If anyone is puzzled why the members of the upper middle class government of David Cameron are so keen to celebrate the Battle of Waterloo, they need only read Napoleon's reply when the English doctor who was charged with looking after the general's health when he was imprisoned on the island of St Helena, asked him what he would have done if he had managed to invade southern England in 1805.
I would have hastened over my flotilla with two hundred thousand men, landed as near Chatham as possible and proceeded direct to London, where I calculated to arrive in four days from the time of my landing. I would have proclaimed a republic and the abolition of the nobility and the House of Peers, the distribution of the property of such of the latter as opposed me amongst my partisans, liberty, equality and the sovereignty of the people.
Victory for Bonaparte's armies would have meant the end of the English ruling class as we know it. Britain would have become a republic, the aristocracy and the House of Lords would today have been nothing more than questions in history exams. Britain would have become a Democratic Republic in which liberty, equality and the sovereignty of the people reigned.
Instead of a dreary dirge like God Save the Queen we would have had a joyous rousing national anthem like 'La Marseillaise.' Politicians, the military, judiciary, spooks, police and civil servants would have sworn allegiance to the people and State, instead of an unelected monarch as they do now.
As with their WW1 jamboree the Tory toads in Whitehall are at it again, attempting to rewrite history with their celebration of the Battle of Waterloo. Once again with members of their blood stained class in the starring role. Whenever these creatures raise their heads reaction is surfing in their wake. In the century after Waterloo the aristocracy ruled supreme, life was extremely tough for the peasantry and in the cities the working poor and destitute.
The savagery of the English ruling class knew no bounds. There were over 200 capital crimes on the statute book in England alone in 1815. Grand larceny was one of the crimes that attracted the death penalty, despite the fact that it was defined as the theft of goods worth more than 12 pence. The so called rule of law was murderous to its core.
Cameron and the rest of the cheer leaders for reaction would have us believe the defeat of Napoleon was welcomed across the land but this was far from so. This may have been so in the grand houses of the aristocracy, built on the sweat and blood of others. But amongst the common people and intellectuals this was far from the truth. After Waterloo, government spies were within every district in the land. Only a fool would talk openly let alone proclaim support for Bony. But some of the bravest did.
“I detest the cause and the victors – and the victory.”
William Cobbett put it this way:
The war is over. Social Order is restored; the French are again in the power of the Bourbons; the Revolution is at an end; no change has been effected in England; our Boroughs, and our Church, and Nobility and all have been preserved; our government tells us that we have covered ourselves with glory.
Is it any wonder today's ruling class look so favourable on Wesley's victory, for Cameron's cabinet is stuffed full of the heirs of those who ruled England in the 19th century, the slavers, imperialists, robber barons, banksters, enclosure merchants and Horse Guards bureaucrats.
As Martin Kettle wrote in a recent article:
Napoleon gave himself up to the British off the west coast of France a few weeks after the battle. But when the ship on which he was sailing arrived in Torbay, Napoleon was not allowed to leave. A large part of the reason for that was fear of onshore popular sympathy if he were to set foot on English soil as he wished. Another part was fear that Napoleon might manage to have his captivity challenged in an English court. Hence the decision that he would be taken straight to exile on St Helena without landing here. As the late Norman Mackenzie pointed out in Fallen Eagle, his book on the capture of Napoleon, the deposed emperor was an early victim of a British policy of illegal rendition.
No amount of colourful re-enactment this week can conceal the fact that Waterloo was a victory for a reactionary and anti-democratic European order. The victory of the feudal crowned heads of Europe over the forces of the French revolution. This Waterloo ushered in the repressive united Europe of the Vienna settlement: Castlereagh and Metternich, Louis XVIII and Charles X of France and Ferdinand VII of Spain, anti-liberal anti-democratic reactionaries set on consigning the Europe of republics and peoples to the history books.
France has long thrown off these shackles as too have much of Europe, sadly we in the UK have the heirs of these reactionaries ruling over us in a state which is still crying out for democratic reform.