William of Orange, Mary, Glorious Revolution, Bill of Rights, Act of Succession, Whigs, Tories and Constitutional Monarchy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 9th, 2012

Politics 101

Englishman John Lock believed not in the Divine Right of Kings but in the Sovereignty of the People

After the English Civil War, and the English Republic with Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector, Britain had a king again.  Charles II.  Taking the throne in 1660.  And after what Britain just went through he was going to rule a little more carefully than his dad Charles I.  Who was, after all, beheaded by Parliament.  Charles believed in the Divine Right of Kings.  But he wasn’t going to mess with Parliament.  He didn’t want anyone saying like father like son about him.

In fact, things really began to change under Charles II.  It was the age of empiricism.  The era of observing things.  And making sense out of what you saw.  Which led to some questioning of Church doctrine.  For the Church said they understood everything.  Such as the earth being the center of the universe.  And in the Divine Right of Kings.  But then Galileo observed that the earth revolved around the sun.  Contrary to Church doctrine.  So if the Church was wrong about how the universe worked then perhaps they were wrong about the Divine Right of Kings, too.  People started questioning things.  Francis Bacon who lived through the English Civil War questioned some of the old books.  Believing more in observing things.  And thinking about what you observed.  Tom Hobbes observed life and thought people were a lost cause.  And needed the heavy hand of government to protect them from each other.  To alleviate their suffering from a life that was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”  John Locke, a veteran of the English Civil War, thought a lot about what he observed.  He believed everyone was born equal.  And innocent.  He didn’t believe in the Divine Right of Kings or the nobility.  And that government ruled at the consent of the governed.  The idea that kings weren’t sovereign.  The people were.

It was also a science renaissance.  Smart guys were figuring out how to master their environment.  And the seas.  This was the era when the world got smaller.  As ships began to navigate the oceans.  And the great European powers colonized other lands.  Things were looking up in Britain.  Until Charles II died and his son took over being king (1685).  King James II.  Who had none of his father’s cunning political skill (who ruled following a civil war that ended monarchy).  Who liked to rule as he pleased, believing more in the Divine Right of Kings than in Parliament.  But worse of all he was a Catholic.  While the English were still Protestant.  And fiercely anti-Catholic.  Especially with all of this new thinking going on.  They were done with Catholic dogma for good.  And when James started making the Protestant churches of England and Scotland Catholic, well, the people had had enough.

The Act of Succession brought a German from Hanover to the British Throne

James II was chased out of England into exile in France.  A Dutch prince came over to do the job.  William of Orange.  A stout Protestant.  Who had married James’ daughter.  Mary.  With James abdicating his throne (by running away) Parliament made William and Mary joint monarchs.  Not quite a revolution.  But we call it one anyway.  The Glorious Revolution.  Because the William/Mary monarchy was conditional on a Bill of Rights.  Which basically said Protestants and Parliament were in.  The Divine Right of Kings and Catholics were out.  Which was good if you were a Protestant.  But particularly unpleasant if you were a Catholic in Scotland or Ireland.  Who suffered dearly under William.

Things were looking up again for Protestant, liberty-loving Britons.  But the royal monarchs were getting old.  And had no male heirs.  Even Mary’s sister, Anne, failed to produce a male heir.  Big problem.  Then they found a widow of a dead German prince with some Stuart blood in her.  Sophia of Hanover.  Whose mother was the daughter of one James I.  (The dad of Charles I.  King Charles I, of course, being the king Parliament executed after he lost the English Civil War).  And more importantly she was a Protestant.  Problem solved.  The Act of Succession (1701) formally passed the throne to Electress Sophia after everyone else ahead of her died.  And to her heirs upon her death.  The act further stated that a Catholic shall never, ever, sit on the British throne.

Queen Mary died in 1694.  William III followed in 1702.  Making Anne Queen.  Under her reign Scotland joined England in formal union.  Creating a large free-trade zone.  The impetus for the Scots to sign on the dotted line.  The Act of Union ended the Scottish parliament.  Scottish ministers now sat in the British parliament.  In the new union called Great Britain.  In time the Scots and the English would stand shoulder to shoulder on battlefields throughout the world.  Fighting Catholics.  And others.  Building an empire.  Meanwhile Sophia died.  Before Anne.  So when Anne died the throne passed to her son.  George.  Who enjoyed being home in Hanover more than being in England.  And spent more time in his German kingdom.  At first angering Parliament.  But then they grew to like the idea of having all that unfettered power.

British Americans enjoyed their British Heritage, their Religious Freedom and their Constitutional Monarchy

It was the age of Parliament.  And constitutional monarchy.  While George was home in Hanover Parliament governed Great Britain.  It was political parties that fought each other.  Not the Parliament and king.  The Whigs (who favored the Hanover line of succession).  And the Tories (who favored the House of Stuart).  Whigs supported religious freedom.  For them any form of Protestantism was okay.  The Tories preferred only those Protestants in the Church of England.  But they united in their opposition to all things Catholic.  Thanks to a financial scandal tied to the Tories the Whigs ruled for most of the 18th century.  The Whigs MPs grew powerful.  Especially Sir Robert Walpole.  Who the people began calling Prime Minister.

The 18th century saw a series of wars in Europe and throughout the world.  All of which could be boiled down to two things.  Economic advantage.  And the never ending battle between Protestantism and Catholicism.  Which put Protestant Great Britain and Catholic France in a near perpetual state of war in the 18th century.  In the Old World.  And in the New World.  Meanwhile the British Americans in the New World were coming of age.  Enjoying their British heritage.  Their religious freedom.  And their constitutional monarchy.  For awhile, at least.  Until they picked up on that idea Locke had.  About the people being sovereign.

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LESSONS LEARNED #23: “Those who seek a third party cede the election to the opposition.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2010

SLAVERY WAS ALWAYS a complicated issue.  Many of the Founding Fathers saw the contradiction with the ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence.  And there were the economic costs.  George Washington wanted to transition to paid laborers as the generations of slaves he inherited were consuming an ever growing share of his harvest.  (You only pay paid-laborers; you didn’t have to house and feed them and their families.)  He had whole families that included babies and the elderly long past their working prime.  People would buy slaves in their working prime but wouldn’t take their parents and grandparents, too.  He didn’t want to break up the families.  And he couldn’t free them.  Someone had to take care of those who could no longer work.  So he would.  Even after death.  He freed his slaves in his will and directed his heirs to train and help them so they could integrate into the workforce.  (Not every slave-owner, though, was as caring as Washington).

So Washington, John Adams and some of the other Founding Fathers saw slavery as an institution that would eventually wither and die.  They saw it as immoral.  As well as an inefficient economic system.   It would just have to die out one day.  So they tabled the discussion to get the southern states to join the union.  But they did put an end date on the slave trade.  Twenty years should be enough time they thought.  And in those 20 years, the South would figure out what to do with the slaves they had.  Because no one in the north could figure that one out.  Who would compensate the slave owners for their emancipated ‘property’?  And there were no biracial societies at that time.  No one could imagine that a formerly enslaved majority will become peaceful neighbors with their former minority masters.  Especially in the South.

But the cotton gin changed all of that.  The one thing that slave labor was good for was big single-crop plantations.  And there was none better than King Cotton.  Separating the seed from the cotton was the one bottleneck in the cotton industry.  Ely Whitney changed that in 1791.  Cotton production exploded.  As did slavery.  The southern economy changed.  As did the political debate.  The southern economy was a cotton economy.  And cotton needed slaves.  The South, therefore, needed slavery.

CARVED OUT OF the new Louisiana Territory were territories that would organize into states and request admittance into the union.  But would they be free or slave?  The first test was resolved with the Missouri Compromise (1820).  Henry Clay (the Great Compromiser) kept the peace.  Saved the union.  For awhile.  The compromise forbade slavery north of Missouri’s southern border (approximately the 36th parallel) in the Louisiana Territory (except in Missouri, of course).  Martin Van Buren saw this as a temporary fix at best.  Any further discussion on the slavery issue could lead to secession.  Or war.  So he created the modern Democratic Party with but one goal.  To get power and to keep power.  With power he could control what they debated.  And, once he had power, they wouldn’t debate slavery again.

During the 1844 presidential campaign, the annexation of the Republic of Texas was an issue.  The secretary of state, Daniel Webster, opposed it.  It would expand slavery and likely give the Senate two new democratic senators.  Which was what John C. Calhoun wanted.  He succeeded Webster as secretary of state.  The new northern Whigs were antislavery.  The southern Whigs were pro-cotton.  The Whig presidential candidate in 1844 was Henry Clay (the Great Compromiser).  He wasn’t for it or against it.  Neither was Martin Van Buren, the Democrat frontrunner.  They wished to compromise and avoid this hot issue all together.

Well, Clay wasn’t ‘anti’ enough for the antislavery Whigs.  So they left and formed the Liberty Party and nominated James. G. Birney as their candidate.  Meanwhile, the Democrats weren’t all that happy with Van Buren.  Enter James Knox Polk.  He didn’t vacillate.  He pledged to annex Texas.  And the Oregon territory.  The Democrats nominated him and said goodbye to Van Buren.

The Whig and Liberty parties shared the northern antislavery votes, no doubt costing Clay the election.  A fait accompli, President Tyler signed off on the annexation of Texas before Polk took the oath of office.

BUT ALL WAS not well.  Those sectional differences continued to simmer just below the boiling point.  The Fugitive Slave Law now made the ‘southern’ problem a northern one, too.  Federal law now required that they help return this southern ‘property’.  It got ugly.  And costly.  Harriet Ward Beecher’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin only inflamed the abolitionist fires in the North.  And then Stephen Douglas saw a proposed transcontinental railroad that could take him to the Whitehouse. 

The railroad would go through the unorganized Nebraskan territory (the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase).   As Washington discussed organizing this territory, the South noted that all of this territory was above 36th parallel.  Thus, any state organized would be, by the terms of the Missouri Compromise, free.  With no state below the 36th parallel added, the balance of power would tip to the North.  The South objected.  Douglas assuaged them.  With the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.  Which replaced the Missouri Compromise (the 36th parallel) with popular sovereignty.  And Kansas bled.

The idea of popular sovereignty said that the people of the new organized state would determine if they were free or slave.  So the free and slave people raced to populate the territory.  It was a mini civil war.  A precursor of what was to come.  It split up the Whig and Democratic parties.  Southern Whigs and Northern Democrats quit their parties.  The Whig Party would wither and die.  The new Republican Party would rise from the Whig’s ashes.  They would address the cause, not the symptoms.  And at the heart of all the sectional divides was the issue of slavery itself.  It had to be addressed.  As Abraham Lincoln would say in 1858, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

ZACHARY TAYLOR CHOSE Whig Millard Fillmore as his vice president to appeal to northern Whigs.  When Taylor died some 2 years into his first term, Fillmore became president.  His support of the Compromise of 1850 (admit California as a free state, settle Texas border, grant territorial status to New Mexico, end the slave trade in the District of Columbia and beef up the Fugitive Slave Law) alienated him from the Whig base.

In the 1856 presidential contest, the Republicans nominated John C. Frémont.  The Democrats nominated James Buchanan.  And Millard Fillmore (compromiser and one time Whig) ran on the American Party ticket.  There was talk of secession should Frémont win.  It was a 3-way race.  Buchanan battled with the ‘compromiser’ in the South.  And with the ‘abolitionist’ in the North.  The race was close.  Buchanan won with only 45% of the vote.  But Frémont lost by only 2 states.  He had won all but 5 of the free states.  Had Fillmore not run, it is unlikely that these free states would have voted for the slavery candidate.  So Fillmore no doubt denied Frémont the election.

AMERICA’S ORIGINAL TRUST buster, Teddy Roosevelt (TR), said he wouldn’t run for reelection.  And he didn’t.  He picked Howard Taft as his ‘successor’.  TR was a progressive frontier man.  He had that smile.  This made him a popular and formidable candidate.  Taft just wasn’t as much of a TR as TR was.  So some asked TR to run again.  Against his own, hand-picked ‘successor’.  Which he did.

Taft won the Republican Nomination, though.  Undeterred (and having a really big ego), TR formed a third party, the Progressive Party.  He moved to the left of Taft.  So far left that it made Woodward Wilson, the Democrat candidate, look moderate. 

The 1912 presidential election turned into a 3-man race.  Between 3 progressives.  Taft ‘busted’ more trusts than did TR.  But he just wasn’t TR.  Woodward Wilson was probably the most progressive and idealist of the three.  But in the mix, he looked like the sensible candidate.  Roosevelt beat Taft.  But Wilson beat Roosevelt.  Wilson won with only 45% of the vote.  And gave us the income tax and the Federal Reserve System.  Big Government had come.

IN THE 1992 presidential campaign, George Herbert Walker Bush (read my lips, no new taxes) ran in a 3-way race between Democrat Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.  Perot bashed both parties for their high deficits.  He was a populist candidate against the status quo.  He went on TV with charts and graphs.  He called Reaganomics ‘voodoo’ economics.  While Bush fought these attacks on his 12 years in the executive office (8 as vice president and on 4 as president), Clinton got by with relative ease on his one big weakness.  Character. 

Exit polling showed that Perot took voters from both candidates.  More people voted that year.  But the increase was roughly equal to the Perot vote (who took 19%).  If anyone energized the election that year, it wasn’t Clinton.  He won with only 43% of the vote.  The majority of Americans did not vote for Clinton.  Had the focus not been on Reaganomics and the deficit (where Perot took it), Clinton’s character flaws would have been a bigger issue.  And if it came down to character, Bush probably would have won.  Despite his broken ‘read my lips’ pledge.

HISTORY HAS SHOWN that third party candidates don’t typically win elections.  In fact, when a party splinters into two, it usually benefits the common opposition.  That thing that is so important to bring a third party into existence is often its own demise.  It splits a larger voting bloc into two smaller voting blocs.  Guaranteeing the opposition’s victory. 

Politics can be idealistic.  But not at the expense of pragmatism.  When voting for a candidate that cannot in all probability win, it is a wasted vote.  If you’re making a ‘statement’ with your vote by voting for a third party candidate, that statement is but one thing.  You want to lose.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #10: “Conservatives like the Rule of Law whereas Liberals prefer militant, radical change.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 20th, 2010

CONSERVATIVES LIKE THE way things were.  They like things that have proven track records.  Liberals, on the other hand, don’t.  If it’s the old way then it’s the wrong way.  For no matter what history has proven, they want to tinker.  They want to change things.  Stir the pot.  Mix it up.  Raise a little hell.

A lot of people don’t really understand what a conservative is.  They think Big Business.  They think rich fat cats.  They think of people who step into their horse-drawn carriage on the back of a poor person down on his hands and knees.  They think racist.  They think segregationist.  They think warmonger.  They think militant anti-government reactionary.  They think Nazi.  And they think wrong.

A conservative practices conservatism.  And Merriam-Webster OnLine defines conservatism as:

a: disposition in politics to preserve what is established b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)

Conservatism, then, reflects the principles of the Founding Fathers.  After the Revolution, of course.

OUR FOUNDING FATHERS were not conservatives when they broke from Great Britain.  They were liberals.  Progressive.  Looking for a new way that was different from the established, conservative ways of Great Britain.  They were the culmination of the enlightenment.  Of a new way.  Where rank did not matter.  Where who your father was didn’t matter.  All that mattered was you.  And what you did.

Before they became conservatives, then, they were radical liberals.  They took up arms against the government.  There were many reasons for this.  The Stamp Act.  The Intolerable Acts.  The Quebec Act.  These and other issues raised tensions between the mother country and her colony.

The colonists fell into two camps: the Patriots (Whigs) and Loyalists (Tories).  The Loyalists were the conservatives.  They wanted to keep British America British.  The Patriots were the radical liberals.  They wanted independence.  And, of course, there were a lot of undecided that fell in between.

As the American-British breech widened, many wanted to remain British.  They wanted reconciliation.  Even Benjamin Franklin.  In fact, he was seeking a royal appointment in the colonies.  He was a conservative.  He fit the Merriam-Webster OnLine definition.  But he would eventually change.  As many others did.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

THE FOUNDING FATHERS who made this country were conservatives.  They were conservatives before the break from Great Britain.  They became liberal progressives during the Revolution.  Then became conservative again.  The Constitution created a government so conservatively British that Thomas Jefferson would attack the Washington and Adams administration vehemently, even though he was a member of those administrations.

The lesson here is this.  Conservatives live under the Rule of Law.  They like to do things the way their parents did.  Liberals, on the other hand, don’t.  They want to break from the established way of doing things.  And they have no problem with breaking the law to do so.  Or overthrowing a government.

WHEN IN COLLEGE, liberals didn’t spend a lot of time in history or economics classes.  Had they, they would have learned the lessons of history.  And probably have become conservatives.  But radical liberal professors can influence young, influential minds spending their first time away from home.

Most parents raise their children conservatively.  They teach them right from wrong.  To obey the law.  They give them curfews.  They meet the boys dating their daughters.  They tell them to ‘say no to drugs’.  And tell them not to drink until they are legally old enough to do so.

But when kids go to college, things change.  Their kids break the law (there’s underage drinking and drug use).  Yes, they were doing some of this before college, but before college, it was more difficult to do.  Because of their parents.  Their parents aren’t at college, though.  So some of these kids stray.  They become liberal.  Part in protest against their parents.  Part because it’s more fun to be a liberal in college.

Of course, when these kids become parents, they tend to move towards conservatism.  Something about being a parent.  In fact, they become their parents.  It’s what having kids does.

FOR MANY BEING a liberal is a period in their life.  For some, though, it’s a journey from which there is no returning.

In the sixties, during the Vietnam War, conservatives obeyed the law and served when called.  It was liberals who burnt their draft cards and went to Canada.  It was liberals who were militant, anti-war protesters.  It was liberals who made up the Weather Underground who wanted to overthrow the U.S. government and establish a proletarian dictatorship.

Eco-terrorists are liberals.  The Unabomber mailed bombs to protest industrial society.  EarthFirst! began the practice of spiking trees (which damages saws and maims lumberjacks).  The Earth Liberation Front burns down new housing developments and SUV dealerships.  Greenpeace commits piracy on the high seas.

ONE OF THE DEFINING differences between liberals and conservatives is how they act in respect to the Rule of Law.  Conservatives are law-abiding.  Liberals are too.  Unless they don’t like a law. 

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