English Bill of Rights

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The English Bill of Rights, formally known as "An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown" was written in 1689. It resulted from the long 17th century struggle between the Stuart kings and the people and Parliament.

This inspired the American Bill of Rights of 1789. Some Founding Fathers, such as James Wilson and Alexander Hamilton,[1] believed that the English Bill of Rights already applied to American colonists, so there was no need for another. Other Founders, such as James Madison, believed that the scope of the English Bill of Rights did not go far enough, and was designed for a monarchical society.[2][3][4]


  1. Federalist No. 84
  2. James Madison: A Biography
  3. Proceedings of Sixth National Conference, American Society for Judicial Settlement of Inter National Disputes, Volume 6
  4. James Madison: Amendments to the Constitution (1789), "I am aware, that a great number of the most respectable friends to the government and champions for republican liberty, have thought such a provision, not only unnecessary, but even improper, nay, I believe some have gone so far as to think it even dangerous. Some policy has been made use of perhaps by gentlemen on both sides of the question: I acknowledge the ingenuity of those arguments which were drawn against the constitution, by a comparison with the policy of Great-Britain, in establishing a declaration of rights; but there is too great a difference in the case to warrant the comparison: therefore the arguments drawn from that source, were in a great measure inapplicable. In the declaration of rights which that country has established, the truth is, they have gone no farther, than to raise a barrier against the power of the crown; the power of the legislature is left altogether indefinite. Altho' I know whenever the great rights, the trial by jury, freedom of the press, or liberty of conscience, came in question in that body, the invasion of them is resisted by able advocates, yet their Magna Charta does not contain any one provision for the security of those rights, respecting which, the people of America are most alarmed. The freedom of the press and rights of conscience, those choicest privileges of the people, are unguarded in the British constitution."