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)
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.
Continue reading “Today’s Birthday, June 15: The Magna Carta”