Thursday, 5 August 2010

British constitution

By causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law;
That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;
Both these are quote from the bill of rights which along with the act of secession (an even more anti catholic piece of writing) where the first attempts of a legislature imposing limits on a monarch via the force of law.
It was no a constitution. Indeed at the time this was written the very idea of a constitution was unheard of. It was not until the 17th century that legal theorist and liberal theorist started to discuss the institutional apparatus of democracy and what we would now call human rights.
Now there is no single defintio0n of what is or is not a constitution but I was always taught that a constitution did certain things. 1 it formalised the rule of the political game i.e. it informed how votes should be held and who did what in office and even who did what in the legislature 2 it defragmented power, the idea that power must be dispersed within a democracy is at the heart of liberal theory and thus at the heart of the idea of what a constitution should do 3 It lays out the right and responsibilities of the citizens to the state, indeed the idea of a constitution was based on the idea of a formal contract between the monarch or state on their people.
The acts which form the basis of the British constitution do none of this, or in the case of the bill of succession does this (if allows people legal freedom) but in such a comical outmoded and biased that it is worse than irrelevant. I am not arguing that these bills our not important they our proto constitutions, the first tentative steps toward what we’d regard as a constitution but they represent one body (parliament) accreting some rights over another (monarchy).

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