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Richard Cobden's "I have a Dream" speech (1846)

Friday 17 February 2012

In a speech he gave in the House of Commons in January 1846 Richard Cobden (1804-1865) gave what is in effect his version of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in which he outlined what his vision of the world would look like 1,000 years hence when “the Free-Trade principle” he advocated had become universal. Cobden sincerely believed that this would result in “the greatest revolution that ever happened in the world’s history”. </quote/326>

I see in the Free-trade principle that which shall act on the moral world as the principle of gravitation in the universe,—drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race, and creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace. I have looked even farther. I have speculated, and probably dreamt, in the dim future—ay, a thousand years hence—I have speculated on what the effect of the triumph of this principle may be. I believe that the effect will be to change the face of the world, so as to introduce a system of government entirely distinct from that which now prevails. 

Black History Month: Black Libertarians II

Friday 17 February 2012

The ex-slave Frederick Douglass reveals that reading speeches by English classical liberal politicians produced in him a deep love of liberty and hatred of oppression (1882)  It is no wonder that slave owners did whatever they could to prevent slaves from learning to read. As Frederick’s Douglass’ autobiography shows he was able to put words and ideas to his love of freedom and his hatred of oppression by reading English authors like Sheridan and politicians like Pitt. </quote/135>.

The reading of these speeches added much to my limited stock of language, and enabled me to give tongue to many interesting thoughts which had often flashed through my mind and died away for want of words in which to give them utterance. The mighty power and heart-searching directness of truth penetrating the heart of a slave-holder, compelling him to yield up his earthly interests to the claims of eternal justice, were finely illustrated in the dialogue; and from the speeches of Sheridan I got a bold and powerful denunciation of oppression and a most brilliant vindication of the rights of man. Here was indeed a noble acquisition. 

Black History Month: Black Libertarians

Friday 17 February 2012

It is sometimes forgotten that there were black libertarians in the 19th and 20th centuries (see the great work by David Beito on this). Here is one to think about: Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) must have been 19 or so when he made a solemn vow as part of his New Year’s resolutions for 1836 to exercise his “natural and inborn right” to be free by escaping the “hell of horrors” which was slavery. He believed like a true libertarian that he had a natural property right to his own person and hence a right to be free. </quote/240>

“Notwithstanding,” thought I, “the many resolutions and prayers I have made in behalf of freedom, I am, this first day of the year 1836, still a slave, still wandering in the depths of a miserable bondage. My faculties and powers of body and soul are not my own, but are the property of a fellow-mortal in no sense superior to me, except that he has the physical power to compel me to be owned and controlled by him.  

The myth of the hard working Dictator

Thursday 16 February 2012

Dictators love to be shown "working" long and hard hours on behalf of the people, after all they do have the people's true interests at heart. Here is a propaganda painting of Napoleon in his office in the wee hours of the morning working on drafting the Civil Code. It is by his favourite artist David from 1812. I contrast it with a similar one of George Washington from 1796. See the illustrated essay here </index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1563&Itemid=263>. We see similar posed shots of Obama in his office - but have you noticed how tidy and uncluttered his desk is?

Emperor Napoleon is standing in his study after having worked all night on developing the Civil Code (which was promulgated in 1804). His hair appears to be messed up and he sports a five o’clock shadow (or in this case a “four o’clock shadow”).

Bonapartist Dictatorships

Thursday 16 February 2012

This bizarre item in today's Guardian about a Napoleon theme park near Paris <> got me thinking about the nature of Napoleon's dictatorship. In so many ways he became "the model of the modern major general", or rather the modern military dictator, who uses his prestige as a successful general to seize power, and then is able to combine the strong nationalist sentiments of the people, the occasional "plebiscite" to show a veneer of continued popular support, and the crack down on dissent by a secret police, and you have what is called "bonapartism" as a political form. Note Mubarak, Chavez, and many others. here is what Madame de Staël had to say about the kind of person who becomes a "Napoleon" </quote/345>:

"I had a confused feeling that no emotion of the heart could act upon him. He regards a human being as an action or a thing, not as a fellow-creature. He does not hate more than he loves; for him nothing exists but himself; all other creatures are ciphers. The force of his will consists in the impossibility of disturbing the calculations of his egoism; he is an able chess-player, and the human race is the opponent to whom he proposes to give checkmate."