On June 15, 1215 in the meadows of Runnymede, King John and his rebellious barons agreed to the great charter known as Magna Carta. The great charter was the first significant written instrument limiting the power of the king and confining him to what the barons regarded as good governance. These promises were a bargain between the king and the feudal lords dictated by the force of arms.
Winston Churchill, in his History of English Speaking peoples, writes about the glorious legend of the charter of an Englishman’s liberties. “The original Articles of the barons on which Magna Carta is bases exist today in the British Museum. In the next hundred years it was reissued 38 times, at first with a few substantial alterations but retaining its original Characteristics”.
He concludes, “Now for the first time the king himself is bound by the law. The root principle was destined to survive across the generations and raise paramount long after the feudal background of 1215 had faded in the past. The charter became in the process of time an enduring witness that the power of the crown was not absolute…. And when in subsequent ages the state swollen with its own authority, has attempted to ride roughshod over the rights and liberties of the subject it is to this doctrine that appeal has again and again been made, and never, as yet, without success…..There is a law which is above the king and which even he must not break. This reaffirmation of a supreme law and its expression in a general charter is a great work of Magna Carta; and this alone justifies the respect in which men have held it”.
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