Magna Carta: Cornerstone Of The British Constitution
Since that day, Magna Carta has been universally recognised as a foundation document of democracies everywhere. Yet for England, it was no more than a formal reassertion of already ancient liberties, laws and customs which had been subverted by a dictatorial monarch.
Terms And Conditions
Magna Carta was a peace treaty. A common law contract between the monarch and his people. In subsequent centuries the principles defined in Magna Carta have been used time and again as the foundation of national constitutions right across the world.
In its original form Magna Carta contained 63 articles, most of which only have relevance to 13th century England. Amongst these very specific articles, however, lie the fundamental principles upon which the English, and subsequently the British, nation has existed since before the time of Alfred the Great.
Magna Carta begins with a preamble. There’s no need to go into detail, but at the end of that section we have “granted to all free men of our kingdom, for ourselves and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written below, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs for ever”
Article 20 states that a “free man shall not be amerced [fined] for a trivial offence except in accordance with the degree of the offence, and for a grave offence he shall be amerced in accordance with its gravity, yet saving his way of living; and a merchant in the same way, saving his stock-in-trade; and a villein shall be amerced in the same way, saving his means of livelihood–if they have fallen into our mercy: and none of the aforesaid amercements shall be imposed except by the oath of good men of the neighbourhood.”
Here are limitations on the actions of those in “authority”. No arbitrary fines or forfeitures, and no removal of anything which might prevent someone from making a living. This principle can still be seen in action today, for example with the limits on bailiffs removing anything which is necessary for someone to carry on their work.
Article 38: “In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own un-supported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.” This article is self explanatory and again represents a limitation on the power of those in authority.
Trial By Jury
Article 39: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights and possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”
Article 39 is probably the most important article of them all: trial by jury.
Trial by jury represents a fundamental principle of British law: the superiority of the common law over statute. As we have stated many times in the pages of this newspaper, statute is not law.
The statute book contains the rules which the government of the day believes work best for the running of the country. But as we have discovered in recent years, those rules are sometimes not made in the interest of the residents of the nation, but rather in the corporate interest.
When an individual is prosecuted for breaking one of these rules, he is brought before a jury of his peers and that jury has the power to overrule, or “nullify” the statute. That jury decision, that right of a jury to find someone innocent even when they have broken the rules, is the common law.
A famous example of this, cited by John Bingley in is excellent presentation at the second British Constitution Group conference is that of Clive Ponting, the erstwhile civil servant prosecuted for leaking documents relating to the sinking of the Belgrano just prior to the Falklands War. The jury overrode the changes to the Official Secrets Act, which the government had amended to remove the defence that an action was in the “public interest”.
Juries, then, are a fundamental protection against oppressive actions by government. As John Bingley said during his presentation, “this is jury power. We need it and we need to be absolutely glued to it and not allow it to be prised out of our hands.”
In recent years, with the rise of private, corporate administrative “justice”, the right to a jury trial has been removed from more and more classes of “offence”, seriously undermining one of our key constitutional protections.
Justice For Hire
Article 40: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”
The police, prisons, courts are all being privatised or being operated on a commercial basis as a result of privatisation. But even more worrying is the fact that local councils, completely unlawfully, are subverting the judicial process in order to prosecute those behind with council tax payments.
Councils right across the country are running a parallel, private pseudo-judicial process, issuing their own “court” summonses, their own “liability orders” and using these to initiate bailiff action against those who are in council tax arrears. The UK Column holds a copy of a video recording in which a court manager admits that Plymouth City Council rents the courtroom and court staff, including the “magistrates” in order to process these unlawful “liability orders”. Bailiff companies are using this unlawful documentation to intimidate, extort money and steal property from those affected. These bailiff companies are, of course, on commission.
“Justice” is, unconstitutionally, for sale in this country.
Article 45 states: “We will appoint as justices, constables, sheriffs, or other officials, only men that know the law of the realm and are minded to keep it well.”
This article has been completely removed from official policy. Bailiffs and police no nothing of the law. The constitution is not taught in law school, and just about every official is taught that statute is superior to common law. It could be said that judges know the law, but the vast majority are not “minded to keep it well”, since they are complicit in the treason of Parliament and local government which have taken upon themselves the “divine right” to do anything.
The simple truth is this: common law is always superior to statute. It is common law which gives Parliament its mandate. It is common law which give juries the power to overrule statute. Anyone who claims statute is superior to common law is a liar.
Article 61 describes the process by which the monarch should be held to account. “And if we do not correct the transgression, or if we are out of the kingdom, if our justiciar does not correct it, within forty days, reckoning from the time it was brought to our notice or to that of our justiciar if we were out of the kingdom, the aforesaid four barons shall refer that case to the rest of the twenty-five barons and those twenty-five barons together with the community of the whole land shall distrain and distress us in every way they can, namely, by seizing castles, lands, possessions, and in such other ways as they can, saving our person and the persons of our queen and our children, until, in their opinion, amends have been made; and when amends have been made, they shall obey us as they did before.”
This is the description of Lawful Rebellion, our right to tell our government that it is wrong, and that we demand redress. While it might be argued that the mechanism defined here is antiquated and should be updated, the fact is that in 2001 a committee of barons was established, and demands were made of the Queen. The Queen did not correct the transgression as required by the baron’s committee, and so she is in breach of Article 61 to this day.
Presumption for Liberty
And finally, article 63 says: “…and that the men in our kingdom shall have and hold all the aforesaid liberties, rights and concessions well and peacefully, freely and quietly, fully and completely, for themselves and their heirs from us and our heirs, in all matters and in all places for ever, as is aforesaid. An oath, moreover, has been taken, as well on our part as on the part of the barons, that all these things aforesaid shall be observed in good faith and without evil disposition. Witness the above-mentioned and many others. Given by our hand in the meadow which is called Runnymede between Windsor and Staines on the fifteenth day of June, in the seventeenth year of our reign.”
This clause defines the presumption of liberty which has been fundamental to the British way of life for centuries before even the Magna Carta. This presumption of liberty is the main difference between British Law and Roman Law. In Britain there is a presumption that everything is permitted, unless expressly prohibited by law. In Europe, where national legal systems are based on Roman Law, the opposite is true: everything is prohibited, unless expressly permitted by law.
The same difference applies to the notion of so-called “human rights”. In Britain, there is no such thing, since we are endowed with inalienable God given rights, again limited by the Rule of Law. In Europe, and other Roman influenced jurisdictions, humans have no rights, except for those the “powers that be” condescend to define within the rather limited “human rights” laws.
Those who suggest that Magna Carta was only written for the Barons can’t have read Clause 63. “An oath, moreover, has been taken, as well on our (the Royal “we”) part as on the part of the barons …” In other words, Magna Carta not only binds the monarch to the constitutional condition by which people are to be governed, but the Barons as well.
So Magna Carta represents a presumption of liberty, a limitation of the power of the state, it guarantees the right to a trial by a jury of peers, it guarantees a right of redress when government breaks the law, and a right of enforcement. It is still in force today and forms the most ancient formal written part of our constitution.
2015 is the 800th anniversary of its signing. The British Constitution Group is campaigning for the principles enshrined in Magna Carta to be reinstated. This is not a “reset”; a term which implies change. Change is not what is needed at a time when the government is pushing so hard for exactly that. Instead, the rights, laws and customs defined in Magna Carta should be reasserted just as they are.