Petition of Right of 1628: Definition & Summary

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  • 0:01 The Petition Itself
  • 1:04 Leading Up to the Petition
  • 2:47 Passage & Acceptance…
  • 3:50 Road to Civil War
  • 4:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Freda Bradley

Freda holds a Master's Degree in History and teaches a variety of college history courses.

The Petition of Right of 1628 was an English document that helped promote the civil rights of the subjects of King Charles I. Learn how the actions of this king led the people to stand up for and insist upon their civil rights in a manner that is still having influence today.

The Petition Itself

The Petition of Right of 1628 is one of England's most famous Constitutional documents. It was written by Parliament as an objection to an overreach of authority by King Charles I. During his reign, English citizens saw this overreach of authority as a major infringement on their civil rights.

The Petition of Right of 1628 contained four main points:

  1. No taxes could be levied without Parliament's consent
  2. No English subject could be imprisoned without cause - thus reinforcing the right of habeas corpus
  3. No quartering of soldiers in citizens homes
  4. No martial law may be used in peacetime

Each of these four points enumerated specific civil rights that Englishmen felt Charles I had breached throughout his reign. Although he'd never been that popular as the monarch, his abuse of power escalated to an intolerable level after Parliament refused to finance his unpopular foreign policies.

Leading Up to the Petition

Charles I firmly embraced the idea of divine right. Divine right meant that the monarch had been given the right to rule by God and that he didn't have to answer to anyone. Although his foreign policies were also wildly unpopular, he believed he could rule purely by royal prerogative, which meant that the power of the monarch could be used without the consent of the representative government. Therefore, in order to side-step objections by Parliament and gain the funding he desired, Charles I began enforcing a policy of forced loans. Under this policy, the ministers and representatives of Charles I forcibly took money from the citizens and called it a loan to the Crown.

Anyone who refused to pay or anyone who opposed the policies of Charles I were jailed without cause for undetermined periods of time. This caused an upheaval among the citizens in some regions of England so severe that Charles I declared martial law in those areas. Additionally, to force the citizens to assist with the financing of the military, Charles I quartered soldiers in private homes where he expected them to be fully cared for by the individual families. This also caused dissent among the citizens because not only was it expensive to quarter soldiers, often these soldiers weren't exactly the best behaved; they tended to cause damage and destruction to the local areas.

This only served to intensify hostility toward the Crown. Earlier statutes and laws going back as far as the Magna Carta had delineated to the citizenry specific rights in the areas of civil rights, taxation, and the redress of grievances through a representative government. However, these rights weren't allowed under the reign of Charles I.

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