Monday, December 7, 2009

Magna Carta 1215 - the Great Charter

King John of England was crowned in the early 13th century.

He needed money for armies, but war losses, greatly reduced the state income, and a huge tax would have to be raised in order to attempt to reclaim these territories. Yet, it was difficult to raise taxes because of the tradition of keeping them at the same level.

John relied on clever manipulation of pre-existing rights which were easily broken and severely punished. He increased the pre-existing scutage (meaning a feudal payment to an overlord replacing direct military service) 11 times in his 17 years as king, as compared to 11 times in twice that period covering 3 monarchs before him. The last 2 of these increases were double the increase of their predecessors. He also imposed the first income tax, which raised what was, at the time, the extortionate sum of £70,000.

By 1215, some of the most important barons in England had had enough, and they entered London in force on June 10, 1215, with the city showing its sympathy with their cause by opening its gates to them. They, and many of the moderates not in overt rebellion, forced King John to agree to the "Articles of the Barons", to which his Great Seal was attached in the meadow at Runnymede on June 15, 1215. In return, the barons renewed their oaths of fealty to King John on June 19, 1215. A formal document to record the agreement was created by the royal chancery on July 15: this was the original Magna Carta.

Although enforced over the King by the Barons, the 62 clauses protected Common Law rights for every tier of English society and this document was truly for the sovereign men and women throughout Britain.

Simply put it dealt with
· A free English church and freeman rights forever.
· Protection of inheritance.
· Protection for widows.
· No more seizure of land to pay a debt.
· No usury for borrowing from money lenders.
· Cities will keep all their ancient liberties & customs.
· The right to a Common Law court.
· All trials to have a jury of peers.
· A freeman & a villein shall not lose his tools of trade to pay a debt.
· No bailiff can take food from another, but must pay; must not take another’s horse or cart; must not take another’s wood.
· One measure of weight & length to be used in the land.
· To be accused there must be witnesses.
· No man can be punished except by the judgment of his peers & the law of the land.
· No one will sell, refuse or delay, right & justice.
· All merchants may trade & travel.
· All judiciary to know the law of the land & honour it.
· All unjust fines to be returned.
· All land illegally removed to be returned.
· … that the men in our kingdom have and hold all the aforesaid liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably, freely and quietly, fully and wholly, for themselves and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all respects and in all places forever, as is aforesaid

Do we still have these rights in place? Aren’t these the very things that are being removed from us now?

Yet the English Monarchy were sworn to protect these rights with their lives!

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