The Magna CartaThe Magna Carta
this version as regranted by King Edward I in 1300

When representatives of the young republic of the United States gathered to draft a constitution, they turned to the legal system they knew and admired--English common law as evolved from the Magna Carta.

This heritage is most clearly apparent in our Bill of Rights. The fifth amendment guarantees:

No person shall...be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Written 575 years earlier, Magna Carta declares:

No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned,...or in any other way destroyed...except by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to none will we deny or delay, right or justice.

Yet, as close as the Magna Carta and American concepts of liberty are, they remain distinct. Magna Carta is a charter of ancient liberties guaranteed by a king to his subjects; the Constitution of the United States is the establishment of a government for the people, by the people.

See: The National Archives and Records Administration