Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movies and the U.S. Constitution: Scottish Independence, William Wallace edition: Braveheart

This is part of a series of posts following this summary of movies that provide a chronological history of the U.S. Constitution.  Here's the summary.

Scottish Independence, William Wallace edition

4.    Braveheart (US film, 1995): set in 1280 and subsequent years
Relevance to the US Constitution
A.            Rule of Law.   Braveheart, directed by and starring Mel Gibson, is considered one of the most historically inaccurate movies made inrecent years.  Interestingly, The Patriot, also a Gibson vehicle, is also on this list of historic inaccuracies.
Gibson has been an intense political advocate of the establishment of Catholic ideology in the US.

While there is a strong connection between the Scottish Highlanders and the Catholic Scottish Jacobites, who fled in large numbers to Appalachia and the South of the British American colonies after the Glorious Revolution, Gibson's histories curiously exclude the Covenanter Protestant (later Presbyterian) and Enlightenment lines of Scottish heritage.

What this movie does depict accurately with regard to the rule of the law is that the Scots were not much in the way of lawmakers or constitutionalists themselves.  Their reputation tends to focus on their penchant for challenging bad "rule of law" via violence.  

By the time of the British American colonization, many Scots-ancestry colonists were ardent advocates of independence from Britain, but they did not participate in drafting the Constitution. They became famous for their intelligence, loyalty and warrior skill, but coupled with a reactivity, lawlessness and violence that leads to problems.
Much is made in the movie of the prima nocte, ostensibly established by the English King, Edward I, after Scotland's king died without an heir and England overtook it in 1280.  The prima nocte is a law that a lord has the right to have sex with female subjects on their wedding nights.  There is not any evidence that Edward I created such a law, although he was known for his establishment of laws in England, which he did through establishment of Parliament, for which he is highly regarded, but which he also sometimes did arbitrarily and caused much conflict between him and the Barons and others in England, much less the ones in Scotland, and which resulted in England in another round of establishment of law or constitution over King in the style of the Magna Carta.  Scotland, more under the leadership of Robert the Bruce than William Wallace, also ended up regaining its independence under Edward I's reign.

Several centuries later, Scots would become involved in the 1688 Glorious Revolution, in which James II, the last Catholic King, was deposed.   Many Scots Jacobites (the supporters of James II) moved to Appalachia in the US following this event.  After the Glorious Revolution, the English Bill of Rights was adopted and William & Mary were asked to rule jointly at the consent of, or in contract with, Parliament.  Then in 1707, because of these developments and because of a financial scandal that harmed Scotland economically, Scotland gave up its independence and it and Britain united in the form they hold today via the Act of Union.

The movie also depicts the importance of actual paternity to Scots, although it notably does not discuss how this relates to objection to Catholicism.  The "virgin birth", a Catholic concept, would come to be a consistent "trigger concept" to Scots, as it did to all Protestants in the Reformation and Enlightenment (which had some of its roots in Scotland and which was in part a reaction to the Pope's elevation of the "Virgin Mary" in the Counter Reformation). 

Even today, regions of the US that were established by Jacobite and Covenanter Scots, in particular, such as Kentucky and Louisiana, are some of the most ardent opponents of the Affordable Care Act, which troublingly does establish a "health care law of the land" that women are the only biological parents of children in its preventive care and reproductive health provisions. 

This type of reactivity and lack of interest in rule of law by Scots, and their descendants in the US, led also to their creating the tradition of the "shotgun marriage", where the marriage and paternal responsibility is established first by violence and only later by law.

The Scots' reputation for challenging bad laws shows up in their role in the defeat of slavery in the US.  Their warrior ways and their objections to laws in the South establishing slavery were instrumental to the US abolishing slavery laws through violence in the Civil War. 

B.            Use of the Term “Person”:  The movie does not show any women as warriors, although this existed in Britonic and broader Celtic history.   Women in this political economy often were not constrained by gender-stereotype taboos on being warriors or on engaging in feats of physical labor often associated with men, such as slaying animals.  This was particularly true of women who were widowed or single. They could therefore be "men", in the roles men played in this culture, and did not face the stigmas, such as being called "witches", that many widowed or single women did.  Consistent with the value placed on actual paternity, men also showed affection to their children particularly at their birth, albeit without the type of daily follow-through meeting their needs and developmental stages that children actually need other political economies of the time recognized.

The movie is very much focused on a "rights of man" concept, including the right of the groom to be the first to have sex with his wife.  It is not about the rights of the woman.   This is consistent with the Declaration of Independence, which the Scottish-ancestry colonists ardently pushed for, which is framed in "rights of man", unlike the "rights and responsibilities of person of citizen of the later British constitutions and the US Constitution.

Even today, constitutions settled by lots of Scottish ancestry people have this "rights of man" language.  Examples are the constitutions of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Kansas.

The "rights of man" language and ideology conflicts with the "rights and responsibilities of person and citizen" US Constitution.   The Scots-ancestry colonists did not participate in drafting the US Constitution to the degree they had functioned as ardent advocates of the Revolution.

In Medieval England, however, women, particularly from the House of Lancaster, continued to assert themselves against both the "rights of man" ideology and the institutionalized oppression of women by the Catholic Church ideology, as we shall see in the next movie.

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