Saturday, August 20, 2011

GBS—The History of the English Parliament—and the American Congress?

What is the historical function of Parliament in this country? It is to prevent the Government from governing. It has never had any other purpose. If you study the constitutional history of this country, you will see that Parliament has grown up out of the old struggle against tyranny.

The Englishman, being a born Anarchist, always calls government tyranny. The result of that generally is that the Government does become a tyranny, because its subjects cannot interfere intelligently with it—they can only riot and get their heads broken.

Parliament was not in the first place an English institution. It was introduced into this country by a Frenchman named Simon de Montfort, whose father was concerned with the Parliament of Toulouse in France. Its object was to resist and disable the King. Its use—the only use it has ever had—was to ventilate grievances, to give the people it represented an opportunity of complaining of how they were being made uncomfortable.

But it never forgot its object of delaying, defeating, and if possible destroying whatever power happened to be governing the country at the time, whether it was the king, the Church, the barons, or the Cromwellian Majors-General. Bit by bit it broke the feudal monarchy, it broke the Church, and finally it even broke the country gentlemen.

Then, having broken everything that could govern the country, it left us at the mercy of our private commercial capitalists and landowners. Since then we have been governed from outside Parliament, first by our own employers, and of late by the financiers of all nations and races.
G B Shaw, In Praise of Guy Fawkes (1932)

No comments: