Epilogue by H. Edward Mann, excerpted from The Queen and the U.S.A. (Dementi Milestone Publishing, $35)
In 1946, Sir Winston Churchill spoke of a “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain. This phrase has become something of a tradition, a part of the lexicon of British and American interactions. Though used frequently, it is like British common law – one would be hard-pressed to locate a precise definition. The “special relationship” has been used by many British and American policy makers as a point of justification and support for key policy decisions; and conversely, it has been used in deride policies and/or actions by politicians inconsistent with the “special relationship.”
What then should we make of this term, and is it one that has relevance?
In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated many of the same points that Churchill had made nearly 65 years earlier when the President addressed the British Parliament in the Great Hall at Westminster Hall in London. Speaking to the application of these guiding principles, the President quoted Sir Winston Churchill when he said, “the…Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.”
The President reminded the world, once again, of the now centuries-long link between the United States and Great Britain and the shared commitment to democratic values and the ongoing efforts by both nations to serve as role models for similar, burgeoning efforts around the world.
Myriad instances in both American and British history belie both the intention and spirit of the democratic laws and principles which purport to undergird the governing systems of each nation. One need look no further than the institutions of slavery that were once prominent in both nations, to see that both have administered “democracy” inconsistently in the past.
Many of our respective leaders, indeed, founders of our respective democratic systems have behaved in ways that cause even our own citizens, let alone those of other nations, to search for consistency among the individual leaders and the ideas they espoused.
Bad manners are certainly have long been commonplace among the politicians and politics of the two nations. Keep in mind, the two nations have fought two wars AGAINST one another.
American politicians have, throughout our history, have spoken of monarchical government, generally, with contempt and have derisively referred to their political opponents or opposing parties as princely, or kingly or the like. And yet, Americans stood in line to catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth when she visited the United States in 2007. Tens of millions more, watched in rapt exhilaration when Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011.
Kindness and gentility between or among our peoples have not served as the defining characteristic of the “special relationship.” What then is it?