Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Magna Carta: Foundation of the Free World

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The rights of freedom, equality, and justice for all, which are held sacred, were not always guaranteed for all citizens. Many were deprived of life, liberty, and the right to own property. Others were denied public trials. The lower classes were looked upon as inferior. The Magna Carta also known as the Great Charter, was signed by King John of England in 1215. It was the document that changed the lives of millions of people around the world. The Magna Carta caused long-range, long lasting, and long-term effects on society.

The Magna Carta guaranteed nobles certain rights, limited the king’s power, and provided a cornerstone for further documents that support human rights and freedom for all. King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215. It was revised in 1216 and then later in 1217. The last version, written in 15, became law and was confirmed in Parliament. It stated the customary enactment and was enforced in the courts of law. It also confirmed existing privileges and liberties (Holt). The Magna Carta established the idea that nobles had certain rights and that the king had to respect the law. It consisted of over 60 clauses. Many of them declared human rights and over 0 were about the relations of the king and his subjects. The document guaranteed the liberties of small and large property- owners. It also broke the feudal compact and gave nobles the right to public trials (Bryant). The charter declared that the English church should be set free and that no free man should be outlawed, imprisoned, or exiled without a lawful judgment by his peers or by the law (Holt).


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The Magna Carta was also a charter of liberties. It certified reforms that would protect upper classes against absolute monarchs, and answered questions about ward ship, marriage, widows, and the payment of debts (Warren). Four original copies of the Great Charter have survived since the meeting at Runnymede. All other versions have been copied. The original versions were sent to a British museum, Lincolns Cathedral, and Salisbury. The difficult situations in England led to the signing of the Magna Carta. After World War I, the nation was drifting into war. Men disobeyed the kings law and the government was no longer recognized as a form of power (Bryant). After Henry IIs reign as king, his officials continued to function in his absence. When the next heir came into power, he used his royalty to make life intolerable for his subjects. He was quickly overthrown and England was left without a king. The barons began to take over England while the administrators in office searched for another heir to the throne. As son of Henry II, King John stood nearest to the throne. He was also the closest heir to the land by birth and by right (Daugherty). When King John, also known as Arthur King, became the king of England, his thoughts were first centered on Normandy and the French provinces that had once been his fathers. King Philip of France also wanted the French provinces, but with King John in power, there was little hope of these dominions being his . Before King John came into power, Henry II had created a dilemma. England was in need of financial aid and new administrators. It faced political difficulties and high taxes were given to the nobles and upper class. Also, the happiness and prosperity of all the people depended entirely on the supremacy of the king (Bryant). Now, faced with the problem of restoring England, King John was forced by the barons to sign a document which would unify Englands people and provide a strong foundation for the government. The Magna Carta changed the history of England and impacted other nations. It was a reflection of the continuous development of English law and administration. When the Englishmen left their homelands to establish colonies and markets in the New World, they brought with them their liberties, which were guaranteed in the great charter. The Magna Carta pointed the way to new and greater freedoms. It was the beginning of liberty, fraternity, democracy, justice, and equality in later centuries (Daugherty ).

The Magna Carta impacted America greatly. When American colonists began to build colonies and settle on the land, it was necessary for them to get charters, giving them the right to set up a form of government and occupy the land. The colonists based their charter on the only existing document known to guarantee right and liberties to all. This document was the Magna Carta. On July 4, 1776, the American colonists got together and wrote a new charter based on the ideas of the Magna Carta. It was called the Declaration of Independence . The Magna Carta contained certain fundamental principles of right and justice. The Declaration of Independence outlined similar laws that further explained the same principles. Like the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence controlled both the acts of Parliament and the kings power (Harbison).

Another document influenced by the Magna Carta was the Bill of Rights. When representatives of the United States gathered to draft a constitution, they turned to the legal system they knew and admired. The common laws and rights outlined in the Magna Carta, served as a basis for the Bill of Rights. Both documents were charters of rights and liberties (Brant). The American Bill of Rights states that No person..... shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, and that .....the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury. The Magna Carta states similar amendments relating to liberty and justice.

Other nations have adapted the ideas of the Magna Carta. On August 14, 1941, a document that gave the hope of humanity, peace, liberty, and justice was signed. It was called the Atlantic Charter (Daugherty). About four months later, four men representing Great Britain, U.S.S.R., China, and the United States signed a brief document based on the Magna Carta. This pact was known as the Declaration by the United Nations. It suggested the need for unity and peace throughout the world. The document was later signed by representatives from other nations. Eventually, 46 nations had signed it. Together, the Atlantic Charter and the Declaration by the United Nations formed the greatest union of power in the history of the world. It was known as the United Nations. The Magna Carta was the foundation of these two documents. It provided the basis for the United Nations and written amendments used in many other documents. This is a law which is above the King and which even he must not break. This is the great work of the Magna Carta. Nobles were given certain rights and the kings power was limited by the charter. It helped to influence further documents that supported human rights. The clearly defined rights stated in the charter proved to be a stepping stone for other nations. The United States, Great Britain, and the United Nations based their laws and important documents on the Magna Carta. This great charter was a turning point in history because it established new nations and provided a cornerstone for further documents.

Works Cited

Brant, Irving. The Bill of Rights. New York The BOBBS-MERRILL Company, Inc.

Bryant, Sir Arthur. Makers of England. New York Doubleday and Company, Inc.

Daugherty, James. The Magna Carta. New York Random House, Inc.

Harbison, Winfred. The American Constitution. New York W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.

Holt, J.C. Magna Carta. New York Cambridge University Press.

Warren, W.C. King John. New York W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.



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