Human Rights #
In Roman times, citizenship varied greatly. The full citizen could vote, marry freeborn persons, and practice commerce. Some citizens were not allowed to vote or hold public office, but maintained the other rights. A third type of citizen could vote and practive commerce, but could not hold office or marry freeborn women.
In the late Republic, male slaves who were granted their freedom could become full citizens. Around 90 B.C.E., non-Roman allies of the Republic gained the rights of citizenship, and by 212 C.E, under the Edict of Caracalla, all free people of the Roman Empire could become citizens.
The Magna Carta 1215 #
Upset by what they saw as King John’s unchecked powers, about 40 rebel barons confronted him with a list of demands, known as the Articles of the Barons, revised and turned into the Magna Carta — literally, the Great Charter.
Seeking to avoid a major conflict, the King affixed his seal to the agreement at Runnymede on June 15, 1215.
The right to justice and a fair trial was established as a basic, yet unprecedented, idea: that every free man is subject to the law, including the King.
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions . . . except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land,” Article 39 of the text states.
The most important provisions have been interpreted as the basis for the right to justice and due process for all.
Article 40 then continues: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”
Tom Ginsburg, the University of Chicago, describes the document as the result of an “intra-elite struggle, in which the nobles were chiefly concerned about their own privileges”.
Only a few weeks after it was signed, King John appealed to Pope Innocent III to cancel the Magna Carta, which he promptly did. The Pope called the document:
“illegal, unjust, harmful to royal rights and shameful to the English people” and declared it “null, and void of all validity forever.”