A Tendency of the American Mind: No Duty to Retreat


  • Linda S. Buettner Wichita State University


United States constitution, English common law, duty to retreat, no duty to retreat, common law rights, self-defense


One of the many influences in the development of American constitutionalism was the old English common law. As early as the thirteenth century, the English government began to develop policies of administration and taxation that would be the beginning of a representative and more limited government.1 The Magna Carta, drafted in 1215 to serve the aristocracy, functioned as an adaptive document to meet the needs of the colonists in America. They took the notion of no taxation without consent and the idea of limited government in forming their own definitive policies. Americans also used the common law to generate the core of their own bill of rights. Some of these core issues were the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers, the right to a speedy trial, the right to compensation for the taking of private property and equal protections under the law. The idea that a judge should not have interest in any case in which he sits in judgment helped to spark the idea of separation of powers. Twenty percent of America's bill of rights had first been stated in the Magna Carta.2