Declaration of Rights of 1689

views updated


This declaration, thrashed out by the Houses of Lords and Commons in the preceding fortnight and accepted by William and Mary on Feb. 13, 1689, formed the basis of the Bill of Rights enacted later in the same year as "an Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Setleing the Succession of the Crowne." The terms of the declaration were designed to prevent the perpetration by future monarchs of acts such as those by which James II had precipitated the Revolution (see revo lution of 1688). Having first enumerated James's misdeeds, it goes on to lay down limitations to which all monarchs shall henceforth be subject; viz, "the pretended power of suspending laws without consent of Parlyament is illegal," as was the royal power of exempting individuals from the operation of the law, "as it hath beene assumed and exercised of late" (in the subsequent Bill of Rights this "dispensing power" was, in effect, abolished altogether). The court of ecclesiastical commission was abolished and such bodies were henceforth illegal; no money could be raised by the crown without Parliament's consent; all subjects could petition the monarch; there was to be no standing army without parliamentary approval; Protestant subjects could keep weapons for their defense; parliamentary elections and the speeches and proceedings of members were to be free, and "Parlyaments ought to be held frequently." Further clauses concerned the impanelling of jurors and the imposition of bail, fines, and other penalties. When embodied in the Bill of Rights, this declaration was supplemented by a ban on the accession of any Catholic or person married to one (see royal declaration).

Bibliography: g. n. clark, The Later Stuarts (2d ed. Oxford 1955). d. ogg, England in the Reigns of James II and William III (Oxford 1955). d. l. keir, The Constitutional History of Modern Britain since 1485 (6th ed. London 1960). d. c. douglas, ed., English Historical Documents (London 1953) v.8 16601714, ed. a. browning. w. c. costin and j. s. watson, comps., The Law and Working of the Constitution: Documents, 2 v. (London 1952) v. 1 16601783.

[j. a. williams]

About this article

Declaration of Rights of 1689

Updated About content Print Article


Declaration of Rights of 1689