The Magna Carta and Its Significance
A crumbling, water-stained document written in Medieval Latin, the Magna Carta has managed to remain relevant to the cause of human rights over 800 years after it was scribed onto parchment and branded with the sticky wax seal of the English king. This piece of literature written in 1215 was the first document to challenge the authority of the king, it subjecting him to rule and laws and also protected the people from feudal abuse. King John met the barons on June 15, 1215 at Runnymede, which was a neutral site just west of London. It was here that the barons demanded that King John sign the Magna Carta. King John agreed to sign this because it was his duty as King of England to uphold the law and run a fair government. In return, the barons agreed to stand down and surrender London. However this treaty became null and void after a very short period of time and it seemed that neither party was going to hold up their end of the bargain.
Feudalism, a combination of legal and military customs that dictated how all landowning was governed in England during medieval times. It granted the king control of all the land in his kingdom, which they peasants worked and were overseen by feudal barons. Everyone involved in the hierarchy had not only financial but social responsibilities to the rank above them. This even included the barons, who reported directly to the king.
Their had never been any major problems with most of England's kings because they didn't exercise all of their feudal rights. These right stretched as far as the power to control who their tenants married. That wasn't the case with King John, his abuses of the feudal system were frequent and angered the barons, who were regularly extorted of their lands and profits. This extortion trickled all the way down to the peasants who however didn’t really have much say.
In 1215 the barons had finally had enough and rebelled, they pressured the king into signing the Magna Carta, which is a list of 63 clauses drawn up to limit his power as the King. This was the first time in the history of England that the royal authority officially became subject to the law, instead of reigning above it much like a modern day dictator.
Tucked near the middle of the Magna Carta is what historians consider one of the document's most important and long lasting pieces. Habeas corpus, or the right to due process and trial by jury, is a universal legal concept today, however it didn't exist in law books until the barons noted it in the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta states: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”
Habeas corpus wasn't a standout feature of the Magna Carta when it was first published over 800 years ago, it has slowly worked its way into almost every society on earth over the last 8 centuries. It made its most prominent appearances...