Bushel’s Case 1670 – Landmark Ruling on the Role of Jurors

Bushel’s Case 1670 – Landmark Ruling on the Role of Jurors

Bushel’s Case 1670 - Landmark Ruling on the Role of Jurors - The Birth of Pennsylvania 1680 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930) shows King Charles II giving a land charter to William Penn in the Palace of Whitehall.
Bushel’s Case 1670 – Landmark Ruling on the Role of Jurors – The Birth of Pennsylvania 1680 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930) shows King Charles II giving a land charter to William Penn in the Palace of Whitehall.

King v. Penn and Mead, William Penn (1644–1718), John Vaughan (1603–1674)

A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.

—Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

In August 1670, William Penn and William Mead were charged with “unlawfully and tumultuously” assembling to preach and speak during a Quaker worship session on London’s Gracechurch Street. William Penn, who later founded the Colony and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and William Mead were charged with “unlawfully and tumultuously” assembling to preach and speak during a Quaker worship session on London’s Gracechurch Street. The jury found Mead not guilty and Penn convicted at the conclusion of King V. Penn and Mead at the Old Bailey (the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales).

Read more

Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan 1651 – Modern Constitutionalism

Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan 1651 – Modern Constitutionalism

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679)

Thomas Hobbes - Leviathan 1651 - Modern Constitutionalism
Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan 1651 – Modern Constitutionalism

What makes a book revolutionary is often the context from which that content emerges, rather than the substance itself. This was the circumstance when Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan was published in 1651. At the time, England was on the verge of ending a nine-year civil war.

Unrest had become the social and political norm, and the law had devolved into a jumble of notions with little structure. Despite the disarray, one overriding framework stood out, according to political analyst Gary McDowell: “the tremendous and pervasive influence of Christianity.”Leviathan caused a stir by challenging traditional Christian concepts of man, law, and government, signaling a dramatic shift in legal thought and setting a crucial foundation for the next century’s development of law.

Read more

Peace of Westphalia – 1648 – Peace of Münster

Peace of Westphalia – 1648 – Peace of Münster

Peace of Westphalia - 1648 - Peace of Münster
Peace of Westphalia – 1648 – Peace of Münster

The Peace of Westphalia is made up of three treaties signed in 1648 in Münster and Osnabrück, both in Westphalia. The Peace of Münster brought an end to the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Netherlands, as well as the independence of the Dutch Republic. The Treaties of Münster and Osnabrück put an end to the Thirty Years’ War between the Holy Roman Empire, France, Sweden, and their allies, which was fought mostly in what is now Germany and sparked by religious strife and a mutual desire for territorial expansion.

Read more

The First Blue Laws 1629 – Sunday Closing Law

The First Blue Laws 1629 Sunday Closing Law

The First Blue Laws 1629 - Sunday Closing Law - This 1895 political cartoon illustrates the restrictions imposed by Blue Laws.
The First Blue Laws 1629 – Sunday Closing Law – This 1895 political cartoon illustrates the restrictions imposed by Blue Laws.

Constantine the Great (c. 272–337), Samuel Peters (1735–1826), J. Hammond Trumbull (1821–1897)

Laws prohibiting certain secular activities on days of religion existed in antiquity, although their colorful name only appeared recently. Commentators credit the first Sunday Closing Law to Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who issued an edict in 321 ordering city citizens to rest “on the hallowed day of the sun.”

In 1629, the House of Burgesses of Virginia passed the first Sunday Closing Law in the United States, stating that “the Sabbath day be not customarily profaned by working in any imployments or by going from place to place.”

However, according to etymologists, the word “blue laws” was first used in a satire of Connecticut Congregationalists in the New-York Mercury on March 3, 1755: “Since… the Revival of our old Blue Laws, we have the Pleasure to see the Lord’s Work carry on with Success.”

Read more

Hugo Grotius on the Law of War and Peace 1625

Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) On the Law of War and Peace 1625

Hugo Grotius on the Law of War and Peace 1625
Hugo Grotius on the Law of War and Peace 1625

Continuous advancements in technology, communication, and transportation continue to draw the world’s nations and peoples closer together, emphasizing the importance of a functioning international legal system. The first foundations of international law appeared immediately after the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, but official doctrines and theories did not arise until the early to mid-seventeenth century, following the devastation of the Thirty Years’ War.

Read more

Compulsory Education Laws 1616 Scotland

Compulsory Education Laws 1616

Compulsory Education Laws - John Knox (c. 1514–1572)
Compulsory Education Laws – John Knox (c. 1514–1572)

Mark Twain is believed to have never allowed his schooling get in the way of his education. However, as countries have progressed, they have realized the critical value of formal education and have enacted laws to ensure that it is provided.

With the School Establishment Act of 1616, Scotland became the first country to introduce comprehensive compulsory education. A previous Education Legislation of 1496 required all sons of nobles and freeholders of means to attend grammar schools, but the 1616 act required every parish to construct a publicly funded, Church-supervised school, with the goal of promoting Protestantism and eradicating Scottish Gaelic. However, until the Education Acts of 1633 and 1646, which allowed bishops to tax landowners to support schools, the act had limited effectiveness.

Read more

An Act for Relief of the Poor 1601 England

An Act for the Relief of the Poor 1601

An Act for the Relief of the Poor 1601 England - Queen Elizabeth I presided over the first comprehensive law that addressed the economic needs of the impoverished.
An Act for the Relief of the Poor 1601 England – Queen Elizabeth I presided over the first comprehensive law that addressed the economic needs of the impoverished.

Henry VIII (1491–1547), Elizabeth I (1533–1603)

Although the legislation does not establish a distinction between rich and poor, it does provide provisions for the poor in some cases, indicating that the state recognizes its responsibility to provide for the welfare of its citizens. That recognition is usually the result of religious custom or indoctrination, if it isn’t the result of intrinsic benevolence. In England, the Church primarily provided for the impoverished, mainly through monasteries and parish priests, until the end of the sixteenth century. Parishioners’ kindness and tithes provided the required funds.

In 1535, Parliament established a law condemning vagabonds and beggars, and the following year, Henry VIII began his infamous Dissolution of the Monasteries, which drastically reduced parochial finances and resulted in a major rise in poverty.

Read more