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History Corner







Jacques Barzun On Democracy in England and N. America


Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (New York: HarperCollins; 2000), p. 520.

Extract reproduced with original spellings.


‘In England, the riots of 1831-32 in favor of the pending bill to reform Parliament came close to being a nationwide revolt; in the United States, the election of President Jackson was a decisive victory for “the people” as against the “aristocracy” established by the Founding Fathers; in Canada, eight years of unrest and armed conflict ended by uniting the provinces and securing political rights.


‘England . . . did ensure the freedom of the South American colonies by supporting the United States in the Monroe Doctrine [1823], which warned the European powers against interfering in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.


‘To the men of the Enlightenment the English form of government had been the bulwark of liberty; or rather, the House of Commons was seen as playing that role.

Rousseau had himself asserted that for large countries pure democracy was not workable and that representative government must serve as substitute.
It now became the common aspiration of all rebels to install such a system in their own lands. In every language the word parliament meant all that went with it.’