Hannibal ad portas
Necessity, public law and the common law emergency in the Case of Ship Money
in Revolutionising politics
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The Case of Ship Money (1637) was one of the most important precipitators of conflict leading to civil war in England. Crown lawyers urged that the ship money levy was justified by necessity and emergency. These arguments are traced back through the legal sources to demonstrate the growing importance of ideas of necessity and reason of state as tools of government policies during the early seventeenth century. The chapter demonstrates that the Crown’s claims were not unprecedented but had emerged from an older common law tradition. By the time of Ship Money there was a near-consensus even among the judiciary that an emergency could justify an exception to the law. Debate ensued over the conditions under which the exception might emerge, who could declare it and the scope of emergency powers. The case is thus also part of the larger history of emergency powers and their capacity to reshape political and legal norms.

Revolutionising politics

Culture and conflict in England, 1620–60


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