“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Constitution of Church and State Chapter 8

Once again we have a chapter that threatens, by its title, to be boring but turns out to deal with the interesting progression in the history of liberty. The period of time explored is from England's Charles I and his lost head through the Roundhead rebellion to the Jacobin uprisings and the coming of William and Mary, one of the richest periods of English history especially in terms of the ideals of liberty.

"One of the more astute passages of the chapter says, " A revolution begins with relatively moderate objectives, led by men not altogether radical; but as blood is shed and hatred increases, the early leaders of the struggle give way to men more extreme and violent. The old order dissolves in anarchy, but no tolerable new order emerges.Presently confusion becomes so terrible that the recovery of peace matters more to the people than does anything else. And then there appears a "man on horseback,; a talented military commander often, who restores order at at the price of freedom. This revolutionary progression may be traced from the ancient Greek states to very recent examples in Africa."
 This is a standard historical recipe which is often claimed by both sides of an issue. In fact, often the leader proposing to stop the cycle incarnates it himself. This worries me from almost every angle.

It also leads to a question. What do you think of Oliver Cromwell? History is confused about the man and people either love him or hate him.  

Was he a radical who was used by God to bring balance in spite of his ideas? 
Was he the perfect leader and example of protestant goals for government? 
Was he a devil sent to upset the balance of rightful authority?  

The rest of the chapter deals with the philosophers of the age: Hobbes with his soulless Leviathan, John Bunyan with his Pilgrim's Progress, Thomas Browne and his Platonic distrust of the material world, and John Locke who stood for virtue, toleration and representative government and later could be found representing none of these on LOST.

I suspect Dana will take the time to blog about the ideas of private property found in this chapter which also hold the key to the underlying ideals of liberty and sound government.

I want to zero in on Kirk's drumbeat against radicalism and "fanatical political ideology." Perhaps the Colonists  nearness to property and the land and their understanding of human nature guided by Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress which was known by almost all English people, kept them from being swayed, like the French, into radicalism rather than representative government.
Where are we today in terms of radical political idealism? 

Finally, there is an interesting and informative discussion of Whigs and Tories and a point relative to today:

Have you heard that Prince Harry is desiring to marry a Catholic girl?  The history of the ban on this for the British Royals comes from the 1689 Bill of Rights which states that "If a king or a queen ' shall profess the popish religion, or shall marry a papist' then 'the people of these realms shall be and are hereby absolved of their allegiance.'"

How important is that these days for the English people?
Will the rest of their Bill of Rights be in jeopardy with the loss of this clause?
What is the state of Christianity in Great Britain today?


  1. Again, I cannot resist commenting even though I havent finished reading the chapter....

    and I want to subscribe to comments :-)

    I know Kirk argued long and hard against *idealogues* aka coffee house philosophers, in favor of true conservatives.

    I keep reading his stuff to learn the distinctions. This historical survery in Roots of American Order is making them more clear.

    The Oliver Cromwell conundrum makes enemies of friends, but I think I like him.

    I noticed you didnt say....

    Lots of good questions, Cindy!

  2. My fascination with English history and the monarchy begins with Alfred but peters out after Elizabeth 1. I know about people and positions in the War of the Roses, but from King James to the present I am practically ignorant.

    So I guess I need to catch up in my reading. :)

  3. I go back and forth on Cromwell. I really don't know what to think, and the whole incident seems rather odd to me. I think I would have liked him better if he hadn't beheaded his king. I mean, he *could* have simply locked him in the Tower for the remainder of his life, right?

    I also have never known how much of the other bad stuff going on at the time is to be laid at Cromwell's feet. For instance, the Levellers and their horrendous behavior.

    But I don't hate him because I see some of the benefits, and I know he bravely fought for freedom and at least at the beginning he wanted to uphold the Constitution, unwritten though it might have been. :) But then it seems he became a tyrant at the end, so that makes him suspect to me, too.

    Wow. I didn't realize I had such angst until I wrote all of this out.

    Also: I won't pretend that I wasn't emotionally manipulated by Children of the New Forest in regard to this period of history. :)