Republican Principles in 18th c. Britain

233 years and 4 days ago, John Dunning MP successfully moved a motion that stoutly attempted to make firm Parliament’s sovereignty.

This was a key stage in Britain’s democratic and republican growth, the motion stated that:

“the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished”

& that

“it is competent to this house to examine into and correct abuses in the expenditure of the civil list revenues, as well as in every other branch of the public revenue, whenever it shall appear expedient to the wisdom of the house so to do”

Edmund Burke may have best described the ‘Crown’ in this context as a system of patronage and undemocratic secrecy that continually threatened to undermine the people-power of Parliament. Dunning my also have seen it this way, as the ‘Crown’ was acquiring a worrying amount of executive powers that would bypass Parliament in political decisions. This was in conjunction with the unpopular monarch, George III, who continually attempted to exercise undue influence on the democratic process.

Dunning is a lesson to modern British and foreign republicans, who all too often focus on one aspect of a state’s constitution and ignore other abuses of power. In Britain for example, there are still threats to republican values that are not through the monarchy or the Crown but in Parliament itself. The motion was successful, despite the 18th century Parliament being in many cases unrepresentative and simply corrupt. If a historical and weak Parliament could create such a bill as this, it is not hard to believe that the same may yet happen in modern times.

Highly regarded by Romans as a real life legend, Cincinnatus’ (520BC – 430BC) actions inspired numerous organisations/other groups that are named in his honour. Cincinnatus was a political figure of the Roman Republic.

Cincinnatus, following the condemnation of his son, was forced to live a humble life on a small farm. For two points in his life after living on this farm, Cincinnatus was given absolute power over the people of Rome in separate times of crisis. However, on both instances the power was not wrested from him by other politicians following the crisis as often happens in such occasions but given up willingly at the very day he saw his usefulness as a dictator had come to an end.

Words To Live By – Tony Benn

I haven’t posted for a few days as I’ve been in Scotland visiting family. A bit tired and a lot of work to catch up on now but I thought I’d share a quick quote here, by his father:

Say what you mean, mean what you say, do what you said you’d do, and don’t attack people personally.

Now if everyone could act on that, the world would be a lot better place. Anybody else got words of wisdom they like to live by?