Standard 10.1.2. Trace the development of the of the Western political ideas of the RULE of LAW and ILLEGITIMACY of TYRANNY Standard 10.2.2 List the principles of the MAGNA CARTA, the English Bill of Rights (1689), U.S Declaration of Independence (1776) and Bill of Rights (1780), French Declaration of the Rights of Man (1792)

MAGNA CARTA, also called The GREAT CHARTER of the Liberties of England, is an English charter originally issued in the year 1215. It challenged the English monarch’s political authority, requiring King John of England to proclaim certain liberties and accept that his will was not arbitrary. For example, it explicitly stated that no “freeman” (in the sense of non-serf) could be punished except through the law of the land: #39 – “no freeman Åshall be captured or imprisoned … or exiled except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” ; #40 -“To no one will we sell , to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

Magna Carta was the first document forced onto an English King by a group of his subjects, the feudal barons. This elite, privileged, landed elite class or “nobility”, in attempted to limit the monarch’s powers by law and protect their privileges. King John was unpopular with many of his barons. In 1215, some of the most important barons engaged in open rebellion against their King. The barons decided to base their rebellion around John’s oppressive government. In January, 1215, the barons made an oath that they would “stand fast for the liberty of the church and the realm”, and they demanded that King John confirm the Charter of Liberties.

It was Magna Carta, over other early concessions by the monarch, which survived to become a “sacred text”. In practice, Magna Carta in the medieval period did not generally limit the power of kings. But by the time of the English Civil War (1640s) it had become an important symbol for those who wished to show that the King was bound by the law.

The charter was an important part of the extensive, centuries long, historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world. Magna Carta was important in the colonization of American colonies as England’s legal system. Lord Denning in the 1800s described it as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”. (tyrant)