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The Importance of the Bill of Rights

By levying money for and to the use of the Crown by

pretence of prerogative for other time and in other manner

than the same was granted by Parliament . . . and by divers

other arbitrary and illegal courses (3:1036).

What the British Bill of Rights did was to establish Parliament as the ultimate legislative and enforcement body of England, but with the king as executive officer of the land. The relationship between king and Parliament was established in writing, as was the entitlement of the throne; after 1689, only Protestants would be king or queen of England. The structure of government was thereby formalized, and the power of the prevailing governmental body was limited.

There is evidence that some people believe the British Bill of Rights as promulgated at the time of the Glorious Revolution has no particular relevance for the modern period. In this regard, Smith takes the view that the British Bill of Rights is not really concerned with civil liberties and indeed that no such Bill of Rights even exists. Instead, Smith says, Britain refers its questions of individual liberties to the tradition of common law and what he terms "corporate pluralism" (9:650) or the competition of special interests that are believed to have the effect of ameliorating one another. This suggests that, in the modern period, the British version of the Bill of Rights is far more concerned with the structure of political legislation and political institutions than with the relationship of individual citizens to their state. Why this is important becomes clearer when that relationship is considered in conjunction with newage telecommunications and computerization that facilitate police powers and investigation techniques on one hand, and that by their nature threaten the very identity of an individual in a society replete with technology.

Nevertheless, it seems generally accepted that the British Bill of Rights did have a...

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