Today marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta to which King John affixed his seal under the demands of his barons in order to limit his regal powers. There’s more I want to tell about this than was briefly covered in the preamble to prophetical points of last month’s general election.
Also, whilst writing I’m intrigued to have received a reader’s unwitting contribution that’s made me suspect some pieces of the Lord’s invisible jigsaw are falling into place!
[The section originally appearing here has been revised in the next post.]
To recap, I noted this medieval document, “Established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the common law of the land. The British Library states that, although nearly a third of the text was deleted or substantially rewritten within ten years, and almost all its clauses have been repealed in modern times, Magna Carta still remains a cornerstone of the British constitution. I’d add that its great influence extends to the Commonwealth’s and to the United States of America’s legal systems.”
In view of this lengthy document’s importance in world history may I encourage you to consider a few more points gleaned from my weekend reading? (To read the articles in full and for more information then click the links shown.)
Member of the European Parliament for SE England Daniel Hannan refers to 18th Century PM William Pitt the Elder calling Magna Carta, “the Bible of the English Constitution”. He himself likens it to, “the Torah of the English-speaking peoples: the text that sets us apart while, at the same time speaking truths to the rest of humanity”.
Hannan also recognises the charter’s provisions had been prefigured to a small extent in earlier centuries, yet the document of 1215 AD was different in including an enforcement mechanism. “Instead of leaving it to the king to decide whether he had kept his word, it instituted a form of conciliar government which was to evolve directly into the Parliament that meets at Westminister today”. Of course, parliamentarians’ troubles with Charles I and subsequent civil war used Magna Carta’s provisions as an essential sledgehammer to crack and sever a brick-hard nut!
However, one of our Justices of the Supreme Court as well as distinguished medieval historian, Lord Sumpton, dismisses Magna Carta as being “far less significant in the development of modern rights than the French Revolution”! He argues,
“The modern perception of the Charter as the source of all our liberties was largely the invention of Sir Edward Coke, the seventeenth century lawyer, antiquarian and politician.
“Coke, who was widely regarded as the most learned lawyer of his day, rescued Magna Carta from obscurity and transformed it from a somewhat technical catalogue of feudal regulations, into the foundation document of the English constitution. It is really Coke’s idea of Magna Carta that has been exported to the world, and not the version that King John or his barons would have recognised.
“The libertarian tradition in England is one of this country’s great contributions to the development of the modern world. But its power does not depend on its antiquity.
“Our libertarian tradition actually dates from the constitutional settlement which followed the civil wars of the seventeenth century and the deposition of King James II in 1688. Magna Carta frankly has nothing to do with it.”
Click for the Key Points on differences between both Magna Carta and ‘Declaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen’, to compare the main difference between the British and the French, or Napoleonic, principles.
Nevertheless, those who praise the Great Charter as the published precursor of the rule of law, rather than the diktat of ruling executives, are right to do so.
1,400th anniversary (approx)
The earliest Anglo-Saxon law code is that of King Aethelbert of Kent after conversion to Christianity and issued between 597 and 616AD. The 12th Century manuscript known as Textus Roffensis is the only surviving copy of those codes:
Subsequent 7th century Kentish codes and laws of Ine of Wales mainly concerned payments for injury, infringement of property rights and breaches of public order. The 9th century King Alfred’s code synthesized elements from Kentish, Mercian and West Saxon codes. The influence of Anglo-Saxon law is apparent in legal measures of kings William I (‘The Conqueror’) and Henry I.
Lastly, whilst drafting this I’ve been reading comments submitted by a fellow blogger in the States of whom I’ve known for a few years and today got re-connected. So what’s that got to do with this post? Quite a lot. In fact, I think you’ll be most surprised.
Tim Shey at HitchhikeAmerica adds this perspicuous comment to my Does a spiritual yet political trend link USA to Britain? without realising it’s directly related to this current post. In fact, he puts the whole subject into a Godly perspective:
‘George Bernard Shaw once said that the United States and Great Britain were divided by a common language. It is no accident that the United States is English-speaking and Great Britain is English-speaking. It is because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The United States-Great Britain-English-speaking-Military-Industrial-Spiritual Complex is the great counterpoise to Satan’s Spiritual Babylon (confusion; confused languages because of the sin of the Tower of Babel).
‘Certain principalities and powers of darkness were taken out in England back in the 1600s (the rise of the King James Bible, the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution) and similar principalities and powers of darkness were taken out in the 1700s in the American Colonies (the great revival before the Revolution, the Revolution itself, the Constitution of the United States). The slave trade was ended in England, I believe, in the 1790s and later the slave trade was ended in the United States; and of course, later the Lord judged the United States for slavery in the great Civil War of 1861-1865.
‘No doubt, the Lord set up this Anglo-American/Judaeo-Christian alliance to spread the Gospel and also to destroy tyranny in different parts of the world through military power: Naziism, Communism, Islamo-Fascism. The British Empire was no accident, the rise of American power and influence was no accident, but both nations must realize that the Lord God in Heaven can easily take down a nation or an empire, if they don’t put the Lord first in their lives. Look at what happened to Nebuchadnezzar: at one moment he was the greatest king on the planet, the same day the Lord humbled him and Nebuchadnezzar went crazy.’
Now is that spooky or just serendipity? Is it really coincidental?? Or, is the Lord in it???
I’m of the opinion it’s a superb example of ‘God-incidence’ as a ‘Bridge over the Pond‘! Wouldn’t you agree?
Is a similar but far greater ‘taking out’ about to happen in our day, as some prophetical voices are saying?
Keep watching, and gain a better perspective here!.