Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr.,

University President & Professor of Political Science
How did Queen Elizabeth manage to keep Parliament under control throughout the greater part of her reign? According to Queen Elizabeth's perception, what were the proper functions of Parliament? In what ways did Parliament deviate from the role Elizabeth I expected it to play in the English government? What changes occurred in the distribution of political authority between Crown and Parliament? How did these changes occur? What was the result? What were the characteristics of the governmental system that had evolved in England by the early 1880s? What was the relevance of this governmental system to constitutional and political development in England's North American colonies and in the United States of America?

1. Crown and Parliament During the Elizabethan Era:

        The Crown's Control of Parliament During Most of the Reign. Throughout the greater part of the reign of Elizabeth I, the Queen and her ministers and councillors were able to keep Parliament under control. In exercising the royal negative (i.e., the power of absolute veto over parliamentary legislation), Queen Elizabeth prevented unwelcome bills from being enacted into law. During the period from 1563 to 1597, the Queen vetoed thirty-six bills passed by the two chambers of Parliament.

Aside from exercise of the royal negative, Parliament was kept under control by the Queen's intervention into the internal affairs of the House of Commons and into the shire and borough elections of members of the Commons. The Queen interfered in the Commons' election of its Speaker, making sure that the man selected for that position could be relied upon to cooperate with and support the Crown's government on matters of concern to it. The Speaker, though formally elected by the Commons, was, in fact, the Monarch's choice and her principal agent in keeping debate and discussion in the chamber along the lines and within the bounds desired by the Queen.

Crown control of the agenda and activities of the House of Commons was enhanced by the presence of royal councillors (members of the Queen's Privy Council) and other Crown supporters in the Commons, sitting there as members elected from the shires and boroughs. Their presence in the Commons was the result of the Queen's exertion of influence in the parliamentary elections in particular shires and boroughs. The Crown supportters in the House of Commons were organized into a Crown faction to support Crown-sponsored measures in the Commons. An additional function of the Crown faction was to limit the independence of the Commons by helping the Speaker prevent members from bringing up matters which the Queen considered improper topics for parliamentary discussion and action.

        The Proper Business of Parliament -- The View of the Queen. The proper functions of Parliament, in the view of Elizabeth I, were to (1) approve the Monarch's request for money to meet extraordinary expenses, (2) legislate on matters submitted to Parliament by the Crown's government, (3) give advice to the Crown and her government when requested to do so, and (4) petition the Queen for redress of grievances in the members' local constituencies. Parliament had no other business. Parliament was supposed to be in session no longer than two or three weeks. The Queen expected Parliament to handle its business expeditiously and, on adjournment, its members to immediately return to their respective localities.

The Queen sought to preclude the House of Commons' passing, or even debating and deliberating on, issues relating to military and foreign affairs, the State Church, and the actual operations within the Exchequer (Treasury) and the other executive departments within the royal government. Elizabeth I objected, in particular, to parliamentary discussion of her marriage and the succession to the English Throne. To the Queen, the question of when and to whom she intended to marry was a personal matter, while designation of the person to succeed to the Throne on her death as well as dealing with problems in military and foreign affairs, the Church of England, and executive department operations were "matters of state" entirely within the royal prerogative and therefore not the proper business of Parliament,

In short, Queen Elizabeth expected the House of Commons to do no more than vote approval of taxes, briefly consider and quickly pass other bills submitted by the Crown's government, give advice when asked, present petitions for the redress of local grievances, and permit itself to be managed and controlled by the Queen and her ministers and councillors. Neither of the two houses of Parliament was to discuss or act on the personal affairs of the Queen or on public affairs within the royal prerogative.

        Increasing Discontent in Parliament. Over time, the members of Parliament became less and less willing to go along with the Queen's perceptions and expectations regarding the role of Parliament in the governance of England. Parliament, by no means a passive and docile assembly under the Tudor monarchs who preceeded Elizabeth I, was becoming more active, more assertive, and less manageable under Elizabeth. The members of Parliament were getting increasingly unhappy with their subordinate position in the governmental system and with the Queen's attitude which underlay that position. The House of Commons, in particular, was dissatisfied with the restraints imposed by the Crown and the limited role the chamber was expected to play in England's governance. Even at the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, members of the House of Commons were restive, showing signs of growing discontent and defiance.

        Rights and Privileges Sought by the House of Commons. Seeking greater independence, the House of Commons was striving to obtain more and more rights and privileges. In particular, the Commons sought to gain freedom of speech and debate in Parliament, immunity from arrest during parliamentary sessions, and control over parliamentary elections and over the internal procedures of the Commons, including the election of its Speaker.

        The Commons' Assumption of an Important Role in Legislation. The House of Commons was increasingly asserting itself in two ways -- (1) by forcing revision or withdrawal of Crown-sponsored legislative proposals and (2) by taking the initiative to introduce and push for the adoption of its own legislative proposals.

As early as 1563, the House of Commons was assuming a major decision making role on Crown-sponsored legislative bills. Before the Artificers Law of 1563 was enacted, the Commons went very far in revising the original bill which the Crown had submitted to Parliament. By 1571, if not earlier, the Commons' intervention in the passage of Crown-sponsored legislation, either voting down or substantially rewriting each Crown bill, had become a steadily increasing tendency.

In short, the House of Commons was kicking over the traces. The Commons was less and less disposed to confine its deliberations and actions to the limited and subordinate role which the Queen expected of the chamber.

The House of Commons, conscious of its increasing political importance, was more and more inclined to exploit its power of absolute veto over statutory legislation in general and taxation in particular to force the Crown to grant concessions -- to pressure the Monarch and her government to bend to the will of the Commons majority or to negotiate, bargain, and compromise with the leaders of that majority. A tax measure or other legislative bill proposed by the Crown was debated and deliberated upon at length in the Commons. This was generally followed by one or more petitions passed by the Commons requesting that the Queen agree to changes -- changes in either the proposed legislation or in some aspect of existing public policy, which might or might not be related to the Crown proposal under consideration. The Commons' passage of such a petition implied the threat of that body to withhold consent to taxes and/or other Crown-sponsored legislation, unless the Queen and her ministers and councillors agreed to the demands of the Commons, or, at least, offered the chamber an acceptable compromise.

        Freedom of Speech and Debate in Parliament. Regarding the Commons' demand for more parliamentary rights and privileges, Queen Elizabeth did grant the privilege of freedom of speech and debate in Parliament. But this was a temporary grant, made at the beginning of each session of Parliament and applicable only during the length of that session. A similar grant would need to be made at the next session, if the members of Parliament were to be legally entitled to speak freely at the session.

The grant of free speech was conditional as well as temporary. The Queen granted granted "liberty of speech" to members of Parliament during a given session on condition that it "be reverently used" or that the members, in exercising the privilege, "be neither unmindful or uncareful of their duties, reverence, and obedience to their sovereign." Elizabeth defined "liberty of speech" in Parliament as the privilege of each member "to say yea or nay to bills . . . with a short declaration of his reasons therein, and therein to have a free voice. . . . " The privilege of free speech in Parliament, according to the Queen, did not include the right "to speak there of all causes . . . and to frame a form of religion and a state of government. . . . [2]

        The Commons' Defiance of the Monarch's Wishes. As regards the strict limits which Elizabeth I sought to impose on parliamentary exercise of free speech and debate, members of the House of Commons repeatedly defied the Queen's wishes. For example, the House of Commons persistently brought up the matter of Elizabeth's spinsterhood and the question of who would inherit the Throne at the time of her death, despite the fact that she had expressly forbidden these two subjects to be discussed in Parliament. The Commons, session after session, petitioned the Queen to name either a husband or a successor and threatened to withhold approval of requested taxes if she did not soon resolve the the marriage-succession issue.

In trying to impose limits on "liberty of speech," Queen Elizabeth sought not only to circumscribe the subject matter open to parliamentary discussion, but also to confine the exercise of free speech to the chambers of Parliament. The Monarch issued a royal proclamation, or decree, prohibiting any discussion of politics and public policy that did not occur within the walls of parliamentary chambers and during the appointed hours. Members of Parliament were forbidden to discuss matters of state or other government business in taverns, inns, public dining rooms, or other places outside the chambers of Parliament, not even in private homes.

This proclamation, issued by the Queen through ecercise of the royal prerogative, was repeatedly violated by members of the House of Commons, even though it was legally risky to do so. When the Queen wished to have a member of Parliament arrested, she generally made certain that there were one or mor witnesses willing to testify that they heard the member discussing government business outside the sanctuary of Parliament.

Discussion of governmental affairs in private homes and in the London taverns, inns, and public dining rooms surrounding the Parliament building was not the extent of discussion of state business by MPs outside the parliamentary chambers. In the Fall of 1566, for example, when the members of Parliament began to arrive in London for the third Parliament called by Queen Elizabeth, the members were so exasperated over the unresolved succession issue and so adamant that the matter be settled, they violated the Queen's decree in order to bring the pressure of mass public opinion to bear on the Queen and her government. Distributing leaflets on the streets of London prior to the opening of the new session of Parliament, members of the House of Commons tried to upset the general populace and arouse its anger against the Queen and her Chief Minister, William Cecil.

        Successive Setbacks for the Crown. Beginning in 1576, the Queen and her government were subject to a series of setbacks regarding the fate of Crown-sponsored legislation in the House of Commons. At the 1576 session of Parliament, opposition in the Commons to two major Crown bills, one of which appeared to give royal proclamations the force of law, resulted in prolonged debate and eventual defeat of the bills.

    (Note: In 1610, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth's successor, James I, the Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, Sir Edward Coke, ruled, in a legal case before the court, that the Monarch could not make make law through the issuance of royal proclamations, that a royal proclamation could not be used to alter common or statutory law or to create new offenses.)

At the 1581 session of Parliament, the Crown's ministers submitted a sedition bill which would have expanded the application of the existing statute (a 1554 statute) prohibiting and prescribing penalties for "slandering the Sovereign" and would have made it much easier for the royal government to prosecute and obtain conviction of subjects under the statute. The proposed legislation, seen by many MPs as designed to enable the Crown and her government to suppress the political activities of Puritans as well as those of Roman Catholics, met stiff opposition in the House of Commons, whose membership included a large number of Puritans. The outcome of the dispute between the Crown and the Commons majority was passage of a revised and much weaker bill which, among other things, repealed the original statute of 1554. While this was a severe setback for the Queen, she did not exercise her right to veto the bill. Therefore, the bill became law, enhancing the independence of Parliament and protecting its members from criminal prosecution and penalty because of their political opposition to the Crown government and its policies.

At the 1584 meeting of Parliament, the Crown again suffered serious reversals in the House of Commons. One major Crown bill, a bill relating to fraudulent documents, had as its main provision the transfer of jurisdiction in such cases from the Court of Common Pleas to the Court of the Star Chamber -- a special prerogative court known for its use by Tudor monarchs to suppress political opposition and maintain royal authority. Submission of the bill resulted in a storm of opposition in the Commons, primarily because the bill would have expanded the jurisdiction of the unpopular court. All the political resources which the royal ministers managed to mobilize in support of the bill were insufficient to obtain its passage in original form by the Commons. The bill that the Commons majority finally approved was passed only after bitter and prolonged debate and in substantially amended form, with deletion of the parts of the original bill providing for transference of jurisdiction to the Court of the Star Chamber.

The House of Commons rejected outright five other bills at the 1584 session of Parliament. Four of the bills were major proposals of the Crown government. Two of the defeated bills concerned improvement of the Queen's revenue and two of them were intended to make censorship more effective.

        The Crown's Loss of Control Over Parliamentary Business. The record of successive defeats and major revisions of Crown-sponsored legislative bills constitutes strong evidence that the legitimacy as well as the reality of royal control of the business of Parliament was steadily declining. The Crown's moral authority over Parliament, especially over the Commons, was slowly but surely disappearing. Members of the House of Commons were, in increasing numbers and intensity, demanding that Crown deal with them as equal partners in the process of legislative decision making. No longer were they willing to accept royal ministers and councillors as their policy leaders and follow them, regardless of the direction in which they led. More and more, members of the Commons were rejecting the notion that the Crown's government always knew what was best for English society and for the individual Englishman. Increasingly, members of the Commons expected their knowledge, experience, and views to be taken into consideration in the shaping of legislation. Crown-sponsored bills were to be appropriately amended and the Commons was to possess and exercise authority to originate its own legislative proposals.

Political historian Wallace T. MacCaffrey describes the decay and erosion of royal authority during the reign of Elizabeth I as "one of those . . . instances in which an ancient and unchallenged authority melts away invisibly . . . because of a mysterious loss of charisma." According to MacCaffrey, "The magic aura which had given royal leadership uncontested authority was beginning to fade away around the edges." [3]

The upshot of these political developments was a situation in which the Queen and her government, unable to suppress or override the House of Commons, faced the necessity of compromise and cooperation with the majority in that chamber. The Crown was being pushed, by the sheer force of circumstances, in the direction of an awkward but practicable sharing of authoritative decision-making power with the Commons. The success of the royal government and its legislative proposals was more and more dependent upon the good will of the majority in the House of Commons. The Crown government's control of agenda and debate in the Commons was getting weaker and weaker.

        The Emergence of Constitutional Monarchy and Balanced Government. The relevant historical data indicate that, late in the reign of Elizabeth I, the Crown had lost effective control of the business of the House of Commons as well as the business of the House of Lords. By the beginning of the second decade prior to the death of Elizabeth in 1603, the nearly absolute monarchy of the Tudors had evolved into a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen and the two houses of Parliament sharing the legislative authority of the Kingdom. The English political regime had evolved into a governmental system characterized by shared and balanced political authority, with the three principal organs of government -- Commons, Lords, and Crown -- able and often willing to check and restrain one another and thereby prevent any one of the three governmental organs from exercising overriding political power. In other words a system of balanced government as well as a constitutional monarchy had evolved in England.

2. The Elizabethan Political System -- 1580-1603:

By the early 1580s, the English governmental system had evolved into a system characterized by division and distribution of political authority. The English political regime, during the last two decades of the reign of Elizabeth I, lacked a single, overwhelmingly dominant center of political power. Rather, governmental power was divided and dispersed among several power centers, none of which could override and completely dominate the others.

        Sharing the Legislative Authority. The legislative authority of the Kingdom was shared by three distinct organs of government -- the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Crown. These three governmental decision-making institutions shared equally the power to enact the statutes of the Realm. The consent of all three governmental organs was necessary for the passage of statutory legislation. The objection of any one of the three power centers -- the Monarch, a majority in the House of Commons, or a majority in the House of Lords -- would prevent a legislative bill from becoming a statute. In other words, each of the three principal organs of English government -- Crown, Commons, and Lords -- had the power of absolute veto over proposed legislation.

        Enactment of Statutory Legislation -- Theory and Reality. Although the constitutional and political theory underlying the English legislative process of the late sixteenth century postulated existence of a single power center, the "Crown in Parliament," where final and supreme decision-making authority regarding enactment of the statutes of the Kingdom was lodged, the practical effect of the theory's application was three separate power centers sharing the legislative authority. The "Crown in Parliament" designated a legislative decision-making process involving three distinct governmental institutions, the Crown, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords. Enactment of a statute by the "Crown in Parliament," or the "Queen in Parliament," meant that the consent of each of the three institutions -- Monarch, Commons, and Lords -- was required for passage of the statute. Since each of the components of the "Crown in Parliament" had evolved into a separate and independent decision-making entity, with the power to freely grant or withhold approval of statutory legislation, the application of the theory calling for concentration of legislative authority in a single power center actually resulted in equal sharing of that power by three separate power centers, each of which could block the passage of legislation and none of which could override the objections of the others.

        The Legislative Process. Most legislative bills were initiated by the Queen's government. The royal government, however, had to originate the bills in the chambers of Parliament. In the case of most types of legislative bills, a bill could be formally introduced first in either the House of Lords or the House of Commons. After passage by majority votes in both chambers of Parliament, the bill went to the Monarch for her allowance or disallowance -- i.e., her approval or disapproval, her consent or veto. Before a parliamentary bill could be submitted to the Queen for her allowance or disallowance, the Commons and the Lords had to pass identical versions on the bill.

In the case of a revenue bill, the bill had to be originated in the House of Commons. Any bill that would impose extraordinary taxes on the Queen's subjects had to be first introduced into the Commons and approved by majority vote in that elective body before the bill could be officially acted on by the House of Lords. Once the Lords had approved by majority vote a version of the bill identical to the version passed by the Commons, the bill went to the Crown for her consent or rejection.

        Commons and Lords as Independent Decision-Makers in the Legislative Process. When the Crown government initiated a bill, whether a money bill or some other type of legislation, the houses of Parliament did not automatically approve the bill. During the late 1500s, both the House of Commons and the House of Lords were independent bodies -- independent minded as well as formally and constitutionally independent. Neither chamber of Parliament was inclined to "rubber stamp" legislation initiated by the royal government.

        Bicameralism and the Legislative Process. The operation of Parliament during the lasr twenty years of Elizabeth's reign constituted the high point of bicameralism in English constitutional and political history. At the time, Parliament was more truly bicameral than it had ever been in the past or was ever to be in the future. Parliament had gradually developed from a unicameral assembly into a legislature consisting of two separate, independent, and politically powerful bodies -- the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Late in the next century, after conclusion of the English Revolution and adoption of the Constitutional Settlement of 1689, Parliament was to begin the slow process of evolution from a truly bicameral legislature into the contemporary British Parliament, in which the House of Lords is so weak and the House of Commons so overwhelmingly powerful that today a Commons majority has no difficulty enacting a non-money bill into law over the objections of a majority in the Lords, and the latter chamber has absolutely no voice in final passage of a money bill, the Lords being unable to delay a money bill for a period longer than one month and lacking authority to pass a money bill in amended form or to vote it down and prevent its enactment.

In the late 1500s, when Parliament was truly bicameral, each chamber frequently voted down bills that had been approved by majority vote in the other chamber. Moreover, one of the houses of Parliament, when considering and acting on a bill that had already received majority approval in the other house, would often amend or revise the bill and pass it in a form substantially different from the version of the bill passed by the other house. Since formal passage of a bill by Parliament required that the Commons-approved and Lords-approved versions of the bill be identical, political negotiation, bargaining, and compromise between the two legislative chambers on controversial bills were essential, The device which the two houses of Parliament developed to resolve their differences was the conference committee -- a joint parliamentary committee consisting of members of both houses, appointed by their respective presiding officers to reconcile the differences between the Commons and the Lords on a given bill.

Prior to 1571, appointment of a conference committee was an occasional occurrence. After 1571, however, use of the conference committee became standard procedure, resorted to frequently and regularly. "In Elizabeth's Parliaments, according to political scientist and sociologist Samuel P. Huntington,

    ". . . conferences were requested by one or the other house on most bills; the conference delegations were at times instructed not to yield on particular items; and when there were substantial differences between the versions of the two houses, the conference committee might substantially rewrite the entire bill, at times at the urging and with the adviceof the Queen and her councillors." [4}

        The Crown in the Legislative Process. As we have seen, Elizabeth I, in seeking to shape and control the outcome of legislative decision-making, had to deal with a House of Commons that was independent minded and politically powerful. The Queen was in no position to dictate to the House of Commons. In ordet to get the Commons' approval of desired legislation, the Monarch had to coax, importune, inveigle, and sway the majority in the chamber. To obtain passage of Crown-sponsored bills, the Queen had to persuade and win over the Commons majority.

The Crown's "legislative program," which consisted mainly of requests for extraordinary taxes, was usually approved by the House of Commons. On occasion, however, the Commons would get its back up, block passage of Crown-sponsored legislation, and make it necessary for the royal government to withdraw or revise its proposals.

Elizabeth was an active participant in the legislative process, regularly seeking to build political support in the House of Commons and obtain its approval of her legislative bills. The Queen would send messages to the Commons. She would admonish the Speaker of the Commons and instruct him on how to conduct the chamber's business. She would summon and receive delegations from both parliamentary chambers and seek to influence their subsequent behavior regarding bills of interest to the Queen and her ministers. The Queen would also attempt to win parliamentary support for her legislative proposals, according to historian A. L. Rouse, by "descending magnificiently upon Parliament in her coach or open chariot and addressing" the two chambers in person or through the Lord Keeper. [5]

In the case of legislative bills that were opposed by the Crown, Elizabeth I was not without means of getting the bills killed while still under consideration in the chambers of Parliament. The Queen had at her disposal enormous political resources that she could and did utilize to obtain blockage in the parliamentary chambers of bills she did not want. At nearly every session, however, the two houses of Parliament passed some bills that were obnoxious to the Monarch, and she exercised the royal veto to prevent their enactment as statutes of the Realm. The available historical data seem to indicate that, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the Crown consented to 429 parliamentary bills and vetoed seventy-one others.

The royal negative, however, was not a power that could be exercised lightly and capriciously. Before employing the veto to kill a particular bill, the Crown had to give careful consideration to the political context in which the bill had been approved by majorities in the two houses of Parliament and to the probable consequences of the Queen's disallowance of the bill. That is, the Monarch had to exercise caution, carefully and thoughtfully weighing the political costs and gains of withholding her consent to the particular bill in question. Would the costs outweigh the gains of using the royal veto in this instance? Historian J. E. Neale points out that politics in Elizabethan England was, as it is in modern Britain and the U.S.A., "the art of the possible, , , , Too drastic or ill-considered a use of the royal veto might have stirred up trouble." [6]

A hasty and unwise exercise of the royal negative could have increased political conflict within the Kingdom to a dangerously high level. Such a use of the veto by the Monarch could have aroused the opposition of a large majority in the House of Commons, a majority determined to protect the independence and privileses of the Commons against what was perceived to be encroachment by the Crown. The veto could have alienated blocs and factions in the Commons which, while strongly opposed to the Crown's position on the given bill in question, were inclined to support her on other measures and issues. The Monarch's veto could have been widely perceived, within the politically significant segments of English society, as upsetting -- or seriously threatening to upset -- the balance of power in the governmental system, thereby producing a constitutional crisis and inviting rebellion on the part of a potential political rival, i.e., a pretender to the Throne seeking to forcibly oust Elizabeth I and replace her as the reigning and ruling Monarch. In any of the foregoing scenarios, the political costs of using the royal veto in a drastic and ill-considered manner certainly would have outweighed the political gains achieved.

        The Legislative Process and Balanced Government. In the enactment of statutory legislation, the English governmental system of the late sixteenth century was characterized by an effective system of balanced government, or checks and balances. The law-making authority of the Kingdom was divided and distributed among three constitutionally separate organs of government -- Commons, Lords, and Crown. Each of these three legislative organs of the English government was politically powerful and largely independent of the others. Each possessed an equal voice in legislative decision-making. The concurrence, or agreement, of all three organs was essential to the enactment of legislative statutes.

Each of the three governmental organs -- Crown, Lords, and Commons -- reflected or represented a different set of interests within English society. The Crown embodied as well as reflected the interests of the Kingdom's national leadership. The House of Lords reflected primarily the interests of the hereditary aristocracy, while the House of Commons represented the interests of the wealthy, upper middle class commoners.

Since the consent of all three law-making institutions was needed for the enactment of a statute, each institution possessed the constitutional means to protect the interests which it represented or reflected. Each institution was strong enough to check and restrain the other two. Each could exploit its constitutional right of an equal say in decisions on statutory legislation to counteract and counterbalance the others. And because the three legislative organs represented or reflected varying and competing interests -- interests which, at times, were in sharp conflict with one another -- each organ had a strong incentive as well as the formal-legal means to check and restrain -- to counteract and counterbalance -- the others. To secure the consent of all three organs to the enactment of a controversial bill, negotiation, bargaining, compromise, and mutual accomodation among Commons, Lords, and Crown were indispensable. No single organ of government or the set of interests it reflected was in a position to dominate the entire system and get its way 100%, ignoring and overriding the objections of the other governmental organs and the interests they reflected.

In other words, a balance of political power was maintained among the three major institutions operating in the English system of national legislative decision-making -- the Crown, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords. Possessing both the constitutional right and personal incentive to do so, the three legislative organs exercised countervailing power against each other, preventing any one of them from wielding unbridled power and ruling society in a tyrannical fashion. The legislative process in Elizabethan England manifested a system of balanced government -- a reasonably effective system of checks and balances among Crown, Commons, and Lords.

        The Monarch as Chief Executive. The Monarch, in addition to sharing the legislative authority with the two houses of Parliament, was chief executive in the English governmental system. As chief executive, the Crown possessed and exercised broad authority to enforce the laws of the Realm and was largely independent of the other two major organs of English government, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. While Crown, Lords, and Commons shared the legislative authority, the Crown alone possessed the executive authority.

The executive in the governmental system of late sixteenteenth century England was a unitary executive. One person occupying one office -- the office of Monarch --was chief executive of the Realm. The top executive authority was a single high executive officer. The executive branch of the government was headed by the Queen herself, not by a plural body consisting of members equal to each other in rank and having an equal say in executive-branch decisions -- a collegial, or committee-style, executive, such as the nineteenth century British Cabinet. Elizabeth I, with the advice and assistance of the Privy Council, ran the executive branch of the English government.

As Monarch and chief executive, Queen Elizabeth possessed and exercised the royal prerogative --broad discretionary authority to make decisions and to take action in:

    Summoning, proroguing (adjourning), and dissolving Parliament;

    Enforcing the laws of the Kingdom;

    Granting borough charters and thereby creating new parliamentary election districts;

    Appointing royal ministers, members of the Privy Council, and other officers of the Crown;

    Coining money and regulating its value;

    Appropriating revenues granted by Parliament;

    Functioning as the fount of justice, i.e., creating royal courts and appointing the judges thereof;

    Granting pardons to individual persons convicted of crime;

    Dispensing with the law in particular cases, i.e., exempting particular persons from the requirements, restrictions, or disqualifications imposed on them by a particular law;

    Administering imperial policy -- policy relating to the establishment and governance of overseas colonies, outposts, and dependencies;

    Maintaining the public peace and safety, i.e., maintaining law and order within England's borders;

    Concluding treaties and alliances and otherwise handling diplomatic relations with the governments of foreign nations;

    Protecting England's shipping and commerce on the high seas;

    Defending the Kingdom and its colonies, outposts, and dependencies from foreign attack or invasion;

    Declaring and waging war;

    Granting letters of Marque and Reprisal -- licenses permitting privateering, i.e., authorizing privately owned vessels to be armed and equipped by their owners and to sail on the seas and engage in war with specified foreign powers, attacking and seizing their commercial vessels.

The royal prerogative included the authority to issue royal proclamations, or royal decrees. A royal proclamation, or royal decree, was a written declaration of the will of the Monarch, issued by the Crown on the advice of the Privy Council and made legal by the stamp of the Great Seal. Elizabeth I had often utilized royal proclamations to alter the provisions and expand the coverage of existing statutes and even to anticipate the enactment of new statutes. As previously mentioned, however, Parliament in 1576 rejected a crown-sponsored bill which appeared to give royal proclamations the force of law, and Sir Edward Coke, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, ruled, in a 1610 legal case, that neither statutory nor common law could be modified by royal proclamation. After the English Revolution and the Constitutional Settlement of 1689-1701, the use of royal proclamations were limited to declaring war and peace, declaring states of emergency, designating national holidays, and summoning, proroguing, and dissolving Parliament.

In the Elizabethan governmental system, the Monarxh was chief executive in fact as well as in name. The Queen, possessing full power to govern the Kingdom, ruled as well as reigned. Elizabeth I supervised and directed her ministers, who were appointed by the Queen and served during her pleasure. With the advice of her ministers and with that of the other Privy Council members, also serving during the Queen's pleasure, Elizabeth I ran the executive branch of England's government.

Like the office of President in the American governmental system, the office of Monarch in the governmental system of late sixteenth century England combined the position of ceremonial Chief of State with that of effective head of the executive branch of government.

        Constitutional Monarchy. While Elizabeth I possessed and exercised real political authority, she had to govern under and in accordance with the English Constitution. In governing the Kingdom, the Monarch had to follow the laws, customs, and conventions of the Constitution. The Queen was a constitutional monarch, not an absolute monarch. The Queen ruled as well as reigned, but she ruled under law. She governed English society under a constitution which placed limits on her executive authority and required her to share legislative authority with the houses of Parliament. The Constitution permitted the Monarch ro rule, but to rule with due regard to the lawful rights and liberties of English subjects and the constitutional powers and privileges of rhe chambers of Parliament.

3. The Relevance of the Elizabethan Governmental System to American Constitutional     and Political Development

The original source of many of the political ideas which guided the Framers of the U.S. Constitution in drafting its legislative and executive articles -- Articles I and II, respectively -- and thereby providing the legal foundation for the two houses of Congress, for the Presidency, and for the relationships among the major organs of American national government can be seen in the respective roles of Monarch, Commons, and Lords in the Elizabethan system of government toward the end of the sixteenth century. The English governmental system of the late Tudor period was the original source of the American Framers' ideas about the proper role of the chief executive in a constitutional, representative government and about the proper distribution and balance of power among the major policy decision-making organs of government -- the chief executive and the two houses of the legislature.

However, the immediate source of these ideas lay in the political experience of the British colonies in North America during the 156-year period from 1619 to 1775. The influence of the century and a half of colonial political experience on the Framers of the U.S. Constitution was crucial. And the immediate source of the political ideas, practices, and institutions of the colonists in British North America was the late sixteenth century English governmental system itself, along with the body of constitutional and political theory underlying the system and giving it legitimacy.

The people who migrated from England and settled in British North America during the early seventeenth century left behind in the Mother Country a complex governmental structure which they undertook to duplicate in the New World. The flow of settlers began in 1607, with the founding of the James Town settlement and the beginning of the Colony or Virginia. The first plan of government for the Virginia Colony was adopted in 1619. The year 1607 was a mere four years after the death of Elizabeth I, and the year 1619 was only sixteen years after the Queen's demise. The early Virginia colonists, like the Englishmen who remained in the Mother Country, were bound to be much more familiar with the mode of governance under Elizabeth I than they were with that under James I, the Scottish Monarch who had only recently -- in 1603 -- succeeded to the Throne of England. Thus, the Virginia settlers who did any serious thinking about politics and government thought in terms of (1) how the government of England was supposed to be conducted -- how, according to English constitutional theory, the government was supposed to operate, (2) how the English government actually did operate during the reign of Elizabeth I, and (3) how a similar system of constitutional, representative government could be established in Virginia and made to operate effectively.

The system of colonial government established in Virginia in 1619 was modeled after the English government, as it was perceived by the stockholders and officers of the London Company and by the leading settlers in the colony. As each of the other twelve English colonies was founded subsequently, the colony received or developed a governmental system which was patterned basically after the colonial government of Virginia.

The English colonists in North America took very seriously traditional English constitutional theory -- the body of constitutional theory underlying the English governmental system, as it had evolved by the end of the reign of Elizabeth I. The colonists saw this theory as not only underlying and legitimizing the government of the Mother Country, but also performing the same function for the colonial governments of British North America. Traditional English constitutional theory became the very core of the political culture of the people living in the thirteen British colonies established along the Atlantic coast of North America between Florida and what is now Canada.

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