Sunday, August 3, 2014

Avalon Chronicles #31: "The Magna Carta"

by Allen Clark

     In November 2013 on Linda's and my trip to southwest England we toured Salisbury Cathedral, defined as "Britain's finest 13th century cathedral." We had two very delightful and instructive guides, one a retired Navy captain aviator and a retired Army major, who had been an advisor to the Abu Dhabi Army. Some of my favorite conversations on our trip were with former military men.
     One very distinct feature of all the cathedrals we visited is that they have memorials dedicated to their military. At Salisbury there were several windows and a plaque dedicated to the Wiltshire Regiment that had been in the British Army invasion of Washington that burned our White House in the War of 1812. The guides did not impart that fact with any degree of relish and I had a lack of enthusiasm upon learning about it, but this was their history and I accepted it. They have a decided degree of pride in their local units that serve in their army. A very poignant plaque, dedicated to the Burma Campaign of 1941-1945 is quoted thusly, "When you go home, tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today." Very fitting words for America's youth and those protected in America by our own military.
     The most compelling sight to view at Salisbury Cathedral is that is home to the best preserved of four surviving original Magna Carta sealed by King John on June 15, 1215. On one of my previous trips to England I had gone to the site on the Thames River outside Windsor Castle at Runnymede where this monumental document was signed. According to the cathedral's pamphlet, "...the document set down the relationship for the first time between the king and his subjects and their rights." It inspired our own Constitution. The Magna Carta was most significant to the western world because by its signing, a significant end came to the "divine right" by which the English King John and other monarchs before him had ruled. King John had been such an oppressive king that his barons and knights forced him to sign the Magna Carta.
     It has had tremendous influence in the United States. Russell Kirk wrote in The Roots of American Order that the Magna Carta "...became the rock upon which the English constitution was built. It is the principle of the supremacy of is the root of the Declaration of Independence." This document laid the foundation all these many centuries ago for the freedom and liberty enjoyed today by us in America.
     In The Light and the Glory Peter Marshall and David Manuel wrote about the situation in our land that contributed to our own Revolution, "Americans were now being taxed for the mother country's own revenue and at the same time denied the basic right of all Englishmen to representation in the government which was levying the taxes...For the King to ignore this right which was guaranteed by the Magna Carta, meant that he was putting himself above the law and that settled it." Besides this cause of our Revolution it must be recalled that a major impetus to securing our freedom was due to our Christian ministers. "Thanks to the Great Awakening there was now a new generation of committed clergy salted throughout America." (Marshall and Manuel).
     It is easily said that the foundations of  our own Declaration of Independence and Constitution had their roots in that document which by 2015 will have been signed 800 years ago to curb the power of a king who had run roughshod over his subjects.

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