Eight centuries of the magnificent Magna Carta

(’76 Contributor) June 15 commemorates the affirmation, 798 years ago, of our fundamental rights. Magna Carta, the Great Charter, confirmed “for us and our heirs in perpetuity” that the government, even the king himself, must honor citizens’ rights and operate within law and custom.

Despite the fashion to demean Magna Carta, the Great Charter clearly acknowledges the rights of “all free men.” Here are a few of the 63 clauses.

  • No tax may be levied…without general consent.
  • No free man shall be seized or imprisoned or stripped of his rights or possessions or…deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him…, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.
  • To no one will we deny or delay right or justice.
  • We will appoint as…officials only men that know the law… and are minded to keep it well.

In every generation arise threats to these rights; wisdom and prudence require us to celebrate and reaffirm them. Every government at every level derives from us, by our free consent, its charter to govern.

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