The Trust for the National Mall Celebrates The Magna Carta

Last night I had the honor of speaking at the celebration of the Magna Carta at the National Archives in Washington. The event is part of the new campaign by the Trust for the National Mall. The dinner was held in the Rotunda Gallery with the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and one of the copies of the Magna Carta. Introducing me was the man who owns that Magna Carta, David Rubenstein. That’s right, he owns the 1297 version of Magna Carta.

The event was truly magnificent. I was allowed to walk around and get close views of the documents — an experience that I always finding very powerful and moving. This is my favorite place on earth. There is something incredibly tranquil and majestic about this small, dimly lit room — like a secular chapel celebrating the struggle for liberty. To see the tiny understated signature of James Madison on the Constitution never fails to fill me with awe.

The Magna Carta in the Archives is not one of the four or so copies from 1215. This one is sealed by King Edward, not King John. However, the first Magna Carta was never fulfilled by King John and denounced by Pope Innocent III. Indeed, I doubt that King John ever intended to comply with the document upon which he placed his seal in the meadow at Runnymede on June 15, 1215. The rebellious lords had taken London and he knew he had to agree to save not just his crown but possibly his life.

Rubenstein bought this copy after Ross Perot put it up for sale without placing any condition that it remain in the United States. As a result, there was a good chance that we would lose our only copy for forever. That is why this country owes such a great debt to David Rubinstein. He immediately saw the danger of our losing this foundational document and flew to the auction to claim it for the United States. He then gave it to the National Archives. He has made other incredible donations to preserve founding documents and history as one of the country’s great benefactors. Rubenstein, Carlyle Group co-founder, most recently made a $7.5M donation to kick-start restoration of the Washington Monument.

How cool would it be for a Rubenstein kid to put on his report on the Magna Carta for school in the reference section: “worked from original.” I told Rubenstein that I was just glad I did not have to follow him in the parent show and tell. It is pretty hard to follow the Dad who owns the Magna Carta with my famous imitation of a duck drinking water. Of course, I would have ponied up the $20 million for the Magna Carta if I only had the wall space . . . and the $20 million. Rubenstein has given the Magna Carta to the Archives for permanent display and, upon his death, it will be given to the people of the United States.

The National Trust is starting a major push to improve the national mall and this dinner was a wonderful way to kick off such efforts. It is a truly worthy cause and people like Rubenstein deserve the gratitude of the nation. He is an example of someone who works very hard to give back to the country and a variety of schools including our shared alma mater, the University of Chicago. He is also on the board of the Trust, Duke University and a host of other major non-for-profit institutions.

30 thoughts on “The Trust for the National Mall Celebrates The Magna Carta”

  1. “B*stard is one of my favorite words when used with a bit of discretion. 😀 ”

    lol. Mine, too.


  2. anonymously posted,

    You are most welcome although I don’t make the rules, I just relay them. Personally, I’m from the Carlin School on Bad Words. “There are no bad words. Bad thoughts. Bad intentions, and wooooords.” Those words, however, were added to the filter shortly after we experienced a run of trolls simply seeking to disrupt by using coarse language in a display somewhat less cogent than watching someone with an attack of Tourette’s. Simply random profanity. I don’t know this for certain, but I suspect the words were added to the filter to save our host from manually editing out said comments. Which is a shame. B*stard is one of my favorite words when used with a bit of discretion. 😀


    The private equity business in the early Nineties was dominated by a handful of takeover firms, from the spooky and politically connected Carlyle Group (a favorite subject of conspiracy-theory lit, with its connections to right-wingers like Donald Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush) to the equally spooky Democrat-leaning asswholes at the Blackstone Group. -Matt Taibbi

    But maybe David Rubenstein’s a model citizen.

    (I’ve never been able to spell asswholes. Mr. Taibbi spells the word correctly. Thanks again, Gene H. for showing me the error of my ways with regard to acceptable language. 😉 )

  4. Excuse me everyone I see the word “copy” mentioned when
    speaking of the Magna Carta. How real is it? Yes, Britain
    should own it.

  5. Shall we guess that it was good for taxes?

    The National Art Museum was made as a tax settlement condition. Nice plsce. And much of his collection is there too.

    Why do I always look for the negative side? Because we have a plutocracy ruled by a one percent.

    Praising a rich man is just begging for more crumbs.
    Jesus said, someone here quoted: Do not give alms in public. Or was it somebody else. Whatever.

    Lemme quote somebody else. Why? Because it just shows another side of the same face.

    “Why would anyone complain about the bill for a rescue???? And let a bill for clearing out a whole entire country for the benefit of private profiteering go completely unchallenged?”

    Cast it in bronze. We have one of the plaques for the Afghan war memorial.

  6. Putting aside the question about who can truly “own” history, I think Mr. Rubinstein’s posthumous gift is quite magnanimous.

  7. Now I know a professor who does a “for real” sword swallowing thingy. But he does “world wide health stats” and amuses people. And no Magna Carta.

    PS His story of meeting death, potentially his own, when visiting an African village with a “new” infectious sickness is fascinating.

  8. Thank you, Mr. David Rubenstein for the gift to the generations that will follow yours … and for saving us from the infamous duck drinking water presentation.

  9. Bet the professor had a huge natural high. Sounds like he might still be high on his great evening.

  10. If it were Mitt’s document, he would donate it and take the tax write off – after the election.

  11. Oh yes, something to be cast in bronze:

    “There is always an example of the stupid hoi polloi to put on the MSM to show why the little people should be charged for their lowly stupidity, and why the 1% should not be charged for their magnificent stupidity.”

    Oops, wrong thread. Should be on “cliffhanging texter who ran out of cigs and of ground underfoot”.

  12. Random thoughts, as usual:
    —-So the Lord is a Duke fan. Go Blue Devils, go!
    —-and from our doom and gloom depertment: a summary of the AngloSaxon/American history has stated the great magnificent starts are followed by terrible catastrophes.
    —-the rights of kings were god-given, said they and the clergy. How could they give a part of this holy attribute to those under him. Is that not ignoble and irreligious?

  13. I’m shocked JT didn’t take the occasion to remind everybody that like Bush before him, Obama has shamelessly undone 800 years of civil jurisprudence by abolishing The Great Writ of Habeas Corpus established by the Magna Carta insofar as he’s decreed himself (during the Eric Holder speech at Northwestern U) the judge, jury & executioner of every living sole on the planet.

  14. BTW:

    Synonyms for “hoi polloi” which also express the same or similar contempt for such people include “the great unwashed”, “the plebeians” or “plebs”, “the rabble”, “riff-raff”, “the herd”, “the proles”, and “peons”.


  15. Uhmmm…. wasn;t the Magna Carta signed under duress?


    How come no one cares about CONFIRMATIO CARTARUM

    “and to declare to the people that we have confirmed them in all points; and that our justices, sheriffs, mayors, and other ministers, which under us have the laws of our land to guide, shall allow the said charters pleaded before them in judgement in all their points, that is to wit, the Great Charter as the common law”

  16. JT points out “The rebellious lords had taken London and he [a king] knew he had to agree to save not just his crown but possibly his life.”

    In that context, this statement about “the big letter” makes sense:

    As might be expected, the text of the Magna Carta of 1215 bears many traces of haste, and is clearly the product of much bargaining and many hands. Most of its clauses deal with specific, and often long-standing, grievances rather than with general principles of law. Some of the grievances are self-explanatory: others can be understood only in the context of the feudal society in which they arose. Of a few clauses, the precise meaning is still a matter of argument.

    (Fordham). There is Ayn Rand’s interpretation, which Lord Rubenstein of Carlyle would support, and then there is the interpretation by the hoi polloi,which is losing favor in the current plutocracy.

  17. It is an interesting read…. I saw it when it was on display at the Texas State Capitol……

    It was on the North entrance…..

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