As the clown-show formerly known as the United States House of Representatives, having abdicated its Constitutional role of originating all revenue legislation, prepares to think about meeting to ratify or reject the deal reached between the President and the Senate, the question on everyone’s mind is: is John Boehner presiding over the most contemptible legislative body in the history of the English-speaking world?
I am pleased to report that the answer is “no.”
The long-awaited publication of Andy Sabl’s masterful book on Hume’s Politics, an interpretation of Hume’s History of England, has sent me back to Hume’s text: the best-selling book in England, save the Bible, for a century after its publication. It remains both readable and instructive.
Hume convicingly defends Boehner against the charge of running The. Dumbest. Legislative. Body. Ever. That distinction must surely belong to the assembly summoned by Oliver Cromwell in July of 1653 to provide a fig-leaf for his military dictatorship. Its members were personally summoned by Cromwell rather than elected; once assembled, they simply voted themselves the title of a Parliament. That made them the immediate successor to the Long Parliament, which had sat since 1640, killed a king in the name of liberty, and created first its own tyranny and then the worse tyranny of the major-generals. One of the members of the new assembly bore the extraordinary name of Praise-God Barebone, and the populace named the group Barebone’s Parliament.
Religious fanaticism ran deep in the group; “seeking the Lord in prayer” was, among the Independents, a recognized form of political action. After six months, Cromwell grew weary of them, and some of his friends who were members, meeting separately, voted the body out of existence. But a staunch few, led by General Harrison, remained in the Parliament chamber and started to draw up resolutions. Cromwell sent one Col. White to chase them away.
Entering the chamber with his troops, the Colonel asked the remaining members what they were doing. “Seeking the Lord,” they replied. “Then,” said White, “you may go elsewhere; for, to my certain knowledge, He has not been here these many years.”