Magna Carta in Early America

Magna Carta left an early mark on colonial America. The colonies made law for themselves, provided these were not contrary to English common law; and colonial charters extended to colonists the legal privileges of Englishmen. Magna Carta lay at the visible foundation of those privileges, and resonated strongly with colonists who later sought to protect what they saw as their native rights against the encroachments of the British government.

At the First Continental Congress (September - October 1774) colonists demanded from the Crown the rights of life, liberty and property, government largely by local assemblies, and all the protections of the common law, including jury trials. Firebrand of the Revolution, Thomas Paine, in the most widely-circulated colonial pamphlet, Common Sense (1776), advocated full independence, and suggested a foundational American charter based on the idea of Magna Carta.