Monday, June 15, 2015, is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. In his book, Magna Carta, J.C. Holt, professor of medieval history, University of Cambridge, notes that three of the chapters of this ancient document still stand on the English Stature Book and that so much of what survives of the Great Charter is “concerned with individual liberty,” which “is a reflexion of the quality of the original act of 1215.”
In the 17th century Sir Edward Coke used the Great Charter of the Liberties to establish the supremacy of Parliament, the representative of the people, as the origin of law.
A number of legal scholars have made the irrelevant point that the Magna Carter protected rights of the Church, nobles, and free men who were not enserfed, a small percentage of the population in the early 13th century. We hear the same about the US Constitution–it was something the rich did for themselves. I have no sympathy for debunking human achievements that, in the end, gave ordinary people liberty.
At Runnymede in 1215 no one but the armed barons had the power and audacity to make King John submit to law. The rule of law, not the rule of the sovereign or of the executive branch in Washington acceded to by a cowardly and corrupt Congress and Supreme Court, is a human achievement that grew out of the Magna Carta over the centuries, with ups and downs of course.
Blackstone’s Commentaries in 1759 fed into the American Revolution and gave us the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
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