An Early Modern Crisis of Civil Liberties: King, Parliament, and the Law in England, 1625-1629
The political crisis that overtook England in the latter 1620s bears striking resemblance to the response of the US administration in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. In both cases, war against an ideologically demonized enemy was used as a pretext for arbitrary arrests and confiscations on national security grounds ("reason of state" in the English formulation). In both cases, the first line of response (the royal courts; the US Congress) failed to challenge the abrogation of civil liberties and property rights; in both, it was left to an ultimate judicial arbiter (Parliament; the US Supreme Court) to define the permissible limits of executive authority. In England, the failure to achieve settlement helped spark civil war and revolution; in the US, matters are still at issue in the courts, and the constitutional outcome is uncertain.
Keywords: Civil Liberties
Dr. Robert Zaller
Professor of History, Department of History and Politics, Drexel University