John C. Wright, Catholic science fiction writer and blogger, dislikes monarchy. While much of his commentary about politics and culture are spot on, his disagreement with the monarchical tradition continues to surprise Catholic fans of the Social Kingship of Christ.
In July of 2017, Wright penned a blog post titled “Unanswered Equality Challenge.” For the most part, Wright expressed disappointment in the responses to his challenge. To this day, he remains against the institution of monarchy, extolling our Americanist democratic republic over that form of government.
My purpose with this series is to answer the “Unanswered Equality Challenge” in full, responding not only to his main challenge question, but also responding to many claims in his essay.
I speculate that this series is unlikely to convert Wright to be convinced of monarchy’s superiority. That being said, as a fan of Wright’s writing, I cannot help but feel duty-bound to use my talents to produce some kind of a public response to his claims. This I will now do.
Wright Cites Jefferson To Extol Natural Rights And Equality
In his argument, Wright calls upon the memory of Thomas Jefferson. His main thesis: That when it came to natural rights, Jefferson demonstrated that all men have an equitable share in those rights.
In frustration, I have often asked any man propounding the elitist or monarchist view what he thinks Jefferson meant when he penned the words “all men are created equal”?
Was Jefferson referring to all men being the same height and weight, or some other mathematical measurement of a physical quantity?
Was he opining all men were equally endowed with the same fortune, same lands and rents, same genius, same talents, same education, same moral fiber?
This would be odd indeed for Jefferson, since he was not only taller than most men of his era, and richer, and better educated, and a genius among a generation of geniuses. How could he not notice that men differ in these various ways?
And, indeed, if one were penning a document to justify a rebellion against the English Crown, on the grounds that the Crown had been trampling the natural and innate rights of the colonists, why would one pause to assert that the various difference between man and man, of height and weight and fortune and education and talent and moral fiber, did not exist? This would have nothing to do with the topic of liberty and tyranny.
So far, only one gentleman attempted to answer the question, and that so feebly that it was clear he did not understand the question, or the concept involved.
He thought Jefferson was speaking of aspirations, not facts: that Jefferson meant men one day should be equal, but in fact are not. The creator is not the source of man’s natural rights, but the state is, and thus the state should one day grant all the rights of man to men, but in fact presently it does not.
This is a gross misreading. By this logic, the word equality refers to all those ways in which individuals lack individual distinctions: which, by definition, is a null set.
Logically, if we reach the conclusion that the word equality means nothing, or means men being homogeneous in all respects, but especially in those respects where the law has no bearing, then we must further conclude that Jefferson in fact said nothing at all, and that the American Revolution took place because of a mistake. Perhaps was brought on by a moment of mental disorder among the Founders.
The mental disorder model of the universe does not fit the facts. If we reach this conclusion, we err. It were best to go back and check our premises, and, more to the point, check our definitions.
If the American Revolution meant anything, and if Jefferson was not uttering gibberish, then the word equality in this context cannot mean homogeneous. That we use the same word in other contexts, such as to mean a mathematical identity, does not alter this fact.
Who can claim that the U.S. Declaration of Independence is not one of the most important historical documents when it comes to arguing for the natural rights of all men? Historically, the Declaration is a huge boost for the development of rights. It has a place right up there with the Magna Carta. They may flawed documents, but they are important and conducive for the West nevertheless.
In this section, Wright is attempting to demonstrate that all men are equal in that they have natural rights. That is why he uses Jefferson’s “all men are created equal.” He’s trying to explain natural, God-given rights of mortal men. And it’s true. Rights do not come from our legal system. We do not wait on the state to reward us with these rights. Instead, we expect the state to recognize them.
In this regard, John C. Wright is correct.
However, if Wright is going to bring up Thomas Jefferson, then I have a bit to say about him. In America, the word “democracy” equals “good,” and the Founders are all saints in a parthenon of men who achieved a political and cultural apotheosis. I am tired of this, and today I desire to call out Thomas Jefferson.
In his essay “Unanswered Equality Challenge,” Wright argues against the idea of different birthright castes and stations in society. Wright despises royalty. He does not like the idea of a hereditary king or any class that is born into a position of authority. When arguing against monarchy, Wright can easily cite Jefferson for standing up for natural rights.
Wright does not completely rope Jefferson in. Wright does not claim that the Founder is alongside him in opposing a birthright caste system. No, in discussing Thomas Jefferson, he only goes so far.
Wright believes that there should be no societal caste system if men are born equally when it comes to possessing natural rights. Thomas Jefferson, however, thought no such thing.
It’s almost suspicious that Wright was careful not to discuss Thomas Jefferson’s true feelings about democracy. For, if one takes a closer look at the Founder’s stance, they will see he was clearly against democracy, and he disagreed with the idea of universal suffrage. Jefferson may be considered the founder of “Jeffersonian democracy,” but in reality Jefferson’s political stance was that of a self-described “republican federalist.” This Agrarian Romantic, in fact, wanted to have a republic governed by an elite class:
The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed men for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of society. May we not even say that that form of government is best which provides most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?
Jefferson was no “saint of the common man.” He was an elitist who extolled the agricultural realm and despised the urban sector. He railed against the “mobs of great cities” as a class of artificers who were “panderers of vice” who would overturn the liberties of a country. For Jefferson, men in the agrarian paradise were capable of controlling law, order, public affairs, and maintaining freedom; however, the rabble of Europe’s cities would destroy everything public. Jefferson, hardly the equalitarian, despised the proletariat:
I think that our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural: and this will be as long as there are vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another as in the large cities of Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe.
Jefferson was eager to seek out the “natural aristoi,” also known as the natural aristocracy. He wanted to cultivate them. In fact, he desired a properly educated aristocracy, and he warned against fakers whom he regarded as “pseudo-aristoi.” Jefferson had a real desire to separate the wheat from the chaff when it came to public works. The serfs, meanwhile, would have little hope of rising above their stations, due to their nature.
Clearly, Thomas Jefferson had no problem with a caste society. He wanted an elite aristocracy to rule over his agrarian paradise, while the dirty mobs of the cities whom he once called “the swinish multitudes” would suffer somewhere else.
But, Hey, Jefferson Believed In Natural Rights, Like Freedom of Speech. He Wouldn’t Sell Out…
So, if Jefferson–author of the Declaration of Independence and contributor to the Declaration of Rights of Man–if this Protestant Founder is such a great man to cite when it comes to equity and natural rights, how could he fall in love with the idea of aristocracy? Why did he never identify himself as a democrat, nor push for universal suffrage?
After all, everyone loves Thomas Jefferson for being a man of the people. Right? Even Left-wing pro-democracies extol Thomas Jefferson. Even the American Communists held their meetings underneath his portraits. Lord Acton once said that Jefferson “subverted with his [democratic] doctrines the republicanism of America, and consequently the Republic itself.” Even Nazis–who democratically elected Hitler, I’ll remind you–praised Jefferson. Dr. Friedrich Schonemann, amid his acclamation for Jefferson, once wrote in his pamphlets:
“There is no better and more beautiful word than the expression ‘Democracy’ for our new government of the people, for this whole system of a popular community.”
Jefferson’s appeal and his cult spreads across political spectra, does it not? “All men are created equal with certain unalienable rights.” Are they not?
Well, when it came to free speech, Jefferson had his limits. He did not believe in utterly free speech. In fact, he considered anyone who did not swear loyalty oaths to American Independence to be secret enemies. Chris Ferrara explains in his book, Liberty: The God that Failed:
In keeping with what Washington and Jefferson had decided for the rest of America, by 1778 all states “had adopted loyalty or test oaths, ‘weapons of savage coercion,’ that failed to distinguish between loyalty itself and the ritual of swearing it.”
The loyalty oath statue Jefferson drafted for the Virginia legislature is typical of these totalitarian measures. The purpose of the loyalty or test oath was, of course, to flush out suspected Tories whose hidden thoughts were threats to the revolutionary cause.
Jefferson’s definition of a Tory, written in defense of the loyalty oath, is supremely illustrative of the manner in which he and his fellow radicals imposed what they called Liberty on those who would dissent even inwardly from their program:
“A Tory has been properly defined to be a traitor in thought, but not in deed. The only description, by which the laws have endeavored to come at them, was that of non-jurors, or persons refusing to take the oath of fidelity to the state.”
This sounds a touch like something one would experience in Mao’s China, Stalin’s Soviet Union, or the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. Nevertheless, it did happen here on our shores, and Jefferson signed off on this and more.
Other rights abuses and rule-bending of Thomas Jefferson include the promotion of slavery, the imprisonment of political enemies in concentration camps, his demand for the death penalty for citizens who attempted to recover their own property from federal agents, the forcible separation of slave children from their parents (they would be deported to Haiti or Sierra Leone), and too many others to count here.
In fact, (while I’m at it), Jefferson comes off as a sort of megalomaniac, demanding that his own Declaration of Independence should be treated like a religious relic, advocated for reverence with a holy purpose, and that it and the memorabilia surrounding the writing of the Declaration be handled “like the relics of saints…to nourish our devotion to this holy bond of Union.” He wanted his own desk to be carried in a procession. These demands makes sense, as they come from a man who decided to create his own personal version of the Bible.
Indeed, it seems as though Jefferson actually seemed to abandon his own principles after his own presidency, as Murray Rothbard once wrote:
The Jeffersonian drive toward virtually no government foundered after Jefferson took office, first, with concessions to the Federalists…and then with the unconstitutional purchase of the Louisiana Territory. But most particularly it foundered with the imperialist drive toward war with Britain in Jefferson’s second term, a drive which led to war and to a one-party system which established virtually the entire statist Federalist program: high military expenditures, a central bank, a protective tariff, direct federal taxes, public works.
Thomas Jefferson himself stated that when laws become inadequate to preserve anything, you’ve got to have a dictator and martial law. Here, we see that even Thomas Jefferson argues for a single leader of a country, though not in a reasonable fashion.
At one time in his life, Thomas Jefferson was inspired to put forth the idea that all men are equal in that they have unquestionable natural rights. But that was in theory. In practice, Jefferson was a loose cannon and a tyrant who saddled his own family with enormous debts. He went on a political binge that contravened his own theoretical principles. He may have been, in his own words, ten thousand times an enemy to monarchies, but in practice, his rule was worse than many of the kings he so despised.
It is amusing to know that, in the first drafts of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson first wrote “subjects,” but then erased those words and replaced them with “citizens.” Does it betray the thinking of this slave-owning “champion of liberty?” Whatever the answer, I digress.
For our purposes here, it is important to know that Jefferson believed in a caste society, and he was unafraid to go against the rights of men to suit his own interests. Like most oligarchical politicians, Jefferson reneged on his own declarations. As one political cartoon once called him, he was “a philosophic cock.” It is important to keep these facts in mind whenever one extols this man to be their champion.
Though Thomas Jefferson hated kings, he would’ve been interchangeable with the infamous Bad King John “Lackland.”