Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights are both historically significant documents; while the Magna Carta was meant to serve as a peace treaty between upset barons and King John, the English Bill of Rights ensured that the monarchy within England didn’t hold too much accumulated power, and thus gave more power to the Parliament. Although the English Bill of Rights ended up replacing the Magna Carta, and although both documents serve different purposes, they have an interesting amount of similarities.
This paper will aim to analyze the similarities and differences between Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights by thoroughly comparing the two documents.
Both documents were written due to a public at dismay. The Magna Carta was written because rebel barons were fed up with the overwhelming power of King John, and they felt that they were stripped away from basic rights and their free will due to the government in England. Through the Magna Carta, they sought to provide themselves and those who will come after them the free will and basic rights they deserve “To all free men of our kingdom we have also granted, for us and our heirs forever, all the liberties written out below, and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs” (King John, 1215) However, the Magna Carta didn’t demand the complete obliteration of the monarchy as the Bill of Rights had.
The Bill of Rights, written nearly 500 years after the Magna Carta, was written by a society that had just experienced the Glorious Revolution (“English Bill of Rights of 1689”, 2018), and demanded the end of the interference between the crown and the law.
Overall, both documents were written due to controversial situations in England, both were a rebellion against British monarch where it minimized the monarchy’s power, although in different degrees, and both documents served to give power and distinctive rights to the people.
While the Magna Carta was written in 1215 rebelling against King John, the English Bill of Rights was written after the Glorious Revolution in 1688 in a rebellion against King James II, and the monarch family. The Magna Carta mainly addressed the baron’s demands of wanting a right to trial jury, the king not being able to tax the public without their consent, wanting an effective legal system where law is exercised, and defending everyone’s property rights. On the other hand, the English Bill of Rights demanded freedom of speech and religion, abolishment of the monarchy’s interference within law, elimination of cruel and torturous punishments, and ultimately, a pathway that would make the Parliament stronger than the monarch (“The English Bill of Rights,” 1688). On an important note, the Bill of Rights delivers a plan of free elections and of a representative government. Similarly, Magna Carta wished to lessen the power of the King and thereby offered a legal system where “the barons shall elect twenty-five of their number to keep” (King John, 1215). The English Bill of Rights simply built on this ideology. The major differences between the two documents is that the Magna Carta addressed the issues that the barons were dealing with during that time such as trials and crimes, and it didn’t seek out to grant any rights to the public overall as the English Bill of Rights had. The English Bill of Rights sought to gain the freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech among many other freedoms to avoid further oppression from overwhelmingly powerful monarchs. The Magna Carta placed limits on King John’s power, but the Bill of Rights ensured that the Parliament will always be more powerful than the monarch.
As can be seen, the Magna Carta written in 1200s derived from rebellious barons who were fed up with King John’s ruling and wished to limit his powers and themselves certain rights, whereas the English Bill of Rights listed the injustice done by the monarchs and demanded a set of freedoms and rights to ensure that the Parliament will always have more power over the monarch. Although the Bill of Rights was written nearly half a century after the Magna Carta, it nonetheless has elements from the Magna Carta such as the want for a representative government and the want for the elimination of cruel punishments.