of power going to the head. What all irresponsible authoritynfears is honest merit, the proud aristocrat, the uncompromisingnintellectual, the statesman who cannot be bought. Suchnmen are dangerous and must either be eliminated in purgesnor else be forced to endure the constant humiliation ofnseeing their dependents liberated and set above them.nAmong the many ironies of intellectual history is thenassociation of the term “patriarchy” with political absolutism.nThis is largely due to the influence of Sir RobertnFilmer, the author of Patriarca, a work that defended thenroyal prerogatives of Charles I against the rights of Parliamentnor people or even law. While much of Kilmer’snreasoning is inextricably bound to the circumstances andnquarrels of his own time, there is a core of insight that retainsnits vitality, now that the fruit of monarchy is withered andnrotted. What Filmer realized — and so few political thinkersnsince have grasped — is that the authority of governmentncan never be based on consent alone, because consentnalways comes down to voting majorities which will assumenthe right to do exactly as they please with minorities.nSuch assumption of power, whether it comes from andespot or a democracy, can never be legitimate, and evennthough Filmer went to extreme lengths in defending thenroyal prerogative, Charles I went to his death insisting that,nas a defender of his own and the people’s traditionalnliberties, he was “a martyr of the people.” ComparingnCharles’ record of petty oppressions with the vast tyranny ofnCromwell, it is hard to escape the conclusion that he wasntelling the truth. This is not to say that monarchy is a betternform of government than a republic or a democracy,nbecause political systems cannot be compared in the abstract.nMost people were freer, in their private life at least, innmonarchical England than they were in the oligarchicnrepublic of Venice, and in many ways, our ancestors whonfought to liberate themselves from the yoke of a half-madnking and a venal Parliament were already freer than we theirndescendants will ever be.nAmericans did not achieve their liberties either bynfighting a revolution or by making a constitution. Theynwrested it from an unfamiliar land and under strange skies,nminding their own affairs in their own households, cooperatingnfreely with their neighbors, and settling their ownnproblems with littie recourse to soldiery, constabulary, ornjudiciary. The kinfolk of Sir Robert Filmer who settied innVirginia did not transmit Sir Robert’s regard for royalnauthority; however, they did bring with them that countryngentleman’s independence and self-reliance, and it is nonirony that the great patriarchalist’s blood flowed in the veinsnof many Virginians who led the American fight for independence.nThe democratic habits of self-reliance and cooperationn(but not communalism) were handed down from onengeneration of farmers and independent tradesmen to another.nThey also infected the Cermans, Scandinavians, andnother settlers of the frontier. I sometimes wonder if the realnconflict in America is not so much between old stock andnnew stock as between the people whose families braved thenwilderness and busted the sod and those whose ancestorsnclung to the safe apron-fringe of the continent and nevernsank roots into the soil of America. I know that I have morenin common with a Finlander working a dairy farm near LakenSuperior than I do with an English-born banker in NewnYork. Individuals are forgetful, but families have memories.nWhat else explains the peculiarly American philosophy ofnJosiah Royce, with its concern both for individualism and fornlocal community and provincialism? I was never able tonappreciate Royce until I looked into his mother Sarah’snaccount of her experiences as a pioneer.nIf you really want to understand America as it once wasnand might, impossibly, be again, go visit, sometime, the litdentowns of Missouri and Wisconsin. Get off the interstate andndrive, as we did last summer, to De Smet, South Dakota, antown named in honor of the heroic Belgian Jesuit whonmissionized the Plains Indians. There you will find thensimple relics of the Ingalls family, whose period of residencenthere Laura in later years referred to as “these happy goldennyears.” Consider the lives of these decent plain folk whonspent their life in labor without asking or expecting anythingnfrom government, and you will begin to understand whynRose Wilder turned to anarchism as the only sensiblenresponse to the mess we have allowed our masters to makenof this country.
nMusselsnby William M. GalbraithnThere were those times the sea sighed down.nThe rocks were thickly blossomed and shonenstill wet with the clones of clustered shellsnrooted with hairy feet and full of smellsnof deep-krilled brine and brined flesh.nThe sea-salt stir . . . There was the thresh,nthe surge, the scurry, the mouths, the frilled spermnthat flustered out, a wash of amazing worm —na spew of toothy children, voyagersnthat early once, that ride the tide’s coursenas if intention caught a minnow’s tailnand rode it home, part of the vast exhalenof that astonishing womb. The serried ranksnstood shoulder tight along the ocean’s banks.nYou’d think so many could be heard, the clicknof opening and closing, the soft sucknof their breathing; or could they cry the knifenthat prized them up, a peari-crusted life,nto bait another, dangled on the green wave . . .nThe singleness of death . . . Enormousness can saventhe hurt of that torn valve and the yawnnof fishes’ mouths eat small of such a spawn.nnnOCTOBER 1990/15n