The Magna Carta – eight hundred years of forgetting

Published on Dissident Voice, by Binoy Kampmark, June 16, 2015.

Idolatry is the natural consequence of abuse and disregard. Forget something, and revere it. Edification entails that no regard need be had to substance. When human rights conventions make it into the political argot, cited by the very individuals who are controlled by them, we know that a degree of amnesia and calculation has set in. They are the last ones who are interested in what those documents enshrine.  

Magna Carta has suffered more than most. A long suffering dowager of the human rights revolution, it has been subjected to dismissal, qualification and sanctification. Could the document, an expression of baronial disgruntlement over royal taxation, be anything other than a creation of opportunists? Unscrupulous aristocrats battling King John within a feudal system that was gasping for air set the scene for future confrontations.

The assault on the Magna Carta commenced immediately after its signing in 1215. King John rushed the inconvenient matter off to the Vatican, and got what he wanted: a decree of nullity from Pope Innocent III distinctly troubled by the turn of events. But the document stubbornly clung on in various versions – 1216, 1217 and 1225. In 1297, King Edward acknowledged its legal value, albeit in heavily revised form, by placing it on the statute books. It became the weapon of choice for jurists keen to attack such concepts as divine rule.

To this day, the provision about having no freeman “taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will we not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land” remain distinct. But as has been pointed out, its form, its legality, is essentially worthless to the modern litigant. All this, despite the statement in Halsbury’s Laws of England claiming that, “Magna Carta is as binding upon the Crown today as it was the day it was sealed at Runnymede.”

The tussle between executive power bound and held accountable, and the various clauses of protection, has persisted for centuries. The Magna Carta has become a totemic alibi easily discarded when cited in legal challenges. Judges make reference to it in a passing, even as they prefer more contemporary statutes and conventions.

The Occupy Movement attempted to capitalise on its historical value without success when challenging their eviction from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. In the case of Mayor Commonalty and Citizens of London v Samede & Others [2012] EWCA Civ 160, the court could barely contain its scorn. The challenge made by the applicant that he was a “Magna Carta heir” was “a concept unknown to the law” … //

… (full text).

(Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: Read other articles by Binoy).

Related Links:

  • on en.wikipedia: Magna Carta … is a charter agreed by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215.[a] 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 …;

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GREGOR GYSI’s Rückzugsrede am Parteitag DIE LINKE 2015, von :ds: zeitgeist am 7. Juni 2015 hochgeladen: Teil 1/4, 13.47 min; Teil 2/4, 14.50 min; Teil 3/4, 15.12 min; Teil 4/4, 08.14 min;

The Big Chill: Russia, the West, and the Future of Nuclear Arms Control, 77.29 min, uploaded by Arms Control Association ACA, May 20, 2015 … Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann (right) moderates the panel, “The Big Chill: Russia, the West, and the Future of Nuclear Arms Control,” with Catherine Kelleher, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and Matthew Rojansky, Director, Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars;

AUFBRUCH IN DIE FREIHEIT – Andreas Popp, 52.12 min, von Die Vorarlberger am 29. April 2015 hochgeladen … im Rahmen der Veranstaltung zum Thema “Informieren – Verstehen – Handeln” hielt Andreas Popp diesen Vortrag;

Anzac Day Frontier Wars March – Elder assaulted by police 2015, 4.17 min, uploaded by akaWACA, April 24, 2015: This footage is from the 2015 Frontier Wars March on ANZAC Day in Canberra at the national war memorial. The attempted arrest of the Aboriginal Elder for ‘breaching the peace’ by speaking on his own land, demonstrates the war against the First Nations is ongoing;

CrossTalk: West vs Russia (ft. Ray McGovern), 23.55 min, uploaded by RT, Sept 10, 2014 … A troubled relationship or a transforming international system? As the West and Russia turn away from each other, can we expect more tensions or merely indifference? And is this a divorce or just a long-term separation?

DOK on YouTube: Stop Genocide (Film by Zahir Raihan), 13.16 min, uploaded by raju advance, Jan 22, 2014;

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on en.wikipedia: Australian frontier wars were a series of conflicts that were fought between Indigenous Australians and European settlers that spanned a total of 146 years. The first fighting took place several months after the landing of the First Fleet in 26 January 1788 and the last clashes occurred as late as 1934 …; /See also;

Stop Genocide – doc film 1971, by eminent Bangladeshi filmmaker Zahir Raihan …;
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