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The promise of Putney


Putney Tower


Putney Church.

"It's been made over pretty completely from 1647. But sitting there and knowing that this is the birthplace of America is a pretty amazing experience." - James Holloway

Last week, reader James Holloway pointed out that we had not included the events at Putney in the post called Organizing Principles. James sent us the images we've used here and wrote -

The grand thing about English, and by extension, American history, is the organic nature by which the institutions/laws/traditions have evolved; it's what's saved us from the bloodbaths of the French or, God forbid, the Russian or Chinese or Cuban or any other led by radical utopians. Putney was the all-important first step toward universal suffrage, and for that reason should be honored, I believe, as the foundational debate of the principles of liberty that would be realized in 1688 and then in 1776, and that in the 20th century were so brilliantly described by Hayek and Friedman.


We stand corrected. Thank you, James.

One of the heroes of Putney was Thomas Rainborowe, who makes a dashing appearance in the Liberty Timeline. At Putney he declared that even "the poorest he in England" should be able to vote. (Unlike most other British heroes Rainborowe's name is spelled in a number of different ways.)

Holloway's whole letter appears with the post. Interestingly, he agrees with the great scholar Samuel Huntington, who is quoted below. We are still mulling Holloway's point that utopianism is not organic to English tradition, which tended to have its feet firmly rooted in the soil of common sense.

Surely our current, ideological politicians could benefit from the soil of common sense.

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