Monday, April 09, 2007

Brits At Their Best

I often speak of the Anglosphere, which is not to be confused with "Anglo-Saxonism":
Anglospherism is assuredly not the racialist Anglo-Saxonism dating from the era around 1900, nor the sentimental attachment of the Anglo-American Special Relationship of the decades before and after World War II.... Anglo-Saxonism relied on underlying assumptions of an Anglo-Saxon race, and sought to unite racial "cousins." ... Anglospherism is based on the intellectual understanding of the roots of both successful market economies and constitutional democracies in strong civil society.
Furthermore, it
is not a club that a person or nation can join or be excluded from, but a condition or status on a network.
Lately there has been an excess of attention recently on the Frightened Fifteen (now selling their stories for cash), over the actions of a Victoria Cross winner:
The BBC has refused to air a show dramatizing how Private Johnson Beharry won the Victoria Cross in Iraq because "it was too positive" and "feared it would alienate members of the audience opposed to the war in Iraq", according to the Telegraph.
Well the BBC can't shut down the internet, so positive stories will get out regardless of their disgraceful cowardice.

Here is more that should not be suppressed: Brits At Their Best.

Though somewhat difficult to navigate, there is a wealth of information at that site about the foundations of many of the rights we take for granted, such as in this Liberty Timeline excerpt:

The House of Commons arrests John Lilburne, charging him with libelling its speaker. He challenges the House's authority to investigate his political opinions by refusing to answer their questions. His behavior is unprecedented, but John Lilburne sees that every Brit is in danger if the House can haul any man in, try, and convict him.

Lilburne charges that the House is acting illegally and refuses to answer any questions about himself. He demands to know the charges against him. His strategy is to demand Common Law procedures, but the House committee scorns the law. "I have a right," Lilburne cries, "to all the privileges that do belong to a free man as the greatest man in England. . .and the ground and foundation of my freedom I build upon the Great Charter of England." The House throws him into jail. But this is not the last they will hear of John Lilburne.


Brits from all parts of the country and walks of life who are soldiers in the Parliamentary Army begin meeting in inns and bivouacs across Britain. Called Agitators (New Agents) they are developing ideas that men and women in some modern democracies take for granted as rights. Their Agreement of the People includes:

--The right to vote in biannual or annual parliamentary elections
--Complete religious freedom for individuals with no religious direction from the state
--Freedom of association
--Uncensored books and newspapers
--The right not to bear witness against oneself
--The abolition of class privileges
--The right of juries to acquit
--No taxes for people earning less than £30 per year.

A bit more on John Lilburne:
John Lilburne was arrested upon information by an informer acting for The Stationers' Company and brought before the Court of Star Chamber. Instead of being charged with an offense he was asked how he pleaded. John Lilburne demanded to be presented in English with the charges brought against him (much of the written legal work of the time was in Latin). The Court refused Lilburne's request. The court then threw him in prison and again brought him back to court and demanded a plea. Again John Lilburne demanded to know the charges brought against him.

The authorities then resorted to flogging him with a three-thonged whip on his bare back, as he was dragged by his hands tied to the rear of an ox cart from Fleet Prison to the pillory at Westminster. He was then forced to stoop in the pillory where he still managed to campaign against his censors, while distributing more unlicensed literature to the crowds. He was then gagged. Finally he was thrown in prison. He was taken back to the court and again imprisoned.

This began the first in a long series of trials that lasted throughout his life for what John Lilburne called his "freeborn rights". As a result of these trials a growing number of supporters began to call him "Freeborn John" and they even struck a medal in his honor to that effect. It is this trial that has been cited by constitutional jurists and scholars in the United States of America as being one of the historical foundations of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is also cited within the 1966 majority opinion of Miranda v. Arizona by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Furthermore, he was not a proto-commie, instead being concerned with "freeborn rights",
the rights that all Englishmen are born with, which are different from privileges bestowed by a monarch or a government. His enemies branded him as a Leveller but Lilburne responded that he was a "Leveller so-called." To him it was a pejorative label which he did not like. He called his supporters "Agitators." It was feared that "Levellers" wanted to level property rights, but Lilburne wanted to level human basic rights which he called "freeborn rights."
This is important, fascinating history, that is surely glossed over in the schools. How much are today's American students taught about the U.S. Constitution, let alone its foundation in English Common Law and the philosphies of Puritans and Quakers? And of the actions of Great Men like John Lilburne? Indeed,
The late United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who often cited the works of John Lilburne in his opinions, wrote in an article for Encyclopædia Britannica that he believed John Lilburne's constitutional work of 1649 was the basis for the basic rights contained in the U.S. Constitution.
No, all too easy to stereotype Puritans as rigid witch-hunting moralizing imbeciles, rather than as fighters for religious Liberty in general:
In April 1645, Lilburne resigned from the Army, because he refused to sign the Presbyterian Solemn League and Covenant, on the grounds that the covenant deprived those who might swear it of freedom of religion, namely members of the parliamentary army. Lilburne argued that he had been fighting for this Liberty among others...The Scots, he maintained, were free to believe as they saw fit but not to bind anyone to the same faith if they did not share it.
More interesting details about many other Brits At Their Best are in the Heroes section. Poke around, there's a lot to see.

Even the legacy of Gardens, which has given us the concept of the public "park."

Rather then dwelling on the Frightened Fifteen, may we all focus on that state of mind known as the Anglosphere, by taking pride in its history as an example for our future.

May the Brits themselves remember their own history!


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