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Constitutional conflicts in seventeenth-century England

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In the constitutional conflicts of the 17th century, both Crown and Parliament justified actions contrary to the other's will by reference to necessity. The Crown held the raising of additional finance to be necessary; the Parliament, its raising of a militia. The competence to determine a time of necessity, and to decide on the public good in it, was the key to sovereignty. In a series of cases reaching a peak in Hampden, the courts handed the Crown an unrestrained Prerogative. With the Militia Ordinance, a disturbed Parliament then claimed the competence for deciding on the public good in an emergency, even against the King's will, because its judgements as opposed to the king's discretion in his Royal prerogative were based on the common law which bound even the King. The concept of Parliament as a court of common law is often under-emphasized, though this is at the heart of the Parliament's claim to sovereignty achieved in 1689, because the Monarch could veto legislative acts, but he could not veto judgements.

Affiliations: 1: Lehrstuhl für Bürgerliches Recht sowie Deutsche und Europäische Rechtsgeschichte, Universität Passau, D-94030 Passau, Germany


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