Monday, 15 June 2015

Today is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Commemorative events are being held; politicians and activists are trying to appropriate the memory to their respective causes. Amid the rhetoric, one claim is continuously made: The Magna Carta marked the dawn of human rights. But the truth is the exact opposite.

The element of universality is central to the idea of human rights. But the Magna Carta did not lay claim to any universal moral entitlements; it was, instead, the affirmation of a people's distinctiveness. It said, not, "We enjoy these rights by virtue of being human beings" but "We enjoy these rights by virtue of being Englishmen", or, more correctly, English barons or freemen.

What was being promised was not the enactment of new liberties but rather the affirmation of existing, customary ones.
Clause 13: And the city of London is to have all its ancient liberties and free customs, both on land and water. Moreover we wish and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns and ports are to have all their liberties and free customs.
It was the violation of existing customary law that had given rise to violent rebellion. So, in effect, here we have a people celebrating and memorialising its own uniqueness. This is a direct contradiction to the ideology of human rights, which denies the uniqueness of peoples and the importance of their customs. It claims that all human beings, regardless of circumstances, enjoy exactly the same rights.

Anyone reading the Magna Carta today cannot help but gain the impression that it is a list of, not human rights, but property rights, something that most of the leftist panegyrics to it manage to leave out.

Clause 30: No sheriff, or bailiff of ours, or anyone else is to take any free man’s horses or carts for transporting things, except with the free man’s consent. 

It also enshrined discrimination against women and the lower orders.

Clause 6: Heirs may be given in marriage, but not to someone of lower social standing. Before a marriage takes place, it shall be made known to the heir's next-of-kin. 

Clause 8: No widow is to be distrained to marry while she wishes to live without a husband, as long as she gives security that she will not marry without our consent, if she holds of us, or without the consent of her lord of whom she holds, if she holds of someone else. 

It was a charter for the privileged few, not all "humans".

Clause 21: Earls and barons are not to be amerced except by their peers, and not except in proportion to the nature of the offence.
Most of its provisions applied only to "free men", a small proportion of the overall population.

I find it fascinating that, even back then, when Europeans were able to air their grievances, one of the first things they did was complain about the oppression of the Jews. Clauses 10 and 11 of the charter refer to this.

If anyone has taken a loan from Jews, great or small, and dies before the debt is paid, the debt is not to incur interest for as long as the heir is under age, whoever he may hold from. And if the debt comes into our hands, we will take only the principal recorded in the charter.  
And if anyone dies, and owes a debt to Jews, his wife is to have her dower and pay nothing towards that debt. And if there are surviving children of the deceased who are under age, their needs are to be provided for them in proportion to the dead man’s tenement, and the debt is to be paid from the residue, saving the service owed to the lords. Debts owed to others besides Jews are to be dealt with in like manner. 

Jews were seen as empowering the king against local, traditional communities of which they formed no part and for which they felt no empathy. By lending money on extortionate terms and then enforcing its repayment, the Jews would acquire land from the barons and farmers, which would then accrue to the king because the Jews were not allowed to own land.

The Jewish role in helping the aggrandisement of tyrannical, central authority has been a common theme throughout European history. The perception, often an accurate one, of the cosy relationship between Jews and an oppressive ruler, has been a major factor in inciting antisemitism, giving the lie to the claim now continuously made by Jews that antisemitism is a mysterious, demonic Evilness that arises for no reason and has no connection to the actions of Jews.

A better parallel with the modern infrastructure of human rights can be found in the pre-Magna Carta abuse of the legal system by the king. Rather than offering free and impartial justice, it had become an instrument of tyranny. Writs to secure justice were expensive. Often loans (from the Jews) had to be taken out to obtain them. Failure to repay could result in forfeiture of the land. Just like modern human rights law, it was a system that allowed elites to arbitrarily and unaccountably oppress ordinary people. Although justice, like modern "human rights", was, in theory, available to all, in practice it was granted only if it suited the powers-that-be.

Finally, in light of the treason currently being perpetrated by our rulers against us, the right to violent rebellion enshrined in the Magna Carta is worth contemplating.

Moreover, since we have granted all these things aforesaid for the sake of God, and for the reform of our kingdom, and the better to still the discord arisen between us and our barons, wishing that these things be enjoyed with a whole and constant stability in perpetuity, we make and grant them the following security: to wit, that the barons are to choose twenty-five barons of the kingdom, whoever they wish, who should with all their strength observe, hold and cause to be observed the peace and liberties which we have granted them, and by this our present charter confirmed, so that if we, or our justiciar, or our bailiffs, or any of our officers shall in any way offend against anyone, or transgress against any of the articles of peace or security, and the offence has been shown to four of the aforesaid twenty-five barons, those four are to go to us, or to our justiciar if we shall be out of the kingdom, setting forth the transgression, and demand that we have it reformed without delay. And if we do not have the transgression rectified, or, if we are out of the kingdom, our justiciar has not done so, within the space of forty days, counting from the time it was shown to us, or to our justiciar if we were out of the kingdom, the four barons aforesaid are to refer the case to the rest of the twenty-five barons, and those twenty-five barons and the commune of the whole land will distrain and afflict us by every means possible, by taking castles, lands and possessions and in any other ways they can, until it is rectified in accordance with their judgment, albeit sparing our own person and the persons of our queen and children. And once the matter has been redressed let them submit to our authority as they did before. And whosoever of the land so wishes is to swear that as to executing all the above he will obey the orders of the twenty-five barons aforesaid, and that with them he will afflict us to the best of his ability, and we openly and freely give permission to swear to whoever wishes to do so, and we will never forbid anyone to swear. But all those of the land who are unwilling to swear individually and voluntarily to the twenty-five barons, to distrain and afflict us with them, we will make them swear by our order as aforesaid.

And we will seek to obtain nothing from anyone, in our own person or through someone else, whereby any of these grants or liberties may be revoked or diminished, and if any such thing be obtained, let it be void and invalid, and we will never make use of it, in our own person or through someone else.


Post a Comment