The Effects of the Magna Carta on the US Government

The Magna Carta was written in reaction to the abuses King John commited during his reign in feudal England.
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The Magna Carta includes 63 clauses protecting the human rights of the English people from the abuses of their king. Its legal mandates extended to the American colonies, and gave American Revolutionary leaders multiple instances to denounce King George for his abuses of the colonists' rights and offered legitimacy for their push for independence from England. The Supreme Court refers to the Magna Carta on occasion, as it forms the foundation for the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.


Barons of medieval England are discontent under the rule of King John seen as neither a fair nor just king. Eventually the barons band together and draw up a charter of laws protecting the barons from the burden of high taxes and from receiving criminal punishment without a fair trial. The barons get the king to agree to sign the document in 1215, and distribute copies across England.

Human Rights

The Magna Carta outlines the foundation for the conception of what modern thinkers call human rights. It also establishes a law of the land that is higher than the laws of the king, what the English refer to as their common law today. The Magna Carta includes a mandate for the right of a trial for those accused of a crime. The Magna Carta contributes to the basis of modern democracies. The American republic's creators use portions of the Magna Carta as the inspiration for a system where law is the supreme sovereign, rather than the ruler.

American Independence

The colonists in early America were subject to British rule and the leaders of the American Revolution were highly educated in English law. When King George III violates common law in the American colonies, it gives the revolutionaries just cause to warrant succession from England, which Thomas Jefferson outlines the Declaration of Independence.

Bill Of Rights

The Bill of Rights is a section of the United States Constitution which originally did not exist in the document, and is, in part, inspired by provisions in the Magna Carta. The right to due process, trial by a jury of one's peers, no cruel or unusual punishment, the right to a speedy trial without bias, and protection against excessive fines or bail first appear in the Magna Carta, and later in the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States occasionally refers back to the Magna Carta for decisions on cases concerning human rights.

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