Tenant vs. supporter

 
Joseph McMillan
 
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Joseph McMillan
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03 July 2008 07:00
 

Fred White;60138 wrote:

I find it paradoxical that you would contend that what the knights thought is not pertinent, but that what the commoners thought they were doing is,


Because your argument is that by using arms a commoner (person A) was pursuing an agenda. The views of person B (the noble) about person A’s actions tell us nothing about person A’s motives.


Quote:

because your whole objection to Americans’ assuming supporters turns on anxiety about offending people whose entitlement to supporters is simply better established.


If you think that, you’ve missed my entire point. I object on principle to people using heraldry to portray themselves as something they’re not. I also think the tendency of some in the heraldic community to use arms to give themselves airs hurts the cause of heraldry within the United States. But I don’t believe for one moment that Freiherr von Weissnichtwo, the Marquis de Carabbas, or the Conde de Plazatoros give a damn whether someone in the US uses supporters, nor do I give a damn if it offends them to the soul if someone does.


Quote:

In any case, you have not convincingly rebutted my contention that what knights thought when burghers and peasants started bearing arms is a better indication of whether or not it was viewed as revolutionary, distasteful, etc., than what jurists thought once burgher and peasant arms were a fait accompli. Moreover, it is incumbent upon you to rebut this if you want to convince anyone paying attention that my argument has fallen apart.


It isn’t incumbent on me to prove anything. You’re the one who adduced the argument; you prove it. And then prove that it’s apposite to the discussion at hand.


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The first of a noble line was typically someone who demonstrated great virtue ... etc.


What mythical golden age are you talking about?

 
kimon
 
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kimon
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03 July 2008 08:07
 

Stephen R. Hickman;60136 wrote:

There is a flaw in your logic.  Certain parts of heraldry aren’t reserved for foreigners, in effect or otherwise.  They are reserved for nobility and royalty.  It’s just like certain parts of a grocery store parking lot.  They aren’t reserved for multi-millionaires, but they are reserved for the handicapped.  Yes, there is a difference between multi-millionaires and the handicapped, even though some of each don’t see it!  wink


I believe a better analogy to what Stephen (Deer Sniper) said is:

"It’s like a grocery store having certain parts of its own parking lot reserved for the pet store across the street"

 
Joseph McMillan
 
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Joseph McMillan
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03 July 2008 09:17
 

Could I try to reframe this discussion for a moment?

Let us start from the premise that heraldry should be governed by rules of some kind.  I don’t mean legal rules, I mean etiquette-like rules, rules of good practice.  If we don’t agree on this, discussion is pointless.

 

If we agree that there should be rules, then should one of the rules address the use of supporters?  It seems to me that the key here is determining whether supporters have significance or not.

 

If supporters have no significance, then there is no reason to have a rule concerning them.  If they do, then it makes sense to have a rule allowing them in cases where what they signify pertains, and disallowing them in cases where it doesn’t.

 

How are we to decide whether the use of supporters with personal arms in the United States has significance or not and, if so, what that significance is?  In countries where heraldry is regulated, this is a relatively straightforward question; less straightforward where it was once regulated but no longer is; still less so in the US, where it has never been regulated.  The lack of authoritative regulation on the matter in the US leaves us, it seems to me, with four possible approaches to answering this question.

 

1) Is there a consensus on the point among American heraldic scholars?

2) What is the actual historic practice in America?

3) Is there what someone in this group once called a "logical common denominator" in heraldic practice across different national heraldic traditions?

4) Is there a particular non-US tradition that should be emulated?

 

I believe the answer to #1 is "yes," and it is that supporters should be eschewed, BUT this answer is based on the tacit premise that the answer to #4 is also "yes," and that the tradition we should follow is the English.  I don’t think this is sufficient.

 

From what I can tell, the answer to #2 is that the use of personal supporters in the US is historically exceedingly rare.  I haven’t conducted a systematic study of the relatively few cases where I’ve found supporters mentioned in US armorials or depicted on seals, bookplates, etc., but my inchoate impression is that more often than not they have been associated with usurped arms of British peers bearing the same surname as the American using the arms.

 

As I’ve made clear, I think the answer to #3 is "yes," there is a logical common denominator, and it is that the use of supporters is, as a generalization, associated with the nobility and is widely understood as such.

 

I think the answer to #4 is "no," we should not emulate the practice of a single foreign system, but for those who think we should, which country and why?

 

Now, if I understand correctly, David’s position is that supporters do in fact have significance in other societies, but that this significance (as a marker of nobiliary/knightly status) ought to be irrelevant in a society where such status does not exist.  He therefore advocates wider use of supporters by Americans, so as to underscore their irrelevance.

 

I thought this was also Fred’s position, but now I read him as straddling two positions.  First, he questions the existence of a transnational consensus that supporters have any significance at all.  Logically, that would imply that, absent any US-specific rule on the matter, any American armiger may use supporters as he wishes.  However, he now appears to contend that the use of supporters is justified for some Americans because their achievements (or wealth, or social standing) make them the equivalent of people who are allowed supporters in countries where supporters are regulated, like Canada.  This would mean that he accepts the principle that supporters do have significance.

 

Unless the purpose of this discussion is merely to score debating points back and forth, would it be possible for the parties to declare themselves on the key issue highlighted in boldface above:  does the use of supporters have significance, or does it not?

 
Sandy Turnbull
 
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Sandy Turnbull
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03 July 2008 10:27
 

David Pritchard;60134 wrote:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deer Sniper

But in the U.S., why should we say that any part of U.S. heraldry is reserved ( in effect ) only for foreigners?


Stop it! Stop it right now! If you are going to continue to make sensible statements you will force the rest of us to follow your example!

 

(I agree with your statement totally)

Stop it! Stop it right now! If you are going to continue to make sensible statements you will force the rest of us to follow your example!

 

(I agree with your statement totally)


And yet you will deny a US Citizen Purpure doubled Ermine. On which side of the fence are you sitting?

 
Doug Welsh
 
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Doug Welsh
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03 July 2008 10:36
 

It strikes me as very clear, that the USA DOES IN FACT have a "nobiliary class".  Presidents Past and Present.  US Senators Past and Present.  State Governors Past and Present.  Even State Lieutenant Governors Past and Present.  General Officers and Admirals of the various Armed Services (including for this purpose the Coast Guard) both active and retired.  I think, in general, these people should certainly qualify for "supporters", by the pair, to be clear.  But also clearly, "supporters" should not be heritable in the US.

In my view, though, Members of the House of Representatives Past and Present, as the "Commons" or "Lower House" in Parliamentary language, would not be included in that "nobiliary class" "entitled" to "supporters".

 

"Supporters", whatever their origin in heraldry, under whichever national system or standards elsewhere, are generally understood in the English-speaking world to be the appurtenances of significant, successful, and/or powerful people who have served their countries, whether in the selfless acts of their ancestors who earned the first "supporters", or in the service of the current crop of men and women who have earned the accolades of "The People".

 

It is only opinion, and offered from an outsider who is in the slow process of being Americanized by my California-born wife and Texas-domiciled sons.  What do I know.

 
David Pritchard
 
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David Pritchard
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03 July 2008 11:21
 

Charles E. Drake;60137 wrote:

I had a look at European Nobility and Heraldry by J. H. Pinches with regard to the use of supporters. Russia–unrestricted


Prior to the year 1917, the use of supporters within the Russian Empire was limited to the titled nobility and to untitled noble families with proven nobility prior to the year 1685. Since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, supporters have been widely assumed though many Russian heraldic purists find this quite objectionable.

 
Wilfred Leblanc
 
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03 July 2008 11:26
 

Joseph McMillan;60143 wrote:

Because your argument is that by using arms a commoner (person A) was pursuing an agenda. The views of person B (the noble) about person A’s actions tell us nothing about person A’s motives.


My argument is that person A’s use of arms was socially consequential, so the views of person B tell us a great deal, actually.

 


Joseph McMillan;60143 wrote:

If you think that, you’ve missed my entire point.


I don’t believe I have.


Joseph McMillan;60143 wrote:

I object on principle to people using heraldry to portray themselves as something they’re not. I also think the tendency of some in the heraldic community to use arms to give themselves airs hurts the cause of heraldry within the United States. But I don’t believe for one moment that Freiherr von Weissnichtwo, the Marquis de Carabbas, or the Conde de Plazatoros give a damn whether someone in the US uses supporters, nor do I give a damn if it offends them to the soul if someone does.


There is a double standard at play in your analysis, as the boldfaced phrases show.


Joseph McMillan;60143 wrote:

It isn’t incumbent on me to prove anything.


I beg to differ.


Joseph McMillan;60143 wrote:

What mythical golden age are you talking about?


Are you suggesting there is no historical reality to support the assertion that ennoblement has typically derived from achievements (as well—of course—as favors to bastard children, promotions from existing to higher ranks, etc.)? Or are you questioning whether the achievements were the outcome of virtues that nobles’ legatees are prone to deride as bourgeois?

 
Hugh Brady
 
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Hugh Brady
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03 July 2008 11:55
 

Regarding the comments on an elite or "nobiliary class" in America, I offer the following by George Will from my morning paper:

"Writing shortly before his death, Jefferson affirmed his belief that ‘the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.’ Those words were as stirring then as they had been when one of Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers declared from the scaffold, ‘I never could believe that Providence had sent a few men into the world, ready booted and spurred to ride, and millions ready saddled and bridled to be ridden.’"

 
Wilfred Leblanc
 
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Wilfred Leblanc
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03 July 2008 11:58
 

Joseph McMillan;60146 wrote:

Let us start from the premise that heraldry should be governed by rules of some kind.  I don’t mean legal rules, I mean etiquette-like rules, rules of good practice.  If we don’t agree on this, discussion is pointless.


What would make the discussion pointless is failure to agree that heraldry is inherently dynamic (like any language or other system of signs) and subject to change. What we clearly don’t agree on is whether or not assumption of supporters violates a clear transnational and consistent historical consensus on what the rules of good practice are. Neither do we agree on when it is appropriate to introduce or accept modifications to the lexis and grammar of heraldry.


Joseph McMillan;60146 wrote:

If we agree that there should be rules, then should one of the rules address the use of supporters?  It seems to me that the key here is determining whether supporters have significance or not.


No, the key here is determining whether or not supporters have consistent and inflexible significance. It has not been determined that they do.

 
Wilfred Leblanc
 
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03 July 2008 12:11
 

Hugh Brady;60153 wrote:

Regarding the comments on an elite or "nobiliary class" in America, I offer the following by George Will from my morning paper:

"Writing shortly before his death, Jefferson affirmed his belief that ‘the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.’ Those words were as stirring then as they had been when one of Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers declared from the scaffold, ‘I never could believe that Providence had sent a few men into the world, ready booted and spurred to ride, and millions ready saddled and bridled to be ridden.’"


A rousing quotation, but it might be helpful to bear in mind that (as Joseph M.‘s research reveals) Jefferson ultimately rejected not only the perpetuation of traditional elites, but the use of heraldry, opting instead for a monogram with motto, presumably on the grounds that the latter was more expressive of the republican simplicity the AHS professes to embrace.

 
Charles E. Drake
 
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Charles E. Drake
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03 July 2008 12:54
 

Joseph McMillan;60146 wrote:

Could I try to reframe this discussion for a moment?

If we agree that there should be rules, then should one of the rules address the use of supporters?  It seems to me that the key here is determining whether supporters have significance or not.


But even this is not as simple as it looks. Supporters have no legal meaning here.  However, I think they do have a connotative meaning, which is that they signify nobiliary status. However, the question is, should they?

 

Coats-of-arms also have no legal meaning here, but they too connote nobility to the general public. I recently had a discussion with someone and the idea of paying for a grant of arms came up.  Another who partially overheard quipped, "Oh, you can’t buy a coat-of-arms." The perception being that arms could only be inherited from some aristocratic forebear.

 

If one is be undaunted by the connotative meaning in the case of arms in general, and yet daunted by it in the case of supporters, thus avoiding them, one does become vulnerable to the charge of inconsistency (as Fred as implied).

 

However, to be daunted by the connotative meaning for arms, in general, would result in there being little, if any, American armoury.

 

Therefore, I do not think the question of the connotative meaning of supporters is a sustainable argument.

 

In determining practice, we cannot take the lowest common denominator, for this would mean eschewing timbred shields, and this would make our heraldry meaner in comparison to much of the world, and needlessly restrictive.

 

However, to embrace freely assumable supporters would be a form of heraldic radicalism difficult to justify in the absence of a legislative basis for doing so. To do so might feel good in the insular context of a forum such as this, but it would be a tough sale in the international heraldic community.

 

Ultimately, it seems to me that all that is left is a "logical common denominator," meaning an heraldic practice that is a sort of compromise. This is a practice somewhere between the two extremes of the least and the most. This reminds me of the words of St. Paul:  "all things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient."

 

/Charles

 
Wilfred Leblanc
 
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Wilfred Leblanc
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03 July 2008 12:56
 

Well put, Charles.

 
Joseph McMillan
 
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Joseph McMillan
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03 July 2008 13:19
 

Fred White;60157 wrote:

it might be helpful to bear in mind that (as Joseph M.‘s research reveals) Jefferson ultimately rejected not only the perpetuation of traditional elites, but the use of heraldry, opting instead for a monogram with motto, presumably on the grounds that the latter was more expressive of the republican simplicity the AHS professes to embrace.


Not for nothing was Joseph Ellis’s biography of Jefferson entitled American Sphinx.  I would hesitate to guess at Jefferson’s motives for giving up the use of his arms, since in all his voluminous writings he didn’t explain them, and he was not, in my estimation, a man whose theoretical principles could necessarily be deduced from his personal life.

 

We do know that John Adams had the arms on his carriage painted out for practical political reasons, not as a matter of principle.  We know this because he wrote a letter saying so.  Jefferson may have abandoned the use of his heraldic seal for the same reason.

 

In any case, since he was a man given to expressing his views on everything from dinner table etiquette to plant morphology, it is reasonable to surmise from his silence on the question of heraldry that his views on the matter, if any, weren’t held with any great passion.

 

(It will be obvious that I am not a big admirer of Jefferson’s.)

 
David Pritchard
 
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03 July 2008 13:25
 

Joseph McMillan;60146 wrote:

Now, if I understand correctly, David’s position is that supporters do in fact have significance in other societies, but that this significance (as a marker of nobiliary/knightly status) ought to be irrelevant in a society where such status does not exist.  He therefore advocates wider use of supporters by Americans, so as to underscore their irrelevance.


You have correctly described my views on the matter however, there is one other option for American personal heraldry in my mind, that being to disavow everything heraldic outside of the escutcheon to underscore the legal uniformity of our society and to signify the rejection of any symbol that could imply of foreign noble or knightly status or aspirations of such status.

 
Joseph McMillan
 
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Joseph McMillan
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03 July 2008 13:27
 

Charles E. Drake;60159 wrote:

Ultimately, it seems to me that all that is left is a "logical common denominator," meaning an heraldic practice that is a sort of compromise. This is a practice somewhere between the two extremes of the least and the most. This reminds me of the words of St. Paul: "all things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient."


This is what I’ve been trying less articulately to say. This is one of my favorite passages from Paul, but I never think to trot it out until it’s too late.  I have never argued that we are bound by what is done in any other country, but that in an unregulated environment we are prudent to base our practices on the logical common denominator model.

 

(I would add that the misconceptions of the heraldically illiterate about the nature of arms concern me from the educational point of view, but not otherwise.)

 

Since Fred seems to have expressed agreement with Charles as well, I have nothing more to add.

 

Happy Independence Day, and everyone be sure to drink a glass of Madeira to the memory of that intermittent armiger Thomas Jefferson.