How will YOU be celebrating “Presentation of the Grand Remonstrance to Charles I” Day?
The 1641 remonstrance was part of the critical political preamble to the English Civil War. Once upon a time, names like Pym and Eliot were renowned the world over as authors of a new concept of governance. It would be laughable to talk of such parliamentarians as democrats, but the history of democracy needs to acknowledge the pivotal significance of this remonstrance, this primitive, partial, prejudiced and passionate attempt to put down on paper where the limits of executive power should lie.
Charles, who acknowledged only two legitimate players within any constitutional framework (himself and God) also believed that he was allowed to make verbal and written agreements with mortals as often as he liked if it made them shut up for a while, but that he could break such agreements at will. God would understand. His eventual decapitation occurred because you cannot cut a binding deal with someone who thinks they’re accountable only to God.He should have taken the remonstrance a bit more seriously. But to have respected the long term implications of the remonstrance would have involved unpicking the very fabric of his political imagination.
If European and North American societies enjoy certain freedoms, then the template for such freedoms can be extrapolated from the remonstrance. Today’s anniversary serves as a reminder that such freedoms (inestimably valuable and chafingly incomplete as they are) are never the gracious gifts of hereditary rulers but have been wrenched painfully from their unwilling grasp.