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What is the English Bill of Rights?

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The English Bill of Rights is a document penned and approved by Parliament in 1689 that limited the powers of co-sovereigns William and Mary. The document outlines the rights of Parliament, including freedom of speech, regular elections and the ability to petition the monarch without fear of retribution. The English Bill of Rights was a precursor to similar enumerations in the Constitution of the United States of America, explains BillofRightsInstitute.org.

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Other rights set forth in the document include provisions that forbid excessive bail, require legislative authority to collect taxes, allow Protestants to carry legal firearms for protection and make raising a standing army in times of peace illegal without the permission of Parliament. The English Bill of Rights forbids the monarchy from suspending the law. Further, the document states no one should be subject to cruel and unusual punishments or is required to forfeit fines and property until actually convicted of a crime in the judicial system.

Some verbiage of the English Bill of Rights is directly re-stated in the American Bill of Rights. Portions of the First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution have roots in the 1689 document passed by Parliament. The original English Bill of Rights was a direct reaction to the reign of King James II, who preceded William and Mary. The document has been modified, interpreted and superseded over time to reflect changes in the British legal system.

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