Roots of US government
For a more detailed treatment, see Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments, or the Decalogue, are a set of laws which were given to Moses by God. In several controversies over the legality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government property, and especially outside courthouses, the influence of the Ten Commandments on US law becomes relevant as proponents of the displays argue that these commandments form part of the foundation of the US legal system.
For a more detailed treatment, see Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta was written in 1215 and was used to limit the power of the King, due to promises made by Henry I in his 1100 Charter of Liberties. It distributed more power to the people, and granted us the right of a jury among peers. Today, we use the ideals of the Magna Carta to limit the power of the president, and uphold the 6th Amendment in the Bill of Rights.
One of the important provisions of the Magna Carta calls for the creation of a "Great Council". This council evolved into the modern British Parliament.
The Parliament is the central governing body of England. The United States derives its bicameral Congress from this, and adopts the practice of using a governing body to use checks and balances on an executive.
Petition of Right
For a more detailed treatment, see Petition of Right.
The 1628 Petition of Right is a declaration of the rights of the people put forward by the Parliament of England in the third year of the reign of Charles I, and assented to by him. They are:
- That no man be compelled to pay any moneys to the state without common consent by act of Parliament.
- That no person be imprisoned for refusing the same, nor any freeman be imprisoned without any cause showed, to which he might make answer.
- That soldiers and mariners be not billeted in the houses of the people.
- That commissions be no more issued for punishing by the summary process of martial law.
English Bill of Rights
For a more detailed treatment, see English Bill of Rights.
The United States' bill of rights is similar to the 1689 English Bill of Rights, as is the Virginia Declaration of Rights. It acknowledged the natural rights of the people, and made it mandatory for the King to seek Parliament's approval before making decisions. Our Bill of Rights takes inspiration from this premise.
John Peter Zenger was a newspaper publisher who printed material critical of the royal governor. He was put on trial for libel in 1735, but a jury found him innocent. From this we derive our first amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.