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tourguide1_small.gif (2280 bytes) Remember Jeff Unger?  That night after the meeting at lunch, Jeff kept thinking about the "letter of resignation" everyone was counting on him to write. He wanted it to say just the right things, and most important he wanted to let George know why so many of his employees were unhappy. Nothing else had got the "king's" attention, but THIS would.

Impact of Magna Carta
On the Declaration of Independence

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Jeff Unger looked down at his desk piled high with papers and asked himself, "Where should I begin?" Then he thought to himself "What did Thomas Jefferson do?"   Jefferson's fellow Virginian Mr. Lee had stated in the resolution he presented,   that the colonies "Of right ought to be free and independent states."

Why did the colonists have a RIGHT to resign from the Crown? "Why?  Because King George III had broken the English Common-law that should have applied to all the people who lived in the colonies." Jeff thought to himself.

It was pretty much the same thing as the issue facing him and his co-workers at Royal, Inc.   "King George" had broken every promise that had been made to his employees, which was why they had now got together to quit and start their own company. But how can you prove something like that? How do you tell the boss that the fact that you are leaving is justified?  For Thomas Jefferson the proof was in a centuries old document called the "Magna Carta".


The Magna Carta

"....here is a law which is above the king and which even he must not break. This reaffirmation of a supreme law and its expression in a general charter is the great work of Magna Carta; and this alone justifies the respect in which men have held it."

Winston Churchill, 1956

 

The words were translated from Latin words meaning "GREAT CHARTER". The Magna Carta was written in 1214 and further developed into its restated and commonly accepted form in 1215. Signed by King John of England who had agreed to the original charter a year before, the Charter of 1215 included a preamble and 63 basic laws for the government of England. It wasn't an agreement King John signed willingly, in fact, he tried to have it outlawed a year later claiming he had signed it "under duress".

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Magna Carta was its recognition of the "Law of the Land" as supreme, above even the king. Many of the 63 clauses dealt with matters of the legal system of England. The last few clauses provided for enforcement of the charter. Twenty-five barons were authorized by the Charter to insure that the King lived up to his signature on the document, even if it meant going to war with the Crown.

Through the succeeding centuries many clauses of the Charter became obsolete, others were amended or deleted. But the Charter became the basis for English Common Law and a guideline for how the King regarded his subjects. When Englishmen came to the "New World" to establish colonies they brought with them charters guaranteeing that they and their heirs would "have and enjoy all liberties and immunities of free and natural subjects." (NARA) The impact of the Charter on the founding documents is quickly evident. The violations of English Common Law in the American Colonies by King George,  provided Thomas Jefferson with ample argument in writing his declaration of independence from the monarchy.

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Such Revolutionary War era principles as habeas corpus and the wrongness of taxation without representation drew their roots from English Law of the 17th century that was based upon the Magna Carta.  King George had violated these laws...in effect placing his decisions above the law of the land, and this gave the Colonists not only the right to seek freedom, but a responsibility to do so.

Not only did the Magna Carta become a "springboard" for Jefferson's revolutionary Declaration of Independence, the concepts of LAW as supreme (above even kings or legislative bodies) were drafted into the United States Constitution by James Monroe. The Bill of Rights, and specifically the 5th and 6th Amendments, find their heart and even their verbiage in the words of The Great Charter. Born in England in the 13th Century, the Magna Carta is arguably American as it is British.

 

Click on me to visit the archives and read Magna Carta Well, here I am on a button again.   I guess you remember what this means.  In case you forgot, this means that there is something in our ARCHIVES if you want to take the time to visit there.  The archives contain the full text of the 1215 version of the Magna Carta.  It's pretty long and may not be of interest to many people, but if you are here to study the Magna Carta and want to read what it says, click on me before continuing the tour.

Otherwise Click on the Arrow below to continue the tour!

 

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Birth of A Nation Exhibit

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[Our Founding Documents]  [Royal, Inc. - A Parable of Independence]
[Freedom is Born - The 1st & 2nd Continental Congresses]
[Magna Carta's Impact on the Declaration of Independence]   [Read Magna Carta]
[Jefferson writes the Declaration of Independence]  [Virginia Declaration of Rights]

[Adoption of the Declaration]  [Read the Declaration of Independence]
[The Articles of Confederation]  [Read the Articles]  [Shay's Rebellion]
[Constitutional Convention]  [Debating the Constitution]  []
[Adopting the Constitution]  [The Constitution in Outline Form]   [Read the Constitution]
[ Amending the Constitution]  [The Bill of Rights]  [Adding Amendments]
Outlines and Time Lines
[Events Leading to Revolution]  [Time-line for our Documents]   [Our Form of Government]
[Signers of Declaration of Independence]  [Constitutional Convention Delegates]

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Sources:
National Archives and Records Administration
Microsoft® Encarta®
Chronicle of America, © 1997 Dorling Kindersley

 

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