Churchill in his address to Congress on the 26th December 1941, most likely after a brandy or two, declared, ‘If my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own…I may confess, however, that I do not feel quite like a fish out of water in a legislative assembly where English is spoken. I am a child of the House of Commons.’
The idea of Congressman Churchill, or worse, President Churchill, must have appalled Congress, and then there were his British teeth. Few would want him shambling round their oaken halls. Yet it is easy to imagine the kind of kindred spirit that must have animated our legislative chamber that day; most of Europe was in German hands, and only thirteen days before a confident Hitler had declared war on America. He was to learn otherwise. In 1945 as US troops entered Berlin he shot himself. Yet seventy-one years on, Germany has the whole continent, except Britain, chained to its economic master plan, the Euro. What you can’t do with a panzer, you can with an interest rate.
Can one imagine Churchill offering similar words to today’s French Senate or the German Bundestag? Yet, instead of strengthening her ‘Special Relationship’ with America, we hear that Britain is about to abolish itself as an independent state and chain itself forever to the EU.
This is a bad idea. England is different from the Continent in many ways. The delicate historical combination of liberty and order, custom and law that persists in England, is very particular. As Henri Pirenne the Belgian medievalist, prominent for his non violent resistance to the Germans in the First World War for which he was arrested, wrote, ‘The nobles by wrestling pell-mell from the king so many different rights, and by confounding, in a single text (Magna Carta) the claims of all the classes, established between them a solidarity which would endure, and which, of itself, rendered possible the development of the English Constitution. The nobility, the clergy, were not, as on the continent, separate bodies, acting each on its own account, and pursuing only its own advantage…Elsewhere the kings had been confronted with different ‘Estates’, deliberating with each separately, and reaching some accommodation. In England, the Crown had to deal directly with the nation and … for this reason it was the basis of the first free government Europe had known.’
One must believe, if only on faith, that the sixteen members of Mr Cameron’s cabinet who back staying in the EU have long considered all this. But I have serious doubts that Obama and some EU nations such as France and Germany care a straw about Anglia plena jocis. As for France and Germany, they know only too well what political wisdom the German Imperial Diet gave to the world. If England is going to take lessons from this band of savants maybe I should go teach Michael Jordan – according to the NBA, ‘the greatest basketball player of all time’ – how to dribble a basketball.
There is, of course, not time here to discuss all the unique developments of the old English Constitution. But what is really hilarious is how many folks say that leaving the EU would be a ‘big step.’ Is abandoning the entire history of England a small step? Shall one discuss the distinct alliances between the merchants and the landed nobility that came about early on in England, along with an amalgamation of manners? (Though this fact might be disputed by some of the lords in a Disraeli or Trollope novel.) Shall one talk about how a unique political history has now become a particular personality-type, known to all the world, which still persists? To read the rest of this article buy the Salisbury Review – 50 pages of unique journalism
Mark Mantel practices law in Richmond Virgina
Picture ‘Reclaim our Republic”