Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Hilaire Belloc Blog makes it into the press...

Fame at last... 

Local Source
From the Mail
A View From England

Wanderer reader from England recently tipped off From the Mail to a wonderful new web site devoted to Hilaire Belloc, which, for the first time so far as FTM knows, provides direct links to just about everything Belloc ever wrote as well as to commentaries on Belloc’s work. Readers can see it here:

asked this longtime foreign friend what he thought of the riots sweeping England, and he replied: “ Riots reinforce our cry for ‘ Parents as the primary educators and protectors of our chil­dren’!”

This longtime Catholic activist added: “I think almost every one of our government ministers is divorced, living in sin, or ‘ gay’…. So much for supporting the family.”

The Defect Of Tyranny Within Us

Among Belloc’s writings that
FTM had never seen before, which appears on this new Belloc blog, is an essay he wrote for the Cath­olic Truth Society in March 1918 titled, “ Religion and Civil So­ciety.”

Belloc was responding to an article published a month earlier by England’s leading atheist, Mrs. Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner, called “ Christianity Versus Liberty,” in which she advocated ( suc­cessfully) for the repeal of a British law which prohibited the Ra­tionalist Press Association from inheriting money from wills and trusts, because it propagandized against Christian doctrines.

In this brilliant essay — which every U. S. Catholic should read this political season when so much of what our government does is under review — Belloc tells us what the purpose of a state is: “The authorities of the community exist for the purpose of main­taining the community, that is, of maintaining 1) its material ex­istence, and 2) the character or tradition which makes it what it is. This end to their action gives those actions all their validity. You could not have a community in which civil authorities did not exercise power of restraint over the members thereof. In the absence of such, the mere material framework of the community would fall to pieces, and it is an implied injunction upon the au­thorities which civilly govern the community that they should pre­serve not only its material structure, but its character or soul. In proportion as this end is perfectly attained we speak of the com­munity as politically free, although the restraints to which mem­bers therein are put by the common authority may be very severe. “ For instance, in time of war, when the community is threat­ened with foreign conquest, the authorities may compel the full service of any man, including the sacrifice of life itself, in the defense of the state; yet the man so conscripted is politically free, and the state to which he belongs is essentially a free state.

“If such orders came from a foreigner, compelling a man to such sacrifices for a community that was not his own, then that man would be unfree, and the community thus subjected to alien au­thority would be unfree also. But this ‘ Political Liberty,’ the most necessary form of liberty, is only a condition of the narrower thing which we call especially ‘Civil Liberty.’ A community must be free from alien government for its citizens to be free at all, and must have the right to preserve its own character by the extrusion of practices which it feels fatal to that character. . . .

“ In practice the area of such ‘ civil liberty’ in a healthy and prac­tically free state, the proportion of acts which the individual or the corporation may perform at will, without restriction by the state, is always very large. It always includes by far the greater part of one’s daily activities, at any rate of normal times; and we regard the extension of this ‘ civil liberty,’ quite apart from national or political liberty, as a good; we jealously watch encroachments upon it as dangerous, that is, as liable to produce great evil, for four reasons: “ First, we know by our reason that the state is not an end in itself, but only exists for the happiness of its members — real bodies and souls — that make it up. Therefore each must have the power of testifying to the success or failure of state measures toward that end, and of himself furthering it.

“ Secondly, we discover by experiment and from the example of history how necessary to the health of the state as a whole, how necessary to its vigorous common life, is this power of reaction to it.

“ Thirdly, we know that there is in human nature a defect of tyr­anny — the love of ‘ running other people,’ of seeing them obey you. Therefore, the human agent of civil authority must be sub­ject himself to restriction and limits as of appointment or custom. “ Lastly, one of the attributes of a conscious individual being is the desire and instinct, or what might be called ( without too much exaggeration), the sheer necessity for self- expression. An undue restriction exasperates this instinct and forbids satisfaction of this desire. In so much it warps and weakens and inflames the individ­ual, makes him unhappy and defeats the end for which the state exists, which is the happiness of its members.

“ Now civil liberty being of this nature, and being by common consent a good, and any unnecessary loss of it an evil, it will at once be granted that the imposition of a special form of thought or philosophic express upon the mass of free men against their will, is a restriction of the gravest kind. In common (and true) language, it is tyranny.”

In other words, Belloc prophesized against the then coming “dic­tatorship of relativism” that penalizes Christian thought and ac­tion, and wars against both personal and civil liberty.

What’s In Your Beer?

Fans of Belloc will also find on this new blog all of his inter­ventions in Parliament, where he served as a Liberal member from Salford from 1906 to 1910, as recorded by Hansard, Britain’s equivalent of the Congressional Record.

In 1906, Belloc stood in support of the Pure Beer Bill, intro­duced by Sir George Courthope of Sussex, after a number of his constituents died from arsenic- laced beer.

The entire debate is utterly fascinating, pitting as it did the ad­vocates of “ healthy” beer made of barley malt, hops, water, and yeast — really a “ whole food” — and “ chemical” beer made of sugar, arsenic, and whatever else the industrial beer manufactur­ers wanted to put into it.

In pushing his bill, Sir Courthope argued that chemical beer was not only increasing drunkenness, but was also a major cause of disease and ill health.

In support of this Pure Beer Bill, Belloc argued, according to Hansard’s account, “ that in the constituency which he represented a number of people had died from drinking impure beer. What was still more important, for electoral purposes, a great number survived. So far as his memory served, something like this hap­pened. When the friends of those who died from arsenical poison­ing brought an action, the brewer said, ‘ I am innocent. I used glu­cose.’ They then brought an action against the glucose manufac­turer. He said, ‘ I am innocent. I used pure sulphuric acid.’ The sulphuric acid manufacturer said that there was ‘ no more than the usual proportion of arsenic.’ “ Unfortunately there was, and by the use of these three differ­ent ( or identical) substances used in the making of beer a large number of people suffered acute agony. He stood there for those people. Those who listened to the debate on the address would know that they had all been returned for a large number of dif­ferent reasons, but among the other questions was the question of
pure beer. He wanted to insist upon the fact that they were a rep­resentative as well as a deliberative body, and there was not the slightest doubt that if they put this bill to the votes of the people they would get an overwhelming majority in its favor. They were told that the populace did not understand the deep chemical mys­teries by which the preparation of beer was ruled. The financial secretary to the Treasury had said with some force that it was im­possible to tell the difference between beer brewed from malt and hops and beer brewed in other fashions.”

What’s in your beer? Maybe that question should be part of the public debate.

Nothing Less Than An Attack Upon The Church

Another Belloc essay
FTM was not aware of posted on the Belloc blog is a March 1910 Catholic Truth Society publication: “ The Ferrer Case.”

Francisco Ferrer was a Spanish anarchist who went from hum­ble beginnings to a top position in international Freemasony, ac­cumulating extreme wealth along the way and developing contacts among all the wealthiest Church- haters in major European cities. Among Ferrer’s special interests was publishing children’s school­books for use in government schools. While Ferrer was in London in June 1909, his handlers suddenly called him back to his home city of Barcelona to foment riots against the Spanish government’s unpopular military action in north Africa — riots which he direct­ed against the Church in a precursor to the Spanish Civil War of 1936. After that, Ferrer was arrested, tried, and executed.

Who could read this section and not think about how “ conspira­cies” against the Church really do work? Belloc opened: “ The readers of the following lines may remember the excite­ment in the month of October of the year 1909, an explosion of excitement and anger took place simultaneously in a certain num­ber of great towns with regard to the execution of a Spanish crim­inal of the name of Francisco Ferrer.

“ This man’s name had been hitherto unfamiliar to all but a nar­row circle of people, who were interested in his educational work and in his remarkable personality. He was very well known in the town of Barcelona, near which he had been born, in the suburbs of which he resided, and which latterly had been the scene of his political efforts. But he was not in any sense a public figure in Europe, nor were the public in general acquainted with his name.

“ Of a sudden, within two days, that name was talked and shout­ed about in Paris, in London, in Rome, and one or two other great cities where secret organization can be prompt and thorough in ac­tion; and it filled public attention to the exclusion of every other subject. In Pisa an attempt was made to burn down the cathedral. In London a hostile demonstration was made outside the cathedral of Westminster; in Paris a large mob was gathered, great injury was done to municipal and private property, many policemen were wounded, and one was killed. . . .

“ Now that we can look back upon that strange episode, we see it marked by certain characters which every man of independent judgment and common sense, no matter what his philosophical or religious opinion, must recognize.

“ In the first place it was organized; it was not spontaneous. It is self- evident that a spontaneous explosion of sympathy with an un­known person cannot take place. It is further self- evident that a spontaneous explosion does not take place in five or six widely sep­arated centers at the same moment. That the movement was orga­nized artificially is further proved by the fact that it was put an end to as secretly, as suddenly, and as abruptly as it was aroused. The moment the facts began to leak out, the moment the truth about Ferrer’s life became known, the same power which had spoken in Rome, in Paris, and in London discovered the topic to be uninter­esting and dropped it. . . .

“ Now, not only did this incident bear the plain character of or­ganization, and of secret organization: It bore a character which very often accompanies phenomena of that sort in Europe — to wit, that its whole energy and meaning were an attack upon the Catholic Church. The cry in favor of the condemned criminal was identically the same as the cry against the faith. No one joined in it save from hatred of the Catholic Church, or under orders from, or duped by those, who hate and would destroy the Catholic Church. Conversely, no Catholic, not even those isolated and ill­informed Catholics who in Protestant countries are so easily de­ceived by the falsehoods ’ round them, joined in that demonstra­tion.

“It was nothing more nor less in its inception, character, and mean­ing than an attack upon the Church. The weapon used was a fa­miliar one. First, the assertion that a great injustice had been done — and that presented in a light which made the deed seem inhu­manly wicked; next it was suggested or asserted that the authors of this monstrous iniquity were the priests of the Catholic Church. In precisely the same manner are the events of the past of Europe presented by those who hate Jesus Christ and the Institution He founded. The mark of persecution — and especially of persecu­tion by falsehood — was stamped upon the whole business.”

After detailing Ferrer’s rise from poverty to wealth, and his aban­donment of his family which he left in dire poverty for a succes­sion of mistresses, Belloc turned to Ferrer’s abrupt return to Spain while in England, and his activities there: “ Official buildings were spared and the persons connected with the unpopular government and its action were not attacked. Though the movement was nominally proletarian, neither the goods of the capitalist class nor their palaces, which are many and sumptuous in Barcelona, suffered. The whole movement was canalized against the Church, which had nothing to do with the African Expedition nor with any part of the quarrel! The poorest parish churches as well as the greatest and wealthiest of the monastic foundations were sacked and burnt, and the movement was organized with as much method as might be the movement of an army.

“Picked men went from place to place conveying the instructions of the hidden organizers; petroleum and firearms were always found ready for these attacks upon the clergy and the churches. The only efforts made against the military were made with the object of pre­venting them from defending the churches, the nuns, and the priests. In a word, the rising which had begun as a vague, sponta­neous, and general protest against the military expedition, against unpopular officialdom, and against the capitalism which was sup­posed to inspire it, was directed, when once organization and meth­od appeared, not against army, officials, or capitalists, but solely against the Church, upon the lines with which Ferrer’s name was locally chiefly connected, and in the interests of that section of opinion of which he was locally the acknowledged head.”

Reading this leads one to think how easily public opinion can be directed against the Church, does it not?

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