Sunday, 24 September 2017

The English Party

Hard on the heels of a contemporary biography of the Duke of Marlborough, I'm currently reading a biography dating from 1896 by Viscount Wolseley, a distinguished general of the Victorian Age. The purpose is to see how time changes opinions.

I came across this passage in reference to William III, who was a Dutchman: "William III deeply resented the attacks on his countrymen. In his campaigns on the continent he had always been accustomed to dealing with armies made up of contingents from many countries, and commanded by officers of various nationalities. He could not therefore understand why English soldiers, more than others, should object to serve under foreigners; nor was it intelligible to him why Englishmen should entertain so strong a prejudice against all men born outside their own islands. It is curious that these sentiments should exist even today, seeing that few nations in the last thousand years have been longer ruled by foreign kings. As late as the last century we had two who did not even speak English."

As pertinent today as it was a hundred years ago, indeed 300 years ago. I guess a lot may have to do with the fact that continental borders have been very fluid over the ages and citizens were living cheek-by-jowl with other nationalities, whereas the UK's borders are fixed by the sea. There is, of course, the perennial question of Eire.

It's pertinent that since devolution there has been a programme to popularise and promote Welsh and Gaelic - languages the English overlords were intent on stamping out.

Another passage in the book caught my eye: "William returned to England on October 30, and opened Parliament eight days later with a speech in which he deplored the national failures by sea and land. Being a soldier, and not a party politician, he always told the people the whole truth about the army and navy, and stated plainly to Parliament what he believed to be essential for both services in the interests of the State. He kept back nothing, and Parliament was consequently able to judge whether his demands for men, money, stores, etc., were or were not necessary. It is to be regretted that this practice has not been continued to our day. But in 1693, the system of government by party had not as yet perverted the sense of public duty, and led men to put the exigencies of party before the great interests of the nation. William never disguised his contempt for the political divisions and animosities which prevented educated men from combining in support of measures calculated to strengthen the kingdom and to further the welfare of the people. He looked upon party government as fatal to our best national interests, and regarded both Whigs and Tories as placehunters who could always be bought at the price of employment."

Again, as pertinent today as then. Winston Churchill once said; "A good party man puts his party above himself and his country above his party." Unfortunately the bunch we have these days put party before country and self before party.

As an aside, I found this neat Android App called Text Fairy, which converts an image from a page into text. The only problem is that I think it's responsible for plastering full-page ads on my screen at intervals. I tend to download it when I need it and then delete it afterwards and that has seemed to cure the adverts..

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