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Our Bill of Rights and Liberties

Many have argued that our Bill of Rights should be respected and obeyed so it is heartening to see some doughty MPs leaping to its defence. I do hope that as they grasp at a bizarre interpretation of one of its clauses that they have always fully observed, defended and argued for all the other ones which protect the right of the subject against the overbearing power of the state. To suggest they haven't would be to accuse them of being cynical self-serving troughers.

BILL OF RIGHTS [1689]

An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling
the Succession of the Crown


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.:

(Continues)


Whereas the late King James the Second, 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 James the Second 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 William and Mary, 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 William and Queen Mary. So
help me God."

"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.

Comments

Of course, we Papists might still quibble about small parts......

For those who doubt that we have a written constitution, here is the link to the Bill of Rights 1688 on the UK Statute Law Database which has replaced HMSO as confirmation that a statute is in force:

http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?LegType=All+Legislation&Year=1688&searchEnacted=0&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&sortAlpha=0&TYPE=QS&PageNumber=1&NavFrom=0&parentActiveTextDocId=1518621&ActiveTextDocId=1518621&filesize=29720

As you may know, the "Metric Martyrs" Judgment confirmed that constitutional statutes such as the Bill of Rights are immune from implied repeal:

http://www.bwmaonline.com/Legal%20-%20Extract%20from%20LJ%20Laws.htm

The subjects common law rights are protected by the Coronation Oath Act 1689:

http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?LegType=All+Legislation&Year=1688&searchEnacted=0&extentMatchOnly=0&confersPower=0&blanketAmendment=0&sortAlpha=0&TYPE=QS&PageNumber=1&NavFrom=0&parentActiveTextDocId=1518613&ActiveTextDocId=1518613&filesize=5243

Regards, John Hurst.

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