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Magna Carta - our ancestors never imagined we would stop short - 15/6/2015

Magna Carta
Image by John Vandenberg

The following article from 1817 [1] is as relevant today as it was then.

"All the laws in favour of the people, which form what is popularly called the constitution, are so many proofs of the endeavours of our ancestors to produce a constitution ; they are excellent in themselves ; but they are isolated parts of a whole, which was never completed. Our forefathers no doubt, expected the thanks of their descendants for the privileges they had ensured to them, for the path they had chalked out for us to pursue, but they never imagined we should stop short in the career, and be content with sitting down to admire what they had done, instead of applying our own shoulders to the wheel, and imitating their glorious example, in the perfection of the work so nobly begun.

The mistake has been a fatal one. States must either proceed, or retrograde. While we contented ourselves with boasting of our advance, we have been silently, but rapidly falling back. Abuse has been piled upon abuse, and every popular advantage has been loaded with the weight of corruption. The people ought to have remembered that they were the guardians of the constitution. Instead of that, the simpletons expected protection from the constitution ; which is in fact nothing but the recorded merits of our ancestors. The country has boasted of being free, because Magna Charta was enacted ; when the least share of penetration would have taught us, that Magna Charta was only enacted, because our ancestors, were determined to be free. Our ancestors, with swords in their hands, and the tyrant John on his knees before them, would have been just as free, whether they had insisted upon the signature of Magna Charta, or not. Their freedom was in their power, and their will. It was only to exhibit to their children the means that made them free, that they left this memorial to after ages.

It was the promulgation of the spirit that influenced their actions that was valuable, not the endorsement of a few honest sentences upon a skin of parchment. Our ancestors did more, than could have been expected from the state of knowledge at that time; but they have been far from perfecting the work of legislation, far from finishing the temple of civil liberty. Their progress, however, shames the retrogation of their degenerate race. We have suffered the fabric to decay, and fall to pieces. We have been totally neglectful of repairing the ravages of time, and the pitiless pelting of the storm of tyranny. The foundations are sapped, the baneful ivy has crept into the crevices, and eat away the battlements that it seemed to support. It has become the residence of the most unclean birds, the most obnoxious animals. Let us earnestly set about the work of cleansing and repairing the edifice. Where it has been found weak, let us fortify it ; where it has been found narrow, let us enlarge it. Our ancestors were not led by the dull interpretation of ancient precepts. They followed the light of liberty, wherever it led them. They were not to be intimidated by the power of a prince, or the measures of a ministry. They opposed force to force, and fought their way through all impediments to freedom and to honour. Could this conduct be honorable in them, and would it be treason in their successors, if they were placed in the same circumstances ?"

When the language of freedom dies, freedom dies with it.

Endnotes:


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 15/6/2015

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