Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

To Render, to Impeach, to Habeas Corpus

by PETER LINEBAUGH

In 1667 Edward Hyde, the earl of Clarendon, and King Charles II’s principle advisor, received seventeen Articles of Impeachment from Parliament.

Many of these articles would be tempting to employ in drafting impeachment articles against Bush-Cheney. The eighth article in particular seems designed both for those tools as well as their masters in the current crop of CEOs, “That he hath in short time gained to himself a greater estate than can be imagined to be lawfully gained in so short a time.” Of course you may object: what is a short time? Then, it took a diamond for example more than a year to reach England from where it was robbed in India, whereas nowadays robberies of surplus value are done in a twinkling. I will admit that to retain its usefulness the article requires modification.

This is not the case with the fourth article of impeachment which, in light of the American practice of what it is pleased to call “rendition” and the current attempt to “render” the prisoners at Guant·nomo Bay, needs hardly any modification at all.

The fourth article reads “That he hath advised and procured divers of his Majesty’s subjects to be imprisoned, against law, in remote islands, garrisons and other places, thereby to prevent them from the benefit of the law, and to introduce precedents for imprisoning any other of his Majesty’s subjects in like manner.”

It was the practice of whisking people off to remote islands, garrisons and other places without any sort of judicial by-your-leave of the Magna Carta type (“no free man shall be taken, or imprisoned, or deisseised, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any otherwise destroyed … but by lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land”) which led to the enactment in 1679 of “An Act for the Better Securing the Liberty of the Subject, and for Prevention of Imprisonments beyond the Seas,” more familiarly known as The Habeas Corpus Act.

It was allusion to that Act which led to the habeas corpus provision in the U.S. Constitution. We might just as well note that it was “cruel and unusual punishment” provision of the English Bill of Rights (1689) which was included in the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

While one hopes, with Scalia preening in the wings, that Rehnquist’s tracheotomy will enable him to continue breathing and sitting in his present position as Chief Justice, nevertheless one has to point out that his book on the history of habeas corpus (not well served either by his research clerks or his editors) omits these crimes of rendition which provided the immediate background to the passage of the first modern legislation of ëthe great writ of liberty.’ CounterPunchers must discover the law to the appropriate justices in the lower courts who are considering the legality of American rendition lest they take it from one of the Supremes, the one who roars or the one who wheezes. Rendition is a foul, base, illegal, unconstitutional, pea-brained practice which once led to impeachment and ought to again.

And Clarendon? As a kind of poetic justice, though not exactly “rendered” himself, he was banished from his homeland to Calais where he suffered the rough justice of some English sailors in French service who robbed and assaulted him for arrears of pay, and then, ailing from advanced stages of gout, the poor wretch wandered from court to court in Europe penning his interminable history of church and king.

The impeachment of Clarendon, the Habeas Corpus Act, the Bill of Rights, not to mention Magna Carta, were milestones in the constitutional limitations upon the Stuart monarchy later much venerated by the working class movement whom Shelley, author of “The Revolt of Islam,” advised to rise like lions after slumber, &c., to rub the sleepers from our eyes and stuff like that, before concluding with the important strategic observation, “Ye are many, they are few,” which works alright in the abstract but not so well yet in our actuality.

PETER LINEBAUGH teaches history at the University of Toledo. He is the author of two of CounterPunch’s favorite books, The London Hanged and (with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. He can be reached at: plineba@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. His books included: The London Hanged,(with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic and Magna Carta Manifesto. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. His latest book is Stop Thief! The Commons, Enclosures and Resistance.  He can be reached at:plineba@yahoo.com

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]