Friday, April 22, 2011

Orestes Brownson on Legitimatism and Particularism

    Constitutions of states are not things that can be made to order, and imposed by authority, regardless of the habits, manners, customs, and traditions of the people who are to live under them. England, monarchical and aristocratic to the core, could not get on as a commonwealth, and when the dictator Cromwell died, and left no successor, she recalled the Stuarts, reestablished the throne, and restored her old constitution. France, after the example of England, made a revolution, beheaded her king, abolished royalty, abolished nobility, adopted as her motto, 'liberty, equality, and fraternity,' imposed on herself with much ceremony, fanfaronade, beating of drums, and sounding of trumpets, an entire new constitution, made after the most approved pattern; and not only one, but many new constitutions; yet, as Thomas Carlyle says, 'they wouldn't go,' though drawn up by one who boasted that 'politics is a science he had finished.' After a period of military despotism under Napoleon I., she was forced to recall her legitimate king, to reconstruct the throne she had demolished, and reconsecrate the altars she had profaned; and she is even now governed chiefly by military force. Mexico and the South American colonies of Spain asserted their independence of the mother country, adopted constitutions framed after the great Anglo-American model, and have been in a state of anarchy ever since.

    No, sir; constitutions cannot be made and imposed on a nation. Lord John Russell's numerous' experiments, under the most favorable circumstances, have proved that much. They must be born and developed with the nation ; generated, not made, as Count de Maister has amply proved. You may change a dynasty, or the magistracy of a nation, without destroying it, and sometimes with happy results; the constitution of a nation, never. Every true statesman knows this, and seeks always to administer the affairs of the state in accordance with its fundamental constitution. He accepts that constitution as his starting-point and his inflexible law, and labors only to correct- abuses that may creep in, to clear away anomalies that the vicissitudes of time or the course of events may create, and to do the best he can with it for the nation. The Church cannot do otherwise, however overwhelming may be her influence. The necessary conditions of such a constitution as that of the United States, have never been found in European society, and do not exist there even yet. Its principles may have been recognized and defended by both statesmen and churchmen, but it has never been possible to organize any European state in accordance with them.
In 1868, Orestes Augustus Brownson put those words in the mouth of his priest in Conversations on Liberalism and the Church.

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.