glyph 208: source of American freedom ... a crowned republic ... absolutism vs. limited sovereignty ... common law, statutory law . designed order, spontaneous order . freeorder ... rights . contitutional tradition ... James C. Bennett, The Anglosphere Challenge


The Whig Constitutional Settlement of 1688 - A Source of American Freedom

From The Anglosphere Challenge, by James C. Bennett, pp. 182-83

Common law is the oldest and deepest level of shared practice in Anglosphere constitutional systems. However, there is another substantial layer of common constitutional practice that we all share. This is roughly describable as the Whig constitutional settlement of 1688, established between the Revolution of that year and the founding of the United Kingdom in 1717. This settlement draws on an older constitutional tradition established by English jurists running through William Blackstone, Edward Coke, and to Henry of Bracton before them. Prior to the settlement of 1688, however, this tradition had to contend with ambitious monarchs holding to different interpretations of English constitutionalism (inevitably more favorable to royal prerogative) and with more modern waves of Continental absolutist theories. Such theories range from the Counter-Reformation to the later Bourbon centralization theories that the Stuarts envied. The Whig settlement marked a turning point in the treatments of rights in the English-speaking world, in transitioning from a particularist medieval view of rights as specific negotiated property of given classes of persons (as in Magna Carta) to something that is nearer to a more general concept of inherent right, as articulated by voices such as Sydney and Milton. The English Bill of Rights established the supremacy of Parliament over the monarchy. The English monarchy had not been absolute, in the Continental sense, since at least Magna Carta—the powers of the monarchy had been bounded even before then by the traditions of medieval constitutionality. But the settlement made England a constitutional regime of limited government, a "crowned republic" according to the sneers of Continental absolutists, if not yet a democracy.

American freedom is unambiguously the result of this constitutional settlement.
entered before July 9, 2006

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