Friday, April 24, 2009

The English Bill of Rights | Blog 4-2

An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown, commonly called the English Bill of Rights of 1689, was a document that laid important foundations for following governments and constitutions. It provided the basis on which the concept of a constitutional monarchy would be established. Moreover, it provided the basis for what would become the United States Bill of Rights.

The struggle between Parliament and the king of England, James II, essentially produced the English Bill of Rights. James II was a very pious Catholic, so naturally he wanted to push for Catholic motives. He appointed Catholics to high offices and removed acts and declarations forbidding him to do so. Parliament was outraged at his actions, but decided to wait it out, as he was an old man, bound to die soon. However, when James and his Catholic wife had a son, Parliament needed another way to eradicate any potential for a Catholic monarch.

Parliament grew desperate; another Catholic monarchy would just create more religious clashes. James’ son-in-law and Dutch leader, William of Orange, was discreetly offered a proposition: to “invade” England in hopes of deposing James II. William accepted, and the ploy was successful, and casualties remained at a minimum. This event is known as the Glorious Revolution. With James out of the way, only one issue needed to be resolved: the unoccupied throne of the monarchy. (Maurice)

Parliament presented the throne to William of Orange and Mary, his wife and James’ daughter. William and Mary accepted the position along with the English Bill of Rights. This event can be identified as the end of the divine right of kings in England. It prohibited the king from raising armies without Parliament’s approval; Parliament gained the power to make laws and levy taxes; citizens were given the right to own arms; citizens were also affirmed with the right of having a jury trial. (Andrew; Charles)

The Bill of Rights evolved as a result of Parliament’s previous qualms with rulers. It was a fledgling development of the idea of checks and balances, a concept that would later be developed by countries and their constitutions. The establishing of the English Bill of Rights can also be recognized as history almost completely turning its back to ruler-driven religious persecution.

Ashley, Maurice. The Glorious Revolution of 1688. Published by Scribner, 1967.

Browning, Andrew; Douglas, D. Charles. English Historical Documents, 1660-1714. Published by Routledge, 1996.

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