The Bill of Rights, England 1689

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The Bill of Rights, England 1689

Oliver Cromwell died in 1658 and his son, Richard was elected Lord Protector. He was simply not able to accumulate the support or achieve they authority that maintained his father in power. The army soon seized control and some its leaders promoted the restoration of the Stuart monarchy as the only way to end the chronic political turbulence. The “rump parliament” was called back into session by one of the commanders, and it summoned Charles Stuart from exile and installed him as Charles II. After the bloodshed of a civil war, the execution of a king, and the struggle of creating the Commonwealth, the Stuart monarchy had been restored to power.

But England had politically changed in the process. The Restoration of 1660 had left Parliament essentially supreme but allowed the king to lead the nation with authority. What really undid the later Stuart monarchs was their inability to handle the Catholic problem. Charles II ruled an officially Anglican nation but personally harboured sympathy for Catholicism. Since he left no legitimate children, the crown passed to his brother James II (1685-1688). James was an avowed Catholic and when he fathered a son by his Catholic second wife, Parliament was threatened with the reality of a Catholic Heir to the throne. Some of the Parliamentary leadership opened negotiations with William of Orange, a Protestant leader who had made his reputation an the continent as the container of Catholic France. He accepted the invitation to accept the English crown, and ruled jointly with his wife (a Protestant daughter of James II) as William III and Mary II. After and initial attempt to rally support, James fled to France giving William a nearly bloodless victory. Parliament quickly enacted the Bill of Rights in 1689 that laid down the principles of parliamentary supremacy that had been in dispute since the Petition of Rights in 1628.
Whereas the said late King James II having abdicated the government, and the throne being thereby vacant, his Highness the prince of Orange (whom it hath pleased Almighty God to make the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom from popery and arbitrary power) did…cause letters to be written…for the choosing of such persons to represent them, as were of right to be sent to parliament, to meet and sit at Westminster upon the two and twentieth day of January, in this year 1689, in order to such an establishment as that their religion, laws, and liberties might not again be in danger of being subverted; upon which letters elections have been accordingly made.
And thereupon the said lords spiritual and temporal and Commons, pursuant to their respective letters and elections, being now assembled in a full and free representation of this nation, taking into their most serious consideration the best means for attaining the ends aforesaid, do in the first place…for the vindication and assertion of their ancient rights and liberties, declare:
1. That the pretended power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament

is illegal.

2. That the pretended power of dispensing with the laws, or the execution of law by regal authority, as it hath been assumed

and exercised of late[by James II] , is illegal…

4. That levying money for or to the use of the crown by pretense of prerogative, without grant of parliament, for longer time

or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal.

5. That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.

6. That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of parliament, is

against law.

7. That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by


8. That election of members of parliament ought to be free.

9. That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any

court or place out of parliament.

10. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted…

13. And that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening, and preserving of the laws, parliament ought

to be held frequently.
“Bill of Rights, 1689”. Aspects of Western Civilization vol. II. Perry Rogers ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1992. Print

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