"It would have been vastly preferable if the Founding Fathers had stuck to the original term - the Rights of Englishmen - rather than trying to make them sound universal for the purposes of rhetoric."Up until now, I have been nibbling around the edges of the main idea of The Rights of Englishmen. But in today's Alt-Right circles, ask someone to define this term to you, invariably they will give you a hyperlink to this Library of Congress page. This particular page demonstrates how the Magna Carta came to influence the laws of three of the colonies of early America.
-Vox Day, America is not an idea
Most people do not know what the Magna Carta is. Still less, the English themselves do not take the document as seriously as the Americans. And yet, it was the American Bar Association who funded a monument to the "signing" of the Magna Carta, way over the Atlantic Ocean in Runnymead, England. Go visit the National Archives in D.C., and you will see an official copy of the Magna Carta preserved behind glass near the Declaration of Independence.
|The Magna Carta at the|
National Archives, Washington D.C.
And so, in this series, I have saved the best for last. Let us now look at this document over the next few days and examine its implications.
What Does the Magna Carta Say?
There are 63 numbered clauses. Most of them were abandoned. The rights in the Magna Carta only applied to the barons, and they were not dissimilar from those rights conceived throughout other parts of Europe. The three main rights that everyone is fond to remember?
- No one is above the law, even the king
- Right to a fair trial
- People who are taxed should have some kind of representation
Sounds quite familiar to what we demand today. Only, again, these laws only applied to the nobles. And as I've said before, across Europe, such rights were understood in other countries aside from England, thanks to the universal presence of the Roman Catholic Church. Canonists imported these ideas throughout the region, to France, and to England. Even Vox Day admits eight years ago that the Magna Carta is a product of medieval England, which was still loyal to Rome at that point in history.
But surely there is more to the Magna Carta story than just these three common, Catholic, Medieval European ideals?
What Is The Story Of The Magna Carta?
Now we get to the crux of it. It all boils down to romantic wishful thinking about history.
"In short, it's the belief that the Saxons of early medieval England (prior to the Norman Conquest of 1066) were a fiercely independent people that jealously guarded their liberties. Their tribal leaders regularly convened at the Witenagemot, which secured the common law of the realm, elected their kings, and even deposed them as needed. Even after the Conquest, the Saxon tradition ultimately prevailed by bringing King John to heel in 1215, forcing him to sign Magna Carta. And, of course, the Witenagemot of old formed the foundation for its spiritual successor in the Norman age: Parliament."
As Modern Medievalist admits, this is likely a rather rose-tinted mythological view of Saxon history, and it is an oversimplification of English history. He even admits this tale can be utilized as a narrative of Anglo-Saxon racial supremacy--which is interesting, considering that his article is two years old, and he had this thought before "The Rights of Englishmen" became a thing in my Alt-Right circles.
If you ask me to tell you the story, it goes like this: Once upon a time in 1215, evil King John had a resume of years of failed foreign policies and heavy taxation. After so much suffering, the beleaguered and stoic Saxon barons had enough, and they galloped on their horses to London to confront the king. By swordpoint, they forced King John down in his chair so that he had no choice but to stay there, hear them out, agree to their terms, and press his seal upon what would later become a beloved document to be treasured by the Western world forever. The barons had come together as a united brotherhood of Saxon heroism, and representing the glorious resolve of the Anglo-Saxon tribe itself, the barons inaugurated the first of what would be many victories of representative government against the evil tyranny of monarchical power.
This fantastic Latin document, the Magna Carta Libertatum, means "The Great Charter of Liberties." (Latin is the language of the Catholic Church, not Saxon.) It is so utterly fantastic that hardly anyone reads it. Yet, the tale of the subdued King John was wildly popular during Whig-ruled colonial America. Modern Medievalist explains:
"[T]he founders saw themselves as part of a continuum reaching back to proud, free-roaming Saxon settlers, whose rights have been continually trampled upon by foreign kings from William the Conqueror/the Bastard to George III (George III's family, the House of Hanover, and most of the princesses they preferred to intermarry with, were Germans). Thomas Jefferson, for one, didn't even stop at merely studying Saxon history in the hope of better understanding English common law; he even learned the ancient Anglo-Saxon language and proposed it as part of the standard curriculum at the University of Virginia, on par with the Greek and Latin tongues that laid the cornerstone of the west. Jefferson also went so far as to propose that Saxon heroes Hengest and Horsa, forefathers of the Anglo-Saxon people and legendary founders of the Kingdom of Kent, appear on the reverse of the Great Seal."
The Great Charter is a symbol for freedom from oppression. By many, it is held up as the main brick in the foundation of English Common Law. It was effectively the first written constitution in European history.
Rebellious American colonists could look back at their rebellious baron forefathers and draw inspiration. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution draws solely upon Clause 39 when it says: "Nor shall any persons be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law." In 1965, Lord Denning proclaimed the Magna Carta is "the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot."
Sure, the charter only concerned the relationship between the monarch and the barons, and not ordinary people. But the legend resonates with everyone universally
This romantic notion is wishful thinking. It's a popular notion, but so is Jewish victimhood.
Second, realize the idea that the American Founders held such truths to be self-evident, universal in its import, objectively true, and accessible to the reason of man. Thomas Paine says that, "in America, law is the King," echoing Henry of Bracton who, in the 1200s, stated: "The king ought not to be under a man, but under God and under the law, because the law makes the king."
Vox Day will argue that America is not a proposition nation. He states:
"It is simply incorrect to claim that the United States is fundamentally built on the principle of equality or any other idea; one need only read the entire Declaration of Independence to know that Jefferson's flight of rhetoric was nothing more than a rhetorical flourish. "All men are created equal" is not the founding principle of the United States of America nor the basis for any nation."And yet, "All men are created equal" is right there in the Declaration of Independence, staring the Alt-Right in the face.
When the Founders signed off on the Magna-Carta-inspired idea that all men were created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, they most certainly meant that this was a universal principle. This was not a rhetorical flourish. They meant what they said. As has been explored throughout this series on the Rights of Englishmen, the Whig colonials and all of the jurists and thinkers before them were drawing upon the culmination and realization of human rights as conceived in Catholic Medieval Europe.
|Sally Hemmings, Jefferson's slave and lover|
"Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people [blacks] are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them."To be sure, the Founders did not envision a mixing of the races in this country. Thomas Jefferson probably never could have conceived what would have happened with the blacks in America. (He had a utopian idea of sending freed blacks back to Africa.) He and the others were short-sighted on this issue. But their opinion on the rights of men--rights inspired by the Great Charter--was that they were universal rights. The nation's independence was based on Natural Law--the foundation of English Common Law.
--Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821
Third, there is one more obvious and overlooked detail that I want to touch on tonight. One more fact that robs the romantic impression that typically accompanies the Magna Carta story.
The barons who held King John hostage were acting against the authority of their government's institution. This seems like no big deal to us moderns, but stop to think about this for a minute.
The Alt-Right white nationalists run to the purest form of United States constitutionalism they can envision. They want to return this nation to the moment in time when the numbers 1776 were still burning fresh and hot in the annals of history. They are acting as purists. And, really, they are still acting like the conservatives they ridicule. It is the ultimate form of conservatism. This brand of people wants to conserve the original form of U.S. government, ideology, and demographics.
The barons who spawned the Magna Carta were the complete opposite of the Alt-Right white nationalist mindset. They did not respect the authority of their government. They did not work to preserve any kind of an original intention of their forefathers. They did not seek to work within the bounds of their government's power.
Instead, the barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta transformed their government into something new that diminished their government's authority. What the barons did was no different from how civic nationalists and the Left have transformed the United States into something completely new that it can never recover from.
|I am an antichrist. I am an anarchist.|
I know what I want and I know how to get it.
I wanna destroy passerby, 'cause I wanna be anarchy.
-John Lydon, Sex Pistols
So if this is the case, shouldn't the Alt-Right be celebrating the Left's radical transformation of the U.S.? The previous spirit of our government is being thwarted by energetic liberals. Shouldn't Magna Carta fans be happy? Why fight Antifa in the streets if we are going to be celebrating the spirit of the barons' Great Charter? After all, like the barons, the Left is only trying to uproot an old paradigm.