I once held in my hands the original vellum roll on which the 1689 English Bill of Rights is inscribed. I trembled as I did so. Unlike so many modern charters and declarations, it is the real thing, a true restraint on the arbitrary power of government, written by cynics who had experienced recent despotism and knew what it looked like. Having studied it carefully, I can vouch that it contains absolutely no mention of the freedom to buy or smoke cigarettes. And yet more people seem to be ready to speak or act in defense of this alleged liberty than to defend the fundamental freedoms of thought, speech, and assembly.

Four years ago, the London government went quite mad, closing schools, churches, bars, and workplaces, instructing the population to stay at home, ordering us to wear squares of cloth over our faces and to avoid standing too close to each other. I have reason to believe that I once came close to being arrested for singing hymns with friends in a church that had accidentally been left unlocked. Our police, who are in general reluctant to stir from their offices for anything much less than murder, were observed hurrying toward the scene of this crime against health. Parliament pretty much collapsed into the masterful arms of the executive. Hardly anyone said, “How dare you!” or proposed defiance. Most asked, “How long would you like us to abase ourselves in these daft ways?” If there was a rebellion of any size, I must have missed it.  

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