Outline and First Analysis
Understanding the Objective of The Glorious Revolution
The Declaration 1688 and Bill 1689 of Rights
Is Parliament’s claim to Sovereignty legitimate?
Is all of our constitution unwritten?
Is Parliament’s power totally unrestricted?
These documents evidence that we have an inalienable right to trial by Jury and much more.
I am a layman and, like many, have been wondering whether there are any limitations to Parliament’s Power, particularly at a time when many changes of a constitutional nature have been mooted or made.
I knew that the Bill of Rights was the settlement of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and that it contained wording that indicated it was permanent. I knew that the Speaker had implied that if Parliament chose, it could repeal the Bill of Rights. The Speaker confirmed this in a recent written reply which said “as a matter of constitutional principle, Parliament is Sovereign and may pass legislation that undoes or amends what an earlier Act has done.” The Speaker avoided answering directly the specific question, ‘Is the Declaration of Rights a written part of our constitution?
The Declaration of Rights is a separate document and precedes the Bill of Rights. The Speaker also replied “Instead, what is sometimes referred to as ‘our unwritten constitution’ is in fact a collection of important historical legislation including the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights.” Now this may be incorrect for it refers to Magna Carta as legislation; Magna Carta of 1215 was the first of 4 Great Charters. The others were 1216,1217 and 1225. The Charter of June the 15th 1215 was modified until the last version of 1225 under Henry III’s reign. It is the Charter of 1225 that is thought of as the beginning of our statute law and was confirmed some 32 times. The 1215 Magna Carta was a statement of many details of laws that had been abused during the later part of King John’s reign (1199-1216) and demanded redress, much as the Declaration of Rights does; indeed the Declaration states:-
“……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…….”
(This is an obvious reference to Magna Carta)
I decided to research the subject of the settlement of the Glorious Revolution by investigating the original documents and records of Parliament.
Since 1688 the Glorious Revolution has been, and at force of arms, has had to be, taken as legitimate. James the Second had fled the country throwing the Great Seal of Parliament to the bottom of the River Thames. He attempted to regain the throne but was defeated at the battle of the Boyne 1st July 1690. The battle of Culloden on 16th of April 1746 saw the end of the Jacobite cause; ie King James the Seconds’ grandson [by his second wife] ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ the ‘Young Pretenders’ claim to the throne.
Prince William of Orange’s invasion had caused James the Second to flee to France. William sought advice from those who had assisted him and thereupon called for a Convention of Parliament to be elected. This Convention was to decide upon the action required to rectify the problems. The elected Convention assembled and made a Declaration now known as the Declaration of Rights on the 12th of February 1688.
The Declaration is partly a chronology. It firstly lists the wrongs committed by James and his employees. It then declared that James had abdicated, that the Prince of Orange had been the saviour of the nation, and that an elected assembly (the Convention) had been called to put matters right, permanently. The Declaration insists upon its own demands being met, so that they might never again be abused or corrupted. To this end it lists the corrective actions, nominating William and Mary as King and Queen entirely because they will preserve them from the violation of their Rights and Liberties which they have asserted for ever. “This was the only means for obtaining a full redress and remedy therein”
The Bill of Rights was made by the new Parliament. It incorporated the Declaration within its text and has other additions. The Bill of Rights has been upheld in court many times and is accepted as valid ‘lawful’ law. This can therefore only be as lawful as Parliament and the Monarch today for they are irreversibly and inextricably intertwined. The Crown and Parliament are the direct descendants of this revolutionary change in our constitution. The State today is considered lawful in its constitution. There is no ‘half way house’. A revolution is the overthrow of one political system for another. The Glorious Revolution at force of arms was indeed a successful revolution, wisely conducted and with minimum disruption. It is absolutely clear that the revolutionaries sought a permanent settlement.
This has brought the question into sharp relief for it seems to me that the truth of the situation proves either the Speaker’s claim incorrect or Parliament and the Monarch and all its legislation are illegitimate! These seem to be the only logical possibilities. We need to be clear which it is. We seem to be in need of a formal recognition of the effect of the Glorious Revolution, as a necessary step to uphold the ancient Rights and Liberties of the Kingdom.
When I started on this quest I knew only the barest details of the Glorious Revolution and now, after considerable original research, can claim to be knowledgeable upon this short period of our history. This is only because I have taken the trouble to discover and analyse exactly what occurred. Ample documentary evidence has stood the test of time and may be researched.
My research started with a trip to the House of Lords Records office. It had been arranged to view the Bill and the Declaration of Rights of 1688/9.The Declaration is written on a vellum scroll, which was partly unrolled with the first 2 feet retained on a backing board and the remainder rolled up at the bottom and banded to the board with a tape. It had been on display in 1988 for the tricentennial exhibition of the Glorious Revolution. The Bill is also on vellum and is well over ten feet long.
The clerk in charge was unable to provide a transcription of the Declaration. It was obvious that nobody had studied it for years, if at all in modern times. We were therefore kindly permitted to cut the bond in order to read and photograph the scroll for future reference. It was a privilege to handle and read the original documents that were recorded over three hundred years ago and which form a cornerstone of our constitution.
Nobody has apparently recently published the details of the settlement in an analytical document. This publication is based upon original information recorded in Parliamentary records. All the quoted material is verbatim. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the House of Lords Records Office for their kind and helpful assistance with this project.
The conclusions drawn are as logical as I can make them. No attempt is made to ‘spin’ any of the facts. There are original texts included here so that the judgment can be yours. Be mindful that to subvert the Constitution is treason. If we tell lies under oath it is perjury. If we are soldiers and wilfully refuse to do our duty we may be held to account and possibly pay with our lives; many have. In essence they were breaking their Oaths. Crown Servants are required to take the Oath of Allegiance.
Blackstone, the famous 18th Century lawyer, commented “the law is not a matter of opinion.”. These documents must not become a matter of opinion. They certainly have, and have had, special status. The Declaration was engrossed and enrolled in chancery, it declares the oath of allegiance. The Declaration’s demands were immediately acted upon The Bill (interestingly commonly referred to as the ‘Bill of Rights’ not ‘Act’) includes the Declaration and determines additional constitutional matters. The Coronation Oath was altered to ensure that the monarch would uphold the statute law. The Bill (an Act) demands that its content will be upheld for all time.
Sir Winston Churchill said this about Magna Carta:
“The facts embodied in it and the circumstances giving rise to them were buried or misunderstood. The underlying idea of the sovereignty of the law, long existent in feudal custom, was raised by it into a doctrine for the national State. And when in subsequent ages the State, swollen with its own authority, has attempted to ride roughshod over the rights or liberties of the subject it is to this doctrine that appeal has again and again been made, and never as yet, without success.”
Churchill, A History of the English Speaking Peoples (1956).
It seems to me that the effect of the Glorious Revolution was to restrict the power of the Monarchy and of Parliament. This is stated within the detail of the documents. It leaves the people, through the common law and the jury system, with some ‘share’ of ‘sovereignty’ and this may not be trammelled by the over mighty State.
The revolutionaries were victorious, it was daring and incredibly successful. They made subtle changes that have been emulated the world over. The Rights so enshrined formed the basis for the American Constitution and much more. It was primarily about Justice, Religion and fixing the relationship of Parliament and the Monarch to the People.
I hope that you find this as interesting as I have. It may take you a few readings to familiarise yourself with the wordings and format but your effort will be rewarded by the knowledge that you gain and hopefully the confidence to stand up for what is right.
James the Second, who had become a Catholic in 1668, was finding ways of dispensing with the Protestant administration within the Kingdom. This was deeply unpopular and had many dangers attaching to it e.g. Enhancing the King’s power whilst limiting that of Parliament and, above all by employing and promoting Catholic placement – particularly within his standing Army and the Judiciary.
James and his first wife, Anne Hyde (1637-1671) had been Protestants and their daughters Mary and Anne remained Protestant. Mary had married Prince William of Orange and Anne, Prince George of Denmark. William and Mary were strongly opposed to James’ policy of employing Catholics.
In June of 1688 James the Second’s second wife, Mary of Modena (1658-1718), whom he married in 1673, gave birth to a son, also named James (1688-1766) – (the ‘pretender’ of the Jacobite cause, his son, King James’s grandson, was named Charles (1701-1766), nicknamed ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ the ‘Young Pretender’). This birth was unexpected and it was suggested that the boy may not be hers at all. This gave rise to the joke about a baby hidden in the warming pan. Apparently all the witnesses to the birth had been Catholics. William was obviously most concerned as were all the Protestant English. The thought of a Catholic heir was completely unacceptable and what is more, it threatened William’s wife Mary’s accession to the throne and the whole balance of power in Europe.
William was invited by 7 disenchanted politicians of the day, including the Earls of Shrewsbury, Devonshire and Danby, to come and sort matters out. He had received advice and intelligence that if he landed in England there would be considerable support for his cause.
William issued a declaration on the 10th of October 1688:-
The “Declaration of reasons inducing him to appear in Arms in the Kingdom of England”
It stated what was going wrong with King James’s rule and how it should be rectified. In essence it required the reassertion of the Protestant religion and the establishment of a free Parliament to rid the administration of corruption and arbitrary powers. James’s reaction to the declaration was to try to undo some of the damage caused by his policies and thereby discredit William but it was too late. The damage was done.
Next, I have précised the text of William’s Declaration which gives an understanding of the problems that were perceived. The full texts are included in the reference part of this publication. The quoted text here is original wording and I have attempted to keep the context as accurately as I can.
His Highness the Prince William of Orange declaration 10 October 1688.A précis He first stated that the “laws liberties and customs” were being openly “transgressed and annulled”. and that it is a wilful dereliction depriving citizens of their “religion and their Civil Rights.” “The exact observation and maintenance” of the laws liberties and customs must be upheld for the good of the nation. This had come about because “evil Counsellors” who had been illegally promoted were abusing their illegitimate power. Laws had been created and annulled directly by the King under the guise of a legal dispensing power.
The “evil Counsellors” had arranged for false judgements to pervert the law, by the gerrymandering of the judiciary. It was pointed out that James was in breach of his “Coronation Oath” in which he swore that he “would maintain his subjects in the free enjoyment of their laws rights and liberties.” He had broken “the provisions of Magna Carta ‘that no man shall lose life or goods but by the law of the land.’ “ and that they were further in contempt of the law by setting up several colleges for Jesuits (a catholic order), one of whom had become a Privy Councillor.
James’s lackeys had gained such a hold on the administration that all “lord lieutenants, deputy lieutenants, sheriffs, justices of the peace,” were being manipulated re the Test and Penal laws which the King wished to repeal. These effectively banned papists from holding offices of the crown (James was illegally promoting Catholicism and was deeply mistrusted for it.)
The “evil Counsellors” with their corrupted administration had also “invaded the privileges and seized on the charters of most of those towns which have a right to be represented by their Burgesses in Parliament.” The surrender of these rights was secured by the subversion of the magistrates.
In the most important court cases they “studied to discover beforehand the opinions of the Judges” and sacked those that would not conform. “A great deal of blood had been shed in many places of the Kingdom” by corrupt judgements and often without letting the accused “plead in their own Defence.”
He quotes the example of Ireland where Protestant inhabitants were living in daily fear of their lives and recalled the “bloody massacre of 1641”. The evil Counsellors had also prevailed with the King, that in Scotland he was “cloathed with absolute power” and that England was to come under the same despotic power as soon as it could be arranged.
The Prince of Orange relates the consequences of such corruption having put the subjects “under great and just fears as they no longer have the right to petition or representation as authorised by law.” Even the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Bishops were deliberately put in an intolerable position for a show trial and falsely convicted of ‘illegal crime’ when they refused to allow “their clergy to read in their churches the declaration of Liberty of Conscience” another device to promote Papistry.
Prince William and Princess Mary had made “representation both in writing and by word of mouth to James’s Envoy what our thoughts were touching the repealing of the Test and Penal laws” they had hoped “a happy agreement among the subjects of all persuasions, might have been settled: But those evil Counsellors have put such ill construction on those our good intentions that they have endeavoured to alienate the King more and more from us, as if we had designed to disturb the happiness and Quiet of the Kingdom.”
The evil Counsellors were intending that Catholicism should become the religion of the Kingdom. To accomplish this they wanted only Catholics within the administration and had been sacking Protestants unlawfully.
The Declaration states “And though, according to the Constitution of the English Government, and immemorial Custom, All Elections of Parliament men ought to be made with an intire Liberty, Without any Sort of Force, or the requiring the Electors to choose such Persons as shall be named to them; and The Persons thus Freely Elected ought To give their Opinions freely upon All Matters That are Brought before them, having the Good of the Nation ever before their Eyes and following In all Things The Dictates of their Conscience;” . The last Parliament had been dissolved because it would not comply with James’s whims.
Next came the question of the birth of an heir who was not thought to be the Queen’s child. They refer to “The pretended Bigness”. Up to this birth Princess Mary had been the next in line. So William and Mary claimed a vested interest in “matters of such high consequence” and they said they were therefore duty bound to help the subjects for “the securing to Them the Continual Enjoyment of all their just Rights: To the doing of which we are most earnestly Solicited by a great many Lords, both Spiritual and Temporal, and by many Gentlemen, and other Subjects of all Ranks.”
They then declare the intention of invading with just sufficient force to “defend us from the violences of those evil Counsellors”. Further that the declaration is a true account of the reasons for invading, the purpose is for securing “a free and lawful Parliament assembled as soon as is possible;” which would re establish the ancient customs and make null and void all the recent illegal acts. That Parliamentary members would be properly elected so that a new Parliament would sit fully and in freedom. That the “Two houses may concur in the preparing of such laws as they upon such full and free Debate, shall judge necessary” and so that tolerant agreement as to religion can be made so that “any time hereafter” there may be no danger of “Arbitrary government” and that they would have an inquiry into the birth of the
pretended Prince of Wales and the succession. That they shall let a free Parliament decide how to secure the Protestant religion and the subjects would have the “free Enjoyment of their Laws, Rights and Liberties, under a just and legal Government.”
The forces at their command were to be “kept under all strictest of Marshall Discipline” to cause the minimum disruption. They call for assistance from the population, particularly those of authority such as Peers etc. so as to reduce trouble. “and that all the Violences and Disorders, which may have overturned the whole Constitution of the English Government, may be fully redressed, in a free and legal Parliament.”
As soon “the nation is brought to a state of quiet” that a Parliament would be called in Scotland and that matters would be settled in Ireland so that “the Protestant religion, and the peace, Honour and happiness of these nations may be established upon a lasting foundations.”
William was decided and issued an additional declaration on the 24th of October. This pointed out that he was coming with the intention of rectifying the wrongs and that his forces were “utterly disproportionate” compared with an invasion force necessary to conquer the nation and that many noble men etc. were in agreement by inviting him and siding with the cause to establish a free Parliament for the purpose of settling affairs of the Kingdom.
The Additional Declaration 24th of October 1688
This was published in response to actions taken in England in an endeavour to gain support for the King.
When it was realised that Prince William was indeed coming, James’s administration began to immediately retract some of their “Judgements and Decrees” to relieve the political pressure and “Divert them from Demanding a secure Re-establishment of their Religion and Laws, under the Shelter of our Arms.” William reiterates the intention “as to imagine, that we have any other Design in this our Undertaking, than to procure a settlement of the Religion and of the Liberties and Properties of the Subjects, upon so sure a Foundation”. William points out that the landing force is wholly disproportionate to that required for conquering the nation and that this was not his intention. It was also obvious that William’s supporters would not be accompanying him if they felt threatened. “the great Numbers of the principal Nobility and Gentry, that are Men of eminent Quality and Estates, and Persons of known Integrity and Zeal”
James was rattled and offered some redress, but these were ‘straw’ promises for “they lay down nothing which they may not take up at Pleasure” they were not giving up any power. The redress could only come by “a Declaration of the Rights of the Subjects that have been invaded;” from a “free Assembly of the Nation, in a lawful Parliament”.
In 1688 on the 5th of November William landed at Torbay with a force of about 15000 Dutch troops. William’s army was smaller than that of James but he gambled correctly that his cause was popular and that James’ army would in part defect. James was asked to recall Parliament but he refused, believing that might was on his side. The King’s army became disenchanted and started to defect and so James retreated from Salisbury to London. James tried to negotiate a settlement with William but agreement was not forthcoming. William wanted all the catholic placement dismissed and for James’s soldiers to leave London. James would not concede these demands. James had sent his wife and baby to France. He attempted to flee the country on December the 10th but was caught and returned. He finally fled to France on the 22nd of December 1688. William had arrived in London on the 17th of December. William issued an order on the 23rd December that all those who had served in the late Parliament of King Charles the Second and others, were to meet at St James’s on Wednesday 26th December. (see his issuing order) With James gone William sought to put things right and at the meeting of the 26th addressed the assembly with the opening as follows:-
“ You, Gentlemen, that have been members of the late Parliament, I have desired you to meet me here, to advise the best Manner how to pursue the ends of my Declaration, in calling a free Parliament, for the Preservation of the Protestant Religion, and Restoring of the Rights and Liberties of the Kingdom, and
settling the same, that they may not be in danger of being again subverted.”
At this time the calendar in use was the Julian calendar. The beginning of the year was decided by its relationship to Easter which in turn was related to the lunar cycle. This meant that the year did not change on the first of January but instead in March, so January & February were at the end of 1688. All the dates used here are Julian calendar dates.
Letters were sent out calling for members to be elected for a new and temporary Parliament to be known as The Convention Parliament. It was so called because of the irregular situation without a Monarch on the throne. On the 22nd January the Convention Parliament assembled and The Prince of Orange wrote to the Lords and Commons as follows:-
“My Lords,” “Gentlemen,”
“I have endeavoured to the utmost of my power to perform what was desired from me, in order to the Public Peace and Safety. And I do not know that any thing hath been omitted, which might tend to the preservation of them, since the Administration of affairs was put in my hands. It now lyeth upon you to lay the foundation of a firm security, for your religion your laws and your liberties. I do not doubt but that, by such a full and free representation of the Nation as is now met, the Ends of my Declaration will be attained. And since it hath pleased almighty God hitherto to bless my good intentions with so great a success, I trust in him that he will complete his own work, by sending a spirit of peace and union to influence your councils, that no interruption may be given to a happy and lasting settlement. …….”
The Address Given at St James’s
“ We the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons assembled at Westminster, being highly sensible of the great deliverance of this Kingdom from Popery and arbitrary power, and that our preservation is (next under God) owing to your Highness do return our most humble thanks and acknowledgements to your Highness, as the glorious instrument of so great a blessing to us. We do further acknowledge the great care that your Highness has been pleased to take in the administration of the public affairs of the Kingdom to this time. And we do most humbly desire your highness that you will take upon you the administration of Public affairs, both civil and military; and the disposal of the Public revenue, for the preservation of our Religion, Rights, Laws and Liberties, and Properties, and of the Peace of the Nation. And that your Highnesses will take into your particular care the present condition of Ireland; and endeavour, by the most speedy and effectual means, to prevent the dangers threatening that Kingdom. All which we make our Request to your Highness to undertake and exercise, till further Application shall be made by us; which shall be expedited with all convenient speed; and shall also use our utmost endeavours to give dispatch to the matters recommended to us by your Highness’s Letter.”
The Prince of Orange’s Reply
“My Lords and Gentlemen,
I am Glad that what I have done hath pleased you; and since you desire me to continue the administration of affairs, I am willing to accept it. I must recommend to you the consideration of affairs abroad which maketh it fit for you to expedite your business not only for making a settlement at home upon a good foundation, but for the safety of all Europe.”
“forthwith printed and published”
The 14th of February was declared a day of thanksgiving. On the 15th of February it was ordered that the King’s answer be engrossed in Parliament and enrolled amongst the rolls in Chancery and be forthwith printed and published.
The very first act that was enacted by the new Parliament was
“An act for removing and preventing all questions and disputes concerning the Assembling and Sitting of this present Parliament.” (W & M An1. 1.) Whilst the 6th act (Act W & M An1. VI) was “ An Act for Establishing the Coronation Oath.”
This revolution was an irregular situation. Revolution means to overthrow the political system. The Convention sought to minimise the political upheaval and to legitimise their actions in every possible way by the usual means.
The Declaration is not a Law or Act of Parliament. The Declaration was the demands of the elected Convention, who in turn represented the People and empowered by force of arms, insisted on the settlement of the Religion, Rights and Liberties, with the agreement of the Monarchy for all time.
It recognised the rights of the people, it made no grant of freedom, but proclaimed and demanded the freedoms that by right should exist; indeed they had existed but had been abused. It was engrossed and enrolled in Chancery when there was no Monarch on the throne, the 12th day of February 1688. It was read to the Prince of Orange at the ceremony in the Banqueting House on the 13th of February. It had the Prince of Orange’s answer, now as King, recorded on the bottom of the document on the 15th and was ordered to be “forthwith printed and published.”
The whole text of the Declaration of Rights was incorporated within the Bill of Rights in session 2 of William and Mary’s reign. The Bill adds a preamble and an extension to the Declaration.
The extended text starts by pointing out that William and Mary had accepted the Crown. William and Mary’s answer was unequivocal “…we thankfully accept what you have offered…”. The Crown was offered by the Convention with the insistence upon its demands being met. It says so.
William of Orange and Mary not only accepted the terms of the settlement but accepted the crown on that basis This is stated clearly in the text of the Bill “according to the resolution and desire of the said Lords and Commons contained in the said declaration”. The new monarchy and Parliament went as far as they possibly could to ensure that the settlement would apply for all time by repeating the terms of the Declaration which states:-
“And they do claim, demand and insist upon all and singular the premises as their undoubted rights and liberties, and that no declarations, judgements, 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.”
“for the ratifying, confirming and establishing the said declaration and the articles, clauses, matters and things therein contained by the force of a 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 10 the said declaration, and all officers and ministers whatsoever shall serve their Majesties and their successors according to the same in all times to come..”
Confirm or accept (an agreement made in one’s name) by formal consent, signature, etc.
Provide support for the truth or correctness of; make definitely valid establish more firmly (power, possession, etc.). ratify (a treaty, possession, title, etc.); make formally valid.
Set up or consolidate (a business, system, etc.) on a permanent basis. (esp. as established adj.) achieve permanent acceptance for (a custom, belief, practice, institution, etc.). validate; place beyond dispute (a fact etc.).
Declare; state clearly (assert one’s beliefs; assert that it is so). insist on one’s rights or opinions; demand recognition. vindicate a claim to (assert one’s rights).
That cannot be doubted.
Esteem v. & n. — v.tr.
(usu. in passive) have a high regard for; greatly respect; think favourably of. formal consider, deem (esteemed it an honour).
adjudicate (a matter). (often foll. by that + clause, or to + infin.) pronounce judicially. (foll. by to) award judicially. archaic condemn.
Deem v.tr. formal
Regard, consider, judge (deem it my duty; was deemed sufficient).
The Declaration was of course the work of the Convention, who sat freely to arrive at a settlement. Now it is obvious that if they just formed a new Parliament and made a Statute, to correct the wrongs without any entrenching mechanism it would only be as strong as any other Statute. This would not be good enough to stand the test of time for something that they considered to be “absolutely necessary” and wholly constitutional. They needed to limit the power of the monarchy in such a way as to ensure that neither Parliament nor Crown, individually or jointly, could again subvert the Rights of the people.
As has been shown, they did not intend an ordinary Statute for it was to be for all time to come and that nothing should be able to stand against it. Statute law could be repealed That was certainly not the destiny that they had in mind for their Declaration or the Bill of Rights. They emphatically say so in both documents:- They were to stand for all time! This intention is the whole purpose of the Glorious Revolution and has to be constitutional.
Let’s just repeat that part of the Bill
“…are the true, ancient and indubitable (that cannot be doubted), rights and liberties of the people of this Kingdom, and so shall be esteemed (greatly respected), allowed, adjudged, (pronounced judicially). deemed (regarded) 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 times to come..”
“and all officers and ministers whatsoever shall serve their Majesties and their successors according to the same in all times to come..”
“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,”
The Objective was to limit the power of the Monarchy and Parliament. The monarch could refuse the royal assent to any bill it did not like and dissolve Parliament at any time with no obligation to open a new Parliament. Without Parliament, James had been suspending Laws arbitrarily. The new Coronation Oath altered the old oath to ensure that the monarch would uphold the ‘statutes in Parliament agreed on’. Parliament was not to interfere with any of the Rights of the People and the Monarch was obviously not to transgress the Declaration. The Declaration is also enshrined in the Bill (Statute Law) which is obviously self entrenched.
If all that was needed to cure the ills was a statute, then there was no point in the Convention and its Declaration. An agreement was required to ensure that the Convention would get a statute under its terms to ensure that the abuses could never recur. The settlement was engrossed and enrolled in Chancery. This agreement was therefore obviously intended to bind Parliament and the Monarchy to establish their relationship with the people and be an irredeemable part of the Constitution. It would have been utter negligence on behalf of the Convention if it had not done so.
By accepting the Declaration the Monarchy knew full well the agreed limitations of its power (the very thing that was required). This limitation is quite obviously constitutional. Next we have the first action taken by the newly established Parliament. It was to order that the:-
“Declaration be forthwith printed and published and that his Majesties Gracious Answer this day be added to the engrossed Declaration in Parliament to be Enrolled in Parliament and Chancery.”
The new monarchy was destined to have a coronation and for that purpose they replaced the old coronation oath with a new one, because the old oaths had :-
“beene framed in doubtful words and expressions with relation to ancient laws and constitutions.”
The preamble of the Act makes it clear that a uniform oath shall be taken for:-
“all times to come by the Kings and queens of this realme” at every coronation
“…to maintaine the Statutes Laws and Customs of the said Realme and all the People and
Inhabitants thereof in their Spiritual and Civil Rights and Properties….”
The Coronation Oath (part of)
Will you solemnly promise and sweare to governe the people of this Kingdome of England and the dominions thereto belonging according to the statutes in Parlyament agreed on and the laws and customs of the same?
The King and Queene shall say, I solemnly promise soe to doe.
The Declaration is the founding document of our modern constitution. It is the Heart of the Glorious Revolution and it must be as Lawful as our Monarch and Parliament are today. Yet it is not a statute.
William and Mary could have had no doubt whatsoever as to the rights of the people that were “absolutely necessary” for they were recorded and entrenched and required to be upheld for all time hereafter.
The exceptional status of both the Declaration and Bill of Rights, and the Coronation Oath, are a constitutional arrangement and they can be thought of as the ‘terms of employment’ of the monarchy for the “Rights and Liberties” enshrined so that they “may never again be subverted.” This is not negotiable. It is the sworn duty of all those who have taken the oath of allegiance through the Monarch to uphold the Constitution.
“And they do claim, demand, and insist upon all and singular the premisses, as their undoubted rights and liberties; and that no declaration, judgments, doings or proceedings, to the prejudice of the people in any of the said premisses, ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into consequence or example.”
The beginning of this document posed three questions. These questions are much larger in scope than this examination of one constituent of the constitution. They highlight some obvious truths, which conflict directly with current politics. Unchallenged the Speaker’s comments would apparently give Parliament a “pretended power” in essence to do as they choose. Parliament can only make and repeal Statute law, it cannot legitimately undo that which it is sworn on oath to uphold. To subvert the constitution would be treason.
Is Parliament’s Claim to Sovereignty legitimate?
Sovereignty means supreme rule. Parliament is only one part of the State and must be bound by what is constitutionally defined. So must the Monarch and all Crown Servants who have sworn allegiance.
Is all of our constitution unwritten?
It is inconceivable that the Glorious Revolution is not constitutional for the reasons discussed. It is true that no single document embodies the whole of our constitution but that certainly is not the same as saying that no part of our constitution is written. Magna Carta, the Declaration and Bill of Rights and the Coronation Oath are clearly constitutional. They are certainly more than just another bit of legislation. As has been shown the three are all entrenched, they cannot be altered or changed. The Monarchy came to the throne on this understanding. The Coronation Oath was clarified to ensure that the monarch would uphold the statutes in parliament agreed on, then the Bill of Rights received Royal assent and became a statute. This was the product of a welcome revolution and brought about a fundamental change to the mechanism of state. I fail to understand Parliament’s claim that it may alter this part of our constitution if it chooses. The reasoning here shows clearly the objective of the Revolution.
Is Parliament’s power totally unrestricted?
Certainly not if the words of these documents are taken to mean what they say. They are bound by oath to uphold the:-
Ancient and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this Kingdom.