Bill of Rights 1689
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Bill of Rights 1689

The Bill of Rights is an Act of the Parliament
of England passed on 16 December 1689. It was a restatement in statutory form of
the Declaration of Right presented by the Convention Parliament to William and Mary
in March 1689, inviting them to become joint sovereigns of England. It lays down limits on the powers of the crown
and sets out the rights of Parliament and rules for freedom of speech in Parliament,
the requirement for regular elections to Parliament and the right to petition the monarch without
fear of retribution. It reestablished the liberty of Protestants
to have arms for their defence within the rule of law, and condemned James II of England
for “causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists
were both armed and employed contrary to law”. These ideas about rights reflected those of
the political thinker John Locke and they quickly became popular in England. It also sets out—or, in the view of its
drafters, restates—certain constitutional requirements of the Crown to seek the consent
of the people, as represented in Parliament. In the United Kingdom, the Bill of Rights
is further accompanied by the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act
1679 and the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 as some of the basic documents of the uncodified
British constitution. A separate but similar document, the Claim
of Right Act, applies in Scotland. The Bill of Rights was one of the inspirations
for the United States Bill of Rights. Along with the Act of Settlement 1701, the
Bill of Rights is still in effect in all Commonwealth realms. Provisions of the Act
The Bill of Rights laid out certain basic rights for all Englishmen. The Act stated that there should be:
no royal interference with the law. Though the sovereign remains the fount of
justice, he or she cannot unilaterally establish new courts or act as a judge. no taxation by Royal Prerogative. The agreement of the parliament became necessary
for the implementation of any new taxes freedom to petition the monarch without fear
of retribution no standing army may be maintained during
a time of peace without the consent of parliament. no royal interference in the freedom of the
people to have arms for their own defence as suitable to their class and as allowed
by law no royal interference in the election of members
of Parliament 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
“grants and promises of fines or forfeitures” before conviction are void. no excessive bail or “cruel and unusual” punishments
may be imposed. Certain acts of James II were also specifically
named and declared illegal by the Bill of Rights, while James’ flight from England in
the wake of the Glorious Revolution was also declared to be an abdication of the throne. Also, in a prelude to the Act of Settlement
to come twelve years later, the Bill of Rights barred Roman Catholics from the throne of
England as “it hath been found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and
welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be governed by a papist prince”; thus William III and
Mary II were named as the successors of James VII and II and that the throne would pass
from them first to Mary’s heirs, then to her sister, Princess Anne of Denmark and her heirs
and, further, to any heirs of William by a later marriage. The monarch was further required to swear
a coronation oath to maintain the Protestant religion. Augmentation and effect
The Bill of Rights was later supplemented by the Act of Settlement 1701. Both the Bill of Rights and the Claim of Right
contributed a great deal to the establishment of the concept of parliamentary sovereignty
and the curtailment of the powers of the monarch. Leading, ultimately, to the establishment
of constitutional monarchy, while also settling the political and religious turmoil that had
convulsed Scotland, England and Ireland in the 17th century. It was a predecessor of the French Declaration
of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the United States Bill of Rights, the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and the European Convention on Human Rights. For example, as with the Bill of Rights, the
US constitution prohibits excessive bail and “cruel and unusual punishments.” Similarly, “cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments”
are banned under Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 3
of the European Convention on Human Rights. The bill continues to constantly change and
be cited in legal proceedings in the Commonwealth realms. For instance, on 21 July 1995 a libel case
brought by Neil Hamilton against The Guardian was stopped after Justice May ruled that the
Bill of Rights’ prohibition on the courts’ ability to question parliamentary proceedings
would prevent The Guardian from obtaining a fair hearing. Section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996, was
subsequently enacted to permit MPs to waive their parliamentary privilege and thus cite
their own speeches if relevant to litigation. The Bill of Rights was also invoked in New
Zealand in the 1976 case of Fitzgerald v. Muldoon and Others, which centred on the purporting
of newly appointed Prime Minister Robert Muldoon that he would advise the Governor-General
to abolish a superannuation scheme established by the New Zealand Superannuation Act, 1974,
without new legislation. Muldoon felt that the dissolution would be
immediate and he would later introduce a bill in parliament to retroactively make the abolition
legal. This claim was challenged in court and the
Chief Justice declared that Muldoon’s actions were illegal as they had violated Article
1 of the Bill of Rights, which provides “that the pretended power of dispensing with laws
or the execution of laws by regal authority…is illegal.” This Act was retained for the Republic of
Ireland by section 2(2)(a) of, and Part 2 of Schedule 1 to, the Statute Law Revision
Act 2007. Section 2(3) of that Act repealed:
all of the Preamble down to “Upon which Letters Elections haveing beene accordingly made”
the seventh paragraph after the words “for the Vindicating and Asserting their auntient
Rights and Liberties, Declare” all words from “And they doe Claime Demand
and Insist” down to, but not including, section 2. Historical recognition
Two special designs of the British commemorative two pound coins were issued in the United
Kingdom in 1989 to celebrate the tercentenary of the Glorious Revolution. One referred to the Bill of Rights and the
other to the Claim of Right. Both depict the Royal Cypher of William and
Mary and the mace of the House of Commons, one also shows a representation of the St
Edward’s Crown and another the Crown of Scotland. In May 2011, the Bill of Rights was inscribed
in UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World Register. See also
Act of Toleration 1689 Charter of Liberties
Habeas Corpus Act 1679 Petition of Right
English Civil War Fundamental Laws of England
Crown and Parliament Recognition Act 1689 Rights of Englishmen
Penal Law Penal Laws
Trial of the Seven Bishops United States Constitution
United States Declaration of Independence Seneca Falls Convention
References External links
Text of the Bill of Rights The Parliamentary Archives – Holds the original
of this Historic Record Official text of the Bill of Rights 1689 as
in force today within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database

One Comment

  • Simon John

    Most important part of the Bill of Rights at the moment is the Supremacy Oath in regard to the European Union. It has always been illegal and unlawful for the UK to be part of it. Ted Heath could have swung for it and every Cabinet minister since 1972 could be at risk of prosecution, but the role of Attorney General is a political appointment….
    What he and Parliament did was ask the Queen to break her Oath of office and have a foreign power suzerain the monarchy.
    High treason for it is imagining the death of the King, Queen and their heirs according to the Treason Act 1351 section 3.
    …."noe Forreigne Prince Person Prelate, State or Potentate hath or ought to have any Jurisdiction Power Superiority Preeminence or Authoritie Ecclesiasticall or Spirituall within this Realme Soe helpe me God".

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