Front Page Titles (by Subject) Liberty and Habeas Corpus - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
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Liberty and Habeas Corpus - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Liberty and Habeas Corpus
“Habeas Corpus and ‘Liberty of the Subject’: Legal Arguments for the Petition of Right in the Parliament of 1628.” The Historian: A Journal of History 41 (February 1979): 257–274.
The debates taking place at the time of the adoption of the Petition of Right in 1628 made an important contribution to individual liberty. Specifically, the arguments of a small group of common lawyers, led by Sir Edward Coke, in the House of Commons rested on the assumption that the common law was inviolable. These arguments supporting legally sacrosanct human rights constitute the lasting significance of the 1628 Petition. Although the lawyers' arguments may well have relied on a questionable reading of Magna Carta and other common law precedents, their willingness to stretch the law did not lead them to advance a theory of judicial supremacy in England's government. Rather, they persisted in the traditional view that the rights of subjects and the powers of the Crown were both secured by the common law as reaffirmed by the judiciary.
The immediate occasion for the dispute arose over Darnel's Case, also known as the Five Knight's Case. The knights in question had been imprisoned by special mandate of the king for refusing to consent to a forced loan. Their lawyer, John Selden, claimed that imprisoning them before indictment violated Magna Carta. By such imprisonment, persons might be condemned to “legal death,” languishing in prison indefinitely without ever being brought to trial.
In the parliamentary debates on the bill, Coke and the other common lawyers attempted to tie the privileges, rights, and immunities of Magna Carta to freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment before trial. After the Petition of Right was passed in 1628, the king attempted to circumvent its provisions by requiring high sureties for bail and by refusing defendants the right to be present when their petitions came up for consideration. Although the king imprisoned several members of parliament in 1629, the principles of the Petition of Right were important precedents for later legislation.