The Bill of Rights
(or Declaration of Rights
) is an act of the Parliament of England
, with the long title An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown
. It is largely a statement of certain rights
and/or permanent residents
of a constitutional monarchy
were thought to be entitled to in the late 17th century, asserting subjects' right to petition
the monarch, and to bear arms in defence. 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 this respect, the Bill of Rights differs from other bills of rights, including that of the United States of America
, though many of the first eight amendments to the US constitution
echo the contents of the 1689 Bill of Rights.
Along with the Act of Settlement 1701, the Bill of Rights remains today one of the main constitutional laws governing the succession to not only the throne of the United Kingdom, but, following British colonialism, the resultant doctrine of reception, and independence, also to those of the other Commonwealth realms, whether by willing deference to the act as a British statute or as a patriated part of the particular realm's constitution. Since the implementation of the Statute of Westminster in each of the Commonwealth realms (on successive dates from 1931 onwards), the Bill of Rights cannot be altered in any realm except by that realm's own parliament, and then, by convention, and as it touches on the succession to the shared throne, only with the consent of all the other realms. In the United Kingdom, the Bill of Rights is further accompanied by the Magna Carta and Parliament Acts as some ohttp://en.wikipedia.org/skins-1.5/common/images/button_headline.pngf the basic documents of the British constitution; a separate but similar document, the Claim of Right Act, applies in Scotland. Further, the bill is listed in the Republic of Ireland's Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union) Bill, 2006, as an English act of parliament to be retained as part of the country's law.
Reason for Creation
King James II of England
when pronounced king, became a horrible, traitorous leader to the English. He terrorized the citizens with high taxes, meandering soldiers, excessive bail, and cruel and unusual punishments. He abandoned Parliament
and threw Roman Catholics
on to the juries. Knowing they had to act fast they sent a letter to Princess Mary, the daughter of King James, to come and see the death of her father so she could become queen. Knowing that his army had turned on him, the peasants were starting a riot, and his daughter was on the shores waiting for his death, he fled the kingdom.
the English Bill of Rights was created. The bill was a failure at first, but after some changes, the bill became a document that was able to govern England successfully for several years until England's monarchy was overthrown, then rebuilt in 1688
. It was delivered to them at the Banqueting House
, on February 13
. Having accepted this declaration, William and Mary were offered the throne, and were crowned as joint monarchs in April of the same year. The Declaration of Right itself was later embodied in an act of parliament, now known as the Bill of Rights, on December 16
In the then separate Kingdom of Scotland
, the 1689 Claim of Right
of the Scottish Estates
was expressed in different terms, but to a largely similar effect, declaring William and Mary to be King and Queen of Scotland on April 11
Provisions of the act
The Bill of Rights laid out certain basic Tenet
for, at the time, all Englishmen
. These rights continue to apply today, not only in England, but in each of the jurisdictions of the Commonwealth realms
as well. The people, embodied in parliament
, are granted immutable civil and political rights through the act, including:
- Freedom from 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.
- Freedom from taxation by Royal Prerogative. The agreement of parliament became necessary for the implementation of any new taxes.
- Freedom to petition the monarch.
- Freedom from the standing army during a time of peace. The agreement of parliament became necessary before the army could be moved against the populace when not at war.
- Freedom for Protestants to bear arms for their own defence, as suitable to their class and as allowed by law.
- Freedom to elect members of parliament without interference from the sovereign.
- Freedom of speech in parliament. This means that the proceedings of parliament can not be questioned in a court of law or any other body outside of parliament itself; this forms the basis of modern parliamentary privilege.
- Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, as well as excessive bail.
- Freedom from fine and forfeiture without a trial.
Certain acts of James VII and 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. The act also required the monarch to summon parliament frequently, a clause that was later reinforced by the Triennial Act, 1694.
Augmentation and effect
The Bill of Rights was later supplemented by the Act of Settlement in 1701 (while the Claim of Right Act in Scotland was supplemented by the Act of Union, 1707). 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 also became a predecessor of the United States Constitution, 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 requires jury trials and 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 be cited in legal proceedings in the Commonwealth realms. For instance, on July 21, 1995, a libel case brought by Neil Hamilton (then a member of parliament) 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 fair trial. Section 13 of the Defamation Act, 1996, was subsequently enacted to permit an MP to waive his parliamentary privilege. 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 suspending laws of the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of parliament is illegal."
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.