What makes us free

In these happy days when one can almost believe that the Murdoch empire is finally in retreat, I come across a splendid quotation, almost two centuries old, that tells us a lot about the way we liberate ourselves from his ilk – and from other over-weaning corporate egos and the under-achieving politicians who play at representing us. It’s from the radical journal Black Dwarf in 1817:

States must either proceed, or retrograde. While we contented ourselves with boasting of our advance, we have been silently, but rapidly falling back… The people ought to remember that they are the guardians of the constitution. Instead of that the simpletons expect protection from the constitution; which is in fact nothing but the recorded merits of our ancestors. The country that boasted of being free, because Magna Carta was enacted; when the least share of penetration would have taught us, that Magna Carta was enacted only because our ancestors were determined to be free. Our ancestors, with swords in their hands, and the tyrant John on his knees before them, would have been just as free, whether they had insisted on the signature of Magna Carta, or not. Their freedom was in their power, and in their will.

The author was Thomas Wooler (1786-1853). His words are quoted by Edward Vallance at the very conclusion of his Radical History of Britain.

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