The four surviving original copies of the 1215 Magna Carta have been brought together for the first time in London. Can’t get to London?
You can still see Magna Carta at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
On June 15, 1215, in a field at Runnymede, King John affixed his seal to Magna Carta. Confronted by 40 rebellious barons, he had consented to their demands in order to avert civil war.
The interests of the common man were hardly apparent in the minds of the men who brokered the agreement. But there are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day:
“No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”
Although Magna Carta failed to resolve the conflict between King John and his barons, it was reissued several times after his death. The document on display at the entrance of the David M. Rubenstein Gallery at the National Archives is one of four surviving originals of the 1297 Magna Carta.
During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution (“no person shall … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”) is a direct descendent of Magna Carta’s guarantee of proceedings according to the “law of the land.”