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18th century American reflections on the British Constitution

Americans living in the 18th century were acutely aware of the British Constitution because their colonial legislatures, county assemblies and courts were based on it. In July 1774, as the quarrel over taxation without representation intensified in colonial America, Fairfax County, Virginia, issued the Fairfax Resolutions.

Eerily up-to-date

They make vital points about the British Constitution that will resonate with those who are trying to free Britain from the grip of the European Union and corrupt MPs in Parliament. The mere alteration of a few nouns will bring these 18th century complaints eerily up-to-date.

The Fairfax Resolutions declare –

That the most important and valuable part of the British constitution, upon which its very existence depends, is the fundamental principle of the people’s being governed by no laws to which they have not given their consent, by representatives freely chosen by themselves who are affected by the laws they enact equally with their constituents, to whom they are accountable, and whose burthens they share, in which consists the safety and happiness of the community; for if this part of the Constitution was taken away, or materially altered, the Government must degenerate either into an absolute and despotick monarchy, or a tyrannical aristocracy, and the freedom of the people be annihilated.

. . .That the claim lately assumed and exercised by the British Parliament for making all such laws as they think fit to govern the people of these Colonies, and to extort from us our money without our consent, is not only diametrically contrary to the first principles of the Constitution and the original compacts by which we are dependent upon the British Crown and Government, but is totally incompatible with the privileges of a free people and the natural rights of mankind, will render our own Legislatures merely nominal and nugatory, and is calculated to reduce us from a state of freedom and happiness to slavery and misery.

That taxation and representation are in their nature inseparable; that the right of withholding, or of giving and granting their own money, is the only effectual security to a free people against the encroachments of despotism and tyranny; and that whenever they yield the one, they must quickly fall a prey to the other.

The Resolutions uncannily describe the same acts which the EU now seeks to impose -

That the several Acts of Parliament for raising a revenue upon the people of America, without their consent; the erecting new and dangerous jurisdictions here; the taking away our trials by jury; the ordering persons, upon criminal accusations, to be tried in another country than that in which the fact is charged to have been committed. . .

Does it sound drearily familiar? A free people has many possible futures. A tyranny has but one.

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