King George III would probably not approve, but two documents that led to and reinforced America’s split from Great Britain will make their public debut in London next year.
More than two centuries after the United States split from Great Britain, two seminal American documents, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, will go on public display for the first time in the United Kingdom at the British Library.
“It is believed that none of the original copies of the US Bill of Rights, or the Declaration of Independence, have ever been on display in UK before, marking a national first as they are exhibited as part of the British Library’s exhibition,” the British Library said in a statement.
The British Library will display Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration and one of 12 original copies of the Bill of Rights, along with two copies of the Magna Carta, to mark the Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary.
The 2015 exhibition, Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, is already generating a lot of publicity. It is set to run from March 13, 2015 to September 1, 2015.
“The bedrock of our modern-day society is rooted in the historic documents of the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights – the result of brave citizens who understood the importance of change and reform”, says Tony Marx, President of the New York Public Library. The library is loaning the Jefferson document to the British Library, while the Bill of Rights copy is coming from the National Archives.
The global law firm White & Case is supporting the loan of the Bill of Rights and Declaration to the library. The exhibition is sponsored by the global law firm Linklaters.
The Magna Carta was issued in 1215 by King John of England and it established the concept that the King was not above the law of the realm. It also led to some familiar concepts in the U.S. Constitution, such as due process.
“No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land,” the Magna Carta reads.
The Declaration of Independence, which Jefferson helped to shape, included a long list of grievances against King George III.
“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” Jefferson wrote in the Declaration.
The United States’ Bill of Rights, which was championed by James Madison, drew partially on the English Bill of Rights of 1689, with its guarantees of a right to petition, its protection again cruel and unusual punishments, and its efforts to stop troops from quartering in private facilities without permission.
Note: If you can’t make it to London to see the exhibit, the National Constitution Center will have another of the 12 original copies of the Bill of Rights on display in Philadelphia this fall.
Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center is the first and only nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to the most powerful vision of freedom ever expressed: the U.S. Constitution. Constitution Daily, the Center’s blog, offers smart commentary and conversation about constitutional issues in the news, drawing insights from America’s history and a variety of expert contributors.