M is for Magna Carta

How did a failed treaty between medieval combatants, the Magna Carta, come to be seen as the foundation of liberty in the Anglo-Saxon world?

magna_cartaThe Magna Carta turned 800 in June 2015, signed by King John “Lackland” Plantagenet in 1215, though, in fact, it was not dubbed as the “great charter” until a couple of years, and some changes, later. It was violated quickly and reinstated in an altered form a number of times.

From the British Library:

The Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law…

Most of the 63 clauses granted by King John dealt with specific grievances relating to his rule. However, buried within them were a number of fundamental values that both challenged the autocracy of the king and proved highly adaptable in future centuries. Most famously, the 39th clause gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial.

Some of Magna Carta’s core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and in many other constitutional documents around the world, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).

Incidentally, it has been proven that every President of the United States, save for one, is related to King John. Do you know which one was not?

Here’s the English translation of the Magna Carta. One element still in effect: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.” It inspired those colonists who believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen.

Read this contrarian view of the document’s import. But see also this article that asks how a failed treaty between medieval combatants came to be seen as the foundation of liberty in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Oh, that outlier President, not related to King John, was the 8th President, Martin Van Buren, who was Dutch.

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ABC Wednesday – Round 17

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