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8 2. History of Personal Rights in England. 184. Relation between English and American History.-We know that the history of the United States is very closely connected with the history of England. We know that Americans and Englishmen belong to the same race. We know that the strip of Atlantic seaboard from which has been developed our great American territory was peopled by Englishmen, and once formed part of the British Empire. All the laws and institutions of English America were in the first place brought by our forefathers from England. Planted in a new soil, far away from the mother country, these laws and institutions, retaining still a likeness to the institutions of England, formed a growth of their own. although it has its roots deep down in English history, the tree which shelters us is truly American. We ought
. never to forget that the reason why this tree of freedom is so vigorous, the reason why it has been able to extend its branches so far as to cover and protect us all, the reason why it has withstood the many storms that have assailed it, is because it has its roots so deeply im bedded in the history of our race.
185. The Chief Personal Rights.—The rights which are generally regarded as of the first importance, and which the government guarantees to all persons composing the nation, are commonly called the right of personal security, the right of personal liberty, the right of enjoying private property, and the right of religious belief and worship.
186. Tendency of Government to become Tyrannical.—We may consider it the object of all governments to protect the people in the enjoyment of these rights. Yet history shows us that it is the tendency of nearly all governments to violate or avoid their duties and to over
ride or neglect the rights of the people. The tendency to become tyrannical has been shown in English history as well as in the history of other countries. The kings gathered into their hands all authority, exercising it arbitrarily, and violating the rights of the people. The people claimed that they ought by law to have the enjoyment of their personal rights; but the kings continually disregarded their remonstrances.
187. Restraints upon the Government. The first climax came in 1215. Beginning with the Magna Charta of that date, along from generation to generation, as great landmarks in English history, we find the kings and Parliaments making written acknowledgments of these rights of the people.
These written compacts between the kings and the people are limitations upon the powers of the government and are guarantees of the rights of the people. They are really fragmentary parts of a Constitution.
Some account of these safeguards of liberty will show us the origin of many of the most valued of our American rights.
188. Magna Charta.—The Magna Charta was extorted from King John in 1215 by the barons of England. The body of the people had not reached a high enough stage of education, independence, and union to assert their rights for themselves. This venerable and famous document acknowledges and guarantees the following rights:
No tax should be levied without the authority of a great council summoned by the king. This council grew into the Parliament of England, and is the remote ancestor of our American Congress and our own State Legislature. By this provision the power of taxation was committed to Parliament. This power is the key
to all other powers, and it opened to Parliament the door to complete control of the government. In this provision of Magna Charta we have, too, the assertion of the principle that taxes are only to be levied by the representatives of the people. The violation of this principle by the English government was one of the chief causes of the American war of independence.
Merchants were to be allowed to carry on their business without being subject to arbitrary licenses and tolls imposed by the king.
All freemen were to be allowed to go out of the country and return to it at pleasure. A man might dispose of his property by will in such
as he saw fit. In case a man died without making a will, his property should go to his legal heirs.
The king's officers were prohibited from taking a man's property without his consent. Courts of justice were to remain in fixed and known spots, and were not to be moved about the country to suit the pleasure of the king. They were to be open to every one without fear or favor, and justice was no longer to be refused or delayed. No. one was to be put on trial from mere rumor or suspicion, but only upon the evidence of lawful witnesses.
Excessive fines were forbidden. They were to be in proportion to the fault committed, and no man was to be utterly ruined by a fine.
And, most important of all, no freeman was to be arrested, or imprisoned, or deprived of his property, or outlawed, or banished, or suffer injury of any kind, except by the lawful judgment of his peers (jury) or in accordance with the law of the land.
The tendency to disregard these provisions of Magna Charta was so great that later kings of England were compelled to ratify them as many as thirty times. They form the basis of our personal and political liberty.
The more important of the acknowledgments, in subsequent years in England, of the rights of the people are the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act, the Bill of Rights, and the Act of Settlement.
189. The Petition of Right.-The Petition of Right,
—, passed by Parliament in 1628, declared that all loans extorted from the people by the king, all taxes levied without the consent of Parliament, all arbitrary arrests and imprisonments, the quartering of soldiers on private citizens, trials and condemnations by martial law, were illegal and tended to overthrow the rights of the people and the fundamental laws of the country.
190. The Habeas Corpus Act. — The kings had caused the guarantees of the Magna Charta and the Petition of Right to be disregarded by denying any redress to persons who had been imprisoned, no matter how unjustly, by the king's officers. The Habeas Corpus Act, passed during the reign of Charles II., was intended to correct this abuse and to afford the means of release in case of illegal imprisonment.
The writ of habeas corpus, provided for by this Act, is an order from a judge to an officer who holds a person in custody, to bring the prisoner into court on a certain day. The judge then examines into the matter and decides whether the person has been rightfully or wrongfully arrested. If he finds him to have been wrongfully deprived of his liberty, he orders him to be set free; but if he finds him to have been rightfully detained, he has him sent back to prison.
191. The Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement, enacted by Parliament in the reign of William III., repeated the declarations of the previous statutes, adding some others.
192. America Learns England's Lesson. This series of great laws passed from time to time by the Parliament of England make up the important part of what may be called the Constitution of England. It formed part of the common law of England, and was, therefore, the law of the colonies in America. The lesson to be learned from this history is that England found it necessary to have these great laws enacted in order to have the liberties of the people protected. Consequently, when the Americans declared themselves independent and found it necessary to establish a government, they decided to make a Constitution which should be the supreme law of the land, and which should declare just what the officers of the government might do and what they might not do.
§ 3. Protection of Personal Rights in the United States.
193. Constitutional Guarantees. — The operation of the Constitution itself is to restrain the action of the government within certain definite limits. But besides this general mode of setting barriers to the possible tyrannical action of the government, the Constitution proceeds in divers places to define and guarantee the rights which English history had taught were peculiarly liable to abuse. The Constitutions of the several States reinforce these securities with additional bulwarks.
Thus, the Constitution of the State of California declares the existence of these rights in these words: "All men are by nature free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; and pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness." The Federal Constitution insures the security of these rights by declaring that “no person