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British Bill of Rights - History

British Bill of Rights - History


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British Bill of Rights (1689) - established basic principles of constitutional government in Britain; including Parliament's supremacy over the monarchy, the right to have a jury trial, and the prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment. Along with the Petition of Right 629) and the Act of Settlement (1701), this law helped shape the British constitutional system.

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The English and Colonial Roots of the U.S. Bill of Rights

We start off in the first column with the 26 rights contained in the U.S. Bill of Rights. There are two main “root” sources presented in this table for the U.S. Bill of Rights, namely, the colonial heritage and the English tradition. And the question we are looking at is to what extent is the U.S. Bill of Rights dependent on, or derived from, the English past and/or the colonial past?

I have chosen three English documents which are regularly relied on to make the case that there is a direct and strong link between the English inheritance and the U.S. Bill of Rights. Also reproduced are six colonial sources in an attempt to capture the emergence of a separate American Mind, albeit still a colonial mind. This is not to suggest that these are the only such sources however, I believe that these six documents best tell the story I am attempting to convey.

What is surprising, and counter to the usual portrayal that there is a strong and direct reliance of the U.S. Bill of Rights on the English heritage, is that only 9 out of the 26 rights in the U.S. Bill of Rights can be traced back to Magna Carta! Similarly, 7 can be traced to the English Petition of Rights, and 6 to the English Bill of Rights. When we account for duplication among the three sources, the maximum number amounts to 10 of 26. Nevertheless, we still need to remember that close to 40% is not numerically negligible.

What is indisputable, and also surprising in the opposite direction, is the even stronger relationship between the U.S. Bill of Rights and the Colonial past. 18 of 26, or just under 70%, can be traced directly to the Colonial tradition. And 15 of 26, or close to 60%, come from one source alone: the Massachusetts Body of Liberties of 1641!

Even more importantly, there is a distinctively qualitative difference in the emerging Colonial American version of rights. Unique is the emergence of the individual right of religious worship, the political rights of press and assembly, and what became the Sixth Amendment in the U.S Bill of Rights dealing with accusation, confrontation, and counsel. These are home grown.

Click on a column header or the bullets in the columns to view that column’s document.

Content of Bill of Rights
No Established Religion/Favored Sect
Rights of Conscience/Free Exercise
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Press
Freedom of Assembly
Freedom of Petition
Keep and Bear Arms/Militia
Quartering of Troops
Double Jeopard
Self Incrimination
Due Process of Law
Takings/Just Compensation
No Excessive Bail and Fines
No Cruel and/or Unusual Punishments
No Unreasonable Searches/Seizures
Speedy/Public Trial in Criminal Cases
Nature of Accusation
Confrontation of Accusers
Compulsory Witness
Assistance of Counsel
Rights Retained by the People
$ Limitation on Appeals
Common Law and Jury Trial
(Local) Impartial Jury for All Crimes
Grand Jury for Loss of Life or Limb
Reservation of Nondelegated Powers
Totals 9 7 16 6 5 6 7 8 8 26

What part do the English Heritage and the Colonial tradition play in helping us to discover the roots and development of the United States Bill of Rights? One thesis is that the there is a continuous development from English roots through nearly two hundred years of colonial times into the Bill of Rights. Another thesis is that there is a separate and different colonial tradition that provides for an American version of a Bill of Rights.

The Magna Carta, 1215

Despite the presence of words such as “scutage,” and “wapenstakes,” which locate the Great Charter squarely in the feudal era, the spirit of the document speaks to subsequent generations. The Magna Carta is more than a practical document specifically designed to solve feudal difficulties. True, King John was forced at gun point to recognize the existence of the traditional rights of the barons, but there are a set of principles which inform the sixty-three chaptered document signed in Runnymede in 1215 and reaffirmed by subsequent British monarchs. The principles extend beyond the often recognized origin of the no taxation without representation doctrine in chapter 12 and the due process clause of chapter 39. The concepts of trial by jury and no cruel punishments are present in chapter 21 and the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment is anticipated in chapters 38, 40, and 44. But the most important contribution of the Magna Carta is the claim that there is a fundamental set of principles which even the King must respect. Above all else, Magna Carta makes the case that the people have a “right” to expect “reasonable” conduct by the monarch. These rights are to be secured by the principle of representation outlined in the longest chapter.

The English Petition of Right, 1628

The 1628 Petition of Right is the second of the three British documents that provided a strong common law component to the development of the American Bill of Rights. The authors of the statute consciously invoke the memory of the rule of law heritage of the Magna Carta: they insist that the monarchy honor and respect rights to which Englishmen have been accustomed for centuries. In the thirteenth century, the nobles petitioned the King to abandon his arbitrary and tyrannical policies four centuries later, it was the commoners who petitioned the King to adhere to the principles of reasonable government bequeathed by the English tradition. Under the leadership of Sir Edward Coke, a legal scholar-turned-practical politician, Parliament petitioned Charles I, son of the recently deceased King James I, to uphold the traditional rights of Englishmen. Among the customary “divers rights and liberties of the subjects” listed were no taxation without consent, “due process of law,” the right to habeas corpus, no quartering of troops, the respect for private property, and the imposition of no cruel punishment.

To be sure, King Charles did not consider himself bound by the petition in fact he disregarded it. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to underestimate the importance of the document. On the one hand, it reaffirmed the right to petition as a fundamental right that can be invoked legitimately against a monarch who has strayed from traditional principles. Moreover, Coke’s argument still had considerable appeal over one hundred years later on the other side of the Atlantic. During the 1760s, the American colonists articulated their grievances against King George in terms reminiscent of Coke’s petition to uphold the rights of Englishmen. On the other hand, King Charles’s rejection of the appeal shows the inherent limitations of the right to petition.

The Massachusetts Body of Liberties, 1641

The Massachusetts Body of Liberties, adopted in December 1641, was the first attempt in Massachusetts to restrain the power of the elected representatives by an appeal to a document that lists the rights, and duties, of the people. The document, drafted and debated over several years, combines the American covenanting tradition with an appeal to the common law tradition. Containing ninety-eight sections, it covers the rules concerning judicial proceedings (sections 18-57) “liberties more peculiarly concerning the free man” (sections 58-78) and the rights of women (79-80), children (sections 81-84), servants (85-88), foreigners (89-91), and animals (92-93). Section 94 provides biblical justification supporting the death penalty in twelve cases, and Section 95 contains eleven liberties given by “the Lord Jesus to the Churches.” The most enduring part of the Body of Liberties are the preamble and the first seventeen sections, which contain the essential rights of the common law tradition. Of particular importance are references to what by now were traditional on the American side of the Atlantic: the equal treatment of all persons under laws passed by the legislature, just compensation for property taken for public use, the right to petition government for redress of grievances, the right to trial by jury, the right to travel, and lastly, the right to trade.

The Fundamental Laws of West New Jersey, 1677

The “great charter” of New Jersey, 1677, done in the name of the “Proprietors, Freeholders, and Inhabitants of the said Province,” was modeled on the Rhode Island Charter. The New Jersey framers also attempted to secure the potentially conflicting goals of local self government and adherence to enduring principles. The first twelve chapters of the forty-four chapter charter concern the selection and duties of Commissioners, the encouragement of land ownership, and provision for the construction of public highways. Chapters 24-44 cover relations with the Indians, wills and testaments, and taxes and assessments. The critical middle eleven sections cover the “common law or fundamental rights and priviledges of West New Jersey.” Among the rights to be protected are the rights to the free exercise of religion, due process of law, trial by jury, and to confront witnesses in an open court of law. Finally, the government is obligated to ensure that every person shall “be free from oppression and slavery.”

The Pennsylvania Frame of Government, 1681

In 1681, King Charles II granted Quaker William Penn ownership of the “Province of Pennsilvania.” The 1682 Frame of Government was designed “for the good Government thereof” and included a “grant” of “divers Liberties, Franchises and Properties.” This document is unique to the seventeenth-century American experience the authorizing, or granting, agent was neither the English monarch nor the people. Penn, as lone founder, “did grant and confirm unto” the inhabitants certain individual rights. And yet, scholars are surely correct to note that this document ranks among “the most influential of the Colonial documents protecting individual rights,” against the abuse of governmental powers.

There is both a constitutional and legalistic tone to the document. First, a preamble announcing the purposes of government and declaring that the rule of “good laws,” supported by a wise and virtuous people, is to be chosen over “the rule of one, few, and many” magistrates in a country inhabited by “a loose and depraved people.” This is followed by a “Frame,” containing twenty-four sections guaranteeing the right of participation and outlining the powers and responsibilities of government officials. Finally, there is an extensive itemization of civil and criminal rights and expectations. The list not only includes the familiar common law right to fair trial by a jury of one’s peers, but also detailed provisions for the careful handling of such specific matters as court fees, fines, and documents.

The document also addresses the American religious paradox. On the one hand, Section XXXV declares that inhabitants “shall, in no ways, be molested or prejudiced for their religious persuasion, or practice, in matters of faith and worship, nor shall they be compelled, at any time, to frequent or maintain any religious worship, place or ministry whatever.” On the other hand, specific provision is made in Section XXXVI for the observance of “the Lord’s day,” and punishments are indicated in Section XXXVII for “offences against God.” There is a political, as well as a theological, reason for itemizing twelve offences of “uncleanness,” eight offences of “violence,” and eleven offences productive of “rudeness, cruelty, looseness, and irreligion.” These thirty-one “offences against God” are examples of the “wildness and looseness of the people” that, in turn, “provoke the indignation of God against a country.”

The English Bill of Rights, 1689

The third British contribution to the development of the American Bill of Rights is the 1689 English Bill of Rights. The “Convention Parliament” of 1689 declared an end to the three-year reign of James II – formerly the Duke of York – and passed an Act to secure “the Kingdom from Popery and Arbitrary Power.” To that end, Parliament listed twelve indictments against him and issued a declaration of the rights and liberties of the subject. Never again, declared the agreement between the Parliament and the newly enthroned monarchs — King William of Orange and Queen Mary, daughter of dethroned King James II –– must the “Religion, Laws, and Liberties” of the Realm “be in danger of being subverted.” To that end, several ancient rights of Englishmen are reaffirmed: the right to petition government for the redress of grievances, the expectation that governmental policy shall confirm to the rule of law, that standing armies in peace time without the consent of Parliament is illegal, and “that Excessive Bail ought not to be required, nor Excessive Fines imposed nor cruel and unusual Punishments inflicted.” Parliament also declared that henceforth it was going to be a major political actor the representatives of the people shall be guaranteed the freedom of speech and debate and that there were to be frequently held elections. Included in this was the right of the people to bear arms. Not included, however, in the declaration of rights that Englishmen have are the right to the free exercise of religion and the right to choose their form of government.

The Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges, 1701

A final document worthy of consideration is the 1701 Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges. This was the last and, perhaps, “the most famous of all colonial constitutions.” This charter, also written by William Penn, replaced the original 1682 document as the fundamental law of the colony. (The necessary “Six parts of Seven of the Freemen” requested an amendment to the 1682 Frame of Government.) The new charter, which remained in force for the next one hundred and seventy five years, was designed to be more “suitable to the present Circumstances of the Inhabitants.” The most important structural changes are the provisions for annual county-based elections to a unicameral General Assembly and an enhanced political role for the legislature. Enhanced protection is also given to freedom of conscience. For example, the free exercise of religion clause is placed first, and is unamendable, and religious qualification for holding office is limited to belief in Jesus Christ. Moreover the “offences against God” section of the 1682 charter are absent. Finally, Penn included the right of criminals to have “the same Privileges of Witness and Council as their prosecutors.”


British bill of rights could 'unravel' constitution, say peers

The government’s proposed bill of rights will hamper the fight against crime, undermine the UK’s international moral authority and could start “unravelling” the constitution, a cross-party parliamentary committee is warning.

A critical report by the House of Lords’ European Union justice sub-committee urges ministers to rethink plans to scrap the Human Rights Act and highlights fears expressed by the Irish government that the policy could damage the Northern Ireland peace process.

Publication of the draft legislation, which is intended to replace the Human Rights Act, has been repeatedly delayed despite the bill of rights being a Conservative party manifesto pledge. It is now expected after the EU referendum.

While the justice secretary, Michael Gove, has implied the bill may not be as radical as originally envisaged, others fear that a vote to remain within the EU on 23 June could force Downing Street to appease disappointed Brexiters with a more substantial attack on the European court of human rights in Strasbourg. Last month the home secretary, Theresa May, a supporter of remaining in the EU, called for the UK to abandon the European convention of human rights.

“Were the UK to depart from the standards of human rights currently recognised within the EU,” the report states, “the system of mutual recognition which underpins EU justice and home affairs cooperation would be hampered by legal arguments over its application to the UK.

During the course of the inquiry, the committee was shown a letter sent by the Irish justice minister, Frances Fitzgerald, to Gove asking him to give “the fullest consideration” to the provisions of the Good Friday agreement which requires the European human rights convention to be incorporated into Northern Irish law.

Her letter added: “ … external supervision by the European court of human rights [in Strasbourg] has been an essential part of the peace process and anything that undermines this, or is perceived to undermine this, could have serious consequences for the operation of the Good Friday agreement.”

Two former attorney-generals – Labour’s Lord Goldmsith and the Conservative Dominic Grieve – told the committee that a reduced commitment to the ECHR would undermine the UK’s standing within the Council of Europe and around the world. “It could also put the effective operation of the European Convention on Human Rights, which requires all contracting states to respect its obligations, in jeopardy,” the peers concluded.

If the UK did pull out of the Strasbourg court, the report noted, it would probably result in many more cases being taken on the basis of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg.

The committee has four Labour members, three Conservatives, three cross-benchers and two Liberal Democrats. Labour peer Baroness Kennedy, who chairs the committee, said that government claims that the armed forces should be exempt from human rights challenges were misguided.

“It’s not about clash of arms [on the battlefield],” she said. It was about ensuring good behaviour in peace-keeping roles.

She added: “Many witnesses thought that restricting the scope of the Human Rights Act would lead to an increase in reliance on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in UK courts, which has stronger enforcement mechanisms. This seemed to be a perverse consequence of a bill of rights intended to give human rights greater UK identity.

“We heard evidence that the devolved administrations have serious concerns about the plans to repeal the Human Rights Act. If the devolved parliaments withheld their consent to a British bill of rights it might very well end up as an English bill of rights, not something we think the government would want to see.

“The more evidence we heard on this issue the more convinced we became that the government should think again about its proposals for a British bill of rights. The time is now right for it to do so.”


Creation of the Third Amendment

As a result of this experience with having their private property used by the government without their permission, the Founding Fathers wanted a guarantee that they would be protected from this abuse in the future by the new government they were creating.

Many people were skeptical that the new Constitution adequately protected their rights and they demanded that a Bill of Rights be added to it. A bill of rights is a list of rights that are specifically mentioned that the government has no right to interfere with. Bills of rights were added to make the rights of the citizens very clear, so there would be no room for government officials to "weasel" their way into tampering with them.

James Madison

Once the states began to debate the newly proposed Constitution, it became apparent that the Constitution would not pass without changing the minds of its critics. Proponents of the Constitution were called Federalists. They wanted a stronger central government because the current government, governed by the Articles of Confederation, could barely function. The Federalists were led by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton , John Adams and George Washington.

The anti-Federalists opposed the Constitution. They were against a strong federal or central government because they feared the government would grow too powerful and take away the rights of the people. Men such as Patrick Henry, George Mason and Elbridge Gerry were leading anti-Federalists.

The Federalists came up with a compromise offer known as the Massachusetts Compromise, that would eventually persuade enough anti-Federalists to vote to support the Constitution so it could go into effect. In the Massachusetts Compromise, the Federalists promised that the First Congress would take into consideration the states' proposed amendments and add a bill of rights to the Constitution if the opponents would just vote yes to accept it. This promise persuaded enough of the critics to vote yes to accept the Constitution and it became the law of the land.

Keeping the promise, James Madison proposed a list of twenty amendments to the First Congress in a June 8, 1789 speech. Congress debated these amendments and eventually sent twelve of them to the states for their consideration. Ten of them were agreed upon by the states.

These first ten Amendments that were agreed upon, including the 3rd Amendment, finally became law on December 15, 1791 and are known as the Bill of Rights. You can read more about the History of the Bill of Rights here.


The Second Amendment After the Civil War

For the better part of the first 100 years of America’s life, the Second Amendment — or, as we know it, the “individual right to bear arms” — had little impact on American political life.

However, in the 1860s, everything changed. The nation plunged into civil war, ushering in a new era.

Interestingly, however, the laws created to secure the individual rights of newly freed slaves set the stage for a unique interpretation of the Second Amendment that has helped shape the debate we continue to have today.

Lincoln’s Assasination

On April 9, 1865, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee met at the Appomattox Court House, in the state of Virginia, to draft out a resolution that would bring an end to the Civil War.

As a result of the Southern surrender, the United States was one country once again, and the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation — which freed slaves in rebellious states during the war — was enshrined into law with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1864.

With this hurdle overcome, President Lincoln was determined to welcome the Confederacy back in a way that was neither harsh nor disciplinary.

On March 5, 1865, he stated in his Second Inaugural Address:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

[4]

Lincoln wanted to reconcile the nation, not punish the South. And his plan for Reconstruction was built in such a way so that it would do just that — “reconstruct” the South’s way of life, a large part of which involved providing guarantees for the individual rights and liberties of Black Americans.

This led to the eventual passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, and this addressed a number of issues in its five sections. Some of the most important clauses detailed restrictions on the ability of former rebels to hold office, as well as the powers of Congress to enforce the amendment.

However, the most famous is section one, which famously includes the following language:

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the United States nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.”

[5]

The passage of this amendment led to a rapid growth and progress in the levels of Black political participation — but this was short-lived. Lincoln did not live to ensure his plan, nor witness the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, as six days after Lee’s surrender, on April 15, 1865, the president was murdered.

A stunned country — confronted with its first political assassination — turned vicious.

Reconstruction became a time for many Northerners to make money off the broken South, and to force it to live according to their victorious convictions.

The South, which eventually wormed its way free of Northern oversight, sought to reestablish its old way of life — one in which Blacks were relegated to the trenches of the social order — and worked hard to fight this interference from the North, which it eventually accomplished through the Compromise of 1877.

From there, an issue that had been at the heart of American political conflict since the nation’s inception was given new fuel: the debate over the power of the states in relation to the federal government.

The Fourteenth Amendment and the Second Amendment

During the time of the Civil War and the Reconstruction after it, the Second Amendment was not under the spotlight that shines on it today.

The Fourteenth Amendment was seen as an extension of the original ideals of the Bill of Rights, providing protection to newly enfranchised ex-slaves. It included specific provisos that overtly stated that the liberties afforded by the U.S Constitution and the Bill of Rights now protected African Americans and all other people living in the United States.

This means the Fourteenth Amendment was the first of its kind to explicitly guarantee rights to all people, not just a select group of people considered citizens. Naturally, this placed limits on a state’s ability to govern itself — which happened to be a critically important issue to a section of the country vitally consumed with the idea of “state’s rights.”

The South bitterly resisted what it saw as an infringement on its right to govern itself through the work of individual states. A violent backlash ensued, causing the organization of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which promoted themselves as militias protected under the Second Amendment, but were, in reality, more akin to terrorist associations based on their actions — burning crosses and midnight lynchings were just two ways of demonstrating power. The chief point of the Klan was to asset White dominance and enforce the continued domination of former slave owners over former slaves.

With the focus of the federal government turning away from the ideals of Reconstruction, life in the South gradually returned to the Antebellum mores.

By the end of the 1860s, the abolition of slavery really only meant the establishment of a nominally free Black community. But these communities were economically, educationally, and politically underprivileged — sure, citizens had been afforded the right to vote, but what good was that when they were prevented from doing so by their lack of personal property, ability to read the ballot, or knowledge of governmental functions?

This, then, was the state of affairs in the United States after the Civil War. When the Supreme Court first considered the Second Amendment, it did not do so because of concerns over gun rights. Instead, it deliberated over a case that focused on Fourteenth Amendment rights, specifically looking at African-American safety.

The Second Amendment attracted serious judicial attention with the Reconstruction era case of United States v. Cruikshank (1876) which ruled that the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment did not cause the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, to limit the powers of the State governments, stating that the Second Amendment “has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.”

United States vs. Cruikshank: The Second Amendment Enters Public Debate

On Easter Sunday, 1873 — ironically two years after the formation of the National Rifle Association (whose importance will soon become apparent to this tale) — a White militia made up of members of two White Supremacists groups, the Knights of the White Camellia and the Ku Klux Klan, murdered over one hundred and fifty African-Africans in the town of Colfax, Louisiana [6].

In response to what has become known as the “Colfax Massacre,” three White men were convicted.

Since it occurred in the wake of the 1872 state elections in Louisiana, and was motivated by its result (as it was one of the first elections that saw widespread Black voting, something unthinkable in the South), federal authorities interpreted the actions of these individuals as a violation of the 1870 Enforcement Act — a law that gave the federal government the right to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing citizens the individual right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Prosecution thus proceeded accordingly.

Two trials took place in 1874, and in the second, three men were convicted although the charges were immediately dismissed by the presiding judge. The federal government then took the issue to the Supreme Court in a case known as United States vs. Cruikshank.

In it, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1870 Enforcement Act only applied to states and not individuals, and that the federal government did not have jurisdiction over individuals’ attempts to infringe the rights of other individuals.

Instead, those who felt their individual rights had been limited by others would have to appeal to states and municipalities for protection and not the federal government.

The Supreme Court extended this interpretation to both the First and Second Amendment, essentially saying that both represented inherent rights granted to people and that their existence in the U.S Constitution was solely to prevent the federal government from limiting them. The exact text from the ruling in regards to the Second Amendment reads:

“The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second Amendments means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the National Government.”

[7]

However, the Fourteenth Amendment seems to contradict this notion by saying that the states cannot limit the rights of any citizen that are afforded by the U.S Constitution.

But in United States vs. Cruikshank, the Supreme Court circumvents this idea by stating that these rights were not explicitly granted by the document but rather protected against infringement by the federal government [8].

Why is United States vs. Cruikshank Important?

This is an incredibly narrow interpretation of the U.S Constitution — one that essentially says the states can more or less do as they please when it comes to the individual rights of people.

It gave individual states the power to choose whether or not to prosecute events such as the Colfax Massacre, opening the door for legally-sanctioned segregation as well as even more violent intimidation of newly-freed Blacks trying to integrate into American society.

This decision — as many Supreme Court decisions are — was politically motivated, and it had a dramatic impact on US history, particularly in terms of race relations.

As for the Second Amendment, this case is historic because it marked the first instance in the history of the United States in which the Supreme Court offered a direct opinion about the right to bear arms.

That opinion — that it only served to protect citizens against overreach from the national government that the states were free to address it and other rights written in the U.S Constitution as they pleased — would pave the way for state and local gun laws and would shape the debate about this issue in the 20th century.

Presser vs. Illinois

The Second Amendment received a second review a few years later, when Presser vs. Illinois was heard by the Supreme Court in 1886.

A year or so earlier, the state of Illinois had ratified a law restricting public parades where participants carried firearms Dave Koppel of the Independence Institute notes that:

“One prong of the governmental effort to suppress organized labor was a ban on armed parades in public Illinois was one of the states that enacted such a ban, making it a crime for ‘bodies of men to associate together as military organizations, or to drill or parade with arms in cities and towns unless authorized by law…’ ”

[9]

The plaintiff — a man by the name of Herman Presser — had marched in a parade carrying a firearm the Chicago court noted that he “did unlawfully belong to, and did parade and drill, with arms… without having a license from the Governor, and not being a part of, or belonging to, ‘the regular organized volunteer militia’ of the State of Illinois.” [10]

Presser appealed the conviction, claiming that the Second Amendment afforded him the right to act as he had. The Supreme Court disagreed in affirming Presser’s conviction and fine, it noted that the Second Amendment protected state militias attempting to defend against federal encroachment and that the states had the power to regulate this right as they saw fit, a decision in line with the opinion given in United States vs. Cruikshank.

In both cases, the Supreme Court argued that the Second Amendment was written as a balance between federal and state power rather than as a protection of individual rights, which effectively made gun control perfectly legal at the state level.

These cases were not directed at gun ownership per se, but on the uses of guns by organized groups.

At this point in history, during the late 1880s, today’s typical argument that the “right to bear arms” is more an issue of individual firearm ownership was more than a century away from entering the public sphere.


The Cyrus Cylinder (539 B.C.)

In 539 B.C., the armies of Cyrus the Great, the first king of ancient Persia, conquered the city of Babylon. But it was his next actions that marked a major advance for Man. He freed the slaves, declared that all people had the right to choose their own religion, and established racial equality. These and other decrees were recorded on a baked-clay cylinder in the Akkadian language with cuneiform script.

Known today as the Cyrus Cylinder, this ancient record has now been recognized as the world’s first charter of human rights. It is translated into all six official languages of the United Nations and its provisions parallel the first four Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Spread of Human Rights

From Babylon, the idea of human rights spread quickly to India, Greece and eventually Rome. There the concept of “natural law” arose, in observation of the fact that people tended to follow certain unwritten laws in the course of life, and Roman law was based on rational ideas derived from the nature of things.

Documents asserting individual rights, such as the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Right (1628), the US Constitution (1787), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), and the US Bill of Rights (1791) are the written precursors to many of today’s human rights documents.

The Magna Carta (1215)

In 1215, after King John of England violated a number of ancient laws and customs by which England had been governed, his subjects forced him to sign the Magna Carta, which enumerates what later came to be thought of as human rights. Among them was the right of the church to be free from governmental interference, the rights of all free citizens to own and inherit property and to be protected from excessive taxes. It established the right of widows who owned property to choose not to remarry, and established principles of due process and equality before the law. It also contained provisions forbidding bribery and official misconduct.

Widely viewed as one of the most important legal documents in the development of modern democracy, the Magna Carta was a crucial turning point in the struggle to establish freedom.

Petition of Right (1628)

United States Declaration of Independence (1776)

On July 4, 1776, the United States Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. Its primary author, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Declaration as a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, and as a statement announcing that the thirteen American Colonies were no longer a part of the British Empire. Congress issued the Declaration of Independence in several forms. It was initially published as a printed broadsheet that was widely distributed and read to the public.

Philosophically, the Declaration stressed two themes: individual rights and the right of revolution. These ideas became widely held by Americans and spread internationally as well, influencing in particular the French Revolution.

The Constitution of the United States of America (1787) and Bill of Rights (1791)

Written during the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, the Constitution of the United States of America is the fundamental law of the US federal system of government and the landmark document of the Western world. It is the oldest written national constitution in use and defines the principal organs of government and their jurisdictions and the basic rights of citizens.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution—the Bill of Rights—came into effect on December 15, 1791, limiting the powers of the federal government of the United States and protecting the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors in American territory.

The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the freedom of assembly and the freedom to petition. It also prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment and compelled self-incrimination. Among the legal protections it affords, the Bill of Rights prohibits Congress from making any law respecting establishment of religion and prohibits the federal government from depriving any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. In federal criminal cases it requires indictment by a grand jury for any capital offense, or infamous crime, guarantees a speedy public trial with an impartial jury in the district in which the crime occurred, and prohibits double jeopardy.

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789)

In 1789 the people of France brought about the abolishment of the absolute monarchy and set the stage for the establishment of the first French Republic. Just six weeks after the storming of the Bastille, and barely three weeks after the abolition of feudalism, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (French: La Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen) was adopted by the National Constituent Assembly as the first step toward writing a constitution for the Republic of France.

The Declaration proclaims that all citizens are to be guaranteed the rights of “liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.” It argues that the need for law derives from the fact that “. the exercise of the natural rights of each man has only those borders which assure other members of the society the enjoyment of these same rights.” Thus, the Declaration sees law as an “expression of the general will,“ intended to promote this equality of rights and to forbid “only actions harmful to the society.”

The First Geneva Convention (1864)

The main principles laid down in the Convention and maintained by the later Geneva Conventions provided for the obligation to extend care without discrimination to wounded and sick military personnel and respect for and marking of medical personnel transports and equipment with the distinctive sign of the red cross on a white background.


The Bill of Rights: How Did it Happen?

The amendments James Madison proposed were designed to win support in both houses of Congress and the states. He focused on rights-related amendments, ignoring suggestions that would have structurally changed the government.

Opposition to the Constitution

Many Americans, persuaded by a pamphlet written by George Mason, opposed the new government. Mason was one of three delegates present on the final day of the convention who refused to sign the Constitution because it lacked a bill of rights.

James Madison and other supporters of the Constitution argued that a bill of rights wasn't necessary because - “the government can only exert the powers specified by the Constitution.” But they agreed to consider adding amendments when ratification was in danger in the key state of Massachusetts.

Introducing the Bill of Rights in the First Congress

Few members of the First Congress wanted to make amending the new Constitution a priority. But James Madison, once the most vocal opponent of the Bill of Rights, introduced a list of amendments to the Constitution on June 8, 1789, and “hounded his colleagues relentlessly” to secure its passage. Madison had come to appreciate the importance voters attached to these protections, the role that enshrining them in the Constitution could have in educating people about their rights, and the chance that adding them might prevent its opponents from making more drastic changes to it.

Ratifying the Bill of Rights

The House passed a joint resolution containing 17 amendments based on Madison’s proposal. The Senate changed the joint resolution to consist of 12 amendments. A joint House and Senate Conference Committee settled remaining disagreements in September. On October 2, 1789, President Washington sent copies of the 12 amendments adopted by Congress to the states. By December 15, 1791, three-fourths of the states had ratified 10 of these, now known as the “Bill of Rights.”

The Federal Pillars, 1789

The Massachusetts Compromise, in which the states agreed to ratify the Constitution provided the First Congress consider the rights and other amendments it proposed, secured ratification and paved the way for the passage of the Bill of Rights. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Federal Hall, Seat of Congress 1790, by Amos Doolittle

Federal Hall, originally New York’s city hall, served as the first capitol building of the United States. The Bill of Rights was introduced there. Courtesy of the Library of CongressCourtesy of the Library of Congress

Senate Revisions to House Proposed Amendments, 1789

This printed document shows 17 amendments passed by the House with handwritten revisions by the Senate. National Archives


2010: Gun Owners Win Another Victory in McDonald v. Chicago

Gun rights supporters won their second major Supreme Court victory in 2010 when the high court affirmed an individual's right to own guns in McDonald v. Chicago. The ruling was an inevitable follow-up to D.C. v. Heller and marked the first time that the Supreme Court ruled that the provisions of the Second Amendment extend to the states. The ruling overturned an earlier decision by a lower court in a legal challenge to Chicago’s ordinance banning the possession of handguns by its citizens.


18a. The Bill of Rights


Although James Madison was the youngest member of the Continental Congress, his leadership was a critical factor in the development of American government. Madison proposed the Virginia Plan, he authored some of the Federalist Papers, and he wrote the Bill of Rights.

The first national election occurred in 1789. Along with President Washington, voters elected a large number of supporters of the Constitution. In fact, almost half of the ninety-one members of the first Congress had helped to write or ratify the Constitution.

Not surprisingly, given Anti-Federalists' opposition to the strong new central government, only eight opponents of the Constitution were sent to the House of Representatives. Most Anti-Federalists concentrated their efforts in state politics.

Protection of Individual Rights

An immediate issue that the new Congress took up was how to modify the Constitution. Representatives were responding to calls for amendments that had emerged as a chief issue during the ratification process. Crucial states of Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York (among others) had all ultimately supported the Constitution &mdash but only with the expectation that explicit protections for individual rights would be added to the highest law of the land. Now that supporters of the Constitution controlled the federal government, what would they do?

The legal tradition of having a precise statement of individual rights had deep roots in Anglo-American custom. So it's not surprising that the first Congress amended the Constitution by adding what became known as the Bill of Rights.


Amendment 10: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

James Madison, now a member of Congress from Virginia, once again took the leading role crafting proposed amendments that would be sent to the states for approval. Madison skillfully reviewed numerous proposals and examples from state constitutions and ultimately selected nineteen potential amendments to the Constitution.

As one might expect, the nationalist Madison took care to make sure that none of the proposed amendments would fundamentally weaken the new central government. In the end, ten amendments were ratified in 1791.

Ten Amendments

These first ten amendments to the Constitution became known as the Bill of Rights and still stand as both the symbol and foundation of American ideals of individual liberty, limited government , and the rule of law. Most of the Bill of Rights concerns legal protections for those accused of crimes.

Rights and Protections Guaranteed in the Bill of Rights

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of assembly
  • Right to petition the government
  • Right to bear arms
  • Protection against housing soldiers in civilian homes
  • Protection against unreasonable search and seizure
  • Protection against the issuing of warrants without probable cause
  • Protection against
    • trial without indictment
    • double jeopardy
    • self-incrimination
    • property seizure
    • Right to a speedy trial
    • Right to be informed of charges
    • Right to be confronted by witnesses
    • Right to call witnesses
    • Right to a legal counsel
    • Right to trial by jury
    • Protection against
      • excessive bail
      • excessive fines
      • cruel and unusual punishment
      • Rights granted in the Constitution shall not infringe on other rights.
      • Powers not granted to the Federal Government in the Constitution belong to the states or the people.

      For instance, the fourth through eighth amendments provide protection from unreasonable search and seizure , the privilege against self-incrimination , and the right to a fair and speedy jury trial that will be free from unusual punishments.

      The First Amendment , perhaps the broadest and most famous of the Bill of Rights, establishes a range of political and civil rights including those of free speech , assembly, press, and religion.

      The last two amendments, respectively, spell out that this list of individual protections is not meant to exclude other ones, and, by contrast, set forth that all powers claimed by the federal government had to be expressly stated in the Constitution.

      The Full Text of the Bill of Rights

      Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      Amendment II A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

      Amendment III No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

      Amendment IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      Amendment V No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

      Amendment VI In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation to be confronted with the witnesses against him to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

      Amendment VII In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

      Amendment VIII Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

      Amendment IX The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

      Amendment X The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

      While the Bill of Rights created no deep challenge to federal authority, it did respond to the central Anti-Federalist fear that the Constitution would unleash an oppressive central government too distant from the people to be controlled.

      By responding to this opposition and following through on the broadly expressed desire for amendments that emerged during the ratification process, the Bill of Rights helped to secure broad political support for the new national government. A first major domestic issue had been successfully resolved.

      Understanding the Bill of Rights

      The Bill of Rights remains an active force in contemporary American life as a major element of Constitutional law . The meaning of its protections remains hotly debated. For example, the privilege to bear arms to support a militia, which appears in the second amendment, produces significant political controversy today.

      More sweepingly, the extension of the Bill of Rights to protect individuals from abuse not only by the federal government, but also from state and local governments remains an unsettled aspect of Constitutional interpretation.

      Originally, the protections were solely meant to limit the federal government, but with the fourteenth amendment's guarantee in 1868 that no state could deprive its citizens of the protections in the Bill of Rights this original view began to be expanded. To this day the Supreme Court has not definitively decided if the entire Bill of Rights should always be applied to all levels of government.


      British Bill of Rights - History

      Whereas the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons assembled at Westminster, lawfully, fully and freely representing all the estates of the people of this realm, did upon the thirteenth day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty-eight [old style date] present unto their Majesties, then called and known by the names and style of William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, being present in their proper persons, a certain declaration in writing made by the said Lords and Commons in the words following, viz.:

      , by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom

      By assuming and exercising a power of dispensing with and suspending of laws and the execution of laws without consent of Parliament

      By committing and prosecuting divers worthy prelates for humbly petitioning to be excused from concurring to the said assumed power

      By issuing and causing to be executed a commission under the great seal for erecting a court called the Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes

      By levying money for and to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative for other time and in other manner than the same was granted by Parliament

      By raising and keeping a standing army within this kingdom in time of peace without consent of Parliament, and quartering soldiers contrary to law

      By causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law

      By violating the freedom of election of members to serve in Parliament

      By prosecutions in the Court of King's Bench for matters and causes cognizable only in Parliament, and by divers other arbitrary and illegal courses

      And whereas of late years partial corrupt and unqualified persons have been returned and served on juries in trials, and particularly divers jurors in trials for high treason which were not freeholders

      And excessive bail hath been required of persons committed in criminal cases to elude the benefit of the laws made for the liberty of the subjects

      And excessive fines have been imposed

      And illegal and cruel punishments inflicted

      And several grants and promises made of fines and forfeitures before any conviction or judgment against the persons upon whom the same were to be levied

      All which are utterly and directly contrary to the known laws and statutes and freedom of this realm

      And whereas the said late King

      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 (by the advice of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and divers principal persons of the Commons) cause letters to be written to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal being Protestants, and other letters to the several counties, cities, universities, boroughs and cinque ports, 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 one thousand six hundred eighty and eight [old style date], 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 having 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 representative of this nation, taking into their most serious consideration the best means for attaining the ends aforesaid, do in the first place (as their ancestors in like case have usually done) for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties declare

      That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal

      That the pretended power of dispensing with laws or the execution of laws by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal

      That the commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other commissions and courts of like nature, are illegal and pernicious

      That levying money for or to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal

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

      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

      That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law

      That election of members of Parliament ought to be free

      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

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

      That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders

      That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void

      And that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.

      And they do claim, demand and insist upon all and singular the premises as their undoubted rights and liberties, and that no declarations, judgments, doings or proceedings to the prejudice of the people in any of the said premises ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into consequence or example to which demand of their rights they are particularly encouraged by the declaration of his Highness the prince of Orange as being the only means for obtaining a full redress and remedy therein. Having therefore an entire confidence that his said Highness the prince of Orange will perfect the deliverance so far advanced by him, and will still preserve them from the violation of their rights which they have here asserted, and from all other attempts upon their religion, rights and liberties, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons assembled at Westminster do resolve that

      , prince and princess of Orange, be and be declared king and queen of England, France and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging, to hold the crown and royal dignity of the said kingdoms and dominions to them, the said prince and princess, during their lives and the life of the survivor to them, and that the sole and full exercise of the regal power be only in and executed by the said prince of Orange in the names of the said prince and princess during their joint lives, and after their deceases the said crown and royal dignity of the same kingdoms and dominions to be to the heirs of the body of the said princess, and for default of such issue to the Princess Anne of Denmark and the heirs of her body, and for default of such issue to the heirs of the body of the said prince of Orange. And the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do pray the said prince and princess to accept the same accordingly.

      And that the oaths hereafter mentioned be taken by all persons of whom the oaths have allegiance and supremacy might be required by law, instead of them and that the said oaths of allegiance and supremacy be abrogated.

      I, A.B., do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to their Majesties King

      I, A.B., do swear that I do from my heart abhor, detest and abjure as impious and heretical this damnable doctrine and position, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any authority of the see of Rome may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or any other whatsoever. And I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.

      Upon which their said Majesties did accept the crown and royal dignity of the kingdoms of England, France and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging, according to the resolution and desire of the said Lords and Commons contained in the said declaration. And thereupon their Majesties were pleased that the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, being the two Houses of Parliament, should continue to sit, and with their Majesties' royal concurrence make effectual provision for the settlement of the religion, laws and liberties of this kingdom, so that the same for the future might not be in danger again of being subverted, to which the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons did agree, and proceed to act accordingly. Now in pursuance of the premises the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled, for the ratifying, confirming and establishing the said declaration and the articles, clauses, matters and things therein contained by the force of law made in due form by authority of Parliament, do pray that it may be declared and enacted that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and claimed in the said declaration are the true, ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom, and so shall be esteemed, allowed, adjudged, deemed and taken to be and that all and every the particulars aforesaid shall be firmly and strictly holden and observed as they are expressed in the said declaration, and all officers and ministers whatsoever shall serve their Majesties and their successors according to the same in all time to come. And the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, seriously considering how it hath pleased Almighty God in his marvellous providence and merciful goodness to this nation to provide and preserve their said Majesties' royal persons most happily to reign over us upon the throne of their ancestors, for which they render unto him from the bottom of their hearts their humblest thanks and praises, do truly, firmly, assuredly and in the sincerity of their hearts think, and do hereby recognize, acknowledge and declare, that King James the Second having abdicated the government, and their Majesties having accepted the crown and royal dignity as aforesaid, their said Majesties did become, were, are and of right ought to be by the laws of this realm our sovereign liege lord and lady, king and queen of England, France and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging, in and to whose princely persons the royal state, crown and dignity of the said realms with all honours, styles, titles, regalities, prerogatives, powers, jurisdictions and authorities to the same belonging and appertaining are most fully, rightfully and entirely invested and incorporated, united and annexed. And for preventing all questions and divisions in this realm by reason of any pretended titles to the crown, and for preserving a certainty in the succession thereof, in and upon which the unity, peace, tranquility and safety of this nation doth under God wholly consist and depend, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do beseech their Majesties that it may be enacted, established and declared, that the crown and regal government of the said kingdoms and dominions, with all and singular the premises thereunto belonging and appertaining, shall be and continue to their said Majesties and the survivor of them during their lives and the life of the survivor of them, and that the entire, perfect and full exercise of the regal power and government be only in and executed by his Majesty in the names of both their Majesties during their joint lives and after their deceases the said crown and premises shall be and remain to the heirs of the body of her Majesty, and for default of such issue to her Royal Highness the Princess Anne of Denmark and the heirs of the body of his said Majesty and thereunto the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do in the name of all the people aforesaid most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, their heirs and posterities for ever, and do faithfully promise that they will stand to, maintain and defend their said Majesties, and also the limitation and succession of the crown herein specified and contained, to the utmost of their powers with their lives and estates against all persons whatsoever that shall attempt anything to the contrary. And whereas it hath been found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be governed by a popish prince, or by any king or queen marrying a papist, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do further pray that it may be enacted, that all and every person and persons that is, are or shall be reconciled to or shall hold communion with the see or Church of Rome, or shall profess the popish religion, or shall marry a papist, shall be excluded and be for ever incapable to inherit, possess or enjoy the crown and government of this realm and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging or any part of the same, or to have, use or exercise any regal power, authority or jurisdiction within the same and in all and every such case or cases the people of these realms shall be and are hereby absolved of their allegiance and the said crown and government shall from time to time descend to and be enjoyed by such person or persons being Protestants as should have inherited and enjoyed the same in case the said person or persons so reconciled, holding communion or professing or marrying as aforesaid were naturally dead and that every king and queen of this realm who at any time hereafter shall come to and succeed in the imperial crown of this kingdom shall on the first day of the meeting of the first Parliament next after his or her coming to the crown, sitting in his or her throne in the House of Peers in the presence of the Lords and Commons therein assembled, or at his or her coronation before such person or persons who shall administer the coronation oath to him or her at the time of his or her taking the said oath (which shall first happen), make, subscribe and audibly repeat the declaration mentioned in the statute made in the thirtieth year of the reign of King Charles the Second entitled, _An Act for the more effectual preserving the king's person and government by disabling papists from sitting in either House of Parliament._ But if it shall happen that such king or queen upon his or her succession to the crown of this realm shall be under the age of twelve years, then every such king or queen shall make, subscribe and audibly repeat the same declaration at his or her coronation or the first day of the meeting of the first Parliament as aforesaid which shall first happen after such king or queen shall have attained the said age of twelve years. All which their Majesties are contented and pleased shall be declared, enacted and established by authority of this present Parliament, and shall stand, remain and be the law of this realm for ever and the same are by their said Majesties, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled and by the authority of the same, declared, enacted and established accordingly.

      II. And be it further declared and enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after this present session of Parliament no dispensation by _non obstante_ of or to any statute or any part thereof shall be allowed, but that the same shall be held void and of no effect, except a dispensation be allowed of in such statute, and except in such cases as shall be specially provided for by one or more bill or bills to be passed during this present session of Parliament.

      III. Provided that no charter or grant or pardon granted before the three and twentieth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred eighty-nine shall be any ways impeached or invalidated by this Act, but that the same shall be and remain of the same force and effect in law and no other than as if this Act had never been made.


      Watch the video: Why the English Bill Of Rights is More Important Than Ever (May 2022).