Magna Carta: A timely reminder

Marcus's picture
Submitted by Marcus on Sun, 2012-11-04 22:40

On the weekend I visited Runnymede with the family. A timely reminder of the birthplace of "liberty under law" in the face of the US Presidential elections.

King John signed the Magna Carta on the 15th of June 1215 after surrendering to an open revolt against his rule by the Barons of England. By mid-July John asked the Pope to annul the document, never intending to put it into practice. In revenge the Barons waged a civil war to put the King of France in John's place. King John (nicknamed Soft Sword) died a year later and was suceeded by his weak 9 year old son, who put the Magna Carter into the statute books with a supplementary chapter on Forest Law.

For that reason the original document became known as the Magna Carter (Big Charter) to the smaller addition.

It provides the basis for law and individual rights under clause 39 which states:

'No free man shall be taken, imprisoned, outlawed or banished or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against or persecute him, except by lawful judgement of his equal and by the law of the land.'

Clauses 17-40 in general spell the end of feudalism, the birth of the rule of law including: the punishment to fit the crime; trial by jury; provision of a Will; Law of Probate; rights under Freedom of Law.

A monument on the spot the document was signed by the King and Barons has been erected by the American Bar Association who come there every few years to pledge adherence to the principles of the Great Charter. The last time they did this was in the year 2000. About time they renewed it. The 800 year anniversary in 2015 will be the obvious choice.

Michael will be especially excited to read that Clause 6 gives the permission for marriage from one's next of kin.

There is also a memorial to JFK on land, gifted to the US, with 50 steps of "individuality" for each state leading up the hill to it.

I have to wonder. Am I seeing the last decaying vestiges of a once great step towards freedom and individual rights, or are these the ancient symbols of western civilisation that will never falter?

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