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Defending Magna Carta

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On this day in 1215, Magna Carta was carried to Runnymede on the bank of the Thames by an army of old men and young men, Londoners, bishops, barons and knights. They forced King John to set his seal to the Great Charter as the law of the land. "To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice."

On this June 15th, almost 800 years after Magna Carta was established, it's astonishing that its basic rights and liberties are still desperately needed in many parts of the world today, and are on the defensive in the England which first nurtured them.

The rights and liberties enshrined in Magna Carta include

The right to trial by jury.

The right to habeas corpus - we cannot be arrested and kept in prison indefinitely without being charged and tried under the law of the land.

The right to own property, which cannot be taken from us without due payment or process of law.

The right not to be fined so heavily as to have our livelihood destroyed.

The right to reasonable taxation levied only with the general consent of the kingdom.

The right of the Church to be free from government control.

The right of London and other cities, towns, and ports to have all their liberties and customary freedoms.

The right to travel freely in and out of the country except during war.

These rights to be observed not only by the king but by all men.

Magna Carta's creation of an advisory council, which could check the king and provide redress, planted the seed of representative government. The American tribute to Magna Carta at Runnymede has warmed our hearts.

Winston Churchill wrote: "In subsequent ages when the state swollen with its own authority has attempted to ride roughshod over the rights and liberties of the people it is to this doctrine that appeal has again and again been made and never as yet without success."

The time is coming, may almost be at hand, when that appeal will fail, and the people will have to defend Magna Carta.

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