Evolution of British Govt

England’s Evolving Gov’t
How did England go from this . . .
To this . . .
Prime Minister's Question Time
Absolute Monarchy  Constitutional Monarchy
England has a long history of tension
between absolutism and democracy
Modern concepts of jury trials,
common law, and legal rights
developed during this history.
The United States adopted many of
the government reforms and
institutions that the English developed
during this period.
Take out your British Government Note Packet
1215 – Nobles force King John to approve
the Magna Carta (Great Charter). King’s
will is bound by law. Guaranteed basic
rights like jury trials, habeas corpus, no
taxation without representation.
1295 – Edward I summons Model
Parliament. Evolved into the House of
Lords and House of Commons.
John of England signs Magna Carta
Magna Carta and the Rule of Law
1628 – Parliament forces Charles I
to sign Petition of Right to limit royal
authority: no arbitrary arrest; no
taxes without Parliament; no
quartering soldiers; no martial law in
1642 – 49: English Civil War
between supporters of Charles
(Royalists) and Puritan supporters
of Parliament (Parliamentarians).
Called “Cavaliers” and
“Roundheads” by their enemies.
wore their hair
Royalists or
“Cavaliers” were
more flamboyant
1644 - Oliver Cromwell
becomes general on Puritan
side. Defeats Cavaliers.
1649 - Charles faces trial and
execution (“regicide”)
Cromwell abolishes monarchy
& House of Lords. England
becomes a commonwealth
(republican form of gov’t)
In practice, Cromwell ruled as
a military dictator (“Lord
Protector of England”)
Puritans abolish activities
they find sinful (theater,
dance, sports)
Cromwell movie trailer
1658 – Cromwell dies; next
year Parliament asks Charles’
son to rule
Charles II
1660 – Restoration of
monarchy under Charles II
During reign, Parliament
passes Habeas Corpus Act,
law requiring king to charge
prisoner with crime
1685 - Charles’s Catholic
brother James II becomes
1688 - Glorious Revolution,
bloodless overthrow of James
James II
1689 - Protestants William and Mary
become joint sovereigns of England;
agree to constitutional monarchy that
limits royal power (not absolute monarchy)
Parliament drafts Bill of Rights to limit
royal power; monarchs consent:
• No suspending of Parliament’s laws
• No levying of taxes without Parliament’s
• Freedom of speech in Parliament
• Citizens may petition king about
William and Mary were always listed together since the
royal bloodline was with Mary as James’ daughter. Only
time in British history when there are co-monarchs.
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
Military Commission Act of 2006
Stops Guantanamo detainees from access to the United States courts
through a writ of habeas corpus. Detainees would have access to military
Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007
Would have restored the right of Guantanamo detainees to access
United States courts. The bill did not survive a Republican filibuster.
Boumediene v. Bush (2008)
In a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court rules that the executive branch
could not withhold access to the U.S. judicial system (civilian courts) from
Guantanamo detainees.
Justice Kennedy delivered the majority opinion. He began with an overtwenty page review of the history of habeas corpus in England from its roots
in the due process clause of Magna Carta of 1215 to the nineteenth century.
“Within the Constitution’s separation-of-powers
structure, few exercises of judicial power are as
legitimate or as necessary as the responsibility to
hear challenges to the authority of the Executive
to imprison a person. Some of these petitioners
have been in custody for six years with no
definitive judicial determination as to the legality
of their detention.”
Justice Scalia delivered a dissenting opinion:
“The Constitution does not ensure habeas for
aliens held by the United States in areas over
which our Government is not sovereign. . . The
Court’s decision will almost certainly cause more
Americans to be killed.”