What Did the Magna Carta Guarantee?

The Magna Carta prevented King John of England and future kings from arbitrarily collecting tax revenue and from selling, denying or delaying justice. It also established the right to due process and religious freedom. King John accepted and signed the 63-chapter Magna Carta in order to ease tensions with his subjects.

King John signed the document in June 1215, and two months later, Pope Innocent III annulled it because it had been signed under duress. The document was reissued three times before being incorporated into British law in 1225. During the 17th Century, opponents of a total and arbitrary monarchy interpreted the document to forbid taxation without representation. They also believed that it guaranteed the right to a jury trial. Historians view the document as the first of its kind to limit and more broadly define a king's power.

The Magna Carta also influenced leaders during the American Revolution, who incorporated into the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution the right to due process, the right to a speedy trial and prevention of imprisonment or detainment without proof that a crime has been committed. They also addressed the rights to afford a suspected terrorist and established the idea of higher law, which prevents an executive mandate or legislative act from overturning a Supreme Court decision.