BBC Account of History obscured by the partial Truth –
BBC2 – Sat 6th March 2004
‘The Battle for Britain’s soul
Upheavals in the 17th
dogmatic assertions that it was Only a Religious War are
contradicted by History. It was a clever manoeuvre to hide the full
significance of the momentous events in the progress of Democracy in the 17th
century, which bore fruit in the 19th century.
order to show the blatant attempt to alter history we will use the words of
impartial observers of the past to show the TRUE picture of the effects
of the changes taking place over three hundred years ago.
The Essentials of Democracy
A D. Lindsay, LL.D.
Master of Balliol College,
extracts are from lectures given by Master A D Lindsay on the William J. Cooper
Foundation at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, in January 1929
[At this time in our Country’s history in the opening of
the new Millennium when many people are concerned about what one would now term
Democracy and whether we have lost the true meaning as expressed in English
terms in the past. In the 1930’s there was much debate on the subject as
the fear of another war were beginning to be voiced by some, though the majority
would not accept the possibility, after the carnage of the Great War of 1914-18].
‘We are at present time passing through a certain
disillusionment about democracy. Before the war
(1914-1918) It could almost be taken for granted that
democracy of some kind or other was the only possible government for the modern
The surviving non-democratic elements in the modern state
like Germany were felt to be survivals, alien to the spirit of the age and
certain in course of time to disappear. Not that we thought our previous
We found in them a great deal to grumble at. But our grumblings were usually to the
effect that our democratic governments are not democratic enough. Socialism for
example – that one great school of thought which systematically criticized
existing democratic governments, did it on the ground that oligarchically
governed industry made democratic politics a sham, made a modern industrial
society a house divided against itself; and its remedy was and is the
democratisation of industry – not less democracy but more….
Men feel disillusionment about political democracy, I
believe for reasons of the same kind. Just consider the prodigious achievement
of democracy in the United states (1930) – how it has managed to give orderly
and established government to a continent – to an enormous population of all
nations and languages – to a society known to the Fathers of the Constitution.
But this prodigious success has been purchased at a price
– the transformation of Democracy into something very different from any thing
Jefferson and Lincoln ever dreamed of.
And as Democracy adjusts itself clumsily and slowly and inadequately to
its new tasks, its failures to meet new opportunities it has itself created are
more evident than its success in making them.
It is not simply that the new forms of Democracy takes on
are disappointing to those who knew the old. The position is more serious. The
new tasks thrust on successful democracy are really in danger of breaking it
down Expert manipulation of men in the mass, drilled and disciplined parties,
and all other phenomena of modern large-scale democracies are not democracy at
Our disappointment with modern political democracy is,
(as in 1930) I repeat, not the result simply of a comparison between what
exists now and what we remember existing in an earlier or simpler time, or what
our parents or grandparents have told us.
The disillusionment comes from a contrast in the present.
We are all of us members of one or more of the innumerable smaller societies,
which are such a feature of modern social life, particularly of American and
English social life. We know there what thoroughly satisfactory and obvious and
altogether to be taken for granted a form of government democracy can be, and
we are worried and disappointed because political democracy falls so far short
of the experienced ideal.
Is this appeal to the simple, familiar, small society a
mistake? Is this feeling of disillusionment unnecessary?
Does it arise from our contrasting a nation or world
–wide society with what it cannot and never was intended to be like? That the appeal from the state to the
smaller circles of personal relationship is often misleading is plain enough.
The history of the doctrine of natural rights – of the
conception of human brotherhood, makes that clear.
But the persistency of such
appeals in the history of politics is witness of how often men know that large
organizations and machinery tend to become
end in themselves, and have by such appeals to be reminded of the simple human
ends they are intended to serve.
I propose therefore to go back to the beginnings of modern democracy as
it was conceived in the seventeenth century and formulated by men who had vivid
experience of the super-eminent satisfactoriness of simple democratic government
in the self-governing congregation, and therefore demanded that the state
should be organised on the same model.
is this special reason for my going back to the seventeenth century experience when lecturing
to an American audience. It is a bold task for an Englishman to talk about
Democracy to citizens of the United States.
English and American Democracy are in many ways so subtly different:
they rest on such different assumptions and have developed in such different
ways that it is very hard for a man who is familiar with the other without misunderstanding.
I plunged at once into a discussion of modern conditions you might be tempted
to assume that I coming from England necessarily do not know really what
Democracy means: and you might be affronted if you seemed, from some of my
language, to discover that I thought that it was you as Americans who suffered
from that ignorance.
in the seventeenth-century Puritan democrats in America and in England
have a common ground examining afresh the rock out of which we are both hewn.
way of beginning our discussion should have the great advantage of reminding us
of the part played in the development of democracy, and still played in its
working by the democratically governed religious organizations. On the
practical importance of this for the present day (1930) I hope to have
something to say in a later lecture. But it will help us to have it in mind
from the start.
a good fortune we happen to possess a first hand account – taken down in
short-hand of the period – of a memorable debate on the principles of
democratic government and their practical application to England, held between
the representatives of the [Cromwell’s]
Army on the one hand, and two men who were more than any others really responsible
for the government of England, Cromwell and Ireton, on the other.
debate was held at the grand council of officers at Putney, the 25th
October, 1647, to consider a remonstrance from the army called ‘ The case of
the army truly stated, together with the mishaps and dangers which are imminent
and some suitable remedies, and humbly proposed by the agents of the five
regiments of horse to the respective regiments and the whole army.’
officers discussed it with five agents who are named – one of them with the
appropriate name of Mr Wildman, and four soldiers. Some of the most striking
remarks are made by one of the latter who is referred to simply as Buffcoat –
as might be ‘Steel Helmet’ or ‘Unknown Soldier’.
Council of officers were not all in agreement with Cromwell and Ireton. The
case for the army is maintained by Colonel Rainboro, one of the most prominent
of the Levellers. For convenience sake therefore I shall refer to those who
voice the views of the delegates from the army as the Levellers.
debate was taken down in shorthand by a William Clarke, who was at that time
secretary to the Council of the Army. He was one of those who afterwards
followed [General] Monk and was made Secretary of War after the Restoration. His
son Dr. George Clarke, bequeathed his father’s papers in 1736 to:
they were edited by Professor Firth and published by the Camden society in
article in the case for the army round which the debate centres is the demand
for manhood suffrage, and in their statements of the case for its defenders
touch on the centre of the democratic principle. Ireton defends the principle
that voting should be based on property and confined to those who have a permanent
stake in the country and he argues his case ably and well.
all such arguments based as they are, on expediency and experience are swept
aside by the passionate vision of the others.
‘Really,’ says Colonel Rainboro,
‘I think the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the richest
seems to me the authentic note of democracy. The poorest has his own life to
live, not to be managed or drilled or used by other people. His life is
his and he has to live it. None can divest him of the responsibility. However
different men may be in wealth or ability or learning, whether clever or
stupid, good or bad, living their life is their concern and their
That is for those Puritans as for all true democrats the real meaning of
Responsibility for one's own life is
something possessed by or enjoined on us all. Our equality in that
responsibility is of such preponderating importance that beside it all our other
differences, manifest and undeniable as they may be, are neither here or there.
That is not a scientific nor a common-sense doctrine.
IT IS A RELIGIOUS and MORAL
It is the translation into
non-theological language of the spiritual priesthood of all
believers. men who could say such things like that have gone
deep into the heart of things.
"The rights of Individuals
and the justice due to them are as dear and precious as those of States;
Indeed the latter are founded on the former, and the great end and
object of them must be to secure and support the rights of Individuals, or else vain is government’’ - Cushing, in Conway, Life of Paine, i. 217
* * *
greater part of the above article was in a bulletin from
To Be Continued –in Part 2
interest in the situation in CHINA in April -2008 we shall
return to the 'Essentials of Democracy' to examine large-scale
government of that interpretation of DEMOCRACY which regards its
essence as the assent of the governed to the acts of government,
and have seen that if left to itself it produces CAESARISM as
with NEW LABOUR at the present day.]
A TREATY TOO