Friday, 25 February 2011

1688 Not 1968

All revolutions are not the same. Our revolution of 1688 bears no relation to 1789; 1848 no link to 1968. English revolutions are curious things, and generally corrective in restoring our old rights and privileges rather than overthrowing the existing order. Thus 1688 looked back to Magna Carta, and the Chartist movement sought to bring the laws of the Realm back in line with the intentions of the Act of 1689. As Burke wrote:
...that the foundations laid down by the Commons, on the trial of Doctor Sacheverel, for justifying the revolution of 1688, are the very same laid down in Mr. Burke's Reflections; that is to say,—a breach of the original contract, implied and expressed in the constitution of this country, as a scheme of government fundamentally and inviolably fixed in King, Lords and Commons.—That the fundamental subversion of this antient constitution, by one of its parts, having been attempted, and in effect accomplished, justified the Revolution. That it was justified only upon the necessity of the case; as the only means left for the recovery of that antient constitution, formed by the original contract of the British state; as well as for the future preservation of the same government. These are the points to be proved.
Thus it is only a threat to the absolute sovereignty of the Queen in Parliament, a threat so grievous that it imperils the rights secured from Magna Carta to Universal Suffrage, that even justifies thoughts that otherwise would be seditious. And as a reminder that we still haven't quite achieved the goals of 1848, when the Charter called for:
  1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for crime.
  2. The secret ballot. - To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
  3. No property qualification for members of Parliament - thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
  4. Payment of members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the Country.
  5. Equal Constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of large ones.
  6. Annual parliaments, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since though a constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelve-month; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.
It's extraordinary that Labour should still be fighting against number 5, fighting to preserve the corruption and anti-democratic distortion of Rotten Seats some 210 years after the British people judged them foul. 

5 comments:

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Interesting.

So revolution was deemed justified as "...the only means left for the recovery of that antient (sic) constitution, formed by the original contract of the British state..."

It appears, therefore, that revolution is lawfully justified in order to get us out of the EU and remove the unaccountable and unelected influence of the ECHR.

Bring it on!

Anonymous said...

Why is the original constitution special? And isn't democracy at the root of our current problem?

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Anon 1139: The original constitution has to be special otherwise it's not really a constitution, imho. There has to be a starting point and it has to be something a bit stronger than just the passing Acts of passing parliaments. For one thing, if anything in the constitution can be abolished or bypassed "just like that", then where's your protection against the over-mighty State? (Or Supra-State, one could add)

As for democracy, if by that you mean "lack of democracy" then I'm with you.

Elby the Beserk said...

"It's extraordinary that Labour should still be fighting against number 5"

No it's not, it's exactly what I would expect of them; when did they last put country before party? Not, I think, in my lifetime.

One also wonders why we need a new Bill of Rights when we already have one? Will the new one supersede the existing one? And why do they bother, given that the EU now run the show?

Anonymous said...

No. 4 "Payment of members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the Country."

This rather implies that politicians should be amateurs not the professionals we have now. How many of the present lot have experience of the real world rather than coming straight from university with a political science degree?