A blupete Essay

Three Periods Of English Constitutional History, Part 2 to blupete's Essay
"The Canadian Constitution, A History Lesson"

The English constitution is an interesting study and one we may easily enter into because of the work of Henry Hallam, a lawyer who had studied at Oxford, and who wrote, in 1827, the classic treatment covering that period between the times of Henry VII (1457) to the times of George II (1760), a critical period during which the English constitution was substantially formed. Hallam's great work is called The Constitutional History of England. English constitutional history either accounts for or has developed on account of, "the natural impulse of the English people ... to resist authority."

English constitutional history can be broken down into three distinct periods. The first period are those days before the arrival of the Tutor kings in 1485 when all law came from the king's mouth.1 With the end of the War of the Roses and the arrival of Henry Tudor, the English kings, thereafter, found themselves with an assembly of people with whom English kings were obliged to consult. (We need to remind ourselves at this juncture that these times were much before the notion of democratically elected assemblies, "these parliaments were but 'chance' collections of influential Englishmen."2) Thus, for the next two hundred years, or so, to the time of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, there was a Parliament to advise the kings of England, but scarcely a Parliament to control them. With the end of the Glorious Revolution came the end of absolute monarchy in England. Oh! To be sure, -- the appendages of a monarchy continued to exists and do to this day, but England, as of 1688, with the sovereign power resting in Parliament, became, in essence, a republic.

The history of England, is in effect a string of constitutional battles which usually resulted in royal concessions. The process shaped the Celtic aptitude into the recognizable character of the English people, one that reflects a distinct dislike for executive government. The English feeling for freedom is the result of centuries of resistance. Thus, as Bagehot wrote, we "look on state action, not as our own action, but as an alien action; as an imposed tyranny from without, not as the consummated result of our own organized wishes."


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[Essays, Second Series]
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Peter Landry

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