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The Habeas Corpus Parliament, also known as the First Exclusion Parliament, was a short-lived English Parliament which assembled on 6 March 1679 (or 1678, Old Style) during the reign of Charles II of England, the third parliament of the King's reign. It is named after the Habeas Corpus Act, which it enacted in May 1679.
The Habeas Corpus Parliament sat for two sessions. The first session sat from 6 March 1679 to 13 March 1679, the second session from 15 March 1679 to 26 May 1679. It was dissolved while in recess on 12 July 1679.
The parliament succeeded the long Cavalier Parliament of 1661–1678/79, which the King had dissolved.Elections were held for a new parliament on various dates in February 1678/79, after which the Earl of Shaftesbury estimated that of the members of the new House of Commons one third were friends of the court, three-fifths favouring the Opposition, and the rest capable of going either way. On Thursday, 6 March, the Parliament first met, and the King opened the session with a speech to both houses, in which he said:
I have done many great Things already... as the Exclusion of the Popish Lords from their Seats in Parliament; the Execution of several Men, both upon the score of the Plot, and the Murder of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey... I have disbanded as much of the Army as I could get Money to do; and I am ready to disband the rest so soon as you shall reimburse me the Money they have cost me, and will enable me to pay off the Remainder: And above all, I have commanded my Brother to absent himself from me, because I would not leave malicious Men room to say, I had not removed all Causes which could be pretended to influence me towards Popish Counsels... I have not been wanting in giving Orders for putting all the present Laws in Execution against Papists; and I am ready to join in the making such farther Laws, as may be necessary for securing the Kingdom against Popery... I must needs put you in mind how necessary it will be to have a good Strength at Sea, next Summer, since our Neighbours are making naval Preparations... I will conclude as I begun, with my earnest Desires to have this a Healing Parliament; and I do give you this Assurance that I will with my Life defend both the Protestant Religion, and the Laws of this Kingdom, and I do expect from you to be defended from the Calumny, as well as the Danger of those worst of Men, who endeavour to render me, and my Government, odious to my People. The rest I leave to the Lord Chancellor.
Lord Chancellor Finch replied.
After several days of debate and correspondence with the King, William Gregory, who had served only one year in Parliament, was elected to serve as Speaker of the House of Commons, this being agreed as a compromise between the Commons, who had wished to re-elect Edward Seymour, and the King, who objected to Seymour.
On 25 March, Shaftesbury made a strong speech in the House of Lords warning of the threat of Popery and arbitrary government, and denouncing the royal administrations in the Kingdom of Scotland under John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale, and in the Kingdom of Ireland under James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde. He also denounced anew the Earl of Danby. Parliament resumed the pursuit of Danby's impeachment, showing even more anger against him than its Cavalier Parliament predecessor had.
As the parliament's name implies, its most notable achievement was the passage of the Habeas Corpus Act 1679. This was part of the struggle led by Shaftesbury to exclude the King's Roman Catholic brother James, Duke of York, from the succession to the throne, as Shaftesbury and his allies believed James would rule England arbitrarily.
On 15 May 1679, Shaftesbury's supporters in the Commons introduced the Exclusion Bill, which had the specific aim of disbarring the Duke of York from the throne. When it appeared that the bill was likely to pass, Charles used his prerogative to dissolve Parliament, which was prorogued on 27 May 1679 and did not meet again before it came to an end on 12 July 1679.
On 22 June, in the dying days of the parliament, although some weeks after its final meeting, came the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, at which troops commanded by the King's illegitimate son James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth defeated a rebellion in Scotland by militant Presbyterian Covenanters against Lauderdale's rule. Following the battle, Lauderdale was replaced in Scotland by the Duke of York.
Charles II was King of Scotland from 1649 until 1651, and King of England, Scotland and Ireland from the 1660 Restoration of the monarchy until his death in 1685.
The Cavalier Parliament of England lasted from 8 May 1661 until 24 January 1679. It was the longest English Parliament, and longer than any Great British or UK Parliament to date, enduring for nearly 18 years of the quarter-century reign of Charles II of England. Like its predecessor, the Convention Parliament, it was overwhelmingly Royalist and is also known as the Pensioner Parliament for the many pensions it granted to adherents of the King.
William Sacheverell was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons in two periods between 1670 and 1691.
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury PC was a prominent English politician during the Interregnum and the reign of King Charles II. A founder of the Whig party, he was also the patron of John Locke.
George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax,, was an English statesman, writer, and politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1660, and in the House of Lords after he was raised to the peerage in 1668.
Thomas Osborne, 1st Duke of Leeds,, was a prominent English politician. Under King Charles II, he was the leading figure in the government for around five years in the mid 1670s. He fell out of favour due to corruption and other scandals, and was impeached and eventually imprisoned in the Tower of London for five years until the accession of James II of England in 1685. In 1688 he was one of the Immortal Seven group that invited William III, Prince of Orange to depose James II as monarch during the Glorious Revolution. He was again the leading figure in government, known at the time as the Marquess of Carmarthen, for a few years in the early 1690s.
The Popish Plot was a fictitious conspiracy invented by Titus Oates that between 1678 and 1681 gripped the Kingdoms of England and Scotland in anti-Catholic hysteria. Oates alleged that there was an extensive Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles II, accusations that led to the executions of at least 22 men and precipitated the Exclusion Bill Crisis. Eventually, Oates's intricate web of accusations fell apart, leading to his arrest and conviction for perjury.
The Exclusion Crisis ran from 1679 until 1681 in the reign of King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland. Three Exclusion bills sought to exclude the King's brother and heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland because he was Roman Catholic. None became law. Two new parties formed. The Tories were opposed to this exclusion while the "Country Party", who were soon to be called the Whigs, supported it. While the matter of James's exclusion was not decided in Parliament during Charles's reign, it would come to a head only three years after he took the throne, when he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Finally, the Act of Settlement 1701 decided definitively that Catholics were to be excluded from the English, Scottish and Irish thrones, now the British throne.
The Habeas Corpus Act 1679 is an Act of Parliament in England during the reign of King Charles II. It was passed by what became known as the Habeas Corpus Parliament to define and strengthen the ancient prerogative writ of habeas corpus, which required a court to examine the lawfulness of a prisoner's detention and thus prevent unlawful or arbitrary imprisonment.
William Russell, Lord Russell, was an English politician. He was a leading member of the Country Party, forerunners of the Whigs, who during the reign of King Charles II, laid the groundwork for opposition in the House of Commons to the accession of an openly Catholic king in Charles's brother James. This ultimately resulted in Russell's execution for treason, almost two years before Charles died and James acceded to the throne.
William Harbord, of Grafton Park, was an English diplomat and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1661 and 1690.
Events from the year 1679 in England.
Henry Powle was an English lawyer and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1660 and 1690, and was Speaker of the House of Commons from January 1689 to February 1690. He was also Master of the Rolls.
Hungerford Dunch was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons in 1660 and from 1679 to 1680.
The Exclusion Bill Parliament was a Parliament of England during the reign of Charles II of England, named after the long saga of the Exclusion Bill. Summoned on 24 July 1679, but prorogued by the king so that it did not assemble until 21 October 1680, it was dissolved three months later on 18 January 1680/81.
John Arnold, widely known as John Arnold of Monmouthshire, was a Welsh Protestant politician and Whig MP. He was one of the most prominent people in Monmouthshire in the late 17th century. A stark anti-Catholic, he was a notable figure during the Popish plot and the suppression of Catholicism in the country. Arnold represented the constituencies around Monmouth and Southwark in Parliament in the 1680s and 1690s. His strong anti-Catholic beliefs and insurgences against Catholic priests made him an unpopular and controversial figure amongst his peers and in his native Monmouthshire. In his later years his behaviour became increasingly eccentric, and he was widely believed to have faked an attempt on his own life. Amongst his associates were Titus Oates and Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury.
Sir Robert Thomas, 2nd Baronet (c.1622-1685) was a Welsh politician who sat in the House of Commons of England from 1661 to 1681. He was knighted and succeeded as baronet in 1673 on the death of his father.
The March 1679 English general election returned a majority of members in favour of the Exclusion Bill. This parliament was called the Habeas Corpus Parliament after the Habeas Corpus Act, which it enacted in May, 1679 to define and strengthen the ancient prerogative writ benefitting all subjects. It was dissolved while in recess on 12 July 1679. Many members did not attend the parliament at all, so their view about Exclusion is unknown.
Thomas Dalmahoy was an English politician as the (co-)Member of Parliament for Guildford, 1664-1679. His left-handed marriage is notable in that he married the widow of his family's patron, killed at the final foray of the English Civil War, the Battle of Worcester, having served as his master of the horse attending to his travel arrangements — the patron was the Duke of Hamilton.
Prorogation in the United Kingdom is an act in United Kingdom constitutional law that is usually used to mark the end of a parliamentary session. Part of the royal prerogative, it is the name given to the period between the end of a session of the UK Parliament and the State Opening of Parliament that begins the next session. The average length of prorogation since 2000 is approximately 18 days. The parliamentary session may also be prorogued before Parliament is dissolved. The power to prorogue Parliament belongs to the Monarch, on the advice of the Privy Council. Like all prerogative powers, it is not left to the personal discretion of the monarch but is to be exercised, on the advice of the Prime Minister, according to law.