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English Law

The development of U.S. law is rooted in English political and legal history. The colonial settlers of North America were primarily from England, and until the 1760s they viewed themselves as English rather than "American." They brought with them the English COMMON LAW and the English constitutional tradition.

Unlike the United States, England has never had a written constitution. Instead, the English constitutional tradition is based on the substance and procedures of the common law, along with key documents, such as Magna Charta and the English Bill of Rights. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, political philosophers, especially JOHN LOCKE, challenged the absolute authority of the monarchy and introduced the democratic idea that the people have a right to a government that meets their needs. These documents and ideas assumed great importance as the American colonists moved toward independence in the 1770s. In this sense English ideas paved the way for the American Revolution and the writing of the U.S. Constitution.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationHistorical Legal Documents and Landmark Speeches