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Convention Parliament (1689)

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Title: Convention Parliament (1689)  
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Subject: Loyal Parliament, Glorious Revolution, English monarchy, Convention of Estates (1689), Bill of Rights 1689
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Convention Parliament (1689)

The English Convention (1689) was an irregular assembly of the Parliament of England which transferred the Crowns of England and Ireland from James II to William III. It differed from the English Convention (1660) in that it did not unconditionally restore the rightful and lawful monarch, but chose to justify the deposing of that monarch in favour of another, and also sought to introduce new laws and arrangements into the constitution.

Assemblies of 1688

With King James II of England in flight and William, Prince of Orange nearing London, the Earl of Rochester summoned the Lords Temporal and Lords Spiritual to assemble, and they were joined by the privy councillors on 12 December 1688 to form a provisional government for England. James II returned to London on 16 December; on 17 December he was effectively the prisoner of William who arrived in London on 18 December. After having arrived, William exiled James out of London.

William refused the crown as de facto king and instead called another assembly of peers on 21 December 1688. On 23 December James fled to France. On 26 December the peers were joined by the surviving members of Charles II's Oxford Parliament (from the previous reign), ignoring the MPs who were just elected to James's Loyal Parliament of 1685. The Earl of Nottingham proposed a conditional restoration of King James II, an idea supported by Archbishop Sancroft, but the proposal was rejected and instead the assembly asked William to summon a convention.[1]

The Convention 1689

The Convention Parliament met on 22 January 1689. It was not a lawfully constituted assembly[2] and its actions were in defiance of the English constitution.[3] The Convention sought to justify the overthrow of James II. The Whigs held the ascendancy in the House of Commons and the Tories in the House of Lords.[4] The parliament spent much time arguing over whether James II was considered to have abdicated or to have abandoned the throne in some manner, and following that who then should take the crown.

The Whigs referred to theories of social contract and argued that William alone should now be King.[5] A few 'Radical' Whigs argued for a republic but most Whigs argued for a limited monarchy.[6]

The Tories favoured either the retention of James II, a regency, or Mary alone as Queen. Archbishop Sancroft and loyalist bishops preferred that James II be conditionally restored.[7]

On 29 January it was resolved that England was a Protestant Kingdom and only a Protestant could be King, thus disinheriting a Catholic claimant.[8]

By the beginning of February the Commons agreed on the term abdicated and that the throne was vacant but the Lords rejected abdicated as the term was unknown in common law and indicated that if the throne was vacant it should automatically pass to the next in line, which was implied to be Mary.[9] However, on the 6 February the Lords capitulated, primarily since it became apparent that neither Mary nor Anne would agree to rule in place of William.[10] As a compromise the Lords proposed that William and Mary should both take the throne which the Commons agreed with the proviso that William alone hold regal power.

The parliament drew up a Declaration of Right to address perceived abuses of government under James II and to secure the religion and liberties of Protestants, which was finalised on 12 February. The justification for the transfer of the Crown was "quite literally, legal fiction".[3]

On 13 February William and Mary were proclaimed King and Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland. The acceptance of the Crown was not conditional upon acceptance of the Declaration of Right but on the assumption that they rule according to law.[11][12]

On 23 February 1689 King William III converted the Convention into a regular parliament[13] by dissolving it and summoning a new parliament. This parliament regularised the acts of the Convention Parliament by passing the Crown and Parliament Recognition Act 1689.

Effect on Colonies in America

The Convention Parliament of 1689 would be imitated in the Colonies in America and the use of such conventions as an "instrument of transition" became more acceptable and more often used by the Colonies, resulting most notably in the 1787 Constitutional Convention which drew up the United States Constitution.[14]


  1. ^ Harris, Tim (2006). Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685 - 1720. Allen Lane. pp. 312–313.  
  2. ^ Barnett, Hilaire (2004). Constitutional & Administrative Law. Cavendish. p. 20. 
  3. ^ a b Graham, John Remington (2005). A Constitutional History of Secession. Pelican. p. 52. 
  4. ^ Harris, Tim Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685 - 1720 Allen Lane (2006) p313
  5. ^ Harris, Tim Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685 - 1720 Allen Lane (2006) p314
  6. ^ Harris, Tim Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685 - 1720 Allen Lane (2006) p317
  7. ^ Harris, Tim Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685 - 1720 Allen Lane (2006) p319
  8. ^ Fritze, Ronald H. & Robison, William B. Historical dictionary of Stuart England, 1603-1689 Greenwood Press (1996) p126 entry on Convention Parliament (1689)
  9. ^ Harris, Tim Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685 - 1720 Allen Lane (2006) p327
  10. ^ Hoppit, Julian A Land of Liberty?, England 1689-1727 Oxford University Press (2000) p20
  11. ^ Bogdanor, Vernon (1997). The Monarchy and the Constitution. Oxford University Press. pp. 5–6. 
  12. ^ Harris, Tim (2006). Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685 - 1720. Allen Lane. p. 347. 
  13. ^ Horwitz, Henry (1977). Parliament, Policy, and Politics in the reign of William III. Manchester University Press. p. 17. 
  14. ^ Caplan, Russell L (1988). Constitutional Brinksmanship: Amending the Constitution by National Convention. Oxford University Press. pp. 6–40. 

See also

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