Friday, 25 February 2011

The Clarendon Code (1662) and the Bill of Rights (1689)

(Clarendon Code)

While some of the Penal Laws were much older, they took their most drastic shape during the reign of Charles II. Four of them became known as the Clarendon Code, after Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, though he was not their author and did not fully approve of them.[1] These included:
Corporation Act (1661) - This first of the four statutes which made up the Clarendon Code required all municipal officials to take Anglican communion, and formally reject the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. The effect of this act was to exclude nonconformists from public office. This legislation was rescinded in 1828.
Act of Uniformity, (1662) - This second statute made use of the Book of Common Prayer compulsory in religious service. Over two thousand clergy refused to comply and so were forced to resign their livings (the Great Ejection). The provisions of the act were modified by the Act of Uniformity Amendment Act, of 1872.
Conventicle Act (1664) - This act forbade conventicles (a meeting for unauthorized worship) of more than five people who were not members of the same household. The purpose was to prevent dissenting religious groups from meeting.
Five Mile Act (1665) - This final act of the Clarendon Code was aimed at Nonconformist ministers, who were forbidden from coming within five miles of incorporated towns or the place of their former livings. They were also forbidden to teach in schools. Most of the Act's effects were repealed by 1689, but it was not formally abolished until 1812.
Combined with the Test Act, the Corporation Acts excluded all nonconformists from holding civil or military office, and prevented them from being awarded degrees by the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. )

The Bill of Rights (1689)  (The beginning of a constitutional monarchy in ***England and Scotland)

The proposal to draw up a statement of the subjects' rights and liberties and James's invasion of them was first made on 29 January in the Commons, with members arguing that the House "can not answer it to the nation or Prince of Orange till we declare what are the rights invaded" and that William "cannot take it ill if we make conditions to secure ourselves for the future" in order to "do justice to those who sent us hither". On 2 February a committee specially convened reported to the Commons 23 Heads of Grievances, which the Commons approved and added some of their own. However on 4 February the Commons decided to instruct the committee to differentiate between "such of the general heads, as are introductory of new laws, from those that are declaratory of ancient rights". On 7 February the Commons approved this revised Declaration of Right, and on 8 February instructed the committee to put into a single text the Declaration (with the heads which were "introductory of new laws" removed), the resolution of 28 January and the Lords' proposal for a revised oath of allegiance. It passed the Commons without division.[85]

The Declaration of Right was in December 1689 enacted in an Act of Parliament, the Bill of Rights 1689. It listed twelve of James's policies by which James designed to "endeavour to subvert and extirpate the protestant religion, and the laws and liberties of this kingdom".[86] These were:
  • by assuming and exercising the dispensing power;
  • by prosecuting the Seven Bishops; by establishing of the court of commissioners for ecclesiastical causes;
  • by levying money for the crown by pretence of prerogative than the same was granted by Parliament;
  • by raising and maintaining a standing army in peacetime without the consent of Parliament;
  • by disarming Protestants and arming Catholics contrary to law;
  • by violating the election of MPs;
  • by prosecuting in the King's Bench for matters cognizable only in Parliament and "divers other arbitrary and illegal courses";
  • by employing unqualified persons to serve on juries;
  • by requiring an excessive bail for persons committed in criminal cases;
  • by imposing excessive fines and "illegal and cruel punishments inflicted";
  • by making "several grants and promises made of fines and forfeitures before any conviction or judgment against the person, upon whom the same were to be levied".[87]
The Bill of Rights also vindicated and asserted the nation's "ancient rights and liberties" by declaring:
  • the pretended power to dispense with Acts of Parliament is illegal;
  • the commission for ecclesiastical causes is illegal;
  • levying money without the consent of Parliament is illegal;
  • it is the right of the subject to petition the king and prosecutions for petitioning are illegal;
  • maintaining a standing army in peacetime without the consent of Parliament is illegal;
  • Protestant subjects "may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions, and allowed by law";
  • the election of MPs ought to be free; that freedom of speech and debates in Parliament "ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament";
  • excessive bail and fines not required and "cruel and unusual punishments" not to be inflicted;
  • jurors in high treason trials ought to be freeholders;
  • that promises of fines and forfeitures before conviction are illegal;
  • that Parliament ought to be held frequently.[88]
On 13 February the clerk of the House of Lords read the Declaration of Right and Halifax, in the name of all the estates of the realm, asked William and Mary to accept the throne. William replied for his wife and himself: "We thankfully accept what you have offered us". They then went in procession to the great gate at Whitehall. The Garter King at Arms proclaimed them King and Queen of England, France and Ireland, whereupon they adjourned to the Chapel Royal, with Compton preaching the sermon.[89] They were crowned on 11 April, swearing an oath to uphold the laws made by Parliament. The Coronation Oath Act 1688 had provided a new coronation oath, whereby the monarchs were to "solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this kingdom of England, and the dominions thereunto belonging, according to the statutes in parliament agreed on, and the laws and customs of the same". They were also to maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant Reformed faith established by law.[90]

***  The Monarchs from James I and VI, through William and Mary were monarchs of both the Kingdom of England, and the Kingdom of Scotland.

It was not until the reign of the last of the Stuarts, Queen Anne  (who succeeded in 1702 after William's death) that the two kingdoms were united by an Act of Union (1707).  Kings and Queens since then have been monarchs of the United Kingdom.

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