Monday, October 11, 2010

On the enduring relevance of Magna Carta

Two short articles are posted over at the First Principles website regarding the essential role of Magna Carta in creating the legal and political climate that would eventually lead to American independence and the American constitutional tradition:
Most of the many articles of the Great Charter have lost their significance with the passing of the feudal age. But a fundamental principle of Magna Carta, though not expressed in so many words in that document itself, endures to our day. This principle entered into the developing common law of the thirteenth century, and appeared in later royal charters and statutes. It became the rock upon which the English constitution was built. It is the principle of the supremacy of law: the idea that an enduring law exists, which all men must obey. The king himself is one of those men under the law. Along with this principle ran a corollary principle—that if the king breaks the law, and invades the rights of his vassals, then barons and the people may deprive him of his powers.
The American Revolution and the American Constitution have their roots in the deep constitutional traditions of England.  The more we understand that, the better our appreciation and understanding of our own Constitution. 

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