It happened today - May 25, 2015

HMS Triumph near DoverOn May 25, 1660, King Charles II landed at Dover and the English monarchy was “Restored” and with it the ancient constitution. Following the monarchical tyranny of his father Charles I and the legislative tyranny of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth, just about everyone agreed that it was time to get back to individual liberty protected by a parliament that restrained the executive rather than supplanting it.

Speaking of struggles against tyranny, May 25 was also the date, in 1977, on which we first saw Luke Skywalker take up his light sabre against Darth Vader, servant of an emperor who had just, of all things, dissolved the legislature, in that case the Imperial Senate. But back to Charles.

He was not a perfect king and he didn’t have a perfect parliament. Indeed, the English were not perfect citizens or perfect people. No one is. But it is remarkable how much wisdom everyone showed (including Cromwell’s son “Tumble-Down Dick”, who inherited his father’s dictatorship, realized he wasn’t the man for the job, reconvened parliament, stepped down, and enjoyed the longest life of any former British head of state).

Oliver Cromwell was posthumously convicted of treason and his disinterred corpse hanged at Tyburn. But then people calmed down and went back to refining the institutions of liberty under law, of limited, balanced government, and put a statue of Cromwell in front of the British Parliament. Canadians who think we have a genius for moderation should reflect first that if we do it’s one more thing we inherited from Britain and second that it’s not a failure to rely on principle, but success in finding the vital Golden Mean between two barren extremes, that constitutes genuinely admirable moderation.