Establishing a constitutional 'right of asylum' in early nineteenth-century Britain

Jones, Thomas (2020) Establishing a constitutional 'right of asylum' in early nineteenth-century Britain. History of European Ideas. ISSN 0191-6599 (In Press)

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For several generations before the First World War, the idea that the British constitution contained a ‘right of asylum' for foreign nationals was commonplace. Though this belief had profound consequences for Britain's treatment of political and religious exiles, its relations with foreign states, and the drafting of its extradition and immigration laws, there has been little enquiry into its origins. This article delineates the emergence of the idea of a constitutional ‘right of asylum', locating it in a series of political clashes over the ‘Alien Act' that took place during the decade after the Napoleonic Wars. This legislation, which established controls over foreigners during the French Revolution and the quarter-century of war that followed, was increasingly challenged by the Whig and radical oppositions after Waterloo, both for its specific arbitrary provisions and as a more fundamental violation of the rights of aliens guaranteed by key constitutional documents like Magna Carta and the Habeas Corpus Act. By the mid-1820s these objections cohered into a conviction that asylum itself could be claimed as a right. This conviction and the arguments that spawned it were repeated for many subsequent decades, forming the basis of the widespread Victorian belief in the ‘right of asylum’.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust under a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Right of asylum; Alien Act; constitutionalism; Holy Alliance; Magna Carta; habeas corpus
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Depositing User: Thomas Jones
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2020 13:58
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2022 00:15

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