The Revolution Settlement

The Revolution Settlement was a package of legislation that established parliamentary sovereignty in England in the wake of the Revolution of 1688 that placed William and Mary on the English throne. It also enshrined a number of the governmental reforms contained in the "Humble Petition and Advice" of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate: a mixed government with a single executive and advisory council both dependant on a bicameral legislature, regular elections, parliamentary oversight of taxation, and limited religious toleration. The Settlement consisted of the Bill of Rights of 1689, the Toleration Act of 1689, the Triennial Act of 1694, and the Act of Settlement of 1701.

The Bill of Rights, which purported to reassert ancient English liberties rather than establish any new rights, declared a ban on standing armies without the consent of Parliament; prohibited the suspension or the dispensing of laws by the monarch; ended taxation without the consent of Parliament; and guaranteed the freedom of subjects to petition the crown for redress of grievances, hold free elections, and frequent parliaments. The Toleration Act gave dissenters from the Church of England limited rights to worship freely and publicly. The Triennial Act ensured that monarchs would never again attempt to rule without Parliament and that Parliaments would be accountable to the people by stipulating that it must meet at least once every three years and no more than three years could pass without a new election. The Act of Settlement decided the permanence of the Protestant succession of the throne and secured an independent judiciary.

The Revolution Settlement, secured by the successful Hanoverian succession of 1714 and the defeat of the major Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, created a new parliamentary system. Although altered on several occasions in the eighteenth century (the most significant change was the passage of the Septennial Act in 1715, which extended the life of parliaments from three to seven years), it also reshaped greater English political culture into one that allowed a forum for fierce debate over government without the fear of civil war—at least until 1776.

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