Jason Marshall 10/21/2014
LS500 Unit 1 Assignment: The Magna Carta and the US Constitution
The Magna Carta and the United States Constitution are significantly important documents when it comes to studying history. They are similar in a number of ways, because they are both focused on providing a charter or rule of law by which people would live. However, they do much more than that. They also help to limit the powers of the government and make sure that the people who are governed have freedoms and rights that are very important to them. The documents are far from identical in the way they are structured and what they have to offer, but they both have historical value and significance. While the information contained in the Magna Carta is no longer in use in society, the information found within the US Constitution is a large part of the fabric of life in America. It is far easier to understand both documents if they are looked at as they relate to one another.
The Magna Carta, or "Great Charter," came about in 1215, in an effort to limit the powers of John, the King of England (Turner, 2003). The goal was not only to make his powers somewhat limited, but also to protect the rights of the people who were his subjects. The feudal barons created the document, and it eventually led to constitutional law, both in England and beyond its borders (Turner, 2003). In a sense, the Magna Carta was the predecessor of documents like the US Constitution, even though the historical process that brought society from one to the other was quite long and drawn out. During the time that the Magna Carta was being created and enforced, King John had complete and total power. There was no democracy, and the King's word was law. That can be difficult for people in the US today to completely understand, because they have a much more democratic society than what was seen in the past. For King John, the Magna Carta forced him to let go of the idea of arbitrary will, and gave a voice to the people who the King ruled (Turner, 2003). The law of the land dominated, instead of the law of the King.
The US Constitution, on the other hand, was established in 1789, and has acquired 27 amendments since that time (Bowen, 2010). There were only seven articles when it was first created. Three of those were focused on the government and how it was to be divided when it came to the kinds of power it had (Maier, 2010). That was done in order to make sure the government – or any particular part of it – could not get too powerful and take too much control away from the people. This was a lesson learned through the need for the creation of other documents throughout history, such as the Magna Carta (Bowen, 2010). The