Day By Day

Friday, December 11, 2009

This Day In History

After the serious thoughts inspired by yesterday's "Human Rights Day" it is something of a relief to note that today is "National Ring Noodle Day" (or is it "National Noodle Ring Day"?). I personally have never made a noodle ring, but here is a recipe that sounds pretty good. And for those of you who are so inclined, Hanukkah celebrations begin this evening at sundown, so here's wishing you a "Happy Hanukkah!" In West Mt. Airy in Philly [where I used to live] Rabbi Arthur Waskow is rededicating the celebration to emphasize green themes and is sponsoring an environmental vigil at Independence Hall [here], so if you are so inclined head down to Center City and enjoy the spectacle. Rabbi Waskow also suggests that you ride a bike instead of driving, convert your house to use wind power, do an energy audit where you work, lobby for legislation that will promote mass transit use, and quit using paraffin candles in your menorah. I'm sure all of you will take his recommendations in the appropriate spirit.

On this day in 1688 King James II abdicated the Throne of England and fled to France. This was the culmination of the Glorious Revolution, one of the most important political events in Anglo-American history. James had never been a popular king. The reason most often cited was that he was a Catholic monarch ruling a Protestant nation, but there was far more than that involved. For one thing James had strong ties to the French crown and was thought be too friendly to French interests. He also, in order to forestall domestic rebellions, greatly increased the size of the standing army. He also dismissed many Protestant members of his court and replaced them with Catholics. He purged many of the nation's judges, and asserted the divine right of kings to rule without Parliamentary strictures and began arresting his critics. You can see how the Glenn Becks of the day could connect the dots. Still, James was fairly old and would eventually pass on and he had no male heirs to inherit the throne, so the general attitude was to simply wait for his death. Then, in June, 1688 his wife gave birth to a son [James Francis] who became the heir to the throne. James announced that the child would be raised Catholic. At this point many important nobles and members of Parliament began plotting to have James removed from the throne.

James sister, Mary, had been raised Protestant and was married to William of Orange, a Dutch nobleman who, prior to the birth of Prince James, had been third in line of succession to the English throne. A group of powerful nobles invited William to come over and visit England, and to bring his army with him. William then invaded Britain and many elements of the English army joined him. When James fled the country Parliament declared that he had abdicated and invited his sister and her husband ["William and Mary"] to become monarchs. This was the "Glorious Revolution".

Why is it so important? Because it established in Britain the principle of Parliamentary supremacy, and it halted the drift toward royal absolutism that was taking place elsewhere in Europe; and because it gave rise to theories of government such as a "nation of laws", constitutionalism, and the idea of fundamental rights [Parliament even issued a "Bill of Rights"] that still resonated down to this day. In large part we owe our American system of constitutional government to the political dialogue that emerged during the Glorious Revolution.