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Bill of Rights in United Kingdom

“The name commonly used for the Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject, passed by parliament in December 1689. Its concern -in accordance to Bamber Gascoigne´ Encyclopedia of Britain about “Bill of Rights”– was not with the rights of the individual subject. It dealt instead with the relationship between the monarch and parliament (the body representing his subjects). It incorporated the Declaration of Right, the document accepted by *William III and Mary II along with the crown. This declared illegal the arbitrary use of royal power which had characterized Stuart rule, and it thus became the accepted basis for *constitutional monarchy. The Bill of Rights also limited the succession to the throne, so as to exclude Roman Catholic claimants, but in this it was superseded by the Act of Settlement.”

Constitutional Settlement: the Bill of Rights (1689) and Triumph of Parliament

A bloodless revolution was now accomplished and the crown was formally presented to William and Mary by an irregular Parliament, which also declared that James II, having endeavored to subvert the constitution and having fled the kingdom, had vacated the throne. In offering the crown to William and Mary, Parliament was very careful to safeguard its own power and the Protestant religion by issuing a Declaration of Rights (13 February, 1689), which was enacted as the Bill of Rights, 16 December, 1689. This act decreed that the sovereign must henceforth belong to the Anglican Church, thereby debarring the Catholic son of James II.

The act also denied the power of a king to “suspend” laws or to “dispense” subjects from obeying the laws, to levy money, or to maintain an army without consent of Parliament; asserted that neither the free election nor the free speech and proceedings of members of Parliament should be interfered with; affirmed the right of subjects to petition the sovereign; and demanded impartial juries and frequent Parliaments. The Bill of Rights, far more important in English history than the Petition of Right (1628), inasmuch as Parliament was now powerful enough to maintain as well as to define its rights, was supplemented by the practice, begun in the same year, 1689, of granting taxes and making appropriations for the army for one year only. Unless Parliament were called every year to pass a Mutiny Act (provision for the army), the soldiers would receive no pay and in case of mutiny would not be punishable by court martial.

English Law: Bill of Rights in the Past

English law. A statute passed in the reign of William and Mary, so called, because it declared the true rights of British subjects. W. & M. stat. 2, c. 2. [1]


Notes and References

  1. Partialy, this information about bill of rights is based on the Bouvier´s Law Dictionary, 1848 edition. There is a list of terms of the Bouvier´s Law Dictionary, including bill of rights.

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Schema Summary

  • Article Name: Bill of Rights
  • Author: Sophia Russell
  • Description: The name commonly used for the Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject, passed by parliament in December [...]

This entry was last updated: April 29, 2020


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