Monarchy or republic – which do we want to be?
It's time to get down to some “brass tacks” and put some clarity on where we are and in what direction we should be heading. I know it is so easy to recall that Bermuda was colonised through a shipwreck of British adventurers heading to Virginia and the New World.
The operative word here is “adventurers”, as distinct from British colonisers. OK, yes, they were British and, yes, they were colonisers also.
The distinction is they did so as shareholders in a company, unlike in the case of the Spanish who operated off the treasury of Spain or Portugal; hence, following the order of the King’s courts. The British on the other hand gained a patent from the Crown after which whatever the company owned was divided between the shareholders under their control and not the Crown.
There is an observable difference between the two systems, where one is by the order and control of the Crown and the other by the volition of the company. The company approach, if we can cut away the treachery they wrought, was the embryonic steps of “applied” free enterprise and republicanism.
How so, when they engaged in slavery and slaughtered the native population? I apply no forgiveness or console for the debauchery in both cases, whether it is slavery or land-grab and slaughter. But right here in Bermuda, in its beginning was the idea of persons whose collective fate and economies were split between them and not the Crown, with only a set of rules and a court which “they” supervised to ensure the rules of law, fairness and ethics.
Hopefully, it isn’t too difficult to realise that the principle was that of an island nation or society run equally by a group of persons who followed a law made and adjudicated between themselves — with emphasis, not the Crown — and in this case, a Bible addressing issues of morality.
Initially back in 1610 to 1620, they were all entrusted as equal participants under that construct. It was the essence of being a republican design. As primitive and even as barbaric our original system began, once we add some humanity to that design we actually have — no matter how embryonic — a model republic.
A republic is anti-monarchist, a republic holds its people or citizens as the authority. We may have heard George H. W. Bush refer to it as the thousand points of light or, as it metaphorically suggests, a thousand persons standing with the torch of their own life making a nation and not the superimposing brightness of one light we call the government or monarch.
We thought we were moving ahead, but look how far we have strayed. We no more resemble anything near to the ideal of a republic; no more than a pig can be paraded as a cow. If anywhere there is a movement towards political freedom where people are truly empowered as equals under a law, it would be when people understand what it means to be a republican. In this case, not meaning what you see or understand politically as the Republican Party in the United States. When America was formed, there were no parties; it was a republic. The Congress was the voice of the people.
Until we understand the idea of “no king” and that every one of us as people individually represent that power, we will remain as little subjects under a monarchy of sorts. It was certainly understood back in the late 18th century when the American Constitution was drafted — particularly when we can recall the words of Benjamin Franklin when asked a very clear question by a lady: “What do we have, a monarchy or republic?” And the witty doctor answered: “A republic if we can keep it.”
Perhaps it may be understood even better in another of his statements when referring to the executive, to which he said: “The executive will be always increasing here, as elsewhere, till it ends in a monarchy.”
The real job of keeping a republic is in retaining the individual power and freedoms in an energetic society where leadership is kept in check by the empowered people. While there will always be a need for government, the ideal of republicanism is less government means more individual liberty. It also comes with the notion of wisdom and civility because without laws and compassion, freedom is not possible.
For the Bermuda public, the first thing is to understand the ideals. The public have been hoodwinked, deprived and accustomed to monarchical rule. The leaders are settled into the notion of they being leaders and the rest supporters. The new issue should be not one of Progressive Labour Party or United Bermuda Party or any lookalike because they are just two sides of the same coin. The new paradigm should be about all of Bermuda with every one of its citizens empowered and free to participate with rights and law that guarantee and protect their participation.
No, the public have never heard that before because the proposition they have entertained for the past 50-plus years is one that creates power in the Parliament, but none in the society. Or, said differently, the Government gains the power and leaves the individuals, the people and society powerless.
So, yes, John Smith and all those “bies” back then had far more freedoms for about 50 years or so than any of us can imagine. And, yes, some of my ancestors enjoyed none of that. But today if “we lot” should claim to be free, it should be for the kind of freedom that John Smith and “dem bies” had and not this rehashed, make-believe monarchism, we are trampled on with today.