How was Liberty restored?

by Adam Smith

How was liberty was restored in Britain?

Period Leader
1533 Henry 7th
1558 Elizabeth
1603 James I
1649 Charles I

Henry 7th allowed the nobility to dispose of their estates. This placed them on a level with the commons.

Elizabeth was a popular leader and so she was continually unwilling to impose taxes on her subjects. To supply her exigencies, she sold the royal demesnes, as she knew that none of her offspring was to succeed her. Her successors needed frequent supplies and so were obliged to ask parliaments.

The Commons, representing the people, became very considerable under Elizabeth.

  • They obtained freedom of speech.
  • They required that their concurrence should be necessary to every law

Because of his urgent necessities, the king was forced to grant whatever they asked. Thus, the parliament’s authority established itself.

After the accession of James I, Britain focused on its navy instead of its army. Consequently, the king had no power to overawe people or parliament. James I had £1,200,000 a year of revenue. It could have secured his independence if not for the bad economy of Charles II. That bad economy could have rendered James I as indigent as any of his predecessors.

His successor was still more dependent and was forced to quit. This brought in a new family which totally depended on taxes, because the royal demesnes were entirely alienated. They were obliged to court the people for taxes. Ever since then, the king’s revenue=

  • became much greater than it was before.
  • depended so much on parliament’s concurrence that it can never endanger the nation’s liberty.

The present revenues consist chiefly of=

  1. The civil list

This is entirely consumed in the royal family’s maintenance. It can give the king no influence, nor hurt the subject’s liberty.

  1. The annual land and malt taxes.

These depend entirely on the parliament.

  1. The funds mortgaged for paying off the public debts.

Examples are taxes on salt, beer, malt, etc., levied by the officers of custom and excise. These cannot be touched by the king as they are paid to the court of exchequer.

  • The exchequer is generally managed by people of interest and integrity.
  • They have their offices for life and are quite independent of the king*.
  • They can pay only to those appointed by parliament.
  • They must have the discharge of the public creditor.

*Superphysics note: In Economic Superphysics, the exchequer makes up the fourth branch of of government

The surplus of the mortgages goes into the ‘sinking fund’ for paying the public debt. This secures the government in the present family. If a revolution were to happen, the public creditors, who are men of interest, would lose both principal and interest.

Thus, the public revenue is quite secure. In this way, a rational system of liberty has been introduced into Britain. The parliament consists of about 200 peers and 500 commoners.

  • The Commons manages all public affairs.
  • Money bills can only be approved by it.

Here is a happy mixture of the different forms of government properly restrained, and a perfect security to liberty and property. The other securities to liberty are=

  • The appointed judges are fixed for life and quite independent of the king
  • The king’s ministers are liable to impeachment by the House of Commons for maladministration. The king cannot pardon them.
  • The Habeas Corpus Act which prevents the king from imprisoning a person arbitrarily and makes any judge incapable of any office if he refuses to try a prisoner within 40 days
  • The method of election and placing the power of judging on all elections into the hands of the Commons.
  • The establishment of the courts of justice

All these established customs make it impossible for the king to attempt anything absolute.


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