Our rights were assured by English battles

How would you feel if you witnessed the aftermath of a shooting of a black man by two white police officers in your yard? This happened last year to my cousin. That event brought her sleepless nights, pain, conflicting emotions and confusion.

  • Friday, March 17, 2017 11:03am
  • Opinion

How would you feel if you witnessed the aftermath of a shooting of a black man by two white police officers in your yard? This happened last year to my cousin. That event brought her sleepless nights, pain, conflicting emotions and confusion.

Recent testimony at an inquest deeply affected her. She tells me she will never be the same person as before the incident.

Consider a time when you experienced a significant emotional event – a death of a close friend or relative, the sudden coming into wealth, a wedding, a divorce. The list is endless. How did that event change your thinking?

Every one of us has had at least one such emotional period in our lives. Some of us have had several.

The formation of the American psyche also has had many such emotional events that have made us into the nation we are today. Let us reflect on those times of crisis from our English legacy that eventually caused the American Revolution. Examining some of those historical memories will give us an insight into who we are as Americans today and how we will fare during our current time of change.

The Magna Carta of 1215 is an event in English history that gave us the concept of limited government and rule of law. King John ruled over England with an iron fist, driving the barons to civil war. John broke Norman precedent by forcing the nobles’ sons to marry women against their wishes. He also arbitrarily seized land from the nobles and taxed them without permission. Eventually, the barons rebelled and defeated King John at the Battle of Runny Meade.

John was forced to give up some of his power to the barons. Kings, too, were subject to the laws of the kingdom, just like their subjects. This concept of individual rights trickled down from the nobles to allow common people to expect the same rights. Examples are trial by jury and the forbidding of government from housing soldiers in peoples’ homes.

Eventually, over several hundred years, the nobles evolved into the British Parliament. As the merchant class grew in wealth and influence, this class began to wield more power in Commons, the lower house.

Catholic King Charles I, in particular, resented the loss of what he considered his divine right to rule. Charles wanted to wage war, but Parliament resisted giving him the money. Charles also wanted to house his soldiers in peoples’ homes without their permission. In 1628 Parliament forced the king to agree to the Petition of Right. This document strengthened the power of Parliament and also of the people.

The conflict grew between the King and Parliament. It resulted in another civil war that saw the beheading of Charles I in 1649. Twenty-one years later, in 1660, his son, Charles II, was allowed to become king. Commons was clearly in charge.

In 1689, nobles deposed James II. Parliament then brought in new monarchs, Queen Mary and her husband William. Eventually the English monarchs became only figureheads.

Part of Parliament’s agreement with William and Mary became the English Bill of Rights of 1689. This document kept the monarch from raising money without Parliament’s consent, protected free speech in Parliament, allowed Protestants to own weapons, safeguarded the accused from excessive bail and from cruel and unusual punishments.

King George III took away these rights from the American colonists. This brought about the American Revolution. American colonists expected to be treated as Englishmen. Much of the expectations from English history found their way into the U.S. Bill of Rights: free speech, trial by jury, the right to bear arms and others.

We are a nation with a past that came to us from the struggles of our English forbearers. Those experiences, like those of my cousin’s, have changed us forever.

These English rights are now part of our national DNA. No leader can destroy those freedoms today.

More in Opinion

Supreme Court resets the playing field

The ruling on the Masterpiece Bakery v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case wasn’t a win for the right or a loss for the left; it’s a chance to do things right the second time around.

Supreme Court ruling shows sanity, moderation

The 14th Amendment equal protection clause does not negate the First Amendment religious freedom clause.

Initiative signatures are the new greenbacks

As of Wednesday, June 6, petitions for four statewide initiatives were getting circulated.

Public record battle brings in a mediator

A taskforce is also being put together, but it’s not clear who will be on it.

One almond latte, if you please | Wally’s World

There was a time in the distant past when a friend and… Continue reading

There a way to blend values, reinvent our society?

A new study finds white people may become more intolerant as America becomes less white.

I wish I could stay in Enumclaw | Guest Columnist

There is a kindness and decency and desire to be a community in Enumclaw.

We live in frightening times

Our country is being torn apart from limb to limb, coast to coast.

Voting habits tied to feelings of security

The dangers of authoritarianism are a far greater threat to the nation than seeing rising racial equality and religious diversity brought about by immigration.

Gun rights advocates won the battle, but may lose the war

NRA leaders will need to decide if it’s worth putting resources into a fight in a Left Coast state versus investing in efforts to keep Republicans in control of Congress to prevent ideas like this initiative from becoming federal law.

Trump not accomplishing as much as supporters think

This is in response to Craig Chilton’s letter claiming Trump’s presidency is not a mistake because of all of his “accomplishments,” 81 signed pieces of legislation.

Protecting against the abuse of power

Concern about the evil potential of humans is woven into our Constitution’s DNA.