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Magna Carta 800th Anniversary

By June 15, 2015Uncategorized
On this day 800 years ago, English barons along with Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, the Great Charter. The signing of the Charter is a great triumph in the development of the rule of law in western civilization.

In 1915, Scottish legal scholar William McKechnie called the Charter “a clear enunciation of the principle that the caprice of despots must bow to the reign of law; that the just rights of individuals, as defined by law and usage, must be upheld against the personal will of kings.” Thus, not only did the Charter spur the advance of individual rights—like habeas corpus, trial by jury, protection of private property, and freedom from arbitrary arrest—but it also stands as a glorious memorial to the principle that no man, not even the king, is above the law.

To read more about the of the rule of law, including the Magna Carta, see Craig Stern’s article, The Common Law and the Religious Foundations of the Rule of Law Before Casey, 38 U.S.F. L. Rev. 499 (2004).