“The sure punishment which waits on habitual perfidy had at length overtaken the King. It was to no purpose that he now pawned his royal word, and invoked heaven to witness the sincerity of his professions. The distrust with which his adversaries regarded him was not to be removed by oaths or treaties. They were convinced that they could be safe only when he was utterly helpless. Their demand, therefore, was, that he should surrender, not only those prerogatives which he had usurped in violation of ancient laws and of his own recent promises, but also other prerogatives which the English Kings had always possessed, and continue to possess at the present day. No minister must be appointed, no peer created, without the consent of the Houses. Above all, the sovereign must resign that supreme military authority which, from time beyond all memory, had appertained to the regal office.”
Excerpt From: Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay. “The History of England, from the Accession of James II — Volume 1.”
Power and perfidy have forever been braided together.
John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, 13th Marquess of Groppoli,(10 January 1834 – 19 June 1902), better known as Lord Acton, was an English Catholic historian, politician, and writer. He was the only son of Sir Ferdinand Dalberg-Acton, 7th Baronet, and a grandson of the Neapolitan admiral and prime minister Sir John Acton, 6th Baronet. Between 1837 and 1869 he was known as Sir John Dalberg-Acton, 8th Baronet.
He is perhaps best known for the remark, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…”, which he made in a letter to an Anglican bishop.
The significance of the adage has heightened meaning following the attempted coup of the capitol building of the United States of America by supposed insurgents aligned to erstwhile president Donald J. Trump.
Charles I (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649) was King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. He was born into the House of Stuart as the second son of King James VI of Scotland, but after his father inherited the English throne in 1603 (as James I), he moved to England, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He became heir apparent to the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1612 on the death of his elder brother Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. An unsuccessful and unpopular attempt to marry him to the Spanish Habsburgprincess Maria Anna culminated in an eight-month visit to Spain in 1623 that demonstrated the futility of the marriage negotiations. Two years later, he married the Bourbon princess Henrietta Maria of France.
After his succession in 1625, Charles quarrelled with the Parliament of England, which sought to curb his royal prerogative. Charles believed in the divine right of kings, and was determined to govern according to his own conscience. Many of his subjects opposed his policies, in particular the levying of taxes without parliamentary consent, and perceived his actions as those of a tyrannical absolute monarch. From 1642, Charles fought the armies of the English and Scottish parliaments in the English Civil War. After his defeat in 1645, he surrendered to a Scottish force that eventually handed him over to the English Parliament (the “Long Parliament”). Charles refused to accept his captors’ demands for a constitutional monarchy, and temporarily escaped captivity in November 1647. Re-imprisoned on the Isle of Wight, Charles forged an alliance with Scotland, but by the end of 1648 the Parliamentarian New Model Army had consolidated its control over England. Charles was tried, convicted, and executed for high treason in January 1649, after a show trial controlled by the Rump Parliament. The monarchy was abolished and the Commonwealth of England was established as a republic.
The primary distinction of Western government lies between constitutional monarchy and republican government.
A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises authority in accordance with a written or unwritten constitution. Constitutional monarchies differ from absolute monarchies (in which a monarch holds absolute power as both head of state and head of government) in that they are bound to exercise powers and authorities within limits prescribed by an established legal framework.
Republicanism is the idea in which elected leaders represent the interests of the people. Historically, it ranges from the rule of a representative minority or oligarchy to popular sovereignty. It has had different definitions and interpretations which vary significantly based on historical context and methodological approach. Republicanism may also refer to the non-ideological scientific approach to politics and governance. As the republican thinker and second president of the United States John Adams stated in the introduction to his famous Defense of the Constitution, the “science of politics is the science of social happiness” and a republic is the form of government arrived at when the science of politics is appropriately applied to the creation of a rationally designed government. Rather than being ideological, this approach focuses on applying a scientific methodology to the problems of governance through the rigorous study and application of past experience and experimentation in governance.
It may justifiably alarm people to discover that initially “republicanism was the ideology of governing a nation as a republic with an emphasis on liberty and the civic virtue practiced by citizens. …” More broadly it refers to a political system that protects liberty especially by incorporating a rule of law that cannot be arbitrarily ignored by the government. Even more succinctly a republic is governed by its constitution which in the case of the United States of America is an exemplary model of democratic rights applicable to all.
Charles spent his last few days in St James’s Palace, accompanied by his most loyal subjects and visited by his family. On 30 January, he was taken to a large black scaffold constructed in front of the Banqueting House, where he was to be executed. A large crowd had gathered to witness the regicide. Charles stepped onto the scaffold and gave his last speech, declaring his innocence of the crimes of which parliament had accused him, and claiming himself as a “martyr of the people”. The crowd could not hear the speech, owing to the many parliamentarian guards blocking the scaffold, but Charles’ companion, William Juxon, recorded it in shorthand. Charles gave a few last words to Juxon, claiming his “incorruptible crown” in Heaven, and put his head on the block. He waited a few moments and gave a signal; the anonymous executioner beheaded Charles in one clean blow and held Charles’ head up to the crowd silently, dropping it into the swarm of soldiers soon after.
There are many – including 46th President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr – who have repeatedly expressed dismay at the perceived corruption of the American republic. It is noteworthy that as is so often the case particularly in binary politics there are adherents on both sides, each with compelling arguments swaying in opposite directions. What however predominates in my opinion is the perseverance of Americans in asserting the simple thesis of the “rule of law” divorced from any other current ideology. This is not altogether removed from specious argument – any more than is the divine right of kings or the catechism of the Catholic church – but it is generally considered to be a more palatable and democratic avowal than those theses which are demonstrably aligned with the cause they purport to sustain. This less toxic theme is founded upon the heady topic of human rights generally – as opposed to those alliances of seigneurial and commercial advantage.
Trump’s baggage of mischievous insinuation into the republic’s office of Attorney General; the employment of insiders to contaminate opposition; the patent disregard for public well being; the inducement of violence for singular personal purposes; and his insistence on contradicting the handing over of power to elected representatives all nurture a frightful result if not reigned in and allowed to foment. Why it is that so many citizens apparently – perhaps more than in reality – stand behind Trump and his confederates is unsettling for those adherents to the American Constitution and the Rule of Law. The balance of logic and reason in the assessment of the outcome of the recent presidential election is unquestionable. Yet Trump hangs on like a foul piece of excrement.
My vote is in favour of the American recovery from this momentary relapse. There is currently too much awakening to human dignity and equality to allow a piddling shop keeper like Trump to overtake a scheme far more grand than he could ever foresee, understand or appreciate. His conviction to self-approbation and the GOP’s mercenary fondling of his most insidious appetites expressed through its infected laggards is doomed.