history – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com Free Markets and Social Justice Fri, 19 Jan 2018 15:05:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-site-icon-BHL-32x32.png history – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com 32 32 22756168 Did Buchanan Really Think That African-Americans Had No Desire For Freedom? Another Major Distortion from Nancy MacLean. http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/buchanan-really-think-african-americans-no-desire-freedom-another-major-distortion-nancy-maclean/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2017/07/buchanan-really-think-african-americans-no-desire-freedom-another-major-distortion-nancy-maclean/#comments Sat, 22 Jul 2017 14:50:15 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=11933 On July 19th The Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece giving Nancy MacLean the opportunity to respond to her critics. (Unfortunately, she didn’t take the opportunity to respond to...

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On July 19th The Chronicle of Higher Education published a piece giving Nancy MacLean the opportunity to respond to her critics. (Unfortunately, she didn’t take the opportunity to respond to any of the substantive criticisms that Democracy in Chains has been subject to, here, here, here, here, here, here, and in many, many, many, more places, but let that pass.) One of MacLean’s defenders, John Jackson, in the comments section claimed that James Buchanan “questioned that African Americans were even fit for self-governance”.  In support of this he quoted MacLean: “The thirst for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed” (Democracy in Chains, p. 35).

Jackson’s understanding of MacLean’s view here is correct: She offers this (mis)quotation from Buchanan to support her implication that Buchanan believed that  “the black community” after emancipation lacked any real desire for “freedom, and responsibility” and that this resulted in their being unable successfully to govern themselves.  If that was Buchanan’s view, MacLean would be right to say that on his issue he was “breathtakingly ignorant,” “blind,” and “insulting” (Democracy in Chains, p.35).

But this isn’t Buchanan’s view at all–and MacLean surely knows this.

Before moving to Buchanan, here’s MacLean in full:

“Indeed, rather than sympathize with the plight of black Americans, Buchanan later argued that the failure of the black community to thrive after emancipation was not the result of the barriers put in their way, but rather proof that “the thirst for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed”. It was a breathtakingly ignorant claim, a sign of a willful failure to see what his paradigm would not allow him to. Both Koch and Buchanan would make similarly blind and insulting claims about others who did not do well in the labor market these men chose to believe was free and fair” (Democracy in Chains).

I’m focus here on Buchanan, since MacLean provides no support for her claims about Charles Koch’s views.

So what did Buchanan really say? Well, to begin, MacLean misquotes him; he actually wrote “The thirst or desire for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed.” (“Afraid to be Free: Dependency as Desideratum,” Public Choice 124 (2005), 24.) But that’s a minor point. What’s really worrying is that MacLean takes this quotation grotesquely out of context.

Here’s Buchanan in full:

“Persons who are afraid to take on independent responsibility that necessarily goes with liberty demand that the state fill the parental role in their lives. They want to be told what to do and when to do it; they seek order rather than uncertainty, and order comes at an opportunity cost they seem willing to bear. The thirst or desire for freedom, and responsibility, is perhaps not nearly so universal as so many post-Enlightenment philosophers have assumed. What share of persons in varying degrees of bondage, from slavery to ordinary wage salary contracts, really want to be free, with the accompanying responsibility for their own choices? The disastrous failure of “forty acres and a mule” was followed by the lapse into renewed dependency status for emancipated former slaves in the American south. And the surprising strength of Communist parties in the politics of post-Cold War central and eastern Europe attests to the thirst on the part of many persons ‘to be controlled’.”

Read in context it’s clear that Buchanan is not questioning (as Jackson has been led to believe by MacLean) whether African Americans as a group are especially unfit for self-governance. Instead, he’s claiming that most people simply in virtue of being human would prefer not to be fully free, but to have some person or entity (e.g., the state) exercise control over them. The historical accuracy of the claims that he makes about emancipated slaves are, of course, open to challenge. (Although note that these claims are compatible with Buchanan’s accepting that former slaves faced widespread and significant oppression and that this led to their “renewed dependency”.) But to wrest this sentence from its context and use it to imply that Buchanan believed that African Americans were especially unfit to govern themselves is a complete distortion of his view.

I’ll conclude by noting that MacLean isn’t just doing a disservice to Buchanan here. She’s doing a serious disservice both to her readers who (like John Jackson) will be misled by her and also–and most importantly–to African-Americans in general. It’s no secret that the more sophisticated racists often justify their views by appealing to intellectual authorities. To imply falsely that Buchanan (an immensely distinguished Nobel Prizewinner) believed that African-Americans were unfit for self-governance not only does a disservice to Buchanan, but plays directly into the hands of those racists. And that’s appalling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Empire of Cotton http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/07/empire-of-cotton/ Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:29:28 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=10882 My review of Sven Beckert’s economic history Empire of Cotton is now up at Reason. I’m more critical than most reviewers have been, but I think it’s an impressive and...

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My review of Sven Beckert’s economic history Empire of Cotton is now up at Reason. I’m more critical than most reviewers have been, but I think it’s an impressive and important book. I expect to put up a BHL post later this week expanding on a few points that there wasn’t room to treat fully in the review, and to respond to some of the questions I’ve gotten about it (including from co-bloggers).

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New Molinari/C4SS Books http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/04/new-molinaric4ss-books/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/04/new-molinaric4ss-books/#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2016 08:38:22 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=10611 Two of my Molinari/C4SS comrades have new books out. One is Kevin Carson’s The Desktop Regulatory State: The Countervailing Power of Individuals and Networks. The blurb says: Defenders of the...

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Two of my Molinari/C4SS comrades have new books out.

desktop-revolution

One is Kevin Carson’s The Desktop Regulatory State: The Countervailing Power of Individuals and Networks. The blurb says:

Defenders of the modern state often claim that it’s needed to protect us – from terrorists, invaders, bullies, and rapacious corporations. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith, for instance, famously argued that the state was a source of “countervailing power” that kept other social institutions in check. But what if those “countervailing” institution – corporations, government agencies and domesticated labor unions – in practice collude more than they “countervail” each other? And what if network communications technology and digital platforms now enable us to take on all those dinosaur hierarchies as equals – and more than equals? In The Desktop Regulatory State, Kevin Carson shows how the power of self-regulation, which people engaged in social cooperation have always possessed, has been amplified and intensified by changes in consciousness – as people have become aware of their own power and of their ability to care for themselves without the state – and in technology – especially information technology. Drawing as usual on a wide array of insights from diverse disciplines, Carson paints an inspiring, challenging, and optimistic portrait of a humane future without the state, and points provocatively toward the steps we need to take in order to achieve it.

The other is Sheldon Richman’s America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited. The blurb says:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by AmericaƠs break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Wisdom from the right-libertarian corgi

Wisdom from the right-libertarian corgi

Another of my Molinari/C4SS comrades, Nick Ford, has a forthcoming anthology on anti-work anarchism, titled Instead of a Book, By a Man Too Lazy to Write One; check out the description.

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Moral Panic–Everything Old is New Again http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2015/04/moral-panic-everything-old-is-new-again/ Mon, 20 Apr 2015 20:02:24 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=9158 Those who are observing 4/20 may be interested (not, perhaps, today) in a wonderful example of moral panic from 1641. The broadside “The Sucklingtonian Faction: or Suckling’s Roaring Boyes” mocks...

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Those who are observing 4/20 may be interested (not, perhaps, today) in a wonderful example of moral panic from 1641. The broadside “The Sucklingtonian Faction: or Suckling’s Roaring Boyes” mocks the profligate lifestyle, fancy fashions, expensive tastes, and shocking indulgence in that new and scandalous drug–tobacco–of the poet Sir John Suckling and his friends.

The brief poet that serves as a caption to the central image of the broadside reads:

Much meate doth gluttony produce

And makes a man a swine

But hee’s a temperate man indeed

That with a leafe can dine.

Hee needes no napkin for his handes

His fingers for to wipe.

Hee hath his kitchin in a box.

His roast meat in a pipe.

The whole broadside is well worth a look. An appropriately solemn reading thereof should return you all to the state of moral rectitude and obedience so devoutly to be wished.

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CFP: Lockean Libertarianism http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2015/03/cfp-lockean-libertarianism/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2015/03/cfp-lockean-libertarianism/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 21:06:37 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=9013 Billy Christmas (who was part of the same MANCEPT 2014 workshop as me (“The Current State of Libertarian Political Philosophy”) in September, and who also participated in the Molinari Society’s...

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Billy Christmas (who was part of the same MANCEPT 2014 workshop as me (“The Current State of Libertarian Political Philosophy”) in September, and who also participated in the Molinari Society’s symposium on libertarianism and privilege with me this past December) writes to tell me that he is convening a workshop on “Lockean Libertarianism” at MANCEPT 2015 (Manchester UK, 1-3 September 2015). Check out the description below and consider submitting an abstract. I greatly enjoyed last year’s MANCEPT gig and can recommend its sequel.

 

Call for papers: MANCEPT workshop on Lockean Libertarianism

MANCEPT workshops, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, UK.
Tuesday 1st September – Thursday 3rd September 2015.

john-locke-lives

Lockean libertarianism is a family of theories of justice based upon property rights: those we have over ourselves and those we have over the external world. The connection between these two sets of rights is a contentious issue. The self-ownership principle holds that all individuals are, initially, the full moral owners of their own person, including their body, mind, and the product of their labour. The world-ownership principle specifies the rights we have to use and appropriate external resources, including natural resources (e.g. a plot of land, water, forests, deposits of fossil fuels) and products of human labour (e.g. a house, a pencil, a car). Locke himself claimed there is a proviso on the appropriation of external property that required one to leave ‘enough and as good in common for others’. Nozick favoured a weak interpretation of the proviso, while others reject it altogether (e.g. Rothbard, Hoppe), or believe the only proviso that is consistent with self-ownership is so minor that it has no effect of equality (e.g. the ‘Blockean proviso’). Others still think the proviso should be interpreted as in strong support of extensive redistribution of external resources to those who have less than an equal share (e.g. Steiner, Van Parijs, Otsuka, Vallentyne, Roark). Whereas some claim an unjust appropriation of previously unowned resources is an incoherent idea (e.g. Feser), or that resources do not exist independently of an act of discovery (e.g. Paul, Rassmussen & Den Uyl). Some from outside the Lockean tradition believe that the reconciliation of self-ownership with equality is incoherent (e.g. Risse, Cohen), while some within it would agree and oppose any form of egalitarianism (e.g. Rothbard and Hoppe), others reject the incoherence theses (e.g. Steiner and Otsuka), and others still believe equality should be reconceived as equality of authority, which stands in a natural equilibrium with respect for one’s self-ownership (e.g. Long). Lockean libertarianism then, is a very diverse set of political theories, with diverging socioeconomic implications. This workshop aims to provide a space to critically discuss Lockean libertarianism: what it is, and what its implications are. Whether the Lockean approach is taken to be problematic or promising, we invite papers that discuss self-ownership or world-ownership separately, as well as papers on the conceptual connection between self-ownership, world-ownership, and the proviso. We also encourage investigations into potential applications of these different forms of Lockean libertarianism. How should we conceive of, both philosophically and socioeconomically, things like public property and national borders? Can intellectual property be justified on a Lockean basis? Are children self-owners, or the fruits of their parents labour? How ought a Lockean respond to historical injustices such as land theft and slavery?

Please submit abstracts by email to Kasper Ossenblok (kasper.ossenblok@ugent.be) and/or Billy Christmas (billy.christmas@manchester.ac.uk).

Deadline for submissions: 1st June 2015. You will be notified of the success of your submission by 20th June. Please note that the deadline for registering for a graduate student bursary from MANCEPT in June 10th.

u-manchester

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Rationalism, Pluralism, & Freedom now available in the US http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2015/02/rationalism-pluralism-freedom-now-available-in-the-us/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2015/02/rationalism-pluralism-freedom-now-available-in-the-us/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 18:44:28 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=8928 Apparently the slow boat from Oxford arrived at Ellis Island a few days early: as of today, my new book Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom is available for sale in the...

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Apparently the slow boat from Oxford arrived at Ellis Island a few days early: as of today, my new book Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom is available for sale in the US.

Amazon (15% discount) amzn.to/1osWYDC

OUP (30% discount with code ASFLYQ6 , plus, according to two reports, an additional 10% discount for first-time customers at OUP’s website– that takes the price down to $30 + $5 shipping within the US.)

Tyler Cowen was kind enough to blog about the book, as was Michael Moreland.

While this isn’t the main point of the book, one upshot of it that may be of interest to BHLers is that the difference between classical/ market liberalism and modern/ egalitarian liberalism is not the only, and in many ways not the most important, division within the liberal tradition. There are questions about centralization and decentralization, freedom and unfreedom in the intermediate and local spheres, that have to be faced by market liberals and egalitarian liberals in much the same way.

As between Lord Acton and John Stuart Mill, Acton was probably slightly friendlier to market distribution than Mill eventually became– but it’s hard to know, as he wrote little about economic questions. There are, however, vital points of disagreement between them, liberals though they both were, about where threats to freedom were socially to be found, which institutional arrangements might balance dangers and which aggravate them. It’s that disagreement that I emphasize in the book– and market liberals and egalitarian liberals both inherit the dilemma of that debate, in a way that we share with each other but not with, e.g., conservatives or socialists. In that sense, I mean to make a contribution to the alternative fusionist project (market liberalism and egalitarian liberalism, rather than the Cold War Meyerist fusionism of libertarianism and conservatism) that has been a recurring theme here at BHL.

More to say soon.

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I Do Solemnly Swear, Or Maybe I Just Swear http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2014/08/i-do-solemnly-swear-or-maybe-i-just-swear/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2014/08/i-do-solemnly-swear-or-maybe-i-just-swear/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 15:41:51 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=8389 It has long been a contention of mine that you could probably write 10 political blogposts and then just recycle them as needed since the same bad political ideas keep...

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It has long been a contention of mine that you could probably write 10 political blogposts and then just recycle them as needed since the same bad political ideas keep resurfacing. In order to test that theory (and put some old writing of mine out where it might actually get read) I’m going to pull some posts from a much-neglected personal blog of mine over to BHL when they seem relevant. Today’s post was written back in May of 2012, and the need to repost it has been spurred by the appearance of the Super Awesome and Groovy Idea of loyalty oaths for business. The loyalty oath, as we shall see, is a very old, very popular, very bad political idea.

2012 Sarah will now tell you all about it.

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Apparently yesterday was proclaimed “Loyalty Day” here in the United States of America. We are, so I gather, meant to “rededicate ourselves to the common good, to the cornerstones of liberty, equality, and justice, and to the unending pursuit of a more perfect Union.”

While I deeply appreciate the sophisticated use of the nested Oxford commas there, you’re going to have to forgive me if I decline to proclaim my loyalty and if, in truth, the whole notion of doing so makes me distinctly queasy.

A brief tutorial on the Oxford comma. You’re welcome.

The time and place that I study–early modern England–is rife with loyalty oaths, and oaths of allegiance, and homilies on obedience. Henry VIII started a vogue for Oaths of Supremacy when he established himself as the head of the Church of England. Of course, he also made it high treason to imagine the death of the King, so he clearly had a few issues.  Homilies on obedience were sermons that were issued by the government and required to be given from the pulpits of the Church of England on specific days–often the anniversaries of rebellions, uprisings, or plots. They tended to sound a lot like this:

[W]hat a perilous thing were it to commit unto the subjects the judgment, which prince is wise and godly, and his government good, and which is otherwise ; as though the foot must judge of the head : an enterprise very heinous, and must needs breed rebellion. For who else be they that are most inclined to rebellion, but such haughty spirits? From whom springeth such foul ruin of realms ? Is not rebellion the greatest of all mischiefs ? And who are most ready to the greatest mischiefs, but the worst men ? Rebels therefore the worst of all subjects are most ready to rebellion, as being the worst of all vices, and farthest from the duty of a good subject : as, on the contrary part, the best subjects are most firm and constant in obedience, as in the especial and peculiar virtue of good subjects. (1570, in response to the 1569  rebellion in favor of Mary, Queen of Scots)

And they tended to argue that, as monarchs were given to a nation by God, there was no proper course but to obey the given monarch–good or ill–as if he or she were God. If you got a crappy monarch, you just obeyed and hoped your obedience would persuade God to remove said monarch.

What’s fun about homilies on obedience and oaths of supremacy, allegiance, and loyalty is that they show up most often when things are slipping. Henry VIII, for example, and that 1569 rebellion. They aren’t a sign that all is well and that everyone loves the monarch. Because if things were going swimmingly, no one would need to require people to state their loyalty. After Guy Fawkes and his friends tried to blow up Parliament in 1605, James I and VI came up with the Oath of Allegiance  which required all English subjects to declare loyalty to the King, and to reject the Pope’s powers.  What’s great about James I and VI is that when he gets rolling he makes Henry VIII’s claim that one’s personal imaginings could be high treason look like child’s play. Here he is in 1610, in a speech to Parliament.

God has power to create, or destroy, make, or unmake at his pleasure…and the like power have kings: they make and unmake their subjects; they have power of raising and casting down, of life and of death; judges over all their subjects and in all cases…They have power to exalt low things and abase high things, and make of their subjects like men at the chess: a pawn to take a bishop or a knight…

After about six straight years of reading this kind of thing  you start cheering when you get to read pamphlets with titles like Killing Noe Murder in defense of the right of the people to resist tyranny, even to the point of regicide. And way before that, you feel really grateful to be living in the 21st century, in America, where oaths of loyalty have never been our kind of thing.

Right?

 

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The Pinker Angels of Our Nature http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/06/the-pinker-angels-of-our-nature/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/06/the-pinker-angels-of-our-nature/#comments Wed, 12 Jun 2013 23:33:32 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=5999 Stephen Corry criticises Steven Pinker and Jared Diamond on the diminution-of-violence thesis. (CHT Jesse Walker.) See also my exchange with Matt Zwolinski and Gary Chartier on Pinker here, and my...

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Stephen Corry criticises Steven Pinker and Jared Diamond on the diminution-of-violence thesis. (CHT Jesse Walker.)

See also my exchange with Matt Zwolinski and Gary Chartier on Pinker here, and my comments on Diamond here.

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If Freedom Is So Great, Why Won’t Our Masters Free Us? http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/06/if-freedom-is-so-great-why-wont-our-masters-free-us/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/06/if-freedom-is-so-great-why-wont-our-masters-free-us/#comments Mon, 10 Jun 2013 19:41:40 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=5976 Michael Lind asks a question. E. J. Dionne gives an answer. Over at C4SS I criticise both.

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Michael Lind asks a question.

E. J. Dionne gives an answer.

Over at C4SS I criticise both.

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Stop the OTHER War on May Day, Too! http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/05/stop-the-other-war-on-may-day-too/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/05/stop-the-other-war-on-may-day-too/#comments Wed, 01 May 2013 14:05:08 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=5566 The estimable Rod Long argues in an earlier post that we should stop the war on May Day by returning to its origins as a celebration of worker’s movements, rather...

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The estimable Rod Long argues in an earlier post that we should stop the war on May Day by returning to its origins as a celebration of worker’s movements, rather than transforming it into a commemoration of the crimes of governments.

I’m more interested in the OTHER war on May Day.

Back in the century which I most often inhabit, May Day was about dancing, drinking, erecting ludicrously phallic May-poles, bedecking every bedamned thing in town with flowers, and sneaking off into the woods to have sex–for the sheer fun of it and for the added delight of really annoying the Puritans who hated the phallic symbolism, the pagan origins, the public intoxication, the illicit sex…and just about everything about May Day.

There shall be NO FUN around here.

WHERE, I ask you, has that May Day gone? There were still remnants of it when I was a kid. I remember making May baskets to take to my teachers. But I don’t think anyone even does that any more.

May Day was so important (and so viciously contested by English Puritans) that King James I and VI published a declaration in 1618 (republished by his son in 1633) to make his feelings about it clear. He wrote:

Our pleasure likewise is, that after the end of divine service our good people be not disturbed, letted or  discouraged from any lawful recreation, such as dancing, either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmless recreation, nor from having of May-games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris-dances; and the setting up of May-poles and other sports therewith used: so as the same be had in due and convenient time, without impediment or neglect of divine service: and that women shall have leave to carry rushes to the church for the decorating of it, according to their old custom; but withal we do here account still as prohibited all unlawful games to be used upon Sundays only, as bear and bull-baitings, interludes, and at all times in the meaner sort of people by law prohibited, bowling.

Heaven only knows why the Puritans found this symbolism distressing.

I’m not sure why King James was so down on bowling, but I do know that May Day was so thoroughly embraced by the English people and the Church of England clergy that poet and clergyman Robert Herrick wrote one of his greatest poems in its honor. Corinna’s Going A-Maying is a joyous celebration of exactly the delights that King James’s declaration protects. The young lover even uses the declaration as a seduction technique. When he calls to Corinna to get out of bed and join him in the fields he says:

Come, we’ll abroad ; and let’s obey
The proclamation made for May :
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying ;
But, my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.

Kisses and green-gowns (which the text coyly defines as “tumbles in the grass,” ahem) are being given all over town, argues Herrick’s young speaker. He and Corinna need to get going, or they’ll miss it all:

Come, let us go while we are in our prime ;
And take the harmless folly of the time.
We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty.

How this lusty celebration became a time to debate worker’s rights, and then a time to celebrate the glories of an oppressive state and now, perhaps, a time to mourn those who suffered under the state, I am entirely unsure. I am sure, however, that we had a great holiday for celebrating pleasure and warm weather and sunshine and the sweets that come with freedom, and we blew it.

So If you’re looking for me today, I’ll be looking for something that needs a good floral bedecking.

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