Magna Carta, which the British Parliament granted to King John in the year 1215, contains a very important provision regarding the trial of those charged with breaking laws. The Charter required that the accused be tried according to “law, equity and common decency.” It was read to the king by his most trusted advisor, Sir Thomas More, at Runnymede on 12 June 1215.
In the original Magna Carta is seen as a charter of liberty. It defined rights that were to be protected by law. In the modern sense, the “Bill of Rights” would be seen as a compilation of Magna Carta provisions.
It is widely believed that Magna Carta did not stop the reign of King John, who has been seen as the father of the Tudor dynasty. Indeed, there are those who believe it only made him more despotic. The importance of the Charter cannot be understated. It had much to do with the structural collapse of the medieval system of justice.
In fact, Magna Carta set the groundwork for the concept of trial by jury. It required the King to provide for the impartial trial of suspects and defendants. This tradition was later maintained by the English royal courts until they were abolished in 1660.
The Sealing of Magna Carta – Learning From the Past
Some historians believe that the dissolution of the monasteries paved the way for the unraveling of the feudal society. King John claimed to be acting on behalf of the clergy in opposition to the Magna Carta. The doctrine of habeas corpus was also a result of the Charter.
At one point, John demanded that the monks of London bow down to his authority as King. He also regarded them as a separate ruling class. This ultimately led to the introduction of personal liberties guaranteed by Magna Carta.
There is no denying that Magna Carta served to safeguard the rights of Englishmen. For instance, it protected religious liberty and the right to public trial. It also provided a constitutional basis for the institution of the Common Law.
There are some members of the Tudor dynasty, who regard the Magna Carta as their greatest achievement. Many other people see it as one of the worst abuses of power by a monarch. To this day, it continues to be a source of controversy.
One of the reasons why Magna Carta is still controversial is because there are those who believe that it can be changed. At one time, the reformers believed that the provision that limited the king’s prerogative should be removed. At the same time, they realized that no change should be made until after the battle of Bosworth Field.
Although, during the Restoration, it was decided that the only change should be in the section concerning the king’s prerogative, there is still no real consensus as to what should be changed about the Magna Carta. In fact, many of the new laws enacted by Parliament are seen as making changes that were never contemplated by the Charter. Indeed, there is still no consensus on the essential principles that Magna Carta was based upon.
The renewal of Magna Carta is timely, as its importance is felt today more than ever before. The very essence of the document is being challenged. The United States constitution seems to be preparing to turn into a charter of liberty, that no one can challenge.
Therefore, if we are to protect the rights of future generations and maintain the rights of our ancestors, we must learn from the mistakes of the past and re-establish the Magna Carta as a force to be reckoned with. Let’s hope we can overcome these problems as we strive to serve a great cause.