What Rights Did the Magna Carta Protect?

The Magna Carta, first written on June 15, 1215, protected basic human rights including freedom from excessive government control and property. The Magna Carta was written by barons protesting ill treatment endured under the reign of King John. The barons failed to achieve change in the feudal system of England, but raised important social and political issues championed later by English citizens.

A more powerful, effective draft of the Magna Carta appeared, in 1297. Although society did not change under the rule of King John, the Magna Carta established freedom for English citizens against tyrannical governments, in the years following King John’s death. The first and subsequent versions of the Magna Carta addressed numerous social issues derived from the feudal system. Poor peasants and those lower on the social ladder accused King John of treating them unfairly. They noted a strong dissociation between the King and upper class and the common man.

While this point raised a key social issue, the Magna Carta contained two elements considered by historians far more crucial. The Magna Carta afforded citizens protection from unlawful government prosecution, and it prohibited the denial or delay of justice for individuals. The Magna Carta protected rights of English citizens, but it proved a key example of government and social relations. The principles of the Magna Carta ultimate inspired the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.