Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

We all want to be Cavaliers

Roundhead Values, Cavalier Tastes: The Euroskeptic Tory, Daniel Hannan MEP, explains why he migrated from Cavalier to Cromwellian. Not a big leap considering the differences between Tories and Whigs are so small nowadays that they can safely be deferred to the other side of the grave.

Picking Sides, by Daniel Hannan, MEP

"The only thing I want to know about a man," said the Edwardian Liberal Isaac Foot, "is which side he would like his ancestors to have fought on at Marston Moor".

cavalierThese days, it seems, we all want to be Cavaliers. So badly has the Good Old Cause fared that a new television drama will "raise eyebrows" by casting Kenneth Branagh as a sympathetic Cromwell.

I realise I'm going to alienate most of my natural constituency when I write this, but here goes. Thank Heaven Cromwell won.

Many contemporary Tories imagine, without giving the matter much thought, that they would have fought for the King. They are almost certainly wrong. The causes they hold dearest personal liberty, small government, parliamentary supremacy, patriotism, localism, Euro-scepticism would in fact have inclined them to Old Ironsides.

Much of the confusion arises, I think, from our tendency to look at history teleologically. Even now, more than a century after the debunking of the Macauley-Trevelyan interpretation of the period, we tend to believe that the British constitution developed by stages to its present condition, and this makes us think of the Parliament Men as progressives.

The description would have thrown them completely. In their own eyes, the Roundheads were conservatives, preserving traditional English liberties against the dangerous innovations of a foreign-influenced court. As Robert Ashton showed in his brilliant study The English Civil War: Conservatism and Revolution 1603-1649, the parliamentary cause was rooted in the defence of local freedoms, property rights and English particularism. Its advocates believed, with justice, that they were fighting to protect a way of life against the absolutism that was then spreading on the Continent.

It took me a while to see this. When I first studied the English Civil War, I was a paid-up Cavalier. My Lower VI history teacher, an inspirational man called Richard Wilkinson, was deeply Whiggish, both in his historiographical approach and in his political sympathies. Once, when telling us about Charles I's approaches to the Scots while imprisoned at Carisbrooke, he used the word "treacherous". I swelled up with the assured indignation that only a 16-year-old can manage: how, I asked, could he apply such a term to a monarch dealing with subjects in open revolt?

Twenty years later, I have come round to his point of view. Every generation fights a battle against the abuse of power. If the Roundheads were around today, they would see a Europhile elite busily selling its people's birthright. They would see the abuse of Executive power and the sidelining of Parliament (albeit in the form of quangoes rather than the Star Chamber). They would see the beliefs of the majority scorned and traduced by those in office. They would conclude that the country needed a dispersal and democratisation of power.

The Daily Telegraph is currently campaigning for precisely this. When the localist manifesto, Direct Democracy, was first published in this newspaper two years ago, its authors admitted their debt to the Civil War Parliamentarians. Their tract was subtitled "An Agenda for a new Model Party", and called for politicians to take a "Self-Denying Ordinance" to the exercise of state power. The localists described our weakened House of Commons as the "Barebones Parliament" and summarised their manifesto as "The Ten Propositions", echoing the 1641 document by which Parliament had demanded control over executive and judicial appointments.

Of course, if you believe that the experts should be allowed to run things without needing to worry about public opinion, if you think that the European Commission is staffed with wise and disinterested public servants, if you are happy for the country to be administered by quangoes and human rights judges, none of this will have much appeal for you. But if you have any spark of sympathy with the democratic cause, the chances are you would have lined up with Our Chief of Men.

11 comments:

Andrew Cusack said...

On the contrary, the Cavalier/Cromwellian dichotomy is essentially one of order on the one hand to arbitrary government on the other.

Personal liberty and small government were hardly served by Cromwell burning women & children ("nits make lice" were Cromwell's words) horded into churches in Ireland or banning theater and entertainment in London. Like Shakespeare? Then hate Cromwell.

Parliamentary supremacy was hardly aided by doing away with one of the three elements of parliament -- the Crown. The British system works best when the Crown, the Lords, and the Commons are balanced, rather than one element dominating the others.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

I'm with Mr. Cusack.

I would add that it is not obvious from a reading of history that personal liberty and small government are best served by parliamentary democracy.

Daniel Hannan, one of the best -- if not the best -- serving MEP there is, is perhaps caught up, though maybe less so than others, in his profession's illusion of self-importance.

The good MEP did on the other hand wish for long MP holidays less than 3 weeks ago.

We should also keep in mind that it is possible to have some sympathy for the democratic cause, without wanting democracy lock, stock, and barrel.

Anonymous said...

"Cromwell. To the eternal condemnation of Oliver. Seditionist, traitor, regicide, racialist, protofacist and blasphemous bigot. God save England from his like."

- The Times

Kipling said...

I've never put much stock into the whole Cromwell vs. Charles dichotomy. Wasn't this all settled by 1688? Wasn't that the whole point of 1688? We tried to avoid the extremes of parliamentary or monarchical tyranny, a balances and mixed constitution was established.

I'm generally sympathetic to Cromwell because I view him as a man of his times. Freedom, as we understand it, was just being developed and understood. Cromwell's career showed a clear example of the do's and don'ts of liberty and fighting for liberty. Damning Cromwell is kind of like damning one's own adolescence. It's a phase, we've moved on.

J.K. Baltzersen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.K. Baltzersen said...

Wasn't that the whole point of 1688? We tried to avoid the extremes of parliamentary or monarchical tyranny, a balances and mixed constitution was established.

Perhaps so, sir. There are those who claim though, that 1688 was the beginning of parliamentary omnipotence.

P said...

Civil war cannot be rationalised - it is essentially an emotive issue.

The comparison between our present Conservatives and the Roundheads vs the EU Commission and the Cavaliers is pretty easy to unpick! In the event that a group of British parliamentarians of any party were to vote through a bill to reduce or revoke the powers of the EU, there would not be a popular uprising in its favour!

The events were of their times - of course The Conservatives today would likely view the world differently.

Viewing Cromwell's achievements in the Clausewitzian end-to-end sense, his regime of state-imposed Calvanistic misery was a failure, ending upon his demise, bound not by mystery and deference to his imposed solutions, but rather being entirely dependent upon the force of his own personality (and Army). The miracle for Britain, was the peaceful restoration of the crown - this could have gone badly wrong and consigned us to a French-style political instability for centuries.

Cromwell - a man to admire? No.

Ælfhere said...

'[P]ersonal liberty, small government, parliamentary supremacy, patriotism, localism, Euro-scepticism'? Only 50-50 there, I'm afraid. It's hard to see how betraying the King of England can be considered a patriotic act, though, just as it's hard to see how "parliamentary" government can ever be smaller than monarchical. (More governors = bigger government. Five seconds' thought, folks!) As for "Europe", the European Project did not begin until after the Great War, and Cromwell is just as likely to have been in favour and/or against it as the King. The fundamental problem with "Europe" is that it wants to abolish ALL state authority - whether monarchical or parliamentary makes no difference - and make it impossible to fight wars ever again. (The result, of course, is moral anarchy and chaos.)

Ælfhere said...

In any event, Hannan is writing historical nonsense. Cromwell was no friend of parliamentary government either. Once the ultimate defender of English freedom - i.e. the King - was out of the way it was the work of a moment for Cromwell to abolish parliament and make himself sole military dictator for the length of his life.

Shaftesbury said...

"Many contemporary Tories imagine, without giving the matter much thought, that they would have fought for the King. They are almost certainly wrong. The causes they hold dearest personal liberty, small government, parliamentary supremacy, patriotism, localism, Euro-scepticism would in fact have inclined them to Old Ironsides."

What a load of rubbish ...

Cromwell the Dicatator (and Fundamentalist) as the defender of classical liberal values?

Nothing Tory about it.

Duke of Bronte said...

It's an interesting debate, but Cromwell lived hypocrisy, and died a traitor. I think Burke had some good things to say about him though. We should always listen to Burke.

In any event, who would you rather for dinner, Gerald Warner the Cavalier, or Daniel Hannan the Cromwellian. I choose the High Tory over the Low Tory any day of the week. It's not the conversation per se, it's how you do it.

To horse and away To the heart of the fray! Fling care to the Devil for one merry day!