Rights of Englishmen

The rights of Englishmen are the perceived traditional rights of citizens of England. In the 18th century, some of the colonists who objected to British rule in the British colonies in North America argued that their traditional[1] rights as Englishmen were being violated. The colonists wanted and expected the rights that they (or their forebears) had previously enjoyed in England: a local, representative government, with regards to judicial matters (some colonists were being sent back to England for trials) and particularly with regards to taxation.[2] Belief in these rights subsequently became a widely-accepted justification for the American Revolution.[3][4]

The American colonies had since the 17th century been fertile ground for liberalism within the center of European political discourse.[5] However, as the ratification of the Declaration of Independence approached, the issue among the colonists of which particular rights were significant became divisive. George Mason, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, stated that "We claim nothing but the liberty and privileges of Englishmen in the same degree, as if we had continued among our brethren in Great Britain."[4]

Historical background

Sir William Blackstone from NPG
18th-century English jurist William Blackstone attempted to explain the rights of English citizens.

In the tradition of Whig history, Judge William Blackstone called them "The absolute rights of every Englishman", and explained how they had been established slowly over centuries of English history, in his book on Fundamental Laws of England, which was the first part of his influential Commentaries on the Laws of England.[6] They were certain basic rights that all subjects of the English monarch were understood to be entitled to,[6] such as those expressed in Magna Carta since 1215, the Petition of Right in 1628, the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 and the Bill of Rights 1689.[7]

In a legal case in 1608 that came to be known as Calvin's Case, or the Case of the Postnati, the Law Lords decided in 1608 that Scotsmen born after King James I united Scotland and England (the postnati) had all the rights of Englishmen. This decision would have a subsequent effect on the concept of the "rights of Englishmen" in British America.[8][9][10]

Some scholars believed that the case did not fit British America's situation, and thus reasoned that the 18th-century colonists could "claim all the rights and protections of English citizenship."[11] The legal apologists for the American Revolution even claimed they had "improved on the rights of Englishmen" by creating additional, purely American rights.[11][10]

Legacy in United States law

Owing to its inclusion in the standard legal treatises of the 19th century,[a] Calvin's Case was well known in the early judicial history of the United States.[9] Consideration of the case by the United States Supreme Court and by state courts transformed it into a rule regarding American citizenship and solidified the concept of jus soli – the right by which nationality or citizenship can be recognised to any individual born in the territory of the related state – as the primary determining factor controlling the acquisition of citizenship by birth.[12]

The Supreme Court Justice Joseph P. Bradley asserted that the "rights of Englishmen" were a foundation of American law in his dissenting opinion on the Slaughter-House Cases, the first Supreme Court interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in 1873.[b]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Compiled by Edward Coke, William Blackstone, and James Kent.
  2. ^ In his dissenting decision, Bradley wrote:

    The people of this country brought with them to its shores the rights of Englishmen, the rights which had been wrested from English sovereigns at various periods of the nation's history.... England has no written constitution, it is true, but it has an unwritten one, resting in the acknowledged, and frequently declared, privileges of Parliament and the people, to violate which in any material respect would produce a revolution in an hour. A violation of one of the fundamental principles of that constitution in the Colonies, namely, the principle that recognizes the property of the people as their own, and which, therefore, regards all taxes for the support of government as gifts of the people through their representatives, and regards taxation without representation as subversive of free government, was the origin of our own revolution.

References

  1. ^ Zuckert (2003).
  2. ^ Tindall (1984).
  3. ^ Swindler (1976).
  4. ^ a b Miller (1959).
  5. ^ Heale (1986).
  6. ^ a b Blackstone, Fundamental Laws of England, the first part of Commentaries on the Laws of England, pp. 123–24. Scanned in text available at Yale Law School Libraries online. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  7. ^ Billias, George Athan (2011). American constitutionalism heard round the world, 1776–1989: a global perspective. New York: New York University Press. p. 54. ISBN 9780814725177.
  8. ^ Price (1997).
  9. ^ a b Hulsebosch (2003).
  10. ^ a b Pearson (2005).
  11. ^ a b Ellen Holmes Pearson. "Revising Custom, Embracing Choice: Early American Legal Scholars and the Republicanization of Common Law". In Eliga H. Gould, Peter S. Onuf (ed.). Empire And Nation: The American Revolution In The Atlantic World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 102, n. 33. ISBN 0-8018-7912-4. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  12. ^ Price (1997), pp. 138–39.

Citations

Battle of St. Lucia

The Battle of St. Lucia or the Battle of the Cul de Sac was a naval battle fought off the island of St. Lucia in the West Indies during the American Revolutionary War on 15 December 1778, between the British Royal Navy and the French Navy.

Calvin's Case

Calvin's Case, also known as the Case of the Postnati, was a 1608 English legal decision establishing that a child born in Scotland, after the Union of the Crowns under James VI and I in 1603, was considered under the common law to be an English subject and entitled to the benefits of English law. Calvin's Case was eventually adopted by courts in the United States, and the case played an important role in shaping the American rule of birthright citizenship via jus soli ("law of the soil", or citizenship by virtue of birth within the territory of a sovereign state). However, the case has also been cited as providing legal justification for the restriction of legal rights to Native Americans following their widespread conquest or confinement in reservations by the colonial forces of North America.

Carlisle Peace Commission

The Carlisle Peace Commission was a group of British peace commissioners who were sent to North America in 1778 to negotiate terms with the rebellious Colonial government during the American War of Independence. The commission carried an offer of self-rule to the united Thirteen Colonies, including Parliamentary representation within the British Empire. The Second Continental Congress, aware that British troops were about to be withdrawn from Philadelphia, insisted on demanding full independence, which the commission was not authorised to grant. The Peace Commission marked the first time the British government formally agreed to negotiate with Congress; a previous informal attempt at negotiation, known today as the Staten Island Peace Conference, took place in 1776.

Civil and political rights

Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from infringement by governments, social organizations, and private individuals. They ensure one's entitlement to participate in the civil and political life of the society and state without discrimination or repression.

Civil rights include the ensuring of peoples' physical and mental integrity, life, and safety; protection from discrimination on grounds such as race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, color, age, political affiliation, ethnicity, religion, and disability; and individual rights such as privacy and the freedom of thought, speech, religion, press, assembly, and movement.

Political rights include natural justice (procedural fairness) in law, such as the rights of the accused, including the right to a fair trial; due process; the right to seek redress or a legal remedy; and rights of participation in civil society and politics such as freedom of association, the right to assemble, the right to petition, the right of self-defense, and the right to vote.

Civil and political rights form the original and main part of international human rights. They comprise the first portion of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (with economic, social, and cultural rights comprising the second portion). The theory of three generations of human rights considers this group of rights to be "first-generation rights", and the theory of negative and positive rights considers them to be generally negative rights.

Declaration of Rights and Grievances

The Declaration of Rights and Grievances was a document written by the Stamp Act Congress and passed on October 14, 1765. It declared that taxes imposed on British colonists without their formal consent were unconstitutional.

The Declaration of Rights raised fourteen points of colonial protest but was not directed exclusively at the Stamp Act of 1765, which required that documents, newspapers, and playing cards be printed on special stamped and taxed paper. In addition to the specific protests of the Stamp Act taxes, it made the assertions which follow:

Colonists owe to the crown "the same allegiance" owed by "subjects born within the realm".

Colonists owe to Parliament "all due subordination".

Colonists possessed all the rights of Englishmen.

Trial by jury is a right.

The use of Admiralty Courts was abusive.

Without voting rights, Parliament could not represent the colonists.

There should be no taxation without representation.

Only the colonial assemblies had a right to tax the colonies.

Freeborn

"Freeborn" is a term associated with political agitator John Lilburne (1614–1657), a member of the Levellers, a 17th-century English political party. As a word, "freeborn" means born free, rather than in slavery or bondage or vassalage. Lilburne argued for basic human rights that he termed "freeborn rights", which he defined as being rights that every human being is born with, as opposed to rights bestowed by government or by human law. John Lilburne's concept of freeborn rights, and the writings of Richard Overton another Leveller, may have influenced the concept of unalienable rights, (Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.) mentioned in the United States Declaration of Independence.Other historians, according to Edward Ashbee, consider that it was not the tradition of "Freeborn Englishmen", as espoused by Lilburne, Overton, John Milton and John Locke, that was the major influence on the concept of unalienable rights in the United States Declaration of Independence, but rather "an attempt to recreate 'civic republicanism' established in classical Greece and Rome".

Grievances of the United States Declaration of Independence

The United States Declaration of Independence contains 27 grievances against the decisions and actions of British King George III. Historians have noted the similarities with John Locke's works and the context of the grievances. Historical precedents such as the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights 1689 had established the principle that the King was not to interfere with the Rights of Englishmen held by the people. In the view of the American colonies, the King had opposed the very purpose of government by opposing laws deemed necessary for the public good and by constantly meddling in the local affairs of the colonists.

Northern theater of the American Revolutionary War

The Northern theater of the American Revolutionary War also known as the Northern Department of the Continental Army was a theater of operations during the American Revolutionary War.

It was originally called the New York Department, and consisted of all of New York State. On November 12, 1776, after the British occupation of New York City, the Highlands Department was created out of the Northern Department. The Northern Department then stopped 30 miles south of Albany. After that, it was always referred to as the Northern Department.

The Highlands Department was the smallest in area, and was formed around the defenses on the Hudson River north of New York City.

Patriot (American Revolution)

Patriots (also known as Revolutionaries, Continentals, Rebels, or American Whigs) were those colonists of the Thirteen Colonies who rejected British rule during the American Revolution and declared the United States of America as an independent nation in July 1776. Their decision was based on the political philosophy of republicanism as expressed by spokesmen such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Thomas Paine. They were opposed by the Loyalists who supported continued British rule.

Patriots represented the spectrum of social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds. They included lawyers such as John Adams, students such as Alexander Hamilton, planters such as Thomas Jefferson and George Mason, merchants such as Alexander McDougall and John Hancock, and farmers such as Daniel Shays and Joseph Plumb Martin. They also included slaves and freemen such as Crispus Attucks, the first martyr of the American Revolution; James Armistead Lafayette, who served as a double agent for the Continental Army; and Jack Sisson, leader of the first successful black operation mission in American history under the command of Colonel William Barton, resulting in the capture of British General Richard Prescott.

Revolutionary republic

A revolutionary republic is a form of government whose main tenets are popular sovereignty, rule of law, and representative democracy. It is based in part on the ideas of Whig and Enlightenment thinkers, and was favored by revolutionaries during the Age of Revolution. A revolutionary republic tends to arise from the formation of a provisional government after the overthrow of an existing state and political regime. It often takes the form of a revolutionary state, which represents the will of its constituents.The term also refers to the form of government that the National Convention favored during the French Revolutionary Wars, as France established republics through its occupation of neighboring territories in Europe. Most of these client states, or sister republics, were means of controlling occupied lands through a mix of French and local authority. The institution of republican governments as a means of promoting democratic nationalism over monarchies (primarily the Bourbons and Habsburgs) set the stage for the appearance of nationalist sentiment across Europe, which significantly influenced the course of European history (see 1830 and Revolutions of 1848).

Today, "revolutionary republic" can refer to various governments in disparate locations. In the United Kingdom, it can be defined as those who advocate for the removal of the monarch as head of state, or for the replacement of the monarch with an elected figurehead, as in Irish nationalism. In Australia, revolutionary republicanism is closely tied to moderate nationalism, along with opposition to monarchy.

Right to keep and bear arms in the United States

The right to keep and bear arms in the United States is a fundamental right protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, and by the constitutions of most U.S. states. The Second Amendment declares:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

In the United States, which has an English common law tradition, the concept of a right to keep and bear arms was recognized prior to the creation of a written national constitution. When colonists in the Thirteen Colonies rebelled against British control during the American Revolution they cited the 1689 English Bill of Rights as an example.

Roman citizenship

Citizenship in ancient Rome (Latin: civitas) was a privileged political and legal status afforded to free individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance.

A male Roman citizen enjoyed a wide range of privileges and protections defined in detail by the Roman state. A citizen could, under certain exceptional circumstances, be deprived of his citizenship.

Roman women had a limited form of citizenship. Though held in high regard they were not allowed to vote or stand for civil or public office. The rich might participate in public life by funding building projects or sponsoring religious ceremonies and other events. Women had the right to own property, to engage in business, and to obtain a divorce, but their legal rights varied over time. Marriages were an important form of political alliance during the Republic.

Client state citizens and allies (socii) of Rome could receive a limited form of Roman citizenship such as the Latin Right. Such citizens could not vote or be elected in Roman elections.

Slaves were considered property and lacked legal personhood. Over time, they acquired a few protections under Roman law. Some slaves were freed by manumission for services rendered, or through a testamentary provision when their master died. Once free, they faced few barriers, beyond normal social snobbery, to participating in Roman society. The principle that a person could become a citizen by law rather than birth was enshrined in Roman mythology; when Romulus defeated the Sabines in battle, he promised the war captives that were in Rome they could become citizens.

Freedmen were former slaves who had gained their freedom. They were not automatically given citizenship and lacked some privileges such as running for executive magistracies. The children of freedmen and women were born as free citizens; for example, the father of the poet Horace was a freedman.

Second Continental Congress

Initially, the Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from 12 of the 13 British colonies that would ultimately join in the Revolutionary War, that convened on May 10, 1775 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, shortly after the battles of Lexington and Concord. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia September 5 – October 26, 1774, and functioned as a de facto national government at the outset of the Revolutionary War by raising armies, directing strategy, appointing diplomats, and writing treatises such as the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms and the Olive Branch Petition. It eventually adopted the Lee Resolution which established the new country on July 2, 1776, and it agreed to the Declaration of Independence two days later.

Afterward, the Congress functioned as the provisional government of the United States of America through March 1, 1781. During this period, in addition to successfully managing the war effort, its primary achievements included: drafting the Articles of Confederation, the first U.S. Constitution; securing diplomatic recognition and support from foreign nations; and resolving state land claims west of the Appalachian Mountains.

Many of the delegates who attended the second Congress had also attended the first. As they had at the previous Congress, delegates again elected Peyton Randolph to serve as president of the Congress and Charles Thomson to serve as secretary. Notable new arrivals included Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and John Hancock of Massachusetts. Within two weeks, Randolph was summoned back to Virginia to preside over the House of Burgesses; Hancock succeeded him as president, and Thomas Jefferson replaced him in the Virginia delegation. The number of participating colonies also grew, as in July 1775 Georgia officially endorsed the Congress and adopted the continental ban on trade with Britain.

Sir Henry Hobart, 1st Baronet

Sir Henry Hobart, 1st Baronet (c. 1560 – 29 December 1625), of Blickling Hall, was an English politician who succeeded Sir Edward Coke to become Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas.

Sons of Liberty

The Sons of Liberty was a secret organization that was created in the Thirteen American Colonies to advance the rights of the European colonists and to fight taxation by the British government. It played a major role in most colonies in battling the Stamp Act in 1765. The group officially disbanded after the Stamp Act was repealed. However, the name was applied to other local separatist groups during the years preceding the American Revolution.In the popular thought, the Sons of Liberty was a formal underground organization with recognized members and leaders. More likely, the name was an underground term for any men resisting new Crown taxes and laws. The well-known label allowed organizers to make or create anonymous summons to a Liberty Tree, "Liberty Pole", or other public meeting-place. Furthermore, a unifying name helped to promote inter-Colonial efforts against Parliament and the Crown's actions. Their motto became "No taxation without representation."

Stamp Act Congress

The Stamp Act Congress, or First Congress of the American Colonies, was a meeting held between October 7 and 25, 1765, in New York City, consisting of representatives from some of the British colonies in North America; it was the first gathering of elected representatives from several of the American colonies to devise a unified protest against new British taxation. Parliament had passed the Stamp Act, which required the use of specially stamped paper for legal documents, playing cards, calendars, newspapers and dice for virtually all business in the colonies, and was going into effect on November 1, 1765.

The Congress was organized in response to a circular letter distributed by the colonial legislature of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and consisted of delegates from nine of the eighteen British colonies in North America. All nine of the attending delegations were from the Thirteen Colonies that eventually formed the United States of America. Although sentiment was strong in some of the other colonies to participate in the Congress, a number of royal governors took steps to prevent the colonial legislatures from meeting to select delegates.

The Congress met in the building now known as Federal Hall, and was held at a time of widespread protests in the colonies, some of which were violent, against the Stamp Act's implementation. The delegates discussed and united against the act, issuing a Declaration of Rights and Grievances in which they claimed that Parliament did not have the right to impose the tax because it did not include any representation from the colonies. Members of six of the nine delegations signed petitions addressed to Parliament and King George III objecting to the Act's provisions.

The extra-legal nature of the Congress caused alarm in Britain, but any discussion of the congress's propriety were overtaken by economic protests from British merchants whose business with the colonies suffered as a consequence of the protests and their associated non-importation of British products. These economic issues prompted the British Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act, but it passed the Declaratory Act the same day, to express its opinion on the basic constitutional issues raised by the colonists; it stated that Parliament could make laws binding the American colonies "in all cases whatsoever."

Treaty of Paris (1783)

The Treaty of Paris, signed in Paris by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War. The treaty set the boundaries between the British Empire in North America and the United States, on lines "exceedingly generous" to the latter. Details included fishing rights and restoration of property and prisoners of war.

This treaty and the separate peace treaties between Great Britain and the nations that supported the American cause—France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic—are known collectively as the Peace of Paris. Only Article 1 of the treaty, which acknowledges the United States' existence as free, sovereign, and independent states, remains in force.

Virginia Association

The Virginia Association was a series of non-importation agreements adopted by Virginians in 1769 as a way of speeding economic recovery and opposing the Townshend Acts. Drafted by George Mason and passed by the Virginia House of Burgesses in May 1769, the Virginia Association was a way for Virginians to stand united against continued British taxation and trade control. The Virginia Association served as the framework and precursor to the larger more powerful Continental Association.

Wilhelm von Knyphausen

Wilhelm Reichsfreiherr von Innhausen und Knyphausen (4 November 1716 Lütetsburg, East Frisia – 7 December 1800 Kassel) was a general officer of Hesse-Kassel. He fought in the American Revolutionary War, during which he commanded Hessian auxiliaries on behalf of Great Britain.

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