29 March 2019: thoughts for the day

Oliver Cromwell on dismissing the Rump Parliament on 20 April 1653:

You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

More particularly described by Thomas Salmon:

[Cromwell] commanded the Speaker to leave the Chair, and told them they had sat long enough, unless they had done more good, crying out “You are no longer a Parliament, I say you are no Parliament”. He told Sir Henry Vane he was a Jugler; Henry Martin and Sir Peter Wentworth, that they were whoremasters; Thomas Chaloner, he was a Drunkard; and Allen the Goldsmith that he cheated the Publick: Then he bid one of his Soldiers take away that Fool’s Bauble the mace and Thomas Harrison pulled the Speaker of the Chair; and in short Cromwell having turned them all out of the House, lock’d up the Doors and returned to Whitehall.

Edmund Burke on the duties of a representative in a speech to the electors of Bristol in 1774:

Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

My worthy colleague says, his will ought to be subservient to yours. If that be all, the thing is innocent. If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, ought to be superior. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments? To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience,–these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.

Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. If the local constituent should have an interest, or should form an hasty opinion, evidently opposite to the real good of the rest of the community, the member for that place ought to be as far, as any other, from any endeavour to give it effect. I beg pardon for saying so much on this subject. I have been unwillingly drawn into it; but I shall ever use a respectful frankness of communication with you. Your faithful friend, your devoted servant, I shall be to the end of my life: a flatterer you do not wish for.

Make of it what you will!

 

3 thoughts on “29 March 2019: thoughts for the day

  1. I’m not really sure what point you are making here. The state of things is beyond reason, certainly the reason of one such as Burke.

    But could you correct this to say Oliver Cromwell, please?

    1. I’m not sure myself. Thomas has now given way to Oliver. Thanks for pointing it out – I’d been looking at Henry VIII the other day (the play that is) so perhaps he crept in that way. I certainly think Burke’s speech contains important messages to this day even if the Bristol electors did not re-elect him. Cromwell somewhat more controversial – I imagine he would have been thoroughly brutal over the backstop given his reaction at Drogheda. Look back to look ahead and all that!

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