Magna Carta

The Magna Carta is a document signed in 1215. It is primarily a symbol of development of England in the XIII century. The basis of the Charter is political and legal thoughts of feudal lords that encountered when a conflict between them and the King John appeared. This is a political document, consisted of 63 articles, written in Latin and a document which contained privileges and concessions primarily to the feudal class. The Great Charter mainly deals with two aspects:

  1. As a historical document in 1215 and the monument of the feudal law of England.
  2. As the basis of the "fundamental" law for the British unwritten constitution (Holt, 1992).

After the Norman conquest of England in 1066 skillful kings ruled there. They centralized management system, created new institutions and reformed the judicial system. During the reign of Henry II, England had the most advanced control system in Western Europe. However, there was a flaw in it – the danger of insufficient control over the monarchy. Therefore, such king as John, in fact, could rule without complying with any laws. Most historians agree that John was a very intelligent king, but at the same time he was moody, lazy, greedy and highly unreliable. He despised conventional norms of behavior and was an incompetent commander. By 1206 John gave the French king Philip II all British possessions on the continent, except Aquitaine. This loss forced the barons to look for ways, how to compensate damages. The barons did not like a number of things: demand of excessively long military service, sale of posts, protection of friends, extortion of money from citizens, increase of old taxes and introduction of new ones without the required approval of vassals, contempt to the feudal law and its violation. Royal Courts were wires of the imperial will, things were often designed by the royal whim, exorbitant fines and severe penalties were made more frequent. In January 1215 a group of the barons presented a list of demands to the king. This list was called “Baronial Articles”. After several days of discussion the Magna Carta was developed; it was a compromise that was based on Baronial Articles (Malden, 2005).

The political history of England has given great importance to such basic positions of the Charter as:

  1. The King was obliged to observe feudal customs in relation to vassals.
  2. Only the general council could decide the amount of charges and taxes.
  3. It was forbidden to make an arrest without foundation and confirm of veracity of witnesses.
  4. The Council, consisting of 25 barons, was to ensure compliance with articles of the charter. The Council was given the right to force and oppress the king by all available means (Levy, 2007).

The main value in the Charter took articles that charged interests of the barons, who led the movement. The king was obliged to eliminate arbitrariness in the imposition of monetary obligation for the barons. However, there were three exceptions in which the barons had to provide financial assistance to the king, namely, when the king was captured, when his eldest son would dub and when his eldest daughter would marry. The Magna Carta protected not only rights and interests of the barons, but also the clergy and the church. This document confirmed the ancient liberties of the capital of England and of other cities, as well as the right of all merchants to leave England freely and to trade without harassment (Siegan, 2001).

The Magna Carta is a peace agreement signed between warring parties. The historical significance of the Magna Carta is most evident in the following periods. This document is a kind of protest against the constant oppression of people by power, and each generation used it as a guarantee of observance of individual rights.

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