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November 17, 2016

Magna Carta’s American Adventure

Click here to read the full article
By Prof. A. E. Dick Howard. First appeared in North Carolina Law Review (Vol. 94, No. 5 June 2016)

I spent a good part of the summer of 2015 in England, lecturing on aspects of Magna Carta. It seemed that every town, village, or crossroads with any connection to Magna Carta was celebrating the Charter’s eight hundredth anniversary. It’s not surprising to hear about celebrations in the country that gave birth to Magna Carta. But the question I want to put before you tonight is: why should Americans care? After all, Magna Carta’s origins were a long time ago, in a very distant place, born of a struggle between King John and the barons. Why would an American remember Magna Carta?

When I was very small, one of the authors whose books I came to love was A. A. Milne. You Winnie the Pooh buffs will know about Milne. Perhaps you know Milne’s Now We Are Six. One of the poems in the collection is “King John’s Christmas.” It begins,

King John was not a good man –
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.

For a little kid, the idea of being shunned – that nobody will speak to you – is really terrible. How could you be so awful that people won’t even talk to you?

Click here to read the full article.

December 18, 2015

Magna Carta returns from global tour

Over 25,000 people have seen Magna Carta on its global tour. The original 1217 copy has now travelled home to Hereford Cathedral in time for Christmas

Hereford Cathedral’s 1217 Magna Carta and King John’s only surviving Writ from 1215 have made history by undertaking an epic global tour to three continents, covering 37,000 miles and 25 time zones.

The GREAT Britain campaign worked in partnership with Hereford Cathedral, British Airways and venues in America, Luxembourg, China including Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta and Portugal to host special exhibitions displaying these unique artefacts.

This iconic document has now safely returned to the region which has played such a substantial role in its origins and history. One of the oldest symbols of rule of law in the UK, Magna Carta is just as relevant today in the home of world-leading law schools and a legal sector worth almost £23billion to the UK economy.

Throughout the course of the global tour which started in September, over 25,000 visitors have turned out to see the historical documents and learn about their global significance. Venues including the New York Historical Society, Sotheby’s Hong Kong and the National Library of Valletta in Malta reported that the Magna Carta exhibition was their most successful in recent memory.

The tour also made history as it was the first time that Magna Carta had ever been to China, including Hong Kong. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond saw the display first hand in Lisbon and also visited it during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, along with Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, whose constituency of Runnymede is where Magna Carta was sealed, said:

Magna Carta, one of the oldest surviving symbols of the rule of law, has returned to the UK following a successful 37,000 mile journey around the world. Thousands of people in three continents turned out to see it, showing how important democracy, individual freedoms and the rule of law are to people everywhere.

The cornerstone of the British legal system has contributed to the establishment of freedoms and laws right across the world.

Reverend Canon Chris Pullin, Chancellor from Hereford Cathedral, who accompanied Magna Carta on the global tour said:

“It has been a tremendous experience sharing such wonderful documents with people from around the world, and it is super to be back at home, sharing our tour stories and experiences with people from the diocese and surrounding counties. We will be ringing the Cathedral Bells to celebrate their safe return home.

Further information

You can visit the Magna Carta at a display in Hereford Cathedral from Friday 18 December in the Mappa Mundi & Chained Library Exhibition, where it will stay until 2 January 2016. Visit Hereford Cathedral for details.

The tour was organised in partnership with The Chapter of Hereford Cathedral, Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust and the GREAT Britain Campaign, supported by British Airways who flew the document in their First cabin.

Magna Carta is a cornerstone of the British legal system which has become a powerful symbol of liberty around the world. 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the charter being sealed at Runnymede. Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. It marked the first step on the UK’s journey towards parliamentary democracy and has been used as a basis for democracies around the world.

Hereford Cathedral holds the sole surviving copy of King’s Writ and the best preserved of the 4 surviving manuscripts of 1217 Magna Carta. Hereford is a key location in the history of Magna Carta, as both Hereford Bishops played a role in the creation of multiple issues, and Hereford Barons were responsible for ensuring that the King complied with its terms.

More information on the tour and photos can be found here

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November 5, 2015

Attorney General Lynch Delivers Remarks at Magna Carta Commemoration Ceremony

15 June 2015 – Magna Carta Day.
United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the American Bar Association Memorial, Runnymede.
Click here to read this speech as it appears on the Justice Department’s website.

“Thank you, Secretary [Philip] Hammond, for that kind introduction. Your Excellencies, distinguished colleagues, honored guests – it is a pleasure to be here this morning, and a great privilege to join you all at this important commemoration.

Eight hundred years ago, on the grounds of Runnymede, King John sealed a piece of parchment – a Great Charter – that extended basic rights to individuals subject to his reign. That Magna Carta was neither expansive nor long-lived – its rules applied to only a small group of noblemen, and it was first annulled just 10 weeks after being sealed. But its adoption served as a signpost on a long and difficult march, and those who forged its compromise stood as early travelers on the road to justice. While the hands that wrote the Magna Carta have long been stilled, the principles they carved out of the struggles of their day – of the struggles of the human condition – live on.

Seven and a half centuries after that historic day, in 1957, a crowd of 5,000 people walked in storied footsteps to dedicate this memorial and to recognize its significance. Among them was Earl Warren, the Chief Justice of America’s Supreme Court and one of our nation’s greatest jurists, who noted in an opinion a year later that principles traced back to Magna Carta represented a concept that is “nothing less than the dignity of man.”

For Chief Justice Warren, and for the many American lawyers and jurists who gathered by his side, this monument had special meaning, because Magna Carta had come to symbolize more than a simple agreement between noblemen and their king. This social contract between a monarch and his people codified, however imperfectly, notions that would one day stand at the heart of our own system of justice: the idea that no power is unconditional, and no rule is absolute; that we are not subjugated by an infallible authority, but share authority with our fellow citizens. That all are protected by the law, just as all must answer to the law. These fundamental, age-old principles have given hope to those who face oppression. They have given a voice to those yearning for the redress of wrongs. And they have served as the bedrock of free societies around the globe, inspiring countless women and men seeking to weave their promise into reality.

For those who drafted the U.S. Constitution, the significance of Magna Carta was clear. Its influence helped shape a political system that enshrines separation of powers, due process and the rule of law; a legal system that recognizes and honors the dignity of all people; and a commitment to ongoing efforts to realize these ideals in every interaction between our citizens and our institutions.

Even today, America continues to pursue these goals. We are engaged in initiatives to promote trust and understanding between law enforcement officers and the communities we serve. We are working with partners in the United States and around the world to pursue those who would deny human dignity, whether through trafficking or corruption, violence or terrorism. And we are carrying out a historic reorientation of our criminal justice practices to end an overreliance on incarceration. At every turn, we are driven by that same devotion to the rule of law whose seeds took root in this field so long ago.

Of course, our journey has not been easy, and it is far from over. Just as men and women of great conscience and strong will have, over eight centuries, worked to advance the cause that animated their forebears – in nations around the world – we too must advance and extend the promise that lies at the heart of our global community. We too must deliver on the spirit of Magna Carta. And we too must carry forward our work to new fields of equality, opportunity and justice.

On the day that this monument was dedicated in 1957, one of the former presidents of the American Bar Association called his journey to Runnymede a “devout pilgrimage to the ancestral home, to the well springs of our profession, to the fountainhead of our faith.” Today, we not only pay tribute to the source of our legal doctrine – we reaffirm our devotion to its values and recommit ourselves to the service of its most treasured ideals. As we go forward, I am proud, I am honored and I am humbled to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all of you in our shared pursuit of a more just world.

Thank you all, once again, for the opportunity to take part in this commemoration. Thank you for your dedication to the ennobling ideals we are here to celebrate. I look forward to all that our nations will achieve together in the spirit of their promise in the years ahead.”

May 6, 2015

Magna Carta features in Presidential Proclamation – Law Day, U.S.A., 2015

LAW DAY, U.S.A., 2015

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Click here to read the Proclamation as it originally appeared on whitehouse.gov

Throughout the world, the rule of law is central to the promise of a safe, free, and just society. Respect for and adherence to the rule of law is the premise upon which the United States was founded, and it has been a cornerstone of my Presidency. America’s commitment to this fundamental principle sustains our democracy — it guides our progress, helps to ensure all people receive fair treatment, and protects our Government of, by, and for the people.

This Law Day, we celebrate a milestone in the extraordinary history of the rule of law by marking the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Centuries ago, when kings, emperors, and warlords reigned over much of the world, it was this extraordinary document — agreed to by the King of England in 1215 — that first spelled out the rights and liberties of man. The ideals of the Magna Carta inspired America’s forefathers to define and protect many of the rights expressed in our founding documents, which we continue to cherish today.

The Magna Carta has also provided a framework for constitutional democracies throughout the world, and my Administration is committed to supporting good governance based upon the rule of law. Around the globe, we support strong civil institutions, independent judiciaries, and open government — because the rule of force must give way to the rule of law. For more than two centuries, we have witnessed these values drive opportunity and prosperity here in the United States, and as President, I will continue to work to bolster our systems of justice and advance efforts that do the same overseas.

America is and always has been a nation of laws. Our institutions of justice are vital to securing the promise of our country, and they are bound up with the values and beliefs that have united peoples through the ages. The United States and our citizens are inextricably linked to all those around the world doing the hard work of strengthening the rule of law — joined in common purpose by our mutual interest in building freer, fairer, more just societies.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, in accordance with Public Law 87-20, as amended, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2015, as Law Day, U.S.A. I call upon all Americans to acknowledge the importance of our Nation’s legal and judicial systems with appropriate ceremonies and activities, and to display the flag of the United States in support of this national observance.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.


Barack Obama

March 19, 2015

Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall visit 1297 Magna Carta & US memorials

The BBC, 19th March 2015

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have visited monuments to Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr as part of their trip to the US.

They were joined by figures from the American civil rights movement, Jesse Jackson and Congressman John Lewis.

Later, speaking at an environmental conference, the prince called on governments and businesses to end the dumping of plastics into the oceans.

The couple will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday.

The couple – who arrived in Washington DC for their three-day visit on Tuesday – were given a guided tour of the Lincoln Memorial sculpture, pausing at the spot where Dr King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963.

At Dr King’s nearby memorial, they met Rev Jackson and Congressman Lewis, who helped organise the famous civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, in 1965 – dramatised in the recent movie Selma.

The prince and duchess were also given a tour of Mount Vernon – home of America’s first president, George Washington.

The duchess also paid a visit to Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Prince Charles also visited the National Archives, where he viewed the United States’ Charters of Freedom and the 1297 version of the Magna Carta.

He later told leading delegates to an environmental conference on marine waste of his concerns about the “increasing quantity of plastic waste” in oceans.

He said he had been “haunted” by images of seabirds found dead after mistakenly eating plastic, and called for better recycling and disposal of plastics.

The solution to problems caused by a “throw-away society” was to move towards a circular economy, where “materials are recovered, recycled and reused instead of created, used and then thrown away”, he said.

To read more from the BBC, click here.

October 6, 2011

The Seeds Of Democracy

Like a plant susceptible to winter’s grasp, the growth and fruition of democracy as a political ideology has not survived without a fair bit of struggle. As with any belief that opposes the status quo, it has a turbulent history that is stained with violence and blood-shed. Nevertheless, its seeds were sown in fertile soil, and across the world it survived amongst a variation of conflict and political shifts.

At the turn of the 20th century, Russia was facing extensive political and social issues. By the time the First World War had finished, Nicholas II, the last Tsar (Emperor) of the Romanov dynasty had abdicated his throne. In the aftermath of his abdication, a civil war sparked between the Bolshevik party and the anti-Bolshevik parties (aided by certain Western countries). At the point that the Bolshevik victory was secured, the fate of Russia as a communist state was sealed. Whilst on paper this form of socialism seemed to share the same sense of individual equality that democratic states embraced, its political system compromised of a single party state – the Bolshevik party. After Lenin’s death, Joseph Stalin took over and chaos followed. It was not until 1989 that communism ended in Russia. Today it exists as a multi-party representative democracy.

For Russia, the road to becoming a democratic state was a turbulent one, to say the least. It took the deaths of millions for the change to occur, and tore at the nation’s cultural heart throughout the 20th century.

America, too, arrived at being a democratic republic through similar strife and hardship. The Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776, has become one of the most recognized documents of democratic ideology. It marks the beginnings of modern day America. Before this time, the British Empire had dominion over the Thirteen Colonies that comprised mid-18th century America. By the end of the century, however, these colonies had secured their independence and gained autonomy.

England saw a similar struggle to achieve democratic right. Since the middle-ages discontent had grown and the subjugation of the people through the feudal system had resulted in increasing social and political unrest. By the time of the 16th and 17th century, this had escalated drastically, taking the form of numerous rebellions. By 1642, England was set in a civil war which saw numerous instances of armed conflict between the Royalist factions and the Parliamentarians.

It resulted in the execution of King Charles I and the establishment of the republican Common Wealth. It formed the foundations of England’s modern day political system and symbolised the growing strength of the people’s voice. In essence, these three instances depict the struggles that followed hand-in-hand with the arrival of a democratic world.

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