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Revisiting History: Did “Magna Carta” Grant Freedom to All?

“Magna Carta” is a not just a document signed by King John in the year 1215 that defined a set of rights and responsibilities for the subjects of the kingdom including the lay men and women. It is one of the most important things in English history and is also considered as the foundation-stone for democracy in this world, especially by those people who value liberty and freedom.

The famous document is not only revered as a sacred text in England, but also it had spread to other parts of the world, including the America, the Australia, Africa, and the Asia. Such is the importance given to this document that the document is preserved in its original form even after nearly 900 years in the British Library and every visitor to this great museum even today make it a point to have a glance over this document, which is written in the old Latin language.

Magna Carta, in its first sentence declares, that it has been granted to “all the free men of our realms and their heirs for ever.” The holy charter, as it is viewed, and was in vogue for more than 600 years in its amended form from 1225 has many clauses granting many rights and fixing responsibilities for the citizens.

Many path-breaking pronouncements that proclaim liberty and democracy were included in Magna Carta. Some of the salient pronouncements include:

  • “No free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or deprived of his property or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land”

    This pronouncement in Magna Carta is the seed or the foundation for the process of trial by court in the later years

  • “If the heir of one of our tenants has been in wardship, when he comes of age, he shall have his inheritance without having to pay a relief.”

    This clause in Magna Carta is the foundation for major and minor gradations. The age to become a major is defined as 21 in the charter.

While there are many such clauses, freedom and democracy was not fully granted to all the people in the community then. Only two clauses actually were beneficial to the people in the lower strata of the society.

Magna Carta, nevertheless, is considered a milestone in World History in that it emanated as the powerful symbol between the struggles against tyranny prevalent at that period and seen as the first step towards democratic process.

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