320 Years of Freedom

The Glorious Revolution is as relevant today in Australia, and in the wider world, as it was in England in 1688. It is arguably the most significant single advance in the provision of good government that the world has ever seen. This has been overshadowed by concentrating on its quite peripheral impact on the divisions among Christians. But the Calvinist Prince of Orange who became William III was driven by his fear of absolutist French hegemony over Europe, not by worries about Catholicism, whose leader, the Pope, was his temporal ally.

The freedoms ensured and the benefits gained from the Glorious Revolution far exceed anything gained from any other single event, including the mistakenly more celebrated French Revolution. The Reign of Terror in the French Revolution was bad enough; but the loss of life from the resulting years of war which ended only in 1815 compares with the First World War, and that with a smaller population. The other great so-called revolution, the Russian, was more a coup d’état by the Bolsheviks, with equally disastrous imitations in Europe and Asia which led to the death of about 100 million people. The American Revolution was derivative and confirmatory of the Glorious Revolution.

The Glorious Revolution was in many ways England’s great gift to the world. It established those fundamental principles of good governance which best allow man to achieve and to exercise his fundamental rights. It is of particular significance not only in the constitutional development of Britain and the Commonwealth, but also the United States. This was recognised eloquently by the Founding Fathers of the United States when, believing that their rights as Englishmen were being denied, they declared that: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Indeed, the American authority on global affairs Walter Russell Mead writes that “the Americans justified their overthrow of George III with the same arguments the English used to justify their overthrow of James II”.

The influence of the Glorious Revolution is not limited to the particular US model of government. Every year for the past two decades the United Nations has, in its Human Development index, measured nations according to the life expectancy, wealth and education of their people. In every year, the form of government of all of the leading nations, with the exception of Switzerland, derives from those principles established long ago in the Glorious Revolution. In most cases the form of government is based on the subsequent evolution of that model in Britain which came after the American Revolution. And as Mead observes, since the Glorious Revolution, the Anglo-Americans have been on the winning side in every major international conflict.

This indicates some advantage in the Anglo-Saxon system of governance. There is no evidence that this has anything to with race, but rather it is to do with the endorsement of what we may call political culture. Mead makes the point that not only is the United States a nation of immigrants, but so was England even at the time of the Glorious Revolution. This augurs well for the current massive immigration into the Anglo-Saxon countries. Good sense will make most realise that the system they have come to works and works well—the great majority will have little inclination to change it.

It is important to stress that the great advantages of the Glorious Revolution were not the result of some philosopher sitting down and designing them. That was what directed the French and Bolshevik revolutions, near-crazed men designing schemes to save the world that came close to ruining it. The style of the Anglo-Saxon is pragmatic; the style of the major continental powers has hitherto been more theoretical.

The wisdom of the Anglo-Saxons has been in allowing institutions to evolve gradually over time and through trial and error. By way of contrast to continental thought, I would refer to the story of the French énarque who, when the benefits of something we are familiar with were shown to him, said: “Yes, it may well work in practice, but does it work in theory?”


The Glorious Revolution began with an invitation to invade England made to Prince William of Orange by certain leading Englishmen who were outraged by what they saw as the unconstitutional acts of James II. William was not a stranger to England; he was married to James’s daughter, Mary. When William did invade, setting foot in England exactly 320 years ago, on November 5, 1688, support for James dissipated and James fled to France.

The Glorious Revolution involved William calling together a Convention Parliament, which eventually invited him and Mary to take the throne but on certain conditions which would limit his powers. This was the beginning of the English and then the British constitutional monarchy, which gave the British  a country which was among the freest in the world.

This is in no way an argument that the English, the British, or the English-speaking peoples were or are endowed with any superior intellect. It was that a Dutch prince was prepared to accept the conditions under which he and his wife might have the throne of England and that thereafter, those in power were prepared to allow the constitutional system to develop by trial and error.

This was to have momentous consequences. David S. Landes (in The Wealth and Poverty of Nations) says that the pre-eminence that Britain enjoyed in the industrial revolution resulted from the fact that the British people had “elbow room”. Far from perfect, by comparison with most communities across the Channel, the British were free and fortunate.

Britain, writes Landes, was soon a precociously modern industrial nation. He believes that the salient feature of a successful society is the ability to adapt to new things and ways. And one key area of change was the increasing freedom and security of the people. Yet, he says, the British still call themselves subjects of the Crown, while they have longer than anyone else been citizens. This was due, as Thomas Babington Macaulay was to put it, to an “auspicious union of freedom and power”. That freedom was taken to the colonies. Before the War of Independence, the American colonies were the freest the world had yet seen.

What was achieved—a great governmental, military, financial and diplomatic revolution—was in many respects unintended and the benefits took some time to become apparent.

King William III was not, as is frequently assumed today, principally driven by a concern for Protestantism. He was instead driven by the need to oppose what he saw as the hegemonic tyrant French King Louis XIV, and the need to ensure England never allied itself with France. His was a correct assessment of the ambitions of Louis XIV, who showed himself as ambitious for European domination as Napoleon would, and later Kaiser Wilhelm, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.

William did not come to England as a despot. He was long accustomed to the complex negotiations necessary as stadholder of the United Provinces where high taxation and a huge military establishment were seen as necessary to protect their liberties and were approved by vote in representative assemblies.

It would be wrong to assume that the Glorious Revolution introduced democracy, at least as we know it. Nor for that matter did the American Revolution. The suffrage in England and Scotland was limited, with the aristocracy and the sovereign enjoying special rights. But even as sovereign, William never enjoyed the rights over other Britons which many of the American Founding Fathers had over those of their fellows whom they owned as their slaves.

The essential point is that the Glorious Revolution introduced conditions essential for good, limited government, something which the American Revolution affirmed. This was a liberal constitution which came to provide stable limited government with adequate checks and balances against the abuse of power. Those checks and balances comply with Acton’s subsequent warning that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

That a liberal constitution requires that government be limited is something which socialists have never appreciated. Because much of Western political philosophy in the nineteenth and twentieth century was dominated by socialist thought (and still is under the guise of, for example, militant environmentalism) this means that little attention has been given to a feature absolutely essential to any society which is governed under a liberal constitution. This is that the right to private property be protected under the law.

Indeed, Hernando de Soto (in The Mystery of Capital) has demonstrated that the protection of property rights in a formal property system, and one with adequate records, is crucial to economic development, and indeed, that its absence in many Third World countries explains many of their barriers to development.

In the context of the debate over the Bush administration’s policy to impose democracy across the world, Fareed Zakaria (in The Future of Freedom) has most notably advanced the argument that democracy works best in societies when it is preceded by “constitutional liberalism”. This is of course the essence of the British and American experience. Constitutional liberalism, with the people enjoying basic freedoms, including the protection of their property, and stable limited government with adequate checks and balances, came before democracy.

This point was not fully appreciated in the occupation of Iraq. I do not speak here on the invasion, which can be argued to be a continuation of the war with Saddam Hussein that began with the invasion of Kuwait. It was in the attempt to introduce democracy to Iraq that the lessons of history were not fully appreciated. This, I suspect, was the point made by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, when he said earlier this year that there were “occasions when people in the UK would wish that those in responsible positions in the US might listen and learn from our experiences”.

Prince Andrew was undoubtedly referring to Britain’s long experience in government at home and in the empire. This teaches that good limited government requires not only the rule of law but also a panoply of checks and balances, sufficient to prevent abuse, but not so great as to cause instability or paralysis in government. As Zakaria argues, democracy can really only come when a liberal constitution is well and truly in place.

If we return to the British experience, not only did they transmit the benefits of the Glorious Revolution to their first empire in the Americas. They repeated this with their subsequent empire, and first to the settled colonies. To these they transmitted their evolved constitutional monarchy now under the Westminster system. (It can be argued, and I shall advance this below, that this model is on balance superior to that which the Americans adopted.)

The Australian, Canadian and New Zealand colonies were soon given the same free institutions, allowed to run themselves, to federate if they wished, and in the case of Australia they were even given the golden key to their constitution—the right to amend it. No other colonies in other empires ever had these, quite often because the imperial power did not enjoy them at home. The English-speaking world enjoyed a benefit in advance of others. According to Andrew Roberts, this is the reason why the English-speaking countries today account for more than one third of global GDP, despite having only 7.5 per cent of the world’s population.

Living under a liberal constitutional system is reflected in the political judgment of the English-speaking world. Once again, it is not that the English-speaking people are more intelligent. It is that, accustomed to a liberal constitutional system, the electorate becomes capable of sophisticated judgment and is suspicious of those who challenge the constitution. These electorates typically reject extremes at either end of the political spectrum. The electors can of course be misled, but they are less inclined than others to render heroic status to their leaders or to be swayed by adventurism.

Accordingly it is no coincidence that communist and fascist parties never attracted significant support in English-speaking countries, in contrast to many of the apparently sophisticated European continental countries. By maintaining a liberal constitution, the result is that the electorate becomes a guardian of that system.


The Principles of the Glorious Revolution


William Blackstone, in his Fundamental Laws of England, published in 1760, enumerates a stream of signal documents which declare what he saw as the “absolute rights of Englishmen”. It was these rights which the American colonists believed they had taken with them to the new land, and it was these rights which they claimed King George III was infringing.

Blackstone saw these documents, all of a constitutional nature, as the spring from which parliament and the common law came. They begin with Magna Carta, its various confirmations, the Petition of Right and the Habeas Corpus Acts under Charles I. They culminate with the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Act of Settlement of 1701.

Let us go to the Bill of Rights of 1689, “An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown”. In summary, the Bill of Rights established the fundamental principles of government in what is the first version in England of a modern constitutional monarchy, which I shall call the Constitutional Monarchy Mark I. In this model the king agrees that only the king-in-parliament can legislate, the king thus having a power of veto. Unlike the present Westminster system, the king also retained control of the executive government. This is the model on which the American republic is based, an irony to which we shall return.

The Bill of Rights was a revolutionary document in that with the landing of Prince William of Orange, the stadholder of the Netherlands United Provinces, the legitimate king, James II, fled to France. William called what became known as the Convention Parliament, and it was that parliament which offered the throne to William and his wife Mary, James’s daughter.

Constitutionally this was irregular, to say the least. If James did in fact abdicate, the Crown would have gone to the young Prince James, the Prince of Wales who was with him in France, and not to his daughter, the Princess Mary. Hence it is properly called a revolution, but in comparison to most, a mild one.

The Bill of Rights begins with a recital referring to the Declaration of Right which was read to the sovereigns before the Crown was formally offered to them. Then follows a general accusation against James II, that he “by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom”. This was no doubt recorded to justify the constitutional irregularity in the offer of the Crown to William and Mary. This device was followed by the American revolutionaries in the accusations made against King George III in the Declaration of Independence.

Then follow thirteen specific allegations, principally that he claimed the power to dispense with the laws of England. Among the accusations is one which will interest Australians, that of “levying money for and to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative for other time and in other manner than the same was granted by Parliament”. In other words, James is accused of raising taxes without parliamentary approval and ruling without supply. This is forbidden both under the Westminster system and in the United States, but with different consequences. In the Westminster system, a government which cannot obtain supply must advise a general election or resign.

Thus on November 11, 1975, the Australian Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, withdrew the commission of the then Prime Minister, E.G. Whitlam, for trying to do this, to govern without a grant of supply. In his reasons Sir John said:


“Because of the principles of responsible government a Prime Minister who cannot obtain supply, including money for carrying on the ordinary services of government, must either advise a general election or resign. If he refuses to do this I have the authority and indeed the duty under the Constitution to withdraw his Commission as Prime Minister.”


In summary, and in case anyone doubted the illegality of King James’s actions, the Bill of Rights declares that all of these “are utterly and directly contrary to the known laws and statutes and freedom of this realm”. Then follows the justification for the invitation to William and Mary to take the throne, and the calling of the Convention Parliament. This was that after William landed, so many went over to William that James burned most of the writs prepared for the new parliament, cast the Great Seal into the Thames and then fled to France. Parliament debated as to whether he had thus abdicated or, alternatively, was incapable of acting. There was talk of regency, but this was rejected when it was realised that under a regency, James could always return to the throne. He was now even less acceptable, living, with the young Prince of Wales, in France under the protection of Louis XIV, who had revoked the Edict of Nantes, which had allowed the Protestant Huguenots some liberties.

Accordingly, the Bill of Rights declares that the “late King James the Second”—almost as if he were dead—“having abdicated the government and the throne being thereby vacant, his Highness the Prince of Orange (whom it hath pleased Almighty God to make the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom from popery and arbitrary power)” had called an election for the House of Commons which met and formulated the conditions under which they would offer the throne to William and Mary.

The Bill of Rights then records that “their said Majesties did accept the crown and royal dignity of the kingdoms”, and that certain principles were accepted. It was noted in particular that the King and Queen could not, under the prerogative, dispense with the application of the laws, that a standing army will not be maintained in England without parliamentary consent, that the monarch would not interfere in elections, nor rule without supply, that subjects would be free to petition the King, and that they were to be protected from cruel and unusual punishments, and fines and forfeitures without trial. Parliamentary privilege was established and Protestants were entitled to bear arms for their defence.

The parliament had clearly tired of the Stuart kings. They looked across the Channel and they did not care for what they saw, the absolutist France of Louis XIV. In particular they did not like the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which led to the persecution and flight of the Huguenots. They linked their problems with the Stuarts to Roman Catholicism, and so Roman Catholics were to be barred from the throne, parliament claiming that experience had demonstrated “that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this protestant kingdom to be governed by a papist prince”.


The Battle of the Boyne


In the year following the passing of the Bill of Rights, William defeated King James in Ireland at the famous Battle of the Boyne. This ended any real hope of a Stuart restoration, at least during James’s life.

While this battle is best remembered today in Ireland for its religious connotations, it is important to understand that it was far more about the throne than religion. Catholics and Protestants were to be found on both sides, with William’s elite Blue Guards fighting under the papal banner. William was allied with both Catholic and Protestant powers in the League of Augsburg, which had papal support and was directed against Louis XIV of France. In fact, the news of James’s defeat was celebrated in the Vatican.

The battle was regarded as more significant on the continent than in Britain. Two days later an Anglo-Dutch fleet was defeated by the French at the Battle of Beachy Head, and that was of greater concern to the English.


The Act of Settlement


After the death of Queen Mary, and then the death of her sister Anne’s son Prince William of Gloucester, William and parliament felt the need to restate the succession. This was to ensure that the Crown did not return to James’s line.

Accordingly the Act of Settlement of 1701 vests the succession in the Electress Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James I, and her Protestant heirs. The Act still determines the succession to the throne of the United Kingdom and of all the Commonwealth realms, whether by reference to the Act as a British statute, or as a patriated part of the particular realm’s constitution. Any change to the succession today needs the approval of all parliaments of the realms, those Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is the sovereign.

The Act of Settlement is frequently the subject of debate, principally because of the Protestant succession. But there is something far more important in this legislation, something which would have a profound effect on governance in Britain, the USA, the Commonwealth and indeed the world. This is in the provision that the “judges’ commissions be made quamdiu se bene gesserint”. This means that judges were no longer to hold office “at pleasure”, that is, be dismissible by the government whenever it liked. A government may well wish to dismiss a judge who rules against it. From the Act of Settlement, judges hold office now “during good behaviour”. That means they can be removed only by an address of both houses of parliament.

This was of signal importance. It is the source of the doctrine of the separation of powers in England, the subject of detailed study by Montesquieu. He saw the separation of the three powers, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary as ensuring political liberty. The separation of the judiciary had, he thought, to be real, and this was certainly the case in England.

Subsequently the English model evolved into the Westminster system as we know it today, where the ministry must enjoy the confidence of the lower house, the House of Commons. In the meantime the separation of powers had been carried to the United States, where the judiciary was to become a significant force, and criticised for moving into the area of the legislature.


The Constitutional Monarchy Mark II


There was to be one further development in the constitutional monarchy which was to follow American independence. Until then, the king or queen played an active role in the executive. The ministers were not responsible to parliament; they were responsible to the king. So the model the Americans took was one where the head of state was also still head of government.

Paradoxically, it was the American War of Independence that was to see the beginnings of what we recognise as the Westminster system, where the government is responsible to the House of Commons. In March 1782, following the defeat of the army at Yorktown, the House of Commons voted that they “can no longer repose confidence in the present ministers”. Lord North, who was Prime Minister, resigned.

This was the beginning of the constitutional convention which became firmly established in the middle of the nineteenth century, that a government must retain the confidence of the House of Commons. This of course was the system which the British gave to their settled colonies in the mid-nineteenth century.


William as King


But noting that William was not a constitutional monarch as we would know it today is not to say he was not meticulous in observing the obligations he entered into under the Declaration and then the Bill of Rights.

In 1698 a very foolish House of Commons wanted to cut down the size of the army to a mere 7000 in England. They also decided to send home William’s beloved Blue Dutch Foot guards, Catholic and Protestant, the first to enter London and the first to plunge into the waters of the Boyne in 1690.

William did not react as a Stuart king might have. He did not suspend or prorogue the parliament. He wrote instead what he believed would be his last speech from the throne, a speech which contained a statement as melancholy as the abdication speech of Edward VIII:


“I came into this kingdom, at the desire of the nation, to save it from ruin, and to preserve your religion, your laws and your liberties. And for that end, I have been obliged to maintain a long and burdensome war for this kingdom, which, by the grace of god, and the bravery of this nation, is at present ended in a good peace, under which you may live happily and in quiet, provided you will contribute towards your own security in the manner I have recommended to you, at the opening of the sessions.”


They had not, so he would go. But when he read his speech to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Somers, he pleaded with the King: “This is extravagance, Sir, this is madness. I implore Your Majesty for the sake of your own honour, not to say to anybody else what you have said to me.” Reluctantly, William reconsidered his position and accepted Somers’ advice.

In 1700 Louis XIV broke his word in the Partition Treaties and allowed the vacant Spanish throne to be taken by the second son of the Dauphin, Philippe, Duke of Anjou. The Spanish ambassador fell to his knees and clasping the Duke’s hand said, “The Pyrenees have ceased to exist.” The House of Commons foolishly recognised Philippe, even trying to impeach the ministers concerned in the partition treaties, Somers, Portland, Halifax and Oxford. Fortunately the House of Lords acquitted them. With the House of Commons undermining, more through stupidity than treachery, William’s balance of power strategy, Louis XIV occupied the Spanish Netherlands.

But when five gentlemen of Kent, fearing invasion, petitioned parliament to provide for the adequate defence of the realm they were arrested. The brave Daniel Defoe, guarded by sixteen “gentlemen of quality”, strode into the Commons and handed the Speaker his “Legion’s Memorial”, reminding them they were the elected servants of the people. The nation demanded, writes Bryan Bevan in King William III, Prince of Orange, that “if the King of France would not listen to reason, King William must be asked to declare war on him”.

The Lords, differing from the Commons, implored the King to act. The result was the Treaty of Grand Alliance and the War of Spanish Succession 1701–14). As a consequence, France’s dominance over continental Europe ended, with William’s concept of the balance of power recognised in the Treaty of Utrecht.


The Glorious Revolution and Australia


The principles of the Glorious Revolution are central to the Australian constitutional system for at least three reasons. First, the settlers brought with them the laws of England. Second, the British soon introduced the Westminster system to Australia, and it became one of the pillars of our nation. This process began before the Eureka Stockade, sometimes incorrectly presented as its cause. By the middle of the nineteenth century, most of the Australian colonies were self-governing under the Westminster system, in a way in which the colonies of other powers were not. Third, it is a mistake to think of our Constitution only in terms of the federal Constitution. As Bolingbroke said in 1735, the constitution is “that assemblage of laws, institutions and customs, derived from certain fixed principles of reason, directed to certain fixed objects of public good that compose the general system, according to which the community hath agreed to be governed”.

Our constitutional system includes the principles in the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement as well as our federal and state constitutions. I should make one caveat: not all parts are entrenched. Some significant parts of the constitutional system can be changed by act of parliament.

In any event, when Australians agreed, as the preamble to the Constitution Act records, humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God, to unite in one indissoluble federal Commonwealth under the Crown, they did so knowing that golden thread from Magna Carta through the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement was fully comprehended in our constitutional settlement.

One of the facile critiques of our Constitution is that it is silent on some matters which are assumed, for example the cabinet and the office of prime minister. This has no foundation, and may only be advanced to justify some ill-thought-out change. The Constitution was never intended as a “stand alone” constitutional primer. It was always intended to complement and not to replace the laws incorporating what were known as the fundamental rights of Englishmen, and to import these fully into the Australian constitutional system. Australia is, as Mead writes, “one of the most democratic and egalitarian societies in the world”.


The Glorious Revolution and the USA


When the American Founding Fathers set about designing their constitutional model, they did not come to their task in a vacuum. They were, after all, the thirteen freest countries the world had ever known. They were and saw themselves as heirs to Blackstone’s Fundamental Laws of England, and beneficiaries too of the Glorious Revolution. And James II had tried to remove their representative government. William and Mary restored it. It was the belief of the Americans that a subsequent English government was denying them their rights.

It was not so much the Great Proclamation of 1763 which prevented the colonists taking more Indian land. Nor was it the decision in Somerset’s Case in 1772 concerning a runaway American slave. There Lord Mansfield had found, probably apocryphally, that “the air of England was too pure for a slave to breathe. Let the black go free.” Perspicacious American slave owners knew that this common law ruling would no doubt in time spread to America.

These two irritations were reason enough to try to establish an independent slave-owning state, free to take Indian land. But that alone was not enough. Rather it was the ham-fisted way that the English government unilaterally required the Americans to make a quite fair contribution to their defence against the French. “No taxation without representation” was the Americans’ remarkably effective slogan.

Michael Barone argues that the Glorious Revolution was the inspiration for the resulting War of Independence and the formation of the United States of America. The alternative model was not attractive to the Americans. This was a time when Europe was moving towards absolutism, the great example being in her dominant power, where the Sun King, Louis XIV, was unchallenged. Absolutism, apparently modern and efficient, seemed as much the way of the future as the gullible would later think the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or Mao’s China.

But out of one corner of Europe, as Barone puts it, an alternative had emerged. This was a “constitutional monarchy with limits on government, guaranteed rights, relatively benign religious toleration, and free market global capitalism”. This, Barone says, was a long step forward towards the kind of society we take for granted now. It was:


“the backdrop for the amazing growth, prosperity, and military success of eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain—and for the American Revolution and the even more amazing growth, prosperity, and military success of the United States …

“It changed England from a country in which  representative government was threatened to one where it was ingrained, from a nation in which liberties were based on tradition to one in which they were based in part on positive law, from a nation where the place of religion was a matter of continued political dispute and even armed struggle to one where it was settled in a way that generally respected individual choice, from a nation that mostly kept apart from the wars of continental Europe to one that saw its duty as maintaining a balance of power there and around the world.”


This English and British example of representative government inspired the Founding Fathers of the United States and the entire world. It was copied, with minor variations, in the British colonies, many of which would become major nations. This improbable revolution, Barone argues, did much to shape the world as we know it.

Mead writes that many of the values, ideas and attitudes which are thought to be part of “America’s unique exceptionalism” actually came from Great Britain. In particular, he says the ideas of the Glorious Revolution have left “a deep and abiding mark on political culture as well”. As only one example, he points out that the Declaration of Independence itself was closely modelled on the Declaration of Right.

The Glorious Revolution also guaranteed liberties. The “right to bear arms” was very different from the feudal obligation to bear arms. Rather than being an obligation to support the king and his government, it was now “a way for the freeman to protect his property and his liberty”. Here we see the clear origin of the Second Amendment in the US Bill of Rights. Barone also reminds us of the Third Amendment, against quartering of troops, the Fourth Amendment, against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Fifth Amendment, against self-incrimination, and the Eighth Amendment, against cruel and unusual punishment.

It was not just in the constitution and the law that the Glorious Revolution guided America. It was also in her institutions and even her foreign policy.

The Glorious Revolution had given Britain financial institutions similar to those of the United Provinces, which allowed it to be more effective in government, war and trade than the richer France. This preponderance of sophisticated institutions was continued and developed in America.

2 thoughts on “320 Years of Freedom

  • Steve Christie says:

    An interesting read, but in failing to tackle and critique the philosophical & theological ideas which drove the Glorious Revolution – and in fact not seeing English “pragmatism” as a product of those ideas -the article misses some unpleasant realities which are now coming home to roost:

    * The “certain leading Englishmen” who kicked off the GR arguably were the self-interested heirs of the “nobles” who benefited from the looting of Church property and peasant rights which occurred during the English Reformation – looking at the time to justify their “might is right” behavior by reference to religion (now we cry “freedom” and appeal to “the people”, which has morphed into licentiousness with no moral objective norms);
    * By paying lip-service to the divine right of kings to rule and then throwing that out (or including reference to God in the opening of the Australian constitution but dishonoring that reference by our laws and system in practice) and instead relying on “the people” (aka the fickle mob, the crowd, the rioters etc etc), we are now detached from any absolute, objective norms of moral behavior.

    Both points suggest that easy integration of migrants (a supposed fruit of the GR, per the article) and the ongoing flourishing of the West are unlikely supported by the GR but undone by it – we no longer have a binding world view, other than “freedom”, which is simply self-interest as determined by the powerful. Further, other than “might is right” as embodied in the GR, there is now no mutually accepted moral underpinning to our society – resulting in the breakdowns of families and people.

    The argument that the UK (and the US) have been on the “winning side in every major international conflict” is hardly proof of any moral authority – the Aztecs could have claimed to have been a moral civilization as they brutally dominated all the surrounding tribes, and look at history for long term success by brutal, evil empires.

    Having said all that, a very enjoyable article. Thank you!

  • whitelaughter says:

    Interesting, though could do without the modern fad of referring to the UK as an immigrant nation. Not the case. Yes, peaceful democracies benefit from educated refugees fleeing to them, and England benefited from the French fleeing first the persecution of the Hugenots, and then of – well, everybody – during the French Revolution, but it is nearly 1000 years between Hastings and the modern immigration jyhad.

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