Post by Zachary G.
Throughout all of recorded history law and government has been at the forefront of human development. Great man, woman, and mids from all over the world contribute to the standards and ideals of freedom, democracy and personal rights that give us what we desire. In all of history documents have been written to spite governments to steer them away from their monarchy and dictatorial pasts. In my mind two stand out: the Magna Carta, and the Constitution of Independence. Both documents being written hundreds of years apart, solve the same problems. Relations between the documents are closely similar.
The Constitution of Independence was made with and based off of some of the ideals stated in the Magna Carta. This blog will define and bring to light the differences and similarities between the two documents.
The Magna Carta
Magna Carta, or the Great Charter
Sealed in 1215 by King John of England, drafted in 1214, and re-drafted after the initial sealing two times, the Magna Carta opens with the following statement:
“John, by the grace of God, king of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, judiciaries, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his bailiffs and liege subjects, greetings.”
In 1215, England was nearing the end of a civil war between the king and his barony, called the First Barons Revolt. Revolts were somewhat common in the Middle Ages (475-1500). Pre Magna Carta England was in a state of what could be called anarchy.
King John was horribly misusing his noble powers and became a dictator who was prone to fits of anger, and temper. Powers that were being used were such as: taking goods and property for no reason or the ability to throw any and everyone into jail for no reason and without suspicion, taxation was accounting for a third of the income of the country and with money thin as it was in the middle ages, rioting and rebellions to end the terror would have been highly supported by the peasantry and all against the king of England. John also did not have to report anything to anyone, he could do anything he wanted and not be held accountable for it. The Barons at the time were outraged and revolted.
Upon revolution they took refuge in castles and stopped paying the ridiculous taxes and raised troops to take the English capital, London. After their initial and high spirited successes they demanded that John, who had been in hiding and raising men of his on with what funds he could muster, was taken to Runnymede, a large meadow outside of London. There the barons and their allies demanded that he seal the document and agree to follow all of its 63 clauses, reluctantly he agreed. With John under a close eye, and back in regulation, the barons and all of England was at a short peace. Before long however John would break the seal later that same year and be back to his old, dictatorial ways.
An early form of US General Sherman’s “total war” would be seen on the land of England with John and his men burning the landscape behind them and hunting down the barons who betrayed their king. After taking back London and Rochester castle, John died. Therefore ending the struggles of the other nobles for a short time. For more men of power would later threaten England from the inside soon after.
Now that there is background, the Magna Carta clauses are written to end all of the tyranny created John during his reign. It does however, pose radical ideals at the time of complete monarchies and theocracies. They can be seen here:
“For a trivial offense, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offense, and for a serious offense correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood. In the same way, a merchant shall be spared his merchandise, and a husbandman the implements of his husbandry, if they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighborhood.
Earls and barons shall be fined only by their equals, and in proportion to the gravity of their offence.
To any man whom we have deprived or dispossessed of lands, castles, liberties, or rights, without the lawful judgement of his equals, we will at once restore these.”
Clause number 20
The full text can be found at: http://www.constitution.org/eng/magnacar.htm
It is relations between American freedom and rights and the idea that all men should have a trial by a jury when a serious offense has been committed. For the day, this was a revolutionary idea that was a step into the right direction for the future ideals of freedom and American democracy. This was the first time that anything like this had happened in England, it was and laid a strong foundation for later ideals of equality and democracy.
Like the English Magna Carta, it is intended for a monarch and the English people. It was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and edited by Congress during the American Revolution (1775-1783). American goals in the war were simple, free themselves from the unrepresented and mercantil systems of the British Parliament and monarchy. Riding off of the ideals of the Great Awakening, radicals and others began to demand and gain ground for anti monarchy and democratic governments in the colonies.
Pre Independent America saw, much like England, civil uproars for the removal or the British and limitations on the monarchists power for governing. Thus, under the same circumstances the founding fathers used the Magna Carta to help them in finding a stepping stone to begin their constitution from the Magna Carta. With the Constitution under effect the Articles of Confederation were thrown out and the democracy that was wanted by the colonists would now become the trademark of their new and fledgling nation.
All credit goes to WikiImages from:http://pixabay.com/en/constitution-united-states-usa-62943/
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The Constitution of Independence Preamble
The Constitution was a masterpiece for its time and this holds true today. The preamble to the Constitution is one of the most well known and repeated bits of history around the world. Without the ideas from the magna Carta, its predecessor, things would have been much different.
This would be a turning point for democracy and personal rights and liberties. However, being written hundreds of years after the Great Charter, needs were different although both request the same basic things: Trial by jury for all, limitations of federal or national power, and dispersion and quality of power.
Yes, the Constitution has more to do with freedom and liberty, but they are written by people who wanted more and thought alike enough to fight for it. Both are incredible literary and democratic. They share few differences. Magna Carta of old and the U.S. Constitution are one in the same.