Essays in Idleness


Latest from Iraq

I sometimes think that as a pundit in the newspapers I was too realpolitik; whereas now, in my enforced leisure, writing these idle essays, I am too pixie. Put this another way. In my newspaper columns I would take the position, “If you want to achieve that, you must do this.” Whereas, now I am more inclined to say that the this is not worth discussing, because the that is not worth achieving.

“Democracy” is a word I have put in quotes often lately, in the hope that the more intelligent readers with whom I am now blessed will detect shadings of irony. No Catholic can be against voting, per se, since after all our Popes are elected by ballot; and even the Holy Roman Emperor was thus elected, albeit the franchise was limited to seven persons. My objection is to the use of the word “democracy” in an abstract and utterly irresponsible way, as in for instance the phrase, “bringing democracy to Iraq,” when the speaker (unwittingly) proposes to bring chaos and violence instead.

But I could equally place the scare quotes around e.g. “capitalism” and “free markets,” often around “Western,” and even around “constitutional” and “the rule of law.” All such terms and many more are used in a slovenly way, which under cross-examination comes down to, “You know what I mean.”

No, Mr Bush, I don’t know what you mean; though I must allow that compared to Mr Obama, Mr Bush was almost comprehensible. Moreover, in my unchanged opinion, the 43rd President was, by the standards of politics, a good and decent man, doing what he believed right by the light of his understanding. (“The light that failed,” in Kipling’s haunting phrase.) Demonized, as it were, by demons.

Iraq has been much on my mind and in my heart, these last weeks. News junkies may refer to the standard junk sources to get some idea why. The “journalists” seldom get the details right, confuse matters further by their pig ignorance of history, and by writing a farrago of meaningless abstractions, clichés, and desperate nonce words. Nevertheless, a reader acquainted with Iraq may extract some vague shape within their slurry: of another civil war in a Middle Eastern country where there are (a lot) more than two sides. We get, for instance, “Sunni versus Shia,” presented with the same glib assurance as “Brazil versus Cameroon” with a half-time score. Suffice to say, there are many factions of Arab and non-Arab Sunnis, of Arab and non-Arab Shia, of communities neither Sunni nor Shia, and “terrorists” in multiple and mixed flavours. We would seem to be coming down to a “final” between ISIS-faction Sunni Islamist terrorists and Iranian-sponsored Shia Islamist militias, with Team Obama proposing to drop bombs on behalf of the latter. But I wouldn’t be too sure, of anything in Iraq.

Now, in the olden days, earlier in this century, I was an enthusiast for invading Iraq, for smooshing the monstrous regime of Saddam Hussein, and replacing it with a more benign dictatorship under, say, Ahmed Chalabi, with American and European help cleaning up. On the assumption it was too late to restore the Hashemite dynasty, I thought, go for the next best alternative. Given the borders as drawn by Gertrude Bell, and the variety of peoples contained within them, and immediate external threats on all sides, it did strike me that an essay in mass democracy would be exceptionally obtuse. I regret that I did not make this argument (which disturbed my editors) plainer.

The interest of United States and allies, with electorates lacking moral or intellectual stamina, was to get out as quickly as possible, consistent with leaving a stable regime that would not be a threat, at least to us. Under circumstances of real and present internal and external dangers, it would be necessary to leave a few bases behind, with troops and equipment ready to dance at short notice, and the back-up of, in effect, a fully reconstituted American Fifth Fleet, receiving more generous contributions from all NATO allies. That’s what kind of Imperialist I am.

Not, alas, the older sort of Imperialist, who might have put Iraq under the rule of a British Viceroy; but only because the option was not at hand. Politics is supposed to be the art of the possible (notwithstanding the way they are conducted today), and even I, like other Canadians, have noted the decline of the British Empire — as, too, the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, &c — with their more “hands on” approach to persistent sources of disorder. The problem with American Imperialism being, they don’t know how to do it, and keep messing up, even with military resources that any of the old Imperial powers would have envied.

This is because they keep trying to sell “democracy.” They have been doing it for several generations, and they will not learn from experience, nor accept any criticism on this point. Power may be projected, but “democracy” cannot be imposed in a place like Iraq (let alone Afghanistan) without easily foreseeable, shall we say, negative consequences. Nor should one persist in giving lip service to an ideal that is impracticable, to such a ludicrous degree. As we have seen, it is not even working in the United States of America, where “the people” have voted themselves government benefits and entitlements (as the Europeans before them) to the point of spiritual as well as fiscal bankruptcy.

But let’s stick with Iraq. There are at least a dozen countries within that country, some larger, some smaller; and the challenge for any central government is to keep them out of each other’s affairs. This was the normal and traditional challenge for governors of vast dominions, and I mentioned the British with approval, above, because they were (once) rather good at it. It is exactly what mass democracy ignores, as in the case of Iraq, where the Shia majority were given the opportunity to vote on how the Sunni minority should be treated.

Just as “socialism” is only possible among friends, “democracy” is only possible at the small level, and then depending on the local mood. Trying to forge a nation on this “one size fits all” ideological principle is asking for … what we have been getting for the last century and more. Indeed, the Ottoman regime was more benign than any of the nation states that replaced it, because the Sultan in Istanbul still recognized, in the old-fashioned way, that his dominions were various. If they were sincere in arguing, “that government is best which governs least,” North American libertarians would take a good look at the Ottoman administration, and stop reflexively supporting Young Turks.

The task of statesmen — long before “Democracy!” became the cry of the mob — was to promote peace, order, and good government, given the kaleidoscopic reality of “facts on the ground.” An important part of that task, as I was reminded recently in reading at length of Talleyrand, then Wellington, was subverting megalomaniacs in their dreams of glory. They were mutual admirers, these two, incidentally. Talleyrand from within, Wellington from without, worked on the problem of Napoleon, whose immense popularity in post-revolutionary France, when he was winning, was compounded by his genius on the battlefield. This would require a very long historical essay, but for my present purpose I will cut to the chase: Both of these very different heroes understood that the cause of peace, order, and good government, could only be achieved by carefully resisting anything like mass democracy, or the popular will. For both understood the first thing: that “the people” are fools.


We are five days short of the most important centenary we will observe in our lives: that of June 28th, 1914 — the day from which I date “post-modernity,” in the work of an anarchist for “the people” of Serbia. The Great War happened because there were madmen in high stations — Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany being the prize example — but more consequentially, because the popular will had been teased into irruptions of nationalist, chauvinist hysteria in every European capital, by the newly emergent yellow press and cheap, demagogic politicians. It is sickening, today, to look back over the huge demonstrations that assembled for war in Berlin, Paris, London, elsewhere. In the background, intelligent, aristocratic statesmen of the old school were scrambling to avert it. They, unlike “the people,” knew what this world war would mean: that it would destroy Europe; that it would overwhelm every remaining vestige of peaceful and traditional ways of life. But the ideal of “democracy” had already gone too far. The mobs wanted action. And they soon got what they were lusting for.

In the aftermath of that War, in the dealings at Versailles and in constitutional developments throughout the West, it became evident, to a few of the wise, that no lesson had been learnt. And how could it, given the deceitful rewrite of history already proceeding to serve new “democratic” purposes? The very men who had struggled to avoid war were now said to have conspired to start it; the vulgar mob that had demanded it, were now cast as their innocent victims. (The media then as today delight in flattering their uneducated audiences with reversals of that kind.)

There was no turning back from what man had wrought, on his own wilful initiative. In the shadow of Total War, a new generation of populist politicians went to work on delivering Total Peace. The voting franchise, already dangerously over-extended, was now doubled; men of no distinction rose from the bottom on the churning thunder of the populist tide. Politics became everyone’s business, whether or not everyone knew the first thing, and the experienced statesmen of past generations were systematically replaced by the crowd-pleasers with their electoral circus acts. A new world of technology also burst forth, thanks to the inventions of war, helping to divert the attention of men from the life everlasting, to instant material gratification. Men were “progressively” set free of all customary restraints, especially the restraint of honour.

And what we were selling in Iraq — an artificial nation already deformed from the clash of ancient and post-modern forces — was more of this same poisoned porridge. It hasn’t worked out. It could never work out. Even had it been entirely successful, it would have delivered only another “globalized” culture of depraved men and women, shorn of their identities as souls, enslaved by their own greed for things that can only distract from Heaven.

And these are not indifferent things. In order to please the mass market, in politics as in trade, we must pile up the bodies in the mortuaries. Murder is at the root of all revolutionary zeal, and as Jefferson said, the tree of his new, revolutionary liberty “must be refreshed with blood.” (Even where there is outwardly no war: for I think of the blood of forty million North American babies, shed to refresh “the liberty of women.”)

We have been piling them up for a century, on a scale not seen since Tamurlaine, all in the name of “the people” and “democracy.” Or as a Canadian sage liked to put it — the Nova Scotia Yankee, Thomas Chandler Haliburton — “vox populi, vox diabolus.”


Let me add, for the benefit of at least a couple of readers who lost boys in Iraq or Afghanistan, that their deaths were not in vain. It is at another level from “foreign policy” that they became engaged in the struggle. What we fight for, what we achieve and don’t achieve, has a reckoning beyond the confines of this world. Those who died trying to protect the harmless — the common simple people of Iraq and Afghanistan, longing to live in peace, yet oppressed by psychotic tyrants and caught up in their wars — died well.

The real testimony to the value of their service comes from love. I was deeply moved by several allied soldiers who, in letters to me in the course of their field service, wrote with great affection for the people they had met in towns and villages — that is, real, actual, singular people, as opposed to statistical counters. They went to fight for USA, or for Canada in several cases; they stayed to fight for the Iraqis, for the Afghans, as they had come to know them — hoping to build them a better future, in safety and in freedom. Those who died, died also for them.

One is heartbroken for their loss, in the flower of youth. For their families: their moms and dads, their wives and kids, their brothers and sisters; for their friends and their lovers. But I absolutely refuse to agree that their lives were “wasted,” in the manner of newspaper pundits and the asinine liberals on TV. No matter how badly the mission failed, in the end, so many engaged with pure hearts and fine courage. And every human mission fails, in the end. We cannot judge on the basis of worldly success or failure.

The axeman

So far as I am aware, there is yet no law against carrying an axe openly around the city; or a concealed hatchet for that matter. A broadaxe might get you stares on the trolley, but only brief, silent, and thoughtful ones. Whereas, a gun — even an innocent hunting rifle — would be a problem anywhere in the Greater Parkdale Area. The police are increasingly well-armed, but among the citizens, only criminals are allowed “to carry” in these parts. (Of course, we could discuss my use of the word, “allowed.”) Gun clubs and gun ranges have been made unwelcome, too, within city limits. This may be among the reasons the military, nowadays, can forget about recruiting in most urban areas: for the city boys have grown up fey, and show the product of indoctrination, to the effect that war is hard on children and animals.

Truth to tell, there is very little use for an axe, almost anywhere in a modern conurbation. I am unfamiliar with the minutiae, but was told by an interested party that wood-burning stoves are now verboten, not as fire risk but thanks to “air quality standards.” The Smuglies (my short, affectionate term for our ruling class of affectedly nice, self-consciously “progressive” people, who live almost entirely off our tax money) often suffer from asthma, and it appears to be triggered by the sight of anyone smoking a cigarette. The idea of a wood stove threatens them by analogy. Barbecues are still permitted, but only for people in single dwellings with back yards (i.e. above a certain income level).

One does not need an axe for a barbecue, I suppose, unless one has seriously tired of its appearance. Ditto, with other household furniture and appliances. I think of a young Czech friend who was being shown a flat which contained a shoddy built-in “shelving unit,” of an exceptionally painful colour. The landlord said he could re-paint it.

“Why don’t we paint it with an axe,” my friend suggested.

We had only the one modest hatchet up here in the High Doganate, used only once since moving in, and then only the poll, as a mallet. It was a small (15-inch), modestly curved single-bit affair, with a plumpish profile: a good compromise about equally efficient for cutting, splitting, or shaping. Left only with this one tool, a skilled axeman could fell trees and build a log cabin (starting, perhaps, with the sculpting of a longer haft). Our pioneers, in the woods of Canada, were very particular about their axes. Many a Loyal pioneer began as a man of one axe, and it would have become his most valuable possession (after his Bible had been memorized).

Alas, I gave my hatchet as a gift to a friend who was moving upcountry. (I lack prudence and foresight, sometimes.) But more axes are available in the flea markets, much better than I have seen in any chain hardware franchise, and I will obtain another in due course.

Meanwhile, I have retained a fairly manly Chinese cleaver, in forged iron that will hold an edge, that would serve for a hatchet should some sudden need arise.

Promoting intolerance

This morning’s treat: an inbox full of extremely obvious “phishing” try-ons, from something falsely describing itself as the “Gmail Team.” …

I am hardly the first to observe, that if people behaved on the street the way they behave on the Internet, they would be punched — even in Canada, I think, where tolerance for fiendish behaviour has replaced watching hockey on television as our national sport. For Canadians, I have observed, are like Cambodians. And Cameroonians, I might add; to say nothing of Cape Verdeans. You can push us only so far. This is indeed true of the people of all countries beginning with the letter C, right down to Cypriots and Czechs.

Well, it is amazing how far you can push us, before we snap. Every day, in my walks around the Greater Parkdale Area, I acquire new anecdotes. Perhaps my countrymen have forgotten that civilization depends far more on intolerance, than tolerance. Perhaps, now that I think of it, civilization depends entirely on intolerance: on what people are unwilling to put up with. Discomfort, if you will: with the small, the sleazy, the crooked, the cheap, the noisome. A certain willingness to eliminate hucksters. Unwillingness to take “the easy way out.”

Do the good, speak the true, make the beautiful.

Stop tolerating the bad, the false, and the ugly: starting with yourself, and perhaps continuing discreetly with your neighbours. (Eventually, they will stop tolerating you.)

Another item in my inbox this morning is an article by Francis Fukuyama, the dime-store Hegelian. He writes in the Wall Street Journal, as the subhead neatly summarizes, “Twenty-five years after Tiananmen Square and the Berlin Wall’s fall, liberal democracy still has no real competitors.”

It is a quarter century now this gentleman has been backpedalling on his End of History “thesis.” One may make a good living on backpedalling, I have observed. First make your name with an absolutely ridiculous claim; then devote the rest of your adult life to qualifying it. Yet all along, the premiss of the argument could be confuted with the words, “Oh, please.”

Or let me put this another way: “We have enough quantity now. We need more quality.”

And quality does not depend on liberal democracy. It depends on intolerance.

Calendar notes

There is a fine piece of Chinese calligraphic brushwork, rolled in a tube in the corner of a closet, up here in the High Doganate. Or rather, unrolled, on a table, for I took it out this morning to admire it again. It was done by a Chinese engineering student — on exchange to the University of Toronto, at the expense of the Canadian taxpayer. He painted it on the back of an (ancient technology) blueprint sheet, mounted that on cardboard, then fixed it to a stick of bamboo. (The board and stick are long gone.)

It was a placard. My Chinese is a bit rusty, but I trust it still demands, in effect, “Freedom and Democracy for China!” The use of classical instead of Pinyin characters was an effete touch, that pleased me then as now. The elegant brushstrokes made the sheet itself worth keeping.

Twenty-five years have passed since the little man in front of the column of tanks in Peking, and all the other events, in Tiananmen Square, and elsewhere across China. I was thirty-six then, I am sixty-one now; but my desire to overthrow the Communist Politburo is easily rekindled.

It is twenty-five years since I was waving that placard, among my Chinese brothers and sisters, pointlessly in front of the Red Chinese consulate on St George Street; and characteristically struggling with the tones, to chant the slogans. The officials inside were pretending not to be there. They had turned off all lights, and locked the doors and gates. The demonstrators outside, though fairly numerous, were behaving like Canadians, i.e. too polite to put out their windows.

Looking back, over this quarter century, I see that my political views have “evolved.” I cannot use such terms as “freedom” and “democracy” quite so glibly as I could, then. My sympathies have hardly shifted to the Maoist party, however. On the contrary, my disgust may actually have increased, at their success in delivering to China the bourgeois, consumerist non-paradise that has changed everything. The young who were mercilessly gunned down, by their hundreds and probably thousands not only in Peking but in other cities away from Western media, could hardly have realized the cause they were serving: which is to say, inspiring their government to a more cynical exploitation of themselves, and the masses.

Had the Chinese “counter-revolution” prevailed, it is quite possible the result would have been worse for the Chinese people. It is likely that many, many more would have died violently, and perhaps also, starved, as the vast country disintegrated; it is unlikely the transition of power would have been so outwardly smooth as it was throughout the old Soviet Empire.

But here I propose to be rather mysterious. The savage, murderous, evil Maoist “dictatorship of the proletariat” had produced those students, willing to put their lives on the line for what they took to be unambiguously noble ideals. They were courageous young people, grown up entirely under Communism, committed to a cause that was above their own immediate personal interests. As most observers agree, after a quarter century, the young now want a house and a car, and with a better income, a variety of consumer durables still largely beyond their reach.

There are exceptions, to be sure. A small minority have sincerely embraced Christianity, for instance, through the generation since the “events” (i.e. massacres) of 4th June 1989. I am aware, too, of a quite voluntary “back to the land” movement, from young people rejecting the consumerism, and the office and factory regimentation, and the pollution and vileness and spiritual desiccation of those new cities, which seem so gleaming from afar. They have no interest in politics. They stay away from that. They, like the office and factory workers, get as far away from politics as they can.

Another old Chinese friend, an exiled municipal politician from Hong Kong, ran a book store for a while after he washed up in Toronto. It failed, for lack of customers. His interests went beyond politics to Chinese history and culture, and he was a genuinely thoughtful soul. (I’ve lost track of him since his store on Harbord Street closed.) By increments, he had come to the view that “there are no political solutions, to anything.” Freedom might even be, “freedom from politics.” But politics were in his soul, and he could not help (like me, perhaps) trying to devise a “politics of the apolitical.”

His China — the China of his dreams — was revealed under cross-examination. It was the China of the Chiang-nan (“South of the River,” i.e. the Yangtze) — for eight centuries or more the prosperous heart of the civilization, and her artistic and intellectual centre, speaking the gracious Wu dialect, in such beautiful cities as Soochow and Hangchow. The political centre of the empire was invariably elsewhere, usually far to the north and west. That was a natural advantage. It contributed to the atmosphere of freedom, in the Chiang-nan.

That is my China, too. It has nothing to do with “democracy.” It will never have anything to do with that; nor could it ever be restored by any imaginable kind of political action.

The old Soochow, for which I have shed strange tears of nostalgia, was a flower that grew up of its own, because it was not uprooted. Now it has been uprooted. And should anything like it come again, it will have to grow again, from seed.


It was yesterday the 51st anniversary of the death of Saint John XXIII. This is another event I remember personally, though I was just a child of ten. I feel as if I were once again touching the black headline, in the broadsheet newspaper I was then holding. I was gradually taking in what a Pope is, and where he lives — in Rome. I hadn’t devoted any thought to the topic beforehand, but in the course of struggling with an obituary notice, I was beginning to grasp a few straws — of the institution, and of this man, once Angelo Roncalli. (How odd that one’s acquaintance with a man, so often begins on the day of his death.)

A priestlie friend forwarded an item from the “Salt & Light” blog. It quoted the “Daily Decalogue” of this pope. My views on him today are vex’d and complex’d. But rather than trouble gentle reader with these views, let me instead transcribe the same document, in the italics below. For they remind me very much of my beloved Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who seemed to understand everything, and to have about her a serenity that was truly not of this world:


Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.

Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behaviour; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.

Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.

Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.

Only for today, I will devote ten minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.

Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.

Only for today, I will make a plan for myself. I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.

Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.

Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for twelve hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

Supplementary, Mr Speaker

In the Comments thread, beneath the last post, there was a storm forming, with a conservative, Catholic, American Patriot waving Dignitatis Humanae at me (the Vatican II document: go look it up) — in defence of America’s gift to the world, of Church/State separatism. John Courtney Murray, SJ, was the original drafter of that document. (Look him up.) Controversy rages still, over whether it represented a fair development of, or deviation from, previous Catholic teaching on the political order. (Look it up! Look it up!) What I append below is a few disjointed notes from that controversy, carried out of Comments and into email, touching on relations between Church and State.

Gentle reader may make of these items what he will. Should he find them utterly baffling, don’t worry. An agent of the Inquisition will be around shortly, to tell you what to do.


Item, what I found odd, was that Murray went to Rome in the train of Cardinal Spellman, and enjoyed more protection there than he had ever received in USA. The final vote within the Vatican Council for Dignitatis Humanae was so lopsided, that even without reading it I would have assumed that the Fathers had succeeded in excising anything genuinely novel. Pope Benedict’s deep parting remark about Vatican II applies here: the damage would have been done, not by the content of the document, but in its presentation by the “Council of the Media.” Not the thing itself but, as it were, “website comments” on it.

Item, Murray was a Jesuit. I note he was convenor for the first “oecumenical” declaration of “peace, peace” back in 1944.

Item, some priest once said to me, “Jesuits should be turned loose on the pagans, not within the Church.”

Item, Leo XIII did not say that the Church is the State. Though sublimely simple, I’ve noticed this point is lost on many from both sides of the hall. They cannot conceive of it except exclusively in terms of worldly power, and bureaucratized at that. People like my Chief Texas Correspondent cannot be shaken from a vision of the Nanny State (which we both despise) whose capital is merely transferred from the Potomac to the Tiber. The point he won’t get is that the Nanny State is itself an unavoidable by-product of secular democracy, wherein the people vote to appropriate each other’s property, under the inspiration of demagogues. But also, in their fantasy lives, we have Trad Catlicks dreaming like Leninists, of taking everything over and ruling by decree. It is hard to argue with morons.

Item, nor does it follow from anything Pope Leo wrote, or the other popes of the XIXth century, that a Catholic order must persecute non-Catholics. That, perhaps, is what we were trying to clarify in Vatican II — that we’d done a few mean things in the past that we don’t feel especially proud of, even when they were just retaliation. In particular: Christ did not preach forcible conversions.

Item, “Are Non-Theocratic Regimes Possible?” by Rémi Brague. Here we get to the crux of the matter. There will always be a theocratic order, even if it is an “atheocratic” pastiche. The question is not “whether we should have a theocracy or not,” as the progressives say — defining their own atheocratic order falsely as a non-theocratic order, when it is as arbitrary as any theocratic order the world ever endured. Rather: Which theocratic order should it be? (Shariah? Rabbinical, perhaps? Lamaist? Shinto? Lutheran? Calvinist? Marxist? Feminist? Gaian? Catholic?) Truly, we are spoilt for choice, but as the modern consumer can hardly understand, you can’t have everything. You have to choose one, to be morally coherent; or if you choose “none,” … someone else chooses for you.

Item, let me emphasize this point. Should the principles be not those of the ancestral Catholic Christendom — buried beneath our Western feet, yet serviceable still as foundation — then they will be of something else. We hardly got e.g. quickie divorce, or no-questions-asked abortion, or gay marriage for that matter, or soon, no-questions-asked euthanasia for your unwanted granny, because the masses suddenly spontaneously rose up to demand them pronto. We got them because the gods we are currently serving required them; and of course, we got them “democratically,” but only in the sense that the people are made to vote until they deliver what these gods require. … (Good news, incidentally. It turns out these gods may not want polygamy after all, so we won’t have to deliver that at the polling booths.)

Item, therefore what I modestly propose is only that a Christian order supplant the current Satanic one. And, Catholic Christian, I was thinking: not some other kind, replete with heresies or, if you prefer, “inconsistencies.”

Item, now, getting back to that American Revolution (or, First Civil War, as I think of it). … For your information, my Loyal ancestors understood all this above, right up to the Catholic part, which, I must admit, they flubbed. There was an established church in most of the Thirteen Colonies, though it was not the same one in all. American federalism required a “workaround” for this sectarian issue, since the probability of reaching agreement on which should be the established church for the whole New Republic was nil. It is an angle from which the issue is seldom assessed; especially by Protestants, to my mind. And this because it perfectly illustrates how easily sectarianism lapses into godless vacuumism — for from a choice among vexatious somethings, we go to a default nothing, which were the devil’s choice.

Item, to be almost unnaturally fair, we wound up with the same thing (i.e. nothing) up here in the Great White North, where, to start, Lower Canada was effectively a Catholic jurisdiction; and Upper Canada a Protestant jurisdiction — but under conditions of Loyalist flight, ridiculously subdivided township by township among the various Protestant factions, with clergy reserves all round.

Item, it was generally assumed, at one point in history, that Jesus Christ had founded only one Church. It took fifteen centuries (in the West) for this point to become controversial.