Fish Tank - Magma Carta

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Rightly so.

What is Magna Carta?

It is font of the liberties we enjoy today. After tolerating one outrage after another by King John, barons in league with English church officials rebelled. They renounced their allegiance to the king, who foolishly seized their property. The King was quickly overwhelmed, with the barons taking London.

At Runymede in June , King John signed, in effect, a treaty with his own people.

Magna Carta

The Magna Carta curbed the authority of the king, offering protections to the church and the rights of free men. In return for renewing their oaths to the King, he was forced to cede some power.


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His power over the pockets and persons of freemen was reduced. Jailing them willy-nilly in perpetuity was expressly disallowed. Additionally, the Magna Carta was a key moment in the advancement of civilization. The Great Charter helped move the accepted basis for human governance further away from rule by might to rule by law. Words on paper, not arms, would structure a polity. Humanity could flourish under the stability and liberty afforded by shared agreements about the basic rules of social life. Politics, the ancient Greeks noted, was a means of moving fights from the streets into a forum.

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Lay down arms, and use words to settle conflicts. Written agreements on power-sharing naturally followed from this notion. But these ancient treaties rarely had lasting power.

Inevitably, one party to the agreement would see advantage in reneging, and war would return. They had been in use since AD, and they tended to deal with mundane property matters. King John himself broke his word soon after putting his seal on the Magna Carta. It was a huge mistake, but a fortunate one for posterity.

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The outrage was immediate, and subsequent kings understood that maintaining peace required reaffirming the charter. Thus, what began as a written agreement between warring equals was progressively elevated to a higher authority held sacred.


  1. The clauses of Magna Carta - The British Library.
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  4. Magna Carta—the Great Charter. This conception of a piece of paper as expressing higher law that binds both rulers and the people is a philosophical assumption undergirding American and modern Western constitutions generally. Products of this store will be shipped directly from the US to your country.

    Magna Carta and the Law of Unintended Consequences

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