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We can fix you up.. We've got a cure. We can make you well, Virginia. This is a curable disease. But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV. Many had gone to segregated schools and sat at segregated lunch counters. They had seen loved ones beaten, and children fire-hosed, and they had every reason to lash out in anger, or resign themselves to a bitter fate. And yet they chose a different path. In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in, with the moral force of nonviolence.

Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs. A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us. They had learned through hard experience what Frederick Douglass once taught -- that freedom is not given, it must be won, through struggle and discipline, persistence and faith. Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day -- that change does not come from Washington, but to Washington ; that change has always been built on our willingness, We The People , to take on the mantle of citizenship -- you are marching.

That's the promise of tomorrow -- that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. That when millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station, can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low, and those rough places will be made plain, and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace, and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our creed, as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

One of the great things about America is that individual citizens and groups of citizens can petition their government, can protest, can speak truth to power. And that is sometimes messy and controversial. But because of that ability to protest and engage in free speech, America, over time, has gotten better.

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We've all benefited from that. The abolition movement was contentious. The effort for women to get the right to vote was contentious and messy. This is a large legislature by international standards. The Coalition Government of passed legislation to reduce the number from to , as part of a wider change to the number and size of constituencies, but Parliament blocked the process of redrawing boundaries that is necessary before an General Election can be held with fewer seats.

Rather oddly but deliberately , there is insufficient seating capacity in the chamber of the House of Commons for all the MPs. Members do not sit at desks like most legislatures but on long, green-covered benches and there is only seating capacity for MPs out of the total of The origin of this strange arrangement is that the Commons first home was the medieval St Stephen's Chapel in the Palace of Westminster which could only fit around Members.

Equally odd is that Members vote votes are called 'divisions' by physically walking through one of the two lobbies which run along the side of the Commons chamber. These lobbies are the 'aye' lobby and the 'nay' lobby. This archaic procedure means that votes take a long time to conduct and it is not unknown for a member accidentally to walk into the wrong lobby. The votes are counted by 'tellers' who then return to the chamber to announce the numbers to the Speaker. Each member in the House of Commons represents a geographical constituency.

Typically a constituency would have around 60,, voters, depending mainly on whether it is an urban or rural constituency. The largest constituency in the country is the Isle of Wight with around , electors, while the smallest is Na h-Eileanan an Iar formerly known as the Western Isles with an electorate of only arouind 22, The Coalition Government of intended to make the size of constituencies more equal in terms of electors, but so far the legislation has not been implemented.

Every citizen aged 18 or over can vote once in the constituency in which they live. Voting is not compulsory as it is in Australia. In the last General Election of May , Most democratic countries use a method of election called proportional representation PR which means that there is a reasonable correlation between the percentage of votes cast for a particular political party and the number of seats or representatives won by that party. In this system, the country is divided into a number of constituencies each with a single member and the party that wins the largest number of votes in each constituency wins that constituency regardless of the proportion of the vote secured.

The simple majority system of election tends to under-represent less successful political parties and to maximise the chance of the most popular political party winning a majority of seats nationwide even if it does not win a majority of the votes nationwide.

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Until recently, in the UK unlike many countries , there was not fixed term parliaments. A General Election - that is, a nationwide election for all seats - was held when the Prime Minister called it, but the election could not be more than five years after the last one and it was usually around four years after the last one. The Coalition Government of passed legislation to provide for fixed five-year parliaments which meant that the next General Election was scheduled for May However, the Prime Minister Theresa May was able to call a snap General Election for 8 June by winning a Commons vote of more than two-thirds to activate provision for an early election in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

The result of the last General Election was as follows: In practice, the Speaker is not counted against any political party because he or she is required to be neutral and therefore traditionally he or she is not opposed by other parties in the election.

Barack Obama - Wikiquote

In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein - which won 7 constituencies in - does not take its seats. Its main roles are to revise legislation and keep a check on government by scrutinising its activities. Since , its power to block "money bills" is limited to one month and its power to block other bills is limited to one session, so ultimately it cannot block the will of the House of Commons.

Furthermore, since , there has been the Salisbury Convention that the House of Lords will not oppose a measure that was specifically mentioned in the last election manifesto of the political party forming the Government. The House of Lords is an utterly bizarre institution that has no parallel anywhere in the democratic world. The explanation for the unusual nature of the Lords goes back to the beginning of this essay: There is no fixed number of members in the House of Lords and the number fluctuates because of deaths, retirements and new appointments, but currently there are almost members - many more than in the House of Commons, more than the combined houses of the American Congress or the Indian Parliament although both of these nations have a federal system , and the second biggest legislative body in the world after the Chinese National People's Congress which is effectively a rubber-stamping body.

The number was actually halved to in the reforms of but, since then, succesive Prime Ministers especially David Cameron have been adding new life peers much faster than members are dying. Indeed the last Coalition Government added over Ironically the size of the House of Lords continues to rise at the same time as the House of Commons has legislated to reduce its size although the legislation has not been implemented.

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Historically most members of the House of Lords have been what we called hereditary peers. This meant that years ago a king or queen nominated a member of the aristocracy to be a member of the House and, since then, the right to sit in the House has passed through the family from generation to generation. Clearly this is totally undemocratic and the last Labour Government abolished the right of all but 92 of these hereditary peers to sit in the House.

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Almost all the other members of today's House of Lords are what we call life peers. This means that they have been chosen by the Queen, on the advice of the Government, to sit in the House for as long as they live, but afterwards no member of their family has the right to sit in the House. Almost are former Members of Parliament. Others are distinguished figures in fields such as education, health and social policy. A small number of other members - 26 - are archbishops and bishops of the Church of England.

The revolutionary process started with open rebellion in the summer of — including the storming of the Bastille on July It would before long topple the absolute monarchy of Louis XVI, divest the nobility of their hereditary power, and completely undermine the political influence of the Catholic Church. This dramatic revision in French society unleashed a chaotic process of revolutionary advance and reactionary blowback. The forces of property were unwilling to stand idly by as their enormous privileges were threatened; they attempted to undo all the radical changes brought on by the revolution and restore the old social hierarchies even as the revolutionaries worked to cohere an entirely different kind of society based on more egalitarian ideals.

The vast majority of people in France lived in destitution, with little chance of escaping their condition. Peasants were entirely at the mercy of the nobility, who had preserved much of the fundamental power relationship of feudalism.

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This led to near-universal poverty in the countryside. English agriculturalist Arthur Young remarked at the time:. The poor seem poor indeed; the children terribly ragged, if possible worse clad than if with no clothes at all; as to shoes and stockings they are luxuries… One third of what I have seen of this province seems uncultivated, and nearly all of it in misery. What have kings, and ministers, and parliaments, and states, to answer for their prejudices, seeing millions of hands that would be industrious, idle and starving, through the execrable maxims of despotism, or the equally detestable prejudices of a feudal nobility?

The urban population of artisans and journeymen laborers experienced similar hardship. Economic reorganizations in the kingdom threatened the apprenticeship system, jeopardizing the ability of craftsmen to control their own work. Day laborers — permitted to exist in the cities only when they could produce papers proving their employment — were stalked by royal police. At the same time, a wave of immigration brought dramatic demographic changes to Paris. The clergy and nobility, together comprising about 1.

The Catholic Church controlled by some estimates 8 percent of total private wealth. But in the years immediately prior to the revolution, a new class of financiers — generally upwardly mobile craftsmen or landholding peasants — began to grow in the cities, threatening to replace the nobility as the most decadent of social layers.

Meanwhile, the kingdom was in the midst of a catastrophic financial crisis. Foreign financiers were recalling their debts, the harvest of was decimated by a drought and a series of hailstorms, and the free trade agreement brokered between France and Great Britain at the end of the Seven Years War flooded the French market with British textiles, ruining French garment production.

Panicked about the financial crisis, Louis XVI squeezed the people even harder, demanding increased taxes from all layers of society. But there were rumblings of resistance, in the cities as well as the countryside. There has been visible insubordination among the people for several years now, and especially in the trades. Apprentices and lads want to display their independence; they lack respect for the masters, they form corporations [associations]; this contempt for the old rules is contrary to order… The workers transform the print shop into a real smoke den. And peasants, still expected to sacrifice even their most basic of foodstuffs as tribute to king and church, took matters into their own hands as famine loomed.

The populace is so enraged they would kill for a bushel. What other solution but revolution? By claiming the fortress on behalf of the revolution, they sent a powerful message to the forces of old wealth that still dominated the kingdom — the upheaval in France would not be a simple legislative reorganization, but rather a social revolution.

Hazan describes it this way:. The storming of the Bastille is the most famous event in the French Revolution, and has moreover become its symbol throughout the world. But this glory rather distorts its historical significance. Foreshadowing the dramatic seizure of Tuileries by thousands of sans-culottes in — which would establish the insurrectional Commune and finally depose the king — the storming of the Bastille represents neither culmination nor catalyst of the French Revolution.

In this way, they helped transform what could have been a period of cautious reform into a period of genuine revolution. Most fundamentally, the sans-culottes were concerned with establishing a system of direct, local democracy which could guarantee a consistent price of for vital provisions — the poor craved the same food security as the nobles, and resented the profound difference between the bread consumed by rich elites and the bread available to common laborers.


A popular uprising ejected Louis XVI from his final hiding place in Tuileries on August 10, — a tremendous victory for the armies of sans-culottes who descended en masse upon the king, accusing him quite rightly of treasonous collusion with foreign monarchies to squash the revolution at home. Following this victory, the sans-culottes formed the Insurrectional Commune and proposed a sweeping reform: In future the rich will not have their bread made from wheaten flour whilst the poor have theirs made from bran.

For the sans-culottes , demanding lower food prices — not higher wages — was the intuitive response to the transition to wage labor. Often armed only with pikes — useful for parading the severed heads of food-hoarders or monarchists through the street, as was their habit — the sans-culottes did more than just pose a grave threat to the old hierarchies of the monarchy.

They also forced formal revolutionary bodies like the Legislative Assembly to adopt more radical positions to meet the expectations of the unsatisfied and insurgent poor. Consistently denied the democracy and plenty promised by the revolution, the sans-culottes repeatedly took things into their own hands, driving the revolutionary momentum forward each time the bourgeoisie proved hesitant to further challenge the status quo.

Whatever their particular class position, their contribution to the revolution was profound. But the often violent confrontations with the assemblies and established authorities were not the work of a stereotypical ideal: Sans-culotte is as sans-culotte does.

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Constant confrontation with the privileged, often violently and in the street, demanding a world in which food is easily available and democracy simple and direct — this orientation, more than anything else, makes a sans-culotte. Following the mass insurrection of the sans-culottes that effectively dissolved the monarchy and brought the armed bourgeoisie to power, European monarchies feared the French example would destabilize their power in their own countries.

Austria took the side of the deposed regime, as did Prussia. Revolutionary France responded with declarations of war in Meanwhile, the sans-culottes — having recently learned the power of armed mobilization — continued to make demands on the revolutionary government, threatening not only the old figures of the ancien regime but also the ascendant bourgeoisie. In response to this crisis, the Committee of Public Safety was formed as a bulwark against the aggression of the wealthy, both French and foreign.

The Committee was convened under the leadership of the most militant section of the revolutionary bourgeoisie — the Jacobins.