Today’s Birthday, June 15: The Magna Carta

Submitted by Charlton Stanley (Otteray Scribe), guest blogger

“The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history . . . It was written in Magna Carta.”

–Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Third Inaugural address (1941)

Magna Carta
Magna Carta

On June 15, in  the year 1215 AD, the King of England was an involuntary “guest” of a group of forty rather angry Barons in a field at Runnymede. After the Barons explained “the facts of life” to him, King John affixed his Seal to a document they called the Magna Carta. In those days, documents were not signed, as is the custom today.  Instead of a signature, the official Seal of the person “signing” was impressed into hot wax poured onto the document.

King John consented to the Baron’s demands, sealing the document in hope of averting a civil war. Ten weeks later, Pope Innocent III proclaimed the Magna Carta document null and void, plunging England into a civil war the King and Barons had hoped to avoid.  Fortunately, for posterity and the law, King John died before Pope Innocent III’s decree became law. He died only 15 months after sealing the Magna Carta.

Although this magnificent document did not solve King John’s immediate problems, it was reissued in multiple copies after his death, and was read to the people throughout England. In fact, when the first English settlers landed on the shores of Colonies around the world, they took their rights with them.

Years later, when the American Colonies decided to break away from control by England, the writers of the Declaration of Independence and new Constitution had the rights first enumerated in the Magna Carta very much in mind.

Exact copies of the document, called “exemplifications,” were made, so all of the participants would each have one of the originals. The picture above is of one of the four original exemplifications. This copy has been conserved and restored by the Archives responsible for it.  There was a copy for the Royal archives, one for each of the Barons, and one for each of the 40 counties existing in England at the time. If there was a single ‘master copy’ of the first Magna Carta sealed by King John on this date in 1215, it has not survived.  Four of the original exemplifications still exist, one of them in the National Archives of the United States.

There have been a number of reissues of the Magna Carta, in several versions. In 1759, Sir William Blackstone wrote an analysis of the Magna Carta, which he titled, The Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest. In that treatise, Blackstone created the numbering system for the sections, which are still in use today.

Some later versions were edited for the benefit of the nobleman or landowner commissioning the reproduction, however, hidden away near the middle of the dense Latin manuscript in the original are these words:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled … except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”

This was a legal concept unknown at the time until the Barons inserted it into the document to be sealed by King John. For the first time in history, the right of habeas corpus was made law.

The rights of the common person, the peasants, and other commoners of the day were probably not very high on the list of priorities of the Barons. However, and probably unwittingly, they unleashed human rights on the people in ways they could hardly have imagined. Here are just two excerpts:

“No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.”

“To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice.”

So let’s wish The Great Charter a happy 798th birthday. There are already plans in the works at several historical sites to celebrate the 800th anniversary in 2015.

The floor is open for discussion, and if anyone has any ideas on how to bring it (and its progeny) back as enforceable–and enforced–law, I am certainly interested.

55 thoughts on “Today’s Birthday, June 15: The Magna Carta

  1. OS,
    If we could only return to the concept that the law of the land should apply to everyone, including politicians, we would be better off.

  2. OS,

    I hope you get to feeling better…

    Raff,

    You have arisen… You have been missed… You ok?

  3. Don’t you just love this blog?!

    The Magna Carta as Chuck presented it then amplified by Gene’s backstory, then counterpointed by lotta’s “yes, but …”

    Stimulating, thought provoking, and just good ol’ Sunday morning fun. Add a toasted bagel, lox, cream cheese and a latte to complete the experience.

    I’m going to echo laudyms

    “Active citizenship– as in ‘use it or lose it’!”

  4. OS,

    You know to be careful … now, actually be careful!

    Pneumonia is stubborn and thrives on lack of sleep.

  5. Thanks Frank, for the kind thoughts. I had four children. Two daughters and two sons. My youngest lives with me, but she is at work today. My youngest son rests forever in the garden of stone at the National Cemetery. I mentioned him in my Memorial Day story.

    For all those dads and granddads out there: What Frank said. Hold them close, and treasure them. It will be returned, with interest.

  6. Otteray Scribe,

    It sounds odd anyone would have pneumonia this time of year in the states.

    Hope you get better.

    A few very general suggestions: Water, lots clean water. vitamin A in the presence of Zinc & vitamin E. (it’s said they are needed to rebuild cells)

    An interesting one: spend some time outside in the sun, on grass barefooted.

    I’ll let you think about why I would mention that one;)

    And one more that is just a general type thing: plenty of onions & or peppers & extra tomato juice until you notice a difference or you’re sick of juice.

    No, I’m not pretending to be a doctor, it’s some stuff I picked up off Granny Clampett & The Beverly Hillbillies.

    We’ll save the rheumatoid medicine for another day😉

  7. The ignorant politicians who infest the Halls of Congress have not even read or understood the US Constitution let alone the Magna Carta. Senator “Stupid” Cruz probably thinks that the Term Magna Carta refers to some Spanish word for immigration reform to which he is,of course, opposed. The lunatics are running the asylum

  8. Oky1,
    It was viral pneumonia, not the bacterial kind. The spring allergies triggered bronchitis, which in turn makes one vulnerable to respiratory viruses. I have had viral pneumonia several times before, so I don’t even need to go see a doctor to diagnose it. I took a Z-Pack for the bronchitis, but antibiotics don’t help with a virus. You just have to let the body’s own immune system work. I now consider orange juice to be one of the basic food groups. Of course, a wee nip of Granny Clampett’s elixir helps at bedtime.

  9. I like the comment of Michael Murray up there from this afternoon. I enjoy hearing Vietnam era vets discussing the patriot issues. Very good comment.

  10. Benjamin Ginsberg reveals some interesting items on the origin of the Magna Carta in his FATAL EMBRACE; JEWS AND THE STATE. He identifies the financiers of London as convincing King John to invade Normandy. The Barons would have had to pay for the invasion and supply the knights. The Barons rebelled. War-mongering by financiers led to the Charter. Should we reflect on the past 75 years of government ceaselessly lying to the public as war-mongering ? Ref. http://www.scribd.com/doc/115919607/FUNDING-THE-NEW-WORLD-ORDER

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