There have been copious attempts to refute Hume and Robertson on this. Vol 2 covers the period following the establishment of the Magna Carta, through to the auto-destruction of the Plantagenet dynasty in the Wars of the Roses. This could be described as the time when the English Nation was reinvented, after two centuries of Franco-Norman subjugation. Volume 1 takes the story back to the foundation of the first English kingdoms, the heptarchy: Hume wrote several appendices and discursions, which may be classed in their apparent order of composition, covering: This last discursion at the end of vol 2 is a summary of some of Hume's most developed thoughts chapter XXII.
An anti-Jacobite shibboleth that Hume wanted to refute held that absolute monarchy was an innovation brought to England by James I. When James was writing his Basilicon Doron expounding the divine right of kings , he was king of Scotland alone. He wanted to bring the authoritarian English model of kingship to his unruly northern kingdom.
He did not increase their powers. On the contrary, Hume found the rule of the first two Stuarts to have been milder than that of Elizabeth. The revolutionary ferment was not caused by any novel oppression. However Hume did acknowledge that the divine right, or patriarchal, system of government itself had a historical origin.
This he dates to the time of the first two Tudors: In Humes's time the Polish aristocracy elected their king. This just predates the long period of the Partitions of Poland between the Hohenzollern , Habsburg , and Romanov autocracies.
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It was possible to agree at that time with Montesquieu that the Polish Szlachta , or aristocracy, had remained as a bulwark against autocracy, which had been lost by aristocrats like himself through the centralisation of Bourbon power in France. Very recent history was the abolition of heritable jurisdictions. Before that law was passed, local aristocrats in Scotland had the power to try cases and raise armies, as the Government had just learnt to its cost. Far from exporting divine right principles to England: Scotland, like Poland, had never become a centralised Renaissance monarchy.
Similarly, in England before the Tudors, " It required the authority almost absolute of the sovereigns, which took place in the subsequent period, to pull down those disorderly and licentious tyrants, who were equally averse from peace and from freedom, and to establish that regular execution of the laws, which, in a following age, enabled the people to erect a regular and equitable plan of liberty".
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A heritable jurisdiction might be conducted with equity, if presided over by someone like Montesquieu; but there is even less guarantee than there is in the judiciary of an autocracy. The convention that the kings could not raise taxes without parliamentary consent, Hume dates to the time of the usurpers of the House of Lancaster , who needed to bolster their shaky claim to the throne with warlord support. The reluctance of the House of Commons to fund the executive, led the otherwise absolutist Tudors to grant monopolies, force loans, and raise funds by other irregular measures.
These practices came to a head under the Stuarts, but they did not initiate them. This earlier era of Polish style aristocracy came about through the gradual implementation of Magna Carta; before which the kings had been more absolute, ruling by right of conquest. The early Normans in turn had subjugated the Saxons, among whom "the balance seems to have inclined [again] to the side of aristocracy" or oligarchy.
He allows that the early Saxons and other Germans "seem to have admitted a considerable mixture of democracy into their form of government, and to have been one of the freest nations, of which there remains any account in the records of history"; but he cautions: Under the Saxons, there was never much freedom for the Ancient Britons. He saw in the patriarchy of the Tudors and Stuarts "the dawn of civility and sciences". It was also the time of the terminal decline of serfdom , free men having become of greater commercial value.
Hume's fundamental theorem, quoted by Adamson, is that: His position is very close here to Adam Smith. The work contains several discursions on the fluctuations in the price of corn and other commodities through the eras.
The events of no particular period can be fully accounted for, but by considering the degrees of advancement, which men have reached in those particulars. Ever a classicist, he saw the age of Augustus as a high point in civilisation, after which there had been an inexorable decline: The period, in which the people of Christendom were the lowest sunk in ignorance, and consequently in disorders of every kind, may justly be fixed at the eleventh century, about the age of William the Conqueror ".
The Norman Conquest was the most destructive trauma that the English nation has endured. However this was followed by something even worse, during the next generation. Hume described the crusades, beginning in the reign of William Rufus , as "the most signal and most durable monument of human folly, that has yet appeared in any age or nation" chapter V. The storming of Jerusalem, 5 July , was attended by a wholesale genocide of Muslims and Jews chapter 6.
They threw aside their arms, still streaming with blood: They advanced with reclined bodies, and naked feet and heads to that sacred monument: They sung anthems to their Saviour, who had there purchased their salvation by his death and agony: And their devotion, enlivened by the presence of the place where he had suffered, so overcame their fury, that they dissolved in tears, and bore the appearance of every soft and tender sentiment. So inconsistent is human nature with itself!
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And so easily does the most effeminate superstition ally, both with the most heroic courage, and with the fiercest barbarity! Hume seems to have had access to some version or other of the Koran, which he calls the "alcoran"; and he was aware of what is now remembered as the Golden Age of Islam. The results of the First Crusade were reversed during the following century. He contrasts Saladin with Richard Coeur de Lion: Richard, equally martial and brave, carried with him more of the barbarian character; and was guilty of acts of ferocity, which threw a stain on his celebrated victories".
Hume also writes that on one occasion, Richard ordered the massacre of defenceless Muslim prisoners, although "the Saracens found themselves obliged to retaliate upon the Christians by a like cruelty". Hume tells how, shortly after his great victory, Saladin's death was proclaimed: Saladin left his money to charity, "without distinction of Jew, Christian, or Mahometan. However, even in the 12th century, there was a glimmer of light. Hume would have known about the Pandects as a law student, because Stair's "Institutions" are largely based on them, as are the works of Voet and Vinnius.
However the association the English laity "formed without any necessity" between Roman and canon law: Nevertheless, "a great part of it was secretly transferred into the practice of the courts of justice, and the imitation of their neighbours made the English gradually endeavour to raise their own law from its original state of rudeness and imperfection". Thus Hume was writing the history of the Common Law of England from its origins through its continuing gradual absorption of the international Civil Law. Hume's nephew and executor, also called David Hume , wrote the " Commentary on the laws of Scotland respecting crimes " as a common law companion to Stair's great work.
However, he footnotes Locke, along with Algernon Sidney , Rapin de Thoyras and Benjamin Hoadley , as authors whose "compositions the most despicable, both for style and matter, have been extolled, and propagated, and read; as if they had equalled the most celebrated remains of antiquity". Sidney was a complex man. He was appalled by the death sentence on Charles I, but later wrote tracts justifying the deed.
In , he was beheaded for alleged complicity in the Rye House plot to murder Charles II, after a notoriously unfair trial.
nifaquniky.cf: A History of Britain: Volume 1 (): Simon Schama, Stephen Thorne: Books
Bishop Hoadley was another luminary of the whig establishment. What Hume particularly objects to in Locke is his presentation of Robert Filmer 's "absurd" patriarchal theory of government as if it were something new. What these writers shared was belief in a neverland of ancient English freedoms, which the Stuarts had overthrown.
Nor does Hobbes fare any better with Hume: Though an enemy to religion, he partakes nothing of the spirit of scepticism; but is as positive and dogmatical as if human reason, and his reason in particular, could attain a thorough conviction in these subjects In his own person he is represented to have been a man of virtue; a character no wise surprising, notwithstanding his libertine system of ethics.
Timidity is the principal fault, with which he is reproached: He lived to an extreme old age, yet could never reconcile himself to the thoughts of death. The boldness of his opinions and sentiments form a remarkable contrast to this part of his character. He died in , aged Hume follows this withering notice on Hobbes with a judiciously favourable review of James Harrington 's The Commonwealth of Oceana. After noting advances made by Boyle and Hooke in the mechanical philosophy , Hume says: Hume was no mathematical reductionist, like Hobbes.
The only 17th century Scottish philosopher, other than James I, that Hume applauds is John Napier of Merchiston, the inventor of logarithms. However Napier, Newton and James I are criticised for producing eschatological literature predicting the final days. Writings of this sort were a potent factor in the politico-religious ferment of the time. Of these three alchemists, Hume writes: He calls Francis Bacon "the greatest glory of literature in this island" at the time of James I. However, he also criticises Bacon, in contrast with the earlier Kepler , for treating Copernicus 's discovery of the solar system with disdain.
Of Galileo , Hume writes that Italy had "too much neglected the renown which it has acquired by giving birth to so great a man". A more extended critique of these early political scientists can be found in "Hobbes" by George Croom Robertson. Hume allows Arthur , and even Woden , to have been shadowy historic figures, and he mentions the poet Taliesin Thaliessin. He rates Alfred the Great beside Charlemagne as a man of letters: He also gave Saxon translations of Orosius 's and Bede 's histories; and of Boethius concerning the consolation of philosophy".
Actually some of these works were commissioned by Alfred, not by him. None of the later writers of Arthurian romances get a mention. They were most but not all glorifying what Hume saw as a period of decadence and decline. So in some need of explanation is why he neglects to mention either Chaucer , Gower or Langland , or what is now called the Ricardian Renaissance. Nor does he mention Chaucer's model Boccaccio either, nor even Dante.
He does mention Petrarch , but the rest of the named Italians are of the generation of the High Renaissance: Tasso , Ariosto and Guarini. What Hume found in these Italian writers of the 16th century was romances set in the darkest days of the crusades, featuring antiheroes, Christian or Muslim. He censured Shakespeare's "barbarism", but insisted that " Spenser , Shakespeare , Bacon , Jonson were superior to their contemporaries, who flourished in that kingdom France.
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Harvey were at least equal to their contemporaries. The reign of Charles II, which some preposterously represent as our Augustan age, retarded the progress of polite literature in this island, and it was then found that the immeasurable licentiousness, indulged or rather applauded at court, was more destructive to the refined arts, than even the cant, nonsense, and enthusiasm of the preceding period". Hume passes on an oral tradition about John Milton and the playwright William Davenant: It is more to be admired, that he escaped with his life" for eloquently justifying the regicide.
It is said, that he had saved Davenant's life during the protectorship; and Davenant in return afforded him like protection after the restoration; being sensible, that men of letters ought always to regard their sympathy of taste as a more powerful band of union, than any difference of party or opinion as a source of animosity".
Since the time of its publication, Hume's History has been accused of historical revisionism intending to promote toryism. In the United States, founding father, Thomas Jefferson considered it a "poison" and was so critical of the work that he censored it from the University of Virginia library. In a 12 August letter to William Duane Jefferson wrote: At the end of his life, Hume wrote: It is ridiculous to consider the English constitution before that period as a regular plan of liberty". An example of such an alteration is the footnote to the remark above about "despicable productions". The quote here is taken from the online version of The Dublin edition only mentions Rapin de Thoyras.
Hume gives a fair account of Sidney's trial, where the law was twisted so that he could be judged, not for anything he had done, but for what he had written and not even tried to publish. An intriguing question is why Hume included Bishop Hoadley in his rogues' gallery. At the time of the first editions, Hoadley was still alive. What Hume was combating was the atavism of Whigs who, like Jefferson, wanted to portray the regicides as heroic patriots who stamped the first great seal of the Commonwealth with the legend: He was uncomfortable with the legality of the English precedents for deposing kings: So he turned to the Scottish Parliament's precedent in dethroning Queen Mary for complicity in murder ut supra.
Atavism is just as detectable in the attorney who led the prosecution against the king, John Cooke. He prosecuted as an English traitor the general of the Scottish Parliament's army for King and Covenant in the War of the Engagement , on the strength of evidence derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth that there had been a dark age union of England and Scotland. Hume passed on an oral tradition that Cromwell, through his Stewart mother, was a cousin of Charles I. Thomas Carlyle did some further research, concluding: This was something which was characteristic of the Victorian age in which Macaulay lived, when the British Empire was at the height of its powers.
He was still working on the fifth volume and the reign of William III when he died at the relatively young age of For Macaulay and his contemporaries, Britain at that time represented the zenith of civilization.
Macaulay himself was assigned the task of introducing English in British colonies, especially in India. His famously insular outlook which he himself took great pride in was something which permeated through all his writings. The History of England It inspired a generation of British politicians and thinkers, the most notable among them being Winston Churchill. The philosophy and viewpoint it represents evokes a past era in which the politics of the world was completely different.
Macaulay is also famous for having insisted on personally visiting many of the places he describes and thus introducing the concept of social history in addition to a mere political discourse. In spite of all the attacks it received both when it was first published and later, the book remains a highly readable account of the history of the tiny island nation which went on to become a superpower. History of England, Volume 1, Chapter 2. History of England, Volume 1, Chapter 3.
History of England, Volume 1, Chapter 5. History of England, Volume 1, Chapter 6.
- Besuch vom Wechselbalg (German Edition).
- Petit livre de - Les ptits contes classiques (LE PETIT LIVRE) (French Edition).
- The History of England.
History of England, Volume 2, Chapter 7.