The English Civil War as Current Events

Previously by Charles A. Burris: ‘Naming Names’

Below is an excellent three part BBC series on the English Civil War. I ask that you watch it on two levels:

First, to learn about these extremely important events that are not generally taught in public schools which dramatically impacted Anglo-American history, particularly regarding the background of the American Revolution, constitutional separation of powers, and the Bill of Rights.

Secondly, watch it as current events unfolding in contemporary America, on the dangers of fanaticism from earnestly-minded bigots from across the religious and political spectrum that fall prey to their ignorance and zealotry. If civil conflict and open warfare in the streets comes to American communities I am afraid that such armed militant groups appealing to the basest of motives of the lowest common denominator will prove dominant.

This series has superb production values with exceptional re-enacted dramatic portrayals of events, like watching a first class feature film.

There was one group of heroic figures discussed briefly in the films which needs further clarification, the Levelers. They were the first organized political group calling for a written constitutional government established for all persons (“The Agreement of the People”), equality of all persons under the rule of law, private property rights and self-ownership (“self-propriety”), and religious toleration.

Forged in opposition to the tyrannical Stuart monarchs and subsequent usurpation of English liberties under Oliver Cromwell’s flawed Commonwealth, such forgotten heroes as Levelers Richard Overton and John Lilburne provided a decisive intellectual impact upon John Locke and Algernon Sidney, who along with John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon (the authors of Cato’s Letters), were perhaps the most important influences upon our Founding Fathers.

This long-standing noble tradition has continued on – through the Anti-federalist opponents of empire and national consolidation, the principled Jeffersonians (particularly John Taylor of Caroline and John Randolph of Roanoke), the Anti-Imperialist League who fought the original battle against American empire during the Spanish-American War, the Old Right opposition to Franklin Roosevelt’s and Harry Truman’s welfare/warfare state, Murray Rothbard and the modern libertarian movement – down to Ron Paul today.

Two must-read books are by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn: The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution and The Origins of American Politics. These seminal books changed forever the way historians view our American Revolution and how our deepest, most sacred political beliefs came about.

Here are two detailed scholarly articles that further discuss our deep political roots going back to the Levelers:

“‘Come What, Come Will!’ Richard Overton, Libertarian Leveler,” by Carl Watner

“The Growth of Libertarian Thought in Colonial America,” by Murray N. Rothbard

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