Today I will start off with a confession, and then hopefully it will wind around to the reading. The confession is this: I voted for Nader in 2000. My exculpations are as follows: 1) I wouldn't have done it if I'd been living in someplace like Pennsylvania instead of safely blue California, but 2) I was sympathetic to the radical critique that our political opinions are forced into narrow little boxes, as if we were veal. (Recall, too, that 2000 is pre-blogosphere; it was a lot harder then to get your nutty ideas out to the people.)
In fact, given my default Tory sensibilities, wrapped up in my readings like old plaids (to paraphrase Larkin) as I am, I am skeptical of the words on the dollar bill: Novus Ordo Seclorum. But sometimes, even for us cynical believers in the overarching power of The System, change happens; I felt decidedly uncynical yesterday, and here is more pro-change evidence today, in an account of Thomas More written by his son-in-law.
More is remembered, of course, as a martyr and creator of martyrs. But before that unpleasantness he was Speaker of the House of Commons, and his petition to King Henry to allow the Commons to speak freely during debate is so groveling it is shocking:
Yet such is the weight of the matter, such is the reverend dread that the timorous hearts of your natural subjects conceive towards your high Majesty (our most redoubted King and undoubted Sovereign) that they cannot in this point find themselves satisfied, except your gracious bounty herein declared put away the scruple of their timorous minds, and animate and encourage them out of doubt. It may therefore like your most abundant Grace (our most gracious King) to give to all your Commons here assembled, your most gracious licence and pardon freely, without doubt of your dreadful displeasure, every man to discharge his conscience, and boldly in everything incident among, declare his advice, and whatsoever happeneth any man to say, it may like your noble Majesty of your inestimable goodness to take all in good part, interpreting every man’s words, how uncunningly soever they be couched, to proceed yet of a good zeal towards the profit of your Realm and honour of your Royal person, the prosperous estate and preservation whereof (most excellent Sovereign) is the thing which we all your most humble loving subjects, according to the most bounden duty of our natural allegiance, most highly desired and pray for.I like that "timorous" is used twice; also, "most dreadful displeasure". In light of this, maybe you don't have to be a full-on subscriber to the Whig interpretation of history to feel that we're making progress, even though this is exactly how I imagine Bush's advisers have to talk to him. Still, compare More's rhetoric with this story about New Yorkers yelling at Bloomberg for wanting a third term. Democracy in action! And Bloomberg's even richer than Henry VIII was.
Also of note is a little snapshot of More the dad:
...to provoke his wife and children to the desire of heavenly things, he would sometimes use these words unto them. “It is now no mastery for you children to go to heaven. For everybody giveth you good counsel, everybody giveth you good example. You see virtue rewarded, and vice punished, so that you are carried up to heaven even by the chins.” If his wife or any of his children had been diseased, or troubled, he would say to them. “We may not look at our pleasure to go to heaven in feather beds, it is not the way. For our Lord himself went thither with great pain, and by many tribulations, which is the path wherein he walked thither, and the servant may not look to be in better case than his Master.”I don't really have any opinion, I just like the diction ("carried up to heaven even by the chins" -- my poor children are going to be hearing this, mark my words.) He also taught his daughters Latin, which was considered quite remarkable in his time, while in ours, by contrast, it would merely be considered remarkably eccentric. So maybe change is the only constant.