Do I Think Patrick Henry was Bizarre?

Mr. Wright accused me of dodging the answer to this question. So here it is.

The answer is yes, of course I do, assuming he meant liberty from the very concept of being subject to a monarch. I have no idea why he thinks this means I need to run after license plates in New Hampshire or something like that, but I do indeed think Patrick Henry was pretty close to out of his gourd – as were the majority of the Sons of Liberty.

I do not think Washington, who toasted the king at the end of every meal right up until the signing of the Declaration, was bizarre. Was he wrong? Maybe, maybe not. I’d need to educate myself more; I think a case can be made either way. But Washington had no issue with the concept of the monarchy as such. And Washington, not the radical jackass Patrick Henry, was the norm, not the outlier.

I think Wright was flailing. His two long posts on the definition of freedom written after the thread vaguely reminded me of Tony’s digression on What’s Wrong With the World about the complex philosophical meaning of murder when the subject was the literal slaughter of infants. I suppose there might be a point buried in there, but I have a feeling the concept is much more self-evident than all of that and everybody there understood what was meant.

Basically, I think Mr. Wright was flailing. Some of the other people who agreed with him seemed to have done more thinking on the subject than Mr. Wright did (to my eye), and conducted themselves and argued better, but ultimately I think they were just fancier forms of the same “But if I’m born into a monarchy and forced to be subject to its form of government that’s totally different than being born into a republic and subject to its form of government!”, then claiming that the difference was that I could cast a single vote that means virtually nothing to the overall outcome.

In any case win or lose I need to be subject to the laws the Republic sets down anyway, whether I like them or not. Otherwise, I will be jailed or worse – as I should be, for the most part (obviously exceptions in regards to contradictions of the divine and natural law apply. No authority is ever totally absolute save God’s, but I think that’s something most in the discussion would agree about in any case).

Mr. Wright had never really done any serious thinking before on the particular subject of monarchy vs. republic because he, quite correctly, assumed that nearly everybody in the United States – probably most in the western world – thought the matter self-evident. Up against a group who questioned the idea, in my opinion he flailed and didn’t land very many blows.

The insistence that those subject to a monarch had no say in a debate with him if they wanted to be consistent struck me as so utterly bizarre and counterintuitive I eventually just started ignoring it and continued to more fruitful grounds. If we are, indeed, having the discussion then it is petty to claim that the subject of a monarch is necessarily inferior to you and is not worth communicating with. We are communicating; that is enough. Once again, it reminded me of Zeno’s paradox: Motion may be impossible, but here I am in the room. I must have gotten here somehow.

Nor, when bringing up that historically I am the norm and he is the outlier, and bringing up that he makes my ancestors slaves, am I making an argument ad populum, because if you read the thread, I quite carefully did not use it as an argument. Just…don’t you think that if all of this was discovered to be the obvious truth only in the past 1000 years of the long span of human history that perhaps we should start considering the fact that we might be wrong a little more closely? Shouldn’t it strike you as weird that those you consider slaves owned property, and businesses, and in some cases slaves? Any time I am made the smartest person in the historical room my buzzers go off, and I start to question things, however much I am mocked for saying that.

Also, the fact that I did not consent to be a citizen of this nation is completely beyond rebuke or condemnation, because it is a simple, unarguable fact. Most people alive today have absolutely no say in the question of what government is ruling them. It is unrealistic to the point of absurd for me to get up and leave the country. This is just true. It is not insulting and not meant to be, but is a statement just as “the sky is blue” is a statement. You can be offended or insulted, but you’re ultimately insulted that reality is what it is.

I dunno. For all of the intelligence of all the people on those comment threads, I just don’t think the classical liberals did a particularly good job trying to make their points, and Mr. Wright was probably the worst of the lot.  I come out of the discussion less impressed than ever with classical liberalism. So it goes, I suppose.

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3 Responses to Do I Think Patrick Henry was Bizarre?

  1. Scholar-at-Arms says:

    His offered proof that a debate on the merits of monarchy and republicanism was by definition impossible I too found to be absurd, so much so that for most of the weekend I thought it was a lawyerly troll – a flippant response to a question that appeared flippant to him. That he pulled a Socrates and forted up behind an argument that his primary interlocutors considered absurd and insulting was frustrating.

    I have a hard time believing that this is as you infer his first time putting thought onto the relative merits of the political systems – like Mr Wright I am a graduate of St John’s College, and it is extremely difficult to get through that program without considering that question, which was hotly contested in the history of Western Civ. However, from his words a love of liberal ideals came through clearly, but a defence of those ideals did not.

    • Your last sentence is what I mean. I’m sure he looked through all of the political systems, but, much like myself in high school, it was to end it with “You’re sure glad you’re in a republic, huh?”

  2. Pingback: On doffing your hat to the king and concrete shoes | Zippy Catholic

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