Another Magna Carta Found - 800th Anniversary Of The First Document


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The ABA is celebrating this great anniversary of the great document that reduced to a writing, the rule of law.

....according to the ABA website. The document, sealed by King John of England in 1215, was an early acknowledgement of the rule of law. Edward I issued the 1300 Magna Carta, which was apparently the last version issued, BBC News says.

With the new discovery, there are now seven known surviving originals of the 1300 Magna Carta.

The document enshrined the great principles that form our liberties and common law.

The fundamental concepts of liberty that had their beginnings in Magna Carta were transplanted to the American colonies where they were accepted, refined, and embedded in the instruments of government as well as the thinking of the American people. Magna Carta provided the basis for the idea of a higher law, one that could not be altered either by executive mandate or legislative acts. This concept, embraced by the leaders of the American Revolution, is embedded in the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution. Throughout American history, the rights associated with Magna Carta have been regarded as among the most important guarantees of freedom and fairness.

The discovery was quite, as many are, by accident.

A small-town historian has found an ancient edition of the Magna Carta tucked away in a scrapbook compiled at the end of the 19th Century.

The newly found Magna Carta was issued by royal decree in 1300, report the Washington Post, BBC News and the Guardian. Historian Mark Bateson found the Magna Carta when looking for another historical document at the bidding of the Magna Carta Research Project, the project said in a statement.

Bateson had been looking for a copy of the Charter of the Forest, a document considered a companion to the Magna Carta that made land available to commoners.

According to the Post, the newly found Magna Carta was rotten and soggy, and it “looks like a rag that sopped up some paint, with about one-third missing.”


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Thank you for that post. I guess the official celebration of the 800th anniversary of the original Magna Carta occurred on Feb. 3, 2015. I just became aware of the significance of the date today when I was reading a commentary by Mark Steyn who offhandedly mentioned it. However, I think we could mark this year as the 800th anniversary and not constrain ourselves to a single day.

The Magna Carta is probably the first attempt to place written constraints on the power of the government, in that case the king. Therefore, it can be thought of as the first Constitution. Writing down such constraints has a profound effect on behavior of governments. Although leaders or rulers may occasionally break out of the constraints provided by a Constitution, watchful citizens know when they have crossed the line. Every time a ruler crosses a line, he loses some measure of legitimacy. Of course, the effect of losing legitimacy depends partly upon having a citizenry that cares about such things.


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Good points Darrel on restraining the King.

I am an admired of this author Charles McIIwain who wrote six "talks" on Constitutionalism: Ancient and Modern.

This section address your point.

From these things which the king has within his discretion, his gubernaculum, we must now turn to the ones that fall under Bracton's correlative term, jurisdictio. The word jurisdictio, like lex, is used by Bracton sometimes with a wide, sometimes with a narrower meaning.

This was an important distinction that:

In its widest sense it embraces no less than the whole of the king's authority, but in many places it is clearly used in distinction to gubernatio or gubernaculum, the two together constituting the whole of the powers of the crown. Like government proper, jurisdiction is in constitutional theory a monopoly of the crown and inseparable from it. All jurisdiction is a delegation from the king. It may be said that by Bracton's time the king is "the fountain of justice," and in no respect was the institution of kingship more fully warranted than in the administration of justice.

"There were, of course, many courts which were not the king's courts, but the rights of subjects were ultimately protected by royal writs, through which cases might be transferred to the royal courts on the ground of a failure or a defect of justice. And in view of the effectiveness of these royal remedies, Bracton's assertion that all jurisdiction was the king's jurisdiction, exercised directly or through delegation — fiction though it was — came nearer to being an actual fact in England at that time than it did in some other parts of Western Europe for centuries."

"The aspect of jurisdictio which is most important for our thesis, however, is the negative one — the fact that in jurisdictio, unlike gubernaculum, the law is something more than a mere directive force. It is not merely the vis directiva of St. Thomas, or the moral inhibition implied in the Digna vox. Those ought to guide the will of a king and, if he is a good king, they will. But the king may legitimately disregard them, for they are only self-imposed; and, if he refuses to be so guided, he is within his undoubted legal rights in so doing. This is true, however, only within the sphere of government (gubernaculum). It is never true in the sphere of jurisdiction, although the king is the sole fountain of justice."

"For in jurisdictio, as contrasted with gubernaculum, there are bounds to the king's discretion established by a law that is positive and coercive, and a royal act beyond these bounds is ultra vires. It is in jurisdictio, therefore, and not in "government" that we find the most striking proof that in medieval England the Roman maxim of absolutism was never in force theoretically or actually. "

For in jurisdiction the king was bound by his oath to proceed by law and not otherwise. Although the judges were his, appointed by him and acting in his name alone, they were nevertheless bound by their own oaths to determine the rights of the subject not according to the king's will but according to the law; and any careful study of the masses of plea rolls which survive from this period must convince one that this was no mere pious theory, but on the whole the actual and the general practice. When King John substituted his will for this law, in proceeding by force against vassals whose wrong had not been judicially proved, civil war and the Great Charter were the result.

" The famous thirty-ninth chapter of Magna Carta contains merely the classical statement of a principle that was always insisted upon and usually enforced as a rule of positive coercive law, and not, as the Austinians would say, as a mere maxim of positive morality — the fundamental principle that the king must not take the definition of rights into his own hands, but must proceed against none by force for any alleged violation of them until a case has been made out against such a one by "due process of law."

His talks are in the link.

Great man.


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If you have never read the Great Charter, here it is:


John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishop, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciaries, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his bailiffs and liege subjects, greetings. Know that, having regard to God and for the salvation of our soul, and those of all our ancestors and heirs, and unto the honor of God and the advancement of his holy Church and for the rectifying of our realm, we have granted as underwritten by advice of our venerable fathers, Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry, archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelyn of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry, Benedict of Rochester, bishops; of Master Pandulf, subdeacon and member of the household of our lord the Pope, of brother Aymeric (master of the Knights of the Temple in England), and of the illustrious men William Marshal, earl of Pembroke, William, earl of Salisbury, William, earl of Warenne, William, earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway (constable of Scotland), Waren Fitz Gerold, Peter Fitz Herbert, Hubert De Burgh (seneschal of Poitou), Hugh de Neville, Matthew Fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip d'Aubigny, Robert of Roppesley, John Marshal, John Fitz Hugh, and others, our liegemen.

1. In the first place we have granted to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs forever that the English Church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we will that it be thus observed; which is apparent from this that the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English Church, we, of our pure and unconstrained will, did grant, and did by our charter confirm and did obtain the ratification of the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III, before the quarrel arose between us and our barons: and this we will observe, and our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs forever. We have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs forever, all the underwritten liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs forever.

2. If any of our earls or barons, or others holding of us in chief by military service shall have died, and at the time of his death his heir shall be full of age and owe "relief", he shall have his inheritance by the old relief, to wit, the heir or heirs of an earl, for the whole baroncy of an earl by L100; the heir or heirs of a baron, L100 for a whole barony; the heir or heirs of a knight, 100s, at most, and whoever owes less let him give less, according to the ancient custom of fees.

3. If, however, the heir of any one of the aforesaid has been under age and in wardship, let him have his inheritance without relief and without fine when he comes of age.

4. The guardian of the land of an heir who is thus under age, shall take from the land of the heir nothing but reasonable produce, reasonable customs, and reasonable services, and that without destruction or waste of men or goods; and if we have committed the wardship of the lands of any such minor to the sheriff, or to any other who is responsible to us for its issues, and he has made destruction or waster of what he holds in wardship, we will take of him amends, and the land shall be committed to two lawful and discreet men of that fee, who shall be responsible for the issues to us or to him to whom we shall assign them; and if we have given or sold the wardship of any such land to anyone and he has therein made destruction or waste, he shall lose that wardship, and it shall be transferred to two lawful and discreet men of that fief, who shall be responsible to us in like manner as aforesaid.

5. The guardian, moreover, so long as he has the wardship of the land, shall keep up the houses, parks, fishponds, stanks, mills, and other things pertaining to the land, out of the issues of the same land; and he shall restore to the heir, when he has come to full age, all his land, stocked with ploughs and wainage, according as the season of husbandry shall require, and the issues of the land can reasonable bear.

6. Heirs shall be married without disparagement, yet so that before the marriage takes place the nearest in blood to that heir shall have notice.

7. A widow, after the death of her husband, shall forthwith and without difficulty have her marriage portion and inheritance; nor shall she give anything for her dower, or for her marriage portion, or for the inheritance which her husband and she held on the day of the death of that husband; and she may remain in the house of her husband for forty days after his death, within which time her dower shall be assigned to her.

8. No widow shall be compelled to marry, so long as she prefers to live without a husband; provided always that she gives security not to marry without our consent, if she holds of us, or without the consent of the lord of whom she holds, if she holds of another.

9. Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent for any debt, as long as the chattels of the debtor are sufficient to repay the debt; nor shall the sureties of the debtor be distrained so long as the principal debtor is able to satisfy the debt; and if the principal debtor shall fail to pay the debt, having nothing wherewith to pay it, then the sureties shall answer for the debt; and let them have the lands and rents of the debtor, if they desire them, until they are indemnified for the debt which they have paid for him, unless the principal debtor can show proof that he is discharged thereof as against the said sureties.

10. If one who has borrowed from the Jews any sum, great or small, die before that loan be repaid, the debt shall not bear interest while the heir is under age, of whomsoever he may hold; and if the debt fall into our hands, we will not take anything except the principal sum contained in the bond.

There are the first ten...

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  • 3 months later...


The ABA’s celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta peaks with a five-day program in London beginning Thursday featuring pomp, circumstance and continuing legal education programs.

The events culminate in a rededication of the ABA memorial to the Magna Carta at Runnymede, England, to be attended by Queen Elizabeth II on the 800th anniversary of the agreement on Monday. The ABA London Sessions will include speakers and 16 CLE programs, many of which will focus on the impact of the Magna Carta and its relevance on the rule of law today. Some of the other CLE programs will compare legal systems between the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

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