’s Influence On American Democracy Essay, Research Paper
Turmoil abroad permeated throughout the course of King John s reign of power. Constantly, John ordered the fighting of unsuccessful wars, which left a huge debt in the royal pocket. In a response to finance these unnecessary undertakings, he charged excessively for royal justice, sold church offices, levied heavy aids, and abused the feudal incidents of wardship, marriage, and escheat. He even went as far to appoint advisors outside of the traditional baronial ranks. Finally, one day, the barons suffered through enough, and decided to take a course of action. In 1215, the king was forced into parleys with the barons at Runnymede. On June 15, King John affixed his seal to the preliminary draft of what would become one of the greatest documents in history, the Magna Carta. The document eventually stated that the constitution was above the king. The Magna Carta greatly contributed to and provided for the American form of government present today.
Some of the main events leading to the American Revolution were directly caused by the information contained within the Magna Carta. The obvious cause came from the idea that when a government does not protect the people, a change must occur. Both in England and the thirteen colonies, a group of people banded together in attempt to change the government. The not so obvious cause can be found in the idea of no taxation without representation. In the seventeenth century, Sir Edward Coke reinterpreted the information contained in the Magna Carta. He interpreted the document as stating, no taxation without the consent of baronage. Within this statement, the idea is formed that no one shall be taxed unless fair representation is given to him or her in the law making bodies. As most people know, this was the cry of colonists in the eighteenth century. After the Seven Years War, England accumulated a huge debt. Thus, the Parliament decided to put a stamp tax on virtually every document. This is almost exactly like what the barons rebelled against, when King John acquired debts from unsuccessful wars. The no taxation without representation plea was one of the major sparks that started the American Revolution. The idea of revolution jumped into the minds of colonists long before the shot heard round the world was even fired at Lexington, even though the idea behind was formed five hundred years earlier in a similar situation. The parallels between the start of the American Revolution and the ideas listed in the Magna Carta are almost identical.
Another similarity between the American form of government started and the Magna Carta can be found in the Constitution of the United States of America. The parallels between the two documents are almost uncanny. The Magna Carta states, No freeman shall be take, imprisoned or in any way destroyed except by the lawful judgement of his peers, or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to none will we deny or delay, right of this justice. The words spoken here sound eerily similar to the fifth and sixth amendments of the Constitution of the United States. The Fifth Amendment states, no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. The Sixth amendment says, The accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury. At the time both documents were written, the bodies forming them realized the fact that these liberties had to be protected under written law. It is evident that the delegates at the constitutional convention sought out past precedents and forming the amendments. In 1957, the American Bar Association recognized the debt American Constitutionalism owed to the Magna Carta and English Common. To show this debt, a monument was erected at Runnymede, the site from which the roots of the Magna Carta stem from. Once again, a direct relation between the fundamentals of American government and the Magna Carta can be seen.
Finally, the major way the Magna Carta affected the American form of government lies in the fact that that the Founding Father s purposely sought out past legal documents in order to write the Declaration of Independence. Instead of developing their own reasons, the Founding Fathers looked for a past historical precedent upon which to model the declaration after. Of course, this precedent was found in a gathering that took place in Runnymede 561 years earlier, the forming of the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta served as the inspiration for the Americans that the power of the ruling body could be controlled. Without this document, it is not known what would have been the outcome of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence symbolizes the beginning of the end of English rule in the thirteen colonies, making it the most important document in American history. It is ironic that the basis for it came from the country from which the United States wanted separation. After the revolutionary war, America once again recognized the importance of the Magna Carta. The document had been deemed superior to other statues. The Americans decided that there needed to be a supreme law of the land, and thus created the Constitution of the United States. The Magna Carta paved the road for the two most important documents in America. Without it, no one knows where the United States would be today, and even if they would be united.
The Magna Carta could indirectly be considered one of the most important documents in American history. Furthermore, a greedy king and some determined barons could indirectly be considered the original Founding Fathers of the United States, 500 years before it was formed. Thus, the Magna Carta should be considered a part of English history as well as American history. Without it, it cannot be determined what the states of the union would be today, or if there would even be a union. The United States will forever be indebted to those determined barons and the greedy king.