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View Diary: Why do we have a 435-member House? (104 comments)

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  •  The parliamentary system was a new invention even (9+ / 0-)

    in the UK, and the fiction that all the ministers served at the King's pleasure was maintained in law but not in practice.

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    by Kimball Cross on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 08:50:53 AM PDT

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    •  not really (8+ / 0-)

      By the time of the American Revolution the British parliament had selected the heir to the throne for nearly 80 years - since the Bill of Rights in 1689. In 1649 Parliament had executed Charles I and it was only in 1660 that his son, Charles II was invited back to England following the breakdown of the Commonwealth, exacerbated by the death of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell in 1958.

      There had been a succession (no pun intended) of monarchs who failed to perform their primary duty of producing an heir (and preferably a "spare")

      In 1689 James II was deposed and Parliament invited William III (William of Orange) and Mary II to become co-regnants. They were the grandchildren of Charles I. Mary predeceased William who died after a fall from his horse in 1702.  The story is that the horse tripped on a molehill which led to the Jacobites toasting "the little gentleman in black velvet".

      William had no successor but Parliament had been searching for an heir - remember the Bill of Rights forbad a Catholic from the throne. They settled on Anne who was James II's daughter

      Anne died in 1714 without any living children. Parliament then passed over the claims of about 20 people because of their Catholicism and selected George I who was the great-grandson of James I of England (James VI of Scotland). He was succeeded by his son George II in 1727.

      George II again had no surviving children, George II was his grandson  who became King in 1760. By the way, recent re-examination of his medical records has led to the conclusion George III did not suffer from porphyria but severe bi-polar disorder (AKA manic-depression). The treatment for this was gentian violet which is still used in for some of its other medicinal properties. It did however mean George's urine was dyed blue which is also a symptom of porphyria.

      Anne had been more or less permanently pregnant and, despite her ambition and efforts to govern well, had not been able to overcome her illness. George I spoke virtually no English. He had to be prompted in Latin during his coronation. He attempted to begin the King's Speech at the opening of Parliament that followed soon after, gave up and somebody read it for him. George II was in a state of virtual continuous battle with his eldest son Frederick (who again died before succeeding!) and was also Elector of Hanover.  Both the first two Georges had really insufficient competence in English to have much of an impact on day to day government.

      So for long periods policy decisions were taken by ministers rather than the monarch. The execution of Charles I ended the pretence of the "devine right of kings" even if Charles II's son James I had attempted to reinstate much of the powers that came with it.

      The American colonies had a similar sort of administration to England. Councils - akin to the Privy Council - advised the Governor who represented the King. They however were subject to having to consult assemblies in each colony for tax raising and budget decisions. The Councils were in effect the House of Lords and the assemblies the Commons.

      So the seeds of the bicameral Senate/House and head of state separation in today's USA were already established before the Continental Congress. The assemblies - called different names in different colonies - were elected by free (white) men with a property provision; just as in England although the franchise was much wider in the colonies because of many more satisfying the property test. The most significant changes in the US constitution were that the head of state and chief executive was elected by a special college of electors decided on by the states and that the states also appointed, now through direct elections, the members of the upper house.

      We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Mon Apr 22, 2013 at 02:42:16 PM PDT

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