The Charlestown Declaration

In the wake of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, We the undersigned writers and founder members of The Charlestown School, hereby declare that we wish to restore the ideas of the English and Scottish Enlightenment as being relevant principles for the Twenty-First Century. 

Accordingly, we support the thirty-one principles given below for the betterment of our nation and our fellow citizens:

  1. That all human beings, their families, communities, governments and nations are flawed. Despite the imperfections, there are conditions under which those people and institutions can thrive and prosper.
  2. That humans are individuals with conscious agency and responsibility for their own actions.
  3. That individuals thrive under conditions of liberty, happiness, and equality.
  4. That to thrive in this way, individuals need flexibility in the pursuit of educational, economic, cultural, and social betterment.
  5. That to thrive and to better themselves and their families, individuals need freedom of speech, thought and action.
  6. That individual liberty carries with it responsibilities towards family, friends, community, and nation.
  7. That those responsibilities extend to the environment, plants, and animals with which we share this planet, even though we may make use of them for food, clothing, and shelter.
  8. That humans are social beings who have individual consciousness. They act in the best interests of their own happiness and wellbeing, along with that of their family, friends, community, beliefs, and nation.
  9. That the central cause of liberty, happiness and equality is that of rationality. That is, the properties of truth, logic, evidence, and justice.
  10. That our society and nation is held together by the Burkean “little battalions” of families, friends, colleagues, churches, associations, pubs, clubs, and interest groups. But the glue which holds these together are the twin qualities of trust and honesty.
  11. That we live under a secular society based upon religious and racial plurality. This secular society is based upon the values of Judeo-Christian principles which form the basis for our laws and culture. This basis should be upheld, maintained, and strengthened where it has been weakened. It should not be degraded or undermined by alternative systems of thought or belief.
  12. That Parliament, the executive and the judiciary are the principle components of the state. The state is the servant of the people – and should always act with the consent of the people.
  13. That the purpose of the state is to defend, protect and serve the individual and his property, within the rule of law and regardless of that individual’s race, colour, creed, sex, politics, beliefs or assumed identity.
  14. That the United Kingdom has duties and responsibilities to our allies and trading partners. These extend to supporting and helping to defend them against aggressive action by unfriendly states or entities.
  15. That the United Kingdom has historical and cultural ties with many countries, especially the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere, which need to be renewed in the light of our independence and increasing confidence.
  16. That there is no alternative to capitalism, which allows talent to flourish and wealth to spread.
  17. That capitalism should have a human face, with those enriched by it turning to selfless philanthrocapitalism to carry with them those who suffer despite it.
  18. That the rule of law is administered by Parliament, the executive and the judiciary. This is for the benefit and constraint of the both the state and the people. The ultimate arbiter of that rule of law is the consent of the people – and not the individual organs of the state, such as the Supreme Court.
  19. That the state (in all its dealings with the individual and within the rule of law) shall treat each individual the same as any other, regardless of that individual’s race, colour, creed, sex, politics, beliefs, identity or assumed identity.
  20. That our legal system is based upon statute and Common Law. This should be re-invigorated and strengthened in the wake of our departure from the EU.
  21. That the three arms of the state comprise: The Queen in Parliament, the Executive, and the Judiciary. Whilst the powers of these entities are separated, they each act to provide checks and balances upon the others. 
  22. That Parliament is the principle law maker via democratically elected MPs to whom the people have delegated responsibility for making laws. These laws must be reasonable, just, and proportionate.
  23. That the Executive is the government whose duty is to administer the state on behalf of the people.
  24. That the Judiciary administers the rule of law and provides justice for the individual and the people.
  25. That the normal relationship between Parliament and the people is that of a representative democracy, where powers are delegated to elected politicians. This process depends upon a general consent granted by the people at periodic free and fair elections, based upon the contents of political party manifestos.
  26. That where large-scale changes are planned by government involving fundamental constitutional change (such as leaving the EU) or large-scale changes to people’s lives and culture (such as wholesale immigration, or ‘Zero Carbon’ policies) then these changes should be subject to the direct consent of the people via a referendum.
  27. That all organs of the state are constrained by, and accountable to, the people. In all cases, the will of the people must be upheld.
  28. That liberty is where the activities of individuals are constrained only by specific statute or Common Law judgement.
  29. That rights are where the state explicitly grants certain liberties. All other activities are implicitly proscribed.
  30. That Liberty thus allows considerable flexibility of action for the individual, whereas rights imply continuous constraint.
  31. That the impact of laws, regulations and Common Law judgements should therefore be as light as possible, given the constraints of a modern, complex society; but one which is based upon the ideals of liberty, happiness and equality.

Given all of the foregoing, we also declare that we are opposed to the following seven things:

  1. Distortion of language and argument which result in false conclusions.
  2. Lying, corruption and hypocrisy.
  3. Systems which demand unthinking collective action, and which subvert or conflict with the interests and will of the individual and society.
  4. Division of society into arbitrary classes and which discriminate against others, either positively or negatively.
  5. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes and political systems.
  6. Employment on the basis of identity.
  7. All ideological constructs of Utopia, which depend upon a ‘perfect’ human being to function. But the perfect human being or institution does not exist and never will do. All such Utopia are systemically flawed and doomed to destroy not just lives, but all positive human attributes of love, beauty and prosperity.

We recognise that the above principles, even though they have often been unstated, have contributed to the history of the peoples and landscapes of these islands. These ideas have formed a deep cultural well from which we have all freely drawn and benefited.

But we also recognise that, in many places, these principles have been eroded and diminished by an encroaching and overweening state – with its associated institutions of quangos, NGOs and supranational organisations – and over which the people have had no control and have not consented to.

Our nation now stands upon the threshold of a renewed confidence in ourselves and our efforts – across all spheres of human economic, scientific, cultural and spiritual endeavour.

But that confidence and endeavour will quickly be held back and exhausted unless our ossified and constipated government and institutions can be reformed with the foregoing principles in mind.

The Charlestown School is a school of thought which exists to further the principles above, and to help in the realisation of the full potential of these islands and their peoples. 

Signed this day the fifteenth of May 2020

by James Bembridge, David Eyles & Dominic Wightman