TEXT 47: THE BILL OF RIGHTS (1689)
(The origin of the text, the narrator, the writer and the
nature of the text)
I- DEFINITION OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS
II- HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
III- ANALYSIS OF THE ARTICLES
IV- HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW? DID THE BILL OF RIGHTS
FOLLOW THE SAME PROCESS?
V- THE POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS
(Summary of the development, the intention of the
writer and the interest of the text)
The text under study is an extract from The Eighteenth Century
Constitution, a book written by the British writer Ernest Neville Williams. This
judicial document written by parliament and signed under the reign of William
of orange and Mary in December 1689 was meant to assert the traditional
liberties of the British people.
So, what has prompted the writing of the Bill of Rights?
I- DEFINITION OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS
A bill can be defined as a written proposal for a new law presented to
parliament for discussion, a draft law that is not passed yet.
The bill of rights 1689 also called the declaration of rights is a list of the most
important rights of the citizens of a country.
II- HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The whole story begins at the time of the STUARTS. In effect, James I and his
son Charles I were reigning as absolute kings. They did not consult parliament
without taking any decisions and ruled even without parliament. When Charles
I died, his brother took over the throne. He was James II and was catholic.
James was an authoritarian king, he believed in absolutism and his attempts to
create religious liberties for his subjects against the whishes of the English
parliament. Indeed, parliament was opposed to the growth of absolutism that
was occurring in England as well as to the loss of legal supremacy to the Church
of England; they saw this opposition as a way to preserve what they regarded
as traditional English Liberties. For them, to fight the expansion of Catholicism
and absolutism and to conserve their Anglican church, a group of seven
protestants nobles invited the Prince of Orange (James’s nephew and son in
law) to come to England with an army with the intention to invade it. With his
great army with numerical superiority, he declined to attack the invading army.
He afterward fled to France, abdicating thus, the throne. The English
parliament passed a bill of rights that denounce James II for abusing his
powers. The abuses charged to James included the suspension of the test acts,
the prosecutions of the seven bishops for merely petitioning the crown, the
establishment of a catholic standing army, favourizing thus the Catholics and
the imposition of cruel punishments. Parliament then, submitted this bill to
William of orange and Mary, compelled them to accept it by their assent,
signing then the limitation of the powers of the monarch and the change from
absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. This ascension on the throne of
William and Mary is known as the Glorious Revolution.
III- ANALYSIS OF THE ARTICLES
Each article on this bill is aiming at limiting the powers of the monarch and
giving a legal supremacy to parliament.
Aritcle1; 2: the regal authority has to consult parliament first before suspending
or executing laws. These articles define the power of parliament which opinion
is quite indispensable concerning the proceedings cited above.
Article 3: ecclesiastical causes are causes connected with church. Parliament
here wants to dissociate political affairs from religious affairs; they want a
neutrality of all commissions for, king James had mixed up religion and politics
Article 4: with article 1 and 2, it defines the power of parliament by specifying
that nothing should be done without parliament, assent.
Article 5: this article underlines the entire right of the British people to petition
the king in thorough freedom. It also states further more the point that nobody
can be sued for petitioning the king. This article is a pure illustration of freedom
Article 6: it states that parliament should have control over the army and the
fact of keeping a standing army as earlier done by King James without
parliament consent, is against the new laws.
Article 7: this article discriminates Catholics by allowing Protestants to have
arms for their defense. Privilege is then given to them. The fact of keeping arms
for their defense may also be seen as a way of preventing gunpowder from
Article 8: it provides an illustration of democracy. People are free to choose the
members of the parliament.
Article 9: it specifies that Westminster should be the only place where country
affair should be discussed and with its members.
Article 10: this article completes the judiciary disposition of the Habeas Corpus
(1678) protecting the charge from excessive bail and hard penalty. No more
cruel punishments like under James II reign.
Article 11: the choice of the jury is free, and jurors that pass upon man in trials
for high treason must freeholders because their irreproachable vis a vis the law
for, their wealth are legal and declared. Because of this perfect behavior
towards the law, they provide the convenient profile to fulfill this task.
Article 12: it states that all the agreements made under James II are void. The
king has no more right to intervene in choosing a jury for the defense of a
particular or even standing by a charged side.
Article 13: it specifies that for new laws and institutions set down to be
respected and still contribute to the good development of the country the
members of parliament need to assemble in the quarters to hold meetings
frequently, discuss the issues and find solutions to these issues.
IV- HOW A BILL BECOMES A LAW?
For a bill to become a law it has to follow many steps. It is first presented
to the House of Commons for a first reading. Later, the Members of Parliament
discuss the bill sometimes adding suggestions and making changes and read
again. This is the second reading. Next, come the committee stage who
examines the details of the bill, followed by more discussions called the report
stage. Then, the committee stage returns the bill to the House of Commons
where they read for the third time. After this reading the House of Commons
send it to the House of Lords where it could be read and discussed; the house
of lord can add suggestions but they cannot refuse the bill. Once agreed by
both the House of Commons and the house of lord, the queen or king gives it
his/her real assent and it officially becomes a law.
BUT DID THE BILL OF RIGHT FOLLOW THE SAMEPROCESS?
At that time (1689), there was not a proper Parliament for, the Parliament
was an association of rich people and noblemen. So, for them to get under the
absolutism of the STUARTS, they set a law that could limit the power of the
Monarch and by the way gave them more autonomy, power. Has they were
those who were powerful in the sense that they were united in the action and
wealthy, it has been a bit easier for them to accuse the king of abdicating the
throne and force his nephew and son in law William of Orange and Mary to
accept the Bill of Rights, instrument that will at the same time establish the
political system (with the Habeas Corpus, the Magna carta and The Petition of
Rights), gives much more power to parliament and assert the liberties for the
V- POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE
The Bill of Rights was passed by parliament in December 1689. It
enumerates certain rights to which subject and permanent resident of the
constitutional monarchy were thought to be entitled. It contributed to a great
deal to the establishment of the constitutional monarchy.
The Bill of Rights served as a transition from Absolute Monarchy to a
Constitutional Monarchy. The writer in this text tried to raise the awareness of
the English people about absolutism and its consequences. This text has indeed
a political interest and religious interest.
The text is dealing with the birth of a constitutional monarchy.
The bill of rights follows the signing of the variety of instrument among which
we have The Magna Carta (1215),The Petition of Rights (1628), The Habeas
Corpus (1678), The Bill of Rights may be referred to as the climatic moment .it
displays a libidinal metaphor, that of a repressed desire looking for means of
expressions. With the Glorious Revolution leading to the beheading of Charles
I, the autonomy of Parliament as regard the executive is parlayed. Now, the
powers of the king are limited, redefined with remembrance of the necessity to
preserve the freedom of the population and noble men in matters of religion,
civil life ,speech and as regard the separation of powers and the autonomy of
judicial power (confer article1-12). There is a system of Check and Balance
which is now enforced between Parliament and the Executive.
Finally, through The Bill of Rights, the English population selects its kings. The
main interest is political.
Student’s names and mail boxes
- Miessan Akpeley Mauricette Fleur Carine
-Yoboué Kouakou Anicet
-Brou Yao Jonas
-Liassidi Sarah Carelle Francine
-Odi Prince Nazaire