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British Origins to American Government. History of English Government. Since 1066: System of feudalism. Form of political organization in which a lord gave land to other men in return for their allegiance & their services. Based on social class (Nobility, Vassals, Peasants)

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History of English Government

  • Since 1066: System of feudalism.

    • Form of political organization in which a lord gave land to other men in return for their allegiance & their services.

    • Based on social class (Nobility, Vassals, Peasants)

    • Feudalism was important in the development of constitutional government because of it’s ideas about contracts.


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Rights of Englishmen

  • Established slowly over the history of Britain.

  • Certain basic rights that all subjects of the English monarch were entitled to.

    • These rights were fundamental and could NOT be changed.

      • Right to Trial by Jury

      • Protection from unlawful entry of one’s home.

      • No taxation without representation.


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English History in a nutshell

  • English history is the story of the bloody struggle for power.

  • By 13th Century it was a struggle between royalty (king/queen) and Parliament.

  • Parliament: a council of nobles created to advise the monarch, which then became a branch of government that represented the most powerful groups in the kingdom.

  • For hundreds of years, Parliament and monarch struggled for power.

    • English subjects were jailed, tortured, executed.

    • To protect the rights of of Englishmen documents were written to limit the power of the monarch.


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British Constitution

  • British constitution did NOT exist before the creation of government.

  • It is not a single written document, but made up of a combination of common law, acts of parliament, & political customs and traditions.

  • Documents are important development of the British Constitution & the rights of the British people.

  • Documents were written during time of great conflict.

    • Magna Carta (1215)

    • Petition of Rights (1628)

    • English Bill of Rights (1689)


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Importance of the Magna Carta

  • Government should be based on rule of law.

    • Limited the power of the ruler.

    • Guaranteed due process of law (trial by jury)

  • Certain basic rights may not be denied by government.

    • Rights of the governed could not be violated.

  • Government should be based on an agreement between the ruler and the people to be ruled.

    • Social Contract


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How did parliamentary government in England begin?

  • Under feudal system English kings relied on councils to advise them (councils were known as parliaments).

  • In 14th century: parliaments divided into two houses:

    • House of Lords: represented the interests of the feudal nobility & major churchmen.

    • House of Commons: represented the people who were not nobility but still possessed wealth & stature, including knights.


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Development of Parliament

  • Kings of England found it an effective way to raise money from their subjects & a way to make important laws.

  • English subjects found Parliament to be an effective way to voice their grievances to the monarch & limit/check his/her power.

  • Eventually, Parliament became so important to English government that it was capable of challenging the king’s ability to act without support.


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Petition of Right

  • Ultimate power struggle in England’s government came to head in 17th century.

    • Civil War

    • Execution of King Charles 1 & James II

      • Charles I: attempted to raise money without approval of parliament by requiring subjects to “quarter soldiers”

      • 1628: Charles I forced to sign the Petition of Right

  • Petition of Right:

    • taxes could only be raised with the consent of Parliament.

    • Prohibited quartering of soldiers.

    • Strengthed the idea that British subjects enjoyed certain fundamental rights that no government could violate.


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Writ of Habeas Corpus

  • Habeas Corpus Act of 1678:

    • Parliament gained the right of the subjects to a legal document called writ of habeas corpus

  • Writ of Habeas Corpus:

    • orders government to deliver a person it has arrested to a court of law and an explanation as to why that person has been arrested and jailed.

    • If government cannot provide evidence to show that a person has broken the law, the person must be set free.


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English Bill of Rights 1689

  • Primary objective was to limit the power of the monarch by placing the dominant power of government to Parliament.

  • Ideas from English Bill of Rights included in Declaration of Independence, Constitution & US Bill of Rights.

    • Trial by jury

    • Prohibits cruel & unusual punishment

    • Right to petition government

    • Right to bear arms


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How does English Bill of Rights Differ from US Bill of Rights?

  • English Bill of Rights DOES NOT:

    • Guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of religion, or freedom on press.

  • English Bill of Rights was ratified by Parliament & therefore could be changed.

    • US Bill of Rights CANNOTt be amended!

  • English Bill of Rights was intended to limit the power of the monarch & increase the power of the Parliament.

    • US Bill of Rights is intended to prohibit federal government from violating individual rights of all people.


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Similarities between English Bill of Rights & US Bill of Rights:

  • Rule of Law:

    • Both government & the governed must obey the laws of the land.

  • Parliamentary Supremacy:

    • Parliamentary law is the highest law of the land.

  • Government by contract & consent:

    • Based on Locke’s idea of a social contract.


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