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Word Count: 497
When English immigrants came to the American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries most assumed that they would have the same protections against government abuses of power that they had in England The most important of these were the right to trial by jury and the right of habeas corpus which prevented the government from jailing people arbitrarily Other personal liberties brought from England to America included the right of accused persons to have legal assistance at trials and a ban on excessive fines and bail These rights came from several centuries of English legal tradition recorded in documents such as the Magna Carta of 1215 the Petition of Right of 1628 and the English Bill of Rights of 1689 from which the American Bill of Rights took its name The assumption of basic legal rights of citizens also came out of the English Common Law English settlers in America included many of these protections in colonial laws The English Americans decided to write into law some parts of the common law and to make additions suited to the colonial society The 1632 charter for the Maryland colony for example declared that all people who were born or who moved there were entitled to all Privileges Franchises and Liberties of a native Englishman By 1639 the Maryland General Assembly had passed an act for the liberties of the people Residents of the Massachusetts Bay Colony created the Body of Liberties in 1641 an important forerunner of the American Bill of Rights The Body of Liberties granted limited religious freedom assured landowners of the equal protection of the laws the right to petition the government for change and the use of the writ of habeas corpus It also banned punishments considered inhumane and recognized the right of an accused person to have legal assistance under some circumstances The Body of Liberties also required the presence of several witnesses to a crime before a person could
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