As we look towards the annual July 4 holiday of American Independence, it cannot escape the national notice of an event, recently celebrated across the pond, long since passed some eight hundred years ago in a field called Runnymede, which limited overall power of an anointed English king called John. At the time, powerful English barons realized that the citizenry had multitudes of grievances levied against their king’s constant taxations, severe justice, and never-ending mustering of civilian troops. Human resources were, in fact, dwindling, and the royal whim of an ineffectual, irrational, erratic, tax-mad sovereign, accustomed to immediate obedience, needed to be tempered with cause, fairness, and reason. Finally, King John needed to be notified, in writing no less, that no man, including his majesty, was above the law.
To ensure King John’s complete understanding and cooperation of this notion, a charter in written proclamation was presented to him on June 15, 1215, by which his signature was demanded and required. The charter, now known as the Magna Carta, outlined in Latin, clause by clause, what freedoms were automatic and guaranteed to all free men under rule of law.
As the document was placed before King John, he was advised to sign it forthwith. Noblemen, knights, and squires, all in avid attendance, stood at the ready near the king’s elbow with pointed swords aimed at his throat. It was certainly a visual and physical reminder that even a king has limitations, and seeing that his only recourse was to sign, he did. (Historically, one might argue that a civil war was averted with the king’s signature.)
One might ask, “Why should America care?”
If one reads the attached very carefully, any American who took American Government in his/her senior year of high school (long a requirement) will recognize the translation.
Read the translation at http://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/magna-carta-english-translation