A suitable commemoration for Waterloo

Today we commemorate the victory of Waterloo, when allied forces led by Wellington and Blucher defeated Napoleon. They put an end to his ambitions to unite Europe under French domination through his military prowess and the strength of his armies.

It was not an easy victory. For much of that fateful Sunday the British led allied army of some 67,000 men withstood repeated attacks from the stronger French force. The French assembled 74,000 veterans including 14,000 cavalry, compared with Wellington’s 11,000 cavalry and 56,000 footsoldiers. Only 7000 of Wellington’s army were veterans of his successful Peninsula campaign, and only 24,000 British troops familiar with the great general’s methods and training routines.

At the end of the battle, after the arrival of Blucher with 48,000 Prussians secured the victory, 25,000 French soldiers were dead or injured and 8000 were prisoners. 15000 from Wellington’s army were dead or injured, and 7000 of Blucher’s men. It was heavy price to pay, but it bought a final victory against the most dangerous dictator and the most successful continental General Europe had know for a long time.

What should we make of these sacrifices, almost 200 years later? We can mourn the dead, for they all had loved ones and left behind grieving relatives. We can be grateful the right side won, and Europe was spared more misery at the point of a French bayonet.

We can also take away from the story a reminder of just how much blood and treasure Britain has had to shed in the past to prevent any one power dominating the continent. We have always been the country that has stood up for the rights of smaller countries to self determination. We have favoured democratic and national governments that make sense to people, and resisted strongly over centralised, aggressive and acquisitive powers that wished to unite the continent by force.

Today, fortunately, France and Germany no longer seek to rule the rest of Europe by annexation through force of arms. Our brave Waterloo soldiers, and their successors who fought German tyranny, did put an end to that. But on this Waterloo day, can we not ask our government again to rise to the spirit of what our forbears have done? Should they not abandon the EU centralising constitution, and stand up for the rights and verdict of the Irish people? What better epitaph, what more fitting recognition could we give our long dead Waterloo veterans, than today to say the EU Constitution is dead, long live diversity, long live the independence of smaller countries, long live the right of everyman to have his say and see his vote respected. The new unifiers of Europe are not using force of arms, but they are using the bludgeon of international law codes, the secrecy of international government and bureaucracy to thwart the popular will.

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25 Comments

  1. Posted June 18, 2008 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    "von Blücher", actually. To get the Umlaut, press Alt and 0252.

  2. Nick Dobson
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I think that it's important we see the constitution (aks Lisbon traety) for what it really is. Remember, the EU is nothing but a "regulation factory" and when pro-treaty types talk of "increased efficiency and effectiveness" all that really means is the ability to pass more regulations more quickly. Such "effectiveness or "efficiency" is not therefore to be measured in increased welfare or liberty of European citizens, but in terms of more complexity – when what we in fgact desperately need is less regulation, less Government, and a simpler relationship with the state.

    Efficiency could of course be improved greatly by steamlining the processes by which laws are passed. More efficient still would be to dispense with all of this ancient chicanery and have the experts (civil servants) draft the stuff, have the responsible official (the Minister) sign it, and that's it.

    While this may be frighteningly "efficient" it is not, alas, necessarily a "good thing."

  3. Tony Makara
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    The day when Wellington had the legendary 'Old Guard' on the run has to be one of the greatest days in our people's history. Napoleon was such a monumental character that the victory takes on special significance. Warfare must have been so brutal in those days yet at the same time swashbuckling and dare I say even romantic!, with victory experienced on the ground by the men who fought. Is the battle of Waterloo still taught in our schools? Or am I being too optimistic?

  4. Cliff
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Pushing ahead with the treaty(sic) dishonours all those brave souls that gave their lives for the British way of life and democracy.

  5. Ken Stevens
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Wellington was an Irishman, was he not? So last week was not the first time that the Irish have have helped us against mainland European domination.

    As before, 'twas but a temporary reprieve so now we have ( – changing venue in the light of the recent transfer of Eurostar services) to win the forthcoming Battle of St Pancras.

    ;-)

    • zorro
      Posted August 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      Just re-reading some of these old history posts. Wellington was Anglo-Irish but I guess would have considered himself ‘British’….As he said when being referred to once as Irish becuase of his birth place…… ‘Being born in a stable does not make one a horse’.

      zorro

  6. RobinCaine
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty only illustrates what would have happened in the UK had we had our promised referendum, and what would have happened in most EU countries if we had all had that chance to vote.

    Without getting too lyrical about it, we should remember that our fathers and grandfathers sacrificed all hope of economic betterment for two decades at least in order to keep our freedom from foreign domination (apart from the sacrifice in lost and ruined lives). Suffering EU domination to achieve a few percent economic improvement is simply not worth it by a huge margin.

    The bottom line is that adopting this treaty is a blatant denial of democratic principles. The mere fact that I can contact my MP, someone I have met, by this note proves the democratic links we hold dear. EU domination makes any effort to make contact or influence that lofty and obscure government next to impossible.

  7. Posted June 18, 2008 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    As an Irish European federalist, I was just wondering as to whether John is actually in favour of UK withdrawal? In fairness, there is a large body of opinion in Europe that wants unity, and if this goes against the British "common market" vision, should Britain not just bale out?

    Bear in mind, in the Ireland referendum, the pro-free marketeers were overwhelmingly on the Yes side, and the pro-regulation people (Socialist Party, SWP, Sinn Fein) overwhelmingly on the No side. Even today, Sinn Fein MEPs have articles out looking for more social protection to be inserted into the treaty! The Redwood vision of Europe as a mere marketplace holds little attraction to either French or Irish No voters.

  8. Posted June 18, 2008 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    When re-fought as a wargame Napoleon usually wins. A lot of Wellington's army were Belgians who had been French citizens a year previously & his best troops were out burning down the White House. I think Wellington really was the better general – one of the few in history who never lost a battle, of whom even fewer didn't always have the bigger armies.

  9. [[NAME EDITED]]
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    @Pedant. We do not use the "umlaut" in English, so to imply that it is incorrect to write "Blucher" without one (which was presumably what you meant by the word "actually") must be wrong.

  10. Richard Cooke
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Mark, you'll be lucky to get John to press "Alt and 0252". Just getting him to dot his "i"s and cross his "t"s is an accomplishment in itself. Maybe when he gets his next promotion he will be able to afford a proof reader. In the meantime we just have to be thankfull that he finds the time at all to write a blog of this quality. ;)

  11. Derek W. Buxton
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    What is O'Mahony on about, the EU is a protectionist construct not a free trade group. Yet that is what it was sold as. It does not have a "demos" and so is not democratic. I for one do not wish to be ruled by a group of foreign penpushers who are not accountable. I do not want the European idea of justice thrust down my throat by a bunch of fraudulent beaurocrats. Most of all the Islands that make up Great Britain are ours to be governed as we the people desire. We saw this last weekend what this "elite" EUroband think of democracy, the same as Napolean did. By the way, do I not recall that two European nations voted against the EU Constitution, France and Holland, which under EU rules killed it stone dead. So why is it still in existance?

    Incidently, we had/have a Constitution of our own which precludes any politician from giving away, or selling, our Sovereignty. One who does is generally known as a traitor.

  12. Stephen Southworth
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    A referendum should have been held when the European Community became the European Union with very clear federalist ambition. The problem in the UK is that the people were asked to vote on the Common Market twice, but have never been asked whether they approved of the Federalist Union. I strongly suspect that complete UK withdrawal from all aspects other than a common market would be a highly popular and well supported position.

  13. Posted June 18, 2008 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Derek,

    Ireland exports 90% of what it manufactures, incl more computer software than the UK. We need free trade, and the No side in France and Ireland, essentially dominated by a collection of the hard left and the Catholic far right, are by gut instinct protectionist. Don't forget, it was the EU that broke down many protectionist barriers under the Single European Act and the scrapping of the national veto, you know, the one Mrs Thatcher signed before she brought Britain into the ERM.

    My point is that you are mistaken if you think the No votes are an endorsement of a Tory view of Europe. Ironicallly, the low tax, free trade vision is shared more by the Yes side in Ireland.

  14. Posted June 18, 2008 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    It is surely right to wave the Little England flag at the moment, but
    Britain has not always lost out by being invaded: the invasion by the Dutch in 1688 , tactfully called the Glorious Revolution though by no means an internal uprising ( see the latest revionist text on this subject: Prof Lisa Jardine's "Going Dutch") really turned this country into a modern commercial state.
    Being invaded by French revoltionaries would have been another matter, but there would have been enough people turned off their land by enclosures ,as well as the scurrilous cockney Jacobins,Byron and other romantics to have welcomed Napoleon. His biggest opponents might well have been the big landowners, whose grandfathers had "invited" William and Mary over, though they had no right to do so. This myth of plucky little England is a narrative construct that is alright for football matches ( though our clubs are arrogantly,overbearingly rich) but it should not colour political debate.

  15. mikestallard
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    A good lesson to learn from the battle of Waterloo is the difference between the different nations that fought it.
    The French nation were under (as ever) a brilliant technocrat. He was totally unelected, but he was indeed a genius. He said all the right words about democracy and nationalism and religion – but when it all came down to it, he didn't put them into action. The French have a totally different idea of how to run a state to us british. That is why Waterloo is no longer taught in schools: it goes against the brotherhood of man – a big leftie shibboleth.
    The Prussian Nation had been honed by war ever since it came out of the slime of the Southern bank of the Baltic. Prussia produced its own Napoleons – Frederick the Great, Frederick William, the Great Elector among them. And the Civil Service provided the money for the Grenadiers and the black clad Death's Head Huzzars. This military tradition came to an end in the anti German pogrom of 1945. But Prussians have no democratic traditions to speak of either. That is why Hitler is taught today in schools to the exclusion of everything else: the myth is that he created the brotherhood of man called the United Nations.
    England, of course, is left completely out of the classroom. Why? Well, we had the Empire ( v.bad=slavery), the industrial revolution (v.bad = Tolpuddle martyrs) and aristocrats (early Tories).
    Which is why I am so pleased with this opportunity to put the historic truth.

  16. Chuck Unsworth
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    "Today, fortunately, France and Germany no longer seek to rule the rest of Europe by annexation through force of arms"

    Indeed so. But the quest continues by every and any other means. Their intentions remain entirely unchanged despite the passage of time.

    We should consider ourselves very fortunate to be geographically separated from these (countries -ed).

  17. Adrian Peirson
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I can't understand why these Traitorous and Genocidal Politicians and Beaurocrats are still walking around free.

    Arnold Toynbee.
    "We are at present working discreetly, but with all our might, to wrest this mysterious force called sovereignty out of the clutches of the local national states of the world. *And all the time we are denying with our lips what we are doing with our hands*."

    After the uprising of the 17th of June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had thrown away the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?

    Don't we have an army somewhere, oh yes I remember now they are being demoralised and culled in the Middle East in Unwinnable war(s).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bM2Ql3wOGcU

    Incidentally there is another way of Looking at Waterloo here :-
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnwLgrSJZKs

  18. William B.
    Posted June 18, 2008 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Mr O'Mahony's comment "The Redwood vision of Europe as a mere marketplace holds little attraction to either French or Irish No voters" illustrates a conflation of two points which should always be kept separate. He asserts, and I am in no position to deny it, that free marketeers were in favour of a Yes vote and the traditional Socialist parties were for a No vote. But that only identifies the position as put by political leaders. The opinion held by those outside the leadership of political organisations is a separate matter.

    Both the Labour and Conservative Parties in the UK have members who are in favour of withdrawal from the EU. Of those some want a free trade area and some do not. There is no unified view within the parties here and it is hard to see why there should be in the Republic of Ireland.

    Those of no political affiliation who are in favour of the Lisbon treaty might well have thousands of different reasons for supporting it and, likewise, those against might oppose it for all sorts of reasons. No one is in a position to attribute reasons or motives to those who have voted in a particular way.

    Nor is anyone in a position to say that those who voted No in Ireland and France will find Mr Redwood's position unattractive. The only way we could know that is by having a very specific referendum asking some such question as "Do you want the EU's powers to be limited to the creation and maintenance of a free trade area among the states of the EU?" But even such a question will not tell us what the voters understand by "free trade area".

    All that can ever be done in general elections is to put forward a package of proposed measures in a manifesto. If there are 10 elements to a manifesto it might be than each is supported by only one tenth of those who vote for that party but that they feel so strongly about the individual issue that they are prepared to set-aside their abhorrence of the other 9 measures. We simply never know. Nor do we need to know. It is the vote that counts not the individual reasons behind it.

    The manifesto is presented and either approved or rejected. Similarly, a series of measures contained within a proposed Treaty will either be approved en masse (for unidentifiable reasons) or rejected en masse (for unidentifiable reasons).

    In the same way that Mr O'Mahony is in no position to attribute opinions to those in Ireland and France who voted No, so European leaders are in no position to look behind the No votes.
    I find it deeply worrying that some of the big fish in the EU pond have taken it upon themselves to decide why the majority of Irish voters voted as they did and to pronounce that the reasons for rejection, as thus defined, are illegitimate and can be ignored.

  19. Glyn H
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the history lesson. What a pity our present Cabinet seem to have no such understanding either of GB or even their own party. Anyway yesterday another specious stat or 'Brownie' from the PM. He said 60% of our trade is with Europe. Even if this figure is remotely accurate what prortion is merely re-exported from Rotterdam. Frankly they need us more than we need them and we need to be able to deploy our forces accross the world directly to secure our interests. The very thought of an EU army and the like is shuddermaking. Vilely expensive posturing and as useful as the UN in Darfur. This euromadness has to be stopped!

    Reply: That is a tired and idiotic statistic. It is only trade in goods – it excludes the more long term relaitonships of service sector trade and mutual investment where we do much more with the English speaking world. It implies we would lose it if we dig in over EU matters, when there is every evidence the trade would continue – after all the continent sells more to us than we sell to them so they would be begging to keep it whatever we do.

  20. Posted June 19, 2008 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    An interesting statistical dissection of the Irish results http://hiberniagirl.blogspot.com/2008/06/closer-l
    shows No voting was mainly working class & also in areas with big immigrant communities. Unchecked immigration tends to be from poor countries to rich with the inevitability of water running downhill & Ireland now being richer than us is an immigration magnet.The fact is that at present rates of UK immigration & emigration of the original population it seems quite likely that in merely 24 years the majority of those under 60 will consider themselves ethnic minorities.

    If the public had ever been given a choice on this that might be ok but they haven't.

  21. APL
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Jason O'Mahony: "My point is that you are mistaken if you think the No votes are an endorsement of a Tory view of Europe. Ironicallly, the low tax, free trade vision is shared more by the Yes side in Ireland."

    And my point would be, I don't care! I am happy to see a spoke thrown in the wheel of the European Union bureaucratic juggernaught.

    It is also instructive (once again ) to see those European 'democrats' running around telling anyone who will stand still for five minutes why the 'NO' vote really means 'Yes'.

    Odd how, when they get the answer they wish for first time, the electorate is never given another chance to vote on, for example the Nice treaty, or the treaty of Amsterdam, or even come to that, the Treaty of Rome. I wonder why that could be?

  22. Adrian Peirson
    Posted June 19, 2008 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    We have always traded with Europe and the World, why do we even need this expensive, despotic mechanism called the EU.

    It is not a trade agreement it is a coup over the masses.

  23. Posted June 19, 2008 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    For anyone interested about Napoleon's invasion plans access O'Meara's account of Napoleon on the invasion of England. Napoleon clearly meant to create a favourable body of English revolutionary sympathisers, including a lot of "canaglie"(scum? I thought Wellington said he had all these in his ranks),by dividing up the property/ land of the the upper classes.Would this have worked to keep him in(somewhat remote) control? There were any number of Captain Swing protestors after the war ,also Luddites, who look well and truly pissed off but some of their anger was dissipated in the campaign for the first Reform Bill. Meanwhile the Landed Interest carried on cutting back on the Land Tax they paid, and transferring the tax burden on to the Manufacturing Interest, so that Land Tax went down to one twenty- fifth of total Government revenues in Cobden's time circa 1842 (was 50% in Cromwell's day).Meanwhile the landowners had a nice little earner in the Corn Laws.

  24. Posted June 20, 2008 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    APL,

    You don't care to hear differing opinions, is that your point? Fair enough. We both live in free countries. Well, I can't get banged up without charge for 28 days, but you know what I mean.

    There is a reason why we don't have second votes on other referendums. In our general elections, the parties that promise them get about 6% of the vote in total. And bear in mind that in Ireland, a government needs close to 50% of the vote to be formed, because we have PR, and not that odd system in the UK that allows Tony Blair/Gordin Brown to ratify treaties with a mere 35% of the vote. But hey, we will respect your soveriegn right to
    run your country as you see fit. Unlike the UK, anti-EU voters are represented in our parliament by parties they vote for.

    The Irish people are mature enough to know that with choices come responsibilities. We cannot be bullied into accepting Lisbon, but neither can we bully the rest of Europe, including Westminster, into reversing their soveriegn decisions either. In the end, we will have to choose what matters more to us: Remaining at the heart of Europe, or scrapping Lisbon whatever the cost to us. But that choice will be a free one.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
    Published and promoted by Thomas Puddy for John Redwood, both of 30 Rose Street Wokingham RG40 1XU
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