The Enlightenment saw the reemergence of classical ideals of democracy first established in ancient Greece. The Anglo-American tradition of legal guarantees of rights dates back to the Magna Carta, or “Great Charter,” of 1215. In it King John of England guaranteed certain liberties to the free men of his kingdom. In 1628 the English Parliament drew up a Petition of Right restating the “rights and liberties of the subjects.” Charles I agreed to it, and the rights were further extended in the English Bill of Rights of 1689.
Works such as Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen-one of the founding documents in the human rights tradition, the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 claimed that “inalienable” rights were the foundation of all government, and those ideas of social compacts became the “law of the land” in the U.S. Constitution.
Discussion Prompt: How inclusive (consider: religion, race, ethnicity, gender, wealth, etc.) were these human and civil rights during the Enlightenment and, most importantly, how justly were these ideas and laws applied throughout American history and how justly are they applied today?
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