Magna Carta by Jim McGrath

MDV 2100 Professor E. May 23 March 2010

2010. it was one of the first and most influential legal documents ever written. provide rights to his people under administrative and legal clauses and to limit the authority of the monarch. foremost was the barons renewed their oath of allegiance to the king. McKechnie. Longer lasting effects 1 “The Text of the Magna Carta”. 93. Web. McKechnie.3 In this paper. with its first version appearing in 1215. limited rights to women6 and became a symbol of oppression. 2 William Sharp McKechnie.5 Once King John signed the document The Magna Carta had several immediate effects.2 freedom from the crown to make internal appointments. Fordham University. Magna Carta – A Commentary on the Great Charter of King John (Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. 1217 and 1225.fordham.4 and had many sections copied word for word. n. with some laws still on English law books from the final version of 1297). 1914) 191. both clergy and laypeople. 3 4 5 6 “The Text of the Magna Carta”.d. generations later.McGrath 1 The Magna Carta (or Great Charter of Freedoms) was hastily written by many hands1 in the early thirteenth century during the reign of King John. <http://www.edu/halsall/source/magnacarta. Although The Magna Carta has been generally viewed as a direct descendant of King Henry’s Coronation Charter of 1100. It also provided rights to the people and church. . 139-152. and reissued several times (1216.html>. with a stepping stone to future legal documents and an insight into medieval society. Its purpose was to grant the English Church. 215. there will be an analysis of the Great Charter and how it had provided us. 19 Mar. McKechnie.

The Magna Carta seemed to be more of a peace treaty than a bill of rights. In retrospect. <http://www. On 10 June 1215.britannica. It has also had universal implications for the future development of human liberties world-wide.McGrath 2 included becoming the basis of other documents such as the United States Constitution. Web.d. along with what his nobles perceived as abuses of his power. There were many problems in France that were causing major discontent at home. . 2010. n. there were numerous failures that he suffered through both at home and abroad.com/EBchecked/topic/76000/Battle-of-Bouvines>. some liberties were to be granted to his subjects and freedom to the Church to allow them to appoint those within their hierarchy on their 7 “Battle of Bouvines”. and has led to the rule of constitutional law which we see today in the English speaking world. Among the King’s promises. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Though it has this distinction. the barons entered a sympathetic London to force King John to sign the charter under threat of civil war. namely outlining rights and freedoms but without any real enforcement behind it. the Petition of Rights and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. When King John was crowned in early in the thirteenth century. the mysterious disappearance of Arthur of Brittany (who was rumored to have been murdered by King John himself). and his defeat at the Battle of Bouvines. most of the document was promises and provisions made by King John to restrict his use of power over his nobility. 18 Mar. The Magna Carta was a document written out of necessity. such as the English losing large portions of land and claim over the Anjou empire. These problems led the English barons to revolt against him in an attempt to try to restrain the king’s wide sweeping power to within the law.7 along with high taxes in England. it also has its strengths and weaknesses.

The charter provides us with a glimpse of the feudal system and insight into medieval society on what rights and freedoms were provided and what level of civil rights people actually had.8 the formation of a council of twenty-five barons who would meet to address any wronged parties and to have the King redress them within forty days or face compulsion (confiscation of lands. to provide a counterpoint which could keep the King in check. These freedoms were one of the major strengths of the charter. This was an important strength of the charter. In general. a body or council had to be put into place that would regulate his power. it was something completely new. to provide his citizens with rights that protected them from prosecution and imprisonment. These are rights which we take for granted today. 8 “The Text of the Magna Carta”. but to those of that period. the King’s power over his subjects and God was not restricted by any legal means. evict or confiscate any belongings at his whim. Previous to this. The Magna Carta broke some of those shackles. without proof. barons and kings. and a woman could access her property should she lose her husband. Now that the King was to be restrained in his powers under the law. the right to meet their accuser and a trial to be held within a reasonable period. They could feel more at ease with their basic rights to life and liberty. effectively separating Church and state. witness or cause. in servitude to their masters. castles and belongings until redress was made). the people appeared oppressed. . He could arrest. This was achieved in Chapter 61.McGrath 3 own without interference from the crown. This council would be the forebearer of the British parliament.

10 “Half UK Population doesn’t know what the Magna Carta is”.htm>. 11 “Writ of Habeas Corpus”. viewed The Magna Carta as a great document from the Middle Ages giving rights to the people and restricting the monarchs authority. Stanford University. One of the most enduring legacies of the charter was the foundation for the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Web. 2010. it was found that only forty-five percent of the British population knew what it was. Web. <http://www. most of the general public does not know what The Magna Carta is. 12 Mar. Those that did know and were able to explain it. In 2008. In essence. 2010. 2008. . there was no defining of the different levels of government (legislative. In terms of mainstream views. it is often referred to as 9 McKechnie. 468.uk/history+%2526+heritage/time/medieval+britain/ art55127>. all I knew was that it was a document that a king had signed in the Middle Ages.org. <http://www.11 that a person can seek relief from unlawful detention. administrative and judicial) or government responsibility. n. 20 Mar. in a survey carried out by the British Library. there was no council defined that would influence the king’s policies.culture24.McGrath 4 Some disadvantages of the charter could have been that there was no judicial body put into place to enforce whatever the council decided (under Chapter 61). Culture24.stanford. albeit a powerful step for its time. other than to just have a “legalized revolt”9 against the king.d. and a less than thirty-two percent could explain its purpose10 and this was a document that came from their own country. I myself was never taught was it was in school. 20 Mar. it was a rough skeleton of what future documents would be like.edu/group/psylawseminar/Habeas%20Corpus.

uk/ onlinegallery/takingliberties/staritems/25habeascorpusact. Without a group of frustrated barons from centuries past. in the terms of rights and freedoms it granted to both the Church and citizens but also by limiting the powers that kings had and were able to abuse. It also influenced other charters and constitutions for centuries to follow and brought all powerful kings under some sort of legal control and protected people from random and unwarranted arrest and imprisonment. 12 13 “Writ of Habeas Corpus”. 2010. 18 Mar.bl. The Great Charter of Freedoms is one of the greatest legal documents ever written and has had untold influence on the growth of constitutional law and the path that civil liberties has taken over the centuries. Overall The Magna Carta was a great step in rights and freedoms for the time. The Magna Carta is an excellent source document to study the Middle Ages. In conclusion. n.12 This is the most famous writ which was codified into law by the Habeas Corpus Act of 27 May 1679. <http://www.d. it established a council which would eventually grow into the British Parliament and provide the basis for constitutional government which we now see all over the English speaking world. “Habeas Corpus Act”. British Library Board.McGrath 5 the “dearest birthrights of Britons’”. there are many great documents such as the British Bill of Rights. As previously stated.html> .13 and is the basis of most legal systems where an accused must have proof against him and is innocent until proven guilty. who knows where our rights and freedoms would be today. Web. the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights who lend their ancestry to The Magna Carta.

16 Mar.html>. “Habeas Corpus Act. <http://www.bl. 12 Mar.edu/group/psylawseminar/Habeas%20Corpus. . Web. 2010.htm>. McKechnie. 2010. 2010.d. William Sharp. Web." Stanford University.McGrath 6 Bibliography "Battle of Bouvines.stanford. Magna Carta . n. 1914. <http://www. Web. 20 Mar.d.edu/halsall/source/magnacarta. 2010. <http://www.uk/history+%2526+heritage/ time/medieval+britain/art55127>.html>.A Commentary on the Great Charter of King John.britannica. 18 Mar.d. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons.d.fordham.culture24.com/EBchecked/topic/76000/Battle-of-Bouvines>. 8 Apr. 2008. "Writ of Habeas Corpus.” British Library Board. 2010.org. n. Web. Web. n. n. 18 Mar." Culture24.uk/ onlinegallery/takingliberties/staritems/25habeascorpusact. "Half UK Population doesn't know what the Magna Carta is. "The Text of the Magna Carta." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. <http://www." Fordham University. <http://www.

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