This is the second of five articles spanning my discussion with Count Nikolai Tolstoy. The first article is available here.
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto
What is so great about monarchism, anyway?
America gets along just fine without it -- if you ignore the latest Gallup report that Congress has an approval rating of 28 percent, which is the highest said number has soared in nearly ten years.
"If a nation does not want a monarchy, change the nation’s mind," the late South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts said. "If a nation does not need a monarchy, change the nation’s needs."
Smuts knew the truth behind these words firsthand. He served in the late 1930s and early '40s, a time when the British Crown was being subsumed by Dutch-descended nationalism. Most of his country's voting populace ignored his advice, got its wish of a sovereign republic, instituted Apartheid to maintain power, ultimately saw this fall apart, and now is faced with a 'nonracial' government largely defined by varying degrees of black supremacism.
This is to say nothing of the tribal conflicts that plague South Africa today -- all of which are glossed over by the promise of republican ideals.
"This war would never have come unless, under American and modernising pressure, we had driven the Habsburgs out of Austria and the Hohenzollerns out of Germany," Winston Churchill told during 1945. "By making these vacuums we gave the opening for the Hitlerite monster to crawl out of its sewer on to the vacant thrones. No doubt these views are very unfashionable."
Did Britain's most famous World War II prime minister not know what he was talking about?
"Anyone who fears that by becoming a republic we would condemn ourselves to a presidency held by a perpetual succession of superannuated politicians .... is an optimist," The Independent's Gordon Medcalf pointed out in 1997, with Tony Blair's anti-monarchist Labour Party having just attained power.
Medcalf continued: "The alternative nightmare scenario looks not to the European model but to the American, where the essentials for election to the presidency appear to be ruthless ambition, access to vast wealth, reckless promises of patronage and preferment, effective control of a big slice of the media and a plausible TV manner.
"We don’t know when we are well off."
Could any serious political observer look at our partisan duopoly and say Medcalf is wrong? Could any serious person claim that America's system of government works well for even a bare majority of the citizenry?
"Monarchy is the one system of government where power is exercised for the good of all," Aristotle declared. This ancient wisdom gels with the opinion of Margaret Thatcher who, after her prime ministerial tenure ended, remarked that "(t)hose who imagine that a politician would make a better figurehead than a hereditary monarch might perhaps make the acquaintance of more politicians."
Her statement takes on special significance when the perspective of Lord Russell, published in The Spectator amid Blair's ascendancy, enters consideration: "The monarchy is a political referee, not a political player, and there is a lot of sense in choosing the referee by a different principle from the players. It lessens the danger that the referee might try to start playing."
Here in America, the Supreme Court and lower federal judiciary are our referees. How apolitical are they?
Count Nikolai Tolstoy is the International Monarchist League's chancellor, having held this position since 1987. His career is very much a continuation of the family business -- writing. He has produced much about history and politics, putting down the pen to stand for office on four separate occasions. Though he never won, his anti-globalist ideas certainly did with the triumph of Brexit last year.
Tolstoy recently spoke with me about many topics relative to monarchism -- specifically its role in the present day. Some of our conversation is included below.
Joseph Ford Cotto: Many Americans are positive about monarchy within the context of pop-culture or as a foreign land's tourist draw. To this extent, in your opinion, why do a great deal of Americans accept monarchy?
Count Nikolai Tolstoy: I believe that Jung was right in holding that the concept of monarchy remains deeply rooted in the human psyche. In Shakespeare’s historical plays, for example, kings personify their realms, to the extent of being addressed as ‘France’, ‘England’, etc. Americans are no more immune to this visceral instinct than others, and it was largely in consequence of a series of accidents of history that the United States was founded as a republic.
Throughout much of the 18th century the British monarchy remained popular with Americans of all classes, and it was only when George III was compelled to accept parliamentary usurpation of rule of the colonies by royal charter that American leaders reluctantly turned to republicanism as the only cure. The success of the monarchy in Canada suggests that it is not impossible that it could also have worked in the USA.
Nevertheless, Americans remained strongly susceptible to the allure of monarchy, and it is not for nothing that the high culture of the 19th-century remains ‘Victorian’ in US parlance, as in British. When the future Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, paid a state visit to the USA in 1860, he was mobbed by enthusiastic crowds – particularly the ladies.
Cotto: During the years ahead, as the crises of globalism continue, do you expect monarchism to become more favorably regarded?
Tolstoy: I do think so. We seem to be living through the crisis of ‘liberalism’, whose 21st-century form is increasingly recognized as masking a new and sinister tyranny of the mind. Modern ‘liberalism’, in many ways the antithesis of its 19th-century homonym, appears very much a class ideology, being largely confined to specific social strata of embittered ‘progressives’.
The days when political opinions are decided by brain-dead Hollywood ‘luvvies’, New York fashionable diners, or Hampstead ‘thinkers’ are it is fervently to be hoped numbered. The nation state is once again recognized as the most viable form of government. Fortunately, monarchs enjoy a popularity denied self-serving Tadpoles and Tapers. As Disraeli recognized, ‘you can rule either by force - or tradition’.
Monarchs hold office, not because they lays specious claim to superior intellect, but because of their descent from a family of rulers who personify the nation. This naturally angers the intelligentsia, who fancy their privileges justified by intellectual and cultural superiority (manifested by sleeping through an opera, or engaging in chit-chat in an expensive restaurant).