economic storms without forcing the Sovereign to make recourse to tax money, the appropriation of which would require legislative consent.
It is difficult to imagine such a transition without the use of force.
I don’t think my preferred option as outlined above would require any force in principle. In practice, it is highly unlikely(OK, impossible for all realistic purposes) that the elected politicos or the American masses would support my views or plans for our society, but again, you stipulated that I could do anything I wanted pragmatically.
European monarchy did not begin with republics dismantling themselves. It began as a system of contracts among local lords whose economy had little of what we call money, only land and the control thereof.
This does assume you would like to see America become what you state as ideal, a safe assumption, I presume.
My utmost for His highest,
Well, it’s not really a safe assumption, because traditionalism is also a strong influence on me. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting thought experiment, and though I’m undecided on whether I’d actually want it to be carried out, I’ve been fascinated by the opportunity to discuss it.
There are a few points regarding my most preferred method of transition that I’d like to enumerate here at the end of this essay that I have not found an appropriate place for in earlier parts, which were responses to specific, detailed questions in your original message.
First of all, in addition to being a constitutional monarchist as a matter of abstract theory, and a traditionalist, I am, and this is closely related to the latter characterisation, what His Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke Otto von Habsburg called a ‘legitimist’. I support legitimate government, and as a result, I would not support simply having the US enter the British Commonwealth all in one piece. The original thirteen colonies should return to the British Crown. The territory of the Louisiana Purchase ought arguably to be placed under the control of the rightful heir to the French throne, as it was sold by Napoleon under the unlawful rule of the First French Republic, but that’s a thorny issue as the heir to the French throne, HRH Prince Louis Alphonse de Bourbon, duc d’Anjou, known to French Legitimists such as myself as His Most Christian Majesty Louis XX, King of France and Navarre, does not presently rule France and has no access to its funds to give us our money back for the illegitimate sale, so I’d be willing to let us keep that, at least in lieu of a Bourbon restoration in France.
Other states legitimately acquired by the American government should be allowed to retain their republican organization in peace; in fact, the republican United States could continue to exist with the capital moved to someplace within the remaining states. I would also support a Constitutional amendment proposal in each of these States to allow them to join the new Commonwealth Realm, which we might call the United Kingdom of America; then we could leave it up to the existing political institutions and the people of each State to decide where they want to stand.
So if I were placed in charge, I would propose a sweeping Constitutional amendment that would do the following things:
1. Merge Washington, D.C. back into Maryland and Virginia, merge West Virginia and Kentucky back into Virginia, merge Vermont back into New York, and return those parts of Alabama and Mississippi which were originally part of the Province of Georgia to Georgia.
2. Establish for each of these States modified Constitutions which would deliver the executive power into the hands either of a royally-appointed governor or(preferably) a hereditary Peer, and confederate these States into a single United Kingdom of America with Her Majesty Elizabeth II as Sovereign and Head of State with broad powers, roughly comparable to those She theoretically holds in the UK.
3. Establish a Peerage of the United Kingdom of America which will be hereditary and membership in which will be conferred at the discretion of the Sovereign.
4. Establish a Parliament of the United Kingdom of America to replace Congress, the membership of which shall consist of a lower House of popularly-elected MPs, and an upper House that will consist of the Peers of the United Kingdom of America and the Roman Catholic Archbishops of the country along with representatives of the leadership of a strong, conservative Protestant denomination, perhaps the Presbyterian Church in America. This, by the way, is just an example; I know only a few basic facts about this church and while I can think of no reason to disqualify it from the position in our government that I am proposing, I would not give it my endorsement without reservation either. The key is that the denomination be Protestant and take a strongly conservative stand on moral and social issues. I might also be persuaded to grant a similar position to representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
5. Introduce a Constitutional amendment in each of the remaining legitimately-constituted States of the Union to join the United Kingdom of America and adopt Kingdom-style Constitutions and allow them to determine through their Constitutional procedures whether to be part of the new monarchy or remain with what’s left of the present United States.
6. Declare Christianity(no particular denomination) to be the state religion of the new Kingdom, repealing the Establishment Clause and placing very liberal(in the classical sense) but nonetheless reasonable limits on the Free Exercise Clause to allow suppression of dangerous religions such as at least the more radical branches of Islam, as well as preventing criminal or revolutionary organizations from protecting their activities under the guise of religious freedom. The First Amendment would also be altered to allow religious tests for office, and MPs would all be required to be Christian.
7. Limit the franchise to married men and celibate clergy. This would have several main benefits:
I. It would only allow them to vote who have taken on the full status of responsible adults and entered the adult world. No more brainwashed socialist college kids who want ‘free’ education will be voting; rather, those who would have to pay for such measures will.
II. It would encourage people to marry younger, thus keeping the birth rate up.
III. It would place the family at the center of public life and probably slow or even stop its decline.
IV. It would shut the active, open homosexual vote right down.
This proposed amendment would, in my opinion, set things more or less to rights in the US, or at least put us on the right track.
For God, King, and Country,
Samuel C. Starrett