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Solem v. Helm

Magna Carta

The Magna Carta (Latin for "Great Charter") is the document that forms the foundation of English government. Concerned with establishing limits on the tyrannical powers of the English monarchy, the Magna Carta is considered the first great assertion of political liberties in the history of western civilization. The Magna Carta provided the inspiration for the U.S. Constitution and the constitutions of other democratic nations.

King John (1199-1216) signed the Magna Carta on 15 June 1215. That day, having recently suffered defeat at the hands of the French, King John was surrounded by sword-wielding English lords and noblemen in a battlefield near Runnymede. The barons, angry over the various financial extractions and court-related abuses by the Crown, forced King John to sign a document that contained a long list of rights. King John believed that the document would be worthless, and he signed it only as a way to postpone his bad fortunes. However, the document lived on and later became known as the Magna Carta.

The Magna Carta established various rights for English citizens and curbed the Crown's powers. For example, the Magna Carta pronounced the right of a person to be free from exile, imprisonment, and other punishments "except by the judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land."

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Solem v. Helm - The Origins Of Proportional Punishment, The Case Of Jerry Helm, Mixed Messages, Lingering Problems