A people's runnymedem by



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We carmot talk loosely about a Christian social order. We must know something about the laws upon which it

6*

170 A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE P



should be based. There are certain basic laws „n,n u-
the whole of the Divine conunuiduj?^*™ f "*
They deal with devotion to God-or, ifTl^^^
radical system of high moral principles-and fellowshb and
co-operation with one's neighbour. F

The supplementary laws of Moses were specialised and peculiarly suited to the time, place, and conditions of the Hebrew nation. Many of them, like our ancient Common Law, could not be applied to a highly industrialised nation without revision, but the spirit of the following statutes provides the basis for just and humane laws for all time:



The Executive and Judiciary. "Judges and officers shalt thou make and they shall judge the people with a just judgement. Thou shalt not wrest judgement; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift; for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of righteousness."

The above statute protected the people against corrupt administration and distinction between rich and poor.

It was the intention of British Common Law that justice should be free and without distinction of persons. Though this intention can be found in the Magna Carta, and has survived in principle up to the present day, legal procedure has become so costly and statutes so perverse that, in spite of free counsel for the poor and honest administration of the law, justice is often too costly to obtain. Under the Divine Law, administrative justice was further safeguarded by supplementary enactments or rules, under which the State paid all legal costs and forbade any other source of emolu­ments to either judge or counsel.

The ancient prophets warned us that if we did not keep


the law of common interest, and gave inordinate power to
privileged persons or sections of the community, it would
result in the exploitation of the nation and the suffering we
experience to-day. ;,

The instructions to the judiciary are found in Deuter­onomy i, I5-17: Thou shalt judge righteously." "Thou ,.W

ORIGIN OF BRITISH COMMON LAW ||

shalt not respect persons." "Thou shalt not be afraid of the face of man." 'Thou shalt not wrest judgement" "Thou shalt not take a gift."

"That which is altogether thou shalt follow that thou mayest enjoy thine inheritance."

This statute, which is vital to national well-being, has been ignored by our legislators. Our national life' and security has been sacrificed for the benefit of party interests and monetary and monopolist powers, and the people have been deprived of their inheritance and economic security.

When a wrong or murder was committed all the inhabit­ants of a Hebrew city or community were adjudged guilty until the criminal was apprehended and punished. Civic pride thus worked to the end that the criminal or criminals were brought to justice. Every person was held responsible for the sins and omissions of society. There was no such thing as social apathy. Both personal and communal sin were punishable by Law.

We do not willingly admit to-day that every person should share responsibility for the crimes committed by the com­munity in which he or she lives, or that the community is responsible for the majority of personal crimes. Christ and the prophets sought to stimulate a consciousness of personal responsibility. The Christian Church concentrates upon personal sin, with the result that the majority of citizens are unaware that social and political apathy are among the greatest of sins—sins against the Holy Ghost. This Law supported by a conscientious Church could have prevented eighty per cent, of prevailing evils.

This sin of modern society allowed tens of thousands of our fellow-men to starve in the midst of abundance with scarcely a protest from the public. We keep Divine Laws in regard to the concealment of criminals, manslaughter, and the keeping of vicious animals, but fail in the great enact­ments so necessary for the happiness of the people and the security of the State.

17^ A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE



Courts of Appeal and Civil Service (Numbers i, 47-"> 335 viii, 25; xxvi, 62). Religious and civil servants were not required for military service. They took up their duties at the age of twenty-five and retired at the age of fifty years.

The salaries of religious ministers and civil servants (Levites) were paid out of State revenue derived from tithes. The Levites did not inherit a portion of the land like the other tribes. Because they were the ministers of God's Laws and the servants of the people they were not allowed to engage in commerce, agriculture, industry, or any activities likely to tempt them from their higher duties. The laws governing their ministry placed them beyond the reach of bribery and corruption.

Every judge and jury in the Courts where the British Common Law holds sway is bound by the principle that "no man shall be a judge in his own cause." But this principle is rarely applied to Parliament, the highest Court in the land.

The British Common Law conforms to this statute, but the rules and laws and the omission of laws governing Parliamentary procedure, civil services, and religious institu­tions render it ineffective.1 We have already dealt with some of these omissions. There are many more.

The Federation of British Industries is powerfully represented in the House of Commons and consistently pre­vents necessary social reform. Mr Greaves, in Reactionary England^ says that the F.B.I, plays a great part in controlling the decisions of the Government and that:

1 The Act of Settlement covers some of these precepts. It also made it

lawful for any person who has an office or place of profit under the Crown,

U receiving a pension from the Crown, to serve as a Member of the House

°f Commons. At the time of writing this Act has been suspended, as a war

*asure we are informed. Thus a Member of Parliament, whilst receiving a

1 rv of /600 a year for carrying out the wishes of his electors, may give the



k Z of his time to some other salaried occupation under the Crown and

u°iw nedect the needs and wishes of his constituents. The suspension not



on democracy

W lyViolates the Act of Settlement but the fundamental constitution of

ORIGIN OF BRITISH COMMON LAW 173

"It has not hesitated to boast of its successful influence upon the Government. ... By the creation of the Tariff Advisory Committee, with power to alter tariffs without reference to Parliament, the Government has in fact handed over to a body in close association with the owners of industry an important legislative function."

We find in the F.B.I. Bulletin Taxation Notes, March 1937, that every year it sends to the Chancellor of the Exchequer before the Budget Statement a memo, on the views of industry on taxation and the reforms that it desires. M.P.s are provided with these notes and use them to influence the decisions of the Government. In March 1938 these notes instructed Members of Parliament to vote in favour of no addition to direct taxation for the financing of air-raid precautions and that expenditure by manufacturers in their factories should be allowed for by diffused Income Tax. Similar financial considerations condemned to death by bombs and plague many thousands of the citizens of this country by preventing the provision of adequate and sanitary air-raid shelters.

Mr Gladstone once said:

"We decline to recognise any class whatever, be they peers


or be they gentry, be they what you will, as entitled to direct
the destinies of this nation against the will of the People. SB

Would that our Parliament had lived up to this ideal conception of democracy.

Time and again efforts have been made to check the financial tyranny of vested interests in Parliament. In 1852 when Lord Chancellor Cottenham decreed in favour of a canal company in which he was a shareholder the decision was overruled by the House of Lords. The judgment of Lord Campbell illustrates the vigour with which the ancient principle of justice was upheld even against a Lord Chan­cellor. When the wrong had been righted he said:

"This will be a lesson to all inferior tribunals to take care not only that in their own decrees they are not influenced by their

174 A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE

personal interest, but to avoid the appearance of 1,1™ •

such influence." FF e ot lab°unng under

In a report published by a Committee of the Hn, ! Lords in a case in which Lord Murray of ElibanTl implicated the following conclusion was reached:

"We think it is within our province to express our stron,
opinion that there should be henceforth an inflexible rule to
preclude those who hold any public office from entering upon
any speculative transactions in stocks and shares" (Perris
1 he war Traders > 1914). ?:

Perhaps the Divine ruling on this point was most ably expressed by a distinguished German lawyer (Weber Rechtswissenschaftliche Beitrage, Berlin, 1931):

/'Whenever a Member of Parliament is closely connected with business circles outside, and especially with a particular concern, it cannot be disputed that there is a danger of the conflict of his political duty with his private interests being decided in favour of the latter."

In the reign of George III an Act of Parliament made it an offence for a Government contractor to sit in the House of Commons. The purpose of this statute was to prevent the conflict between the private interest and public duty of an M.P. which would otherwise inevitably arise. This high principle of justice has not been adhered to, consequently the life of the nation has been endangered and democracy has become a tragic farce.

The violation of the principle that "no man shall be a judge in his own cause" has on more than one occasion almost split the British Commonwealth of Nations into hostile units.

The News Chronicle commenting on the tyranny of Westminster said:

"It is monstrous that, because New Zealand happens to have a 'Labour' Government which has initiated certain experiments, big business m this country should threaten to force the Government into reprisals. Such an action is a menace to our constitutional government and to the independence of the Dominions as guaranteed in the Statute of Westminster "

ORIGIN OF BRITISH COMMON LAW 175

This tyranny is possible mainly because the great inter­national financial houses have their representatives in the House of Commons, and more than 80 M.P.s hold over 100 directorships in the British Empire and foreign countries. By their economic and financial power they were able to threaten the^ Government of New Zealand because its policy for social and financial reform was not to their liking.

That the time has come when human need should be placed before private interest was emphasised by Mr Harold Stannard in The Times, May 27, 1928. He was commenting on how the people in the West Indies had been reduced to abject slavery, to conditions perhaps worse than the beasts of the field, to fill the coffers of their financial overlords in this country. He said:

"It is time some of the money which was removed under a conception of Empire which our consciences now repudiate should be put back. . . . Both the policy of betterment and the methods by which it can be carried out must ultimately derive from England. . . . What is needed is a wave of moral enthusiasm in England, sweeping through the House of Commons and flooding the Colonial Office, such as that which abolished slavery."

The British people would welcome such a movement. A spiritual crusade is necessary to make the laws of moral-civic justice and the needs of man the controlling factors in all national and international policies. Mr Hobson once said:

"The power of imperialist forces within the nation to use the national resources for their private gain, by operating the instrument of State, can only be overthrown by the establish­ment of a genuine democracy, the direction of public policy by the people for the people, through representatives over whom they exercise a real control."

This control can be obtained and exercised in Common Law Councils where the truth can be made known and by means of a nation-wide system of referendum and public

. I.

176

A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE



initiation so that the greater number shall be served and not be sacrificed for the benefit and the power of the few.

The Englishman's boast that no man shall be imprisoned or his liberty or security be curtailed except in accordance with the law of the land is a deception when privilege and private power cause laws to be enacted which restrict his rights and when his opinion is neither sought nor considered in their drafting.

We were warned that any person engaged in worldly activities (commerce, trade, industry, etc.) whilst serving common interests in Parliament or in the Civil Services would turn these public offices into dens of corruption and the nation would suffer in the consequences (Numbers

xviii, 22).

Obedience to the Divine Law would have given us legislators whose sole purpose would be to serve the com­munity. Only honest men would then be found in positions of authority. Christ's commandment, " He that is greatest among you shall be your servant," would be faithfully

obeyed.


The Civil Service administered the Law through legal departments, the Treasury, local governments, etc. (Deuter­onomy xii, 19; xiv, 27-29; xxvi, 125 Numbers xviii,

21—26). * t&iii r



The Courts of Conscience.—The duty of the minister or religion was to teach the Law. He was responsible for stimulating and directing the moral and social conscience of the nation and for checking any individual and causing to h corrected any social or administrative practice contravening

Manv" clergymen have complained bitterly that com-

0L whom they trained from childhood to live the

municanib, vvllvy/.,._ J . , . r , . - .■*

Christian way of life, within a few short months of entering

h ' business careers as devoted Christians, confess their



troubled conscience.

and nfttxxM . ,■„„,— ■

them?" a clergyman with whom we discussed this


, its and ofttimes downright dishonesty. J*What can I

say

lTu\*A mnscience. The code of commerce demands lies,

ORIGIN OF BRITISH COMMON LAW 177

matter asked us. " Must I tell these young people to refuse


to He, deceive, or act dishonestly and consequently risk
losing their jobs?" We found that the clergy were some­
times forced to compromise with their conscience and their
communicants had to follow their example. Why ? Why
must the clergy open the citadel to the Devil when a
Christian revolt could save the world ? 9

The British Constitution grew in accordance with the Hebrew pattern when courts of conscience and the House of Convocation were established. If the clergy had used Convocation courageously, as they sometimes used the medieval Courts Christian, Convocation could have become an invincible power for good.

"If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment [said the Hebrew law] thou shalt come unto the priests and unto the judge and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee."

The Hebrew went to the priest when a difficulty occurred which was not provided for by the laws and statutes, or when problems arose from practices not in strict accordance with the high moral code of the Divine Law.

This custom was largely responsible for the setting up in

the Middle Ages of Courts Christian, where the priests

and the laity solved difficult personal and social questions by

the direct application of Christian principles. The English

Courts of Equity also gave judgment on questions not

covered by enactments. Unfortunately, the moral value

of these courts was largely destroyed by Case Law. H

The means of obtaining guidance on any moral point

or social practice which troubles the conscience of the

British subject still obtains in our Constitution, but the

machinery which might have been used for calling in

administrative powers to prohibit evil has been so long

neglected by the Church that it has fallen into disuse and

its original purpose been almost forgotten. K

Every Englishman has the legal right to receive from the

*78 A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE

vicar of his parish instruction upon any matter which troubles his conscience. This right does not apply * spiritual subjects only. If any subject of the Realm finds that the practice of his vocation, trade, or profession is at variance with his conscience as a Christian, he can claim spiritual guidance.

If every person sought spiritual guidance when he found the commercial world required him to act dishonestly, or to harm another, our vicars would have the majority of the adult population on their doorsteps.

The clergy have the remedy in their hands. They can place the complaints of their parishioners before their Church Councils, and if necessary seek the support of the Lower House of Convocation to have the matter brought to the notice of local employers, civic authorities, or groups of citizens whose actions or practices contravene Christian social precepts. In any case where such a demonstration failed to secure a remedy, the Higher House of Convocation could be invoked for the Bishops to place the matter before Parliament or the Privy Council—or if necessary petition the King, the Defender of the Nation's Faith. The whole conscience of the nation could thus be mobilised to ensure that Christian right be done. The power of the House of Convocation has never been used to this extent. It failed in its great trust.

One of the original functions of the House of Convocation was to provide a moral check upon Parliament and society in general. It could have enabled the Church and State to work together to build a true Christian social order. So important was its function considered to be that it was the custom for the King to open Parliament and the House of Convocation on the same day. To-day, however, Con­vocation is little more than a time-wasting institution shorn of its ancient authority and rarely protesting against social evils.

Some clergy have said that the People's Common Law Parliament has taken up the duty which the House of Convocation has failed to perform.

ORIGIN OF BRITISH COMMON LAW i79



Economics.—"The earth and the fulness thereof is the Lord's."

The soil was shared among the Hebrews and the law 0{ inheritance established. Every family had security of tenure to enjoy the fruits of their land and their labour

The Commandments forbade any man to covet* or to steal the house, cattle, land, crops, or anything which by right of inheritance was the property of his neighbour.

Before the Norman Conquest there was a striking feature in the English Constitution which did not obtain in any other European country—the power of the common people's Witan or local assembly, and their common property in the soil. The soil was held in trust by the King under God for the people and conveyed to them, and justice was done through the chiefs or lesser kings of the tribes in accordance with common law or custom at the assembly of the Witans. The people held their portion of land as a natural heritage.

The Divine Law forbidding the removal of a neighbour's landmark was strictly obeyed in Anglo-Saxon England. But it was flagrantly violated from 1066 onwards, and particularly by the Enclosure Acts of the eighteenth century which robbed the people of their Common Lands.

It was the Divine command that the soil should not be stolen from the people nor should it be sold for ever, but should be given back to the original possessor at the Jubilee Year. The people in Britain gradually lost their heritage in, or claim to, either their portion of the land or the fruits of their labours. Their rulers sold the people's birthright to usurers and to the privileged classes so that their heritage has become a national debt of about four hundred pounds

per head. , ,

Our vaunted social services—such as unemployment benefit, sick benefit, free medical attention, old age pensions, holidays with pay, and many others-have ■J^J«£ duced within living memory, but they ^ "gjj^« established by Divine ordinance among the Hebrews as

* 80 A PEOPLE'S RUNNYMEDE '

a natural right which the recipient enioved I ll


stigma of poverty, dole, or charity. J Y Wlthout *<

and was

The Hebrew enactments protecting inheritance personal property were strictly enforced 2 made very expensive for the thief: he had to make L> turnj sometimes treble of what he had taken. U^f could not make restitution he had to work out the COsMn

The Laws of Taxation and Public Revenue laid down bv the Hebrew priests make ours look stupid in comparison

Possessions were not taxed With the exception of a small annual poll tax, taxes were levied on increase only If there was plenty, everyone enjoyed the benefit of his production and industry, and any surplus was placed at the disposal of the needy whether native or foreign. Abundance was synonymous with national prosperity. That plenty could cause an economic crisis, or that poverty could exist in the midst of plenty, was inconceivable and unknown until the law was broken.

The annual poll tax of half a shekel (twenty gerahs) was paid by every male from the age of twenty years. Taxation was levied by tithe on the increase of the produce of the soil, of cattle, sheep, and industry. On the seventh year all land lay fallow to recover good heart, whilst the people lived on the food stored according to the Law. Leviticus, chapter twenty-five, gives the details of this remarkable working plan, so difficult for overworked modern minds to conceive.

One day of rest per week and every seventh year were set apart to encourage the spiritual and cultural activities of the race. During these rest or holiday periods incomes in kind were derived from the stored produce, thus establish­ing holidays with pay which we have only lately realised are necessary for a progressive civilisation.

The efficiency of the system depended absolutely upon the keeping of the whole Law. Omission which allowed lust, greed, and deceit to enter in eventually wrecked the

I ORIGIN OF BRITISH COMMON LAW l8l

nation and, as in our modern times rohW M i jt'll
and the nation of security. ' bed the lnd^idual

The whole economic policv wac MiLa j ?!f



srZc£r yar-Bo,h *- « »*•£*

When our Government at the end of the eighteenth




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