800 years ago today 15 June 2015, democracy and the rule of law took a very hesitant lurch forward. At Runnymede near Winsor, the Magna Carta or Great Charter was first sealed.
The Magna Carta is important because of many of its articles underpin freedoms we enjoy today. For example, the idea that access to justice should be swift and justice itself should not be for sale. Limits on taxation and it set limits on the authority of the king. In England, the monarchy was not divine or absolute. The king was held to account. For the common man, he suddenly collect firewood in a forest without fear of prosecution.
|1733 engraving of the Magna Carta from wikipedia|
The idea of the Magna Carta and certain inalienable right and liberties drove first the English Civil War and later the American Revolution. The American Revolution was fought to preserve the rights and liberties that the English colonists already believed they had, and which they believed the English parliament was attempting to wrest from them.
People in countries which follow the English Common Law tradition do not have people languishing in jail without being charge. The courts are not for sale to the highest bidder and people do not have to pay differing rates to get their case heard. Many of the US constitution’s Bill of Rights, in particular, the fifth, sixth and ninth amendments are derived directly from the Magna Carta. The Fifth amendments even echoes the Magna Carta in its wording "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law".
In this day and age, we are apt to take various freedoms and rights for granted. They often seem as natural as breathing. It is worthwhile taking a minute and reflecting that these liberties were often hard won and many in this world do not have such freedoms. It is up to the citizens of the various countries to be vigilant and not to allow these freedoms to be eroded.
So hopefully today, you will join me in being grateful to those Barons who decided to make a stand and hold King John accountable as well as making sure you are vigilant in not allowing the various hard won rights to be eroded without a fight!
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods. Her latest Summer of the Viking was published in June 2015. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on www.michellestyles.co.uk