The Emperor’s New Clothes

The letter I chose was number XVI on page 25 of the PDF file.  This letter is addressed to Ormond, who, through a bit of research I’m fairly certain is, James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde.  He was a Irish statesmen who, during the English Civil War, was the leader of Charles Royalist military forces fighting Cromwell in Ireland.  The letter begins by Charles telling the Duke that he must protect his Protestant subjects in Ireland at any cost, and that to do so he is greatly expanding Butler’s power in Ireland, so that he may negotiate peace at any cost (whether this is the letter where Butler is given the command of the royalist army is unclear, but it is a possibility).  He puts into official words that the Royalists (Charles) have given full command of the Irish lands so that peace may be had in that area.

Charles is adamant that peace be obtained in Ireland at any cost, so that he may protect his Protestant subjects, whom he believes he owes his allegiance and full protection under the crown to.  But this political move is not just to protect his subjects.  I believe Charles is stating that peace with the Irish must be achieved so that not only his subjects are protected, but his rule over Ireland is reestablished as well.  He is willing to give the Irish what they want so that both of these things can be preserved.

He refers to two Acts of Parliament near the end of the article.  The first is the Poinings Act (Poynings’ Law), which was the act that Sir Edward Poynings enacted as the Lord Deputy of Ireland in the Parliament of Ireland that places Ireland under the rule of the English crown.  To preserve this act, he states that then Penall Laws (Penal Laws) can be taken away so that peace might be achieved in Ireland.  The Penal Laws were the series of acts under English rule that guided the persecution of Catholics and Protestant dissenters in Ireland, and that were probably the catalyst for the rebellion in Ireland at the time.

This is quite a major shift in the views of the English Crown, and was much a reflection of the influence of the Queen as it was the desire for Charles to have the Irish as allies against the Scots and rebelling English (whom he states will have no quarter and that “no conditions will be hard [against them]”.  This kind of dissent by the Irish can quite easily be related to the more modern political scandal cause by the emergence of “whistleblowers”, or figured within the government who leak information that was supposed to be kept away from the public that otherwise would seem to be infringing on their personal rights.

Although these two cases are not directly relatable, one dealing with overt infringing on human rights and the other dealing with hidden transgressions, the product of the public dissent in each case can be drawn into an interesting parallel.  King Charles realized that the most important of his rule was that he needed people to rule for Crown to be considered legitimate (an idea that seems pretty self evident).  As a result, he was willing to make amends and change an act as crucial to the overall ideals of the Crown as mandatory adherence to a specific set of religious beliefs, simple so that the people would fall back under his wing of rule and his kingdom would be preserved.

This, in essence, is what the whistleblowers intend to do with their acts of dissent.  If the public had known all along about these transgressions against their rights, there quite possibly would have been widespread public protest against the institutions, which inevitably results in the same conclusion that Charles reached with the Irish.  Changing your ways and treating your subjects as they should be treated, even at the cost of changing your own decrees, is better than having no subjects to rule over at all.  This same conclusion that these “whistleblowers” hope will be reached by the powers at be in present times.  The problem we now face is that, for the most part, we face a silent and hidden adversary.  It is this process that these “whistleblowers” believe they are essential to, because they give the public means for dissent against a foe they would have not generally been aware of.

But let it be known that, even after reading both of these articles, I still personally feel like have not been given enough information from either side of this debate to formulate a substantial opinion on the matter.  I do not understand the scope of Snowden’s actions nor do I understand well enough the motivations behind his acts, and the lack of either of these things leaves me in a position where i cannot rightfully choose sides.  I need to better understand this entire case and the cases of other such whistleblowers like Julian Assange before can in good conscience make a judgement, because there is nothing worse than an uninformed opinion.

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One thought on “The Emperor’s New Clothes

  1. Matt,

    This was well done. I wish you’d cited the letter and the annotations a bit more, but overall this was good. Your conclusion at the end should have inspired a conversation between you and the peer leaders, but it looks like they never got around to grading your essay.

    I’d say your point about making an informed opinion is a good one. The problem, though, when you’re talking about the ethics of secrecy, is that you’re debating precisely the conditions under which citizens are allowed to have “informed” opinions. In which case, the assumption that people should be knowledgeable before committing to an opinion — generally a norm I agree with wholeheartedly — bumps up against the reality that facts are inevitably withheld. So, rather than adjudicating these cases with a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down, you could have used this essay as an opportunity to reflect on the conditions under which you *might* approve or disapprove of secrecy, and thus to develop a more coherent set of ideas about how secrecy ought to be evaluated in general.

    Overall, good work. Grade: S.

    Mike

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