The English Constitution

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

The unwritten English constitution bears little resemblance to the written American Constitution:

The land of England was held on certain well-defined conditions, which conditions were, in the strictest sense, the purchase-money of that land. That purchase-money may be very accurately described to have been made payable as a perpetual annuity to the State, increasing in value as the land increased in value, just as tithe is payable to the clergy, and copyhold and other rents and profits to the landholders.

But the members of the Long Parliament and of the Convention Parliament of 1660 — in the face of the emphatic protest of Prynne and other sound constitutional lawyers — voted that the holders of the land of England should be totally exonerated from the future payment of this perpetual annuity, which constituted the purchase-money of their estates; and that this annuity, or purchase-money, should for the future be paid, in the shape of an excise, by other people, who held none of the land for which they were thus made to pay.

The land-owning members of Parliament used to be much more like voting shareholders. They voted on whether to fund a war or not, because they were footing the bill.

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