Sunday, April 5, 2009

Tyranny vs. Constitutionalism

In his History of England from the Accession of James the Second, Macaulay points up the difference in prosperity between England and France in the late 17th century. When Louis XIV, who was at war with England, learned how much support William III (king of England) had in parliament, he supposedly said, "No matter, the last piece of gold will win." Macaulay then observes:

This however was a consideration from which, if [Louis] had been well informed touching the resources of England, he would not have derived much comfort. Kensington was certainly a mere hovel when compared to his superb Versailles. The display of jewels, plumes and lace, led horses and gilded coaches, which daily surrounded him, far outshone the splendour which, even on great public occasions, our princes were in the habit of displaying. But the condition of the majority of the people of England was, beyond all doubt, such as the majority of the people of France might well have envied. In truth what was called severe distress here would have been called unexampled prosperity there.

[from volume IV, text following footnote 365]

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