Magna Carta


From the time that King John was forced to sign the Magna
Carta, Democracy has substantially grown in England. There
were many different events, which led to this growth that
lasted all the way to the time of the Hanover Kings.
Although the transformation into a Democratic England was
shaky much of the time, it did eventually take effect. The
first English king who inspired the growth of Democracy in
England was a man named Alfred the Great. During the time
of Alfred's reign, he brought about many changes for the
better in all aspects of life. His first major
accomplishment was his defeating of the Danes. The Danes
had been taking over all of England, until Alfred paid them
to sign a treaty. After Alfred strengthened the English
forces, he commenced to fight the Danes, and he eventually
moved them back to a very small portion of England. After
he gained the people's respect by doing so, he began his
reforms. Alfred first collected all of the written laws of
England, and made a law code so that the people would not
be unjustly punished. He became very involved with his
people by journeying across England to make sure the courts
were not unjustly arresting English citizens. Alfred also
insisted that the culture of England, be revived, for it
had suffered for the past few centuries. This, and all of
his other reforms were successful. For the next two
centuries, England's rule was constantly changing hands,
which made it hard for Democracy to come about. The first
ruler who started Democratic reform after Alfred was
William I. His conquests in England also greatly affected
the lives of the people for the better. William the
Conqueror, as he was often called, began his conquest by
winning the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Since England had
been primarily Anglo-Saxon for a long period of time, the
integration of Normans into England was tough. After a
short period of time, it proved to significantly alter the
government of England. William, however, made this
governmental transition very easy for the people in
England. By setting the stones for a very strong
centralized government, William I improved the English
government greatly. He also set the foundation for the
parliamentary system, by instating his King's Council. This
group of officers would assist William in his decisions,
because William believed that a government could not be
successfully ruled by only one person. After the
transition period between Anglo-Saxon and Norman ways of
life ended, William I's Salisbury Oath also modified the
system of government in England. During medieval times,
vassals had to first pledge their allegiance to the lord
from whom they received their fifes. William reformed the
feudal system by stating in the Salisbury Oath that all
vassals owed primary allegiance to him. The feudal system
had long been a very complex system, in which betrayals
would take place very often. By William's making everyone's
primary allegiance to him, he centralized the government,
as well as the feudal system. This proved to unite the
people throughout England. All of this laid down the
foundation for the signing of the Magna Carta by King John
in the year 1215. After King John and Henry III's rule
ended, Edward I took over the reigns of England. His Model
Parliament became the most important step in England's push
towards Democracy. This very basic Parliament was the first
formal government in England where people other than the
king could make choices. Edward realized that by calling
meetings of his Parliament, he could raise tax money, as
well as keep the people content. During Edward's rule, the
Parliament eventually split into two houses, which is very
similar to the way it is run today. After close to 200
years went by with very little being accomplished, Charles
I took over the helm of England. Charles I happened to be
one of the poorer rulers of England during the time of
Democratic growth. He called Parliament only a few times
and very sparsely in between, and he only called it when he
needed money. By the third time he called Parliament in
three years, the people finally figured out a way to demand
more from this lackluster king. Charles was again desperate
for money, and the Parliament was furious with him. When
Charles asked for more money, the Parliament refused. They
stated that unless he signed a document which was called
The Petition of Right, granting the Parliament more power,
they would not grant him money. The Petition of Right had
four basic things included in it which were demanded of the
king. The first was that no one was to be imprisoned
without a just cause. Second was that martial law could not
be declared during times of peace. Forced loans were
forbidden, which meant that Charles could no longer force
money or tax raises out of the Parliament. Lastly,
billeting of soldiers in their homes was forbidden without
consent. Charles obviously was so interested in receiving
money, that he didn't think twice about signing this
Petition. His fights with Parliament lasted for another
decade, until Charles I finally dismissed them in 1629.
Charles I was eventually tried for treason, and was
executed in 1849. For the next decade, England was in
constant turmoil. The English Civil War took place, and
instability plagued England. By the time Charles II was
crowned king in 1660, England was in dire need of help.
Since Charles II knew very little about English politics,
and had no desire to have to deal with it, he appointed his
authority on the matter to Edward Hyde. Hyde eventually
passed many of the laws which had been drawn up by the Long
Parliament, which included the important Due Process of
Law. This also proved to be a huge step in the Democracy of
England. The Due Process of Law stated that the king no
longer had the right to imprison someone without a trial.
More importantly, it stated that the Parliament meet at
least once every three years. This may seem like very
little, but considering England's Parliament had been
abolished and reinstated so many times, it was the most it
had been in centuries. Due to Hyde's many reforms in the
English Parliament, England entered a time of prosperity.
During this time, which was later named The Glorious
Revolution, William and Mary took over the throne, and set
the stage for the signing of the first English Bill of
Rights. This new set of liberties made the people in
England very happy, and included many important things.
Among them were the fact that Parliament must now meet at
least once a year, freedom of election and debate within
Parliament was received, trial by jury was now a law, and
the king no longer had the right to have an army during
times of peace. There were also a few other rights included
in this Bill, all of which lessened the power of the king,
and strengthened the power of Parliament. Many other
events helped pave the way for the Democracy which is in
England today. As you can see, this was a long and lengthy
process, which took over 500 years to fully accomplish.
During the 1600's, Parliament was very shaky and over a
decade went by on several occasions between meetings. By
the time the 18th century rolled around, however,
Parliament was to stay an important part of the English
government. Due to all of these important acts, the Queen
of England holds a throne more due to tradition, than one
of containing power in the government. 

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