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Are the British misunderstood? 
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PITA Bred
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Post Re: Are the British misunderstood?
Jack Kelly wrote:
I don't think in practical terms there is a great deal of difference between the personal freedoms that American and British citizens enjoy. That wasn't my point. My main contention was with this particular statement in the piece:

New York Post wrote:
Originally born in Britain, this common ideal holds that human beings have a God-given natural right to arrange their lives as they see fit without interference from any authority, whether pope or king or government bureaucrat.


I'm not aware of any of the various laws or traditions that comprise the British "Constitution" that hold that "human beings have a God-given natural right" to do anything.

Nor, since you draw attention to the specific phrasing, in the US Constitution. This God thing ain't in there. The reference there and in the Declaration of Independence is to natural rights - which was and is the in-yer-face, contrarian notion rejecting religious basis for rights and principles.

Which was even more of a break with tradition than the investiture of rights in the individual - no king, no god, no superior state... what were these guys thinking? :lol:


Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:51 am
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Post Re: Are the British misunderstood?
Actually, the best place to find an argument from "Natural Rights" or "God-given rights" is not the U.S. Constitution, but the U.S. Declaration of Independence, second sentence. (You know, "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.") The whole concept of "Natural Rights" is an Enlightenment concept, so it isn't surprising that it formed a fundamental part of the thinking of the American founding fathers. It wasn't part of British tradition, or any other, before the Enlightenment era, although other ideas about the dignity of man and desirability of freedom appeared in other contexts and argued in different ways.

I've been a human rights activist since I was in high school, and in college had a hard-core humanities curriculum for two years that covered most of the philosophers of this era whose works led to the whole idea of "Natural Rights", which in turn gave birth to beliefs in civil rights and human rights. It's a fascinating study.

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Last edited by sakeneko on Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:07 pm
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Post Re: Are the British misunderstood?
James Gifford wrote:
Nor, since you draw attention to the specific phrasing, in the US Constitution. This God thing ain't in there. The reference there and in the Declaration of Independence is to natural rights - which was and is the in-yer-face, contrarian notion rejecting religious basis for rights and principles.

Which was even more of a break with tradition than the investiture of rights in the individual - no king, no god, no superior state... what were these guys thinking? :lol:


You're right - I was imprecise. The author used the phrase "God-given natural right" to describe supposed ideals that we inherited from our British (former) masters. I used that phrase to refute the existence of such in British law or tradition. What was really distinctive about the American revolutionary experience was the establishment of the first government based on the concept of natural or inherent rights of man.

The Declaration of Independence uses Jefferson's phrases "laws of nature and of nature's God " and "endowed by their Creator" to describe the origins of these rights. Jefferson, being a Deist like many of his contemporaries, did not mean that these rights are literally given to Man by God, but that these rights are not given to lesser men by greater men.

The US Constitution uses less literary but no less unambiguous language that acknowledges the origin of the government's power. "We the People of the United States...do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America" could not be clearer. The Bill of Rights, enacted at the insistence of several States as a condition of ratifying the Constitution, was considered unnecessary and superfluous by purists who saw no need to delineate the peoples’ rights, since the people were sovereign. The Ninth Amendment, for instance, states "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained (emphasis added) by the people."

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Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:28 pm
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Post Re: Are the British misunderstood?
I don't have time at the moment to do proper research, but I'll just post what looks like a good starting point:

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/citizenship.htm


Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:31 pm
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Post Re: Are the British misunderstood?
Peter Scott wrote:
I don't have time at the moment to do proper research, but I'll just post what looks like a good starting point:

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/citizenship.htm
I started reading through this and stopped dead at the statement "The Restoration of Charles II took place on parliament's terms" -- which makes me wonder how much of the rest is based on misconceptions or out-and-out lies.

The Restoration in 1660 was pretty much an unconditional capitulation of Parliament in the middle of a shooting war between military factions; it was General Monck who offered the crown to Charles in exile, having barely consulted Parliament after the defeat of -- was it Lambert's London army? -- and in fact Charles II reigned most of the rest of his life on his perogative powers having prorogued or dismissed Parliament after the Dutch wars. Charles II is regarded as the last of the absolute monarchs, James II not having done very well (he lasted IIRC about as long as Richard Cromwell) and the settlement that brought William of Orange and Mary to the throne in the Glorious Revolution being specifically for constitutional monarchy.


Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:19 am
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Post Re: Are the British misunderstood?
Well, there you have it, Bill. The British ARE misunderstood. :D


Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:43 am
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Post Re: Are the British misunderstood?
History was my least favorite topic in high school, specifically, British history. American history is so much more interesting. Like I said, the US has a much better story. They get movies like "The Patriot". Britain gets the Mary Queen of Scots skit on Monty Python.


Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:52 pm
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Post Re: Are the British misunderstood?
Peter Scott wrote:
History was my least favorite topic in high school, specifically, British history. American history is so much more interesting. Like I said, the US has a much better story. They get movies like "The Patriot". Britain gets the Mary Queen of Scots skit on Monty Python.

And Blackadder.

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Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:20 am
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Post Re: Are the British misunderstood?
Peter Scott wrote:
History was my least favorite topic in high school, specifically, British history. American history is so much more interesting. Like I said, the US has a much better story. They get movies like "The Patriot". Britain gets the Mary Queen of Scots skit on Monty Python.


And little things like the three-sided struggle in 1066 and how it could have gone any which way and how different the whole world would be if Harald turns England into a Scandinavian province or Harold holds it for the Saxons. Minor stuff like that, over a period much longer than meaningful U.S. history.


Fri Mar 13, 2009 5:45 am
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Post Re: Are the British misunderstood?
Peter Scott wrote:
History was my least favorite topic in high school, specifically, British history. American history is so much more interesting. Like I said, the US has a much better story. They get movies like "The Patriot". Britain gets the Mary Queen of Scots skit on Monty Python.


My grandfather immigrated from County Cork, Ireland, so I've always had a special "love" for the British. :lol:

Actually, I think most Brits are alright. I just spent two weeks in County Dorset on the Jurassic Coast with my wife in a 350 year old stone cottage. Lots of pub fun with some very friendly, laid back locals.

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Fri Mar 13, 2009 6:51 am
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