Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 October 2021
This chapter examines the influence of Magna Carta on the development of rights and liberties in the Anglo-American common law tradition. Originally issued by King John of England in 1215, Magna Carta and several later medieval sources set forth numerous prototypical rights and liberties that helped to shape subsequent legal developments in England, America, and the broader Commonwealth. Magna Carta inspired sixteenth-century Puritan dissenters in Elizabethan England and seventeenth-century English jurists like Sir Edward Coke and Puritan pamphleteers like John Lilburne, who advocated sweeping new rights reforms on the strength of the Charter. Magna Carta also inspired more directly the new bills of rights and liberties of several American colonies, including notably the expansive 1641 Body of Liberties of Massachusetts crafted by Nathaniel Ward, and many of the rights provisions in the American Declaration of Independence, the original state constitutions, and the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.