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British Response to Whig Philosophy

Updated on April 1, 2012
Thomas B Macauley
Thomas B Macauley

What do you think the best response of the British monarchs to the Whig philosophy would have been?

What is Whig?

Whig has been described to be a pejorative word, which also means an insulting word. Other pejorative words are as follow: Obama Care, bimbo, chicken, dope, freak & etc. Knowing the definition of Whig if an author is accused of written Whig history could we say that the accusation is true for every member of society or perhaps true for the Stuart Monarchs who had opposed the concepts of Parliamentary government that the nouveau-riche middle class protestant wanted to establish to secure their financial interest in Britain.

The Whig History of Black Americans:

History has always been told by the society that forms the ruling government, and when it is not, it is most likely referred as Whig history. Although history is based on facts, it can also be uttered to hide or prop up the historical events. As we have seen with American history, not only were blacks not all slaves, but a great majority of them never arrived on American soil on a slave ship as mentioned in our history books. As a matter fact, many European came and found them living in the Americas.

This mentioned of history to some Europeans would be considered “Whig history” when in actuality it is the true history for Black American scholars who have studied in great depth the History of the United States. As we can see not every historian would agree on what story is to be considered Whiggish, for “one person’s Whig history is another revisionism.”

This is why the Egyptians idea of historiography is an accurate concept one can use to record historical facts. The Archaeologist method is also another form of recording historical facts through the means of excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts in addition to other physical remains.


“The use of the term “Whig interpretation of history” was proposed by the historian H. Butterfield to characterize the habit of some English constitutional historians of seeing their subject as a progressive broadening of human rights, in which good, “forward-looking” liberals were continuously struggling with the backward-looking conservatives. More broadly, the term was applied by Butterfield to any interpretation of history that “studies the past with reference to the present.”

Whig history in essence could mean precisely that “Whig”, because if there is a need to tell history for a particular purpose, there is also a need to Whig that history for the protection of a that purpose. One of the principal proponents of Whiggish history was "Thomas Macaulay author of celebrated, multivolume History of England from the Accession of James two, issued in 1848."

Macaulay’s approach to British history as guided by Whig principles:

“I purpose to write the history of England from the accession of King James the Second down to a time which is within the memory of men still living. I shall recount the errors which, in a few months, alienated a loyal gentry and priesthood from the House of Stuart. I shall trace the course of that revolution which terminated the long struggle between our sovereigns and their parliaments, and bound up together the rights of the people and the title of the reigning dynasty. I shall relate how the new settlement was, during many troubled years, successfully defended against foreign and domestic enemies; how, under that settlement, the authority of law and the security of property were found to be compatible with a liberty of discussion and of individual action never before known.”

The Whig Tradition rebelled against divine right:

The Whig Tradition of telling history were not in favour of divine right being put forth by men such as Richard Hooker to have considered worthy of acceptance. The Whig historian saw it as a threat to the Liberal Party since divine laws are considered God’s influential laws which all humans ought to follow shares a relationship with the divine nature of Kingship that the Liberal Party would have been obliged to consider.

John Locke:

John Locke was of-course against Hooker’s contention for the reason being that they both had different ideas as to how laws should be evaluated. John Locke concepts of law had been based on natural law while Hooker considers divine laws as the interpretation of God’s words. Which to some extent imply that if Hoocker’s divine law didn’t make sense, too bad, since it’s God’s words it ought to be accepted with no ‘if & but’.

David Hume:

David Hume took a different approach; he saw natural laws which govern society as being a subset of history. He contested that it is through history that natural laws are born. In that regard, this was an excellent way to think about natural laws, because if we learn from past mistakes (prior knowledge) than anyone deciding on natural law in the present had to take precautionary measure in studying the experiences of the past to address the unpredictable future for any meaningful purpose.

The proponents of liberty were not too fond of natural laws since they did not understand the fundamental principle by which it came to be, and for that reason they demanded what the proof of rights that were grounded in natural law meant. They understood, and value history as being the main reason for “the guiding principle that not only described the process by which rights were defined and promulgated, but which predicted how the future ought to evolve.” Had they understood that historical facts were the connecting links which help formulate natural laws, than perhaps they could have had a much clearer idea about the many principalities which help evaluate the validity of Natural Laws?

What is the definition of philosophy?

The most common definition of philosophy explains the fundamental study of knowledge which leads to our existence, reality & theory. The Philosophy of someone can be about the way a person conduct his life. Bertrand Russell “said that philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can as a rule is known to be true." Although I don’t agree with Bertrand Russell concept of philosophy I do understand that he meant to emphasize on the study of questions even if not for a definite answer, but to obtain more information, which brought us to examine the meaning of” Whig Philosophy”.

Whig Philosophy:

I honestly don’t think that there is such thing as a ‘Whig Philosophy’. Like we discussed above since Whig is a Pejorative word, it is placed in front of Philosophy to express a critique that is not constructive as a way of applying a Whig on the author’s philosophically thoughts. It should have appeared clear to us that if philosophy is the fundamental study of knowledge which leads to the examination of existentialism, than any philosophical text that does not clearly state a sounded argument is honestly not philosophy, for the simple fact that philosophy is consistent and bears no contradiction.

The disagreement with Bertrand Russell's claim:

The disagreement with Bertrand Russell’s claim was proven invalid because of this statement “no definite answers can as a rule is known to be true.” We know that this statement is not consistent because if we were to throw an orange in the air, the force applied would be limited by gravitation, and thus falls at a given time. But of-course this rule would only validate this effect on planet earth which makes it absolutely true only within our atmosphere. Whereas in a different planet the orange may not have fall.

From my understanding, Russell’s concept of none absolutism is not Whig, but faulty due to the indisputable evidences that can demonstrate an event to have been absolutely true as a definite answer regardless of the rules. Therefore, there is a sense of jealousy when people refer to a piece of information or scientific data as being Whig when the true intent behind the insult is irrelevant to the rational that holds the information constant.

The Psychological interpretation of the word Whig:

The word Whig being a pejorative is effective as a psychological insult, but that’s only when the person whom the word is intended for is not conscious of the true intent of those who have used it, so at this point any form of reverse psychology method is most likely to work.

For instant if we were to choose the word ‘chicken’ as a whig the more the word is repeated the more this person would be convinced that he his in fact a chicken. A presupposed defect which he has been made to believe when in actually exist not. Thus, this Whiggish way of tormented people is indirectly proportional to the true cause behind the intent of most whigs that are used in today society.

Therefore, to judge philosophy as being a ‘Whig philosophy’ is the same as refereeing to a person as a dope, bimbo or a freak, all of which could be asserted as being a condition of reverse psychology for a purpose that is totally different than what the person truly is. This is how whigs are most often used, but in the context it is talked about in the lecture, the purpose for the Whig was to establish a Parliamentary government.

How might the British crown have stopped the momentum toward self-rule motivated by the Whig view of history?

Those who were considered to have had a Whig view of history weren’t necessarily self-ruled. Most of which supported the Liberal Party because “the Whigs felt that this form constitutional monarchy was allied to political liberty allowing the constitutional subjects of the Monarch, who were also subject to Parliamentary laws, many opportunities for a progressive life.”

The Concept of Government v. Self-Ruled:

In addition, it is very unlikely to have self-ruled citizens without the formation of an organization under most governments, even if citizens were to control their own economic means. Since a government consist of a body of people as a society it is always refreshing to remember that the differences that exist between public government and the organization is very slim.

The corporation consist of a body of people where these members ought to follow policies, and regulate rules of conduct to better assist the public customers that the members of the organization have been paid to serve. That system of organizing makes any sort of legal organization or corporation a form of government functioning outside the policies of public government, but not all their policies are mutually exclusive, some are rather very familiar.

In that respect, almost every individual, self employ or not is depend on some form of government to conduct their every day activities. It’s a network of governmental procedures sharing the same public government regulations in different industries, where others are more regulated. And every one of them depend on a higher level of government for support.

In that respect, almost every individual, self employ or not is depend on some form of government to conduct their every day activities. It’s a network of government sharing the same environment in different industries, and every one of them depend on a higher level of government for support. The only reason why the Whig were free to do as they wish was because they were under the guideline of the nouveau-rich who help organize the Parliamentary government.

The Parliamentary system was organized by the nouveau-riche, supported by many of the British people. The nouveau-riche weren’t people from the street; these folks were businessmen who had already established an economic presence in Britain. In that respect, the Whigs could have been motivated economically to write the stories that they were telling the people because it was their rational that had contributed to the revolution.

Elizabeth One & the Commons:

It may be a wise idea to say that under no democratic government should any leader seek to downplay those who have great influence in changing the economic prospect of their country . To do that can be viewed as being foolish for not being aware of the great danger that could exist in disturbing the economic powers by which government is to provide security to, especially when these powers possess the economic means to persuade the people to question the leadership of the country. Collaboration at this point becomes a wise idea, for to resist can put our citizens in the worst case scenario, and whichever way the conflict goes, it is never a win, win situation.

It had been said that Elizabeth one was at one time faced with the same predicament. She saw the powers of the commons arising through their economic means, and quickly extended royal recognition of the powers of commons to form new relationships.

“Elizabeth recognized that the balance of economic and political power was shifting in England away from the old titled nobility (and the wealthy clergy) who made up the House of Lords, and toward a new aristocracy of entrepreneurs who found ways to make vast sums through business and law.”


Whig Interpretation of history


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