to the consequences.
I forward this excellent information to you today, just so you won’t be able to say tomorrow that you weren’t told. History repeats itself.
Words of “Remember Remember” refer to Guy Fawkes with origins in 17th century English history. On the 5th November 1605 Guy Fawkes was caught in the cellars of the Houses of Parliament with several dozen barrels of gunpowder. He, and his co-conspirators were going to blow the damn place up. With the Parliament inside! Fawkes was subsequently tried as a traitor with his co-conspirators for plotting against the government. He was tried by Judge Popham who came to London specifically for the trial from his country manor Littlecote House in Hungerford, Gloucestershire. Fawkes was sentenced to death and the form of the execution was one of the most horrendous ever practiced (hung, drawn and quartered) which reflected the serious nature of the crime of treason.
The following year in 1606 it became an annual custom for the King and Parliament to commission a sermon to commemorate the event. Lancelot Andrewes delivered the first of many Gunpowder Plot Sermons. This practice, together with the nursery rhyme, ensured that this crime would never be forgotten! Hence the words “Remember, remember the 5th of November”
The poem is sometimes referred to as ‘Please to remember the fifth of November’. It serves as a warning to each new generation that treason will never be forgotten. In England the 5th of November is still commemorated each year with fireworks and bonfires culminating with the burning of effigies of Guy Fawkes (the guy).
However, the Gunpowder Treason was fundamentally about freedom. The English monarchy at the time was controlling nearly every aspect of the economy and their subjects’ lives– from what they could wear to how they could worship.
“Sumptuary laws” which regulated private behavior were commonplace. Elizabeth I, for example, re-introduced a beard tax on all facial hair grown in excess of two weeks. She also published long lists, categorized by social class, dictating precisely what color and type of garment her subjects were required to wear.
It turns out these sumptuary laws were just an early form of state-sponsored corporate welfare; the English textile industry had paid Elizabeth huge sums of money in exchange for royal decrees about knitted caps and woolen socks.
As a consequence, a great deal of English labor and disposable income was misallocated towards silly garments instead of being put to more productive uses… and the country was in an almost perpetual state of stagnation.
Not to mention, English finances deteriorated under Elizabeth. By 1600, state expenditures were 23% greater than tax revenue, which would be the equivalent of a $550 billion budget deficit in the US today. Not exactly a trivial figure. (The US Treasury Department released a statement amid great fanfare, that the federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2013 was $680 billion. And they are touting that!)
James I, Elizabeth’s successor, continued to spend extravagantly and in debt the English economy, often showering taxpayer funds on a handful of favored nobles.
By the time James’s successor Charles I came to power, the monarchy’s credit was running so thin that Charles had to force people to loan him money; those who refused were imprisoned and had their property confiscated.
Unsurprisingly, civil war broke out in 1642. Charles I was executed in 1649, and the genocidal dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell dominated England for the next decade.
(Meanwhile, in America the Toleration Act of 1649 was being passed)
When you think about it, this collapse was inevitable.
For decades prior, the entire English economy was under the control of a single individual who massively indebted the state, impeded growth, and reduced people’s individual freedoms. Not exactly a recipe for long-term success.
of November 5, 1605 may have been a failure for the conspirators, but given enough time, a system so screwed up, so unsustainable, was destined to collapse on itself.
Are things that much different in America today?
Pay especially close attention to the Oliver Cromwell part of this story and know that we had better pick our leaders well. We will only have one opportunity to get it right.