Civilization story

When the English barons forced King John to give his assent to their ‘Great Charter’ of rights, or ‘Magna Carta’, in 1215, the nature of English government was changed forever. Many of the rights and freedoms laid out in Magna Carta were only relevant to medieval society, but there are some core political principles that continue to impact democratic societies to this day. For example, one of the key features of Magna Carta was the stipulation that the king could no longer ask for taxes without the consent of his subjects. Soon after, this developed into ‘parliament’, a medieval assembly of two house, the upper one made up of hereditary noblemen (the House of Lords) and the lower one made up of elected commoners (the House of Commons). Only with the agreement of both houses of parliament could any king tax his kingdom. Other rights and freedoms with which you will be familiar are included in the excerpts from Magna Carta listed below.Eventually, Great Britain came to own a massive empire that literally stretched around the globe, and the political principles from Magna Carta that had helped form Britain’s government influenced political thought in British colonies throughout the world, including America. In fact, when the American colonists began to protest British taxes in the late 1700s, they appealed to the rights granted to all Englishmen in Magna Carta, which was already 550 years old at that point! They said that they could only be taxed if they consented to be taxed through their representatives in parliament — and, unfortunately, the colonists were not permitted to elect any representatives to parliament. When the British government refused to allow them representation, the colonists revolted, and the rest is a history with which I hope we are all familiar. After the United States finally achieved its independence, our Founding Fathers made sure that the rights and freedoms that began with Magna Carta were placed at the centre of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.Below are excerpts from Magna Carta and sections of the US Constitution that were directly influenced by the principles set out in Magna Carta. After reading these carefully, study the image of the great seal of Massachusetts that the colony adopted when they rebelled against Great Britain in 1775. It depicts a minuteman (a member of the colonial militia whose duty was to defend the colony) holding a sword in one hand and a copy of Magna Carta in the other. The Latin motto is derived from an old saying that translates into English as ‘This hand, an enemy to tyrants, seeks with the sword a quiet peace under liberty’.Magna Carta, Article 29No person shall be taken, imprisoned, disinherited, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will the king proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land…To no one will the king sell, to no one will the king deny or delay, right or justice.US Constitution, Amendment 5No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.US Constitution, Amendment 7In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.
Magna Carta, Article 14A person is not to be punished for a small offence save in accordance with the manner of the offence, and for a major offence according to its magnitude, except what he needs to live sufficiently [in other words, the fine cannot be so heavy that it takes away everything a person has].US Constitution, Amendment 8Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Magna Carta, Article 21No official of the king or of anyone else is to take anyone’s horses or carts to make transport, unless he gives the customary payment — namely, for a two-horse cart, ten pence per day, and for a three-horse cart, fourteen pence per day [the going rates in 1215]…Nor will the king or his officials, or anyone else, take someone else’s timber for a castle or for any other of the king’s business except by the will of the person to whom the timber belongs.US Constitution, Amendment 5…Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.US Constitution, Amendment 3No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law [think about how this is similar to the government not being allowed to forcibly take anyone’s goods for its own uses].
*********************************After reading the source excerpts and studying the image carefully, write a post of at least 300 words answering the following questions. As always, when you are finished respond to two classmates’ posts, as well.1.) What specific rights and freedoms are guaranteed in the excerpts from Magna Carta? Be thorough in describing them all!2.) How do you see Magna Carta’s direct influence upon the rights given to American citizens in the excerpts from the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution? Again, be thorough and specific with all of the rights!3.) Why did Massachusetts make Magna Carta a central symbol of its great seal, and what does that tell you about why the American colonists rebelled against Great Britain?