The Power of Appointment

If you don’t have Wood’s “Creation of the American Republic” in your library, I highly recommend you pick up a copy. It has been invaluable to me for putting into context so much of what was happening throughout the British colonies at the time of the revolution – many of the forces at work being identical in Nova Scotia, though perhaps in different proportions of Whig to Tory, dissident to loyalist.

This passage on the Power of appointment still holds true today, perhaps more so than ever before, with so many of the political positions in Canada existing as the appointments of a completely irresponsible executive, the Prime Minister.

A Prime Minister who appoints “all the ministers and parliamentary secretaries, the deputy ministers, senators, the head of state (the Governor General), the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the head of the armed forces, the heads of all crown corporations (including the chair and president of the arms-length Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), the information commissioner, the privacy commissioner, the official languages commissioner, even the ethics counsellor, who is responsible not to Parliament but to the prime minister. The prime minister does not just nominate these people; he appoints them without anyone or any institution able to reject his selection.”

Not to mention the Lieutenant Governor (who in Nova Scotia’s case, along with the House of Assembly, has taken the place of exercising the powers of what used to be our Senate, the legislative council, since dissolved by fiat) who is appointed by the Canadian Governor General, along with the judges that sit on Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court (a controlling number typically appointed by the Federal Government from places outside of Nova Scotia and unfamiliar with Nova Scotia law, by design, since their role is to impose Central Canadian legal hegemony, not to respect the jurisdiction to which they are installed), among other central roles and positions purposefully taken out of Nova Scotian control.

“An Act Abolishing the Legislative Council and Amending the Constitution of the Province” https://0-nsleg–

Speaking of irresponsible executives, the same can be said for the Premier of Nova Scotia within the Nova Scotian context. “A Namierite interpretation of” Canadian politics, “reduced to a pyramidal geometric progression”, would show something of a similar nature as to what you’ll read below, I’m sure.

The “half-dozen supporters around him, “accomplices of his cruelty,” being the Premier or Prime Minister’s cabinet, whipped party members making up the next level of hundreds tied to the cabinet, below that, “scattered the instruments of their avarice and cruelty – 6,000, who fed on the people and lived under the shadow and protection of their superiors”, being the various crown corporations and their hierarchies of corrupt interests, who exist to support their “betters”, not those below them or who are forced to rely on their effective monopolies.

A truly eye-opening piece, even if it seems somewhat reminiscent to the genesis of this GIF:

Conspiracy, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

Conspiracy, conspiracy theorist, both are used as a slur and as a rhetorical strategy to discount whatever “conspiracy” might be theorized, but of course “conspiracy” is nothing more than an agreement to perform a subversive act by a group of conspirators.

In the case of a corrupt hierarchical structure, like “Canada” as an entity, its operation as an effective conspiracy doesn’t require the knowledge or the consent of those who play a part in its continuance, but the label is often enough to discount the good faith criticisms of those attempting to analyze the structure within. The founders faced similar criticisms, indeed Ben Franklin learned the hard way with his treatment during the Hutchinson affair.

It was that Franklin and his little coterie in Boston were conspiring to subvert the allegiance of the king’s subjects and destroy the peace of the province. This conspiratorial interpretation of politics was widespread not only in America, where grievances were blamed on self-serving officials like Hutchinson and on evil counselors who had the King’s ear, but also and to an equal degree in Britain. Lord Bute had been and still was assailed for conspiring against the constitution, and the King had recently imputed protests from Massachusetts to “the Artifices of a few who seek to create groundless Jealousy and Distrust.

Wood’s “The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin” provides an excellent account of his becoming a Patriot, after his many previous efforts to save the empire went unheeded.

Nothing impressed the radical Whig mind more than the subtle means by which modern societies were enslaved by their rulers. “He who has the giving of all places in government, will always be master, even if the constitution were in all other respects the best in the world”

The weeds of tyranny flourished because they were able to sink their roots deep into the community, spreading corruption throughout the entire society by the clever distribution of places and positions so that “A great chain of political self interest was at length formed, it extended from the lowest cobler in a borough, to the King’s first minister.” Although “the wings of prerogative have been clipt, the influence of the crown is greater than it ever was in any period of our history.”

By exploiting its existence as the fountain of honors, offices and privileges, the English Crown had been able to evade the restrictions the 1688 Revolution had placed on the royal prerogatives and had “contributed every art to debauch and enervate the minds of all ranks of men”. That the Crown, wrote Thomas Paine in Common Sense, “derives its whole consequence merely from being the giver of places and pensions is self-evident.”

For David Hume this pervasive influence of the Crown, whether or not called “by the invidious appellations of corruption and dependence,” was a necessity if the Crown was to carry out its responsibility for governing the realm. Without the prerogative of conferring honors and privileges, wrote William Blackstone, the eighteenth century Crown would soon have been overborne by the power of people.

This, said Blackstone, had “given rise to such a multitude of new officers, created and removable at royal pleasure, that they have extended the influence of government to every corner of the nation. Most Englishmen by the mid-eighteenth century realized that this bestowal of favors and offices was the dynamo that converted royal energy into effective, although subtle, governmental power. Only through the organization and manipulation of a vast system of “influence,” used to control elections and pressure members of Parliament, could the Crown’s ministers create and maintain any government at all.

“It is become an established maxim” wrote Catharine Macaulay disgustedly in her History of England, “that corruption is a necessary engine of government.” It was against the seemingly arbitrary and unjust attempts by the British Crown to arrange their political and social order, by “depressing the most virtuous and exalting the most profligate” that the American Whigs were at heart protesting.

The authority that stemmed from the King seemed to form a vast network of connections extending to the royal governors, and ramifying them into almost every part of American society. By the governors’ shameless exploitation of the royal prerogative of conferring offices and dignities “a secret poison has been spread thro’out all our Towns and great Multitudes have been secured for the corrupt Designs of an abandoned administration.” Men who drank of “this baneful poison” were enthralled by the ruling hierarchy and lost their concern for their country. In no colony, it seemed, had the royal designs been more perfected than in Massachusetts.

Americans watched “with amazement, a numerous and powerful party, formed under the direction of a governor, born and educated among us, laboring and exerting every nerve to subjugate this country to the most abject slavery, to a foreign power.” Not only had Thomas Hutchinson grasped the most important offices into his own hands, but his numerous relatives and hirelings had been placed in strategic positions throughout the community-all so connected and interrelated that it could only be a gigantic pattern of conspiracy.

For John Adams it was only “the character and conduct of Hutchinson and his vast machine that have been the cause of laying a foundation … of perpetual struggles of one party for wealth and power at the expense of the liberties of this country and of perpetual contention and opposition in the other party to preserve them.” “Is not this amazing ascendancy of one family,” asked Adams, “Foundation sufficient on which to erect a Tyranny.”

Tyrants, American realized, did not need to control everyone; they needed to corrupt only a few who in their turn “have overawed the rest.” And for the smallest trifle – “for a yard of ribband, or for the sake of wearing any big of finery at his tail” – a man could be influenced. Men, it seemed, would sell their liberty “for any little distinction in title or name”. As one Whig viewed the structure of politics it seemed that only one man in a hundred was needed to keep the rest in sway.

In a remarkable analysis – a Namierite interpretation of politics reduced to a pyramidal geometric progression – the writer attempted to make clear what had happened in England, what had been attempted in the several colonies, how, in short, a modern tyrant subjugated his people. The ruler, he pointed out, had always a half-dozen supporters around him, “accomplices of his cruelty,” who in turn each had a hundred connections – six hundred plunderers, bound to the six as the six were to the tyrant. They filled the key posts of the government and formed “the social bond that holds the country together in the tyrant’s sway.” Under the 600 were scattered the instruments of their avarice and cruelty – 6,000, who fed on the people and lived under the shadow and protection of their superiors. The entire structure was held together by the strongest kinds of links and permeated into the whole society.

Wood, Gordon S. The Creation of the American Republic : 1776-1787. Chapel Hill, Univ. Of North Carolina Press, [20]07.