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Breaching The Castle Walls

I have been reading about a local murder and was going to review the book and highlight a suitable passage. But I find Norm Pattis has already done it as I would have wished to do it.
As it is hidden away on his old blog I have taken the liberty of quoting at length.

Norm Pattis: The Road Hill Murder Stunningly Revisited

Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, (Walker & Company, New York: 2008) is a wholly capable and enjoyable look at the crime and its consequences. Ms. Summerscale is the former literary editor of the Daily Telegraph. She writes with a novelist's ease and a scholar's sense of proportion. The endnotes are as fascinating as the text. This is not merely a book about a "true crime." Rather, it is a sophisticated and engaging study of the social history of crime.

One startling effect of the work is a reminder of just how much we take government intrusion for granted today. Ms. Summerscale reminds us that it was once a national scandal in Britain to have undercover police officers surveilling citizens. And England took serious in a way we have long since forsaken the notion that a man's home is his castle.

A newspaper editorial published by the Morning Post 10 days after the Road Hill murder reflects the national mood. By contrast, our attitude toward the Fourth Amendment look attentuated. The exceptions to the warrant requirement have all but held open even the most private spaces to government inquiry.

"Every Englishman is accustomed to pride himself with more than usual complacency upon what is called the sanctity of the English home. No solider, no policeman, no spy of the Government dare enter it ... Unlike the tenant of a foreign domicile, the occupier of an English house, whether it be mansion or cottage, possesses an indisputable title against every kind of aggression upon his threshold. He defies everybody below the Home Secretary; and even he can only violate the traditional security of a man's house under extreme circumstances, ... It is with this thoroughly innate feeling of security that every Englishman feels a strong sense of the inviolability of his own house. It is this that converts the moorside cottage into a castle. The moral sanctions of an English home are, in the nineteenth century, what the moat, and the keep, and the drawbridge were in the fourteenth. In the strength of these we lie down to sleep at night, and leave our homes in the day, feeling that a whole neighbourhood would be raised, nay, the whole country, were any attempt made to violate what so many traditions, and such long custom, have rendered sacred."

You will not be sorry to have read this book.


As someone wisely said, if a briton from PreWWII came to the UK today he would be certain that there had been a violent and bloody revolution, or invasion by a hostile foreign power.

And you had described what England had become they would weep.

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