Defining A British State: Treason and National Identity, by L. Steffen

By L. Steffen

This publication explores the formation of the British country and nationwide id from 1603-1832 by means of analyzing the definitions of sovereignty and allegiance provided in treason trials. The king remained principal to nationwide identification and the nation till Republican demanding situations compelled prosecutors in treason trials to innovate and redefine sovereign authority. even supposing jurors resisted the switch, by way of the 1790s parliament and prosecutors authorized that treason legislation secure all Britons and the overall defense of the nation.

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92 The court had authority to try even the king, because parliament ordered it and parliament represented ‘the people’ as the traditional controller of the law and government. Charles, however, argued that God, not parliament, entrusted the king with power. In the mean time I shall not betray my Trust; I have a Trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent, I will not betray it to answer a new unlawful Authority, therefore, resolve me that, and you shall hear no more of me. 93 Charles stood on the firm ground of statute laws that crumbled beneath him.

This change is seen in both the statute books and in the trials of the Duke of Hamilton (1649) and Colonel John Penruddock (1655). The regicide trials (1660) mark a return to the early-seventeenth-century understanding of treason against the king’s person. 62 As historians have assessed early-seventeenth-century treason in detail, here we simply seek to grasp the main arguments that emerged at these celebrated trials. The interrelationship so clearly demonstrated between treason, sovereignty and allegiance confirms the validity of searching for definitions of sovereignty in treason trials and the treason law.

60 Coke reached the most crucial conclusion last, the indelibility of the subject’s allegiance to the person of the king. Coke appealed to the natural law, and his praise of the common law did not preclude his recognition of the sovereign power of the king. The judges agreed and so settled Calvin’s case in his favor. As a subject of the King of England, though born in Scotland, he could claim his lands in England. ’61 Calvin’s Case settled that both the Scots and English owed personal and faithful loyalty to the same king.

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