William and Mary were about to cede their control over taxation, the military, foreign policy and their ability to call parliament. Part of this would become known as the declaration of rights, and once passed, the bill of rights and is the first piece of legislation we’ll discuss today in the revolutionary settlement.
By February, the convention parliament, which William had called up in Oxford had drawn up a declaration of rights. This would later become known as the bill of rights. It was as I said, a compromise between Whigs and Tories. The Whigs wanted a constitutional monarchy, whilst the Tories wanted, by any count, an absolutist monarchy. What’s interesting about this time is that, it was not just because of the Whig majority that the monarch was limited, but for one of the few times in British History, those in the middle ground on both sides created the compromise and dominated the course of the parliament- leading to this document.
The declaration laid out the sins of James II, including prorogation of parliament, illegal prosecutions, popery and many other naughty things. More importantly, the document laid out the rights of the citizen and what the Monarch could no longer get away with. Here are the key points, that were:
- Only Parliament could make and suspend laws of the country- the Monarch had no power to execute or dispense laws.
- No Catholic institutions were to be established or built.
- The Crown cannot levy taxes without the consent of Parliament.
- British citizens have the right to petitions the king without fear of punishment, such as prosecution.
- There would be no standing army in times of peace. This may sound strange today, but back in these times, no country could afford to feed, water and pay a standing army unless they were going to be fighting in an ongoing war. Parliament could raise an army in times of peace, but the monarch could not. Parliament had to pass each year a Mutiny Act, as the limitation was limited only to one year. This continued until 1879. The monarch in practice still governed military forces overseas in colonies, as the act only covered military forces in England.
- All protestants have the right to bear arms for defense. Yes, we had that one too. However, it mentions that the arms you’re allowed is subject to other laws, which is why we don’t have the right to arm ourselves in the same way as our friends across the pond.
- Parliament must be freely elected. Fairly elected isn’t for a few hundred years.
- Members of Parliament have the right to free speech without prosecution and can speak with impunity. This still stands today.
- Bail fees, fines and unusual punishments are banned.
- All trials should now have juries, and those accused of high treason will be tried by a jury of landowners.
- No one can seize property or levy a fine on someone who has not been convicted.
- Parliament must meet frequently.
Quite a lot of changes you’re probably thinking. You’re absolutely right. Think about where we started in this podcast and where we are now.
On April 11th 1689, Mary and William were crowned King and Queen of England. Before they did so, at the ceremony, they read aloud the declaration of rights. Interestingly, Bishop Henry Compton, one of Immortal Seven performed the coronation. William Sancroft, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to swear an oath to William and Mary and was absent from the coronation, which was why Compton stood in.
Eight bishops and 400 clergy took this stance as well, known as the non-jurors. Sancroft found himself retired soon after. It is an interesting fact that all of the immortal seven did pretty well out of their invitation to William. Many received titles and saw a return to power. John Churchill, who was once a favourite of James II now found himself with the title of Earl of Marlborough; although he was also appointed Duke of Marlborough in 1702 when Anne came to the throne.
At their coronation, William and Mary swore to uphold the new laws and customs, including the declaration of rights. April 11th 1689 ended the absolutist monarchy in Great Britain. The declaration of rights gained royal assent in December 1689 and is now known as the Bill of Rights. This was the first piece of legislation that makes up The revolutionary settlement. It was a great compromise to get people to accept the change of monarchy. It had to happen for William and Mary to be accepted. What was brilliant about it, was that everyone could see something in it that they could agree with to accept it.