MAGNA CARTA: Tom Paine at The Last Ditch does a roundup

David Davis

Read it: read the whole thing.

(Magna Carta was not what you thought, exactly, and Paine is right – the broad impression gained from reading the text is disappointing and sectarian in favour of the narrow interests of the “Barons”. But it’s the symbolic act of limiting State Power as a principle, that mattered.)

We were the first to arrive at some approximation of real individual liberty, and we may be the first to lose it utterly having just gained a semblance of it. But we have a good record overall, to be proud of as a people: we tried to export it before the Sartres and Marcuses and Gramscis and Hobbsbawms got to it and rotted it. We ought not to weep: for others will come after us to battle on for liberty, some day, knowing what we tried to do.

We succeeded, better and better over nearly 800 years: a grand record considered on the broad sweep of human history.

I guess we are like that medieval madman in all the movies, who nearly got to the top of the scaling-ladder, in the face of rocks, boiling oil, swords and the like, and fell off backwards with a bolt through his chest, three yards from the battlement. Oh well, never mind.

  • Yes, the origin of the concept of mercy and tolerance and the like, being the governing and acceptable principles in the affairs of men is an interesting matter.
    Where did it all come from?
    The quality of mercy being not strained but dropping as a gentle dew from heaven.
    The western, and British form of civilisation definitely seems to be the best, barbaric though it may be in some aspects (pubs, football matches?!).
    The rule of law does seem to underpin a lot that is good. Without it things go mad. I often wonder what was so bad about (British) colonialism.

  • Nothing at all, much, was bad about it John: that’s why the others hate us so much. We pointed to the Door Our Of Hell, for all people, and shouted that “it’s that way!”

    We thought people ought to be judged by their peers – those who knew and lived with them and near them, and were in a position to know their characters and movements.

    We thought that, if there was a Law, and morality, and Good over Evil was right, then Rulers ought to also be subject to it.

    We thought that, if taxation was to be raised, for whatever purpose, then those who had to furnish it ought to be those who could generate it, and that they should have some say in how (and indeed if – at all -) it might be spent.

    We then thought that those same tax-providers ought to have a say in who represented them at The Head of State.

    English (and of course other) Scientists then found out about other faraway places, full of interesting people and birds and trees and minerals and useful stuff like that. We thought that, if we were going to use the birds and trees and minerals, then the people there ought to be offered all the info about how we’d come to be where we then were. We tried to educate them.

    Then, as every action engenders and equal and opposite reaction according to Newton’s Third Law of motion, GramscoFabiaNazism intervened to try to undo what we had tried to do. That’s life, and after it you die: it’s called The Devil (not that one, , but the real one wot duzz eevil, ‘coz it’z hiz jobb and he’s a GramscoFabiaNazi. He’s currently animating droids such as Ed Balls and others.

    That’s why we have got to go. Sad really, but I suppose, in an imperfect world, inevitable. We should not cry though, for it was a grand and noble effort, and we Did The Right Thing.

  • I went to the 750th in June of ’65 at St Mark’s episcopal cathedral in Minneapolis, and now it’s 800 years on, how time flies!

    It’s a curious thing, but the Norwegians might have gotten to this first with their impossible load of King Forkbeards, Twathairs and Wolfpizzles, but Iceland offered a way out and so the Libertarians all buggered off. Only in the 13th century did they begin writing down these sagas. It’s a matter of /writing/ and all that, the church brought in writing which was just voodoo & reggae to those old Vikings. But they already had the same contract idea as the rest of us from these parts, and so if they’d gotten to their share of shorthand as soon as the A-Ss, quien sabe? The Danes might have de-carte blanched their mangey magnates first?

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