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England's Journey to Liberty

In the 17th century, England was not politically stable. Between general liberty issues, such as freedom of speech, and power struggles within the government, there were many issues that needed to be solved. As leaders cycled through the line of kings, England’s government was periodically modified, along with their laws and the liberties of citizens. The throne bobbed between catholic and protestant rules, two groups who did not like each other very much. On her journey to one of the most powerful forces in the world, England worked on political, religious, and governmental liberties.

Government System

In the early 1600s, the English government was built of a parliament and a monarch. This system closely resembles the government of the United States today, for the president is like a monarch and the congress system is like a parliament. In Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, Hobbes discusses the importance of absolutism in political theory and his beliefs on the subject. Absolutism was a belief that rulers were to have absolute power over the land they ruled, and that they had the divine right to rule. Many thinkers like Hobbes discussed what they thought the country needed politically, and many were on the subject of absolutism. Charles I liked the theory of absolutism and believed that he was divinely chosen by God to rule, and that he should have absolute power over the parliament. The people at the time and the people of parliament wanted to keep the current setup of power because of the way it was evenly distributed, but Charles I disagreed because he was power hungry.

Limitation of Freedom

This limited the freedom of the general population because the common people did not have the ability to change the way that Charles I ran England into the way that they wanted: democracy. Charles also lowered the freedom of the population indirectly through raising taxes. As a result of the wars going on at the time, Charles had a lot of money to pay out. But, he needed income in order to pay out this money, which he received from high taxes. By increasing taxes, the population had less money to spend, thereby decreasing the value of the economy and also decreasing the standard of living of the English people. By decreasing the general population’s standard of living, people did not have the freedom to buy what they wanted, lowering how much freedom they had. Because of these political struggles, the value of the economy went down along with the freedom of the people.

Religious Freedoms

Religious freedoms were also taken away by the king during the 17th century. Many people in England at the time were protestants, a group which Charles I did not like at all. Charles’ wife at the time was Catholic, so a group that had an entirely different belief system than his wife was a group he did not enjoy. At this time, however, England did not practice religious freedom. Because of this, the puritans were jailed, discriminated against, and most of them ended up traveling over to the New World instead of remaining in England.

The Magna Carta

As a result of these freedoms being limited, bills such as the Magna Carta were drafted to give power to not only the monarch, but also the parliament. For example, in the Magna Carta it said that taxes should be determined by the parliament because the parliament was elected by the people and therefore controlled yet regulated by the population itself. Charles obviously did not like this because it would remove his power to raise the taxes 20 fold and not have to go through a voting process by the parliament.

English Bill of Rights

The English people had finally had enough of absolutism and decided to write the English Bill of Rights in 1689, a document which declared many freedoms and rights of the citizens and parliament. In this document, one important phrase was “That election of members of Parliament ought to be free,” showing that the people, not the King, should have the right to decide what happens in the government of the country. This was significant because it overthrew the idea of absolutism where the King had all of the power. The bill also stated “That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament,” which showed that freedom of speech was an important point wanted by the common people. This bill was revolutionary because it took away the almighty power of the King and gave it to the people in the form of freedom and liberty.

Conclusion

In the 17th century, there were many government issues that interfered with the idea of liberty and freedom. Among these were badly developed power divisions, greed, and little say from the population. These bad decisions limited political, economic, and general freedom, which is not something that humans like by nature. But in the long run, England was finally able to establish liberties given to the people through their Bill of Rights towards the end of the 17th century. On her journey to becoming a massive player in the game of world power, England went through some tough times of government struggles, power struggles, and restrictions of freedom.

History


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