Magna carta, common law values and the constitution

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22 — gathered pace in the 17th century. This is commonly attributed to the contested "gloss" upon Magna Carta of Sir Edward Coke. He expanded the idea of "liberties" referred to in Magna Carta, especially chapter 29, to a conception of individual liberties perceived to be in recurrent tension with the royal prerogative23.

Coke's general argument, to be found in his Second Institutes, asserted that Magna Carta "was for the most part declaratory of the principal grounds of the fundamental laws of England"24 — in essence that Magna Carta restated common law principles that preceded it. That idea had been advanced not only by Coke but also Sir John Selden and others in the context of seeking the King's agreement to the proposition that there were limits on the King's prerogative powers, especially when it came to the raising of taxes. Historiographical debate about Coke's theories has not unnaturally been considerable, and it is often said that he went too far and was historically inaccurate, particularly when compared with the scholarly Selden

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