November 25, 2013


A reveille call to the slumbering Anglosphere (Charles Moore,  24 Nov 2013, The Telegraph)

Edmund Burke, who wrote the greatest British encomium to conservatism, was a Whig. Now Daniel Hannan, who is a Tory (an ultra-sceptic MEP, in fact), has written a great encomium to Whiggery. With the eloquence of Macaulay or Trevelyan - both of whom are liberally quoted here - Hannan sweeps us through English history to show the triumph of law-based liberty and "that total understanding which can only exist between people speaking the same tongue". With incredible ingenuity, he finds the marks of this genius in almost everything the English have done.

I say "the English". Hannan has no race theory - pointing out, for example, how "English" oriental people can be in Hong Kong, Singapore or India - but he certainly believes in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. The Norman Conquest was, in his view, a "calamity". It is because of Saxon Witans, and Saxon law, and Kipling's Saxon yeoman who "stands like an ox in his furrow" demanding fair dealing, that we are a free people today, he thinks. He even complains that the Normans, being more snooty, let us keep plain Saxon words - cow, pig, lamb - for living animals, but imposed their own French-derived ones for the cooked version - beef, pork, mutton.

There are wonderful passages here. One shows how - despite having had what was called the Peasants' Revolt - the English were never peasants at all (they had property rights). Another explains how our freedom to make our wills in favour of anyone we wish upholds the rights of property by extending them beyond death. On the Continent, the law makes you leave things equally to your children.

But though this book is ultra-patriotic, it is also global. "Let observation, with extensive view,/ Survey mankind from China to Peru", wrote Dr Johnson. That is what Hannan does, particularly from the latter vantage point. He is Anglo-Peruvian, brought up mainly in Peru, and this enables him to contrast a Spanish-based polity where no one believed in the rule of law with our own dear habits. He says he loves Iberian culture but, the more he knows both, "the harder it is to sustain the idea that the English- and Spanish-speaking worlds are manifestations of a common Western civilisation".

His obsession is not England, but the Anglosphere. 

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Posted by at November 25, 2013 3:53 PM

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