the remains of the constitution

< Previous | Next >

gil12345

Senior Member
chinese
Hi there,

"No man had once a greater veneration for Englishmen than I entertained. They were dear to me as branches of the same parental trunk, and partakers of the same religion and laws; I still view with respect the remains of the constitution as I would a lifeless body which had once been animated by a great and heroic soul."

"American Independence" - Samuel Adams Speech - August 1, 1776 (American Independence Speech by Samuel Adams)

It seems that "the constitution" refers to "the British empire." He apparently compare it to "a lifeless body (person)," which was admired for its virtue. But I didn't see such a usage.

Thanks

Gil
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Are you sure that Adams wasn't referring to some version of the U.S. constitution that he was disappointed with, Gil? I tried to find the passage in your link, but there are simply too many wordy paragraphs in that source for me to find it without an inordinate amount of effort.
     
    Last edited:

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Are you sure that Adams wasn't referring to some version of the U.S. constitution, Gil? I tried to find the passage in your link, but there are simply too many wordy paragraphs in that source for me to find it without an inordinate amount of effort.
    In this part, he talks about he admired the British people. Then came the war, and changed his attitude. The next sentence is "But when I am roused by the din of arms: when I behold legions of foreign assassins, paid by Englishmen to imbrue their hands in our blood:...."
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    If you will take the time to find that passage and tell me roughly where it is in that long text, Gil, I am willing to look at the context and tell you what I think. If you don't want to do that, I'm not going to waste half an hour in pouring through something that doesn't particularly interest me. Perhaps somebody else will be more interested in what Samuel Adams had to say on that occasion.;)
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    I think that the shattered constitution refers here to the broken ties with the mother country. Adams still feels respect for the relationship that once existed.

    (Owlman, I just searched for "remains of" :))
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    If you will take the time to find that passage and tell me roughly where it is in that long text, Gil, I am willing to look at the context and tell you what I think. If you don't want to do that, I'm not going to waste half an hour in pouring through something that doesn't particularly interest me. Perhaps somebody else will be more interested in what Samuel Adams had to say on that occasion.;)
    The end part of Paragraph 7. The only possible way for it to be the US constitution is that British people had something to do with it, and then, for some reason, the constitution was not as good as before.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Are you sure that Adams wasn't referring to some version of the U.S. constitution that he was disappointed with, Gil? I tried to find the passage in your link, but there are simply too many wordy paragraphs in that source for me to find it without an inordinate amount of effort.
    Considering that this speech was given during the Revolution, and more than eleven years before the U.S. Constitution was drafted, I think we can be quite sure that Adams wasn't referring to the U.S. Constitution. He was, of course, referring to the unwritten British constitution as it had developed in the early years of George III.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    The end part of Paragraph 7. The only possible way for it to be the US constitution is that British people had something to do with it, and then, for some reason, the constitution was not as good as before.
    Thank you. Pertinax's take on what "constitution" meant in that passage seems reasonable to me. As far as I know, there wasn't any official constitution in England that covered the rights of the colonists in North America at that time.
     

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Considering that this speech was given during the Revolution, and more than eleven years before the U.S. Constitution was drafted, I think we can be quite sure that Adams wasn't referring to the U.S. Constitution. He was, of course, referring to the unwritten British constitution as it had developed in the early years of George III.
    I am not an expert in British history, but as far as I know, they don't have a constitution as that of the US.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I am not an expert in British history, but as far as I know, they don't have a constitution as that of the US.
    No; they have an unwritten constitution, as I said, while the U.S. Constitution is written. However, it would be profoundly mistaken to say that there is no such thing as the British constitution simply because it is not written. You may read more about it here:
    Britain's unwritten constitution
    and also here:
    Constitution of the United Kingdom - Wikipedia
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    The OED provides this definition with the following explanatory note:

    7. The system or body of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, or body politic is constituted and governed.

    This may be embodied in successive concessions on the part of the sovereign power, implied in long accepted statutes, or established gradually by precedent, as in the British Constitution; or it may be formally set forth in a document framed and adopted on a particular occasion by the various orders or members of the commonwealth, or their representatives, as in the Constitution of the United States, the various Constitutions of France after 1790, and those of other nations, framed in imitation of these. In the case of a written Constitution, the name is sometimes applied to the document embodying it. In either case it is assumed or specifically provided that the constitution is more fundamental than any particular law, and contains the principles with which all legislation must be in harmony.​
     

    Pertinax

    Senior Member
    BrE->AuE
    The unwritten British constitution also governed America at that time. Adams might have viewed it as broken because provisions such as some of those in Magna Carta had been suspended in the American colonies. However, that perspective is strange from a British point of view, because the actions taken by the British in America were, I understand, authorized by law. The British constitution changes dynamically as each new statute is added, and any rights added or withdrawn by statute thereby change the constitution. If the constitution was "broken" in America, it was because America was outside the reach of British law. Which was true, insofar as it was in a state of rebellion. In short, it was the destruction of its relationship with Britain that characterized the destruction of its constitution.
     
    Last edited:

    gil12345

    Senior Member
    chinese
    The unwritten British constitution also governed America at that time. Adams might have viewed it as broken because provisions such as some of those in Magna Carta had been suspended in the American colonies. However, that perspective is strange from a British point of view, because the actions taken by the British in America were, I understand, authorized by law. The British constitution changes dynamically as each new statute is added, and any rights added or withdrawn by statute thereby change the constitution. If the constitution was "broken" in America, it was because America was outside the reach of British law. Which was true, insofar as it was in a state of rebellion. In short, it was the destruction of its relationship with Britain that characterized the destruction of its constitution.
    Good point. I think Samuel Adams was being very subjective. Let's say he did talk about the British unwritten constitution, yet it had been and was still the same per se before and after the American independence war. But since the constitution was based on lofty and noble principles, which, I assume, must be against the use of brutal violence and salvage atrocities (on its own subjects) manifested in the war against the colonies. Those principles were thus compared to "a great and heroic soul," which gave life to the British constitution yet now failed to be adhered to by the British government. That is why Samuel Adams deemed it as "a lifeless body," a physical frame without its cherished values.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top