What influence did English legal and political traditions have upon the Framers of the U.S. Constitution?

Two of the most important legal documents that influenced the development of the American Republic were the English Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights. The Magna Carta was a document that was created in the year 1215. It demanded that the King would be held accountable to the law and respect of the English people. This set a groundwork for the English Bill of Rights in 1689 that established an Englishman’s right to a trial by a jury and that he may demand grievances from the government.

The framers were greatly affected by the English system in their thinking for both good and bad reasons. The Magna Carta and Bill of Rights helped to lead the way toward a government of representation and a government that should answer to its people. The framers expanded these theories in the American Constitution, and there were debates on how to move forward after the Revolution in terms of how they would distance the nation from the style of governing of the English. The Federalists and Anti-Federalist embodied a certain argument that saw the negative ideas of the English system. The Anti-Federalists saw Federalism as a dangerous way of giving too much power to a single group which would be susceptible to the same pitfalls of the tyrannical monarchy they just escaped. This is where separation of powers came into the conversation.

The expansion of rights in the American Bill of Rights shows the weariness of the framers of an over powerful government that they experienced before the Revolution. Issues like the freedoms in the first amendment, habeas corpus, protection against illegal searches, and so on were reactions to the lack of personal liberty that was experienced under British rule.