Charter signed in 1215 by King John of England guaranteeing certain basic rights

Magna Carta Libertatum (Medieval Latin for "the Great Charter of the Liberties"), commonly called Magna Carta (also Magna Charta; "Great Charter"), is a charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215. First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons. Neither side stood behind their commitments, and the charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons' War. After John's death, the regency government of his young son, Henry III, reissued the document in 1216, stripped of some of its more radical content, in an unsuccessful bid to build political support for their cause. At the end of the war in 1217, it formed part of the peace treaty agreed at Lambeth, where the document acquired the name Magna Carta, to distinguish it from the smaller Charter of the Forest which was issued at the same time. Short of funds, Henry reissued the charter again in 1225 in exchange for a grant of new taxes. His son, Edward I, repeated the exercise in 1297, this time confirming it as part of England's statute law.

Events of Interest

15 Jun 1215, signed, in Runnymede, England

Web Pages

Magna Carta
The British Library, includes Modern English translation


An Arrow against all Tyrants, by Richard Overton, 12 Oct 1646
Letter addressed to "Mr Henry Marten, a member of the House of Commons", after two months in Newgate Prison having been arrested for publishing "An Alarum to the House of Lords"
"For the first, namely the exorbitances of the Lords: they are to such an height aspired, that contrary to all precedents, the free commoners of England are imprisoned, fined and condemned by them (their incompetent, illegal, unequal, improper judges) against the express letter of Magna Carta chapter 29 (so often urged and used): that no free man of England "shall be passed upon, tried, or condemned, but by the lawful judgement of his equals, or by the law of the land", which, as says Sir Edward Coke in his exposition of Magna Carta, p. 28, last line, is "per pares, by his peers, that is, by his equals"."
An Independent Judiciary: Edward Coke, by Jim Powell, The Triumph of Liberty, 4 Jul 2000
Lengthy biographical essay
"James needed money, so he summoned Parliament in 1610, but reluctant Members drew up a Petition of Grievances. Coke declared: 'I must fly to Magna Carta and entreat explanation of his Majesty. Magna Carta is called...The Charter of Liberty because it maketh freeman. When the King says he cannot allow our liberties of right, this strikes at the root.' James fumed against Parliament, saying 'I am surprised that my ancestors should ever have permitted such an institution to come into existence.'"
Islam and the Discovery of Freedom: A Message of Liberty for Muslims and Non-Muslims Alike, by George Leef, The Freeman, Sep 1998
Book review of Islam and the Discovery of Freedom, based on Rose Wilder Lane's book, with an introduction and commentary by Imad-Ad-Dean Ahmad
"Ahmad adds that Magna Carta, to which Westerners trace the beginnings of the idea of limited government, resulted from pressure by English nobles who had returned from the Crusades, where they had learned that the Muslim leader Saladin was bound by the law the same as any other citizen."
Related Topic: Rose Wilder Lane
Lysander Spooner, Part 2, by Wendy McElroy, Future of Freedom, Nov 2005
Lengthy biographical and bibliographical essay; from 1852 to Spooner's death, examining An Essay on the Trial by Jury, the No Treason essays and his subsequent influence
"Thus Trial by Jury draws heavily on the Magna Carta, an early 13th-century document signed by King John, which acted as a charter of liberties through which the English nobility protected itself against the power of the Crown. The document is widely viewed as a milestone in the evolution of human liberty. One of the protections established by the Magna Carta was trial by jury."

Cartoons and Comic Strips

On Dec. 18, Sotheby's will auction off The Magna Carta ..., by Ted Rall, 15 Dec 2007

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Magna Carta" as of 21 Sep 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.