Medieval Morality from the Huffington Post

I found this over at the Huffington Post in an editorial called “Why America Feels Like It’s Been Ruled by a Foreign Occupier“:

America fought a revolution to have its opinions represented by it’s government. That has faded in Bush’s term. America set up the UN after World War II to set up international law and put an end to military aggression and imperialism. That went out the window. Habeas Corpus was inherited from England where it originated in the 12th Century. Bush in that sense has embraced the morals of the middle ages.

So let me get this straight. By throwing out something that originated in the 12th century, Bush embraced the morals of the Middle Ages? Shouldn’t that be “repudiated the morals of the Middle Ages?” Or was habeas corpus some sort of progressive anachronistic moral development that it took four-hundred years or so for society to catch up to?

And since Lincoln suspended habeas during the Civil War, shouldn’t that be the go-to historical epoch for habeas-corpus-based unflattering historical comparisons? I’m just saying.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • kishnevi

    Actually, Bush did get medieval in a sense.
    Habeas corpus did not become the tool of subjects in conflict with the king and his officials until the 17th century. It started out, like all the writs of the common law system, as an order of the king to lesser lords or royal officials, telling them they needed to justify to him (the king) why they were holding X in confinement. In those days, the courts were simply another arm of the royal administration. The modern view of habeas could only come about when the court system was seen as something different from the king’s direct governing, and that didn’t happen until the 14h century, more or less. And even then it took a long time, and the English Civil Wars, for habeas to become what is it is now: a demand that the “king” justify confiment of a person before an independent court.

  • Ceirseach

    Sounds like a new definition of ‘medieval’: of or pertaining to an era in which legal ethics may or may not have been more refined than those of G. W. Bush.

  • tenthmedieval

    My initial reading of it was that Bush’s ethics are those that habeas corpus (which as Kishnevi says took centuries to mean what we now mean by it) were needed to remedy, that is early medieval. Which is firstly exactly what one would expect me to think, and secondly balderdash because of all the Carolingian legislation and indeed Alfredian laws saying that it’s not good practice to arrest people when they haven’t done anything. But now that the I’ve been made to think about it I think that the writer was just trying to find a way to call Bush `midevil’. Oh well.

  • Got Medieval

    In context, the editorial is using habeas and medieval morals as a transition to start talking about torture, which is, of course, the quintessential medieval phenomenon.

    I think it’s great that the Middle Ages has a dual use in metaphors: it is simultaneously the least moral time ever and a time when everyone was obsessed with morals–almost puritanical, really.

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