The authority of the government rests on the consent of all the citizens in this country as individuals. All of us have an equal share of power in the body politic, since each of us has a vote. That principle which it has for so long now been fashionable to acclaim, springs ultimately from the Reformation. Whilst in mediaeval times our ancestors had sought their salvation through the Roman Catholic Church, during the 16th century, as the disciples of Luther or Calvin, they believed that it was within their reach as individuals. Salvation, they said, may come to us through the grace of our own hearts. Looking in on themselves, many heretics kept a diary as the record of their private religious experiences. The survival of these exercises in self-analysis is the reminder of a significance accorded to the individual in Stuart times that was much enhanced at the end of the 18th century by the birth of romantic literature. Romantic writers ignore the rules and values that have been handed down to them by older generations and are accepted by us; they will never, with the use of that tradition, give us an impersonal view of things; possessed of a profound conviction of their own importance and originality, they believe that the vision which they projects should be merely of themselves. Accustomed by the Calvinistic discipline to the most tortured introspection, Jean-Jacques Rousseau established himself as the archetype of the romantic sensibility. Rousseau wrote the most celebrated and original autobiography of all times. In the Contrat Social he translated the egotism of Puritans and Romantics into the political terms that were proclaimed during the French Revolution and are accepted now in this country.
Before 1832 England was not a democracy. There were elections. But the electoral system was so corrupt that a government did not lose the election. The passing of the great Reform Bill introduced the first stages of Rousseau’s ideal of government. The Whig government which sponsored that legislation drew much of its support from the Puritans, who as the adherents of Calvin in Geneva had lent money and made profits. These Puritans were our manufacturers and tradesmen at the outbreak of the Industrial Revolution. Now I shall be bold and say that a principle feature of the democratic form of government in which the tradesmen believed is that it should intervene hardly at all in the economy. Read more.
Published in Traditio, the journal of Traditional Britain Group, 11 June 2015.