Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Ship Money Case

The right of Parliament to approve (or not) taxes has been claimed from the fourteenth century. A statute of 1362 established that Parliament must assent to all lay taxation. Many Kings would have liked to evade this - and some tried - but Charles I was probably the greatest offender. He sought parliamentary approval - but when he failed to get it, attempted to live without calling Parliament. Ship money was a charge sometimes made on coastal towns for their defence. Charles attempted to impose this charge across the country. John Hampden - who had property in Buckinghamshire - a land-locked county, far from the sea (I know, Milton Keynes where I live is a long way from the coast. Hampden's property was in Stoke Mandeville) - refused to pay his assessment of One Pound.

Hampden lost the case - Rex v. Hampden, (3 State Trials, 825) by a vote of 7-5 in the Exchequer Chamber - but the closeness of the result, and the fact that Hampden was prepared to be taken to court for non-payment - encoraged many others to refuse. It was also the subject of many partisan pamphlets prior to the outbreak of the civil war. [If you have acess (possibly through a university library to JSTOR - you can read an article about the use of the case at the time here)]

The English have rightly regarded this case as an important part of the struggle which ultimately led to the Sovereignty of Parliament.

Further information on Parliament and control of taxes can be found here.


Alanivinghoe said...

The ship money case report is available on Justis State Trials - I couldn't find it anywhere else: but be warned - it runs to 246 pages and the pdf file is ~ 175mb!

I looked for it because of its relevance to last week's judgment in the Binyam Mohamed case, where a commentator has cited it as establishing "the constitutional principle that there should be no secret communication between lawyers and courts in legal proceedings" (Afua Hirsch, The Guardian, 10 February 2010). Actually getting round to finding and reading the relevant parts may take me a while!


J David Morgan said...

Many thanks. You may be interested in Lord Bingham's "The Rule of Law" which gives the background to the doctrine - and is in a very readable style - I'll be reviewing it on Washminster shortly