What Every American Should Know
Note: The following text is a transcription of the Constitution in its original form.
Items that are hyperlinked have since been amended or superseded. (the hyperlinks will take you to the archives.gov website I will also be posting the Amendments here but in leaving the links to the original website I felt it would be easier for you to find the appropriate amendment referenced. T. A.)
The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.
Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.
Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.
Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.
All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;–And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.
No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.
No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.
The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.
The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;–to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;–to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;–to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;–to Controversies between two or more States;– between a State and Citizens of another State,–between Citizens of different States,–between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.
In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.
No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.
New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.
The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.
The Word, “the,” being interlined between the seventh and eighth Lines of the first Page, the Word “Thirty” being partly written on an Erazure in the fifteenth Line of the first Page, The Words “is tried” being interlined between the thirty second and thirty third Lines of the first Page and the Word “the” being interlined between the forty third and forty fourth Lines of the second Page.
Attest William Jackson Secretary
done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independance of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,
Presidt and deputy from Virginia
The Star Spangled Banner Lyrics
By Francis Scott Key 1814
Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that Star – Spangled Banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the Star – Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Pledge of Allegiance:
From its first 23 words penned in 1892 to the official version of 31 words adopted in 1954 the pledge of Allegiance is more than to just a flag it is more now about a way of life and the principles that set this country apart from many others.
original version as penned by Francis Bellamy and James Upham it first appeared in the September 8, 1892 issue of “The Youth’s Companion”, and a month later more than 12 million school children recited the words for the first time in schools across the nation.
I pledge allegiance to my Flag,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.
It wouldn’t be until Flag Day June 14, 1923, the Pledge received major attention from adults who had gathered for the first National Flag Conference in Washington, D.C. There they addressed a few concerns with the pledge and added a few changes the end result was …
I pledge allegiance to the
Flag of the United States,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all
A year later, June 14 1924, they would make another change …
I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all
While still part of school children’s every day lives it would not gain popularity with adults until WWII. It still was an “unofficial” pledge until June 22, 1942 when the United States Congress included the Pledge to the Flag in the United States Flag Code (Title 36). Still the pledge was not quite complete and would be changed again in 1954. In enacting that change then President Eisenhower would say about adding “Under God” to the pledge…
“In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”
those changes led us today to this Official version of the
Pledge of Allegiance …….
I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation under God, indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.
Magna Carta (England 1215)
Just what makes the Magna Carta so important that I think every American should know about it? Please if you have to ask that then … well you were asleep in class. I should let you figure it out for yourself but then again there is that chance that you wouldn’t look at it.
As with any good legal document that has had a lasting effect through out history there has been some sort of precidence before it. That is true also of the document that was written in 1776 in the city Philadelphia, then the common wealth of Pennsylvania. The framers of the constitution knew that they would have a stronger case for independence if they could use another precedence to assert their case. In our countrys case it was the Magna Carta. This document agreed upon by King John of England in 1215 and binding “himself and his heirs, for ever” granting the rights and liberities which is described within this charter “to all freemen of our kingdom”. Placing himself and England’s future sovereigns and magistrates within the rule of law.
Using this Document as precedent to assert our independence would not be the only time we would look to the Magna Carta as a basis for liberties and law. Sometime later when “No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due prosessof law” was written and better know as being in our Bill of Rights under the fifh ammendment. Follows writing that was 575 years earlier within the Magna Carta: “No Freman shall be taken,imprisoned,… or in anyother was destroyed… except by lawful judgement of his peers, or by the law of the land. to no one will we sell, to kno one will we denyor delay, right or justice.” you may also have noticed another part of our rights in that quote, that being the right to a speedy trial. As you see by just theses three examples you can see how this is, while not a document that pertains to US citizens, it is important to our history
[Preamble] Edward by the grace of God King of England, lord of Ireland and duke of Aquitaine sends greetings to all to whom the present letters come. We have inspected the great charter of the lord Henry, late King of England, our father, concerning the liberties of England in these words:
Henry by the grace of God King of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and count of Anjou sends greetings to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, sheriffs, reeves, ministers and all his bailiffs and faithful men inspecting the present charter. Know that we, at the prompting of God and for the health of our soul and the souls of our ancestors and successors, for the glory of holy Church and the improvement of our realm, freely and out of our good will have given and granted to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons and all of our realm these liberties written below to hold in our realm of England in perpetuity.
 In the first place we grant to God and confirm by this our present charter for ourselves and our heirs in perpetuity that the English Church is to be free and to have all its rights fully and its liberties entirely. We furthermore grant and give to all the freemen of our realm for ourselves and our heirs in perpetuity the liberties written below to have and to hold to them and their heirs from us and our heirs in perpetuity.
 If any of our earls or barons, or anyone else holding from us in chief by military service should die, and should his heir be of full age and owe relief, the heir is to have his inheritance for the ancient relief, namely the heir or heirs of an earl for a whole county £100, the heir or heirs of a baron for a whole barony 100 marks, the heir or heirs of a knight for a whole knight’s fee 100 shillings at most, and he who owes less will give less, according to the ancient custom of (knights’) fees.
 If, however, the heir of such a person is under age, his lord is not to have custody of him and his land until he has taken homage from the heir, and after such an heir has been in custody, when he comes of age, namely at twenty-one years old, he is to have his inheritance without relief and without fine, saving that if, whilst under age, he is made a knight, his land will nonetheless remain in the custody of his lords until the aforesaid term.
 The keeper of the land of such an heir who is under age is only to take reasonable receipts from the heir’s land and reasonable customs and reasonable services, and this without destruction or waste of men or things. And if we assign custody of any such land to a sheriff or to anyone else who should answer to us for the issues, and such a person should commit destruction or waste, we will take recompense from him and the land will be assigned to two law-worthy and discreet men of that fee who will answer to us or to the person to whom we assign such land for the land’s issues. And if we give or sell to anyone custody of any such land and that person commits destruction or waste, he is to lose custody and the land is to be assigned to two law-worthy and discreet men of that fee who similarly will answer to us as is aforesaid.
 The keeper, for as long as he has the custody of the land of such (an heir), is to maintain the houses, parks, fishponds, ponds, mills and other things pertaining to that land from the issues of the same land, and he will restore to the heir, when the heir comes to full age, all his land stocked with ploughs and all other things in at least the same condition as when he received it. All these things are to be observed in the custodies of archbishoprics, bishoprics, abbeys, priories, churches and vacant offices which pertain to us, save that such custodies ought not to be sold.
 Heirs are to be married without disparagement.
 A widow, after the death of her husband, is immediately and without any difficulty to have her marriage portion and her inheritance, nor is she to pay anything for her dower or her marriage portion or for her inheritance which her husband and she held on the day of her husband’s death, and she shall remain in the chief dwelling place of her husband for forty days after her husband’s death, within which time dower will be assigned her if it has not already been assigned, unless that house is a castle, and if it is a castle which she leaves, then a suitable house will immediately be provided for her in which she may properly dwell until her dower is assigned to her in accordance with what is aforesaid, and in the meantime she is to have her reasonable necessities (estoverium) from the common property. As dower she will be assigned the third part of all the lands of her husband which were his during his lifetime, save when she was dowered with less at the church door. No widow shall be distrained to marry for so long as she wishes to live without a husband, provided that she gives surety that she will not marry without our assent if she holds of us, or without the assent of her lord, if she holds of another.
 Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent for any debt, as long as the existing chattels of the debtor suffice for the payment of the debt and as long as the debtor is ready to pay the debt, nor will the debtor’s guarantors be distrained for so long as the principal debtor is able to pay the debt; and should the principal debtor default in his payment of the debt, not having the means to repay it, or should he refuse to pay it despite being able to do so, the guarantors will answer for the debt and, if they wish, they are to have the lands and rents of the debtor until they are repaid the debt that previously they paid on behalf of the debtor, unless the principal debtor can show that he is quit in respect to these guarantors.
 The city of London is to have all its ancient liberties and customs. Moreover we wish and grant that all other cities and boroughs and vills and the barons of the Cinque Ports and all ports are to have all their liberties and free customs.
 No-one is to be distrained to do more service for a knight’s fee or for any other free tenement than is due from it.
 Common pleas are not to follow our court but are to be held in a certain fixed place.
 Recognisances of novel disseisin and of mort d’ancestor are not to be taken save in their particular counties and in the following way. We or, should we be outside the realm, our chief justiciar, will send our justices once a year to each county, so that, together with the knights of the counties, that may take the aforesaid assizes in the counties; and those assizes which cannot be completed in that visitation of the county by our aforesaid justices assigned to take the said assizes are to be completed elsewhere by the justices in their visitation; and those which cannot be completed by them on account of the difficulty of various articles (of law) are to be referred to our justices of the Bench and completed there.
 Assizes of darrein presentment are always to be taken before our justices of the Bench and are to be completed there.
 A freeman is not to be amerced for a small offence save in accordance with the manner of the offence, and for a major offence according to its magnitude, saving his sufficiency (salvo contenemento suo), and a merchant likewise, saving his merchandise, and any villain other than one of our own is to be amerced in the same way, saving his necessity (salvo waynagio) should he fall into our mercy, and none of the aforesaid amercements is to be imposed save by the oath of honest and law-worthy men of the neighbourhood. Earls and barons are not to be amerced save by their peers and only in accordance with the manner of their offence.
 No town or free man is to be distrained to make bridges or bank works save for those that ought to do so of old and by right.
 No bank works of any sort are to be kept up save for those that were in defense in the time of King H(enry II) our grandfather and in the same places and on the same terms as was customary in his time.
 No sheriff, constable, coroner or any other of our bailiffs is to hold pleas of our crown.
 If anyone holding a lay fee from us should die, and our sheriff or bailiff shows our letters patent containing our summons for a debt that the dead man owed us, our sheriff or bailiff is permitted to attach and enroll all the goods and chattels of the dead man found in lay fee, to the value of the said debt, by view of law-worthy men, so that nothing is to be removed thence until the debt that remains is paid to us, and the remainder is to be released to the executors to discharge the will of the dead man, and if nothing is owed to us from such a person, all the chattels are to pass to the (use of) the dead man, saving to the dead man’s wife and children their reasonable portion.
 No constable or his bailiff is to take corn or other chattels from anyone who not themselves of a vill where a castle is built, unless the constable or his bailiff immediately offers money in payment of obtains a respite by the wish of the seller. If the person whose corn or chattels are taken is of such a vill, then the constable or his bailiff is to pay the purchase price within forty days.
 No constable is to distrain any knight to give money for castle guard if the knight is willing to do such guard in person or by proxy of any other honest man, should the knight be prevented from doing so by just cause. And if we take or send such a knight into the army, he is to be quit of (castle) guard in accordance with the length of time the we have him in the army for the fee for which he has done service in the army.
 No sheriff or bailiff of ours or of anyone else is to take anyone’s horses or carts to make carriage, unless he renders the payment customarily due, namely for a two-horse cart ten pence per day, and for a three-horse cart fourteen pence per day. No demesne cart belonging to any churchman or knight or any other lady (sic) is to be taken by our bailiffs, nor will we or our bailiffs or anyone else take someone else’s timber for a castle or any other of our business save by the will of he to whom the timber belongs.
 We shall not hold the lands of those convicted of felony save for a year and a day, whereafter such land is to be restored to the lords of the fees.
 All fish weirs (kidelli) on the Thames and the Medway and throughout England are to be entirely dismantled, save on the sea coast.
 The writ called ‘praecipe’ is not to be issued to anyone in respect to any free tenement in such a way that a free man might lose his court.
 There is to be a single measure for wine throughout our realm, and a single measure for ale, and a single measure for Corn, that is to say the London quarter, and a single breadth for dyed cloth, russets, and haberjects, that is to say two yards within the lists. And it shall be the same for weights as for measures.
 Henceforth there is to be nothing given for a writ of inquest from the person seeking an inquest of life or member, but such a writ is to be given freely and is not to be denied.
 If any persons hold from us at fee farm or in socage or burgage, and hold land from another by knight service, we are not, by virtue of such a fee farm or socage or burgage, to have custody of the heir or their land which pertains to another’s fee, nor are we to have custody of such a fee farm or socage or burgage unless this fee farm owes knight service. We are not to have the custody of an heir or of any land which is held from another by knight service on the pretext of some small serjeanty held from us by service of rendering us knives or arrows or suchlike things.
 No bailiff is henceforth to put any man on his open law or on oath simply by virtue of his spoken word, without reliable witnesses being produced for the same.
 No freeman is to be taken or imprisoned or disseised of his free tenement or of his liberties or free customs, or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go against such a man or send against him save by lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell or deny of delay right or justice.
 All merchants, unless they have been previously and publicly forbidden, are to have safe and secure conduct in leaving and coming to England and in staying and going through England both by land and by water to buy and to sell, without any evil exactions, according to the ancient and right customs, save in time of war, and if they should be from a land at war against us and be found in our land at the beginning of the war, they are to be attached without damage to their bodies or goods until it is established by us or our chief justiciar in what way the merchants of our land are treated who at such a time are found in the land that is at war with us, and if our merchants are safe there, the other merchants are to be safe in our land.
 If anyone dies holding of any escheat such as the honour of Wallingford, Boulogne, Nottingham, Lancaster or of other escheats which are in our hands and which are baronies, his heir is not to give any other relief or render any other service to us that would not have been rendered to the baron if the barony were still held by a baron, and we shall hold such things in the same way as the baron held them, nor, on account of such a barony or escheat, are we to have the escheat or custody of any of our men unless the man who held the barony or the escheat held elsewhere from us in chief.
 No free man is henceforth to give or sell any more of his land to anyone, unless the residue of his land is sufficient to render due service to the lord of the fee as pertains to that fee.
 All patrons of abbeys which have charters of the kings of England over advowson or ancient tenure or possession are to have the custody of such abbeys when they fall vacant just as they ought to have and as is declared above.
 No-one is to be taken or imprisoned on the appeal of woman for the death of anyone save for the death of that woman’s husband.
 No county court is to be held save from month to month, and where the greater term used to be held, so will it be in future, nor will any sheriff or his bailiff make his tourn through the hundred save for twice a year and only in the place that is due and customary, namely once after Easter and again after Michaelmas, and the view of frankpledge is to be taken at the Michaelmas term without exception, in such a way that every man is to have his liberties which he had or used to have in the time of King H(enry II) my grandfather or which he has acquired since. The view of frankpledge is to be taken so that our peace be held and so that the tithing is to be held entire as it used to be, and so that the sheriff does not seek exceptions but remains content with that which the sheriff used to have in taking the view in the time of King H(enry) our grandfather.
 Nor is it permitted to anyone to give his land to a religious house in such a way that he receives it back from such a house to hold, nor is it permitted to any religious house to accept the land of anyone in such way that the land is restored to the person from whom it was received to hold. If anyone henceforth gives his land in such a way to any religious house and is convicted of the same, the gift is to be entirely quashed and such land is to revert to the lord of that fee.
 Scutage furthermore is to be taken as it used to be in the time of King H(enry) our grandfather, and all liberties and free customs shall be preserved to archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, Templars, Hospitallers, earls, barons and all others, both ecclesiastical and secular persons, just as they formerly had.
All these aforesaid customs and liberties which we have granted to be held in our realm in so far as pertains to us are to be observed by all of our realm, both clergy and laity, in so far as pertains to them in respect to their own men. For this gift and grant of these liberties and of others contained in our charter over the liberties of the forest, the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, fee holders and all of our realm have given us a fifteenth part of all their movable goods. Moreover we grant to them for us and our heirs that neither we nor our heirs will seek anything by which the liberties contained in this charter might be infringed or damaged, and should anything be obtained from anyone against this it is to count for nothing and to be held as nothing. With these witnesses: the lord S(tephen) archbishop of Canterbury, E(ustace) bishop of London, J(ocelin) bishop of Bath, P(eter) bishop of Winchester, H(ugh) bishop of Lincoln, R(ichard) bishop of Salisbury, W. bishop of Rochester, W(illiam) bishop of Worcester, J(ohn) bishop of Ely, H(ugh) bishop of Hereford, R(anulf) bishop of Chichester, W(illiam) bishop of Exeter, the abbot of (Bury) St Edmunds, the abbot of St Albans, the abbot of Battle, the abbot of St Augustine’s Canterbury, the abbot of Evesham, the abbot of Westminster, the abbot of Peterborough, the abbot of Reading, the abbot of Abingdon, the abbot of Malmesbury, the abbot of Winchcombe, the abbot of Hyde (Winchester), the abbot of Chertsey, the abbot of Sherborne, the abbot of Cerne, the abbot of Abbotsbury, the abbot of Milton (Abbas), the abbot of Selby, the abbot of Cirencester, H(ubert) de Burgh the justiciar, H. earl of Chester and Lincoln, W(illiam) earl of Salisbury, W(illiam) earl Warenne, G. de Clare earl of Gloucester and Hertford, W(illiam) de Ferrers earl of Derby, W(illiam) de Mandeville earl of Essex, H(ugh) Bigod earl of Norfolk, W(illiam) earl Aumale, H(umphrey) earl of Hereford, J(ohn) constable of Chester, R(obert) de Ros, R(obert) fitz Walter, R(obert) de Vieuxpont, W(illiam) Brewer, R(ichard) de Montfiquet, P(eter) fitz Herbert, W(illiam) de Aubigné, G. Gresley, F. de Braose, J(ohn) of Monmouth, J(ohn) fitz Alan, H(ugh) de Mortemer, W(illiam) de Beauchamp, W(illiam) de St John, P(eter) de Maulay, Brian de Lisle, Th(omas) of Moulton, R(ichard) de Argentan, G(eoffrey) de Neville, W(illiam) Mauduit, J(ohn) de Baalon and others. Given at Westminster on the eleventh day of February in the ninth year of our reign.
We, holding these aforesaid gifts and grants to be right and welcome, conceed and confirm them for ourselves and our heirs and by the terms of the present (letters) renew them, wishing and granting for ourselves and our heirs that the aforesaid charter is to be firmly and inviably observed in all and each of its articles in perpetuity, including any articles contained in the same charter which by chance have not to date been observed. In testimony of which we have had made these our letters patent. Witnessed by Edward our son, at Westminster on the twelfth day of October in the twenty-fifth year of our reign. (Chancery warranty by John of) Stowe.
Translation by Professor Nicholas Vincent, Copyright Sotheby’s Inc. 2007