Thursday 31 October 2002

British History 102

Joyce Malcolm has replied to my e-mail and says:
The crime statistics are computed for England and Wales, not Britain. The laws are British. And the history I covered in my book went back to the late middle ages when there was an English government. I do know the difference. The difference between crime statistics being only for England and laws being for the UK can make for some reader confusion. Sorry to have seemed confusing.
Fair enough. But in the article she wrote:
This sea change in English crime followed a sea change in government policies. Gun regulations have been part of a more general disarmament based on the proposition that people don’t need to protect themselves because society will protect them. It also will protect their neighbors: Police advise those who witness a crime to "walk on by" and let the professionals handle it.

This is a reversal of centuries of common law that not only permitted but expected individuals to defend themselves, their families, and their neighbors when other help was not available. It was a legal tradition passed on to Americans. Personal security was ranked first among an individual’s rights by William Blackstone, the great 18th-century exponent of the common law. It was a right, he argued, that no government could take away, since no government could protect the individual in his moment of need. A century later Blackstone’s illustrious successor, A.V. Dicey, cautioned, "discourage self-help and loyal subjects become the slaves of ruffians."

But modern English governments have put public order ahead of the individual’s right to personal safety. First the government clamped down on private possession of guns; then it forbade people to carry any article that might be used for self-defense; finally, the vigor of that self-defense was to be judged by what, in hindsight, seemed "reasonable in the circumstances."

I think that there is a clear suggestion that there was an "English" government post-Blackstone, that is after the Treaty and Acts of Union.

I make such a big deal out of this issue because strong and bitterly angry objections to use of the term "England" when "Britain" (or the "UK") is correct have appeared in the correspondence columns of the Scottish press virtually daily in the thirty odd years that I have been a reader. I have no doubt at all that this misuse of terms is overwhelmingly the cause of modern Scottish nationalism. The future of the UK is at stake.

I thank Joyce Malcolm for her reply.