One final thought on political language. It is inconceivable that the Brits would ever open a document like the Americans did with “we hold these truths to be self-evident”, we’re just not a declaratory people. It’s a very prosaic way, even when we are doing something very important, the language is very understated, the language of the parliamentary council.

Peter Hennessy, Radio 4, 18 December, 2014

Here’s a funny thing.

Thomas Jefferson, the man who drafted the Declaration of Independence, was, at the time, a subject of the British crown. The Continental Congress that approved the final version were British subjects. Much as the modern rulers of America and Britain would like to pretend that the revolutionaries sprang from the ground like the army of Cadmus, they were British before they were American.

They were in revolt against the crown and committed to the creation of a new nation in the American colonies. But they were, in simple terms, “Brits”.

The British have been capable of all kinds of things. In the eighteenth century they spoke in ways that Lord Hennessy now finds inconceivable. They could see through the magic show that justifies our gimcrack governing arrangements. They made an America, on the other side of the sea.

I wonder what they are capable of now, here.

One thing is sure, once they take possession of the whole inventory of their wits they will cease to sip at the suave dormitives administered by the good Lord Hennessy.


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