By Nathan Barton
Happy Liberty Day: on the 2nd of July, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the secession of its Thirteen member States from the British Empire. Remembering that, consider this recent conviction in the United Kingdom, where a young man has been sentenced to 4 years in jail for calling Prince Harry Windsor of being a “race traitor” and implying that Harry should be killed, as discussed in the Washington Times.
There are many libertarians who will respond to this story with “just what we expect from a bunch of Brits who kowtow to a worthless royal family and accept a stupid monarchy.”
But whatever your opinion of monarchy, and the House of Windsor may be, that reaction misses a big point about liberty.
Liberty is NOT about treating monarchs, royals, and nobility like commoners.
Liberty is treating ALL people like monarchs. Self-governing, sovereign individuals who are able to decide things for themselves, and to do what they wish to do, provided that they accept the consequences of their actions. Not aggressing against other people IS a key element of this – as the natural (and indeed, God-given) result of doing such is to suffer the results of their aggression, sooner or later.
Of course, monarchs, royals, and nobles do NOT have any more right to aggress against other people than any human does. Theoretically, the reason for the feudal system which developed to include kings and nobles was to establish a web of interlocking obligations that were intended to protect everyone: to defend against aggression. This was indeed even the case with the Israeli monarchy (th e anointing of Saul, and then of David). It was not to create a way for a king and his chief vassals to go out and conquer other people, but rather to defend the people against bandits and rogue nations: internal and external defense.
Of course, that didn’t last very long, just as the people of Israel had been warned. And has been the course of history since: The kings (pharaohs, shahs, and the like) of Mesopotamia and Egypt and Anatolia quickly stopped being defenders and instead were interested in their own aggrandizement. They TOOK liberty from their people. They kept their own liberty (mostly – they had some obligations), but they acted aggressively against other peoples and their own: whether they ruled a village, a city, a district, or something larger.
It was similar in Greece and Rome, where kings were first resisted and at least some liberty was regained by the people. Of course, the definition of people varied, as did the degree of liberty – and neither Greek democracy nor Roman republicanism survived as long as their peoples and nations did – monarchs (whether kings or caesars or emperors or shahs) one more came to power – for defense, of course – and again stole away the people’s liberty to gain power (and wealth) for themselves.
In more recent times in Europe, we see the same thing: the entire feudal system was based on the need to share responsibilities to defend the people – the nation. Whether we date the British monarchy from the mysterious Arthur or the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (and maybe even the Danelaw), their reason to exist was defensive. But it became a matter of who got the power and who would attack to get and increase that power: hence the Norman invasion of William and much of the rest of British history: the amalgamation of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland demonstrating that.
In the same way, the current Spanish monarchy derives from the same need for defense: the overrunning of virtually all of the Iberian peninsula by the Islamic conquerors was the reason for the various monarchs (warlords, really) who fought to save those left and to retake what had been stolen from their ancestors. But a 700-year Reconquista created a monarchy by stealing the liberty from both their own people AND the descendants of the original Muslim invaders – and ultimately of half the world.
Much, not all, of the original British imperial expansion beyond the Isles and Europe was actually people fleeing tyranny, but the imperial urge quickly developed in the British New World (as it had in Spanish, Portuguese, and French systems). The War of American Independence was first and foremost a defensive measure against royal edicts and aggression, even while the Americans practiced their own. But the rejection of royal (and later) noble status was in the form of elevating most people to the restoration of their liberty (with the notable exception of both most AmerInd and Black African people).
Again, my point is that the “revolution” part of the War of Independence was NOT about treating royalty and nobles like commoners, but making ALL people sovereign: giving us all the liberty that prior to that time was almost always limited to the rulers. The Thirteen States were not unique in that, or the first to think of that: the concepts came from as far back as the Roman Republic, the merchant cities (Hansastadten) of Northern Europe, Venice, and the Swiss. But Americans took it – for a while – to new horizons: even extremes.
So it is suitable to remember how much of that original intent and fervor for liberty we have lost in the Fifty States in the 243 years of liberty, on this Liberty Day, 2 July 2019.