The 800th anniversary of Magna Carta!

Magna Carta was one of the most important documents in History and probably the most important document in English Jurisprudence, which influenced legal practise in the US as the actual substance of English law was formally “received” into the United States law after independence.

 Much of Magna Carta is impenetrable to modern readers, couched in medieval jargon and concerned with the detail of relations between the king and his most powerful feudal tenants. And the charter’s most significant innovation, a “security clause” in which the king was subjected to the oversight of a panel of 25 barons, proved impossible to implement.

But the document quickly gained a central place in English political life and remains a touchstone of English liberties. However, few of us have actually read it.

  • Magna Carta outlined basic rights with the principle that no-one was above the law, including the king.
  • It charted the right to a fair trial, and limits on taxation without representation.
  • It inspired a number of other documents, including the US Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Only three clauses are still valid – the one guaranteeing the liberties of the English Church; the clause confirming the privileges of the City of London and other towns; and the clause that states that no free man shall be imprisoned without the lawful judgement of his equals (due process).

It is a shame that a document this influential is known to be obsolete and hard to comprehend by people these days, yet the US Constitution is given this religious reverence which is not shared by those who drafted it.  In fact, the US Constitution was immediately amended by the Bill of Rights.

It would make far more sense if people would realise that the Constitution can become obsolete and that certain passages can become no longer valid to modern society.  In fact, the reinterpretation of the Second Amendment to remove the Militia context is dangerous to public safety and contradicted by the objects stated in the preamble.

See also:
BBC News – Just how important is Magna Carta 800 years on?

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Posted 03/01/2015 by lacithedog in Constitutional law, law

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