The English Bill of Rights, or "An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown," was passed by Parliament on 16 December 1689. It was a re-statement in statutory form of the Declaration of Right presented by the Convention Parliament to William and Mary in March 1689 inviting them to become joint sovereigns of England. The Bill of Rights lays down limits on the powers of sovereign and sets out the rights of Parliament and rules for freedom of speech in Parliament, the requirement to regular elections to Parliament and the right to petition the monarch without fear of retribution. It also reestablished the liberty of Protestants bear arms for their defense and condemned James II of England for "causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law."
The Bill of Rights is noteworthy for being the first political document to reflect the natural rights and political philosophy of renowned political philosopher John Locke, who would greatly influence America’s Founding Fathers a century later. In particular, it codified Locke’s “social contract theory,” requiring monarchs to seek the consent of the people, who are represented in Parliament.
In the United Kingdom, the Bill of Rights is further accompanied by the Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus Act 1679 and Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 as some of the basic documents of the uncodified British constitution. Its provisions are instantly recognizable within the U.S. Constitution and its own Bill of Rights, which would follow nearly 100 years later. Among the provisions are: The sovereign cannot unilaterally establish new courts or act as a judge. The agreement of parliament became necessary for the implementation of any new taxes. Only civil courts, not Church courts, are legal Freedom to petition the monarch without fear of retribution No standing army may be maintained during a time of peace without the consent of parliament. No royal interference in the freedom of the people to have arms for their own defence Freedom of speech and debates; No excessive bail or "cruel and unusual" punishments may be imposed