Monday, October 29, 2007

The Agreement of the People, 1647 (Part of the Putney Debates)

74. The Agreement of the People, as presented to the Council of the Army.

[An agreement of the People for a firm and present peace, &c., E. 412, 21. October 38, 1647. See Great Civil War, iii. 383-394.]

An Agreement of the People for a firm and present peace upon grounds of common right.
Having by our late labours and hazards made it appear to the world at how high a rate we value our just freedom, and God having so far owned our cause as to deliver the enemies thereof into our hands, we do now hold ourselves bound in mutual duty to each other to take the best care we can for the future to avoid both the danger of returning into a slavish condition and the chargeable remedy of another war; for, as it cannot be imagined that so many of our countrymen would have opposed us in this quarrel if they had understood their own good, so may we safely promise to ourselves that, when our common rights and liberties shall be cleared, their endeavours will be disappointed that seek to make themselves our masters. Since, therefore, our former oppressions and scarce-yet-ended troubles have been occasioned, either by want of frequent national meetings in Council, or by rendering those meetings ineffectual, we are fully agreed and resolved to provide that hereafter our representatives be neither left to an uncertainty for the time nor made useless to the ends for which they are intended. In order whereunto we declare: —

That the people of England, being at this day very unequally distributed by Counties, Cities, and Boroughs for the election of their deputies in Parliament, ought to be more indifferently proportioned according to the number of the inhabitants; the circumstances whereof for number, place, and manner are to be set down before the end of this present Parliament.


That, to prevent the many inconveniences apparently arising from the long continuance of the same persons in authority, this present Parliament be dissolved upon the last day of September which shall be in the year of our Lord 1648


That the people do, of course, choose themselves a Parliament once in two years, viz. upon the first Thursday in every 2d March[1], after the manner as shall be prescribed before the end of this Parliament, to begin to sit upon the first Thursday in April following, at Westminster or such other place as shall be appointed from time to time by the preceding Representatives, and to continue till the last day of September then next ensuing, and no longer.


That the power of this, and all future Representatives of this Nation, is inferior only to theirs who choose them, and doth extend, without the consent or concurrence of any other person or persons, to the enacting, altering, and repealing of laws, to the erecting and abolishing of offices and courts, to the appointing, removing, and calling to account magistrates and officers of all degrees, to the making war and peace, to the treating with foreign States, and, generally, to whatsoever is not expressly or impliedly reserved by the represented to themselves: Which are as followeth.

1. That matters of religion and the ways of God's worship are not at all entrusted by us to any human power, because therein we cannot remit or exceed a tittle of what our consciences dictate to be the mind of God without wilful sin: nevertheless the public way of instructing the nation (so it be not compulsive) is referred to their discretion.

2. That the matter of impresting and constraining any of us to serve in the wars is against our freedom; and therefore we do not allow it in our Representatives; the rather, because money (the sinews of war), being always at their disposal, they can never want numbers of men apt enough to engage in any just cause.

3. That after the dissolution of this present Parliament, no person be at any time questioned for anything said or done in reference to the late public differences, otherwise than in execution of the judgments of the present Representatives or House of Commons.

4. That in all laws made or to be made every person may be bound alike, and that no tenure, estate, charter, degree, birth, or place do confer any exemption from the ordinary course of legal proceedings whereunto others are subjected.

5. That as the laws ought to be equal, so they must be good, and not evidently destructive to the safety and well-being of the people.

These things we declare to be our native rights, and therefore are agreed and resolved to maintain them with our utmost possibilities against all opposition whatsoever; being compelled thereunto not only by the examples of our ancestors, whose blood was often spent in vain for the recovery of their freedoms, Buffering themselves through fraudulent accommodations to be still deluded of the fruit of their victories, but also by our own woeful experience, who, having long expected and dearly earned the establishment of these certain rules of government, are yet made to depend for the settlement of our peace and freedom upon him that intended our bondage and brought a cruel war upon us.

[1] I. e. in March in every other year.

The Putney Debates

The Putney Debates
The Putney Debates were a series of discussions between factions of the New Model Army and the Levellers concerning a new constitution for England. The debates were held at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Putney, Surrey, in October and November 1647.

During the summer of 1647, the attempts by the "Grandees" Cromwell and Ireton to negotiate a settlement with King Charles in the aftermath of the First Civil War had lost them the support of military and civilian radicals. The Levellers criticised Ireton in particular for servility in his negotiations with the King and Parliament, and accused the Grandees of betraying the interests of the common soldiers and people of England. In October 1647, five of the most radical cavalry regiments elected new Agitators — known as the "New Agents" — to represent their views. The New Agents issued a political manifesto: The Case of the Armie Truly Stated, and endorsed the constitutional proposals drafted by civilian Levellers in the Agreement of the People. The radicals wanted a constitution based upon manhood suffrage ("one man, one vote"), biennial Parliaments and a reorganisation of parliamentary constituencies. Authority was to be vested in the House of Commons rather than the King and Lords. Certain "native rights" were declared sacrosanct for all Englishmen: freedom of conscience, freedom from impressment into the armed forces and equality before the law.

The Grandees responded by inviting the New Agents and their civilian supporters to debate their proposals before the General Council of the Army. In the absence of Lord-General Fairfax, the discussions were chaired by Lieutenant-General Oliver Cromwell. A committee was formed to finalise all constitutional proposals. Cromwell vetoed demands made by radicals who called for the overthrow of the Monarchy, and worked with Commissary-General Henry Ireton to moderate the extremism of the Levellers. Ireton insisted that his own Heads of the Proposals covered all the issues raised in the Case of the Armie and the Levellers' Agreement with far less radical disruption of society. Colonel Thomas Rainsborough emerged as the highest-ranking Leveller sympathiser, calling for Parliament to break off negotiations with the King and to force through a new constitution on its own terms. Other Leveller spokesmen were the Agitators Edward Sexby and William Allen, and civilians John Wildman and Maximilian Petty.

“...for really I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he; and therefore truly, Sir, I think it's clear, that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under...”

Extract from Colonel Rainsborough's famous appeal for democratic rights for all men.

“...I think that no person hath a right to an interest or share in the disposing of the affairs of the kingdom, and in determining or choosing those that shall determine what laws we shall be ruled by here — no person hath a right to this, that hath not a permanent fixed interest in this kingdom...”

Extract from Henry Ireton's response to Rainsborough.

The debates began on 28 October 1647. For three days, the proceedings were transcribed verbatim by the secretary William Clarke and a team of stenographers. From 2 November, however, all recording ceased. The debates were not reported and Clarke's minutes were not published at the time. They were lost until 1890 when they were rediscovered at the library of Worcester College, Oxford, by the historian C.H. Firth and subsequently published as part of the Clarke Papers.

Much of the recorded debate centred around the franchise. The radicals regarded the right to vote as fundamental to all freeborn Englishmen — a right which had been acquired by fighting for English freedom in the civil war. Cromwell and Ireton, however, regarded the idea of manhood suffrage as tantamount to anarchy. To the indignation of the radicals, they insisted that the vote should be restricted to property owners, prompting Sexby, Rainsborough and others to ask what it was that the ordinary soldiers had been fighting for. After several days spent in heated debate, both sides appeared willing to compromise to a certain extent. The Levellers agreed that servants and alms-takers should be excluded from the franchise; the Grandees conceded that soldiers who had fought for Parliament should be granted the vote.
Although the Army Council did not carry the Levellers' proposal that the Agreement of the People should be adopted as the Army's official constitutional programme, a vote was secured for a mass rendezvous at which the Agreement would be presented to the troops. The radicals hoped that it would be adopted by popular consent of the soldiers, then pressed upon Parliament and the nation. However, Cromwell and Ireton were alarmed at the extremism of the Levellers. Fearing a collapse of constitutional authority, Cromwell was determined to maintain discipline in the Army at all costs. On 8 November, he proposed and carried a motion that the meeting of the Army Council should be temporarily suspended. The Agitators and representative officers were ordered back to their regiments. A new committee, consisting only of officers, was formed to draw up a manifesto in the name of Lord-General Fairfax and the Army Council to be presented to the troops in place of the Levellers' Agreement. The proposed general rendezvous was modified to three smaller reviews — resulting in the near-mutiny at Corkbush Field on 15 November 1647 and the suppression of the Army radicals.

Meanwhile, the escape of King Charles from Hampton Court on 11 November 1647 had dramatically changed the situation. The Army closed ranks as a Second CIvil War threatened. The representation of rank-and-file soldiers on the Army Council was quietly dropped early in 1648, and never tried again.

Oliver Cromwell, 1647, Heads of Proposals

71. The Heads of the Proposals offered by the Army.

The Heads of the Proposals agreed upon by his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax and the Council of the Army, to be tendered to the Commissioners of Parliament residing with the Army, and with them to be treated on by the Commissioners of the Army: containing the particulars of their desires in pursuance of their former declarations and papers, in order to the clearing and securing of the rights and liberties of the kingdom, and the settling a just and lasting peace. To which are added some further particular desires (for the removing and redressing of divers pressing grievances), being also comprised in or necessary pursuance of their former representations and papers appointed to be treated upon.

I. That (things hereafter proposed, being provided for by this Parliament) a certain period may (by Act of Parliament) be set for the ending of this Parliament (such period to be put within a year at most), and in the same Act provision to be made for the succession and constitution of Parliaments in future, as followeth:

1. That Parliaments may biennially be called and meet at a certain day, with such provision for the certainty thereof, as in the late Act was made for triennial Parliaments; and what further or other provision shall be found needful by the Parliament to reduce it to more certainty; and upon the passing of this, the said Act for triennial Parliaments to be repealed.
2. Each biennial Parliament to sit 120 days certain (unless adjourned or dissolved sooner by their own consent), afterwards to be adjournable or dissolvable by the King, and no Parliament to sit past 240 days from their first meeting, or some other limited number of days now to be agreed on; upon the expiration whereof each Parliament to dissolve of course, if not otherwise dissolved sooner.
3. The King, upon advice of the Council of State, in the intervals between biennial Parliaments, to call a Parliament extraordinary, provided it meet above 70 days before the next biennial day, and be dissolved at least 60 days before the same; so as the course of biennial elections may never be interrupted.
4. That this Parliament and each succeeding biennial Parliament, at or before adjournment or dissolution thereof, may appoint Committees to continue during the interval for such purposes as are in any of these Proposals referred to such Committees.
5. That the elections of the Commons for succeeding Parliaments may be distributed to all counties, or other parts or divisions of the kingdom, according to some rule of equality or proportion, so as all counties may have a number of Parliament members allowed to their choice, proportionable to the respective rates they bear in the common charges and burdens of the kingdom, according to some other rule of equality or proportion, to render the House of Commons (as near as may be) an equal representative of the whole; and in order thereunto, that a present consideration be had to take off the elections of burgesses for poor decayed or inconsiderable towns, and to give some present addition to the number of Parliament members for great counties that have now less than their due proportion, to bring all (at present), as near as may be, to such a rule of proportion as aforesaid.
6. That effectual provision be made for future freedom of elections, and certainty of due returns.
7. That the House of Commons alone have the power from time to time to set down further orders and rules for the ends expressed in the two last preceding articles, so as to reduce the elections of members for that House to more and more perfection of equality in the distribution, freedom in the election, order in the proceeding thereto, and certainty in the returns, with orders and rules (in that case) to be in laws.
8. That there be a liberty for entering dissents in the House of Commons, with provision that no member be censurable for ought said or voted in the House further than to exclusion from that trust; and that only by the judgment of the House itself.
9. That the judicial power, or power of final judgment in the Lords and Commons (and their power of exposition and application of law, without further appeal), may be cleared; and that no officer of justice, minister of state, or other person adjudged by them, may be capable of protection or pardon from the King without their advice or consent.
10. That the right and liberty of the Commons of England may be cleared and vindicated as to a due exemption from any judgment, trial or other proceeding against them by the House of Peers, without the concurring judgment of the House of Commons: as also from any other judgment, sentence or proceeding against them, other than by their equals, or according to the law of the land.
11. The same Act to provide that grand jurymen may be chosen by and for several parts or divisions of each county respectively, in some equal way (and not to remain as now, at the discretion of an Under-Sheriff to be put on or off), and that such grand jurymen for their respective counties, may at each Assize present the name of persons to be made Justices of the Peace from time to time, as the county hath need for any to be added to the Commission, and at the Summer Assize to present the names of three persons, out of whom the King may prick one to be Sheriff for the next year.

II. For the future security of Parliament and the militia in general, in order thereunto, that it be provided by Act of Parliament:
1. That the power of the militia by sea and land, during the space of ten years next ensuing, shall be ordered and disposed by the Lords and Commons assembled, and to be assembled in the Parliament or Parliaments of England, by such persons as they shall nominate and appoint for that purpose from time to time during the said space.
2. That the said power shall not be ordered, disposed or exercised by the King's Majesty that now is, or by any person or persons by any authority derived from him, during the said space, or at any time hereafter by His said Majesty, without the advice and consent of the said Lords and Commons, or of such Committees or Council in the intervals of Parliament as they shall appoint.
3. That during the same space of ten years the said Lords and Commons may by Bill or Ordinance raise and dispose of what moneys and for what forces they shall from time to time find necessary; as also for payment of the public debts and damages, and for all other the public uses of the kingdom.
4. And to the end the temporary security intended by the three particulars last precedent may be the better assured, it may therefore be provided,
That no subjects that have been in hostility against the Parliament in the late war, shall be capable of bearing any office of power or public trust in the Commonwealth during the space of five years, without the consent of Parliament or of the Council of State; or to sit as members or assistants of either House of Parliament, until the second biennial Parliament be passed.

III. For the present form of disposing the militia in order to the peace and safety of this kingdom and the service of Ireland:
1. That there be Commissioners for the Admiralty, with the Vice-Admiral and Rear-Admiral, now to be agreed on, with power for the forming, regulating, appointing of officers and providing for the Navy, and for ordering the same to, and in the ordinary service of the Kingdom; and that there be a sufficient provision and establishment for pay and maintenance thereof.
2. That there be a General for command of the laud forces that are to be in pay both in England, Ireland and Wales, both for field and garrison.
3. That there be Commissioners in the several counties for the standing militia of the respective counties (consisting of trained bands and auxiliaries not in pay), with power for the proportioning, forming, regulating, training and disciplining of them.
4. That there be a Council of State, with power to superintend and direct the several and particular powers of the militia last mentioned, for the peace and safety of this kingdom, and of Ireland.
5. That the same Council may have power as the King's Privy Council, for and in all foreign negotiations; provided that the making of war or peace with any other kingdom or state shall not be without the advice and consent of Parliament.
6. That the said power of the Council of State be put into the hands of trusty and able persons now to be agreed on, and the same persons to continue in that power (si bene se gesserint) for the certain term not exceeding seven years.
7. That there be a sufficient establishment now provided for the salary forces both in England and Ireland, the establishment to continue until two months after the meeting of the first biennial Parliament.

IV. That an Act be passed for disposing the great offices for ten years by the Lords and Commons in Parliament; or by such Committees as they shall appoint for that purpose in the intervals (with submission to the approbation of the next Parliament), and after ten years they to nominate three, and the King out of that number to appoint one for the succession upon any vacancy.

V. That an Act be passed for restraining of any Peers made since the 21st day of May, 1642, or to be hereafter made, from having any power to sit or vote in Parliament without consent of both Houses.

VI. That an Act be passed for recalling and making void all declarations and other proceedings against the Parliament, or against any that have acted by or under their authority in the late war, or in relation to it; and that the Ordinances for indemnity may be confirmed.

VII. That an Act be passed for making void all grants, &c. under the Great Seal, that was conveyed away from the Parliament, since the time that it was so conveyed away (except as in the Parliament's propositions), and for making those valid that have been or shall be passed under the Great Seal, made by the authority of both Houses of Parliament.

VIII. That an Act be passed for confirmation of the Treaties between the two kingdoms of England and Scotland, and for appointing conservators of the peace between them.

IX. That the Ordinance for taking away the Court of Wards and Liveries be confirmed by Act of Parliament; provided His Majesty's revenue be not damnified therein, nor those that last held offices in the same left without reparation some other way.

X. An Act to declare void the cessation of Ireland, &c., and to leave the prosecution of that war to the Lords and Commons in the Parliament of England.

XI. An Act to be passed to take away all coercive power, authority, and jurisdiction of Bishops and all other Ecclesiastical Officers whatsoever, extending to any civil penalties upon any: and to repeal all laws whereby the civil magistracy hath been, or is bound, upon any ecclesiastical censure to proceed (ex officio) unto any civil penalties against any persons so censured.

XII. That there be a repeal of all Acts or clauses in any Act enjoining the use of the Book of Common Prayer, and imposing any penalties for neglect thereof; as also of all Acts or clauses of any Act, imposing any penalty for not coming to church, or for meetings elsewhere for prayer or other religious duties, exercises or ordinances, and some other provision to be made for discovering of Papists and Popish recusants, and for disabling of them, and of all Jesuits or priests from disturbing the State.

XIII. That the taking of the Covenant be not enforced upon any, nor any penalties imposed on the refusers, whereby men might be restrained to take it against their judgments or consciences; but all Orders and Ordinances tending to that purpose to be repealed.

XIV. That (the things here before proposed being provided, for settling and securing the rights, liberties, peace and safety of the kingdom) His Majesty's person, his Queen, and royal issue, may be restored to a condition of safety, honour and freedom in this nation, without diminution to their personal rights, or further limitation to the exercise of the regal power than according to the particulars foregoing XV. For the matter of composition:
1. That a less number out of the persons excepted in the two first qualifications (not exceeding five for the English) being nominated particularly by the Parliament, who (together with the persons in the Irish Rebellion, included in the third qualification) may be reserved to the further judgment of the Parliament as they shall find cause, all other excepted persons may be remitted from the exception, and admitted to composition.
2. That the rates of all future compositions may be lessened and limited, not to exceed the several proportions hereafter expressed respectively. That is to say,
(1) For all persons formerly excepted, not above a third part.
(2) For the late members of Parliament under the first branch of the fourth qualification in the Propositions, a fourth part.
(3) For other members of Parliament in the second and third branches of the same qualification, a sixth part.
(4) For the persons nominated in the said fourth qualification, and those included in the tenth qualification, an eighth part.
(5) For all others included in the sixth qualification, a tenth part: and that real debts either upon record, or proved by witnesses, be considered and abated in the valuation of their estates in all the cases aforesaid.
3. That those who shall hereafter come to compound, may not have the Covenant put upon them as a condition without which they may not compound, but in case they shall not willingly take it, they may pass their compositions without it.
4. That the persons and estates of all English not worth £200 in land or goods, be at liberty and discharged: and that the King's menial servants that never took up arms, but only attended his person according to their offices, may be freed from composition, or to pay (at most) but the proportion of one year's revenue, or a twentieth part.
5. That in order to the making and perfecting of compositions at the rates aforesaid, the rents, revenues, and other duties and profits of all sequestered estates whatsoever (except the estates of such persons who shall be continued under exception as before), be from henceforth suspended and detained in the hands of the respective tenants, occupants and others from whom they are due, for the space of six months following.
6. That the faith of the army, or other forces of the Parliament given in articles upon surrenders to any of the King's party, may be fully made good; and where any breach thereof shall appear to have been made, full reparation and satisfaction may be given to the parties injured, and the persons offending (being found out) may be compelled thereto.

XVI. That there may be a general Act of Oblivion to extend unto all (except the persons to be continued in exception as before), to absolve from all trespasses, misdemeanours, &c. done in prosecution of the war; and from all trouble or prejudice for or concerning the same (after their compositions past), and to restore them to all privileges, &c. belonging to other subjects, provided as in the fourth particular under the second general head aforegoing concerning security.
And whereas there have been of late strong endeavours and practices of a factious and desperate party to embroil this kingdom in a new war, and for that purpose to induce the King, the Queen, and the Prince to declare for the said party, and also to excite and stir up all those of the King's late party to appear and engage for the same, which attempts and designs, many of the King's party (out of their desires to avoid further misery to the kingdom) have contributed their endeavours to prevent (as for divers of them we have had particular assurance): we do therefore desire, that such of the King's party who shall appear to have expressed, and shall hereafter express, that way their good affections to the peace and welfare of the kingdom, and to hinder the embroiling of the same in a new war, may be freed and exempted from compositions, or to pay but one year's revenue, or a twentieth part.
These particulars aforegoing are the heads of such Proposals as we have agreed on to tender in order to the settling of the peace of this kingdom, leaving the terms of peace for the kingdom of Scotland to stand as in the late Propositions of both kingdoms, until that kingdom shall agree to any alteration.
Next to the Proposals aforesaid for the present settling of a peace, we shall desire that no time may be lost by the Parliament for despatch of other things tending to the welfare, ease and just satisfaction of the kingdom, and in special manner:

I. That the just and necessary liberty of the people to represent their grievances and desires by way of petition, may be cleared and vindicated, according to the fifth head in the late representation or Declaration of the army sent from St. Albans [l].
II. That (in pursuance of the same head in the said Declaration) the common grievances of this people may be speedily considered of, and effectually redressed, and in particular,
1. That the excise may be taken off from such commodities, whereon the poor people of the land do ordinarily live, and a certain time to be limited for taking off the whole.
2. That the oppressions and encroachments of forest laws may be prevented for the future.
3. All monopolies (old or new) and restraints to the freedom of trade to be taken off.
4. That a course may be taken, and Commissioners appointed to remedy and rectify the inequality of rates lying upon several counties, and several parts of each county in respect of others, and to settle the proportion of land rates to more equality throughout the kingdom; in order to which we shall offer some further particulars, which we hope may be useful.
5. The present unequal troublesome and contentious way of ministers' maintenance by tithes to be considered of, and some remedy applied.
6. That the rules and course of law, and the officers of it, may be so reduced and reformed, as that all suits and questions of right may be more clear and certain in the issues, and not so tedious nor chargeable in the proceedings as now; in order to which we shall offer some further particulars hereafter.
7. That prisoners for debt or other creditors (who have estates to discharge them) may not by embracing imprisonment, or any other ways, have advantage to defraud their creditors, but that the estates of all men may be some way made liable to their debts (as well as tradesmen are by commissions of bankrupt), whether they be imprisoned for it or not; and that such prisoners for debt, who have not wherewith to pay, or at least do yield up what they have to their creditors, may be freed from imprisonment or some way provided for, so as neither they nor their families may perish by imprisonment.
8. Some provision to be made, that none may be compelled by penalty or otherwise to answer unto questions tending to the accusing of themselves or their nearest relations in criminal causes; and no man's life to be taken away under two witnesses.
9. That consideration may be had of all Statutes, and the laws or customs of Corporations, imposing any oaths either to repeal, or else to qualify and provide against the same, so far as they may extend or be construed to the molestation or ensnaring of religious and peaceable people, merely for nonconformity in religion.
III. That according to the sixth head in the Declaration of the army, the large power given to Committees or Deputy-Lieutenants during the late times of war and distraction, may be speedily taken into consideration to be recalled and made void, and that such powers of that nature as shall appear necessary to be continued, may be put into a regulated way, and left to as little arbitrariness as the statute and necessity of the things (wherein they are conversant) will bear.
IV. That (according to the seventh head in the said Declaration) an effectual course may be taken that the kingdom may be righted, and satisfied in point of accompts for the vast sums that have been levied.
V. That provision may be made for payment of arrears to the army, and the rest of the soldiers of the kingdom who have concurred with the army in the late desires and proceedings thereof; and in the next place for payment of the public debts and damages of the kingdom; and that to be performed, first to such persons whose debt or damages (upon the public account) are great, and their estates small, so as they are thereby reduced to a difficulty of subsistence: in order to all which, and to the fourth particular last proceeding, we shall speedily offer some further particulars (in the nature of rules), which we hope will be of good use towards public satisfaction. August 1, 1647.

Signed by the appointment of his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax and the Council of War

Edmund Spenser: The Bower of Bliss from the Faerie Queen

Here is the famous chapter on the destruction of "The Bower of Bliss" in The Fairie Queen by Edmund Spenser from the 1590's.

The Bower of Bliss
It was a lovely spot, a place adorned in the most perfect way by which art could imitate nature; everything sweet and pleasing, or that the daintiest fancy could devise, was gathered here in lavish profusion. A light fence enclosed it, and a rich ivory gate,

''Ere long they heard an hideous bellowing. Of many beasts, that roared outrageously, * * * * * * *

But soone as they approcht with deadly threat, The Palmer over them his staffe upheld.'
wonderfully carven, stood open to all those that came thither.

In the porch sat a tall, handsome porter, whose looks were so pleasant that he seemed to entice travellers to him, but it was only to deceive them to their own ruin. He was the keeper of the garden, and his name was Pleasure. He was decked with flowers, and by his side was set a great bowl of wine, with which he pleased all new-comers. He offered it to Sir Guyon, but the latter refused his idle courtesy, and overthrew the bowl.

Passing through the gate, they beheld a large and spacious plain, strewn on every side with delights. The ground was covered with green grass, and made beautiful with all kinds of lovely flowers; the skies were always bright, and the air soft and balmy; no storm or frost ever came to harm the tender blossoms; neither scorching heat nor piercing cold to hurt those who dwelt therein.

Guyon wondered much at the loveliness of that sweet place, yet would not suffer any of its delights to allure him, but passed straight through, and still looked forward. Presently he came to a beautiful arbour, fashioned out of interlacing boughs and branches. This was arched over with a clustering vine, richly laden with bunches of luscious grapes--some were deep purple like the hyacinth--some like rubies, laughing red--some like emeralds, not yet well ripened, and there were others of burnished gold. They almost broke down the branches with their weight, and seemed to offer themselves to be freely gathered by the passers-by.

In the arbour sat a finely dressed lady; she held in her left hand a golden cup, and with her right hand she gathered the ripe fruit, and squeezed the juice of the grapes into the cup. It was her custom to give a draught of this wine to every stranger that passed, but when she offered it to Guyon to taste, he took the cup out of her hand, and flung it to the ground, so that it was broken and all the wine spilt. Excess, for that was the lady's name, was very angry at this, but she could not withstand the Knight, and was obliged to let him pass, and he went on, heedless of her displeasure.

Then before his eyes appeared a most lovely paradise, abounding in every sort of pleasure: rainbow-coloured flowers, lofty trees, shady dells, breezy mountains, rustling groves, crystal streams--it was impossible to tell which was art and which nature, they were so cunningly mingled; both combined made greater the beauty of the other, and adorned this garden with an endless variety.

In the midst of all, stood a fountain made of the most precious materials on earth, so pure and bright that one could see the silver flood running through every channel. It was wrought all over with curious carving, and above all was spread a trail of ivy of the purest gold, coloured like nature, so that any one who saw it would surely think it was real ivy. Numberless little streams continually welled out of this fountain, and formed a little lake, through the shallow water of which one could see the bottom, all paved with shining jasper.

Then at last Sir Guyon and the Palmer drew near to the "Bower of Bliss," so called by the foolish favourites of the wicked enchantress.

"Now, sir, consider well," said the Palmer, "for here is the end of all our travel. Here dwells Acrasia, whom we must surprise, or else she will slip away, and laugh at our attempt."

Soon they heard the most lovely melody, such as might never be heard on mortal ground. It was almost impossible to say what kind of music it was, for all that is pleasing to the ear there joined in harmony--the joyous singing of birds, angelic voices, silver-sounding instruments, murmuring waters, and the whispering wind; and through it all they heard the singing of one voice, sweeter than all the others.

But in spite of the lovely music heard on every side, Sir Guyon and the Palmer never left their path; they kept on through many groves and thickets, till at last they came in sight of the wicked enchantress herself. She lay, half-sleeping, on a bed of roses, clad in a veil of silk and silver, all round were many fair ladies and boys singing sweetly. Not far off was her last victim, a gallant-looking youth, over whom she had cast an evil spell. His brave sword and armour hung idly on a tree, and he lay sunk in a heavy slumber, forgetful of all the noble deeds in which he had once delighted.

Sir Guyon and the Palmer cautiously drew near, then suddenly rushed forward, and flung over Acrasia a net which the skilful Palmer had made for the occasion. All her attendants immediately fled in terror. Acrasia tried all her arts and crafty wiles to set herself
free, but in vain; the net was so cunningly woven, neither guile nor force could disentangle her.

Then Sir Guyon broke down without pity all the pleasant bowers, and the stately palace, and trampled down the gardens, and burnt the banqueting-hall, so that nothing was left of the beautiful place to tempt other people to ruin.

As for Acrasia, they led her away captive, bound with adamantine chains, for nothing else would keep her safe; and when they came back to the place where they had met the wild beasts, these again flew fiercely at them, as if they would rescue their mistress. But the Palmer soon pacified them.

Then Guyon asked what was the meaning of these beasts that lived there.

"These seeming beasts are really men whom the enchantress has thus transformed," replied the Palmer. "Now they are turned into these hideous figures, in accordance with their bad and ugly minds."

"A sad end of an ignoble life, and a mournful result of excess in pleasure," said the Knight. "But, Palmer, if it may so please you, let them be returned to their former state."

So the Palmer struck them with his staff, and immediately they were turned into men. Very queer and ill at ease they looked. Some were inwardly ashamed, and some were angry to see the Lady Acrasia captive. But one in particular, who had lately been a hog, Grill by name, loudly lamented, and abused the Knight for bringing him back from the shape of a hog into that of a man.

Then said Guyon, "See how low a man can sink, to forget so soon the excellence in which he was created, and to choose rather to he a beast without intelligence!"

"Worthless men delight in base things," said the Palmer. "Let Grill be Grill, and have his hoggish mind. But let us depart hence, while wind and weather serve."

So Sir Guyon, having overthrown the power of the wicked enchantress, went back to the house of Alma, where he had left Prince Arthur. The captive Acrasia he sent under a strong guard to the court of the Faerie Queene, to be presented to Queen Gloriana as a proof that he had accomplished his hard task; but he himself travelled forth with Prince Arthur, to make further trial of his strength and to seek fresh adventures.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jimmy Carter: Master of the Obvious

"Master of the Obvious" might be an understatement in relation to Jimmy Carter's today.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Wednesday denounced Vice President Dick Cheney as a "disaster" for the country . . . who has had an excessive influence in setting foreign policy . . . He's a militant who avoided any service of his own in the military and he has been most forceful in the last 10 years or more in fulfilling some of his more ancient commitments that the United States has a right to inject its power through military means in other parts of the world.

In many ways, Dick Cheney is a tragic figure. Cheney waited thirty years for his opportunity to enact his vision of unlimited presidential power and his ideas turned out to be just as disastrous now as they were during the Nixon years.

However, there really is little doubt that "Cheneyism" has been a disaster for the United States and its interests in the world--a disaster that will take a long time to recover from.

Folks on the right might argue that it's improper for Carter as an ex-president to criticize a sitting vice-president so harshly, especially during a time of war.

But ex-presidents Carter, Bill Clinton, and even George Bush I should have a duty to speak out more concerning the abuses and disasters of the current Bush administration, not less.

As I've observed many times in the past, the Bush administration is no longer a credible government and the United States really needs people to step into the void and speak with the (informal) authority of the public concerning issues of public importance.

I initially thought that Nancy Pelosi might be able to serve as a spokesperson for the public at large. But she wasn't willing to risk the next election to serve the public now.

Ultimately, it looks like all the major figures outside the Bush administration are going to sacrifice the public welfare for short-term political manuevering. As a result, Jimmy Carter's willingness to speak the American public's revulsion toward Dick Cheney and the Bush administration is a welcome development.

An Argument for Eating You Know What

Eat Crap Why Americans should ingest more excrement.
By Kent Sepkowitz Posted Tuesday,

One year ago, the now-famous E. coli outbreak arising from contaminated spinach rattled the natural-food industry and gave carnivores a moment of schadenfreude. The story had the heartbreaking elements we have come to dread: A young child eats something mundane and dies a horrid death. Boom, gone. I have (unsuccessfully) treated one such case and rate it as perhaps the most chilling moment of my career.

Since then, the United States has seen at least four additional food-borne outbreaks: salmonella in peanut butter and in spinach, botulism in canned chili, and the current Topps Meat Co. recall of 21.7 million pounds (40,000 cows' worth) of E. coli-tainted ground beef. Those with an insatiable interest in E. coli O157:H7 (along with the lawyers who traffic in this corner of the human misery market) can keep up-to-date here.

With every outbreak, the same question sounds: Why can't we keep the food chain clean? The annual numbers aren't small, nor are they decreasing. By one estimate, about one-fourth of Americans get "food poisoning" of some type each year, 300,000 are hospitalized, and a few thousand die. The perps remain the same—E. coli, listeria, salmonella, and all the rest. Why is this public-health problem so difficult to solve? This is America, after all, replete with wondrously harsh chemicals that can kill anything. Why can't we scrub away the bacteria our guts don't get along with?

Maybe we are taking the wrong approach. Rather than trying to make our food and water ever cleaner, we should focus instead on making sure it's dirty enough to assure our good health.
Here's why. Our struggle to purify food and water has been ongoing for thousands of years. Ask any expert to name mankind's greatest public-health advance, and the answer will be not vaccines, or antibiotics, or disposable diapers, or refrigeration, or mosquito netting. Though wondrous, each is dwarfed by the greatest invention of them all: plumbing. Why did the Romans successfully rule the world? The Cloaca Maxima, ancient Rome's elaborate sewer system, a structure so effective that Pliny the Elder considered it the "most noteworthy" accomplishment of the empire. And why does the West still run economic circles around the developing world?

Because we don't ingest each other's excrement. At least not that often.

The triumph of Western civilization is, first and foremost, a triumph of pipes and valves and the fact that water runs downhill. Aqueducts bring fresh water in, cobblestoned underground tunnels move used water out, and, presto, our world is clean.

But here is the problem: We have become victims of our own success. Ever wonder why your dog can gobble, lick, and gnaw all he wants along the glorious buffet of a city street and (almost) never get sick? Your dog is used to eating shit. Americans, on the other hand, grow up eating almost no shit at all. Our food is hosed and boiled and rinsed and detoxified and frozen and salted and preserved. Recently, we have begun to irradiate it, too—just in case. As a result, when our bodies encounter the occasional inevitable bug, they're unhappy. Our centuries-long program of winnowing out all the muck has turned us into sissies and withered the substantial part of the immune system mediated by our intestinal tract.

Kids have it worse than adults. Even with today's near-sterility, adult intestines have learned enough tricks to ward off major trouble, albeit clumsily. In contrast, modern kids are near-bubble babies. Our mammalian disaster plan is a good one: A child receives antibodies against countless infections from his mother through the placenta and then from breast milk. With that protection, the infant can take his time to develop his own antibodies. But these days, mothers have scant immunity because they too were raised in America the Hygienic. (Also, breast-feeding may be skipped.) So, kids have zero experience with routine gut infections, and when they encounter one that has slipped past our pipes and filters, the result can be catastrophic.
The best response to E. coli and the other pathogens that cause food poisoning is to recognize, humbly, that we can get the food supply almost perfectly clean, but never completely. There's just too much crap out there: human crap, horse crap, cow crap, pig crap. In the feces of these and other animals are trillions of infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, fungi, worms, and everything else that upsets the stomach). Try as we may to contain the mess, we can never win. Pig dung fouls rivers; cow crap seeps into water tables; human shit kicks back every time heavy rains overwhelm a sewage system's filtration capacity.

Furthermore, the closer to nature we get, the likelier we are to eat more shit. That's a growing problem now, as more people seek a less processed, more flavorful diet. To make matters worse, the alliance of natural foods with big-league distribution systems has guaranteed that people across the country can all simultaneously eat the same E. coli-laden spinach or meat grown by the same farm. The two key aspects of a healthy diet—nutritious food and safe food—seem irrevocably at odds with each other. How can we have what we want and still feel safe?
Maybe we can't. Observant Jews long ago sided with safety over taste by boiling, boiling, and then boiling some more. Cholent is the Yiddish word for food that is prepared in advance of the Sabbath, when ovens cannot be lit. Cholent cooks on a hot plate for 18 hours or more, pushing the food to within an inch of its life. Without ever sampling it, you can imagine its perfect non-ness, not even a hint of taste. But oh-so-safe.

Failing the mainstreaming of McCholent, what other options do we have? We can't just put all the crap back into our diet—we would suddenly see infant mortality rates that rival those of Angola. But we will never remove it all, either. So, here's a suggestion: Rather than frantically throwing money at new ways to eradicate the pathogens that reside in shit, we should fund the boring scientists who focus on untangling the intricacies of the gut's immune system. Labs, answer this: How much shit can we safely eat and, as importantly, how much must we eat to remain healthy?