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Writing the history of parliament in Tudor and early Stuart England$
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Paul Cavill and Alexandra Gajda

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780719099588

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719099588.001.0001

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The significance (and insignificance) of precedent in early Stuart parliaments

The significance (and insignificance) of precedent in early Stuart parliaments

Chapter:
(p.153) Chapter 7 The significance (and insignificance) of precedent in early Stuart parliaments
Source:
Writing the history of parliament in Tudor and early Stuart England
Author(s):

Simon Healy

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719099588.003.0007

Precedents were frequently invoked in early modern parliaments, particularly by lawyers, whose profession used ‘artificial reason’ to elucidate legal precedents, and who attempted to impose this paradigm upon constitutional debates. If laws and precedents were straightforwardly bastions of the subject’s liberties (as lawyers claimed), then they might have been deployed only in specific contexts. However, many invocations of precedent occurred along the ill-defined borderlands between the common law and the prerogative. This essay considers the role of precedent in four important parliamentary debates of the early Stuart period: over the proposed union of England and Scotland, over impositions, over impeachment, and over the liberty of the subject in relation to the Five Knights’ Case and the Petition of Right. It stresses how ineffectual precedents proved in resolving political disputes, and argues that more pragmatic considerations were paramount.

Keywords:   precedents, Anglo-Scottish Union, impositions, impeachment, liberty, common law, prerogative, Bate’s Case, Five Knights’ Case, Petition of Right

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