Thursday, January 29, 2009


 My youthful respect for the ennobled peers of the realm diminished in later years as it became apparent that their chief interest and predominant role was to serve the interests of few but themselves.

I have been delighted to find that my successors took up this worthy cause and about 100 years ago clipped the wings of this noble beast, a task that my generation balked at. I have been equally surprised to see the slow progress made by the socialists in bringing reform to this institution; perhaps I should not be surprised as the party of Labour appears to have entrenched itself as the party of the classes, rather than the masses. Therefore the main interest of their ministers appears to have been to create a safe haven for their comrades and, in recent decades, a place of reward for favoured friends of the party.

The scandal that has erupted this week is merely the outcome of a century of timidity; of failure to complete the unfinished business of the Glorious Revolution. For it remains the case that the first-born male of a British noble family has a vote worth 5,000 times that of a common person; indeed such a person has more power over the legislature than the Queen herself.

It is not the off-spring of noble families who are the subject of scandal this week, however; it is those unworthy appointments made by the Labour party.

I do not resent a smattering of wisdom in the Upper Chamber; nor do I resent the presence of the Archbishop or indeed the Chief Rabbi. I am perplexed that the masses of Great Britain continue to have no means whatsoever by which they can elect or appoint their representatives to this chamber; it is most peculiar that a people deemed able to select a Prime Minister (albeit not the present one) are deemed unable to recognise the rudiments of wisdom within candidates for the House of Lords. It is hardly surprising that a population treated in such a fashion should turn their attention to votes on matters of trivia and gossip rather than those of state importance.

Indeed I note the present government promised to appoint People's Peers; and yet failed to appoint a single person of common occupation or humble station.

It is heartening to hear Mr Clegg carrying the ancient Liberal banner this week; Reform! must be his clarion call.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Birthday celebrations!

My statue at St Deiniol's Library
I have been ruminating upon the installation of President Obama, which I trust will be the most interesting event to occur this year. Nevertheless the British as a nation look to the past, it appears, and it is gratifying that some attention is being paid to one's own up and coming birthday.

Today a programme of events was announced and it would be churlish of me not to welcome such a memorial, to quibble with the nature of the programme, the more so as it has been organised by the estimable folk who continue to manage the library I founded in the village of Hawarden, a library which appears to have taken on an exceptional character.

I am peturbed to see one whole day devoted to the study of Mr Darwin, as though the coincidence of our ages means a confluence of our views. I have discussed this matter recently and am delighted to offer respect to Mr Darwin for his scholarship and personal beneficence; the application of his theory, nevertheless, does not seem to me to have been in every respect benign.

Indeed I would prefer such a programme to be more than a historical study, rather to be a continuation of my thoughts and scholarship. There is nothing about Homer, I am surprised to see, but a delightful plan for celebrations of Bulgaria, free once again. A peer of the realm called Lord Alton, who I believe was the last Liberal MP for Liverpool, sadly now having abandoned the party, is to lecture on the cause of freedom that I eschewed, depicting me, it seems, as the Scourge of Tyrants.

It is gratifying, once again, to see modern politicians of other parties involved in the programme, all of them peers of the realm, a Lord Hattersley, a socialist and Lord Waldegrave, a Conservative. Baroness Williams and Lord Ashdown, I note, are to represent the modern Liberal Party in the celebrations.

Yet I will pray for sunshine in June, for that is when Dollis Hill House in London is to be thrown open and the people invited in for a festival, termed the Gladstonbury Festival, a name I believe to be a pun on the Somerset town of Glastonbury. I will mark the event in my diary!

I am somewhat old now so I can be forgiven for perceiving as a little odd the report today which stated that my bicentenary would be devoted to the study of the Koran. It is an estimable book worthy of study, and never more so than at the present, a book that could inspire peace as well as war, freedom as well as tyranny; but I would wish also to see study based upon the Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture.

(Post scriptum: the images are indeed of the St Deiniol's Library at Hawarden, a village of many, many memories and happy recollections.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A most excellent oration

A most excellent oration!


The inauguration

I never in my life thought I would be able to attend the inauguration of an American president, to hear them utter the historic oath, declared in public in front of the masses in a way that the traditions of the United Kingdom have never permitted.

Now today it is as if I am there, albeit still in the warmth of an English hearth. I am not jealous that the crowds milling in Washington DC and assembled in the other cities of North America far outstrip those mighty assemblies that once gathered for some reason to hear my modest words, in Edinburgh and the great cities of the north, Newcastle, Leeds and so many other places.

The election of the new president and the enthusiasm for such an event has shown that the United States continues to be a nation where democracy is strong, where indeed it has been revived. It is a sad contrast with a country where questions of governance seem to be greeted by so many people with cynicism and apathy and where few politicians seem able to offer leadership based on genuine hope.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mr Darwin's sesquicentennial

There appears to be great excitement in intellectual circles about the century and a half that has passed since Mr Charles Darwin published his tome The Origin of the Species. Indeed it even appears to be casting a pall over my bicentenary as an event of note from the 19th century.

I was among those who expressed concern at this publication and its reception within those circles who wished to use it to disprove the traditions of the Church. In reviewing the events of this sesquicentennial event, I find little cause for celebration, even if it is true that the scientific evidence continues to support Mr Darwin's bold hypothesis.

It is apparent that the present proliferation of literature and visual output is intended to drive the last vestiges of the Christian faith from this country. And yet, and yet, those who celebrate have failed to consider the dangers of such a course of action and the eradication of Christian morality.

An early example has been the advertisements that have appeared on a number of omnibuses stating the following: "There is probably no god. So don't worry and enjoy yourself." I do not believe the eminent Mr TH Huxley, with whom I had many disagreements, would have supported such a statement, even though he declared himself to be agnostic. For Mr Huxley and the humanist movement that surrounded him expected with confidence that mankind itself could evolve to embed the moral values of Christianity - albeit shorn of belief in the Godhead. The statement displayed on the omnibuses represents a new morality - or rather an absence of morality - that does indeed derive from the work of Mr Darwin. It is unsurprising that the British Humanist Association should endorse these advertisements but it is nevertheless regrettable; and at a time when many thousands are in peril of their livelihoods it was ill-timed and may suggest that Mr Darwin's heritage may not be the cause of celebration that some would wish.

My recent studies indeed suggest to me that a proper reading and understanding of Mr Darwin's findings should serve to reinforce the teaching of the Church, not to undermine it. Indeed Mr Bagehot's The Economist published an article last month which extolled Mr Darwin's contribution to the understanding of human behaviour. I do not disagree with the thesis in its entirety. For it took but a few decades for the optimism of my last years to be overshadowed, indeed shattered into a thousand pieces, as it became clear that picking fruit from the Tree of Knowledge would not be the salvation of mankind, would not make humanity any better. And in due course, the world plumbed new depths when a monstrous regime in Germany combined the concept of speciation and evolution with the myopia of medieval Europe and set out to create a race of super-beings.

I would therefore urge the 21st century not to forget that the first popular impact of Mr Darwin was to create a sense in the popular mind that humanity might evolve, evolve beyond God, beyond the strictures of the Ten Commandments. Some believed humanity might evolve into angelic and beneficial beings, others believed that humanity must struggle between itself and that only the fittest would survive. A sorry legacy indeed for the Darwin family.

It appears that popular conceptions have evolved, if not humanity itself. For the thesis of Mr Bagehot, and I understand many others, is that if men and women are merely animals then their behaviour will always be that appropriate to a species of ape. It does indeed follow therefore that the British Humanist Association must declare the chief aim of Man to be enjoyment; albeit that the true aim of each individual is, it seems, to reproduce and nothing else. And everywhere that one's gaze might fall, there is evidence of the pursuit of pleasure. Let it not be forgotten that the prosperity the modern age enjoys arises not from Mr Darwin but from Mr James Watt and those engineers who created modern industry prior to Mr Darwin.

Let us not call the pursuit of pleasure a morality. It is an amorality. In spite of the contortions of the followers of Mr Darwin, it is not possible to derive unselfish behaviour from this amorality. The population may weep when the television broadcasts pictures of children in Gaza destroyed by the weapons we have manufactured; but the population may also use their electronic devices to choose another form of entertainment; they may prefer to weep when their favoured entertainer fails to win at the X-factor. Indeed I hear that the new generations of young people are unlikely to view these news broadcasts; for they are more likely to be engaged in games of fake warfare and fantasy destruction.

How different from the population of the 19th century which liberated the slaves, and flocked to the polling stations to protest at the oppression of peoples in far away lands of which they knew little.

It is now apparent to me that Mr Darwin's science was correct for the most part; that he described and led others to describe in detail how the world was shaped by the Divine Will and how Adam and Eve were created in the form of apes that Divine Providence had enabled to become the highest and most intelligent form of species on the planet.

It is also apparent that this ape would not have developed systems of laws and justice; civilisations that function by popular will, not by the brutality of tyrants; and compassion for those who may be out of sight but cannot be out of mind without the exercise of the divine hand. Indeed it is still possible to state when mankind began the journey from servitude and oppression and that this was some time in the first century Anno Domini. For the Church teaches that man is born to a struggle which the Apostle Paul described as with the World, the Flesh and the Devil; some call this "original sin". An atheist, a Darwinian may not believe in the Devil but he will describe in detail how the flesh, composed as it is of tiny pieces of Deoxyribonucleic acid, binds us, how the world, the culture of this race of apes, oppresses us.

It is the Divine Hand, the Spirit of God, that can make humanity different and better; for this species will not evolve any other way.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Some thoughts

I have had a great many thoughts about many things over the 12 days of Christmas but of late my scribe has complained that it has been too cold to manipulate a type-writing machine. As I have noted before, England has become less able to cope with the exigencies of winter in spite of the advancement of technology. Pen, ink, a roaring fire and thickly drawn curtains always made a delightful environment.

It has taken not a little reading and study to comprehend the new conflict in Palestine. The existence of a modern Jewish state is a wonder of the modern age. Yet its creation, its conduct and its tendency to display an arrogance in its actions is a source of conflict.

I noted in the case of Russia the foolishness of a small state tweaking the tail of a mighty neighbour. Yet there appears to have been a deliberate plan in the provocation launched against Israel by the Palestinian zealots in Gaza. A movement that can sacrifice women and children as weapons would be happy to use a whole nation to achieve its aims.

Israel has responded crudely, as it was likely too. It has given Hamas a nation of martyrs.

It is difficult to urge the principles of St Augustine of Hippo on two nations that follow separate religions based more on the Old Testament than the New Testament, that perceive an "eye for an eye" as a reasonable way to resolve conflict. And as I have noted before, modern warfare appears to have diverged considerable from St Augustine's principles in that it places the safety of the armed forces above that of civilian populations, of innocent women and children.

Undoubtedly in striking Gaza from the air in search of the Hamas rockets, Israel believed it was merely emulating the tactics displayed by the western powers in recent conflicts, in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It is difficult therefore for these self-same powers to urge restraint without restating their own principles of warfare.

And yet restraint must be urged and, indeed, the principles of modern warfare must be reconsidered. Devastating air bombardment allows an invading force to enter cities and face few casualties. But it is not analogous to the use of bombardment to destroy an opposing force.

As for the Palestinians, in pitying their plight, we must regret their embrace of Hamas whilst acknowledging the many injustices that have led them over the years to resort to extremism and violence. It is apparent that on the West Bank Israel continues to violate international agreements. It is to be hoped that President Obama of America will use his newly-acquired power to restore a stable and inviolate democratic Palestine to the West Bank; and in turn that such a development may offer hope and assurance to the people of Gaza.