Magna Carta, Ancient Liberties, and America


This conference examined the history of Magna Carta in England and then turned to the American perception of that history to evaluate the claim that America's political history is continuous with that earlier tradition of law and politics. The endeavor was to better understand the influence of Magna Carta, and the idea of rights and law contained therein, on the American legal and political order.


From Liberty Fund

The Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke

by By Sir Edward Coke
Edited by Steve Sheppard

Sir Edward Coke (1552–1634) successfully defended English liberties against the royal prerogative of the Stuart kings and virtually single-handedly established the rule of law for the English-speaking peoples. Coke’s view of English law has had a powerful influence on lawyers, judges, and politicians through the present day.

It was Coke’s…

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Discourses Concerning Government

by By Algernon Sidney
Edited by Thomas G. West

Written in response to Sir Robert Filmer’s Patriarcha (1680), the Discourses Concerning Government by Algernon Sidney (1623–1683) has been treasured for more than three centuries as a classic defense of republicanism and popular government.

Thomas G. West is Paul and Dawn Potter Professor of Politics, Hillsdale College.

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Additional Readings

The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams. Edited by C. Bradley Thompson. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2000.

Empire and Nation: Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (John Dickinson), Letters from the Federal Farmer (Richard Henry Lee). Edited by Forrest McDonald. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1999.

Frohnen, Bruce, eds. The American Republic. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2002.

The Political Writings of William Penn. Edited by Andrew R. Murphy. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2002.

Sandoz, Ellis, eds. The Roots of Liberty: Magna Carta, Ancient Constitution, and the Anglo-American Tradition of the Rule of Law. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1993.

The Declaration of Independence in Historical Context. Edited by Barry Alan Shain. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2014.

Colbourn, Trevor. The Lamp of Experience. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998.

Guizot, Francois. The History of the Origins of Representative Government in Europe. Edited by Aurellian Craiutu. Translated by Andrew S. Scoble. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2002.

Hamilton, Alexander, James Madison, and John Jay. The Federalist: The Gideon Edition. Edited by George W. Carey and James McClellan. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 2001.

Hobbes, Thomas. Behemoth: The History of the Causes of the Civil Wars of England, and of the Counsels and Artifices by which they were carried on from the year 1640 to the year 1660 [in The English Works of Thomas Hobbes]. Edited by Sir William Molesworth. London: John Bohn, 1840.

Hobbes, Thomas. A Dialogue between a Philosopher and Student of the Common Laws of England [in The English Works of Thomas Hobbes]. Edited by William Molesworth. London: John Bohn, 1840.

Hume, David. The History of England, Volume I. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1983.

Hyneman, Charles and Donald Lutz. American Political Writings During the Founding Era: 1760-1805. Indianapolis: LibertyPress, 1983.

Malcolm, Joyce Lee. The Struggle for Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century English Political Tracts, 2 Volumes. Edited by Joyce Lee Malcolm. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1999.

Pollock, Frederick and Frederic William Maitland. The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I, Second Edition, Volume I. London: Cambridge University Press, 1923.