At Runnymeade, King John signed the Magna Carta on June 15, 1215. The document was negotiated between the King and Barons of England after the Barons rebelled against increased taxes to fund the King’s wars in France to retake lands lost to the King of France. The document was the first to recognize limits to the King’s power. Although most matters were limited to the grievances and relationships between the King and his Lords, the Magna Carta also recognized the rights under the law for all free men to justice and a fair trial. Those rights were embodied in the petitions to the King by the American colonists in their struggles for liberty. Those same principles were adopted by the newly formed nation and the states in their founding documents. The United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948. echoed those rights.
Visit the British Museum’s website on the Magna Carta, with videos narrated by the likes of Monty Python’s Terry Jones. The National Archives has a virtual display of the 1297 version of the Great Charter and traces the importance of the Magna Carta in the founding documents of the United States.
Materials in the Jacob Burns Law Library collection include: