Scruton’s Anglosphere

One theme coming strongly out of Sir Roger Scruton’s work is the particular brilliance of the English-speaking world, characterised also in his work as the Anglosphere.

The closeness of the Anglosphere is something I have discussed before:

The point which Scruton has made, as I read it, derives from the particular cultural norms of these islands which was inherited by the nation’s colonies and from that the United States and the ‘Old Commonwealth’. It is a bottom-up conception of society, law and state; where foreign countries have a top-down structure of state, law, and society. We can look for lifetimes for whence comes the particular genius of the English-speaking peoples, but more important is its reality.

Some of this is explained in a summary form in an interview Sir Roger gave for the Hoover Institution, as part of its ‘Uncommon Knowledge’ series, discussing his book How To Be A Conservative:

This conception of a cultural chasm between the Anglosphere and the European states appears to be one reason for Sir Roger’s robust advocacy of leaving the European Union. It is a pity that he was not to live to see the consummation of that achievement. He did however in his time see the validation in the flesh of all the principles he stood for, not least in Central Europe.

The common law is a schooling in the genius of the British conception. Scruton did study the law, though he never took up the profession, and all those who study English law will be imbued with the spirit on which it is built. Law is, as Hobbes will insist, fundamentally an expression of sovereignty, but the way in which the actual rules of law have been derived is very particular to the Anglosphere. In Europe (for reasons of history) the basis of law is a codification carried out by Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul and so is issued from the centre and interpreted according to the will of the sovereign authority. This was in France a necessary corrective to the patchwork of local laws that had arisen from the feudal past. The laws were based on those of Rome, which itself was a top-down, codified system. England from the Dark Ages was not rooted in the Roman Empire and was not so feudal – it had, in theory a single set of law, or that was the ruling theory, and this law was a matter of custom and practicality. Codes issued by mediaeval kings recorded existing practice rather than making new rules. As a result, the doctrine of judges has been that they “discover” exiting laws and derive the rules by logic from them, based on the actual cases before them, not such hypothetical situations as a distant legislator may conceive. Many of the most important points of the civil law are not mediaeval but are points of commercial contract law laid down by Lord Mansfield in the reign of King George III, based on actual commercial practices of his time: again that is ground-up law-making, not top-down legislation.

Social organisation is of its nature built from the ground up if left to thrive on its own. A modern habit is for those with a project to beg for ratepayers’ money from the local council, which then ties them to the top-down state system, but it is not always like this. Local camera clubs, running clubs, book clubs and the whole plethora of society are wholly independent – in less happy lands the state is jealous of people gathering without licence and would seek to regulate, but not in the Anglosphere.

The early growth of democracy in England ensured a participatory example of rule, and perhaps prevented legislative activism so that the uncodified common law remained unchallenged, while society could remain gathered around local circumstances.

Whatever the reasons, and I can only skim the surface, there is a clear difference between the cultural assumptions of the Anglosphere peoples and those in Europe, notwithstanding that the latter share many of the same cultural references.

There is no suggestion of a racial superiority amongst Anglo-Saxons, which would be a nonsense, and one could not even say that our Anglosphere culture is objectively “superior”, if such a concept can even be defined – just that it is different in important respects from its neighbours, and largely coherent across the many nations of the world which share it.

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By Sir Roger Scruton:

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Sir Roger Scruton – in memory of greatness

All thoughts must be put aside to mourn the passing of the greatest thinker of our age – and greater too because he acted also. Sir Roger Scruton passed away yesterday. The obituaries record levelled that he left a widow and two children, but he left a mightier his legacy, namely freedom in half of Europe.

He was a philosopher, and head and shoulders above all others of our time, but I have hesitated to use that word as ‘philosopher’ has become a degraded title in the hands of unworthy sophists. If an intellectual is a man educated beyond common sense, a philosopher has become a man so intellectual that he can construct a whole world in his mind and show its truth by logic in spite of all the evidence disproving him.  Sir Roger was not like that: he saw and described reality and from it drew conclusions which the passage of time proved true.

Born in 1944, as the allied English-speaking world was preparing to strike at the beaches of Normandy to liberate half a continent, he was in his time to play a large part to liberate the other half. He was brought up in that ferment of conflicting ideas that followed the peace.  He studied in Paris, and was there in 1968, the summer of the student uprisings, and first-hand he saw the destruction created by the students’ movement; a destruction justified in their mind by some foolish slogans.  He determined from that point that he was for preserving the good, which the radicals so hated.  This was to be a pattern for his life, and the reason the left-wing intellectual establishment shunned him.

I had the privilege to be at a dinner with Sir Roger on two notable occasions, in elevated company, and heard him speak.  He was a modest man and nothing in his bearing would tell you that you were in the presence of greatness, until he spoke.  Even then, the better indication of the man was in what others have said of him.

A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin. Somehow polite opinion in Britain shunned him. James Brokenshire appears not to have known who he was when summarily dismissing him in April last year after a hit-job from the New Statesman: that was perhaps the most shocking part of that sordid affair.

In Central Europe though, he was a hero.  In the 1980s left-wing intellectuals (see definition above) had no place for a conservative thinker, but in the east, which at the time was still under the Communist jackboot, they knew all about the reality of socialism, and it was here that Roger Scruton travelled, slipping away from his minders and building, encouraging, nurturing the ‘underground universities’ which kept free thought alive. 

In 1989 the Communist world collapsed, and It was from these free thinkers, Sir Roger’s pupils, that the released states of Europe could rise to freedom and prosperity.  One such, Vaclav Havel, was a poet and so well known as the voice of liberty in the last days of tyranny in Czechoslovakia that the cry on the streets in 1989 was ‘Václav na Hrád’: ‘Vaclav to the Castle’, and to the presidential residence in Prague Castle he went.  He rewarded Sir Roger with his nation’s highest honour.

No wonder the Left hated him.  He told the truth and achieved freedom for the nations.

At home, Sir Roger was a busy academic, and wrote many books on his areas of expertise – all of them valuable and none less than brilliant. He also co-founded The Salisbury Review, named after the Third Marquess of Salisbury (and after his great-grandson, a founding patron), and he served as Editor for many years. The Salisbury Review remains the leading journal of British conservative thought and is well worth its subscription.

Another conservative philosopher, Aldous Huxley, wrote an introduction to a reprint of his great novel ‘Brave New World’ that was issued just after the Second World War, a war that come out of the rise of novel philosophies. He wrote:

I have been told by an eminent academic critic that I am a sad symptom of the failure of an intellectual class in time of crisis. The implication being, I suppose, that the professor and his colleagues are hilarious symptoms of success. The benefactors of humanity deserve due honour and commemoration. Let us build a Pantheon for professors. It should be located among the ruins of one of the gutted cities of Europe or Japan, and over the entrance to the ossuary I would inscribe, in letters six or seven feet high, the simple words: SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF THE WORLD’S EDUCATORS. SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE.

In the time that Sir Roger took his life in his hands, one such philosophy had become triumphant, and left the ancient lands in its grip to become wasted.  To this modest academic a monument extends across all the free countries of Central Europe.

Stand in the revived heart of Prague or Warsaw or Budapest to look for a monument to Sir Roger:

SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE.

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The Abilities required in a Judge

The abilities required in a good Interpreter of the Law, that is to say, in a good Judge, are not the same with those of an Advocate; namely the study of the Lawes. For a Judge, as he ought to take notice of the Fact, from none but the Witnesses; so also he ought to take notice of the Law, from nothing but the Statutes, and Constitutions of the Soveraign, alledged in the pleading, or declared to him by some that have authority from the Soveraign Power to declare them; and need not take care before-hand, what hee shall Judge; for it shall bee given him what hee shall say concerning the Fact, by Witnesses; and what hee shall say in point of Law, from those that shall in their pleadings shew it, and by authority interpret it upon the place.

The Lords of Parlament in England were Judges, and most difficult causes have been heard and determined by them; yet few of them were much versed in the study of the Lawes, and fewer had made profession of them: and though they consulted with Lawyers, that were appointed to be present there for that purpose; yet they alone had the authority of giving Sentence.

In like manner, in the ordinary trialls of Right, Twelve men of the common People, are the Judges, and give Sentence, not onely of the Fact, but of the Right; and pronounce simply for the Complaynant, or for the Defendant; that is to say, are Judges not onely of the Fact, but also of the Right: and in a question of crime, not onely determine whether done, or not done; but also whether it be Murder, Homicide, Felony, Assault, and the like, which are determinations of Law: but because they are not supposed to know the Law of themselves, there is one that hath Authority to enforme them of it, in the particular case they are to Judge of. But yet if they judge not according to that he tells them, they are not subject thereby to any penalty; unlesse it be made appear, they did it against their consciences, or had been corrupted by reward.

The things that make a good Judge, or good Interpreter of the Lawes, are,

  • first A Right Understanding of that principall Law of Nature called Equity; which depending not on the reading of other mens Writings, but on the goodnesse of a mans own naturall Reason, and Meditation, is presumed to be in those most, that have had most leisure, and had the most inclination to meditate thereon.
  • Secondly, Contempt Of Unnecessary Riches, and Preferments.
  • Thirdly, To Be Able In Judgement To Devest Himselfe Of All Feare, Anger, Hatred, Love, And Compassion.
  • Fourthly, and lastly, Patience To Heare; Diligent Attention In Hearing; And Memory To Retain, Digest And Apply What He Hath Heard.

Leviathan, Chapter XXVI: Of Civill Lawes

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Peace at Christ-tide

This Melchizedeck was King of Salem, Priest of the most high God, vers. 2. First being by interpretation King of Righteousnesse, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace. Whence it is cleare, that Christ the King in his Kingdome placeth Righteousnesse and Peace together.

  • Psal. 34. Eschue evill and doe good, seek Peace and pursue it.
  • Isaiah 9:6,7. Unto us a child is born, unto us a Sonne is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderfull, Counsellour, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.
  • Isaiah 52:7. How beautifull upon the mountaines are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth Peace, that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Sion, thy God reigneth!

Luke 2:14.:In the Nativity of Christ, the voice of them that praised God saying, Glory be to God on high, and in earth Peace, good will towards men. And Isaiah 53:5. The Gospell is called the chastisement of our Peace. Isaiah 59:8. Righteousnesse is called the way of Peace. The way of Peace they know not, and there is no judgement in their goings.

Micah 5:4,5. speaking of the Messias, he saith thus, He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the Majesty of the name of the Lord his God, and they shall abide, for now shall he be great unto the end of the earth; And this man shall be your Peace, Prov. 3:1,2. My sonne forget not my law, but let thine heart keep my Commandements, for length of dayes, and long life, and Peace, shall they adde to thee.

Thomas Hobbes: De Cive, Chapter IV. That the Law of Nature is a Divine Law.

Hobbes manifesto: taxes and publique charity

Equall Taxes

To Equall Justice, appertaineth also the Equall imposition of Taxes; the equality whereof dependeth not on the Equality of riches, but on the Equality of the debt, that every man oweth to the Common-wealth for his defence. It is not enough, for a man to labour for the maintenance of his life; but also to fight, (if need be,) for the securing of his labour. They must either do as the Jewes did after their return from captivity, in re-edifying the Temple, build with one hand, and hold the Sword in the other; or else they must hire others to fight for them. For the Impositions that are layd on the People by the Soveraign Power, are nothing else but the Wages, due to them that hold the publique Sword, to defend private men in the exercise of severall Trades, and Callings.

Seeing then the benefit that every one receiveth thereby, is the enjoyment of life, which is equally dear to poor, and rich; the debt which a poor man oweth them that defend his life, is the same which a rich man oweth for the defence of his; saving that the rich, who have the service of the poor, may be debtors not onely for their own persons, but for many more.

Which considered, the Equality of Imposition, consisteth rather in the Equality of that which is consumed, than of the riches of the persons that consume the same. For what reason is there, that he which laboureth much, and sparing the fruits of his labour, consumeth little, should be more charged, then he that living idlely, getteth little, and spendeth all he gets; seeing the one hath no more protection from the Common-wealth, then the other? But when the Impositions, are layd upon those things which men consume, every man payeth Equally for what he useth: Nor is the Common-wealth defrauded, by the luxurious waste of private men.

Publique Charity

And whereas many men, by accident unevitable, become unable to maintain themselves by their labour; they ought not to be left to the Charity of private persons; but to be provided for, (as far-forth as the necessities of Nature require,) by the Lawes of the Common-wealth. For as it is Uncharitablenesse in any man, to neglect the impotent; so it is in the Soveraign of a Common-wealth, to expose them to the hazard of such uncertain Charity.

Prevention Of Idlenesse

But for such as have strong bodies, the case is otherwise: they are to be forced to work; and to avoyd the excuse of not finding employment, there ought to be such Lawes, as may encourage all manner of Arts; as Navigation, Agriculture, Fishing, and all manner of Manifacture that requires labour.

The multitude of poor, and yet strong people still encreasing, they are to be transplanted into Countries not sufficiently inhabited: where neverthelesse, they are not to exterminate those they find there; but constrain them to inhabit closer together, and not range a great deal of ground, to snatch what they find; but to court each little Plot with art and labour, to give them their sustenance in due season. And when all the world is overchargd with Inhabitants, then the last remedy of all is Warre; which provideth for every man, by Victory, or Death.

From ‘Leviathan’, Chapter XXX

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