A New Constellation

Usually on 31 December we look back over the last year, and plenty of bloggers have been doing that, and I might yet, but I want to look back a little further, to what all the noise is about, about Trump’s very good year, yes, but also the uproar in Britain about Brexit, and why it is all so basic. Yes, it is also why this blog is here, if I didn’t care about freedom, under God – well what would be the point, exactly? It’s what we and the rest of the Anglophone countries stand, and have always stood, for.

As we watch the demonstrations just getting going again in Iran, we wonder, do they have the dream of our ancestors? Well, we can’t know for sure, but our people have always been ready to welcome others “yearning to breathe free”, I rather doubt we have changed, although we are undoubtedly more chary of putting our young people at risk after the events of the last score years. For as John Quincy Adams said so long ago.

America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She well knows that by enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standards of freedom.

241 years ago last July, there was a new constellation to be seen, it looked a good bit like this

us^jack

Although it had somewhat fewer stars to begin with. Here’s the musical version of its creation

But you know, it was a most unusual revolution, I call it a conservative counter-revolution because it sought to restore, not try anything new. True, it spun out in a direction that was not really planned, and it has worked out fairly well, but it wasn’t really what those men went to Philadelphia to do.

The American Revolution/War of Independence was fought by British Americans against a German King and a reactionary Prime Minister for British Ideals.

Lady Astor

Being a literate society, the American Revolution was pretty much written down, and considering the circumstances, the founders did well to make sure that the documents survived. In fact, they are all at the National Archives, in a case that is designed to survive an all but direct hit with a thermonuclear weapon, as in meet for documents that have built the modern world. What are these four irreplaceable documents?

  1. The Declaration of Independence, that we celebrate every Fourth of July.
  2. The Constitution that forms the backbone of a just society
  3. The Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments that guarantee the basic rights of every American

Important documents, aren’t they? They are officially called the “Charters of Freedom”. The very foundation of the United States of America, right there ink on parchment, written down for the ages. This is what John Kennedy was talking about when he said:

For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.    1
  The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. 2
  We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. 3
  Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. 4
  This much we pledge—and more. 5
  To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do—for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder. 6
  To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom—and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

That is what America has always been, it’s the dream. The dream of a society where you will be treated justly, not the place with the best free stuff. The place where you can earn anything you want, whether it’s a Big Mac, to own your own business, or be the President, you can earn it. In its basics, that is what America is all about.

But the concept didn’t spring full-blown from Jefferson’s forehead like some modern Pallas Athena either, the roots of freedom are uniquely rooted in the Anglo-Saxon heritage, which is why we share so much with our British, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealander cousins, we are unique in the world, our heritage is freedom, not oppression.

For instance:

Excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

To an American, it sounds just like the 8th Amendment to the Constitution, except that the word ought is substituted for shall. So what is it? It’s from England’s 1689 Bill of Rights, and yes, gentle reader, like almost all protections afforded to British subjects, it has been revoked.

And that is the point. We Americans have always taken pride in our revolutionary past, and we still do. But we built on the shoulders of giants. Those Charters of Freedom we spoke of earlier, remember I said there were four, I only mentioned three, didn’t I? What could possibly be the fourth, to compare with our Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights? There’s only one candidate,

Magna Charta

images (1)That’s right, the fourth charter of freedom of Americans is the Great Charter that set out to limit the power of King John, way back in Angevin times. Nearly every right we prize today was set out as a right of the freemen of England in that charter. And that is what differentiates the Anglosphere from everybody else, that spirit of individual liberty. Americans perhaps say it louder and prouder than some of the cousins but we, and they know it is our common heritage, that we have fought millennia for. Back there in Philadelphia, they didn’t raise Betsy Ross’s flag (if she even made it!) They raised this standard, because we were very loud and proud Brits, until we had to go get some help from the French, who, as always, were willing to screw around in our affairs.

The colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character [love of freedom] was most predominant; and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas, and on English principles.

Edmund Burke, 1775

Happy New Year, see ya next year!

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Caracas on the Thames

Sunset near Trafalgar Square, London, UK

So there sits Britain, a bit more than half of the population bestirred themselves to extricate themselves from the EU to a fair amount of excitement on both sides of the pond. An excellent move, but now what? Theodore Dalrymple has a view, and it is a bleak one. It’s one I don’t completely agree with, but I see the same signs. I merely hope and pray that the Britain that has been preserved through the centuries will manage to bestir itself one more time. Whether that will happen is very problematical.

And the economic auguries for Britain are indeed poor, though not only, or even principally, because of the European Union’s hostility. The fact is that Britain is unlikely to be able to take any advantage of life outside the European straitjacket because its own political class is itself in favour of straitjackets that are no better, and quite possibly worse than, the European ones. The present Prime Minister, Theresa May, is very much a statist, indistinguishable from European social democrats, and the leader of the opposition, Mr Corbyn, who might well be the next Prime Minister, is an unapologetic admirer of Hugo Chavez. It is hardly to be expected that foreign investors will place much trust or confidence in an isolated country whose next government might very well weaken property rights, impose capital controls and increase corporate taxation in favour of supposed social justice. It would not take very long to turn Britain into a northern Venezuela: a Venezuela without the oil or the tropical climate.

Here lies the crux of the current problem, in my mind. Mrs. May was an abysmal choice, although she may have been the best on offer, rather like like choosing Hillary because she was the least worst candidate. But that is just how bad the Tories are, and Labour tends to make Stalin look right wing. She’s all that is said here and more, but the worst is that she seems to have no convictions of her own, simply an empty vessel to be filled by whoever last spoke to her. Well except the Vicar’s daughter has absolute faith in the State, God not so much. Sad.

And the power that the parties have is remarkable, our primaries are often more or less corrupt, but the British have no say whatsoever in who is running to ‘represent’ them. And their bureaucracy puts our deep state to shame, that is who really rules Britain. Long ago they stripped the one voice who could speak for the nation, the Queen, of all power. If they had the guts to fight, it would become Thomas Hobbe’s nightmare come to life – “A war of all on all.”

Just a word of warning, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, a UKIP peer, asked the government recently in the House of Lords if talking about Christianity was a ‘hate crime’.

The government refused to answer.

And it is not only Britain, we have the same disease here, although not as markedly. The other day, J.J. Sefton in Ace’s Morning Report said this.

We’ll start of this Thursday with the continuing, and hopefully soon to end, autopsy of Tuesday’s debacle in Alabama. As we all know, Roy Moore was a flawed candidate for a number of reasons. That doesn’t mean I and most of you did not support him; we all wanted him to win. It’s just that our wish-casting and transposing our logic on to the voters vis a vis allowing the alternative to win (which they did) was illusory. Now all that said, much of the blame can be laid squarely on the drooping shoulders of Mitch McConnell. He wanted an Establishment lackey, like Thad Cochran only with a marginally higher brain stem function, and NOT a member of the House Freedom Caucus, represented by Mo Brooks. And so from the get-go he supported Luther Strange, but for whatever reason (I am uninformed about Alabama local politics) Moore threw his Stetson into the ring and the voters chose him in the runoff. And the rest as we all know is history. Now, yes, while Moore as stated was flawed, the combination of the smear campaign against him, his own idiosyncrasies, and the abandonment by the GOP-e until it was essentially too late gave away what should have been a lock to a Democrat.

Yep, that whole mess was flawed, mostly by Mitch McConnel, another Theresa May type, much more concerned about party than country, not to mention preserving their rice bowls, no matter what.

Back to Britain

This explains why Britain has persistently imported labour from Eastern Europe to perform tasks in its service industries that ordinarily one might have expected its large fund of indigenous non-employed people to perform. The fact is, however, that though these tasks require no special skills, they did require certain personal qualities such as reliability, politeness, and willingness to adapt: and these the eligible local population lack entirely. No hotel-keeper, for example, would consider using British labour if he could get foreign.

Perhaps nothing captures the levels of personal incompetence and lack of self-respect in Britain than the fact that young men of the lowest social class are about half as likely to die in prison as they are if left at liberty. In prison, though adult, they are looked after, at least in a basic way, and told what to do. They are no longer free to pursue their dangerous and crudely self-indulgent lifestyle, in which distraction is the main occupation. In prison they receive the health care that, though it is free to them under the National Health Service, they are not responsible enough to seek when at liberty. In short, they do not know, because they have never been taught, how to live in a minimally constructive fashion, though they were certainly not born ineducable.

No doubt other comparable countries have similar problems, but none (at least, none known to me) has them to anything like the same extent. These problems do not originate from Britain’s membership of the European Union, nor will they be solved by exit from the Union. They can be solved only by something more resembling a religious revival than by any likely government action. But expecting a population to bethink itself while simultaneously being offered political solutions that require no effortful cultural change is unreasonably optimistic. And politicians are unlikely to be frank about the problem for two reasons: first because alluding to the deficiencies of their electorate is probably not the best way to get elected, and second because it downgrades the providential role of politics, which politicians are understandable reluctant to do.

As if this were not quite enough, the hold on the country’s intelligentsia of statist solutions to practically all problems is still immensely strong. Nowhere is this more evident than in its attitude to the National Health Service, the establishment of which it almost universally regards as having been a great achievement, perhaps Britain’s only great achievement of the twentieth century.

Yep, if you talk to Brits, even educated ones, nearly every one of them sees the NHS as the ‘one true god’, even though they get crappy service at best, and are probably more likely to die if treated than not. It can only be religious because the facts are easily available.

But that speaks to what I see in my interactions with what is admittedly a sliver of them, and one that is well right of (their) center. Here we quote our founders often and well, almost all American conservatives do because while they were writing over 200 years ago, the principles they bequeathed us are truly timeless, if we are stalwart enough to apply them even close to properly. It is why we have prospered so mightily.

Most of those principles derived from British sources, Locke, Smith, Burke, Blackstone, and others, not all British, of course, but a majority probably were. Our founders took a clear look at the weaknesses of British government and liberty and wrote a constitution to minimize them. It works pretty well still, even with so many trying to subvert it. But we have that firm foundation, written in ink on parchment, the Declaration, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, The Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, and so much more.

The Brits have none of that, the core principles were developed there. But there is nothing comparable to our supreme constitution, they have some scrap of paper they refer to as a constitution, but in our sense, it isn’t. All is always in flux. One Parliament cannot bind another. Magna Charta, that we Americans revere so much, was repealed long ago, so was the English Bill of Rights, as was the right to self-defense.

From my seat, what they never developed, either personally or in the Conservative Party is the principled outlook we have. When something comes up, we know almost instinctively whether it accords with the principles the founders gave us. None of that amongst the Tories, it is all pragmatic, tactics to win the next vote in Parliament or election, never a thought as to principle. It is their great weakness, I think, and why spoke a bit of Judge Moore here. While he has priciples, many of them conflict with our history. he is right on many issues, but often for the wrong reasons. That why he was a very imperfect candidate. It’s also why the British government is broken, perhaps beyond repair.

Impositions that in America would have led to a war in the streets, pass with a shrug “What can you do?” The government says jump, most Britons don’t ask “Why should I?” They merely ask, “How high, ma’am?”

Where is Britain going? Unless they figure out something, I think Dalrymple may well be correct. Caracas without the nice weather.

Happy Thanksgiving

Today, in America is Thanksgiving Day. It is a day of celebration of what we have made of God’s gift to us all. Its history reaches all the way back to our Pilgrim forebearers, who felt called to thank God that they had survived the first year in the Massachusetts Bay.

Now it is a day of parades, football, serious overeating, and sleeping off that overeating by sleeping through the football on TV. But I think we all deep in our hearts do remember to thank “The Big Guy” for all we have, and the freedom to enjoy it.

President Washington certainly knew something about dark days, far darker than ours are today, and he (and Congress) thought it fit to remember the Author of our blessings. So should we.

From the Heritage Foundation

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

That’s the reason for the day put as well as anyone has, ever.

My family’s traditional table grace is this

Now for something much lighter. You know these guys, we’ve loved them most of our lives.

 

A Privileged Miracle

Interesting how things get turned on their head when one really thinks about them. Kind of like a revolution. to wit.

A young person said this recently:

“The Founders were all white privileged men”

To which the answer was:

“Yes. And your point is?”

“They wrote the Constitution to protect their interests. It was stacked for rich white men from the beginning.”

Which is also mostly true at the time.

“Do you know what the ‘true’ Miracle was in Philadelphia in that hot summer of 1787?” he was asked.

The real miracle was that they did not establish a kingdom or an oligarchy forever. Which they very easily could have done and some, including Alexander Hamilton, wanted to see done.

The Founders turned to the writings of John Locke and other classical liberal thinkers not only to set the predicate for the Constitution with the immortal words “all men are created equal” in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in 1776, but also to pour the concrete foundation of our country with principles to establish the first free democratic republic which has been copied the world over to set people free for the last 228 years.

Our Founders had every power at their disposal to set up a parliamentary government to serve a king. But they didn’t. George Washington voluntarily retired to his farm and distillery at Mount Vernon and set the paradigm for citizen-politicians ever since.

Our Founders had every power at their disposal to set up an oligarchical form of government similar to the ancient Greeks in Athens. The “rich white privileged men” in Philadelphia didn’t have to mention equality for everyone or free speech, religion, press, assembly or the right to petition the government for anyone else but members of the oligarchy, but they did.

Instead of 100 percent serving their own narrow interests, they fought tooth-and-nail over provisions in the Constitution to enable a free flow of commerce and trade, a strong centralized national defense and individual freedoms and liberties unlike the world had ever seen before. Their aversion to total concentration of power in the hands of King George III led them to go to the other end of the spectrum to set up a system of government that does its darndest to frustrate and prevent capricious actions on the part of a president or even small groups of one faction or the other in the U.S. Senate versus the U.S. House.

All true, you know as is the rest at The ‘Real’ Miracle In Philadelphia, 1787

And that, of course, is why the left is forever trying to redefine terms, everything they falsely advocate for, is already available, although, like anything worthwhile, it does have a cost. And that is their problem, they think that with the power of the gun, they can make all this good stuff free. But you can not make people think, innovate or be productive. You always end up back with the old Soviet folk saying, “We pretend to work as long as they pretend to pay us.”

But that system works fine for the Nomenklatura as long as there are German appliances to be bought, doesn’t work at all for the people even close to the bottom of the ladder, such as the middle class in Venezuela. The thing is, socialism runs on envy. It’s not that you have your ball and can take it home, it’s that you have a ball and I don’t, but I’m not willing to do what you did to buy that ball. But it’s bad for you to have something I don’t, so I’ll destroy it. And then there will be no ball to play with.

Mind, I didn’t say they make any rational sense, they don’t. They’re just vindictive, irrational people, who since they are not happy, think we all should be unhappy.

I feel sorry for them, really I do. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to let them write the rules. It’s a very long time since I played football with Lucy, and there is a reason for that.

Teddy Bears, Samuel Adams, Marines, and Hot Lead

Welp, eight dead and 15 or so wounded in New York City, yesterday. Sympathy to the families, and get well soon to the injured.

No doubt there will be votive candles and teddy bears, and then we’ll get back to ignoring this. We, like the Brits, the French, the Spaniards, the Germans, and the Canadians. They are the mark of the ineffectual, the weak, the cowed masses of humanity. We saw that already with the platitudes mouthed by the politicians in NYC yesterday. We shouldn’t be depending on school buses to defend us from suicide truck drivers. Lots better than nothing, though.

They should not be the mark of the Americans. We have chosen to lead the world, and the world is not safe. You do not defeat terrorism with candles and teddy bears, you defeat terrorism with lead injections at high velocity. That is how we built America, by not allowing the undermining of the rule of law, and that is how one maintains it, as well. That doesn’t mean vigilanteism, although an armed citizenry is our best front line defense. It means that we do not deceive ourselves, we look evil square in the eye, we prosecute it, and we put it down like the rabid dog it is.

In a couple of weeks, we will celebrate the men and women, who fired Kaiser Bill and his minions, who put Hitler and Tojo into the ground, and stared down Stalin all around the world. This is not the legacy they had in mind for us. We need to go back to basics, forget the teddy bears and remember what General Stark said, “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees”, and that is exactly the choice we have.

If we are honest, we know that that we can never stop every fool who is willing to try this on, we can only make sure they don’t try it a second time. Doesn’t really matter if they are in the ground or spending the rest of their worthless lives at Supermax. That is their choice, after all. For truly, now, as then, we face the choice that Samuel Adams laid out for us.

“The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring a mark of everlasting infamy on the present generation – enlightened as it is – if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of designing men.”

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Sky News, who are blathering on about how we can’t kill their ideology. In a sense, they are right, of course. But you know, if you kill enough of the holders of that ideology, the rest kind of lose enthusiasm. One could ask King John III Sobieski about that, Vienna rather solved its Muslim problem for quite a few years after he took it in hand.


In a story from a while back, Scott Johnson of Powerline reminds of what it can take.

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal published a Notable & Quotable item excerpting a November 13, 2010, speech by then-Lt. Gen. John Kelly to the Semper Fi Society of St. Louis, describing a 2008 suicide bombing in Iraq that killed Marines Corporal Jonathan Yale, 22, and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, 20. The Journal published the excerpt under the heading “Six seconds to live”and also posted the item online with a link to the complete text of General Kelly’s speech. I want to draw attention to this without further comment for readers disgusted by the deeply disgusting news of the day as something to stay our minds on and be staid:

What we didn’t know at the time, and only learned a couple of days later after I wrote a summary and submitted both Yale and Haerter for posthumous Navy Crosses, was that one of our security cameras, damaged initially in the blast, recorded some of the suicide attack. It happened exactly as the Iraqis had described it. It took exactly six seconds from when the truck entered the alley until it detonated.

You can watch the last six seconds of their young lives. Putting myself in their heads I supposed it took about a second for the two Marines to separately come to the same conclusion about what was going on once the truck came into their view at the far end of the alley. Exactly no time to talk it over, or call the sergeant to ask what they should do. Only enough time to take half an instant and think about what the sergeant told them to do only a few minutes before: “let no unauthorized personnel or vehicles pass.” The two Marines had about five seconds left to live.

It took maybe another two seconds for them to present their weapons, take aim, and open up. By this time the truck was halfway through the barriers and gaining speed the whole time. Here, the recording shows a number of Iraqi police, some of whom had fired their AKs, now scattering like the normal and rational men they were—some running right past the Marines. They had three seconds left to live.

For about two seconds more, the recording shows the Marines’ weapons firing nonstop, the truck’s windshield exploding into shards of glass as their rounds take it apart and tore in to the body of the son-of-a-bitch who is trying to get past them to kill their brothers—American and Iraqi—bedded down in the barracks totally unaware of the fact that their lives at that moment depended entirely on two Marines standing their ground. If they had been aware, they would have known they were safe, because two Marines stood between them and a crazed suicide bomber. The recording shows the truck careening to a stop immediately in front of the two Marines. In all of the instantaneous violence Yale and Haerter never hesitated. By all reports and by the recording, they never stepped back. They never even started to step aside. They never even shifted their weight. With their feet spread shoulder width apart, they leaned into the danger, firing as fast as they could work their weapons. They had only one second left to live.

The truck explodes. The camera goes blank. Two young men go to their God. Six seconds. Not enough time to think about their families, their country, their flag, or about their lives or their deaths, but more than enough time for two very brave young men to do their duty—into eternity. That is the kind of people who are on watch all over the world tonight—for you.

That is our legacy, past and present.

The [Continuing] Story of Freedom

I don’t know about you guys, but most of what we have talked about this week, I find distasteful. There are few things that infuriate me more than the abuse of power, and it’s only worse when it is a powerful man abusing young women. perhaps at least some of them were willing to play the game, after all ‘the casting couch’ is a cliché for a reason, but why, exactly, should they have to. Yes, people will always abuse power, if they can, but we do not have to let them. In any case that was part of the reason that this week’s picture post was about Navy Day, not that they don’t deserve the recognition. I had simply had enough, and most of what I had was about Weinstein. Yuck! As I said today in a comment, Lord Acton was correct, “The love of power corrupts, and the love of absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”

One of the things I do when I get in this spot is to go back in our earlier posts, usually Jessica’s. She had a way of making things clear, no matter how much mud was spattered about, and it is one of the things I miss most about her. Some of her basic goodness comes through in those posts, and they help me, and I hope they help your morale as well. In her post from December 30, 2012, she reminds us that our freedom has a long history which is intertwined in British and American history. Here she takes us back to show us that the original resistance to secular tyranny came from none other than the Church, in our case through the Archbishop of Canterbury St Thomas Becket and thence to another Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, who stood up to King John of infamous memory. But let her tell it, she tells it much better than I do. here’s my dearly beloved dearest friend, Jessica.

The story of Becket reminds us of the eternal conflict between the Church and the State. It is the natural wish of the latter, whether in the guise of a king, an aristocracy or ‘the people’ to encompass as much power to itself as it can. There is only one culture where this has been challenged successfully, and it is that of the Latin West. For all the atheists’ charge that the Church has been some sort of dictator, it never has been; indeed it has been the bridle on that happening in our societies.

I mentioned Stephen Langton yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury whom King John had refused to accept, and who sided with the Barons in their fight against the King’s tyranny. That does not mean, of course, that the Church has not had times when it has cooperated with tyranny, but it does mean that it has stood out, always, against the State controlling everything. Indeed, it was this example which gave courage to those who came to see the Church itself as a spiritually tyranny, corrupt and refusing to mend its ways. We can argue over the results of that, but what is unarguable is that it is from the deepest part of Christianity that the belief in freedom under God comes.

That qualification matters. Our forefathers did not mistake freedom for license. They knew they would stand one day before God to account for their time here on earth. They knew their sinful ways, they did not blame ‘society’, they knew that sin was an act of will on their part – of sinful rebellion against God. But they also knew that only through freedom could man be truly himself. Like God Himself, they believed in free will. Man was not free when he was in chains – literal and metaphorical ones. The black slaves were in literal chains, their owners in metaphorical ones.

Freedom has a price. Part of that is that we have to bridle ourselves. The excesses of our species when left to itself show why. Made in the image of God, we are capable of deeds of utmost evil, and we can also rise to heights of altruism and love – as the lives of the Saints show us.

We Christians are strangers in this world. We are meant to be the leaven; but too often we are the salt that has lost its savour. America is the one country in the world founded on a vision of how things could be. From its beginning it has taken the hard road of trying to rule itself without kings or aristocracies. It has found itself in some dark places, not least during its Civil War. But it has always valued freedom – and always acknowledged that there is a price to be paid.

There is a long and continuous thread leading from Magna Carta to now. We forget at our peril how unique that story is. You won’t find it elsewhere  – do we cherish it as we should?

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