Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Our First Revolution

Andrew Roberts, author of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, has a good review of Michael Barone's new book, Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America's Founding Fathers, that looks to be a good read. I'll have to add it to my "must read" list (which keeps getting longer and longer):

When the English-speaking peoples consider the forces that have made them the global hegemonic political culture since the mid-19th century--representative institutions, the rule of law, religious toleration and property rights among them--they look back to Britain's "Glorious" Revolution of 1688. What at first looks merely like a minor coup d'├ętat that replaced the Catholic King James II with his Protestant Dutch nephew and son-in-law, King William III, was much more than that. It heralded nothing less than a complete realignment of worldview for the Anglosphere. It changed everything.
Michael Barone, the distinguished political commentator and co-author of "The Almanac of American Politics," demonstrates both an encyclopedic knowledge of late 17th-century European politics and a keen appreciation of their long-term implications. He sees in the Glorious Revolution--which he dubs The First Revolution--the genesis of "changes in English law, governance and politics that turned out to be major advances for representative government, guaranteeing liberties, global capitalism, and a foreign policy of opposing hegemonic powers." He argues that it was essentially in defense of the rights won in 1688 that the American colonists rose against George III in 1776.
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Everything that flowed from the Whig victory of 1688--limited government, the Bank of England, tradable national debt, triennial Parliaments, mercantilism, free enterprise, an aggressively anti-French foreign policy, the union with Scotland, eventually the Hanoverian Succession and the Industrial Revolution--combined to make the English-speaking peoples powerful. Mr. Barone proves beyond doubt how much the Glorious Revolution inspired the Founding Fathers to launch their own, with Virginia gentlemen farmers seeing themselves as the heirs of England's revolutionary aristocrats. The 1689 Bill of Rights in Britain thus unquestionably paved the way to the American Bill of Rights of 1791.

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