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Unit 2 * Topic 8: How did constitutional government develop in Great

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Unit 2 – Topic 8:
How did constitutional government
develop in Great Britain?
RAP: The Founders were very concerned about
the abuse of power, and designed a system of
checks and balances to limit the government’s
power. Explain why or why not you agree with
them and their system.
Lesson Goal: Students will be able to describe the struggles
for power between the English monarch and Parliament.
Students will be able to explain how these struggles led to a
system of separated powers and representative government.
Students will be able to describe some of the important
constitutional documents in British history that influenced the
writing of our constitution.
Rights of Englishmen
Before independence – British subjects
As subjects:
– The right to a trial by jury
– Security from unlawful entry into one’s home
– No taxation without consent
The Constitution of Great Britain
Not a single written document
– Common law
– Laws passed by Parliament
Feudal System
Brought to England by William the
Conqueror in 1066
Is a system of governing
Based on control of the land
Feudal System
3 social groups
– Royalty – king, queen and their family
Government by king or queen is a monarchy
– Nobility – lords, ladies held titles of earl, duke,
duchess, and barons.
Worked for the monarchy aiding them to control England
– Common people – rest of the people
Knights, soldiers of the king, merchants, and peasants (serfs)
Farmed the land
Not free to leave the area in which they worked
How the monarchy ruled.
All public land belonged to the monarch
Too much land to rule
– Nobility controlled parts of the land and the
– Nobles pledged loyalty to the king and to go
to war
– Nobles divided the land
Assigned vassals to control the land and people
Vassals owed loyalty and military service to the
Feudal System
How did the system work?
Agreements and contracts between the monarch
and the nobles
Agreements and contracts between the nobles
and the vassals
Contracts included
– Rights and responsibilities that the parties owed to
each other.
This is a government based on a contract.
– Those in power pledged to respect the rights of those
who pledged loyalty
Importance of Feudal System
Development of constitutional government
Monarchs began to share their power with
the nobles.
Without looking back, explain the feudal
Steps to the Magna Carta
Royalty shared some of its power with
When King John tried to take back some
of the rights given to nobles, they rebelled.
Nobles were very powerful and forced
King John to sign an agreement.
The agreement was the Magna Carta
– Important because it limited the power of a
The Magna Carta
Influenced the Founders in 2 ways
– Government was based on a contract
If either side breaks the contract, the contract is no longer
Both sides are responsible for fulfilling its terms
– Both government and the governed must obey the
law (rule of law).
Law limits the power of government
Property could not be taken without following agreed upon
procedures and rules
Nobles forced the king to create an
advisory council (Parliament)
Parliament is the legislative branch of the
English government
– House of Lord – represented the nobles
– House of Commons – represent the people
who owned large amounts of land – not
nobles - this was a loophole/issue, because
ONLY common people who are ALSO
landowners can be included in this
Eventually Parliament represented the
interests of their regions.
Constant struggle for power between
royalty, the nobles, and the commons.
The king
– forced the people for money without consent
from Parliament
– Required people to house soldiers in their
Petition of Right
The king’s actions made Parliament force
the king to agree to the Petition of Right
The Petition of Right
– The king could only raise taxes with the
consent of Parliament
– Soldiers could no longer be housed in homes
of the people
– Strengthened the idea that English subjects
had certain rights.
Civil War
Struggle between the monarch and
Parliament became so intense – civil wars
broke out.
Nobles won in 1649
Parliament ordered the execution of the
1688 – balance of power shifted to
English Bill of Rights
Passed by Parliament in 1689
Laws gave Parliament the right to limit the
powers of the monarch
– Elections to Parliament were free
– The people have the right to petition the king
English Bill of Rights
The monarchy was no longer allowed to
Collect taxes without consent
Interfere with the right to free speech and debate
Maintain an army in peace time
Prevent Protestants from having arms for their
– Require excessive bail or administer cruel
punishment for those accused or convicted of crimes
– Declare laws made by Parliament should not be
This happened at the same time the
British were establishing colonies.
The colonists brought the ideas about a
good government with them to the new
Student Choice:
Imagine that you are a member of the
nobility living in England. Write a letter to
the editor or draw an editorial cartoon
illustrating the importance of the rights
listed in the Magna Carta.
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