A Stroud Broadsheet
In the year of our Lord, 1649,
England became a republic,
And that word: 'Commonwealth',
('In the beginning was the Word')
Another mistaken step on the road
To constitutional monarchy
And parliamentary democracy,
Or so the Whig history books tell us;
That quintessential English evolution,
From King John 1215 Magna Carta,
To Votes for Women in 1928:
A line of presumed continuity,
And peaceful, reforming contiguity;
And even when the history books mention
That un-English word 'revolution'
With a political denotation,
It is the 'Glorious Revolution'
Of 1688, which merely guaranteed
A Protestant rather than Catholic monarch.
But there is another optic to use
When scrying this Whig history:
See how the possession of property
Was a prerequisite for liberty,
See how the Law was used to impose
The tyranny of wage slavery
On those with no property and liberty,
And all in the name of the Law,
Rather than rack-renting and usury.
Whipping and branding for the motley ranks
Of vagabonds, beggars and tramps
In dear olde Merrie Englande -
'Kicked to and fro like footballs in the wind';
Families torn apart by press gangs -
Such 'Hearts of Oak' -
'For who are so free as the sons of the waves'?
Enclosure robbing cottagers and squatters -
'Without a class of persons willing to work for wages,
How are the comforts and refinements
Of civilised life to be procured?'
And transportation of child paupers to the colonies:
'Britons never never never shall be slaves'.
The loom. The mill. The factory. The clock.
Clocking in. Clocking out. Wage-slavery.
But we shall rescue this past perspective
'From the enormous condescension of posterity',
And instead of kings and queens and admirals:
Robin Hood! Poachers! Smugglers! Dick Turpin!
The gypsy liberty of John Clare's vision!
Democratic pirate ships! Free Man Friday!
Free-born Forest miners! The Diggers! The Levellers!
Quakers! Stroud hand loom weavers!
Outside the law but not outlaws!
As Gerard Winstanley said in 1649:
'Quietly enjoy land to work upon,
That everyone may enjoy the benefit of their creation
And eat their bread by the sweat of their brow.'