Imagini ale paginilor

Chapter 1

Excerpts from



The importance of Magna Carta is in the influence of its being granted, rather than of what was granted by it. It was essentially a document of feudal law, rights, and obligations, with little bearing on modern democratic matters. It was, on June 15, 1215, forced on King John by the barons, whose chief interest was in their own claims; but it was not confined to these, and in its administrative reforms did undoubtedly, especially through the chain of confirmations, give strength to the demand for civil rights in later times. It was not the first royal charter, and it did not grant new liberties; but besides confirming existing claims, it proposed means of sustaining them. The procuring of Magna Carta was a dramatic affair, and the name by which it has come down from the earlier ages set it apart from the other medieval documents which helped to found the English polity; so that, when the struggle between autocratic power and popular rights began under the Stuart monarchs, it was natural that the Great Charter should be brought forward as proof of the early existence of sacred rights later denied. Certain striking clauses in general terms gave substance to this. These, with the tradition and later influence, continue to make Magna Carta a Liberty Document of first importance.1

In the original Latin the charter contains about 3,500 words and over 5,000 when translated into English. Historians and scholars have divided it into 63 "chapters" or articles, many of which were temporary in influence. The nine points on which the English judicial system is based were summarized by William Penn in 1687:

(1) No man shall be taken or imprisoned.

(2) No man shall be disseised (dispossessed of land).

(3) No man shall be outlawed (from the privileges of the law).

(4) No man shall be banished.

(5) No man shall in any sort be destroyed.


(6) No man shall be condemned but by the judgment of his peers

(trial by jury).

(7) We shall SELL to no man justice or right.

(8) We shall DENY to no man justice or right.

(9) We shall DEFER to no man justice or right.2


In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyall Subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord King James, by the grace of God of Great Britaine, France and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, & c.

Having under-taken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith, and honour of our King and Countrey, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly & mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant, and combine our selves together into a civill body politike, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by vertue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equall Lawes, Ordinances, acts, constitutions, offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the generall good of the Colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witnesse whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names. Cape Cod 11. of November, in the yeare of the raigne of our soveraigne Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland 18. and of Scotland 54. Anno Domino 1620.

[blocks in formation]

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.-We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute

'JOY ELMER MORGAN. THE AMERICAN CITIZENS HANDBOOK. p. 116. Revised Ed., National Education Association. Washington, D. C. 1946.

* Written and signed by the Pilgrims on board the Mayflower, Nov. 11, 1620.

'From a Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress Assembled, July 4, 1776.

new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.



WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.



Article I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Article II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Article III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Article IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Article V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases 'The first 10 amendments are known as the "Bill of Rights."

arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Article VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining Witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Article VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Article VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Article IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.


FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. Excerpt from Message to the Congress, Jan. 6, 1941.

THE SECOND IS FREEDOM OF EVERY PERSON TO WORSHIP GOD-in his own way everywhere in the world.

THE THIRD IS FREEDOM FROM WANT-which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants everywhere in the world. THE FOURTH IS FREEDOM FROM FEAR-which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-anywhere in the world. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.



We the peoples of the United Nations Determined To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and To reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, And for these ends To practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and, To unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and To ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and To employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples, Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.

Of The




The Governments of the States Parties to This Constitution, on Behalf of

Their Peoples, Declare

That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed;

« ÎnapoiContinuă »