If one is a student of History and/or the Law at all, you have to have heard of the Magna Carta. However, the general perception of the Magna Carta is probably not accurate. It is perceived as the basis of our Constitution. The Magna Carta did play some portion of the background for our democracy, but it was not a "Bill of Rights" for all citizens as my be the perception of some.

King John of England used considerable resources to defend English territory in France, but lost his ancestral lands there in Normandy and Anjou to the French king Philip II. King John to attempt to regain these lands imposed high taxes without his baron's consent which was a violation of feudal law and custom.

King John alienated the Catholic Church by quarreling with Pope Innocent III over the appointment of the archbishop of Canterbury. He made amends with the Catholic Church, but in 1214, King John lost the Battle of Bouvines (in what is now Belgium). He had ruled harshly and when he returned to collect even more money, many of the English barons revolted and captured London. However, they could not defeat King John's forces, so a stalemate developed and they negotiated.

The Magna Carta was the result and was imposed upon King John by the barons in 1215 at Runnymede, a meadow near Windsor. The Magna Carta contained 63 clauses of which apparently only two remain part of English law today as the others became outdated or were repealed. The two which are important to our heritage are #39 and #40.

Shortly after the Magna Carta was signed, King John applied to the Catholic Church to invalidate it contending it was extracted under duress, which the Church granted. It was later reinstated and adopted by subsequent kings.

Clause 39 established that the King would follow legal procedure before he punished someone. Clause 40 established the principle of equal access to the courts for all citizens without large fees.

There has been much debate as to whom the rights established in the Magna Carta were for. Originally, it is believed that they were not intended for all people, but for the barons. As time went on, the concepts of these rights were broadened to apply to all "free" men. No included, even then, were slaves, indentured persons, and women.

Note: 398 words.

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Article #47