Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A hope for England

We need to grow...a democratic constitutionalism that calls on the tradition of Blake, the author of England’s anthem, and the Leveller Rainsborough, to take just two examples from a much larger conversation. The latter famously claimed that ‘the poorest he that is in England has a right to live as the greatest he’. He said this when he spoke in the Putney debates of 1647. Sixteen words, seventy-two characters (half a tweet), they are the first, compressed expression of modern democratic politics: asserting the moral equality of all while recognising difference, emphasising life and location not race or essence, and making a claim of right in a shared society. Spoken by a soldier in a debate within Cromwell’s army, at a turning point in our Civil War, they were and are profoundly civilian, and so are we. 
-- Anthony Barnett

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