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Showing posts with label Magna Carta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Magna Carta. Show all posts

Monday, August 3, 2015

Heritage Foundation Celebrates the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta: Its Enduring Legacy – 1215-2015

Magna Carta – the Great Charter – is one of the foundational documents in Anglo-American legal history. Ironically, it began, not as a statement of principle, like our Declaration of Independence, but as a peace treaty. Signed on June 15, 1215, in a field at Runnymede, England, Magna Carta sought to end the barons’ rebellion against King John by forcing the crown to adhere to the laws and customs of the realm. Magna Carta was initially thought to be a failure because King John repudiated the treaty almost before the ink was dry. But time has been good to the Great Charter. In fact, it is difficult to overstate the importance of Magna Carta in the development of Anglo-American law. English law treats it as “the Bible of the English Constitution.”

The American Framers used the phrases “the law of the land” or “due process of law” in numerous important contemporary legal documents, including statutes passed by colonial assemblies, resolutions enacted by the Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence, and state constitutions. Magna Carta has come to stand as proof that a written document can make important revisions to the law, fend off tyrannical government officials, restrain even the sovereign’s power, and grant rights to the entire community, not merely to certain favored individuals – an enduring legacy that helped to establish “the rule of law.”

In an event at The Heritage Foundation, recorded above, two esteemed historians reflect on the contributions of the Great Charter from both the British and American perspectives.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Daniel Hannan: The Magna Carta — The Text That Makes Us Who We Are

From left, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince William and Princess Anne attend an event marking the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in Runymede on June 15, 2015. /Reuters

The centenaries follow one another thick and fast. We are about to mark the 800th anniversary of the greatest bargain ever struck: Magna Carta, sealed on June 15, 1215, the first document ever to raise the rules over the ruler. But, before we turn to that miracle, let’s bow our heads for a moment at a centenary just past: that of the first major action by Canadian soldiers in the First World War.

The Second Battle of Ypres, fought in April and May 1915, was monstrous even by the standards of the Western Front. It was the first time that the Germans used chlorine gas. The men of the 2nd Canadian Brigade alone held their position as the yellow-green clouds engulfed the troops around them. It did not take long for the venom to dissolve the Allied line, leaving heaps of dead and dying men, their faces mottled, froth on their tortured lips. Later, the Canadians were hit by a second gas attack; their casualty rate was one in three.

Few Britons can talk of the Canadian war effort without a catch in their voice. The thought of those young men, every one a volunteer, crossing half the world to defend our country makes us emotional even a century later. Despite almost unimaginable fatalities — 67,000 Canadians killed and 250,000 wounded out of a total population of 7 million — the children of those veterans rushed to volunteer in the Second World War: a million men and women in all.

What made them do it? Was it simply affinity of blood and speech, a determination to stand by a kindred people? Obviously that was part of the explanation. But I can’t believe it was the whole story — that the First and Second World Wars were ethnic conflicts, different only in scale from, say, the breakup of Yugoslavia or the Hutu-Tutsi massacres. Read the letters that those volunteers sent home, listen to contemporary accounts of the conflict, and you find a clear sense that people were fighting “for freedom.” The values of the English-speaking peoples were repeatedly contrasted against the enemy’s authoritarianism. We were better than the Prussians and the Nazis, we told ourselves, because we elevated the law above the government, the individual above the collective, fair dealing over raison d’état.

Read more at National Post >>


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Magna Carta: Myth and Meaning

June 2015 will see the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the ‘Great Charter’ which was signed at Runnymede by King John to resolve a political crisis he faced with his barons. Buried within its 69 clauses is one of immeasurable importance. This is the idea that no one should be deprived of their freedom without just cause, and that people are entitled to fair trial by their peers according to the law of the land.

At the time Magna Carta did nothing to improve the lot of the vast majority of English people, and all but three of its provisions have been repealed. Yet Magna Carta has come to be seen as the cornerstone of English liberty and an international rallying cry against the arbitrary use of power. It was invoked by opponents of Charles I’s overbearing rule in the 17th century and embodied in the 1791 Bill of Rights in America, where it is still held to have special constitutional status.

Where does Magna Carta stand today? In a time of secret courts in Britain and the Guantanamo gulag, the threat to rights from terror laws and state surveillance of our online activities, do we need to reaffirm its basic principles? Should we take things even further, as Tim Berners-Lee has suggested, and create a new Magna Carta for the worldwide web to protect our liberty online?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Church’s Central Role in Magna Carta Has Been Airbrushed Out of History

From Catholic Herald
By Ed West 

The freedoms contained in the 1215 document originate 'with the Christian Church and Christian theology'

This Monday coming marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, a peace treaty between a comically cowardly drunken king and his leading barons. It mainly focused on financial disputes but it nonetheless came to become ‘the Bible of the English Constitution’, in William Pitt the Elder put it.

Although there is some understandable scepticism about the way that Magna Carta was romanticized by 17th century opponents of the Stuart monarchs, and the motives of the barons were almost entirely selfish, its four surviving clauses (sometimes counted as 3, as 39 and 40 were merged into one in the definitive 1297 reissue) still hold enormous weight, legally, culturally and emotionally.

But though Clause 39 – “No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land” – is well-known to educated people, it is less commonly recalled that Clause 1 states “that the English Church is to be free, and to have its full rights and its liberties intact”.

More importantly, the Christian origins and influence of the Great Charter are mostly ignored, a point raised in a new Theos report by Thomas Andrew, The Church and the Charter: Christianity and the Forgotten Roots of Magna Carta.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Magna Carta: Eight Centuries of Liberty

June marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the ‘Great Charter’ that established the rule of law for the English-speaking world. Its revolutionary impact still resounds today, writes Daniel Hannan

King John, pressured by English barons, reluctantly signs Magna Carta, the ‘Great Charter,’ on the Thames riverbank, Runnymede, June 15, 1215, as rendered in James Doyle’s ‘A Chronicle of England.’ Photo: Mary Evans Picture Library/Everett Collection 

By Daniel Hannan 

Eight hundred years ago next month, on a reedy stretch of riverbank in southern England, the most important bargain in the history of the human race was struck. I realize that’s a big claim, but in this case, only superlatives will do. As Lord Denning, the most celebrated modern British jurist put it, Magna Carta was “the greatest constitutional document of all time, the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”

It was at Runnymede, on June 15, 1215, that the idea of the law standing above the government first took contractual form. King John accepted that he would no longer get to make the rules up as he went along. From that acceptance flowed, ultimately, all the rights and freedoms that we now take for granted: uncensored newspapers, security of property, equality before the law, habeas corpus, regular elections, sanctity of contract, jury trials.

Magna Carta is Latin for “Great Charter.” It was so named not because the men who drafted it foresaw its epochal power but because it was long. Yet, almost immediately, the document began to take on a political significance that justified the adjective in every sense.

The bishops and barons who had brought King John to the negotiating table understood that rights required an enforcement mechanism. The potency of a charter is not in its parchment but in the authority of its interpretation. The constitution of the U.S.S.R., to pluck an example more or less at random, promised all sorts of entitlements: free speech, free worship, free association. But as Soviet citizens learned, paper rights are worthless in the absence of mechanisms to hold rulers to account.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal >>

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Magna Carta is the Birthright of All English-Speakers

By Daniel Hannan
"The ground of my freedom, I build upon the Great Charter of England." John Lilburne

London in August 1647 was a tense and frightened city. The Civil War had exhausted the nation and coarsened its people. Parliament had emerged victorious, but it was becoming clear that the real power in the land was the military force that had defeated Charles I, the New Model Army, whose troopers were advancing on the capital, unpaid and angry.

In a gesture to the soldiers, Parliament appointed their commander, Sir Thomas Fairfax, Constable of the Tower of London. The first act of the Roundhead general on taking up his post was an encouraging one. He called for the greatest treasure in the Tower to be brought before him. Not a crown nor a sceptre, but a desiccated piece of parchment carrying barely legible Latin script.

“This is that which we have fought for,” he breathed reverently, “and by God’s help we must maintain.”

I feel a stab of patriotism whenever I recall that story as, I suspect, do most British people. I say “British” rather than “English”: the civil wars had touched every territory where our language was spoken, including the precarious North American colonies. The principles that had actuated Cromwell's Ironsides in England were closely allied to those that had stirred Scotland's Covenanters and, indeed, New England's Puritans: a majority of Harvard graduates in the 1640s crossed the Atlantic to fight alongside their cousins in the cause of parliamentary supremacy.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Daniel Hannan: A Foreign-Born Antidote to the Foreign-Born Destroyer of American Liberty

"Ye therefore that come after, give remembrance."
There is no more articulate, living champion of America's foundational principles than the English statesman, Daniel Hannan.  Here he addresses a Centre for Independent Studies forum in Australia, but his arguments, which make many references to the American experience, could not be more pertinent to the United States -- which itself makes his important point about the organic unity of the English-speaking peoples.

Here is the foreign-born antidote to the foreign-born destroyer of the American nation.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Daniel Hannan: "A Secular Miracle Set the English-Speaking Peoples Apart"

There is no one in the Anglosphere who more eloquently expresses the noble ideals of the English-speaking peoples than does Daniel Hannan.  In this moving talk, given in the fields of Runnymede, Hannan pays tribute to Magna Carta - "a secular miracle that set the English-speaking peoples apart."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dr. Gordon Lloyd: The Bill of Rights and George Washington's Acts of Congress - Session 1

As a result of a partnership between the Reagan Foundation and the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University, Dr. Gordon Lloyd gave a series of six lectures on The Bill of Rights. As a renowned expert on the founding of the United States of America, Dr. Lloyd has compiled an amazing internet based resource on In this lecture, entitled "Bill of Rights: English and Colonial Origins," Dr. Lloyd traces the origins of each right in the Bill of Rights to its first appearance in either English or Colonial documents.

Friday, June 15, 2012

June 15, 1215 – King John of England signs Magna Carta

This excellent article makes a very important point: Magna Carta did not create new rights for the Church, barons or people anymore than did the English or American Bill of Rights.  Magna Carta was a reaffirmation of rights which had existed from time immemorial among the Anglo-Saxon people, but which, as in our own day, had become disrespected.  This great document merely restored the old order, the noble truth.

Our many new readers may be interested in this post about Stephen Langton, the Catholic Cardinal who wrote Magna Carta, and this excellent talk on the document by the Very Reverend Philip Buckler, the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral.

From Tradition, Family and Property
King John of England

The charter of liberties granted by King John of England in 1215 and confirmed with modifications by Henry III in 1216, 1217, and 1225.

The Magna Carta has long been considered by the English-speaking peoples as the earliest of the great constitutional documents which give the history of England so unique a character; it has even been spoken of by some great authorities as the “foundation of our liberties”. That the charter enjoyed an exaggerated reputation in the days of Coke and of Blackstone, no one will now deny, and a more accurate knowledge of the meaning of its different provisions has shown that a number of them used to be interpreted quite erroneously. When allowance, however, has been made for the mistakes due to several centuries of indiscriminating admiration, the charter remains an astonishingly complete record of the limitations placed on the Crown at the beginning of the thirteenth century, and an impressive illustration of what is perhaps national capacity for putting resistance to arbitrary government on a legal basis.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

1297 Copy of Magna Carta to be Displayed in National Archives

Magna Carta was originally issued in the year 1215. It is the first bill of rights in the world. This required King John of England to proclaim certain liberties, and accept that his will was not arbitrary, and that no freeman could be punished except through the law of the land, a right which is still in existence today. At the time it was written, this was regarded as the most progressive document when most governments were under absolute rule. This Magna Carta of 1297, which is the Charter of King Edward I of England, also became inspiration for many constitutions like the US Constitution. This charter still remains in the statute books of England and Wales. Seven authentic copies of the Magna Carta are in the United Kingdom and one copy is in the Australian Parliament.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Rise Like Lions"

"... there were not many. There were only a few and true"

From Brits at their Best

Rise like Lions after slumber

In unvanquished number -

Shake your chains to earth like dew

Which in sleep had fallen on you -

Ye are many. . .

- Percy Bysshe Shelley

Hundreds of people who believe in the "rights and liberties" enshrined in the British Constitution turned out to support justice under British common law and Magna Carta. Specifically they turned out to support Roger Hayes of the British Constitution Group who is fighting a council tax he calls unconstitutional in a court in Birkenhead.

The BCG claim the right to lawful rebellion under Article 61 of Magna Carta . They contend that their rights and liberties have not been protected by Parliament, which has made Great Britain a fiefdom of the European Union; have not been defended by the courts which have slept long and deeply during attacks on the Constitution; and have not been shielded by The Queen, who has given her Royal Assent to the unconstitutional transfer of British sovereignty to the EU.

Rise like lions, no matter that ye may not be many.

In the beginning of common law, in the beginning of Magna Carta, in the beginning of freedom of religious conscience, in the beginning of the abolition of the slave trade and slavery, in the beginning of the British Bill of Rights, there were not many. There were only a few and true.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Magna Carta: 'To have but not to hold' by the Very Reverend Philip Buckler

One of the four original copies of Magna Carta is on display in the Reagan Presidential Library until June 20th, when it will return to its permanent home, Lincoln Cathedral, where it has resided since its promulgation at Runnymede in 1215.

In the following reflection given in January at the Reagan Library, the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral, Very Reverend Philip Buckler, shares the history, significance, and meaning today of the document that President Reagan called "one of the springs from which the great river of human freedom rises."