Both had the character, to those who enacted them, not so much of what we call legal commands as of Solemn Covenants.
Magna Carta is a series of engagements contracted by the Crown with the magnates of the realm, accepted by them, and authenticated by the King’s Great Seal.
From them the old provisions, largely in the original words of the Great Charter, passed into the Federal Constitution of the United States when it was drafted in 1787 and adopted, with the first ten amendments, between 17.
Nor does the chain of historical sequence stop here.
The influence of the Law of the Twelve Tables upon the development of legal thought and institutions in later ages need not be followed out here, as it worked chiefly in the field of Roman private law.
But two resemblances between that code, if code it can be called, and Magna Carta may be noted.When we commemorate wars, for example on remembrance weekend, we are remembering tens of thousands of people who died defending the country against evil; we also remember the people who these people loved and the loss that they encountered.We commemorate Armistice Day because it is 80 years to the day since World War One ended and the two-minute silence is to commemorate this.The Federal Constitution supplied a model for republican Constitutions enacted in later days.It was imitated by the republics of Spanish America when they threw off the yoke of Spain.In no other country, ancient or modern, can we find any body of legal rules which, framed at an early period in a nation’s growth, has so powerfully influenced its subsequent development, as did the “Lex Duodecim Tabularum”.The nearest parallels are what we call the Law of Moses in the Pentateuch, and the Koran of Mohammed, but the differences are so great that it is hardly worth while to pursue a comparison.So likewise the Charter was demanded by those who complained of the irregular and arbitrary violence of King John, and the restrictions it imposed upon the Crown’s action became the corner stone of English freedom.Its provisions, never repealed, though varied and to some extent amplified in subsequent instruments similarly extorted from subsequent monarchs, were solemnly reasserted in the famous declaration by Parliament in 1628 which we call the Petition of Right, and were finally re-enacted in the Bill of Rights of 1689.Thus the Charter of 1215 was the starting-point of the constitutional history of the English race, the first link in a long chain of constitutional instruments which have moulded men’s minds and held together free governments not only in England but wherever the English race has gone and the English tongue is spoken.The Bill of Rights was in the thoughts of those who framed the first Constitutions of Massachusetts and Virginia when the North American Colonies renounced their allegiance to the British Crown; and much of the document of 1689 was incorporated in those Constitutions.