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Bill of Rights
NOTE WHEN THE despotism of James II finally forced the nation into revolt, the crown was offered to his daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange, the offer being accompanied by a declaration of rights from the convention that issued the invitation. On the convention becoming a Parliament under the new monarchs, the declaration was converted into a Bill of Rights on December 16, 1789, which gives formal recognition of the liberties established during the long struggle with the divine right claimed by the Stuarts.
The text is from the Statutes at Large, 3. 275 (1 Gul. & Mar. sess. 2. c. 2). Portions of the act which deal with the offer of the crown, the acceptance, royal oath and obligations, and the succession are omitted.
TEXT WHEREAS the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, assembled at Westminster, lawfully, fully and freely representing all the Estates of the People of this Realm, did upon the thirteenth Day of February in the Year of our Lord One thousand six hundred eighty-eight, present unto Their Majesties, then called and known by the Names and Style of William and Mary, Prince and Princess of Orange, being present in their proper Persons, a certain Declaration in Writing made by the said Lords and Commons, in the Words following; viz.
WHEREAS the late King James the Second, by the Assistance of divers evil Counsellors, Judges, and Ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant Religion and the Laws and Liberties of this Kingdom.
1. By assuming and exercising a Power of dispensing with and suspending of Laws, and the Execution of Laws, without consent of Parliament.
2. By committing and prosecuting divers worthy Prelates, for humbly petitioning to be excused from concurring to the said assumed Power.
3. By issuing and causing to be executed a Commission under the Great Seal for erecting a Court called, The Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes.
4. By levying Money for and to the Use of the Crown, by pretence of Prerogative, for other Time, and in other Manner, than the same was granted by Parliament.
5. By raising and keeping a Standing Army within this Kingdom in Time of Peace, without Consent of Parliament, and quartering Soldiers contrary to Law. 3. That the Commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other Commissions and Courts of like Nature, are illegal and pernicious.
ENGLISH BILL OF RIGHTS
6. By causing several good Subjects, being Protestants, to be disarmed, at the same Time when Papists were both armed and employed, contrary to Law.
7. By violating the Freedom of Election of Members to serve in Parliament.
8. By Prosecutions in the Court of King's Bench, for Matters and Causes cognizable only in Parliament; and by divers other arbitrary and illegal Courses.
9. And whereas of late Years, partial, corrupt, and unqualified Persons, have been returned and served on Juries in Trials, and particularly divers Jurors in Trials for High Treason, which were not Freeholders.
10. And excessive Bail hath been required of Persons committed in criminal Cases, to elude the Benefit of the Laws made for the Liberty of the Subjects.
11. And excessive Fines have been imposed; and illegal and cruel Punishments inflicted.
12. And several Grants and Promises made of Fines and Forfeitures, before any Conviction or Judgment against the Persons, upon whom the same were to be levied.
All which are utterly and directly contrary to the known Laws and Statutes, and Freedom of this Realm.
And whereas the said late King James the Second having abdicated the Government, and the Throne being thereby vacant, His Highness the Prince of Orange (whom it hath pleased Almighty God to make the glorious Instrument of delivering this Kingdom from Popery and arbitrary Power) did (by the Advice of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and divers principal Persons of the Commons) cause Letters to be written to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, being Protestants; and other Letters to the several Counties, Cities, Universities, Boroughs, and Cinque Ports, for the choosing of such Persons to represent them, as were of Right to be sent to Parliament, to meet and sit at Westminster upon the two and twentieth Day of January in this Year One thousand six hundred eighty and eight, in order to such an Establishment, as that their Religion, Laws, and Liberties might not again be in Danger of being subverted: upon which Letters Elections having been accordingly made,
And thereupon the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, pursuant to their respective Letters and Elections, being now assembled in a full and free Representative of this Nation, taking into their most serious Consideration the best Means for attaining the Ends aforesaid; do in the first Place (as their Ancestors in like Case have usually done) for the vindicating and asserting their ancient Rights and Liberties, declare:
1. That the pretended Power of suspending Laws, or the Execution of Laws, by regal Authority, without consent of Parliament, is illegal.
2. That the pretended Power of dispensing with Laws, or the execution of Laws, by regal Avthority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal
4. That levying Money for or to the Use of the Crown, by Pretence of Prerogative, without Grant of Parliament, for longer Time, or in other Manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal.
5. That it is the Right of Subjects to Petition the King, and all Commitments and Prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.
6. That the raising or keeping a Standing Army within the Kingdom in Time of Peace, unless it be with Consent of Parliament, is against Law.
7. That the Subjects which are Protestant, may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions, and as allowed by Law.
8. That Election of Members of Parliament ought to be free.
9. That the Freedom of Speech, and Debates or Proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parliament.
10. That excessive Bail ought not to be required, nor excessive Fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual Punishments inflicted.
11. That Jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and Jurors which pass upon Men in Trials for High Treason ought to be Freeholders.
12. That all Grants and Promises of Fines and Forfeitures of particular Persons before Conviction, are illegal and void.
13. And that for Redress of all Grievances, and for the amending, strengthening, and preserving of the Laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.
And they do claim, demand, and insist upon all and singular the Premisses, as their undoubted Rights and Liberties; and that no Declarations, Judgments, Doings, or Proceedings, to the Prejudice of the People in any of the said Premisses, ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into Consequence or Example.
IV. Upon which their said Majesties did accept the Crown and Royal Dignity of the Kingdoms of England, France and Ireland, and the Dominions thereunto belonging, according to the Resolution and Desire of the said Lords and Commons contained in the said Declaration.
V. And thereupon Their Majesties were pleased, that the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, being the two Houses of Parliament, should continue to sit, and with Their Majesties Royal Concurrence make effectual Provision for the Settlement of the Religion, Laws and Liberties of this Kingdom, so that the same for the future might not be in Danger again of being subverted; to which the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, did agree and proceed to act accordingly:
VI. Now in pursuance of the Premisses, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in Parliament assembled, for the ratifying, confirming and establishing the said Declaration, and the Articles, Clauses, Matters, and Things therein contained, by the Force of a Law made in due Form by Authority of Parliament, do pray that it may be declared and enacted, That all and singular the Rights and Liberties asserted and claimed in the said Declaration, are the true, ancient, and indubitable Rights and Liberties of the People of this Kingdom, and so shall be esteemed, allowed, adjudged, deemed, and taken to be, and that all and every the Particulars aforesaid shall be firmly and strictly holden and observed, as they are expressed in the said Declaration; and all Officers and Ministers whatsoever shall serve Their Majesties and Their Successors according to the same in all Times to come.
XI. All which Their Majesties are contented and pleased shall be declared, enacted, and established by Authority of this present Parliament, and shall stand, remain, and be the Law of this Realm for ever; and the same are by Their said Majesties, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, declared, enacted, and established accordingly. .
Declaration of Independence
The first year of the American Revolution was one of change in sentiment from loyalty to the British connection to a desire for independence. The North Carolina provincial congress on April 12, 1776, was the first to instruct the delegates in the Continental Congress directly and specifically to agree to independence; and, after indirect action in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, on May 15 the Virginia provincial convention directed its delegates to move for independence. A resolution to this effect and for confederation was introduced in the Congress by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and John Adams of Massachusetts on June 7. The question of independence was postponed in order to give the delegates time to learn the sentiments of their constituents; but a committee was appointed to draft a declaration. The members of it were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson wrote the draft. The resolution for independence was adopted on July 2, 1776, by the Congress, so that this date is the real Independence Day. The draft for the Declaration was then discussed for two days, amended, and adopted on July 4, when, endorsed by the president and secretary only it was made public. On July 19 the Declaration was ordered engrossed on parchment and this copy, the existing original Declaration of Independence, was signed on August 2 by the members then present and later during the year by other members. There is not a complete coincidence between those who voted for the Declaration and those who signed it. A majority did both, but some signatures are of members who did not vote for it, and some who signed were not members of the Congress until after July 4, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the last surviving signer, being of this class.
This reprint is from the copperplate facsimile made in 1823, with two changes made advisable by a study of a photograph of the Declaration made after the document had faded. It involves in a few cases a doubt as to capitals similar to that found in the original Constitution. The signatures in the original are in six columns by states without names, except that Matthew Thornton, evidently the last to sign, should be under New Hampshire. The groups here are in the same order, as follows: first column, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia; second column, Virginia (continued), Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York; third column, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut. John Hancock of Massachusetts signs as president of the Congress.
In Congress, July 4, 1776 The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happi
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. --- He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for
opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that