Throughout his long history, a common citizen was always in chains with his life short, nasty and brutish. Anytime he could be prosecuted, imprisoned or killed by an aristocrat or the monarch. However the movement to emancipate common man and grant him rights started exactly 800 years back with signing of Magna Carta in England between King John and his barons.
Here then is a brief walk amongst the milestones of history, on how civil liberties have been increasingly secured in these last 800 years and why this hard fought treasure must always be guarded against usurpation by vested interests.
In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.”
– Magna Carta, (38), 15th June, 1215
“No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be denied his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgement of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right. ”
—Clause XXIX of the Magna Carta, 15th June (Habeas Corpus) 1215
“Excessive bail should not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted.”
The Bill of Rights – an Act of the Parliament of England passed on 16 December, 1689
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
– US Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776
“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience by in any manner, or on any pretext infringed.”
– First Amendment to the US Constitution June 8, 1789
“Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.”
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (France, 1789)
That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.
– John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
– Article 18, UN Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by UN, 10 Dec 1948.
“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
― John F. Kennedy
Democracy is based on the majority principle. This is especially true in a country such as ours where the vast majority have been systematically denied their rights. At the same time, democracy also requires that the rights of political and other minorities be safeguarded.
– Nelson Mandela, 1994, Inaugural speech