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Bill of Rights


James II fled from England in 1688 during events described as the ‘Glorious Revolution’. James’s Roman Catholic sympathies and belief in the divine right of the Crown resulted in disgruntled parliamentarians offering the throne to his eldest Protestant daughter, Mary. She accepted it on condition that she could reign jointly with her Dutch husband, William of Orange, who became William III. The convention Parliament of 1689 while offering the crown jointly to William and Marry, took several steps to ensure the supremacy of parliament and to safeguard the liberties of the people. Its first work was to turn the Declaration of Rights which it had drawn up into the Bill of Rights. This document formed the third great character of English liberties and completed the work which the Magna Carta had begun. It declared the illegality of (1) the suspending and dispensing powers as exercised by James II, (2) of maintaining a standing army, and (3) of levying money without the consent of parliament. It asserted that (a) Parliaments should be freely elected, frequently held and should have freedom of speech and debate, (b) and that subjects should have a right to petition the king. (c) Lastly, it provided that those “who are Papists or shall marry a papist”, shall be incapable of possessing or inheriting the crown. Although the Bill of Rights had established the order of succession with the heirs of Mary II, Anne and William III, neither of James II’s daughters had surviving heirs casting uncertainty on the future of succession.

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