Posts Tagged ‘James II’

Hannan: BNP Is Left-Wing because It Doesn’t Support the Monarchy

April 5, 2014

Daniel Hannan

Daniel Hannan, Tory MEP who thinks BNP Must be ‘Left-Wing’ as Don’t Support the Monarchy. Wrong on Both Counts.

I’ve blogged before about the way the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, and other Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic, have attempted to smear the Left with the argument that Fascism is actually a form of Socialism. Guy Debord’s Cat has posted a series of detailed critiques of Hannan’s various spurious statements about this. In his post for the 24th July 2010, Hannan Doesn’t Know His Right from His Left: Quelle Surprise!, the Cat attacks this remark from Hannan, that the BNP must be left-wing, because it doesn’t support the monarchy. The Cat writes

So when I had a peek at Hannan’s blog, I saw him pretty much repeating the same lie as the US right wingers I had encountered on Delphi Forums. In the title he declares that “The far- Left BNP has never supported the monarchy“. For someone who likes to pat himself on the back for his classical education, he seems to be a remarkably thick individual.

Fascist Attitude to Monarchy Ambiguous, but Very Often Supportive

This is just plain wrong. While Hitler maintained in his Table Talk that Germany should be a Republic, and that the Socialist did the right thing for the wrong reasons when the Kaiser was forced to abdicate, Fascism has had an ambivalent relationship with it. When Franco got round to drafting a constitution for Spain, he declared it to be a kingdom, and was careful to secure the accession to the throne of Juan Carlos, even while isolating his father, the heir to the throne and neutralise the Fascists of the Phalange, who did want a Republic. Mussolini’s Italy retained the monarchy, even though its power was usurped and limited by that of il Duce himself. Other Fascist parties, like the Belgian Rexists, wanted a return to absolute monarchy.

The British Union of Fascists and Tudor Absolute Monarchy

In Britain, Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists also supported a powerful, centralised monarchy against the centuries of the British tradition of representative government. Richard Thurlough in his book, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1986, describes the ideology of Mosley and the BUF, including their weird and perverse interpretation of British history. For the British Union of Fascists, England reached its pinnacle of greatness under the absolute monarchy of the Tudors. This, however, had been undermined by the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which overthrew the last Stuart king, James II in favour of William of Orange. While this coup had terrible repercussions in Ireland, where the War between James’ and William’s armies have added to the legacy of hatred and bitterness, it was one of the key events in the development of British constitutional freedom. Parliament had invited William to take power, and had a far weaker claim to the throne compared to James, who was the rightful occupant of the throne by royal descent. William’s victory thus marked the supremacy of parliament over the monarchy. It was parliament that now had the power to raise and depose British kings. In addition, William had to satisfy his British subjects that he would continue to uphold their traditional liberties against any attempt to establish an absolute monarchy similar to those on the Continent. He was therefore forced to issue a Bill of Rights, which became one of the foundations of modern British constitutional liberty. This, however, was seen not as the cause of Britain’s rise to imperial grandeur, but as the cause of its decline by the BUF.

The BNP and the ‘Monarchical Revolution’

Mosley himself did not advocate the restoration of an absolute monarchy. He saw himself as the great Spenglerian Caesar, whose absolute dictatorial power would reverse the coming collapse of British civilisation. Nevertheless, elements of the British Far Right did seem to support the establishment of an absolute monarchy. In the 1980s I did hear rumours that the BNP supported a ‘monarchical revolution’ that would place active government firmly in the hands of the Crown, who would no longer be merely heads of state with little real power. Hannan is therefore completely wrong with his statement that the BNP couldn’t be Fascist because it didn’t support the monarchy. The BNP did, and is. Meanwhile, the Cat’s article attacking this statement and the rest of Hannan’s argument can be found at: http://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/hannan-doesnt-know-his-right-from-his-left-quelle-surprise/

Advertisements

Resisting Cameron’s Contempt for Parliament: Books Giving a Historical Perspective on British Democracy and Constitution

January 17, 2014

This evening I’ve reblogged Mike’s piece over at Vox Political commenting on the Coalition’s response for parliament’s call for an inquiry into the alarming rise of poverty in the UK. Cameron has ignored it, despite the fact that it was passed by a majority of 127 to 2. Mike and the commenters to his blog have justifiably viewed this as the death of democracy, the day when parliament’s ability to the hold the government of the day to account was finally suppressed. At the moment this isn’t quite true, but it does not bode well for the future. Tony Blair’s tenure as prime minister was harshly attacked by the Conservative press for its very presidential style. The Tories particularly objected to the way Blair ignored parliament when it suited him, quite apart from his reform of the House of Lords. The Conservatives saw him as a real danger to the British constitution and our ancient liberties, and there were a number of books by right-wing authors and journalists proclaiming this very clearly on their covers. Cameron is continuing and possibly accelerating this process and the transformation of the post of prime minister into something like the American presidency, and in so doing running over the constitutional checks to the power of the prime minister.

One of Mike’s commenters has said that for people to be able to challenge this gradual accumulation of power by the prime minister, without recourse to or check by parliament, they need to be informed of how parliament actually works. I haven’t quite been able to find a book I bought a while ago on parliament. I have been able to find a number of books, which give an important historical insight into the development of democracy and the extremely long struggle for a truly representative, democratic parliament. Here are the books I recommend:

Eric J. Evans, The Forging of the Modern State: Early Industrial Britain 1783-1870
(London: Longman 1983)

Forging Modern State

This is a general history of Britain. I’ve selected it here because of its chapters on the constitutional changes which vastly increased the electorate in the 19th century. These were the Great Reform Act of 1833, and then Disraeli’s further expansion of the franchise in 1870, and the agitation and popular movements that demanded them, such as the Chartists. These show just how hard won the vote was, though it wasn’t until 1918 that every adult in Britain had the vote. The 1870 electoral reform enfranchised most, but certainly not all, working class men, and still excluded women from the franchise.

The book also describes the other major events and crises of that part of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, including the establishment of something like a public educational system in Britain, the enfranchisement of religious Dissenters so that they could participate in politics, the repeal of the Corn Laws, industrialisation, the Factory Acts, and poverty. The 19th century is very much a part of political discourse today by both the Left and Right because it was the age in which modern Britain really took shape, and the debate over ‘Victorian Values’ introduced by Maggie Thatcher. Evan’s book as an overview of Britain in the period offers valuable information on that crucial period.

John Miller: The Glorious Revolution (London: Longman 1983)

Glorious Revolution

This was an other vital period in the creation of British parliamentary democracy. It was when the Roman Catholic, Stuart king, James II, was overthrown and the crown given instead to William of Orange. It is obviously an immensely controversial topic in Northern Ireland, because of the way it cemented the exclusion of the Roman Catholics from power, which was held by a very narrow, Protestant elite. Back in 1988, the year of its tricentennial, Margaret Thatcher’s government deliberately chose not to celebrate it because of its highly divisive legacy in Ulster. It’s importance to British democracy lies in the fact that it gave real power to parliament. True, Britain was still a monarchy, not a republic, but its kings and queens now ruled by the consent of parliament. Furthermore, William of Orange was forced to reassure his British subject that he would not override parliament and the traditional constitutional checks and liberties by issuing a Bill of Rights. This became one of the founding documents of the British Constitution during the 18th and early 19th century.

J.W. Allen, A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century (London: Methuen)

16th Century Politics

This was first published nearly a century ago in 1928. Nevertheless, it’s still a very useful book. The 16th century was the period when politicians, theologians and philosophers across Europe began to inquire into the origins of their countries’ constitutions, and debate the nature of political power. It was an age of absolute monarchy, when it was considered that the king had total power and whose subjects had no right to resist him. This view was attacked by both Protestant and Roman Catholic political theorists, who developed the idea of popular sovereignty. St. Augustine had introduced into Christianity the ancient Greek theory of the idea of the social contract. The theory states that right at the beginning of human society, people came together to elect a leader, who would rule in order to protect their lives and property. As well as claiming a divine right to rule, medieval kings also claimed the right to rule as the people’s representative, given power through this original contract between the primordial ruler and his people. Under theologians and philosophers like the Spanish Jesuit, Suarez, this became the basis for a true theory of national sovereignty. Just as kings owed their power to the will of the people, so the people had the right to depose those kings, who ruled tyrannically.

These are just three of the books I’ve found useful in presenting the history and development of some of the aspects of modern British theories of constitutional government and parliamentary democracy. I intend to post about a few others as well, which I hope will keep people informed about our democracy’s origins, how precious it is, and how it must be defended from those modern politicos, like Cameron, who seem intent on overthrowing it.

More on John Locke’s Philosophy

July 6, 2013

In my last post on Locke, I described how his contract view of the relationship between monarchy and people laid the foundations of modern liberal, representative democracy. Below are a few more passages setting out Locke’s view of the origins of political sovereignty in the people, rather than their leaders, and the right of the same people to elect their governors to protect their lives, liberty and property.

The Original Compact

Men being … by nature all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of his estate and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty and puts on the bonds of civil society is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community, for their comfortable, save and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties and a great security against any that are not of it … When any number of men have so consented to make on community or government, they are presently incorporated and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.

Political Power as a Trust

The legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them. For all power given with trust, for the attaining an end, being limited by that end, whenever that end is manifestly neglected, or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forfeited, and the power devolve into the hands of those that gave 9it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security.

The Dissolution of Government

Besides this overturning from without (by conquest), governments are dissolved from within. First, when the legislative is altered … When any one, or more, shall take upon them to make laws, whom the people have not appointed so to do, they make laws without authority, which the people are not therefore bound to obey … being in full liberty to resist the force of those who, without authority, would impose anything upon them …
When such a single person or prince sets up his own arbitrary will in place of the laws which are the will of the society, declared by the legislative, then the legislative is changed … whoever introduces new laws not being thereunto authorized by the fundamental appointments of the society, or subverts the old, disowns and overthrows the power by which they were made and so sets up a new legislative …

In these and the like cases when the government is dissolved, the people are at liberty to provide for themselves by erecting a new legislative, differing from the other by the change of persons, or form, or both, as they shall find it most for their safety and good…

The People the Ultimate Arbiters and Holder of Power: The Government are merely the People’s Deputies

Here ’tis like, the common question will be made, who shall be judge whether the pricne or legislative act contrary to their trust?… To this I reply, the people shall be judge; for who shall be judge whether his trustee or deputy acts well and according to the trust reposed in him but he who deputes him and must, by having deputed him, have still a power to discard him when he fails in his trust?…

The People have the Power to Oppose and Overthrow Tyrants

The end of government is the good of mankind, and which is best for mankind, that the people should be always exposed to the boundless will of tyranny or that rulers should be sometimes liable to be opposed, when they grow exorbitant in the use of their power and employ it for the destruction and not the preservation of the properties of their people?…

Source

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (London: J.M. Dent and Sons 1924)

John Miller, The Glorious Revolution (Harlow: Longman 1983)

James II’s Political Philosophy

July 6, 2013

Locke also wrote his great work, the Two Treatises of Government, to justify the Glorious Revolution of 1688 that overthrew James II and replaced him with William of Orange. James had converted to Roman Catholicism, and attempted to pass legislation to remove the laws that penalised Roman Catholic religious belief and observance and its worshippers. Roman Catholicism was associated at this time with absolute monarchy, such as those of France and Spain. Protestant Britons feared that if Roman Catholicism was legalised, and Catholics allowed to enter government, it would mean a return to return to the persecution they had experienced under Queen Mary, which still existed in Roman Catholic countries. James attempted to offset their fears by advocating the removal of legal discrimination against Protestant Dissenters, such as the Baptists, Presbyterians and Quakers. This, and his infringements of the English constitution, which laid limits on the king’s powers, merely alienated his natural allies in the Tory party without winning over the Dissenters. The result was his overthrow in favour of the Dutch Protestant Prince, William of Orange, who had married Charles II’s daughter, Mary.

James II’s own political views are interesting. Although he believed firmly in the absolute power of the monarchy and the Divine Right of Kings, he felt that this put more pressure on him to rule benevolently and safeguard his people’s welfare, not less.

‘Kings being accountable for none of their actions but to God and themselves ought to be more cautious and circumspect than those who are in lower stations and as ’tis the duty of subjects to pay true allegiance to him and to observe his laws, so a king is bound by his office to have a fatherly love and care of them … Consider you come into the world to serve God Almighty and not only to please yourself and that by Him kings reign and that without His particular protection nothing you undertake can prosper … Therefore preserve your prerogative, but disturb not the subjects in their property nor conscience, remember the great precept, Do as you would be done to, for that is the law and the prophets…’

Source

John Miller, The Glorious Revolution (Harlow: Longman 1983)